I’m still not sure why I added 1996’s TV movie version of Doctor Who featuring the one and only appearance of the 8th Doctor played by Paul McGann. For all intents and purposes, it’s a stand alone installment that doesn’t really matter. The long running BBC sci-fi series had been cancelled in 1989 and this was the first (failed) attempt to bring the Doctor back to the hearts and minds of his British fans, as well as viewers of American television. A joint venture between the BBC and Fox, the TV movie happened to air against the very last episode of Roseanne and did not to well in the States. It would be another nine years until the Doctor actually made his triumphant–and ultimately successful–return to TV (which I’ve reviewed the first, second, third, fourth and fifth seasons, still haven’t caught the sixth yet).
I guess I just like oddities and this definitely fits that role. The movie actually fits in with the overall continuity as it begins with the last appearance of the 7th Doctor played by Sylvester McCoy. The Doc winds up in the States, get’s shot by gang members, gets taken to a hospital, dies and then regenerates as McGann, not knowing who he is. Meanwhile, the Master who’s supposed to be dead breaks out of his sorta-jail, turns into a clear, liquid snake thing that winds up taking over Eric Roberts like the weird worm in Jason Goes To Hell. From there there’s a bit of romance between the Doctor and a doctor, something about a millennium clock that’s bad (I honestly missed a few of the finer details thanks to a screaming 12 week old) and the eventual throw down between the two Time Lords.
Overall, it’s not a bad entry in the history of Doctor Who. It’s nowhere near the best representation of what the property can achieve, but I would guess it’s not the worst either. For what it’s worth, the only original Who I’ve seen was on the first disc of The Beginning DVD. Roberts really gets into playing a villain which is fun to watch, but might be a little too over the top for some. I dug it. The one inescapable element of the movie I could not ignore, though, was how much it looks like a 90s Fox TV movie or series. It just reeks of things like Mutant X, Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Generation X. Even with some great sets and fairly good special effects, there’s something very distinctly 90s about the proceedings. I think it might have something to do with the type of film used? Whatever the reason, there’s an overt artificiality that gets to me.
Anyway, I like checking out the history of Doctor Who, especially an odditiy like this. I think one of the reasons I decided to watch this particular disc is because I didn’t really need to know a lot going in. By the way, even if you’re not interested in checking out the film itself, I recommend getting this disc from Netflix because it includes a documentary about the seven year journey from the end of the original series to the making of this movie. It’s pretty epic and probably more interesting than the movie itself.
Also, a quick question: does anyone know why only some of the Doctor Who material is available to watch instantly on Netflix? Only a handful of serials are on there from the first three Doctors. I want to slowly work my way through the whole series, but not if I have to spend so many of my disc rentals on it. By the way, if you’re like me and are looking for a proper list of all the Doctor Who serials in order with links to DVDs on Netflix, go here. It’s a wonderful list and super helpful.