Steven Moffat Warns That Doctor Who Reboot Movie Would Destroy The Franchise

Is it happening? Is David Yates full of it? We're still not sure.

By David Wharton | Published

Doctor Who is currently enjoying unprecedented popularity here in the States. Sure, it hasn’t become an all-encompassing societal phenomenon like it has in its native country, but we did just put current Doctor Matt Smith on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, and that’s bound to count for something. Naturally, that success has caught Hollywood’s attention like vultures to a carcass, and there has been talk of a Doctor Who movie that would ignore the half-century of lore and canon in favor of starting fresh. Needless to say, many Who fans haven’t been keen to watch their beloved franchise stripped clean and repurposed. Now Who showrunner Steven Moffat has weighed in once more, warning that a rebooted Doctor Who movie could sound the death knell for the venerable series.

This isn’t the first time Moffat has spoken out against the proposed Who movie reboot. The whole mess began in November of last year, when Harry Potter director David Yates told Variety that he would be directing a bigscreen Who feature, but that it would sever all ties with the existing series. Needless to say, this caught many people by surprise, including Steven Moffat and the BBC, both of whom sounded off and said the movie rumor was rubbish. Things only became more confusing after that, with Yates and Moffat alternately saying it wasn’t happening, it was happening, and finally leaving many of us wondering if we were being trolled by the both of them. Well, it’s been a while now since we’ve heard anything on the possibly-nonexistent Yates-directed Who movie, but it’s apparently still very much on Steven Moffat’s mind.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Moffat once again flat-out denied that any Who movie is in the works, and called the rumors “some weird fantasy.” And if there ever is a Doctor Who movie? Moffat assures us that it will be produced and run by the Who production office in Cardiff. He continues:

… that whole proposal was not true, did not happen. I can say that with authority because, as far as the BBC is concerned, I’m the voice of Doctor Who. So if I say it, it’s true. The BBC own Doctor Who and, for the moment, I run it for them. So I can assure you definitively that was all nonsense — not the idea of making a film, we’d love to make a film, but the idea of a rebooted continuity, a different Doctor. That’s writing the book on how to destroy a franchise. You don’t behave like that with it. Not ever.

But what then are we to make of Yates’ repeated insistences that he absolutely is making a Who movie? Moffat says that he thinks Yates was speaking more “off-the-cuff” than his remarks were interpreted, and that the director was simply expressing his interest in such a project. Moffat also praises Yates’ directorial talents, but reiterates that “the project as he describes it would not happen.”

Well, there you have it, the final word on the subject. But wait. Here are some of Yates’ exact quotes, as reported by Variety:

Russell T. Davies and then Steven Moffat have done their own transformations, which were fantastic, but we have to put that aside and start from scratch…

We’re going to spend two to three years to get it right … It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena.

Those comments don’t really sound “off-the-cuff,” do they? They sound like somebody who has put a lot of thought into this and has a game plan for going forward and making the project happen. So what the hell is going on here? How can Yates be making a Who movie that Moffat and the BBC, the people who own and run Doctor Who, insist does not exist? Somebody here has to be lying or misinformed, right?

Assuming all of the involved parties are honest and well intentioned, this may simply be a side effect of the splintered nature of show-business: a cobbled-together, unnatural hybrid of creative talent and the business of making money. Any organization like the BBC is not actually one united organism, but is instead — as J. Michael Straczynski once described Warner. Bros. — a “series of competing and structurally independent fiefdoms.” It may be as simple as the BBC’s left hand not knowing what the right is doing, or of the right hand actively keeping the left hand in the dark. In the mean time the Doctor Who movie has fallen into the world of Schrödinger’s cat, both alive and dead simultaneously, at least until somebody finally opens the damn box.