Scientists have long speculated that we could be living in just one universe out of a multitude. Somewhere out there is a reality where JFK survived the assassination attempt. Where Star Trek was canceled after a single season and never heard from again. There’s one where Battlefield Earth was a colossal box office hit that swept the Academy Awards. We can be particularly thankful that we didn’t end up in that latter timeline, but I’d take it any day over living in the universe where Michael Jackson played the Doctor in a big-screen Doctor Who movie. Which, by the way, is a totally real thing that could have happened.
With Matt Smith’s announcement that he’ll soon be wrapping up his run as the Time Lord, there’s lots of speculation as to who will inherit the TARDIS keys next. Whoever winds up nabbing the iconic role, I think it’s safe to assume they’ll be a considerably better choice than Michael Jackson. Hell, even Michael Jackson right now — the dead one — would be a better choice for the role than any of his living incarnations, but The Times reports that Paramount Pictures was keen to have the King of Pop as their Doctor when they were trying to put together a big-screen movie adaptation of Doctor Who back in the ‘80s. He was their first choice for the role.
Here and we thought David Yates had the market cornered on insane Doctor Who movie schemes.
As the Times explains, the news actually comes from a new book, Charles Norton’s Now on the Big Screen: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who at the Cinema. According to Norton, Paramount wanted to make a Who movie in 1988, and they thought Michael Jackson was a perfect candidate to play the Time Lord, presumably because it was the 1980s and everybody was on drugs.
Don’t worry, though, I’m sure their second choice for the lead was much more sensible. If they couldn’t get Jacko, they wanted to hire somebody named…(checks notes)…“Bill Cosby.”
That’s right, they wanted beloved TV icon/sweater enthusiast Bill Cosby. I can understand their confusion. I mean, he did play a doctor in The Cosby Show. I don’t recall him and Phylicia Rashad facing off against the Daleks, but it’s possible I just missed that very-special episode.
It’s also worth pointing out that these casting discussions were happening in 1988. Michael Jackson was a friggin’ superstar, and Cosby’s name floating to the top makes a certain sort of sense at least from the perspective of name recognition. I mean, it doesn’t actually make sense, but if you take a few hits of helium until you start feeling lightheaded and do your best to think like a studio executive, you can at least see the vaguest outline of what would have passed for their thought processes.
Then again, 1988 was also the year after Leonard Part 6 conquered the big screen, so maybe Cosby just had some really juicy blackmail material on somebody at Paramount.
If you’ll excuse me, I have to go get started on that Doctor Who/Captain EO crossover fan fiction epic I’ve been meaning to write for years now…