August 31, 2010

Did Bill & Ted rip off Doctor Who?

Ah the age old question. Did Bill & Ted rip off Doctor Who? Yes....and uhhhhh no. It's complicated. I think before we say yay or nay, we need to look at exactly what the claim of ripping involves.

As far a plot goes the two couldn't be more different. The hit British TV show and world record holder for longest-running science fiction television show in the world, involves a more Sci-Fi driven plot set against historical events (or more commonly future times or other worlds entirely), with the The Doctor traveling around making things better (hence his moniker The Doctor.) The plot usually find The Doctor fighting off alien threats from outside our world at different points in history.

On the flip side of that coin we have Bill and Ted. A tale of two stoners who travel to the past in order to pass a history report. Unlike Doctor Who, they never encounter aliens. Instead their main nemesis, being the same as most teenagers, is their parents. (More Ted's then Bill's). In this sense Bill and Ted seem to have more in common with the teenage Marty McFly from Back to the Future, then they do our Time Lord here.

The main point that seems to be brought up is the similarity of the two time traveling vehicles. Above on the left we see the Tardis as seen during David Tennant's run as Doctor Who. On the right is Bill and Ted a-top their time traveling Phone Booth. As you can see they are both very similar and very different at the same time. So let's see how they are different and how they are alike.

First off the Tardis is a 1960s era British police box. Now a police box isn't a phone booth. It has a phone in it, but that phone can only make calls and receive calls from the local police station. The police box was more like a mini police station. Far different then the standard red British phone booth, hence its larger size. The light on top of the box (used in the series to show when the Tardis is about to travel through time and space) was actually used to show the beat officer when he had a call from the station. There was also things like evidence books, and first aid kits inside. The police box is a thing of the past. With the advent of wireless communications, the police box is more of a novelty. In fact the BBC actually now owns the image of the blue police box. And when the police tried to sue over it, they lost.

The Phone Booth is...well it's a 1980's phone booth. Like the police box, the phone booth is a thing of the past. You just don't see them anymore and for the almost exact same reason the police box is going the way of the dodo. I don't really have to go into a what a phone booth is do I? Good.

As for similarities, well both travel through time and space. (unlike the DeLorean or H.G. Wells Time Machine that only travel through time) Although Bill and Ted's Phone Booth's traveling through space (which doesn't mean outer space before someone says something) seems to be limited to Earth. The Phone Booth seems to be able to move around on Earth. Showing up in everyplace from California to Mongolia. The Tardis can also travel in space, but it seems to have an almost unlimited range, going to all corners of the Universe.

Both Time machines seem to be disguised more advanced technology. The Tardis from a far a planet far away, and the Phone Booth from the distant future. The Tardis can assume different forms in order to blend into the time it's in and not be noticed. Thing is the Doctor's Tardis got stuck on police box in one of his trips to 1960's England. The Phone Booth is shown, in the opening credits of Bill and Ted, to be a golden cone shaped object with no means of entry. Later in the movie it assumes the shape of phone booth before traveling back to 1988.

Unlike the Tardis, however, the Phone Booth is not bigger on the inside. Although it might seem so in the movie since they cram nine people into it by the end of the film. I bet they wish they had that feature. The inside of the Tardis on the other vast. We only normally see the control room, but according to Tardis lore the inside is really big. Course I'm sure every Time Lord told people it was really huge too.

In a odd little piece of trivia that kinda relates to this. Originally the time machine in Bill and Ted was suppose to be their van. This idea was axed when they thought that would be too similar to the DeLorean from the Back to the Future movies. In fact Back to the Future Part 2 came out the same year as Bill and Ted. Although Bill and Ted was finished in 87 and was in film limbo due to the close of the original distributor, so it didn't come out till 1989.

At the end of the day I wouldn't call Bill and Ted as a movie a rip off of Doctor Who. But is the Phone Booth a rip off of the Tardis? Ehhh....I'd say it was more of an ode to the Tardis. It was different enough to do it's own thing, but similar enough to remind you of it. I really think that's what the film makers were going for here. But really at the end of the day I'll leave it up you to say they did or they didn't.

Until next time, see you on the front line.



  1. I know this is way late but couldn't it be that Doctor Who was obscure enough to Americans at the time that perhaps the writers thought up the idea not realizing that they were actually inspired by a Doctor Who episode? It happens. You have a faint recollection but don't have all of the pieces so when you reproduce the idea (intentionally or not), things are missing - like the bigger on the inside bit. Not a hard detail to miss for people unfamiliar with the show, the Tardis looks completely different from the inside than it does on the ouside. An easy to miss tidbit for a non-fan.

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  40. I think it was pure coincidence that they were both Booths... Back in the 80's there were never any British channels to watch Dr.Who here in the USA...

  41. I think we are missing the main point here.

    Bill and Ted is a comedy. Therefore, it's safe to assume that the PHONE BOOTH TIME MACHINE is a *PARODY* of the TARDIS

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