Vworp Vworp!, American Doctor Who, Christopher Barry, Missing Episodes

American Doctor Whos

Welcome, dear listener/reader to this week’s podKast with a “K” in which we welcome Doctor Who fanzine producer Gareth Kavanagh, editor of Vworp Vworp! as a guest for the full show!

Christian Cawley and James McLean are in the hotseat too, with a nice selection of topics under discussion. To kick it off, we mull over the recent Buzzfeed.com list based around the idea of how Doctor Who might have been different had it been created in the USA rather than in Television Centre.

Following this, we spend a few moments appreciating the contributions that the late Christopher Barry made to Doctor Who between 1963 (The Daleks) and 1979 (The Creature from the Pit). Given that we have unofficial fourth podKaster Gareth Kavanagh on hand as well, there’s also a bit of missing episodes chatter in there for you lucky people as well, not to mention some updates on the progress of Vworp Vworp! issue 3…

Rounding off the show (yet taking up a greater chunk of the running time than either of the other topics) are our recommendations, with 1977 serial Underworld getting the lion’s share of the discussion. Also, listen out for Gareth’s request for help deciding which Doctor Who book from his collection he should read next – leave your suggestions in the comments below!


The Kasterborous PodKast theme tune is arranged by Russell Hugo.

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29 thoughts on “Vworp Vworp!, American Doctor Who, Christopher Barry, Missing Episodes

  1. I’ve got it – Kelsey Grammer as the US 6th Doctor! And I’m not convinced by Gene Wilder as a US 4th Doctor (too obvious surely?) …not sure where he should go but sorta think Robert Downey Junior should be in there somewhere? Ideally Tim Curry for the 4th though have to keep reminding myself he’s not a yank.

    1. And yet, Docwhom, The 1996 TV movie of Doctor Who was made as a pilot to introduce American Viewers to Doctor Who. Good try though…

      1. I agree with Gareth, I’m sure it will happen. It’s not really a big secret that movie prospects have been banded back and forth with the US the past few years. None have “materialised”, but point being is BBC I don’t think has any qualms with an overseas version if the details of the deal are right, the time is right, and all sign off on it – I think if there is one dissenter it will be Cardiff, not the BBC as a whole.

        1. Admittedly, it wouldn’t be unlike the BBC to be so money-grubbingly stupid. It’s a terrible idea and it tells you everything you need to know about TV executives. We love this show so much that what we really think it needs is to be changed entirely. It would be the attitude of someone who is dumb enough to think that DW is a show about time travel.

    1. Because big franchises are routinely rebooted now. Batman, Spiderman, James Bond. It refreshes it and prevents it from collapsing under its own weight of continuity (c.f. Star Trek).

      1. “Big franchises are routinely rebooted now” is an answer to the question “Why is it likely to happen?”, not “Why would it be a good idea?”

        If it is a routine, it’s an American routine, not a British one. The only franchise you mention which is even remotely British is Bond and, if that needed refreshing, it was because of the weight of unlikelihood that the same man had been an active spy for 50 years.

        But Doctor Who already has its own internal mechanism for “refreshing” the show. Regeneration. And the way to stop the show from “collapsing under its own weight of continuity” is to reference that continuity only sparely, as has been done since 2005.

        I don’t understand how anyone professing to be a DW fan could think that the solution to weight of continuity (an invented problem these days) is to wipe away the history from the show. The history is one of the things which makes it different from any old show.

        I suspect the simple truth is partly that people think American audiences are too shallow and parochial to watch a show in any great numbers if it isn’t set and cast in America, and partly that they think that gaining a bigger budget for DW is an end in itself.

        1. Yes, the regeneration is a mechanism to refresh the cast but no necessarily the programme. A change of showrunner who sets the tone and direction tends to achieve that more effectively.

          At some point though, the history and continuity tends to smother if not treated correctly. RTD could have brought back the show with no continuity (as I’m sure was actively considered), but decides to keep it in as part of the show (to be handled with kid gloves). The Daleks coming back doesn’t need to reference anything previous, as it obsessed with in the 80’s (the war with the Movellans is over, etc etc).

          By the same token, far too much time is lost in the TV Movie with obsessing about continuity references, up to and including having to show the regeneration from McCoy meaning you relaunch the product and only see your leading man for 30 minutes. Had those scenes had, say Alfred Molina as the Doctor regenerating into McGann, we’d have just made our own minds up and either bridged the continuity in our heads or ignored it.

          I suppose the other aspect that both supports (and mitigates against) the argument for a US Who has been the conscious courting of the market, setting the show in the US increasingly (and at key points of the season). And as a result of this courting, the profile and audience has gone up. So; maybe the transatlantic Who we have now under the Moff is the real answer, meaning in essence we have both.

          1. RTD proved precisely how continuity should be treated, especially in the first series. This is an argument against rebooting 😉

            Re: the TV movie, if McCoy had been unavailable, there would have been no regeneration. We’d probably have got the Doctor’s dad instead…

  2. I’m with DocWhom, I don’t think it will happen. I don’t believe US execs get Doctor Who outside of BBC America, and that network has a very specific remit.

    Doctor Who reboots every X years, it’s built in. Rebooting it totally would be like rebooting the universe or something (oh wait…). Seriously though, I can’t see it happening. It’s more likely that DW will shrink back under its own mystery now that the 50th is done. It will be a long time before we see anything like worldwide cinema screenings again.

    The reason for this goes beyond what is natural for DW and what isn’t, imho. That reason is BBC Worldwide.

    1. You’re assuming, though that Doctor Who will remain in continuous production over here. If it does, I agree a US reboot is unlikely. If it doesn’t though (as was intended after the Stolen Earth 2008 where Doctor Who would have ended as a series), then after a period of absence a US reboot is as likely as any other option, including a movie, a new UK series, a Netflix exclusive etc etc.

      1. Ah, but that was an intention of one department, not the BBC as a whole. In that respect it is little more than a footnote.

        Given the the success of Doctor Who since it “broke” in the USA, there’s little logic for a reboot, regardless of whether it airs on BBC America, HBO or Netflix/on demand.

        Doctor Who has been rewriting itself since 1964 (destroyed Daleks suddenly conquer earth) so there is no need at all in any sense for a “traditional” Batman-style reboot.

        Might as well try and teach a dog to talk…

        1. But working out the intentions of the BBC as a whole is probably more difficult to define. But it was, to all intents and purposes supposed to end in 2008 and we could well have seen a US series follow headed up by RTD and co-produced by the likes of Starz. A fascinating what if, but no a million miles away either.

          Agreed, the fact you can change the lead actor is a tremendous advantage that, say Only Fools and Horses doesn’t enjoy. If David Jason says no, you don’t do it.

  3. I knew that, if I stayed long enough, Christian and I would agree about something. 😉

    The recent Star Trek movies reboot is probably the trickiest of Gareth’s points to counter. But that was an American series being rebooted in America. What’s being discussed here is the notion of a British series being rebooted in the US. The first problem that sets up is the idea of a British DW running concurrently with a US DW. That wouldn’t be like a British Star Trek franchise running concurrently with a US one because that could be as different as Next Generation and Voyager – entirely different characters. Whereas with DW we’d be looking at the same character.

    Secondly, the mindsets of the two countries are very different. And this isn’t anti-Americanism on my part. There are elements of the US mindset which I wish we had in Britain. But imagine how American Star Trek fans would feel if the JJ Abrams Star Trek movie reboot had been done in Britain, with British writers and actors…and a British sensibility. So we’d gone back to Kirk’s story but, because the British are a far more cynical and pessimistic people than the Americans, we’d changed the Federation in the British reboot into one like the Federation in Blakes 7. And we’d made Kirk into someone like Avon.

    Doctor Who isn’t just a show which happens always to have been made in Britain. It’s probably the TV show which best reflects what’s different about the British character and mindset. The Troughtonesque character of the Doctor. Keeping the TARDIS as a police box despite there being a ready-made plot device in the chameleon circuit to have it be something far more interesting every week which would attract viewers just to see what new shape it had taken this week. Thinking that making the Doctor half-human makes him less, not more, interesting. Retaining the original (and, let’s face it, daft and impractical) Dalek design in 2005 when it could have been changed to something far more realistic. Can we imagine the recent Battlenoir Galactica reboot having kept the original Cylon design?

    The thing which worries me the most, and this is where you couldn’t compare it to having a British Star Trek franchise, is that American TV is vastly richer and more powerful than British TV. If the BBC decided to have a break from the British DW for a few years, the American DW would become the dominant “franchise” and it would just be too easy in the sense of budgets and audiences to never restart British DW but to just allow American DW to become “the” DW. Give most of the British writers, directors and producers the option of working on an American show rather than a British one and I bet they’d bite your hand off. Look how they already love the attention they get at enormous American cons which they’d never get at a British equivalent. Look at how RTD and DT couldn’t wait to get to LA to try to become a big name there. There’s no way that an American-owned franchise would ever see that it was becoming popular in Britain and seek to exploit that popularity at the expense of its existing audience. But I think the bean-counters who run the BBC would do that like a shot if they could get away with it.

    Finally, I don’t include Gareth in this but I suspect that some of the people commenting that an American DW franchise is inevitable secretly long for it to happen. So they can have the colossal budgets and CSO…sorry, green screen…worthy of Star Wars. Just look at what happened on 23rd Nov. A record-breaking worldwide audience for something resolutely British. Why would we conclude that it needs to be changed to fit another mindset?

    1. Ahhh well; we’re into two different things here. The desirability of a US reboot as opposed to the likelihood of it. At present, I’d say it’s neither desirable or likely. However, everyone’s assuming that Doctor Who is secure for ever as a UK series and that popular series’ never end.

      Sadly, it’s not (very few things are, especially complex and expensive things like Who) and they do. Just look at the continued debate on the future role of the BBC fuelled by people like Michael Grade who would like to see the BBC radically scaled down and out of the drama market. Who’s to say that their ideas will not get traction at some point?

      1. It strikes me that if you can find a US TV executive who will commission and get backing for a show that has failed twice (assuming it comes off air in the UK before this can happen… or even three times including 1996) then Doctor Who might well be rebooted in the USA.

        I suspect he/she will never exist, but…

        1. Very few people in the industry will consider a show based on an event nearly 20 years back. The market and industry changes make such consideration academic at best. A US pitch would be based on success and interest based on the current day model. I have no doubt in that light, that the prospect isn’t off the cards, especially as a movie wasn’t. But yes, I don’t see the UK side looking at such a prospect while they continue the show over here and have it as a success in the states over there.
          I think Gareth’s right in so far if the BBC decide to retire the show onto hiatus, the ball-game would change, especially if it was a move based on drama direction in the UK rather than dwindling interest here or overseas.

  4. Head of Drama, suppose you had brainstormed an idea in your boardroom. Something contagious and infectious which made money on contact. A franchise that would destroy all other franchises. Would you allow its use?

    It is an interesting conjecture.

    Would you do it?

    The only thing on TV, a enormous budget reigning supreme. A fascinating idea.

    But would you do it?

    Yes. Yes. To hold in my hand a contract that contained such power, to know that merchandising on such a scale was my choice. To know that the tiny pressure on my thumb, enough to sign the contract, would end everything. Yes, I would do it! That power would get me out of Cardiff. And through the US reboot, I shall have that power!

    1. I like the sound of that! Craig Hinton was a lovely chap, even if he hated the Ribos Operation for no apparent reason…

  5. I’ll take Michael Grade seriously on the day that he appears in public without a cigar. It’s such an obvious prop to make him appear to be “a character” that it’s embarrassing.

  6. I am an American, the real deal breaker for transplanting Doctor Who to the U.S. is the Tardis. The closest thing we have to looking like a blue police box is the Porta Potty!
    FYI: The worlds first police box was in New York City in 1882!

  7. I’m American and even I think it would be dreadful! One of the wonderful things about Doctor Who is that it’s British.

  8. I don’t think an American Doctor Who is likely and would be pretty surprised it occurred. There have been British shows localized for American markets like The Office and Life On Mars to name a few. But in most cases, those were not well known properties in the US and the best way to compete in the market may have been an American version.

    This is simply not the case with Doctor Who. We might quibble about world wide audience and such, but the show is very well known among the targeted demographic that a remake would need to capture to be successful.

    If (against all reasonable possibility) it was made, I would watch just to see how awful it would truly be. It could not do anything but disappoint and would be near certain to fail.

    Now a spin-off? That’s doable. Maybe an American division of UNIT with an occasional Who guest star could work. Maybe an anthology show like “Tales of the Timelords”. Maybe adapt some of the Big Finish spin-offs.

    A spin-off would at least stand a chance. A localized Doctor Who would be DOA for nearly all fans and any genre series has to have, if not the goodwill of the fans, at least a grudging acceptance of its right to exist.

  9. Absolutely no American Dr. Who, if you please. Some things should stay British (and preferably Moffat). We already tried our hand at a Sherlock television series, but look at the British version compared to that.

    Do an American version of the I.T. Crowd with great writers and I’ll consider it.

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