On this day in 1996, the Doctor was back on our screens after a seven year absence. This one off TV movie was the only televised appearance from the Doctor in a barren sixteen year spell for the show. To this day, the movie still splits fan opinion. I do like the movie, admittedly though a lot of strange things do happen.
First of all, Paul McGann’s Doctor is absolutely superb. It’s a true shame he didn’t get his own series in the TARDIS because he brought so much joy and exuberance to the role. His narration over the opening sequences was great. The start to the movie really felt like a classic episode of the show. Sylvester McCoy’s return was the connection fans needed to accept this was actually canon. Although his death was rather quick and forced, I’m glad McCoy did reprise his role as the Doctor. Back to the eighth Doctor, as it was Paul McGann who starred. I really liked watching him try to work out who he was after he regenerated. The mystery of regeneration returned and this was perhaps the most mysterious of them all. The Doctor was dead for longer than he’d ever been and he couldn’t even remember who he was. Some of the scenes between the Doctor and Grace were terrific. His excitement at working out piece by piece that he was the Doctor, next to Grace’s astonishment that he simply had two hearts was hilarious. Their kiss scene is something that splits the fans. It was the first time we’d ever seen a Doctor kiss a companion and it was certainly quite a shock. Personally, I didn’t mind it too much. The first one anyway, was more the Doctor celebrating that he’d remembered his true identity rather than a show of love. However, the kiss at the end of the movie under the fireworks wasn’t needed and it made the production feel like a soppy love story at the conclusion rather than a thrilling science fiction, action packed drama.
Something else that has ignited debate amongst fans is the Doctor’s half human revelation. Could the Time Lord actually have a human mother like the Doctor seemed to suggest? Well even the Master said so. Fans who are determined to shoot down this theory say the Doctor only made this up to get out of trouble and distract the professor. But the Master seemed pretty adamant throughout the story and stated on more than one occasion that the Doctor was indeed half human. Personally I don’t really see what’s too bad about this possible theory. After all, not all Gallifreyans are Time Lords, Steven Moffat himself has confirmed this. Gallifreyans become Time Lords through exposure to the Time Vortex and graduation from the “academy”. So the Doctor could quite easily be half human and half Gallifreyan while remaining 100% Time Lord. Nothing about that would harm the integrity of the character or the show’s history. It certainly would explain why he’s so fond of Earth.
Yes, a lot of the TV movie haters will have stopped reading by now. I’ve defended the Doctor and companion kiss and the half human theory. But what I really didn’t like about the movie was the Master. The Master’s intention to steal the Doctor’s bodies was a valid motive, I can’t deny that. He was even scripted pretty well too. Snapping the necks of his human body’s wife and then Chang Lee was as dark as the Master should be. But the performance of Eric Roberts and the way he was so overpowered was just ridiculous. I didn’t like seeing the Master’s eyes turn green, he didn’t feel like a Time Lord or a compatriot of the Doctor. His ability to spit acid too was just so stupid and unnecessary. Since when could the Master do this? And when he escaped the TARDIS at the beginning, why was in the form of a snake? I know that was meant to represent evil but it just looked silly. Roberts overplayed him as well. The Master has always been quite a pantomime-style villain but this was too far. His delivery of the lines; “I always dress for the occassion” and “I’m alive! I’m…Alive!” was so over dramatic and it was quite hard to take him seriously.
The TV movie is a long way from perfect. It proves what a stellar job Russell T. Davies did of rebooting the show in 2005 so magnificently. Paul McGann is the highlight of the movie. His Doctor was just perfect, the scene where he stole the gun from the policeman and turned it on himself to get away showed how selfless and heroic this incarnation was. I wish we got to see more of him on screen. As I said, a lot of aspects are harshly criticised by fans, but actually if they thought about them properly, they would realise they aren’t as bad as they seem. Yes, some moments were poorly done and didn’t suit Doctor Who, but I think this ninety minutes gave us, as Doctor Who fans, a lot to enjoy.