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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

‘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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