Doctor Who: 6 Failed Movie Attempts You Never Knew Existed

Original movie poster for ‘Dr. Who and the Daleks’ (Credit: impawards.com

Next month, Doctor Who fans will receive a special treat with a limited theatrical showing of last season’s two-part finale. This special screening will even include a new prequel episode for the upcoming Series 9. These annual outings to the theater are starting to become a tradition and begs us to wonder when if (ever there) could see an original big-budget Doctor Who movie.

I think I stand with most of the fans out there when I say we need to see this happen. Also, I think it needs to happen soon while Doctor Who is still at its peak. Unfortunately, Steven Moffat disagrees. In recent years, he has been very outspoken in that he doesn’t feel a movie is possible and that the Doctor needs to stay where he belongs on our television screens. Considering that 2016 may be an extremely dry year where our televisions are concerned, it seems to make sense (at least to me) that the TARDIS should make the journey into the unexplored realm of cinema.

Related: Doctor Who: Dark Water/Death in Heaven 3D Coming to Theaters with Series 9 Prequel

The argument surrounding a Doctor Who film has actually been occurring much longer than most fans think. The campaign to get the TARDIS into theaters has been going on almost as long as the show has existed! For quite some time, there have been failed attempts to get Doctor Who on the big screen. Some of these ideas got closer than others, but all of them ultimately did not make it.

Here’s a look at six of the most fascinating attempts to helm a Doctor Who film:

(Credit: britmovie.co.uk)

Daleks vs. Mechons

Believe it or not, there actually were two Doctor Who films made in the 1960’s. However, these are not considered canon by the fans and are often viewed with disdain.

Peter Cushing played an eccentric scientist known as “Dr. Who” in two movies, titled Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks-Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. Yes, you guessed it: these films were written by Terry Nation and were versions of his first two Hartnell-era Dalek stories. In fact, they are nearly exact replicas, with just a few minor changes. The title character “Dr. Who” is a human scientist who lives with his granddaughters Susan and Barbara and has just invented a time machine he calls “TARDIS.” When Barbara’s date Ian comes over, “Dr. Who” decides to test the invention for the first time.

Related: Remembering Peter Cushing, the First Non-Canonical Doctor

From that point on, you basically are getting a remake of ‘The Daleks.’ The second Cushing film is also a remake, this time of the classic ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth,’ but once again there are some changes. Joining “Dr. Who” and Susan are his niece Louise and bumbling police officer Tom Campbell, who is played by a very young Bernard Cribbins (later  known as Donna Noble’s grandfather, Wilfred).

A third Cushing film, Daleks vs. Mechons, was to be made based on ‘The Chase.’ Due to poor returns on the second film, this idea was scrapped. I used to own the Cushing films on DVD, and I actually quite enjoyed them. Just soak in the technicolor campiness and dream about what could have been had these films actually been successful.

Here’s a taste of the Peter Cushing films, with the trailer for Daleks-Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.:

Vincent Price (Credit: Shout! Factory)

Doctor Who Meets Scratchman

During his early days as the Doctor, Tom Baker was quite keen on the idea of expanding Doctor Who into the cinematic universe. Together with Ian Marter (who then played Harry Sullivan), they created a script called Doctor Who Meets Scratchman.

Mock poster for Doctor Who Meets Scratchman (Credit: Doctor Who Magazine)

Baker was very passionate about getting his script to the big screen and campaigned often in order to get the necessary funding. Some fans even donated handsomely to the project. Unfortunately, Baker had to return the money after receiving some legal advice that he shouldn’t be taking money from fans for a project that hadn’t even been approved.

Plans were dropped and the project went to the great space junk heap. However, there is a detailed plot synopsis online. The story was quite out there and involved living scarecrows, cyborgs, the Devil, the God Pan, Daleks, and a climatic final battle on an enormous pinball machine!

Related: Doctor Who: The Unmade Fourth Doctor Movies

If that isn’t enough for you, the legendary Vincent Price was the rumored favorite to play Harry Scrath, aka the Scratchman. While it sounds as though Tom Baker was amped up on too many jelly babies when he wrote this, there is a big part of me that would give up a regeneration or two just to have seen this happen. The idea of Vincent Price going head to head with Tom Baker’s Doctor makes my fanboy bones shiver with glee.

Fourth Doctor Tom Baker in the Doctor Who story ‘The Armageddon Factor.’ (Credit: BBC)

Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen

Another attempt at a film was made during the Tom Baker era, this time by the legendary Douglas Adams.

While serving as script editor, Adams made some legendary contributions to the show, including the classic ‘City of Death.’ Before all this, he submitted a script for Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen, which unfortunately was rejected as both a television story and as a possible film. Adams was able to use some of the ideas from the aborted project for the The Key to Time‘ storyline, as well as Life, the Universe and Everything, the third installment of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series.

Related: Douglas Adams’ Lost Doctor Who Episode: ‘The Doctor Retires’

Adams had a plethora of ideas that never were realized on Doctor Who. For example, ideas from the aborted television story ‘Shada‘ were used in his novel Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (which was filmed as an four-episode BBC series in 2010 and will be relaunched again next year on BBC America).

Alan Rickman in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. (Credit: Dreamworks/Warner Bros.)

Doctor Who: The Last of the Time Lords

In 1987, a production company called Daltenreys had acquired the rights to make a Doctor Who feature film. After an initial script from Mark Ezra, it was rewritten by Johnny Byrne, who had scripted several episodes of the classic series.

Titled Doctor Who: The Last of the Time Lords, the story involved the Doctor’s attempts to stop an evil Time Lord named Varnax from attempting mastery of all of time and space. Several big name actors were considered for the part of the Doctor, including Tim Curry and Donald Sutherland. One definite piece of casting had occurred with Caroline Munro as the Doctor’s companion Cora. Despite already investing a substantial amount of money into the project, Daltenreys failed to get Hollywood backing for the project, and the contract with the BBC had to be renegotiated.

Related: Tim Curry Should be on Doctor Who

Lumiere Pictures, a French-owned production company took on the project with hopes of making a series of Doctor Who films. It was rumored that Leonard Nimoy would direct and Alan Rickman would star as the Doctor. By 1994, nothing materialized, and the rights reverted back to the BBC. Jean-Marc Loffier chronicles all of the failed attempts at a film in his book The Nth Doctor.

Interestingly enough, Byrne’s script deals with the Doctor’s planet being wiped out, leaving him as the last of the Time Lords. Wow, someone really needs to use this concept!

Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy. (Credit: Doctor Who TV)

The Dark Dimension

No article discussing the Doctor’s failed travels to the cinema would be complete without a revisit to one of the biggest letdowns of all time, a planned 1993 30th anniversary reunion movie featuring multiple Doctors.

Technically, this would have been a direct-to-video release rather than a big-screen adaptation, but I felt it was worth mentioning just because of the sheer enormity of it. Written by Adrien Rigelsford, The Dark Dimension would have starred all of the surviving Doctors at the time. According to Rigelsford, the idea originated when Tom Baker approached the BBC about returning as the Doctor. After what happened with Doctor Who Meets Scratchman, you would think it would have been ignored but here we go again.

Related: A Doctor Who Movie is Not Feasible, According to Peter Davison

The basic plot of the story would have featured an older Fourth Doctor who never regenerated and was trapped in an alternate dimension (thus explaining Tom Baker’s older appearance). This Doctor was rescued by UNIT after falling from the Pharos Project in ‘Logopolis.’ The Doctor would desperately try to stop the evil creature who had changed the timeline before his future incarnations were destroyed. Classic monsters such as the Daleks, Cybermen, Yeti, and the Ice Warriors would have returned. Among the Doctor’s allies, Ace and the Brigadier would have appeared, along with a new character known as “Summerfield.” Some test shots were done, with plans to redesign the Daleks and Cybermen.

Even though the project died, there is a fan-based animated version of this story online. I don’t recommend it, but if you dare, here’s the first part:

Eric Roberts and Paul McGann, the stars of ‘Doctor Who: The Movie.’ (Credit: BBC)

Fathers and Brothers

The Doctor has a father named Ulysses? The Doctor and the Master are brothers? What is this madness?

Well, this was a proposed script for an earlier incarnation of what was to become the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie starring Paul McGann. In this version, the Doctor is searching for his long-lost father Ulysses, and in the process discovers his own heritage — he was born to a human mother named Annalisse. Borusa serves as the Doctor’s “spirit guide” (oh boy) while he attempts to stop the Master, who is his half-brother. There were also going to be redesigned Daleks in this one. A lot of the script went into the Doctor’s origins and explained the concept of regeneration in detail.

Related: Comic-Con 2015: The Eighth Doctor Gets a New Mini-Series from Titan Comics

I’m not sure if a storyline heavily focused on Gallifrey would work for new fans, and this is probably why the concept was eventually scrapped. There is a great read-through by Paul McGann from this script in the DVD extras of the TV movie, though.


There are a lot more versions of failed Doctor Who movies I could list, but I chose some of the most interesting ones.

In closing, I would like to say that a movie version of our favorite Time Lord should still happen. I think the idea is to stick with what works. Film a shortened season that leads into the story line for the movie. Keep the tried and true concepts the same, but just make it bigger and more epic.

The Doctor should continue his adventures on television, but I know we would all love to see that big blue box flying through our movie screens.