Finally the Eighth Doctor hits the book shelves as a Target novelisation. Turn of the century San Francisco provides the location as two Time Lords lock horns once again.
This reissue of Gary Russell’s novelisation of The TV Movie finally sees Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor immortalised on the cover of a Target novel. It also provides an opportunity to revisit the 1996 original. As Russell acknowledges in his new foreword, this new release has allowed for some edits. Certain statements are corrected, such as the Golden Gate Bridge spanning a strait rather than a mere river. Descriptions are also a bit more consistent with the televised product. Many of us might remember that in 1996 the novelisation and the video were available before the episode actually aired on BBC1. Not that Gary Russell necessarily had access to a lot of visual material when writing.
Also returned to the text are references to the show’s past, previously removed to make the story fresh and not weighed down by history. Happily, there are mentions of Rassilon for example. Chang Lee also views all the previous incarnations of the Doctor, something which would’ve been lovely to see on screen. It seems appropriate that to celebrate the 25th anniversary of this feature-length episode that the novelisation would get an overdue re-release. So, is it any good?
Doctor Who: The TV Movie
Short answer; yes it is. The TV Movie has generated a lot of discussion over the past 25 years. Speeding across town on the back of a police motorcycle for example feels more consistent of an American drama than a BBC production. But now we’ve had the TARDIS/Taxi scene in The Runaway Bride that scene from 1996 seems quite tame by comparison.
Novelisations often provide the chance to present character backstories. For example, details regarding Chang Lee, his brother and the family run corner shop are welcome additions adding context to a character we had limited knowledge of before. Similarly, Grace’s reasoning for wanting to become a doctor is heartbreakingly personable. Gary Russell also explains the method of the Master’s death dodging exploits far clearer than on screen.
Multiple differences exist from the broadcast story. For instance, the murder of Chang Lee’s fellow gang members is brutal and quite shocking. It kicks things off in a very gritty manner and makes it feel unlike any Doctor Who before or since. Although the regeneration scene had varying degrees of gurning on television, it is dealt with quite swiftly in prose. This seems appropriate as we all remember it well enough. Better to tell the rest of the story.
Paul McGann is finally immortalised on the cover of a Target novelisation thanks to some superb artwork from Anthony Dry. But that’s not the only reason to pick up a copy of this novelisation. With the various tweaks and the return of previously cut material, this is probably the best version of this particular story presented thus far. Certain details are also clearer when put down on the page. Characters are more rounded, with their motivations revealed. The action remains pacey and engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting The TV Movie in another format. Even if you already have a copy of the original novelisation from 25 years ago, this updated version is definitely worth picking up.
‘Who am I…? WHO AM I?’
It’s December 1999, and strange things are happening as the new millennium nears. A British police box appears from nowhere in San Francisco’s Chinatown and the mysterious man inside it is shot down in the street. Despite the best efforts of Dr Grace Holloway, the man dies and another stranger appears, claiming to be the same person in a different body: a wanderer in time and space known only as the Doctor.
But the Doctor is not the only alien in San Francisco. His deadly adversary the Master is murdering his way through the city and has taken control of the TARDIS. The Master is desperate to take the Doctor’s newly regenerated body for himself, and if the Doctor does not capitulate, it will literally cost him the Earth… and every last life on it.