On April Fools’ Day, Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell pranked both “Doctor Who” lovers and his own fans hard by posting this on Twitter:
When a friend of mine posted it on Facebook, so many thoughts whirled through my head: Does this mean Bruce Campbell is going to be the new Doctor? Or are they creating an American version of the show? How will this affect the continuity of the show? But wait, are they throwing over Peter Capaldi? They can’t throw over Peter Capaldi! Peter Capaldi is amazing!
Those thoughts were shortly followed by: Maybe I should wait until April 2 to worry about this…
Either way, Campbell probably didn’t expect the reaction he got. Basically, fans—both on the “Doctor Who” side and the Evil Dead side—were super excited about the possibility that Campbell might come to the show. (My fiancé, who is a huge Evil Dead series fan, got almost giddy—until I pointed out that it was most likely an April Fools’ joke.)
But just because it started as an April Fools’ joke doesn’t mean it has to stay that way, right? (I’m still holding out hope for that Hugh D’Ambray book that Ilona Andrews—sorta—promised us.) Plus, BBC has, allegedly, been looking for ways to drum up excitement about the 11-year-old series (not including Original Recipe “Who”) as viewership has started to decline. This could be a good way to do that!
So here’s how I think it could be done:
For over 2,000 years, a man in a blue box has wandered the universe. Sometimes a protector. Sometimes a warrior. Sometimes a hero. But always a Doctor.
But on Christmas Day, two timelines will collide, and the Doctor will run into another man in another blue box. A man who made different choices. A man who is a very different Doctor. He’s brash. He’s angry. He’s violent. He’s American.
What happens when the only person who can save the universe is the person you always feared you’d become? What happens when your worst enemy is…yourself?
Okay, it’s clunky, but you get the idea.
Basically, what I’m picturing is that Bruce Campbell could guest star in the Christmas episode of “Doctor Who” as…the Doctor. I’m thinking that at some point in the Doctor’s history, he made a very critical choice, and his timeline essentially split in two. One timeline progressed in the direction we know and love, leading to the charmingly grumpy Peter Capaldi Doctor. The other timeline led the Doctor to become much darker and more violent, leading to the Bruce Campbell Doctor.
See, here’s the thing: I don’t think the Doctor could exist as an American hero. He’s just so outside of our John Wayne/Bruce Willis hero paradigm (i.e. an armed-to-the-teeth cowboy with a quick trigger finger) that an American version of the Doctor—a pacifist who refuses to carry a gun and prefers to defeat his enemies with his wit—just wouldn’t fit here. Which is why I would never advocate an American version of the show. I think, if the show became an American production, the Doctor’s personality would change, become more Americanized.
Bruce Campbell’s Evil Dead character is pretty much the epitome of the American hero ideology. Ash is a character who chopped off his own hand and attached a chainsaw to it so he could go plow through some more zombies. Yeah. Very not-Doctorlike.
But in creating an alternate timeline Doctor, the show could play with this very idea. One of the primary tensions of the Doctor’s character is that he could be the violent, Bruce Campbell-esque hero…but that he’s chosen not to be. And sometimes he seems to question whether that path was the right one. And in having the two timelines converge, the Doctor has to reckon with his own baser impulses, with the person he could have been.
I wouldn’t want Bruce Campbell’s Doctor to be a “bad guy,” but he’d be very different than the Doctor we know and love—though still with that core Doctorness there. He’d still talk a lot, and like to show off his intelligence. But I think he’d be a lot more suave and slick than the current Doctor. Take the effortless cool of the 9th Doctor, the charisma and charm of 10, and the devil-may-care attitude of 11. Mix that in with a hell of a lot of arrogance, and you’d get the Bruce Campbell Doctor.
And I think his path would prove tempting to the Peter Capaldi Doctor, like maybe this other guy has done better at the whole Doctor thing than he has. Of course, by the end of the show, Bruce Campbell’s Doctor would see that the real Doctor’s path is the better one.
Basically, it’s “Doctor Who” meets Sliding Doors.
Steven Moffat, if you’re listening, I’m totally available as a writer, story consultant, or just a fangirl who squeals loudly whenever Peter Capaldi walks into the room. Whatever.