— (via outofcontextfundraising)
Through a series of events too complicated to mention here, my partner and I were chatting about the poster for Star Trek: First Contact:
I joked that it looked like Patrick Stewart’s head was whooshing toward you like he was in the opening credits of a Classic-Era episode of Doctor Who. And Benjamin sighed that Patrick Stewart would have made such a great Doctor…
And then a beautiful and terrifying alternate universe** was born:
Our timelines diverge in 1986. Colin Baker was sacked as the Sixth Doctor, and the BBC needed to cast a replacement in an attempt to breathe new life into the show. They ended up casting a West-End actor who had made a handful of appearances as Karla in BBC adaptations of John la Carre’s novels, and had recently appeared in David Lynch’s Dune: Patrick Stewart.
Stewart*** initially experienced difficulty fitting in with his less-disciplined castmates, stating that his “spirits used to sink” when required to memorize and recite technobabble. Stewart eventually came to better understand the cultural differences between the stage and television, and received great acclaim for his acting skills. He remained close friends with his fellow Doctor Who actors and became their advocate with the producers when necessary. Sophie Aldred credited Stewart with “at least 50%, if not more” of the show’s success because others imitated his professionalism and dedication to acting. After a slightly rocky first season, the plots became more sophisticated and began to mix drama with comic relief; series producer Andrew Cartmel’s focus on character development received special praise, as did the talents of American actor Wil Wheaton who played a companion named Wes. Stewart remained in the role of the Seventh Doctor until 1992, when he was replaced by Richard E. Grant as the Eighth Doctor.
Meanwhile, the Star Trek franchise found itself struggling after several well-received films starring the cast of the original series. However, the fifth film, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, proved to be the final nail in its coffin. William Shatner’s direction was regarded as a failure, particularly his decision (dubbed derisively by fans as “The Shatner Masterplan”) to give Captain Kirk a more mysterious backstory that suggested that Kirk was far more than just an ordinary human Starfleet Captain.
The Star Trek franchise remained dormant, with the exception of a widely-panned 1996 TV film starring Nicolas Cage (Star Trek VI: The Enemy Within), until 2005.
Fox Broadcasting Network had been in negotiations with director Joss Whedon over a sci-fi series since approximately 2000, when Gail Berman joined Fox as president of entertainment. In 2002, Whedon produced an unaired pilot for a space-Western, called Firefly, but no other episodes were commissioned by the network. Following UPN’s cancellation of his Buffy-spinoff Angel in 2004, Whedon was approached by Berman about helming a revival of the Star Trek series, Whedon retooled his concept for Firefly, keeping most of the same personnel and themes.
Whedon’s revived Star Trek was set approximately 70 years after the original series left off, following a brutal galactic war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Starring Anthony Stewart Head as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the show’s co-stars included much of the original Firefly cast:
- Nathan Fillion as first officer Commander William Riker
- Gina Torres as the ship’s chief engineer, Georgia LaForge
- Alan Tudyk as Wash Yar, the ship’s chief of security and tactical officer. His character’s sudden death at the end of the first season was a huge shock to viewers.
- Morena Baccarin as the ship’s counselor Deanna Troi
- Adam Baldwin as Lieutenant Worf, a Klingon security officer
- Jewel Straite as Keiko O’Brien, the ship’s transporter chief
- Sean Maher as the ship’s chief medical officer, Simon Crusher
- Summer Glau as Data, an android who serves as operations officer and third-in-command
- Ron Glass as the enigmatic bartender Guinan
With Fox’s full support behind Whedon, the show is still airing, though Whedon himself stepped down as showrunner in 2010 to work on Marvel’s film The Avengers. Star Trek’s current showrunner is Tim Minear.
Doctor Who, meanwhile, has had its ups and downs over the years. In 2005, the show went on an indefinite hiatus following a highly-reviled multi-Doctor special. In 2009, Russell T. Davies revived the series with a mini-series starring Patterson Joseph as the Ninth Doctor and John Barrowman as the Tenth Doctor. Stephen Moffat took over the show in 2013 with Benedict Cumberbatch as the Eleventh Doctor. The upcoming series will star Paul McGann as the Twelfth Doctor.
**(I should state, for the record, that I don’t necessarily believe that this alternate universe would be better than our own. We’d be missing out on a lot of amazing stuff: Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor, for one, plus all of the Star Trek series that shaped the childhoods and awkward adolescences of myself and my friends. But it’s fascinating how similar the histories of these franchises are, and how what happened to one could have easily happened to the other instead.)
***I cribbed large parts of this from Patrick Stewart’s Wikipedia page…