Number : TV Movie (special) – 1996
Which One : Seventh regenerates into Eighth, in a TV Movie.
Cast : The Doctor : Sylvester McCoy / Paul McGann
The Master : Eric Roberts / Gordon Tipple
Dr Grace Holloway : Daphne Ashbrook
Chang Lee : Yee Jee Tso
Salinger : John Novak
Dr Swift : Michael David Simms
Miranda : Eliza Roberts
Professor Wagg : Dave Hurtubise
Curtis : Dolores Drake
Wheeler : Catherine Lough
Pete : William Sasso
Ted : Joel Wirkkunen
Gareth : Jeremy Radick
News Anchor 1 : Mi-Jung Lee
News Anchor 2 : Joanna Piros
Security Man : Dee Jay Jackson
Written By : Matthew Jacobs
Produced By : Philip Segal
First Broadcast : 12 May 1996 (Canada)
14 May 1996 (USA)
27 May 1996 (UK) May 1996
Length : 85 minutes (UK), 89 minutes (US).
Plot : The Seventh Doctor is tasked with transporting the Master’s ashes, from his execution on Skaro – for internment on Gallifrey.
However, the Master has reassembled his conscience as an energy snake-like entity (Mara?) and forces the Tardis to land in San Francisco in 1999; where the Seventh Doctor is wounded in a gun battle and regenerates in hospital.
Whats good : The big budget return of Doctor Who, after a (nearly) 7 year absence. Paul McGann is excellent as the Doctor.
Whats bad : McCoy’s demise is bad. Continuity is disjointed. The made for American TV market feel doesn’t really work for a British institution.
Review With Spoilers : Doctor Who : The TV Movie was a big budget joint BBC/CBS attempt to reboot Doctor Who, for an American primetime series.
It was written specifically with an American audience in mind; so can only loosely be called a continuation of the original series, which ended in 1989.
Elements have been changed specifically for this pilot and the continuity is wayward. Including; the Master’s trial and execution on Skaro by the Dalek’s, as Skaro was destroyed in Remembrance Of The Daleks. Also, why the Daleks would allow the Doctor to pop by unharmed and grab the Master ashes – for return to Gallifrey, is unknown.
Even if the Dalek’s had somehow rebuilt Skaro (and lets face it, in sci-fi anything can be unwritten!). The Doctor murdered millions of Daleks in Remembrance Of The Daleks, when he destroyed Skaro. So to say he was Dalek public-enemy number-one, would be an understatement!
I get the feeling that the Dalek/Master Trial opening was there – more for effect, than any serious attempt to link continuity with the original series.
But some continuity is present here, with the final appearance of Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor. Featuring here, to hand on the torch to the new Eighth Doctor; Paul McGann.
McCoy himself is (obviously) older at this point, although the timeline from the original series remains unclear. He no longer travels with Ace, or any other companion.
McCoy’s regeneration is horribly contrived though and does him a major disservice, considering he was game enough to return and hand over the baton – unlike McCoy’s predecessor; Colin Baker.
Superficially wounded in a gun battle with an asian street-gang, in San Francisco. He is “killed” on the operating table in a botched/un-necessary exploratory keyhole operation. By the very person the Eighth Doctor chooses as his companion in this adventure; Dr Grace Holloway.
Doctor Who : The TV Movie‘s problems don’t end there. Eric Roberts, who plays an unfortunate paramedic, is possessed by the Master’s ghost snake entity – to do his bidding. Roberts does not imbue any of the qualities of his Master predecessors and at best, comes across as a very average soap-opera badguy.
The only real positive here is McGann himself, who picks up the baton from the very first instance and runs with it. He was – in retrospect, the right choice to play the new Doctor.
His Doctor is perhaps the greatest missed opportunity, in the show’s history. McGann’s appearances amount to this 85 minute appearance and the 2013 – 6 minute film; Night Of The Doctor.
Doctor Who : The TV Movie did not make many waves in America and was not picked up for a U.S. series. It was better received in the UK though but criticised for its Americana.
“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.” The Doctor.
Some of the ideas from Doctor Who : The TV Movie were later recycled into the newer post-2005 UK series. Including; the downloadable Tardis skin of the control room and the Tardis central – ‘Eye Of Harmony’ power source. Into which, Eric Roberts Master; was dispatched.
It was something of an irony that the Americans didn’t take to it. As 18 years later, Doctor Who is now considered cult TV viewing on BBC America because of its quintessential British-ness.
The Beeb were the real villians here though and because of a favourable UK reaction, should really have took the initiative and produced a new UK based series with McGann. They chose not to and McGann’s reign was cut abruptly short.
The TV Movie is an oddity in the Doctor Who series and a bit of a misfire. It is worth watching though,
for McGann’s performance.