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Tuesday, 13 July 2004 - Reviewed by Kathryn Young

It was 1996 and the Beeb had sold Doctor Who to the Americans. No don’t start to cry. It turned out pretty ok for all concerned. Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor dies and Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor is born. In the story he battles to save himself and the Earth from the Master (yes there wasn’t all that much plot but that never stopped Doctor Who before so be quiet).

It was lovely…

I remember when it came out. I think I might have wept a bit. That poncy bloke with the long hair didn’t grab me at all (forgive me, I was young, foolish and had never read an EDA). I missed Sylvester as the Doctor like the dickens and the idea of having an American Master was just too scary to contemplate. However, I found that just like green alien slime from the Earth’s core, this story grows on you (but fortunately doesn’t turn you into a hideous slavering monster).

The Beginning Sequence: Now no matter what you may think of the rest of the movie, the first three minutes of the film did have a certain allure…

For one there was Paul McGann’s accent: I once had a boss who was a Scousy (from Liverpool) and he had a lovely way of speaking – ‘Youwngiee. Geart hinto dat barr n peurr maei a vodka an doon gi mei ani gip’ - so there must be a little something in me that just loves Paul’s knockdown: Liverpool meets RADA accent. And Paul is so serious about it all. By the time he got through to the ‘it was a request they never should have granted’ bit from the introduction I was in stitches.

Then there was the music: Someone was asking what stupid silly small thing makes Doctor Who spesh for you. And I have to admit I used to have a total wobbly every time I heard the seventh Doc ‘turn table techno’ (and I still do). However this music is much more dramatic and serious. Even now after eight years I am still going – ‘yes yes yes – Doctor Who is back and he is going to kick Dalek butt’ before I remember that that was all along time ago and sadly it never happened. But this music is the sort of stuff that gets men across the Delaware. 

All in all it was a great beginning. The only down side I think was that they hired the chipmunks to voice the Daleks, but it is good to see Alvin and the gang getting some work.

Next we come to good old Syl:

Sylvester McCoy looks like a complete tosser in this movie? Now I love Sylvester and have my axe always handy for those namby pamby little cowards who think it is cool to pick on the little fellow with the silly jumper, but I am going to do a Janet Fielding and say: ‘Whart was thart on hs haird?. Thairt haire kut dowes nowt soot heim’. However there was a trade off in the fact that finally Syl was free of John Nathan Turner and his John Nathan Turneresque views on fashion: So no question mark jumper. 

But Sylvester does play an integral part in this movie. He came from England – all the way across the Atlantic – to fall into some bin bags and die so that Paul McGann could take over the mantle. And, seriously folks – it was a lovely gesture. If ever there was a testament to how much Doctor Who means to people, it is a plucky little Scottish git traveling five thousand miles to ‘do what he thought was right’ by Doctor Who. And that also makes this film spesh.

The Companions:

I admit I never really warmed to Grace. Yes she looked good in that blue dress and she has nice taste in music, but she seemed so boring – the cardigan of companions if you like. She wasn’t popping out all over the place (and I don’t mean out to the shop) like Peri, she wasn’t totally obnoxious like Tegan, she wasn’t a total wierdo like Turlough, she just ‘was’. I can theorise it would be a very hard brief for an American actor to get lumbered with the job of being the Doctor’s companion. Because of the unique origins of Doctor Who the whole concept might seem very alien (if you will pardon the pun) to your average American Daphne who has grown up on a diet of Leave it to Beaver and The A Team…

‘So there is this guy who travels the universe in a phone booth accompanied by chicks who have a propensity to scream and sprain their ankle a lot… and every planet he visits looks like a quarry.’

She must have wondered ‘now how exactly do I play this one’? If the series had continued I can just imagine the poor woman asking the director ‘so how do I react to the giant space frog again?’ However the upshot of this is she just tends to act totally bemused as she tries to cope with this bizarre Englishman who has inserted himself and about thirty years of baggage and in jokes into her life. The look on her face after the Doctor has done his ‘these shoes, they fit perfectly’ spiel is worthy of any good cartoon character and almost does a Tom Baker ‘lets break the fourth wall’ - and that bit alone makes the film worth while. But when she is not playing ‘oh dear this is all too much, I need a couple of asprin and a good lie down’ she might surprise you… 

Chang Lee. Finally someone to make Nyssa’s acting look credible (even good). And even now I still have an abiding hatred for his cod awful jacket. His performance in this movie is a living testament as to why drama school is a good thing.

Anthony Ainley he is not:

‘My name is not Honey’ – wow. No offence to Eric, but he was just odd. Maybe it was the script – ‘I must have the Doctor’s body, I need to explain the plot – right now’. Maybe it was the high heels. Maybe it was the leather outfit: I have never ever seen a paramedic dressed as Neo from the Matrix. All the ones I have seen have stethoscopes and comfy clothes. And this annoyed me. Here we have this guy who looks like he has escaped from (insert suitable dark tv show or movie) and no one in the story notices a thing. I realise he has to be a bit menacing, but Anthony Ainley managed to do it with a few laughs and all while wearing crushed velvet pantaloons. Why does this guy have to go the full bondage? But to be fair Eric does some seriously evil smiling and just like Jack Nicholson at the Oscars he wears his sunglasses in inappropriate places.


I cannot believe they named the ambulance man whose body the Master nicks Bruce. I am sorry, but you cannot have a character in a serious drama (or even a sci fi) called Bruce. It is soo Monty Python territory. I reckon Eric hated it as well – first chance he gets he explicitly states he ‘is not Bruce’.

These shoes… They fit perfectly

There is a theory in drama. All you need is one really good bit and people will remember that, forget the crap bits and go away raving. Actually that is not really a theory. I just made it up. However it is true. Whenever I think about this movie I always remember the park scene. People complain that McGann was ‘The Doctor Lite’ - the diet cola of Doctors, and so forth, but you can’t always be a planet destroying sad sack can you? Sometimes you have to take pleasure in the little things that make being the Doctor so much fun, ie Shoes and having it off with Lalla behind the catering van during the filming of City of Death... that sort of thing.

And that brings us to Paul McGann…

I am going to say I thought he was wonderful. But then again I would probably watch a half hour show of Paul McGann reading the newspaper. I think McGann was as gobsmacked as everyone else was when he landed the role. He is not – erm – anything like any Doctor we had had before. When you think that here is a Scousy boy with a shaved head dressed up as a Victorian ponce with a long haired wig, even if you don’t agree with his interpretation of the Doc, you have to say that this boy can act. 

The Puzzling Bits…

Get that boy to an optometrist:

Every so often in the movie we see things from the ‘Doctor’s perspective’. Now either that guy was totally smashed for the whole movie or he has a serious eye problem. It looked as if he was seeing the world from the bottom of a vodka bottle. People would lurch in and out of his line of sight with an alarming randomness. No wonder he couldn’t pilot the TARDIS all those years – HE COULD’T SEE THE BLIKNIN BUTTONS! Judging by this film it is a wonder he could even find the door. But this does explain why the poor boy was so skittish for half of the movie. You wold be a bit worried if everyone was coming towards you like zombies from a bad Hammer horror movie too!

Fanwank carried to the ludicrous:

Where did he get the jelly babies from? I realise this is an important bit of total fanwank for the British creators, but not only did the sudden appearance of a bag of jelly babies have no relevance to an unsuspecting American public, it made no sense. The man did not even have shoes! How did he acquire a bag of anachronistic sweets? Did he pop out to the sweet shop before or after he realised he had medical probe inserted into his chest? Any why didn’t he notice that probe before anyway. I really think I would pick up on a piece of ‘primitive wiring’ stuck in my chest – right away! Are sweet shops even open at nine PM on New Years Eve in San Francisco? Did he make Grace stop off at a Seven Eleven on the way home to pick some up? 

San Francisco was awfully flat. I swear remember reading something about hills in Tales of the City?


If I had one chance to go back in time… I’d go back and do something to Rosanne Barr. Not that I have anything against her personally, but every time I watch this movie I am saddened at what might have been. The pilot was never picked up because it went up against a very emotional episode of Rosanne and failed to get the ratings it needed. It would have strange. It would have been different. For some it would have never been as good as the old series. But it sadly did not ever get a chance to ‘be’ anything. 

The DVD bit:

The DVD I have has some groovy extras. There are some interviews with Syl being his normal diplomatic self and trying to explain it all for the unsuspecting American public – there’s this bloke and he travels through time and space in a big blue box… no really… it’s good’. 

There is also a great interview with Paul McGann saying how he wouldn’t go near a Doctor Who convention even if you super glued him to a Dalek, cos the fans are just too scary (just what had Syl been telling him, from what I heard Syl was the driving force behind that pool party). 

Sometimes I wonder about McGann. Here is this big Scousy dude terrified of a bunch of people who like to dress up like the Doctor and discuss telesnaps…. Ummm, how bad did you think it was going to get? Fortunately now he does do the odd convention and will continue to do them as, so far, no one has leapt on him yet and frightened him off (Actually I think they just took him out for afternoon tea and fed him cinnamon buns). 

The bloke who does this commentary has the wit of Oscar Wilde’s turnip (but not the interesting turnip shaped like a thingy). 

Why this movie is important:

Simply for the fact that if you pick up an Eighth Doctor Adventure story you will see Paul McGann’s face slathered across it. A lot of people will say that the Eighth Doctor is a literary creation, but I reckon it would be nice to see the bloke who inspired it all – eh?

‘These shoes… they fit perfectly’

And besides, he is a lovely Doctor.