I'd like to begin this week's column with a small confession: I never thought the day would come when nearly everyone I know was simultaneously discussing Doctor Who.
That day did indeed arrive, though, when Scottish actor Peter Capaldi was announced as the new star of the long-running BBC series Sunday afternoon. And as the only kid in my class who grew up watching old black-and-white episodes of that charmingly cheesy British sci-fi saga, it was truly an amazing thing to behold.
But here's the thing: The recent coronation of the new Doctor is just one of the many reasons why the timing has never been better for a Doctor Who movie to go into production.
When Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat officially debunked that old rumor about a big-screen adventure featuring the popular time- and space-traveling hero that would fall outside the show's 50 years of canon, many fans breathed a sigh of relief. In his dismissal of the rumor, however, Moffat indicated that a film about the Doctor in one (or more) of his television incarnations isn't entirely off the table – quite the opposite, in fact.
“Look, we hopefully will do a Doctor Who film someday,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “It will be absolutely run by the Doctor Who production office in Cardiff. It will feature the same Doctor as on television. It will not be a rebooted continuity.”
And with the casting of a new actor in the lead role, a new season on the way next year, and a particularly beneficial convergence of certain storylines, casting scenarios, and old-fashioned luck, the timing couldn't be better to turn Moffat's hope for a big-screen Doctor Who adventure into a reality.
Just follow along with me here, okay?
The current star of the series, Matt Smith, is scheduled to make his exit in this year's Christmas episode. He'll pass the torch (or in Doctor Who terms, “regenerate”) to Capaldi, who will become the 12th Doctor and continue on in the role for the 2014 season and possibly beyond that point. Joining him in next year's adventures will be Jenna Coleman, who will enter her second season as the Doctor's companion Clara Oswald.
Thus far, the modern era of Doctor Who hasn't shown much of a long-term interest in the Doctor's companions, with several lasting only a single season and only Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) – and now, conceivably, Clara Oswald (Coleman) – lasting more than a season. At those points when the Doctor has transitioned from one companion to the next, his costars generally bid farewell at the end of a season, allowing for at least one solo adventure for the Time Lord in that year's Christmas special (which helps make the long break between the finale of one season and the premiere of the next a little easier to cope with).
Still with me? Good. Because here's where it really gets interesting...
So given all of that history, there's reason to believe that Doctor Who fans can expect to see quirky Clara Oswald make her exit in a season or two, creating the perfect opportunity for some stand-alone adventures that require nothing more than the current iteration of the Doctor and a compelling destination in time and space.
In other words, the time is now to get the ball rolling on a Doctor Who movie that can both introduce the Doctor in a mainstream-friendly way and still fit cleanly into the series' canon.
As long as Moffat and BBC's Doctor Who team plan to keep Capaldi around for a few seasons in the role – and given his long resume which already includes one Oscar, that seems like a safe bet – there's a great opportunity to film a stand-alone, feature-length adventure with the Doctor that can arrive on screens at some later point when he's “between companions” in the series. With the flexible storytelling tricks that the Doctor's journeys through time generally afford writers, it should be no problem to insert elements from the movie into the television series at some later point, tying everything together. And on the other side of the narrative coin, a good script will show newcomers to Doctor Who what all the fuss is about while also seeding the adventure with a few references to the greater universe that longtime fans – and curious newbies – will pick up on and (hopefully) appreciate.
Of course, beyond all the casting and developing narratives that make this the ideal time to roll cameras on a Doctor Who movie, the most important factor is this: the Doctor Who brand has never been more popular than it is right now. Just in the last year, Doctor Who has been featured on the cover of nearly every major entertainment magazine in the U.S., and the formerly under-the-radar series has become a topic of discussion on primetime television news shows, appeared in the headlines of national newspapers, and even had its cast become the focus of American celebrity-gossip outlets.
Basically, when it comes to the world of sci-fi entertainment properties, Doctor Who has done what many (including myself) once thought impossible: it replicated its A-list status in the U.K. here in the U.S.
Put all of these elements together, and it's not too difficult to see why there's never been a better time to bring Doctor Who to theaters. With so many people already aware of what makes the Doctor one of television's greatest heroes, Moffat and the Doctor Who team now have the perfect opportunity to show the world why everyone's favorite Time Lord is amazing on any screen – no matter what size it is.
Rick Marshall is an award-winning writer and editor whose work can be found at Movies.com, as well as MTV News, Fandango, Digital Trends, IFC.com, and various other online, print, and on-air news outlets. He's been called a “Professional Geek” by ABC News and Spike TV, and is still not quite sure how he ended up writing (and talking) about comics, video games, and movies for a living. His personal blog can be found at MindPollution.org, and you can find him on Twitter as @RickMarshall.