The TV Movie
First Broadcast May 27th, 1996 @ 7.30pm (9.08m viewers)
Doctor Who had been off the air since 1989. Many considered it to have been quietly disposed of by the BBC. But almost as soon as it went off the air there were rumours concerning potential new projects. News of ‘Doctor Who: Last of the Time Lords’, ‘The Dark Dimension’ and even David Burton’s supposed casting as the Doctor, all of which failed to produce results onscreen, left fans skeptical that the show would ever return. Therefore, it was with an element of surprise that Paul McGann was not only cast but would be recording in Vancouver, culminating in a Bank Holiday Monday broadcast of a new Doctor Who.
In the 21st Century television programmes are often at the mercy of leaks and spoilers but in 1996 fans had a choice, much like they had in 1983 to read the novelisation of ‘The Five Doctors’ or resist, to purchase the TV Movie on video or wait for the live transmission on BBC1. As a fan growing up in the 1990’s this proved to be the only opportunity to watch new Doctor Who live that decade and so was not to be missed.
The story had a torturous birth, undergoing a long period of development and had to appeal to both the American backers and the BBC who originally gave birth to the programme. Similarly, it had to appeal to longtime fans of the show, a modern audience, and viewers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, the final product is a mish-mash of aspects designed to appeal to as many people as possible, including a cameo from unseen Daleks, an American-style motorcycle chase, and lip smacking romance. The story also begins with the Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy in a new costume and a beautiful new TARDIS interior, allowing for an onscreen passing of the torch to the new incarnation. Unfortunately, this meant that we see the Doctor gunned down in a hail of bullets and then some botched surgery causes his regeneration.
Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)
These shoes, they fit perfectly!
Paul McGann is superb as the new Doctor. Although not as comfortable at the regeneration face-pulling as his predecessor, from that moment onwards he is utterly engaging as the Doctor. The sequences in which he bursts out of the morgue and struggles to remember who he is are captivating to watch. As he becomes more sure of himself McGann is sublime, neatly balancing the dramatic and a familiar British style of humour expertly. A romanticised figure, who has held back death, he lacks the quirky alienness synonymous with Fourth Doctor Tom Baker largely due to the decision to reveal his half-human constituents that fans can chose to acknowledge or ignore. However when he exclaims that the borrowed pair of shoes fit perfectly the viewer gets the sense that his alien mind is functioning at a speed we humans can only envy.
The fact that a new series was not commissioned after this adventure is no reflection on his incarnation. So highly regarded was it that the Eighth Doctor’s adventures did continue in a series of BBC books and comic strips in the Radio Times (briefly) and Doctor Who magazine. Even though these too fell by the wayside his travels in time and space can be enjoyed in the tremendous Big Finish audio adventures. These have allowed McGann to flourish and prove that his Eighth Doctor is more than worthy of his place in Doctor Who’s history.
Paul McGann – Eighth Doctor
Sylvester McCoy – Seventh Doctor
Daphne Ashbrook – Grace Holloway
Yee Jee Tso – Chang Lee
Eric Roberts – The Master
John Novak – Salinger
Michael David Simms – Dr. Swift
Eliza Roberts – Miranda
Dave Hurtubise – Professor Wagg
Dolores Drake – Curtis
Catherine Lough – Wheeler
William Sasso – Pete
Joel Wirkkunen – Ted
Jeremy Radick – Gareth
Bill Croft – Motorcyclist Policeman
Mi-Jung Lee – News Anchor
Joanna Piros – News Anchor
Dee Jay Jackson – Security Man
Gordon Tipple – The Old Master
Also First Aired On This Day…
- The Evil of the Daleks : Episode 2
- The Time Monster : Episode 2
- The Idiot’s Lantern
- Doctor Who Confidential : The Writer’s Tale