Paul McGann – Doctor No. 8

paul-mcgann-eighth-doctor whoOrigin : Gallifrey

(actor) Born : 14 November 1959 –

Doctor Reign – 1996 – 96

“The universe hangs by such a delicate thread of coincidences that it would be useless to meddle with it, unless like me you’re a Time Lord.” Eighth Doctor.

The “Canon” Doctor?

As we have explored in the the 7th Doctor’s profile, Doctor Who had had something of a hiatus from around 1990 when it was officially cancelled – until 1995, when a joint collaborative effort between BBC and U.S. Fox network produced a pilot for an intended American TV series – Doctor Who : The TV Movie which aired in May 1996.

Paul McGann was chosen as the Eighth regeneration of the Doctor; and Sylvester McCoy returned to hand over the baton to him. Doctor Who : The TV Movie was produced and filmed in Canada, The first time Who had been shot on location – across the Atlantic.

Doctor Who : The TV Movie was intended to loosely continue the series narrative and backstory of the original show – but take it in new directions. It’s primary focus was to gauge interest in a big budget TV series remake, so was written with this in mind, as it went off kilter in a number of areas.

seventh-doctor-tv-movie-300x225It opens with the Master – (presumably the Anthony Ainley Master), being tried on Skaro by the Dalek’s (Skaro was destroyed inRemembrance Of The Dalek’s – 1988). The Daleks exterminate the Master but not before his last request – for his enemy – the Doctor, to take his ashes back to the Timelord homeworld of Gallifrey.

Quite why the Dalek’s were trying the Master, executing him and then allowing the Doctor – (their mortal enemy!) to pop by and pick up his ashes is anybody’s guess, but I would suspect it was done more for dramatic effect than tieups with the original series narrative.


The 8th Doctor was thoughtful, pondering and quietly spoken. He displayed many nuances of all of his previous regenerations. He was mysterious – like Tom Baker’s Doctor, youthful – like Davison’s Doctor and dashing – like Jon Pertwee.

Shortly after regenerating, the Eighth Doctor happened across a Wild West fancy dress Wyatt Earp costume and steals it – hence the look of the Eighth Doctor which was very Hartnell-esque.

The Eighth Doctor takes his new companions for a spin in the Tardis!

The Eighth Doctor takes his new companions for a spin in the Tardis!

“…..I love humans. Always seeing patterns in things that aren’t there!” Eighth Doctor

Unfortunately though, it didn’t lead to a new series – The American audiences didn’t really take to it, the British audience did however, but the new series didn’t materialize. eighth-doctor-and-the-master-climatic-battle

In the end, it didn’t come to much in terms of a new TV series but in its own crazy way it showed that Who was too much of a British institution – to sell on so easily.

As to McGann himself, he showed great potential in the role and a new series (even produced in the UK) would have been an interesting spectacle – featuring McGann.

Eighth doctor tardis consoleHis Doctor was young, quite dynamic, good looking and modern in his outlook (like Peter Davison had been). With a few more series under his belt, I firmly believe he could have given Tom Baker a run for his money.

The only criticism of the 8th Doctor character is that he was styled a little too similar to Tom Baker in terms of his hair and his outfit. But I guess we must remember though that this was the mid 90’s and we were all stuck in a 1970’s revival, as we all reached back for inspiration. It was evident in the movies of time (Full Monty – amongst other things) and even more evident in the music.

Talking of the Doctor’s outfit, McGann was interviewed in 2009 and said that he had a short buzz cut hairstyle, as he had been filming a role that had demanded he keep his hair short. When he first went onto the set, he was hoping the Who producers would embrace this radical look for the Doctor.

They didn’t – and McGann was – in his own words “forced to wear a wig out of a box” which he found not only uncomfortable but itchy too. He also wanted to wear a leather jacket but ended up in a formal “wild west” style suit.

Some of these ideas would be incorporated into the look of the Tenth (now including John Hurt) Doctor – Chris Eccleston and more recently, by McGann himself – posing in a blue leather jacket in photo shoots at the Armageddon Pop Culture Expo in Auckland, New Zealand in October 2010.

The Eighth Doctor must have been a really forgiving person, as his companions in the TV movie (and probably on into a new TV series) were Dr Grace Holloway (who botched the operation on him and killed the Seventh Doctor). Chang Lee, an asian youth (who had been running from the gang that shot the Seventh Doctor) who finds the TARDIS key and lets the Master in, to wreak his dastardly plans.

Eighth doctor tardis control roomThe return of a new series was still 9 years away, so in the interim, Paul McGann did many audio adventures and had many novels written about the continuing adventures of the Eighth Doctor.

It was always suspected that this version of the Doctor would remain “non-canon” as did the Peter Cushing’s movie version, so it was with much surprise that the new series included references to the Eighth Doctor, so making it “canon” and that Christopher Eccleston was the Tenth incarnation (John Hurt again!).

human nature tennant mcgannWhen the new series began in 2005, with Eccleston in the role it was confirmed in Human Nature – 2007 as the Eighth Doctor’s likeness appeared as a scribble in a notebook he had made of all of his previous incarnations.

What this means in terms of Who history is that McGann could be termed the longest serving Doctor at 9 years (1996-2005) even though he made only one screen appearance – but many audio and novel appearances. Tom Baker had seven actual” years in the role – doing 7 full series and John Hurt’s Doctor muddies the timeline somewhat. So that point is readily up for some debate!

So, it was a shame that McGann didn’t get the follow up he so richly deserved and for me, the blame has to lie with the BBC. Doctor Who : The TV Movie got a really good reception in the UK but the BBC were seemingly unable or unwilling to pickup the Who baton and run with it.

The BBC did though, recycle many idea’s from Doctor Who : The TV Movie for the new series including : The changeable Tardis control room, the eye of the Harmony and the McGann suggested short hair and leather jacket look for the Ninth Doctor.


McGann’s story didn’t end there though, in 2013 – as part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations. McGann reappeared as the Eighth Doctor in a short film – Night Of The Doctor – 2013. He was mortally wounded in a spacefreighter crash and was given the chance to return, if he regenerated. He had a choice of forms to take and picked the “War” Doctor. He then regenerates into the Ninth Doctor – John Hurt.

McGann deserved a better crack of the whip and potentially, he could of became the greatest Doctor – ever.

Old Doctor Who

Appearances :


Doctor Who : The TV Movie


Night Of The Doctor