Whatever Happened to the Unmade Doctor Who Movies? | TheReviewGeek Investigates

Doctor Who is the longest-running sci-fi show in the world, beating its nearest rival, Star Trek, by a fair margin. But unlike that latter TV series, which has made an impact on both the small and the big screen, Doctor Who has mostly been confined to our televisions. 

To date, there have been three Doctor Who movies, two that were made for cinemas in the 1960s with Peter Cushing as the Time Lord and one that was made for television in 1996 with Paul McGann as the 8th Doctor. 

But did you know there have been other attempts to make a movie featuring our favourite Time Lord? You can be forgiven for not knowing anything about them as they are now lost in time! 

In this article, we shine a spotlight on the Doctor Who movies that failed to materialize in cinemas.

Peter Cushing in another Dalek adventure

In the mid-1960s, Peter Cushing, who was best known for his appearances in some of the Hammer horror pictures, became the first person to ever play Doctor Who on the big screen. He starred in two movies – The Daleks and Dalek Invasion Earth 2150 AD – both of which were based on the William Hartnell-starring serials of the same name. 

A third movie based on another Hartnell/Dalek adventure, The Chase, was all set to happen but when the first sequel didn’t perform as well as expected, the movie was exterminated before it entered production. 

In 2022, a screenplay was unearthed that featured an original Doctor Who adventure from Milton Subotsky, the writer of the previous films. He did have plans for another movie featuring the Daleks, but he also had another story idea for the third movie that wasn’t based on episodes of the TV programme. 

The script, which was initially known as ‘Doctor Who’s Greatest Adventure’ but which then got changed to ‘Night Of The Crabs,’ would have seen the Doctor and his companions encounter the titular mutated monsters. Furthermore, it would appear that the storyline would have incorporated two incarnations of the Doctor, making it a multi-Doctor Who adventure. Sadly, it was never made but if news of this unfinished project has piqued your interest, you can find details of the plot here

Tom Baker’s Doctor vs Scratchman

While the other movies on this list were set to feature new actors playing the role of the Doctor, this movie, which was written by Tom Baker and former Doctor Who companion Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan) in the mid-1970s, would have seen Baker reprise his 4th Doctor role on the big screen. 

Titled Doctor Who Meets Scratchman,  it was originally conceived as a story idea for the series but when the BBC turned it down, Marter and Baker tried to secure funding for a movie. 

Unfortunately, they weren’t able to finance the movie but that doesn’t mean it was wiped out of existence. In 2019, the story was adapted into a novelisation as well as an audiobook which was narrated by Baker himself. 

Here’s the synopsis for the story (source):

“The Doctor, Harry and Sarah Jane Smith arrive at a remote Scottish island, when their holiday is cut short by the appearance of strange creatures – hideous scarecrows, who are preying on the local population. The islanders are living in fear, and the Doctor vows to save them all. But it doesn’t go to plan – the time travellers have fallen into a trap, and Scratchman is coming for them.

With the fate of the universe hanging in the balance, the Doctor must battle an ancient force from another dimension, one who claims to be the Devil. Scratchman wants to know what the Doctor is most afraid of. And the Doctor’s worst nightmares are coming out to play…”

Michael Jackson as the Time Lord

Over the years, a lot of famous actors have been in the running for the role of Doctor Who, including Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, and Bill Nighy. The actors mentioned would have been a perfect fit for the Time Lord, unlike Michael Jackson who, surprisingly, was tipped to play the Doctor in 1988 for Paramount Pictures (source)

In retrospect, perhaps he might have been a good Doctor – after all, he did have a knack for moonwalking – but the legendary King of Pop never got the opportunity to enter the Tardis. The studio’s second choice was Bill Cosby but as the movie never got past the planning stages, the disgraced comedian didn’t get the keys to the blue police box either. Perhaps that’s a good thing, considering his sullied reputation. 

Tim Curry in The Last Of The Time Lords

From 1987 to 1994, the Daltenrays Group tried to develop a Doctor Who movie for theatrical release. The movie, which originally went under the uninspired name of Doctor Who: The Movie (a title that was used for the McGann TV movie) was eventually retitled The Last Of The Time Lords. After attempts to kickstart the project failed, the licence reverted back to the BBC before the film neared production, so it became yet another failed attempt at a big-screen Doctor Who adventure.

Tim Curry was apparently in the running for the role, as were Alan Rickman, Rutger Hauer and Donald Sutherland. These were just rumours but there was one firm piece of casting news. Caroline Munro, a popular British actress who had previously starred in such films as The Spy Who Loved Me and At the Earth’s Core (with Peter Cushing), had signed up to play Cora, a Galifreyan companion for the Doctor. (source)

The movie never happened, despite the vast sum of money that had already been put into it. However, a Doctor Who movie did materialize after this failed attempt – the aforementioned McGann movie – although this wasn’t enough to appease fans as they were appalled by the scene in which the presumed asexual Time Lord kissed a woman! 

A Doctor Who adventure from a Harry Potter director

In 2011, Variety surprised everyone with the news that David Yates, the director of the Harry Potter movies from Order Of The Phoenix onwards, was teaming up with the BBC to turn Doctor Who into a big-screen franchise. 

Yates said:

“We’re looking at writers now. We’re going to spend two to three years to get it right. It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena… Russell T. Davies and then Steven Moffat have done their own transformations, which were fantastic, but we have to put that aside and start from scratch…We want a British sensibility, but having said that, Steve Kloves wrote the Potter films and captured that British sensibility perfectly, so we are looking at American writers too.”

At the time, the TV show was going strong, with Matt Smith in the role of the Doctor, so the announcement that the Time Lord was set to hit the big screen was a bit of a pleasant shock. 

Sadly, the proposed franchise never got off the ground. Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat even dismissed the notion that Yates might direct a movie, even though the project had been announced.

Speaking to The Guardian, Moffat said:

“There isn’t a film. I can assure you definitively that was all nonsense. The BBC own Doctor Who and, for the moment, I run it for them. I can say that with authority because, as far as the BBC is concerned, I’m the voice of Doctor Who. So if I say it, it’s true.

I don’t think [Yates] was ever signed to it. I never signed him, so he’s not. But I think he’s [expressed] an interest in doing it and he’s a very fine director and I think he’d certainly be someone that would be on the list for directing such a project. I’m a big fan of his. But the project as he describes it would not happen. It was all a bit more off-the-cuff than it seemed to be.”

Did Moffat kill the movie? Or was it never destined to happen in the first place? Who knows!

Will there ever be a Doctor Who movie?

At the time of writing, a Doctor Who movie is unlikely, but fans have no need to be upset. As David Tennant is returning to the role in November 2023, followed by Ncuti Gatwa in 2024, there is still plenty to enjoy on the small screen. 

Still, we should never say never. The Doctor has travelled far and wide across the galaxy over the last 60 years, so surely the journey back to the big screen isn’t an impossibility.

Only time will tell!

Would you like to see Doctor Who back on the big screen? Who should star as the Doctor? Let us know in the comments below. 


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