Despite the early morning start for this event (well 10am is early for some people), the audience were pumped and primed to see the one-night-only appearance (so far) for Paul McGann as The Eighth Doctor in the 1996 TV Movie. But before we were treated to Doctor Who (which is what they called the story – the Nineties were a car~azy time man), a panel kicked off proceedings featuring some of the main players in the “wilderness years”.
This über panel featured: Who, Torchwood, and The Sarah Jane Adventures script editor (amongst many, many other things) Gary Russell; the voice of the Daleks Nicholas Briggs; Jason Haigh-Ellery (Big Finish); Andrew Cartmel (former script editor); and authors Marcus Hearn and Justin Richards. It was an odd start to the day as normall we’re treated to a brief introduction and then straight into the episode, but due to the nature of The TVM (with no breaks in it), this was the only way to accommodate.
In all honesty, it wasn’t the most engaging of panels witnessed at the BFI and there were far too many voices on stage with some coming from the same area. It would have benefited from being shorter with fewer guests. Having said that, it’s always interesting to hear the experiences from those involved in such a fascinating time in Whostory (when it wasn’t actually on telly, for shame!) and there were a number of honest/amusing remarks made about licensing and the BBC.
Next up was the main event itself, the TV Movie. I shan’t bore you with my thoughts on it – you can find them HERE in my DVD review and HERE when I looked back on it after fifteen years – but it was jolly nice to be in the company of an audience who enjoyed hearing lines like, “I always dress for the occasion!” and “These shoes!” It’s an incredibly flawed piece of work and yet amazing it got made at all but for us nostalgists it reminds of a certain time when it looked like Doctor Who was back.
Coming out to a rapturous reception was Dr. Grace Holloway herself Daphne Ashbrook, director Geoffrey Sax and, of course, a very youthful-looking Paul McGann. The three made for a fantastic panel with Paul taking a genuine interest in what his fellow guests had to say, so much so that at some points he took over the hosting of the panel. All three spoke warmly of their time and it was curious to see just how little preparation each had done due to the speed of the production.
McGann mentioned the future plans there were discussed between him and executive producer Philip Segal, going on to state that what Big Finish are doing (with his audio range) now is pretty much what was spoken about some fifteen years previous. Sax rather sensationally revealed that he was asked to direct one of the Christmas Specials (starring Matt Smith) and also back in 2004 to direct the first block of episodes with Christopher Eccleston but, sadly, was already working. How different things might have been had he taken that gig…
A tremendous panel topped off another top day at the BFI. It may not have been the greatest of episodes but it was received with the greatest of love and admiration for Paul and Daphne who still shine so brilliantly in an event which hounoured them warmly.