What does it take for a work to cross from possible-copyright infringement to so transformative/critical/parodic that it is in the clear? No one knows.
Below are some exceptional fanworks which may be good enough to stand alone. The first, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Daleks”, takes the tone and style of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide‘s Encyclopedia Galactica and applies it to the Daleks, the Doctor’s unfailing villains:
Is this video less potentially-infringing because Douglas Adams wrote a Dr Who script back in the day? If we’re talking about authors’ moral rights, perhaps their personal feelings towards a fandom with which their works are being mashed come into the equation.
Does that mean it might be more legal to mash-up Neil Gaiman’s* works with Doctor Who then Terry Pratchett’s? How does one determine what harms the legacy of an author (like Adams) who has passed on? Legally it might be clear, but morally? Artistically? Think about some creative travesties which have occurred because the owners of the estates behaved outside of the interest of the work (*cough* Christopher Tolkein *cough*).
This next work is the most fully transformative I have seen in a while. I would argue, knowing a bit about the demands of film and animation, that its author has spent an amount of blood, sweat and tears in its production to perhaps have some moral rights of his own. It is an anime version of Doctor Who currently being developed:
The European concept of copyright gives authors moral rights to their works, and conceptualizes even memetic ideas as physical property. But these moral rights have draw-backs for authors as well as fans. They ask authors to treat their ideas like chairs, instead of instantly and constantly replicable intangibles. They remove the difference between expressions and ideas, which always limits creators. Under moral rights, the charming and exciting works above are probably infringing somebody.
That seems an aweful shame.
*Neil Gaiman will be writing a script for the next season of Doctor Who. Yes, what you may have just experienced is called a “geek-gasm”.
“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey… stuff.”–The Tenth Doctor, Doctor Who, “Blink“