Despite the rather dodgy early pics of him, cropped-hair and holding the Key To Time in the 80s TARDIS console (if the expression had existed at the time I’m sure everyone would have been typing WTF???). But, dutifully as ever, the Radio Times came to the rescue with a cover preview (shared with The X~Files, rather annoyingly) and inside a glimpse of McGann all dolled~up, the perfect fan envisioning of the errant Gallifreyan.
Now, you have to remember, that the online~worldwide~internet~web did not exist at the time (well, it did but let’s have this discussion another time) so this was how we got our Who factoids at the time – in the press! Actual printed press. Yup, the mid~1990s might have well as been the mid~1890s as far as information was concerned and that’s where Doctor Who Magazine (other, lesser magazines were available) really proved invaluable (nothing has changed in that respect).
What struck me then was just how quick it all seemed to be getting done (though this, of course, was not the case as it was years in production). Within months of McGann’s announcement, there would be new Doctor Who. New. Seven long years and it would return, granted for a one~off but this would surely lead to more. Surely?
But the startling piece of info that emerged was not story~related but pertained to its release. It was announced that a VHS (that’s a video cassette for those who think that the “V” might stand for “venereal”) of the ‘film’ would be released BEFORE it was broadcast on the BBC. That’s right, before. For many of us “enthusiasts”, the return of Doctor Who would not be a shared experience but one of solitary confinement (insert your own jokes there, you filthy bunch).
As it turned out, the release was put back a week or so, reducing somewhat the exclusivity of the home video debut (it had, of course, already been screened in North America), resulting in numerous trips to HMV everyday to find out what the flip was going on (they also had a nifty free badge with it).
When I finally had the tape in my hand, it was a blisteringly hot and sunny May morning – not the ideal conditions for watching such an event. And so the first time I watched Doctor Who: The Movie (to give it the ‘proper’ title, *coughs*) was in my bedroom, around twenty past nine. Due to the sun I had to ensure ‘blackout’ in my room and used various boxes and the curtains to ensure the right environment for watching the event (something I still have to do these days).
I ended up watching it three times in a row, and then twice more that day (with friends – who all lurved it too). So sure was I that Doctor Who was back, so confident of its return proper and so very happy with the production. But, most of all, I was positive the new Doctor – Paul McGann – would usher in a new golden age. An announcement confirming more episodes was imminent, I felt.
And then the wait.
I couldn’t believe the wait. I mean, numerous magazines all featured it, there was a new range of books and the viewing figures were healthy. Just why were we waiting? Again, no internet, so we had to wait for the monthlies to tell us what the eff was going on. But info was scant and it was a long time until the official word came through that it wasn’t being picked up, months after most of us had actually worked it out.
Back to the dark times.
A time when Sliders was the time~traveling show of choice (or whatever they did on that bloody series). A time when Crime Traveler was something that the BBC thought was acceptable viewing on a Saturday night. But, on the plus side, the VHS releases would get a makeover with the new logo. Yup, that was the plus. As I say, dark times.
Now, fifteen years on, Paul McGann has a legacy with many fans citing him as “their” Doctor, firmly placed as a favourite in the hearts of many. This, I imagine, is a testament to his fine work on the Big Finish audios rather than the fifty-odd minutes or so onscreen in 1996. But that’s not to downplay his performance in The TV Movie. Regardless of how I now feel about the production and the, erm, “story” (slightly less enthusiastic than the Nineties me), McGann is most definitely the best thing about it.
This is probably why the rumour of his return abounds every other week – fans just want him back. If McCoy thought that he didn’t get a “fair crack of the whip” then McGann most surely did not. He deserves another onscreen outing for sure.
And, like Brian’s shoes he was so quick to fill, he fits. Perfectly.