It’s a travesty. Just the very thought of this. But as we all watched the end of Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor, these are the thoughts that swirl in my head. I think Peter Capaldi will be brilliant as the 12th (or 13th – or whatever that liar Steven Moffat has in store). Compared to some of the great British dramas and comedies, American television pales in comparison. However, there are still some writers and actors that would make me tune in if they attempted an American Doctor Who.
Neil Patrick Harris as… The Doctor?
1. We would need Great Writers – First of all, you would need a great writer and a network that wouldn’t be afraid to take hold of or loosen the reins – as necessary. The network, the writer, and the writing staff would have to truly understand what they were up against. Not just 50 years of history concerning a very old alien traveling in a blue box, but they would also have to understand the character, know how he thinks, really understand why he does the things he does. It wouldn’t be easy. It would take a Joss Whedon or Bryan Fuller or someone who understands how to creatively get at the heart of a story or a character. For example, it is always interesting to see how Malcolm Reynolds thinks in Firefly, but his “companions” were either helpful to him or causing some kind of trouble that pushed the story forward. There would have to be a repartee between the characters that is not cliched. There would have to be some complexity to the characters and the seasons would have to follow an arc, featuring mysteries and satisfying conclusions to them. For instance, in the episode “Hide”, one of the names for the “ghost” was the witch of the well. They never could figure out where the name came from, but the 50th Anniversary gives us a clue as to where that moniker derived.
2. We would need an Enigmatic Doctor – I really enjoy British actors. I don’t know if they are suited ideally for the writing they get or if they elevate the writing. Whatever it is, the actor for The Doctor is usually great. From the beginning The Doctor has been an enigmatic character. You don’t understand half the things he says, he spends most of his time on-screen running, and we are captivated by him. We mourn the loss of the previous incarnation even as we fall in love with the new one. We would need an actor that makes us fear, love, scream in excitement at his adventure, hope he is saved in the end, and more than that, hope he comes back after future incarnations. What actor of American stage and screen would you put in the role of Doctor? Neil Patrick Harris would make a good choice. Although he behaves more comically lately, we know that he has the range to tackle serious. He is lanky and reminds me of David Tennant and Matt Smith. I believe his Doctor would be an exceptional one. Ryan McPartlin, known from his role on Chuck, might have what it takes. A virtual unknown despite the role of Devon, he showed us that he could be a serious spy while also hamming it up as “Captain Awesome.” Ryan McPartlin could take on the role, but would he be the best candidate? I am not sure why, but I am in love with the fact that Capaldi is the new Doctor. William Fichtner has some qualities that I think would make him a great Doctor. He makes a great villain, and in a lot of ways, it takes the mind of a villain to do some of the things that The Doctor can do. He also has a sympathetic face and engaging smile which is all it takes to turn “mad man with a blue box” into the loveable Doctor. Tim Daly would be an excellent choice for an American Doctor Who. Not only is he distinguished, can be silly, and is terribly good looking, he is an incredible actor and can make the character his own. I’ve been watching The Daly Show and I enjoy his sense of humour and also his look. He would be a great American Doctor Who. Terry O’Quinn is a great character actor. He has a look that speaks volumes of the depth of knowledge he could possess. There is something about how he reacts to people that puts The Doctor in my mind. Also, I could absolutely see myself following Terry O’Quinn on crazy adventures through time and space. Jeff Fahey looks like a mad man. Give that guy a Blue Box!
3. We would need Reliable Companions – When we hear the word “companion” we think of the “sidekick” or the character that bolsters the main character in American dramas and comedies. But companions in the Doctor Who universe are more than that. The companion has a very vital part in the series. Sometimes they are the crux of the story i.e. the Doctor Donna. Sometimes their part in the story causes us the most heartache, i.e. Angels Take Manhattan. Every time, they play an important part in the show, and they are never just thrown in for sport. There are not many writers that do a good job of making the B-Story characters as strong as the main character. Another thing that Doctor Who has succeeded in doing is introducing us to really amazing, unknown, actors. While Billie Piper was a pop star at the time of her casting, Davies really succeeded in making her character likable, someone we could relate to, and someone for whom we had no problem cheering. While Catherine Tate had her own sketch comedy show, Davies successfully changed her annoying Christmas Special character into an endearing one that many, unexpectedly, grew to love. The companion character has the most heart because we have to watch them live with the heavy and terrible decisions of The Doctor and still choose to carry on.
4. We would need Historic American Mysteries – America has a lot of mysteries. Some that have been solved, though not in popular culture, and some that are still a mystery. Wouldn’t it be great to fit Amelia Earhart into a Doctor Who storyline? What about Roanoke? There are several things that are a part of the American narrative that would benefit from a Doctor Who take on it.
5. We would need Great Villains – Doctor Who would be nothing if not for the villains. While many people do not feel the sense of dread for the Daleks that they felt 50 years ago, there are still great bad guys to contend with. The Master, The Weeping Angels, The Vashtu Nerada… all equally scary villains. Just as important as the Writing, the actor who plays the Doctor, and the actors playing the companions, the villain is important. What would we fear otherwise? Who do we run from? The villain has to be fearsome. I admit, we have writers that know how to make some great villains. In fact, there are some really well done human villains in today’s pop culture. Javier Bardem’s character in No Country for Old Men, any antagonist (hell, even the protagonists) from Breaking Bad, even Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones all make excellent bad guys and people we love to hate. We’ve even got people who can create the monsters we see. Watching shows like Supernatural or Vampire Diaries shows that we can do semi-realistic monsters while Sleepy Hollow shows that we can bring up the creep and tension factor on television.
It would take a lot to convince me that American writers, actors, and the studios that support them are ready to take on the behemoth that is Doctor Who, to craft a series of stories worth watching, worth crying over, and worth hating a writer until the end of days even as you devour every word he/she puts out. We have the elements, through tossed across a wide spectrum of shows, that would make a great Doctor Who, but are we wise enough to put it together the way it’s supposed to be? Do we have the insight to, wonders of all wonders, even make it better? We’re not ready, but we could be.
TV Devourer. Capable of watching 8 seasons in a single month. Able to jump sharks without motorcycles. Writing well into the night due to insomnia. Still on California time. I've been writing for as long as I've been reading. TV came later. It may be the opiate of the masses, but it is where I find understanding, solace, the expression of joy, grief, and so much more. I hope readers can see all of this as well, through my writing.