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‘Doctor Who’ thing of the day: a show this popular inspires bizarre rumors (re Johnny Depp and a missing script)

I avoid posting Ain’t It Cool-type rumors or unsubstantiated gossip, but I think it’s worth pointing out that when it comes to a show with such a devoted cult following as Doctor Who, rumors are always rife and frequently must be eyed with deep skepticism. Like two that crossed my path in the last few days. (I guess everyone is already suffering from end-of-the-season withdrawal.)

First, I stumbled across a WENN report over this past weekend about a supposed mishap regarding the script for the upcoming Christmas special:

Filming for the Doctor Who Christmas special has been thrown into jeopardy after the top-secret script reportedly went missing.

Executive producer and lead writer Steven Moffat is facing a race against time to create a new draft before filming commences next month, according to Britain’s Daily Star Sunday.

I couldn’t find anything at the Daily Star about this, which doesn’t surprise me, because this is absolutely preposterous. I can believe that a copy of the script that was either missing or stolen would be a concern — some meanspirited pain in the ass could post the thing online or something, thereby spoiling the story for everyone else — but it’s impossible to believe that a month before shooting was to commence (assuming that’s even true) that there would be only one copy of a script in existence. Apart from the ridiculousness that Steven Moffat doesn’t have a secure and regularly backed-up computer system, at this point in preproduction things like costumes and sets would already be well underway, which typically does require scripts for the artists to work from.

Maybe I’m wrong about this — maybe Moffat is able to keep things so close to the vest that only he has the only copy of a script until actual shooting commences. But I doubt it.

And then there’s this. Reader Joseph sent me a link on Friday to a site called Lady, That’s My Skull — this appears to be a relatively low-traffic site devoted mostly to comic books, and it’s where I grabbed that Photoshopped image of Depp in front of the TARDIS above — that was pointing to an “article” on content mill site PubArticles that insisted that:

International film star Johnny Depp has been confirmed to play the part of time traveling Doctor Who in the big screen treatment of the same name slated for a Summer 2012 release.

In a telephone interview actor Johnny Depp was brief about the project due to contractual obligations, however he revealed some choice plot twists: “The Doctor will absolutely have a serious romance. I can not reveal who my co-star is yet but I’m told she is a strong, lovely actress that everyone knows and is perfect for the part.” Johnny Depp revealed one other aspect of the Doctor, that of his secret past: “The Doc is always portrayed as this mysterious Demi-God. Russell [T. Davies] has penned this wonderful, exciting script that humanizes this all-powerful alien. The Doctor is actually given a name in the film, I’m told he never really has one. He also acts like a Physician in more than just his title. He’s called The Doctor for a reason. His mission is to journey through time and space with a crew of volunteers treating humanity’s illnesses brought on by invading aliens. He cures the bubonic plague and then goes to Africa to fight Ebola. The film will be very human and relevant and have a great message.”

Doctor Who begins filming in 2011 for a Summer 2012 release.

This sounds completely absurd, and not only because the Doctor has never been a physician. So if this is a fake — and how can it not be? — it’s not even a plausible one. But content mills pay their writers only based upon high pageviews, so what better way to steal a lot of traffic by reporting on a “scoop” about a popular franchise that no one else seems to have managed to get? (PubArticles is particularly repulsive: it promises writers that we can “Sign Up & Submit Articles – Absolutely Free!” Imagine that: PubArticles does not charge you to give your work away!)

I emailed my contact at BBC America asking if this is legit, and heard nothing in reply.

Several readers sent me a link to the blog Tor.com, which picked up on the PubArticles story:

The grain-of-salt quotient on this idea is MASSIVE, but it’s not like Russell T. Davies hasn’t introduced huge, odd-sounding concepts to Doctor Who before. He’s also admitted in his book The Writer’s Tale to routinely lying to press about story elements.

So it was with even greater surprise that movie studio sources confirmed with Tor.com today that, while it can’t comment on possible story elements, the casting of Johnny Depp as the Doctor for a 2012 film is confirmed.

Until we get some more concrete confirmation from someone willing to be named, I’m calling bullshit on this.

(If you stumble across a cool Doctor Who thing, feel free to email me with a link.)


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  • http://macgamer.com Corey Tamas

    but it’s impossible to believe that a month before shooting was to commence (assuming that’s even true) that there would be only one copy of a script in existence.

    And, with that single comment, you have summed up everything I think about the matter.

  • Mo

    And then there’s the part where Matt talked to Radio 1 about getting his copy of the new script that morning… and that was two weeks ago.

  • Martin

    Is it weird that my first thought about Johnny Depp as the Doctor is ‘too obvious’?

    I love Johnny as much as the next geek but does he have to have the monopoly on all the quirky roles in Hollywood?

  • Joanne

    The whole Depp thing sounds crazy to me. I can’t see why they’d pick a different actor for a movie instead of doing one with DT or Matt Smith, who would both surely leap at the chance and be considerably cheaper. And the plot doesn’t sound like an RTD plot either. Added to the entire lack of journalistic integrity in that reporting (a telephone interview with who? Confirmed by who?) and I’m taking this with a giant bag of salt for now.

  • http://macgamer.com Corey Tamas

    Another thing that concerns me about Depp in the role is that it can only come about in one of two ways:
    1. Continuity with the show is broken, which I don’t like.
    2. Continuity with the show isn’t broken, and Matt Smith has to regenerate, which I don’t like for two reasons: First, I like Matt Smith, and second, Johnny Depp isn’t going to start playing the role on TV which means something else ridiculous has to happen (yet another regeneration?)

    Nosir. I don’t like it. I surely don’t.

  • Lisa

    I love Dr Who rumours – my favourite one recently has been the Lady Gaga one.

  • Isobel

    I’m hoping the Johnny Depp rumours aren’t true, I agree with Corey re: continuity etc but much as I like Johnny Depp (and I do, I do, I do) he’s just absolutely not the Doctor, for some reason.

  • http://www.facebook.com/englerp EnglerP

    Corey Tamas: There’s a third possibility: An alternative continuity à la the ‘Doctor Who unbound’-audios.
    Although the question is academic anyway imho since i really doubt the whole story.

  • kassia

    LMAO. The Johnny Depp quote sounds ridiculous. And I thought the tv movie was bad…! Plus, I’d HOPE that Matt Smith would be still the Doctor by 2012, he’s been so amazing that I’d love for him to stay as long as he possibly can.

  • Matthew

    The Daily Star “article” about the script is here:

    http://www.dailystar.co.uk/posts/view/141854

    The origin of that is the “Production Notes” column in the latest edition of Doctor Who Magazine which was out on June 24th. Normally, Steven Moffat writes this (as Russell T Davies did when he was running the show). However, for that month (and the deadline for the article would have been sometime in May), Piers Wenger had to take over because Moffat had lost the version of the Christmas special script he was working on and was having to rewrite it from memory. Obviously, it was a very early draft which he hadn’t sent to anyone, so it might not even have been finished. But, yes, it seems that at the time Moffat didn’t have an infallible system for backing up his work.

    Still, that was back in May, most likely. The script is now finished and filming is due to start in mid-July. There’s been a rumour of a delay (possibly because Moffat wanted to work some more on the script) but the latest word is that they’re still on schedule.

    The Star obviously read the magazine and decided to spin its own story out of it. To make things worse, they folded in this interview that Moffat did with Digital Spy and specifically this section:

    Episode twelve ended with an almighty trio of cliffhangers. Can you tell us anything at all about episode 13?
    “Well, there’s going to be some light music and a short note of apology saying, ‘The universe ended last week, we’re really sorry, we don’t know what you’re doing here, didn’t you get the message?’”

    Does the series wrap things up with a neat resolve in time for the Christmas special?
    “Well we blew up the universe, so it’ll be a nice flashback episode at Christmas.”

    Will there be any kind of trailer for the Christmas special after the episode?
    “After the 50 minutes of gentle music and weeping apology? Nope. The universe has ended.”

    Will you at least reveal the title?
    “There will be a Christmas special – well, a flashback Christmas special – but no, we won’t be telling you anything, not a single thing. It’s too early.”

    Put that together with the Doctor Who Magazine and hey presto! Filming has been abandoned because the script’s gone missing and the Christmas special is going to be a flashback.

    British tabloid journalism at its finest…

    And WENN are no better.

  • http://macgamer.com Corey Tamas

    Corey Tamas: There’s a third possibility: An alternative continuity à la the ‘Doctor Who unbound’-audios.

    I have no idea what that means. :)

    As I said, either it has continuity with the TV show (which means Matt Smith buys it), or it doesn’t (which means two concurrent Who universes). I’m no fan of either.

  • Matthew

    Doctor Who Unbound

    And there are already two movies that don’t fit with the TV show (being remakes of TV stories).

    Honestly though, the TV show itself doesn’t fit its own continuity especially well. And anyone reading Human Nature would have assumed that it was an unscreened 7th Doctor adventure and would have had to revise that idea once the TV version showed up. If we can accept that the books and the TV continuities cannot be reconciled, why demand that film be located within the TV continuity?

    Nobody expects Batman or Robin Hood or even James Bond to only have one fictional universe, I don’t see the problem with a different retelling of the same story.

  • Matthew

    The Depp story is almost certainly nonsense, though. My above post wasn’t attempting to say its likely to happen.

    More musing on continuity:

    http://www.paulcornell.com/2007/02/canonicity-in-doctor-who.html

    So, is the Doctor half-human or not?

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    More Doctor who fun: stick around for the punchline

    http://partiallyclips.com/2010/06/30/men-at-computer/

  • kathleen

    Johnny Depp is a professional. He would just lay out an entire movie before said movie was even announced.Especially not to the first person who contacts him on the subject.
    That part was the most telling lie in the whole story.

  • Bassygalore

    Whoever wrote the article is having a good chuckle at how said article is being passed around and talked about over the internet…

  • Keith
  • MaryAnn

    Whoever wrote the article is having a good chuckle at how said article is being passed around and talked about over the internet…

    And racking up pageviews on that hideous content-mill site.