Monday, August 29, 2011

An Idea for Doctor Who at 50

Sometimes thinking can be like what I imagine fishing to be like. You can be sat there quietly contemplating nothing of significance, when all of a sudden an idea floats down the stream of thoughts that bites on your hook and all of a sudden you get all excited and start reeling it in like mad... eager to land your epiphany before it escapes into the murky waters of obscurity and amnesia.

A thought like this hit me just this afternoon (you can blame the bank holiday). I have no idea where it came from... I just knew that I needed to grab on and hold tight when it hit me. I had been watching a 5 minute summary video of all the Doctor Who episodes that have taken place to date and had been reading an introductory article that had been posted on my Facebook wall, which mentioned the upcoming 50 year anniversary.

Rumour has it that Steven Moffat has something special and massive in the pipeline, when one considers the way that next year's Doctor Who series has been spaced out to overlap with 2013 (presumably making the anniversary year a bumper one), you really get the impression he is making BIG plans. This led me to thinking about what I'd like to see in a 50th anniversary special... and how if it were a multi Doctor story, you'd get past the difficulty of Christopher Eccleston vetoing any further performances as The Doctor. For the 50th anniversary something REALLY special needs to be done. 50 is the one that every generation that has seen Doctor Who... will be around at the same time. If you go as far as 100, hardly anyone who watched at the start with William Hartnell will in probability be alive. So now is the time to pull the stops out.

And that is when... all at once, in a congealed mass.... it hit me.

A multi Doctor story doesn't have to feature all the actors getting together. They could do an 11th Doctor story (possibly a crossover with the Tenth Doctor), where The Doctor has to deal with an enemy who has been interfering in events behind the scenes in his previous adventures.  The production team could film the live action segments as per normal and then create sets cleverly dressed up to look like some of those used in classic episodes. They could then green screen Matt Smith (and whoever accompanies him), into the background of several re-edited scenes from classic episodes (ideally one from each of his 10 predecessors). It may sound crazy and if it is executed poorly, it won't come off well and it will be rubbish... but if they get it right, everyone will be ecstatic.

Is it really that much of a stretch? I don't think so... after all, in The Impossible Astronaut, the production team did indeed dabble with the relevant technology in a scene involving Laurel and Hardy. In fact... could this little snippet actually have been an experiment on the part of the production team to see if they could push the envelope for such a project... on a BBC budget? I hope so.
Matt Smith as The Doctor, integrated into vintage footage of Laurel & Hardy


It isn't the first time it has happened either. The first time such a technique was used so seamlessly in the mainstream as far as I can recall, was the film Forrest Gump. Here's an example of it in a famous scene involving Tom Hanks actually interacting with footage of JFK:


The same technique was also used to great effect on television shortly after in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine anniversary tribute episode, Trials and Tribble-ations:


So in conclusion then, it can be done. I don't know if Moffat plans something quite so bold and ambitious with Doctor Who's 50th, but especially in the still relatively recent passing of Nicholas Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen,  wouldn't it be a wonderful way to pay tribute to ALL the people who have contributed to the legend of The Doctor (on and off screen), since 1963?

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