Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Who? Kylie Minogue, Woody Allen & Paul McGann. What?!

Last month rumors abounded that Kylie Minogue was set to appear in the 2007 Doctor Who Christmas special. Russell T Davies quickly came along and said "No. How can she be appearing in something I haven't even written yet?". A few weeks went by and somebody asked Kylie herself and she replied "Yes. My gay husband [her stylist, William Baker], is so excited about it! But I'm not going to play a villain." Will she or won't she (be in the special that is)? Davies doesn't seem averse to throwing in oddball guest stars that appeal to the masses. To wit: Catherine Tate, Simon Pegg, Simon Callow, Anne Robinson, the What Not to Wear dames...the list could go on.

Indeed, Davies made it publicly known some time ago that he really wanted Britney Spears to appear on the show, but given Brit's bumpy track record as of late I wouldn't be surprised if he shifted his game plan to another pop icon: Minogue would certainly fit the bill.

Now The Sun (and The Sun, when it come to Who rumors, has been more hit than miss) is reporting that none other than Woody Allen is lined up for the Christmas special as well -- playing Albert Einstein! Normally I'd call balderdash on this, but given the sheer amount of time the Woodman has spent in England as of late (filming three UK-based movies in a row), why not? He's surely been exposed to the show repeatedly over the past three years (if not on TV, then certainly through the press). Outpost Gallifrey suggests the whole idea could be a mangled version of facts concerning actress Rebecca Hall's appearances in both Woody's next film and a movie with David Tennant called Einstein and Eddington (although she isn't listed in the latter's IMDB credits).

Confused? I sure as hell am...but man I'd love to see Woody on Doctor Who, even in a 10 second cameo. Something like that would top my list of "Things I Never Thought I'd See 'Cuz I Never Thought of 'Em To Begin With".

And yet as cool as the notion of Woody on Who may be, an even cooler Who rumor came courtesy of Michael Hinman at SyFyPortal: Talk of a Doctor Who theatrical movie --unrelated to the current series-- starring none other than Doctor #8, Paul McGann. Now this is something that even in theory blows me away, but is probably less likely than Kylie, Britney and Alvy Singer all appearing together in the same frame as David Tennant...if for no other reason than it'd be too sweet of a wish to come true.

No other actor that's portrayed the Doctor deserves another chance to strut his wares more than Paul McGann. Even though his sole outing, the 1996 TV Movie co-produced by the BBC, Fox and Universal, was pretty weak in the script arena, McGann's performance carried the entire affair and elevated it from forgettable to canonical (and that script threw out a fair amount of crap that's got no business being part of the Who canon). When he wasn't even offered the chance to star in the new series it was a massive disappointment to a lot of fans, yet it's understandable that Davies wanted a clean slate with which to work.

McGann, who was once quoted as fearing the label "The George Lazenby of Doctor Who", proved quite the trooper and has since starred in several season's worth of 8th Doctor audio dramas for Big Finish Productions. From a live action visual standpoint, yes, Paul could be called the Who equivalent of Lazenby...but from a performance standpoint he's logged far more Time Lord hours than Christopher Eccleston. More importantly, unlike Lazenby as Bond, McGann positively rocked as the Doctor...and would no doubt rock the Doctor even harder today.

The other noteworthy factor in Hinman's article (oddly published on the TV movie's 11th anniversary) is the TV movie's director Geoffrey Sax, who over the years has amassed a bit of a resume, including White Noise and Stormbreaker. Whether or not Sax has the clout to get this off the ground I've no idea, but if the BBC's behind him I don't see how his clout would be an issue. And it's hard to imagine McGann saying no to the Doctor in a theatrical outing.

Is Doctor Who a big enough brand name at this point? In the UK, no doubt. Elsewhere? If Firefly warranted a feature, there's no question Who does.

Would audiences want to see someone other than David Tennant in the role? Before Tennant, Eccleston's shoes seemed an awfully tough fill.

Is Paul McGann a big enough name to stake a movie series on? Well he had sizable roles in Alien3, The Three Musketeers and Queen of the Damned. Of course, Withnail & I remains his triumphant, definitive big screen outing. This much I do believe: McGann trumps the casting of yet another actor as the Doctor (unless perhaps that actor is Hugh Grant). Pair him up with a name companion (say..Kate Winslet?) and/or against a name bad guy (say...Bill Nighy?) and it'd be gold. Back in the '60s while William Hartnell was playing the Doctor on TV, Peter Cushing brought "Dr. Who" to life on two different occasions in Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. This wouldn't be the first time movie and TV incarnations of Doctor Who existed simultaneously.

But will Who even be on the air after Season/Series Four? Nobody's said anything concrete, but I get the vibe Davies is itching to leave, and I bet he and Tennant will time their exits in unison. (It's hard to imagine Davies casting yet another TV Doctor). Will the TV series - at least temporarily - close up shop? If it did, it'd be the perfect time to kick start a movie franchise. Maybe the BBC is thinking ahead?

Russell T Davies recently said something like "I certainly won't be around for Series Seven", which came across not as a confirmation of a sixth season, but that he was tiring of the whole process. This is the guy who was unsure the new Who would make it past the first season! He cut his teeth and honed his skills on British television, and before Who his concepts were either standalones or a couple seasons at most...and now he's juggling multiple seasons of Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures! Please, someone...let the guy hibernate fer christssakes.

A big part of my love for the idea of a McGann movie dovetails nicely with my uneasiness over someone taking over for Russell when he exits (unless that someone is Steven Moffat). Sure, Doctor Who has thrived on change and many producers have guided it since 1963, but none with as a bold a vision as Russell T Davies. Not to imply his has been the ideal vision, but it's unquestionably been a smart vision. He solved the equation for resurrecting a seemingly dead concept into something fresh and relatable to modern audiences.

I'm fascinated by the notion that Geoffrey Sax has thought about this for years, and he's no doubt kept track of what's transpired through the current TV version. What went down with the TV movie was subject to the demands of so many parties that Sax's direction should be hailed (along with McGann's Doctor) as one of the few elements that made it worthwhile. Doctor Who belongs to no singular vision. It's a concept endlessly open to new interpretations. Something tells me Sax could deliver a Doctor who is universal.