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 (like the Mara perhaps?) and forces the Tardis to land in San Francisco in 1999; where the Seventh Doctor is wounded in a gun battle, with some local youths and regenerates in hospital.
Whats good : The big budget return of Doctor Who, after a (nearly) seven-year absence. Paul McGann is excellent – as the Doctor. The Tardis interior is very interestingly styled.
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. Eric Roberts is cheesy. The companions are annoying.
Review With Spoilers : Doctor Who : The TV Movie, was a big budget joint BBC/CBS/Universal attempt to reboot Doctor Who; for an American prime-time 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 previously established continuity – is wayward. Including; the Master’s trial and execution on Skaro by the Daleks (Skaro was destroyed in Remembrance Of The Daleks). Also, why the Daleks would allow the Doctor, to pop and grab the Master ashes – for return to Gallifrey is unknown (being the Dalek’s mortal enemy).
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 destroying Skaro. So to say that the Seventh Doctor, was Dalek public-enemy number-one; would be an understatement!
I get the feeling that the Dalek/Master Trial opening, was presented here; 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. Featured here, to hand on the torch to the new Eighth Doctor; Paul McGann.
McCoy himself is (obviously) older at this point, by 7 years – since last appearing in <><>Survival in 1989. Although the timeline from the original series, remains unclear. The Seventh Doctor, is not travelling with companion Ace – or any other companion – at this time.
McCoy’s regeneration – is horribly contrived and does a major disservice, considering that McCoy 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 later “killed” on the operating table, in a botched/un-necessary exploratory keyhole operation. By the very person, that the Eighth Doctor chooses as his companion in this adventure; Dr Grace Holloway. It’s a genuinely crass and ill-conceived way to send out a Doctor. It would have made far more sense, for the Master Snake to mortally wound the Seventh Doctor and set-up some stakes; for the rest of the story.
Doctor Who : The TV Movie‘s problems don’t end with the baton passing. Eric Roberts also appears, who plays a paramedic; is possessed by the Master’s ghost-snake entity. 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, in this bastardised mess – is McGann himself. Who picks up the baton from the very first instance and runs with it – impressively. He was – in retrospect, an excellent choice of actor – to play the new Doctor.
His Doctor is perhaps the greatest missed opportunity, in the show’s entire history. McGann’s Classic era appearance amount to this – 85 x minute appearance only.
Doctor Who : The TV Movie did not make many waves, in the American market and was not picked up for a regular series. It was better received in the UK, though but criticised for it’s soft reboot leanings to please American audiences.
“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; is dispatched.
It was something of an irony, that the Americans didn’t take to it. As only 14 years later, Doctor Who was (at least during the David Tennant/ Matt Smith years) considered cult TV viewing on BBC America because because of it’s quintessential British-ness.
At least the Americans had a go. The Beeb were the real villians here, because of a favourable UK reaction; should really have took the initiative and produced a new UK-based series, with McGann – as star. They chose not to and McGann’s reign was cut abruptly short, before it had time to really fly.
The TV Movie is an oddity in the Doctor Who series – and a misfire. It is worth watching though, solely
for McGann’s performance – and what could have followed.
Watch Doctor Who : The TV Movie here :