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precarious since 1997 | by maryann johanson

Doctor Who thing: what if the Doctors had been American…

Steve Martin

In response to Alasdair Stuart’s “what if the Doctors had been women” exercise, Jef With One F at Houston Press’s Art Attack has developed his “An Alternative History of 11 American Doctors.”

How can this be? Isn’t Doctor Who simply too British to even contemplate such a thing? You decide. Here’s a taste:

3rd Doctor – Robert Stack (1970 – 1974)

The star of The Untouchables was approached to take over for Lynde. Stack was looking to get away from crime drama, and admitted to secretly being a big fan of science fiction and bizarre phenomenon when cast. Nonetheless, his Doctor carried over many of the traits of Elliot Ness to the point that some accused him of not trying to differentiate the two very much.

The Third Doctor, while stranded on Earth following the death of The Second, was confined to a branch of the United States military as science adviser. Stack had the luck to work with Dalton Trumbo, who penned many great scripts dealing with leftover sentiments from his time blacklisted after refusing to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee. This led to Stack facing off against Frank Sutton as The Commander, an evil high-ranking military officer who was secretly a fellow Time Lord in disguise. The social commentary against military force became a recurring theme of the series.

Stack moved on in 1974. He left behind an action-packed legacy of daring feats, and would make many allusions to his time as he hosted the series, Unsolved Mysteries.

7th Doctor – Steve Martin (1987 – 1989)

In 1987 Steve Martin could have had any role he wanted, and the role he wanted was The Doctor. The comedian was coming off a string of successes, including being a Saturday Night Live [sic]. The producers hoped they could harness the comedic successes of Alda’s run, but Martin had some surprises up his sleeve.

Though initially slapstick was a regular part of his portrayal, he dropped it quickly to become a Machiavellian figure who only used humor as a mask. With a dry wit, and a willingness to manipulate others, he was both well-liked and slightly terrifying. He formed an incredible partnership with Ally Sheedy as his young companion Ace, and the two began dragging the ratings of the show up bit by bit as old fans returned and new fans ate up Martin’s style. It sadly wasn’t enough to save the show from cancellation in 1989, and fans today still wonder if one more season with Martin and Sheedy might not have staved of the seven year hiatus.

I have to confess that the idea of Steve Martin as the Doctor — as well as some of Jef’s other choices, which I’ll leave for you to discover — does intrigue me.

Which American actors could conceivably play the Doctor, in either an American or British version of the show?

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



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