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Could An Overseas Version of Doctor Who Ever Work?

Guest contributor Greg House looks into the possibility.

Doctor-Who-amy-us-flag

It’s no secret that Doctor Who fans are very protective over the show. Little things like changes to designs of the Daleks/Cybermen spark such heated debate. Remakes are more commonplace than ever right now and the possibility of an overseas version of Doctor Who is sometimes brought up. Earlier this year Steven Moffat openly criticised the idea, but if such a thing were to happen could it actually work?

Where to begin?

american-whoLet’s say it got the go ahead and a foreign company is given the project, before you can start writing you need to figure out which Doctor this is. Is it a replacement of Twelve or the very first Doctor? If it’s a replacement Twelve then we now have two Doctor Who canons trying to exist at the same time, which obviously complicates matters (see below). If they chose to start from the very first Doctor then they are essentially re-writing Doctor Who history, something I’m sure fans would have a lot to say about! Could any actor accurately portray the grumpy old man we know as the first Doctor? Until 2013 I would have said no, but David Bradley certainly did a superb job at filling William Hartnell’s shoes so I must admit myself open to the possibility.

Copyright issues

Anyone who’s ever bought anything Doctor Who related will surely have noticed the long essay of copyright information in the small print at the bottom, K9, the Daleks, Cybermen and so on. These designs and names are all protected. Would this mean that an overseas version of Doctor Who would need special permission to use them, or would it not get permission at all? Unless I am mistaken they would need direct permission from Terry Nation’s estate to use the Daleks at all, meaning the decision would not solely be down to the BBC. Worst case scenario, we could end up with an alien Doctor, traveling around in a blue phone box spaceship battling things with none of the familiar characteristics of Doctor Who we’ve come to love over the years.

Canon or Non-Canon?

cushing-Dr-Who-And-The-Daleks-remastered-aI touched on this above, but we would then have the issue of canon. For many this would be a simple one, rather like the Peter Cushing outings as the Doctor it would be classed as non-canon. But the closer the overseas version attempted to get to the UK version, the more complicated it would become to class it as non-canon.

Are there any advantages at all?

There are some advantages to an overseas version of the show, for one thing it expands the audience even further, to those who don’t speak the same languages. Doctor Who would be able to reach other cultures and have its effect. A lot of people enjoy watching fan series, so a professionally made overseas version if viewed with English subtitles could help bridge the long gaps between UK seasons of Doctor Who.

Conclusion

To conclude, while it would be a nice gesture from the BBC to offer one of its most prized shows overseas, I think it would go the way of the American remake of Red Dwarf. It would simply not work. If the BBC wants to sell Doctor Who overseas then it should be translated and sold as it is. Of course I am open to all opinions on this, but I agree with the Moff, more than one Doctor Who in the world just doesn’t work.

Step back in time...

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183 comments
KnightAtDusk
KnightAtDusk

I think it would all work out fine if the overseas version was about the 8th Doctor during the Time War. It wouldn't ruin anything and it would still be Doctor Who but with the main story arc as the war. Then when McGann has to quit the show be about another long period of time in the Doctor's life we've never seen.

GrandDoctor
GrandDoctor

I had kicked around the idea of writing a story or a screen play or something that could be worked into the idea of an overseas "Who" in some sense. It involved Susan's son Alex not knowing his mother was Alien he was part Time Lord and regenerating while fighting in a war. He comes back to find his mother gone (off to fight in the Time War herself), his accent has changed to an American one (Time Lord accents can change), and he spends a century using superior Time Lord intellect to contact the Doctor, who he does not yet know is his Great-Grandfather. However, his inventions create a crisis where many of the Doctor's enemies burst through Space-Time to attack, and Alex and the Doctor then fight off the monsters. Alex then travels to America to continue with his inventions in hope of finding the Doctor again, which leads him to becoming a space-time travelling Time Lord for an American audience. Sounds convoluted and dumb, but I gave this a fair amount of thought. Had the whole story figured in my head too, but it would be difficult to lay it all out here.

thefrostyqueen
thefrostyqueen

As an American viewer and lifetime fan of the Doctor,

please for the love of God, don't let us get a hold of it because we'd ruin it.

Great iconic British show and it should stay that way.

PhotonFromOz
PhotonFromOz

The track record of US TV producers remaking British shows is miserable.

An American version of Dr Who would be like retouching a Rembrandt with a felt pen.

JailBanksters
JailBanksters

The US has had several shows with Time Travel as the central theme over the decades, but not one of them has gone more than 4-5 years. The longest being Star Trek, but it wasn't specifically about Time, just set at some fixed time in the Future.


Betty Pearl
Betty Pearl

I'm from the USA walking distance from the Canadian border. An Americanized Dr. Who wouldn't be doctor who without the British accent, style, & flavor. However, I can see a spinoff working if it was done proper. 

In the USA & Canada, out of the old original series, only the Tom Baker series was very popular. Many never heard or Dr. Who before Tom Baker or didn't care about it, & many stopped watching the series after Tom baker.

Although the new doctor series is popular here, waiting more than a half a year between series for just a handful of episodes, each year we're losing more interest in the show (like another UK favorite, Top Gear). It also doesn't help that they keep killing off the doctors just about the time that particular doctor becomes very popular. Around here, that's called shooting yourself in the foot, when you kill off the star of the show.


I can see a series working well in America of just the continuing adventures of the Tom Baker's Doctor Who. 

I'm sure they can find a good actor the can be made up, & dressed like the Tom Baker Doctor, who can also act like him. Of course he should have a British accent, or we won't accept him as the doctor. If the show still had a British flavor & style, it would be popular in the UK too.


This wouldn't be a remake of the old stories, it would be just more of his "other" adventures that he had. But unlike the current UK series, This most popular of the old doctors wouldn't be killed off every year. It would focus on just this one very popular incarnation of his life.

DW_girl
DW_girl

It would deffo not work. Why would you remake a television show that doesn't need remaking? When it comes down to it all, regardless of how worldwide popular Doctor Who is, it has British roots, and should always be just a British show.

fwissell
fwissell

American Here,




Why not make a spin off Doctor Who series that is canon starring Paul McGann as Eight? Simply call it Doctor Who and sell it to America, have it run between seasons of the British Doctor Who so we never have to have long waits. Hell that even gives us the possibility of an crossover special where Twelve meets Eight and it combines the forces of two large markets expanding on the recent success of Doctor Who in the states!

AllanHosmer
AllanHosmer

You know the funny thing here is if this were to ever happen (and keep in mind, I'm not saying it should), we'd all watch it.  Even if it was terrible we'd keep watching.  And then we'd come to forums like these to complain about it.  You see it all the time with the original show.  Because on the internet, nothing is ever good enough, and everyone could have done it better.

Andrew_Swallow
Andrew_Swallow

There is a whole planet of Time Lords, one of them could decide he wants a more exciting life.  Call the show Professor What.  The Professor can then talk with an American/French/German accent and behave in an appropriate way.  An American Time Lord's Tardis could look like a fire hydrant or one of those tents used by people who repair the road.

Richy Woo
Richy Woo

Here is a scary thought for you all to have nightmares about. What if the Americans made a The MASTER series based within the same continuity as our series. The Master could be a reformed villain putting right all the things that the big super powerful Time lords made wrong. There are so many META parallels to draw between the English Doctor and the American Master that it might just work.

NewWho2012
NewWho2012

I agree it wouldn't be right and if Doctor Who was handed over to the americans I'd pull out straight away. We need one piece of TV heritage that is British and will stay british. But I rarely trust remakes, like the Americans trying to remake our sitcoms like One Foot in the Grave and Fawlty Towers, they don't work because they are British and always will be much funnier.

Salyavin
Salyavin

I'm all for more foreign involvement within the show i.e characters / locations e.c.t but I would have to say a big NO to any attempt at remaking.  Why bother, If it isn't broken, don't try to fix it.

EduardoCastilloPerera
EduardoCastilloPerera

You CANT just make another tv show. It is ok to make episodes in other countries. but never throw away 50 AWESOME YEARS OF CANNON.

thelilwhovian
thelilwhovian

In the words of Kate Lethbridge-Stewart "Think about it. Americans with the ability to rewrite history. You've seen their movies." Yet alone Doctor Who history. Nty. 




Antee991166
Antee991166

Well written article and I agree with you. Foreign re-makes virtually never work. It would be like having a British version of Star Trek, why would we need that? The same applies to Doctor Who.

MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

I do like it when the show goes to America like in The impossible astronaut/Day of the moon. That was just brilliant. Not sure about an American version of doctor who, however.

Master Michael Moon
Master Michael Moon

People sometimes forget, Doctor Who is fundamentally a British television show and always will be. I don't get why there would ever be a need for a remake in another country. It has a 51 year history behind it where very little has changed in terms of values. The Doctor for instance has been and still is portrayed by a British White Male. If the USA were to get their hands on it, or anyone else for that matter, these values would have to change. They would need to create their own. Doctor Who as we know it can't ever be continued outside of Britain in terms of rebranding, but still keeping the same title. Yes of course, it goes off to film more and more overseas these days and foreign cast members are becoming more common, but it is still part of the British foundations. The original BBC show from 1963 is still going strong and audiences around the globe are increasingly becoming more attracted to it- the 50th simulcast boosting this popularity. An overseas version has to speak for it's self, it has to be another version. An alternate universe and called something different entirely. The only way around the permissions is to create a Doctor, not to replicate The Doctor and associated characters and villains. 


PaddyB
PaddyB

If there was to be an American version I think that the producers of the remake would (overly) capitalise on the Doctor's 'British eccentricity' in a forced artificial way (a bit like in the TV Movie). However, if there were two British Doctors then the two versions of the show would definitely be stepping on each others toes.

11th Doctors Purple Coat
11th Doctors Purple Coat

I think the simple answer here is no. I have enough friends who tell me they love Top Gear and OF COURSE they're talking about the American version.

Swozor
Swozor

It wouldn't work. Look at the Doctor Who TV Movie. It was enjoyable at best, but it was still quite badly done. And then lets not forget Torchwood: Miracle Day. That was the worst season of Torchwood and was an absolute disaster that ruined the show. That should never have happened.


Strontium
Strontium

Well, Torchwood sort of went there, and I wasn't overly please about the end result. The show is global enough. Anything else could ruin it. I think it must be kept original and only British, and maybe spin-offs would do if one is desperate for another show.

Smaragdkek
Smaragdkek

With the recent trailer for Gracepoint, I think we can all agree that a remake of a British TV show just doesn't work sometimes. The UK is just different from the US.

Planet of the Deaf
Planet of the Deaf

I don't get the slight obsession with producing an American version or basing stories in the US. It might good for the CV of the actors and crew, but the US is quite capable of producing its own brilliant shows without British ones going out there as well.


To replicate Classic Who in a foreign remake, you'd be much better off going somewhere more original, how about an Albanian version :-)

gunslinger19
gunslinger19

while i would be against this if it meant the cancellation of the current series, i dont see why more who is a bad thing. if you didnt like it, it doesnt have to be canon. on the other hand, i would rather they just focused on spin offs. if they had multiple industries in multiple continents making who universe things, we would have a lot more who to watch. theres just so much potential for spin offs. and the first thing they should do is bring Torchwood back!!!

Moonlightmile71
Moonlightmile71

The only people who would be willing to remake doctor who oversees are the greedy tv companies . I'm pretty sure the international audience is very happy with its English heritage and would like it to remain that way. It is like that old saying , if it's not broken then don't try to fix it . Can you imagine if the British decide to remake friends and sell it to the u.s as a better version! I think ww3 would erupt ! :-) movie remakes , reboots and some sequels are just terrible for sucking in the audience and taking there money . I hear they are thinking of remaking Jaws and Rebel without a cause !! Really ?

floppy_who
floppy_who

The Red Dwarf remake failed because the humour and charm of the original is distinctly British and the character dynamic / slovenlyness of the Rimmer / Lister / Cat / Kryten relationship didn't translate when adapted for the US market (having seen some of the remade episodes it's pretty clear that the original charm has been lost. It wasn't awful, but it didn't work).

There would be a risk of the same thing happening if Who was remade in other countries. During the 50th anniversary amongst all of the tv and radio programmes being shown, a popular question was "what makes the show so enduring" and many responses referred to the show's Britishness.

However- I wouldn't go as far as to support Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart's slightly xenophobic comment in Robot in this context..!

(Anyone who's not seen Robot will need to watch it to get that last point!)

CheckerboardAndroid
CheckerboardAndroid

But... why? Doctor Who is a pretty much global phenomenon at this point. Maybe there would have been some reason before the internet but now everyone can get access to it, so I don't see the point.

DaireConstantineOReilly
DaireConstantineOReilly

When I said a four episode doctor who special set in America, I meant it as set in continuation with the new Series with capaldi. It would be just a special that's all, next season would be uk as usual

ChristianHanneman
ChristianHanneman

Doesn't anyone remember they did this once?  It was called "Doctor Who The Movie."  It was utterly dreadful.  What's sad is that it's actually considered canon.  Thankfully it didn't destroy it.  Let's learn from the past and not repeat mistakes.



DaireConstantineOReilly
DaireConstantineOReilly

They could do a special 4 ep season of episodes completely set in modern day America and co-produced with BBC UK/BBC America and an American studio like FOX or ABC with real American actors and cast other than The Doctor and his companion. They could make an event out of it the same way 24 live another day. Here's my idea .

Set in 2014

under Orders from the US President and the CIA, The Doctor could be called in with UNIT to Investigate a UFO Crash in Time Square or "Terrorist Attack" From direction from UNIT, The CIA tell the public a cover story, stating that a Satilitte was controlled by a Terrorist organization and directed toward New York, it is all over the news, but it's really a crashed Alien Ship and UNIT are Investigating. The Doctor discovers a plot to destroy Earth. What makes this a big event is the fact the doctor must defend earth with the worlds media on high Alert. The Aliens cause large scale RTD style destruction making hard for the government to cover it up. The story could have famous American TV Actors in Big roles like Head of American branch of UNIT, Director of CIA, US President and British Priminster. Could be epic.

Mercy Reborn2
Mercy Reborn2

if the BBC ran out of money maybe they would combine with an American company or Australian who knows maybe they would do a great job. I know I would love to see Hugh Jackman in who

ChristianHanneman
ChristianHanneman

@Betty Pearl  I knew a lot of people who stopped watching the old show when Tom Baker left.  Do you think that many new fans will leave now that Matt Smith is gone?

Betty Pearl
Betty Pearl

@AllanHosmer Here in Canada & the USA, hardly anybody liked the old series until Tom Baker. He made the show very popular here. After they got rid of him most of us stopped watching the show, until the new versions of the series came along. Even among people who collected & or saved the old versions, most of them only collected the Tom Baker ones. Even now because of the long periods of time between the annual series of only a handful of episodes, & killing of the Doctors too often, people in the Americas are starting to loose interest in the show. When these show air here they're richly paid for by commercial advertising, where 1/3 out of every hour of the TV shows are breaks for commercial advertising. If we stopped watching it here, they'd loose a lot of money, putting production funds, profits, & the show in jeopardy.

 Notsosmartguy  likes watching "Clara Who"
Notsosmartguy likes watching "Clara Who"

@Master Michael Moon  I like the idea of an alternative universe, but they have too embrace the newness of it but keep it recognizable to fans. Take the Marvel Cinimatic Universe, it takes inspiration from the comics but it puts it's own spin on those Charecters and concepts while keeping the spirit of the source material. They could call it Time Lord.

VictorWong1
VictorWong1

@ChristianHanneman  It's "canon" because it was a BBC co-production, the script was written by a British writer, and Sylvester McCoy made his final appearance as the Seventh Doctor. Also it helped ensure the revival of the series, because it showed how DW could look *if it got the budget that it deserved*.






GrandDoctor
GrandDoctor

Asking an honest question because I AM American and dont get all the press that one might in the UK, has it ever been officially said that the audios are cannon? I know 8 said the names of his companions in "Night" but I also thought I read Moffat saying that it didn't necessarily mean they were. Plus you know Moffat...wibbly wobbly, timely wimey could get us to a place where Alex and Susan wouldn't remember that encounter, possibly through the Big Bang? Then later in the series Alex starts to remember it the same way Amy and Rory did? Boom! I just Moffated my way through that one! :)

kamisch42
kamisch42

@ChristianHanneman @Betty Pearl Perhaps just as many as had stopped watching when he started on the show? I like him, think he's great...but I've found that a lot of people I know apparently stopped watching when Matt Smith came on (mostly older fans - Tom Baker commonly their favorite Doctor). I've told them they're missing out, but they say things like not liking his voice or his mannerisms, or he's too "childish" and, "He's no Tennant!" Which is too bad. All of the Doctors should be enjoyed for what they bring to the table :) I'm only a more recent fan (where could you even watch it in the US in the 80s & 90s?? Unless I found it on VHS, as I often did, the only British television I got to watch was what PBS had to offer :/ ), but I've been going back to try and watch what's left of all the older episodes, and each incarnation is interesting in different ways. 

VictorWong1
VictorWong1

@Notsosmartguy the Superior Venom @Planet of the Deaf  Actually it would be far better (if a lot more expensive) if they had Who episodes taking place in other countries, complete with location shoots. Say, Melbourne for example (a visit with Tegan?) or Kyoto (lots of traditional buildings around) or Delhi. Maybe piggyback with the Top Gear crew to save costs?

Ashbuckler
Ashbuckler

I don't think it helped with the revival. That's was 11 years later, outside the UK nobody watched the TV Movie that's why the US wouldn't support a series. But like the post above, it was the US version of the show with a half human doctor, big gloss and a terrible script. If it had worked, we would have had Spider Daleks and god knows what else. McGann was wasted however.

Sharaz_Jek
Sharaz_Jek

@GrandDoctor There is no official canon, so it's up to yourself. However, if you take Alex, who is an Big Finish exclusive character, as canon, then your idea doesn't work since he doesn't possess any Time Lord abilities and is more or less entirely human. And he's dead, so that also ruins that.

Planet of the Deaf
Planet of the Deaf

@Lord of Time Jon Pertwee's Doctor would have been well at home with a Doctor Who/Top Gear crossover. I can imagine The Stig doing a lap of the TG circuit in the whomobile!

Lord of Time
Lord of Time

Umm... Yeah, but I can just imagine a Doctor Who/Top Gear cross over now. And Top Gear goes to some interesting places like Chernobyl...