The British sci-fi series “Doctor Who” has been around in one form or another since 1963, but would you believe it has never earned an Emmy nomination? Not a single one. That could change this year. Gold Derby has learned that the series is finally being entered for consideration in the race for Best Drama Series. Whovians rejoice!
“Doctor Who” follows the adventures of its title character, known only as the Doctor, who travels through space and time accompanied by an awestruck companion or two. It originally ran from 1963 to 1989, but it was revived full-time in 2005 and has been going strong ever since. But it hasn’t been snubbed by the TV academy, per se. We didn’t even see it entered on the Emmy ballot until 2016, when the current incarnation of the Doctor, Peter Capaldi, was submitted for Best Drama Actor and showrunner Steven Moffat entered the Best Drama Writing category for the episode “Heaven Sent.” That was a bravura one-man show for Capaldi in which the Doctor struggled for literally billions of years to solve a puzzle and escape a nightmarish trap.
But “Doctor Who” wasn’t entered for Best Drama Series last year. It is now, and what good timing it has! A number of Emmy slots are open this year with the absence of “Game of Thrones,” which won’t air any new episodes until after the May 31 eligibility cutoff. In the last two years alone “Thrones” has won 24 Emmys out of 48 nominations, including Best Drama twice in a row, so that’s a lot of available real estate for awards voters to fill this year.
What’s more, the success of “Thrones” has shown that the television academy might finally be more open to welcoming TV shows with sci-fi and fantasy elements. In the past a few genre shows have received a smattering of nominations and wins in major categories like “Star Trek,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Quantum Leap” and “The X-Files,” but no sci-fi or fantasy show ever won Best Drama until “Lost” in 2005. And even then voters were ambivalent: “Lost” was snubbed entirely from the Best Drama race in 2006 and 2007, and though it returned to the top contest for its final three seasons (2008-2010), it never won that race again.
Even better for “Doctor Who” is that another show from last year’s Emmy lineup is also off the air. “Downton Abbey” ended its six-season run last spring, so 2016 was its last hurrah on the awards scene. That means the academy’s favorite British show (“Downton”) and their favorite fantasy show (“Thrones”) are both missing in action — so in walks “Doctor Who,” a British fantasy show, to swoop in on both fan bases.
And the timing keeps getting better. This season of “Doctor Who” just started airing on BBC America on April 15, so it will be fresh in mind when voters are marking their ballots this summer. And this will be the final year on the show for both Capaldi and Moffat, so this is the last chance for voters to recognize them for the series.
Capaldi was already known outside of “Doctor Who” fandom before he joined the series, so he might already be on some voters’ radar. For starters, he’s the first Oscar winning Doctor, having claimed Best Live Action Short in 1995 for “Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life.” More recently he earned raves for the British political satire “The Thick of It” from future “Veep” creator Armando Iannucci. The actor reprised his “Thick of It” role in Iannucci’s 2009 spinoff film “In the Loop,” for which Iannucci was nominated for a screenwriting Oscar and for which Capaldi was cited by critics groups for his performance.
And Moffat is as popular as ever. While he’s never gotten any Emmy attention for “Doctor Who,” they sure do love his “Sherlock.” Moffat’s 21st century take on the famous literary sleuth premiered in 2010 and made stars out of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Both actors surprised awards pundits by winning Emmys in 2014 for “Sherlock: His Last Vow.” Moffat also surprised that year by winning Best Movie/Mini Writing. Then “Sherlock” competed again in 2016 for “The Abominable Bride” and pulled off another stunning upset, snatching Best TV Movie away from HBO’s frontrunner “All the Way.”
“Doctor Who” has already been recognized by industry insiders, just not on this side of the pond. At the BAFTAs it won Best Drama Series in 2006. Then Moffat won Best Writer in 2008 for the classic episode “Blink” (featuring guest star Carey Mulligan before she became a household name). The previous incarnation of the Doctor, Matt Smith, contended for Best Actor in 2011, and most recently Michelle Gomez was up for Best Supporting Actress in 2016 for playing the Doctor’s longtime nemesis, the Master.
But still not a single Emmy nomination for the venerable series. This is the TV academy’s chance to make up for lost time.
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