A while back there were some rumors that the BBC was interested in launching Doctor Who as a film series. Showrunner Stephen Moffat fought back, arguing that one of the things that makes the Doctor special is that there is ultimately this one version of the story, and this could be less special if there’s a film series with a completely different Doctor. As a comic book fan, I’m used to the idea of having adaptations of the original material either on film or television (IE- the movie version of Spider-Man) and I think there would be some unique advantages to a cinematic version of Doctor Who.
The obvious thing to do would be to give Neil Gaiman a lot of money, and put him in charge of it. Aside from that, here’s how a Doctor Who film could go. It’s meant to be set in its own world—adapting the material from the television series—and to set up a franchise that could potentially last for decades.
In terms of casting, the main roles would be the Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, her ex-boyfriend Andrew Lofts and John Lumic, inventor of the Cybermen. This Doctor is an alien who has just arrived on Earth, fleeing his species with a machine that allows him to travel through time and space. I’m borrowing the idea from Russell Davies and Stephen Moffat’s Doctor Who that the figure has become an urban legend because of all the time he has interfered in Earth’s history, but this Doctor hasn’t yet done that. Part of his arc is the decision to become the figure of legend.
Sarah Jane Smith is the most popular of the Doctor’s companions, and a young reporter works pretty well for this type of story. Andrew Lofts is her exboyfriend, because another reporter is needed for the story, and there have to be some characters for Sarah Jane to interact with before she meets the Doctor. I have no idea the extent to which Lofts has appeared in the original material, although he’s mentioned in some bios of Smith. The Cybermen are the villains, since they’re impressive antagonists, but they can still fit a narrative in which much of the initial focus is on Sarah Jane meeting the Doctor. They also function with the Doctor’s reason for being on Earth.
Ralph Fiennes would headline the hypothetical cast as the Doctor. It helps that he’s been in all sorts of period films. He seems like a thinking man’s action hero. And you don’t want the first Doctor to be too young, to sell the idea that this is a guy who has been around for a very long time.
An ideal Sarah Jane Smith would be Emily Blunt. She’s cute, British, funny, and a plausible action hero.
A possible Andrew Lofts would be Andrew Garfield. I needed a British guy in his late 20s/ early 30s, and alternate contender Ben Whitshaw was just in a film with Fiennes. Jim Broadbent could round out the cast as John Lumic. He can play an eccentric elderly inventor, and it would be fun to have him as the villain.
It opens on the Titanic, as two young lovers face certain death. A strange blue box materializes out of nowhere, and a man emerges from inside.
More than a century later, their octogenarian daughter tells Sarah Jane Smith the story of how a mysterious man who called the Doctor (and his Companion) saved her parents. Sarah Jane is a reporter for the Metropolitan Magazine, investigating the urban legend of the Doctor, a figure who has appeared in dangerous situations throughout human history. She’s a little bit pissed that she’s placed on this assignment, while her former fiance Andrew Lofts gets to cover a major scientific breakthrough at Mondus Industries.
Three young boys (William, Patrick and Jon) are playing in the streets of London. William suffers a concussion. Patrick remembers that a Doctor Foreman lives nearby, so they run to his flat. Another guy opens the door.
Jon: Doctor Foreman?
Stranger: Doctor Who?
The newcomer reveals that Foreman moved away, but he’s still concerned about William’s injuries. He uses strange tools to save the boy’s life. They start calling him the Doctor.
Meanwhile, John Lumic, head of Mondus Industries, has invented a process that will prolong life, allowing parts of the human body to be replaced with machines, to the extent that the resulting Cybermen will be effectively immortal. He has created prosthetic limbs far more effective than anything the media’s seen before. This is exciting news that Andrew gets to cover live, and that Sarah watches on TV.
Back in the London apartment complex, an old man has a heart attack. His granddaughter drags in the Doctor, hoping that he can do for the grandfather what he did for her friend William. The Doctor uses a broken television to apply an electric shock to the old man, effectively saving the old man’s life. He leaves before they can thank him.
Andrew gets a call from his source about shadiness at Mondus, and runs to investigate that. Sarah Jane gets a call from a source about a story she’s been investigating. She hopes that it’s about something serious like police corruption or drugs, but the source remembers that she was investigating stories of a guy called the Doctor, and there’s a guy in the neighborhood who goes by that moniker.
Andrew meets with a scientist at Mondus who claims that the first Cyberman prototypes that were not as successful. The attempt to make them half-machine left them without their souls. Andrew and the scientist are attacked by two Cybermen.
Sarah Jane visits the London apartment, and bumps into a guy who is a splitting image of the Doctor in a 15th Century Italian painting. He’s an odd fellow, with a really foreign understanding of England and the world. It takes her a while to explain what it is that a reporter does for a living. She believes him when he argues that people started calling him the Doctor only a few weeks earlier, if just because he doesn’t seem to know enough about the English to have been around for centuries. He is still curious about her story.
Meanwhile, five Cybermen kidnap Lumic from his house, ready to transform him into their Controller.
The Doctor asks why Sarah Jane wanted to be a reporter. Her answer is that she wanted the experiences that come with that, seeing things that people didn’t think were possible. He invites her into his Tardis, revealing that what appears to be a solid bookcase is in fact a disguised Time and Relative Dimension in Space machine. She’s astonished to find that it’s bigger on the inside.
The Doctor takes her to the planet Androzani Major a few decades in the future. He reveals that he comes from another world, and that there are others looking for him and his Tardis. He’s a little bit cautious about other people, failing in his efforts to avoid attracting attention.
Androzani Major is soon invaded by the Cybermen, who the Doctor recognizes as the most dangerous race in the universe. The Doctor and Sarah Jane use the distraction to escape back into the Tardis. The Doctor reveals that this was the end of Androzani Major. They had fought the Cybermen before, but this was the moment the Cybermen had learned to overcome their defenses.
Sarah Jane asks if they can go back in time on Earth. They go to London in 1963, to catch a performance by the Beatles. The Tardis takes the form of a police box. The Doctor is briefly freaked out by a group of statues.
The Doctor promises to take her all over the universe, anywhere to any time. She asks him why he wanted to be in London in the 21st Century. He explains that other members of his species are looking for him, so he hides out in places where no one familiar with history will want to go. He tries to change the subject, while Sarah Jane puts two and two together and demands to know why time travelers wouldn’t want to be on Earth in the 21st Century. She asks if he likes hiding in doomed worlds.
The Doctor explains that the Cybermen started out on Earth in Sarah Jane’s day. They’re what’s left of humanity. Sarah Jane obviously wants him to save mankind. The Doctor says that he can’t change what has already happened, and that the world she came from is in his past. He claims that it would be like Sarah Jane going to Middle-Earth and preventing Sauron from coming to power. Sarah Jane informs him that Lord of the Rings is not a history book.
Sarah Jane asks about the people he saved. He doesn’t regret it, figuring that he still gave them a few days of fun, and that when the Cybermen take over, it will be relatively painless. She argues that if he considers days so important, what about their entire lives? She ultimately convinces the Doctor that he should stop the rise of the Cybermen.
They return to the 21st Century. The Tardis is stuck in the form of a blue police box.
The Doctor is a bit worried that the moment the Cybermen are defeated, it’s going to attract the attention of his fellow timelords. So he can’t go back to before he met Sarah Jane, because it’ll be too easy for the other timelords to catch him, and fix his efforts at changing the course of galactic history, which means that he goes to jail (if they don’t execute him) and humanity comes to an end. So they have to change history at the right moment.
The Cybermen have barricaded Mondus Industries. Sarah Jane gets a call from Andrew, who claims that he escaped from there and needs her help exposing the group. It’s a trap, as Sarah Jane and the Doctor are ambushed by several Cybermen, including a Cyber version of Andrew. She wants to use the Tardis to save him, but the Doctor reminds her that if they do that, everyone dies. The Doctor is captured, while Sarah Jane escapes.
The Doctor is taken to the Cyber Controller, the robot that was once John Lumic. The Cybermen have spared the timelord because they recognize that he’s different. They conclude that he is an alien, and may have technology which will be useful to them.
Meanwhile, Sarah Jane runs to the Tardis, able to convince it to return to Androzani Major, before the Cybermen took over. She gets her hands on some weapons that should be more than enough to overcome the primitive Cybermen, and then returns to Earth.
Sarah Jane rescues the Doctor, using the Androzani weapons to plow through the Cybermen. Unfortunately, they have been building factories, creating hundreds of new Cybermen. The Doctor determines that the Cybermen are all linked together, and uses the neural link to shut down them down. The defeat of the Cybermen, a major change in history, attracts the attention of the timelords.
The Doctor and Sarah Jane evade the timelords, and encounter the Cyber Controller right outside the Tardis. The destruction of the neural link didn’t hurt him, and he may be able to rebuild the Cyberman army. The Doctor’s technology will make up for his early losses. Sarah Jane blasts him to pieces with the Androzani laser cannon.
The Doctor and Sarah Jane escape back to Tardis. Time has been rewritten, and the Cybermen have been turned into a footnote in human history. The Doctor wants more about the species he’s saved. Sarah Jane has a recommendation.
The Tardis materializes on the Titanic. The Doctor and Sarah Jane rescue two young lovers from certain death.