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These days, Doctor Who is almost as well known to American audiences as he is to British ones. But that wasn’t always the case, and in the 1980s, executives at Paramount Pictures were reportedly looking into introducing the character to the U.S., and they had the perfect candidate in mind for the iconic lead role: Michael Jackson.
According to a new book, Now on the Big Screen: The Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who at the Cinema, Jackson was at the top of the list for potential Doctors in 1988, when Paramount was developing a feature based on the long-running BBC sci-fi series. Furthermore, author Charles Norton says that Jackson — who, at the time, had just released his own sci-fi movie, Moonwalker — was “quite keen” to take the role.
(Just as surprising as the choice of Jackson as a Doctor-to-be is the studio’s rumored second choice: Bill Cosby. Clearly, no one at Paramount had seen Leonard, Part 6.)
RELATED: Should We Want the New Doctor Who to Be a White Guy? (Opinion)
Even without Jackson or Cosby’s involvement, the notion of a Who movie from Paramount could raise a few eyebrows. After all, at this time, the studio already had one successful science-fiction franchise under its belt with the Star Trek movies, while elsewhere Universal was successfully building its own time-travel franchise, Back to the Future. With that kind of environment, it’s not impossible that a Who movie series could have actually managed to be a success.
Certainly, the timing would’ve been fortuitous had things worked out. In 1989, a year after Paramount was mulling the idea, Doctor Who went off the air in the U.K. Instead of jumping dimensions from television to movie, Sylvester McCoy‘s third and final season as the show’s seventh Doctor ended up being the last time audiences would have their weekly fill of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey-ness until the series was revived in 2005, notwithstanding Fox’s failed Who pilot in 1996. Where’s a good time machine when you need one?
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