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Doctor Who is Pushing 50

12 10 2011

Copyright BBC

Article first published as Looking Forward to Doctor Who Turning 50 on Blogcritics.

Just over a week ago, the sixth series (or 32nd, depending on how you look at it) of Doctor Who wrapped up with the incredible episode The Wedding of River Song, posing the series-long question, “Doctor Who?”

For those of you not in the know, the original series began in 1963 with William Hartnell as Doctor numero uno and was on the air through six other Doctors until its cancellation in 1989.  Following a 1996 television movie with eighth Doctor Paul McGann, the series was rebooted by Russell T. Davies in 2005 and continues to this day on the BBC, currently in the eleventh “incarnation” of the Doctor, a now 900-something year old alien who travels through time and space in a machine guised as a police box.

Since the series six finale, the Doctor and companions will be off the air until the 2011 Christmas Special and then back in 2012 for a seventh series, continuing to star Matt Smith as the eleventh Doctor.  However, it will be the following season that I am interested in focusing on, as the series itself reaches its 50th Anniversary in early 2013.

All of the produced anniversary specials have centered around the Doctor crossing his own time stream, sometimes more than once, which results in a multi-Doctor episode, bringing back former actors who have played the lovable Time Lord.  The only two anniversary specials so far in the series were The Three Doctors in 1973 (with William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee) and The Five Doctors (with Richard Hurndall sitting in for the deceased Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, Peter Davison and Tom Baker, kind of).  For what would have been the 30th and 40th anniversaries, the show was off the air unfortunately.

So, in short, odds are high that we will see another multi-Doctor episode, and that is some very exciting news for Who fans.  Everyone has their own ideas how the 50th Anniversary special should go, and I’m sure many, including myself, would love to see a return of David Tennant to the role for the special.  However, when really thinking hard on the subject, I come up with a storyline that wouldn’t include Tennant, but rather eighth and ninth Doctors Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston.

When the series rebooted in 2005 with Eccleston, he had already regenerated from the eighth incarnation.  This is the only regeneration in the history of the series that we don’t actually see happen on screen or, at least, see the death of one and birth of the other.  Furthermore, it is alluded to constantly in the first few seasons that there was a Great Time War, in which the Time Lords and evil Daleks obliterated each other, leaving the Doctor as the “Last of the Time Lords.”

If I could sit down with Head Writer Steven Moffat, this is my pitch: have eleventh Doctor, Matt Smitth, recieve a distress signal from Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, through the Time Locked war, similar to the bending out of universe phenomena in The Doctor’s Wife.  Realizing he will die and cut off his own time stream if he doesn’t go for help, the eleventh Doctor enters the final hours of the Great Time War.  The eighth Doctor explains what is happening on Gallifrey and the two must work together to obliterate the Dalek, and in turn, Time Lord races to save the universe.  In the end, however, the eighth Doctor doesn’t make it out alive, dying and regenerating into the ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, where he travels to the beginning of his tenure and meeting Rose.

Not only would that create a multi-Doctor episode, but it would give Paul McGann the chance to portray his wonderful interpretation of the Doctor once more on screen in a more tightly written episode (as McGann’s only appearence was the mediocore Doctor Who Movie in 1996).  What would your dream 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who be?  Which former Doctors would you like to see return?

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Doctor Who: The Movie (1996) Review

19 08 2011

The Eighth Doctor, played by Paul McGann. Copyright 1996 BBC

★ ★ ★ 1/2

Ever since starting the 2005 reboot of Doctor Who earlier this year, I have been a super fan boy to the series.  It’s great!  So great, in fact, that I may actually purchase cable through the devil (Time Warner) soon so that I can watch the rest of season six as it airs live.  That aside, after catching up and having this break in the series this summer, I have tried to go back and watch some of the classic series serials.  The classic series spans some 600+ episodes, so I am sure it will be many years to come, if ever, for me to finish it; however, I am on a quest to at least watch serials of all the eleven doctors, so that I can see how each respective actor handled the role.  So far, I have seen serials with first, third, fourth, fifth, eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh doctors.  Some of the episodes included regenerations, so I have actually briefly seen Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy in the role as well.

Anyway, for those of you who don’t know, Doctor Who is about a Time Lord (alien) who travels through time and space in a machine that has stuck on the look of a 1960s police box called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space).  The original series ran in serials from 1963-1989 and encompassed the first through seventh incarnations (he regenerates when he dies into a new form that retains some basic traits and memories, but wholly new personalities).  Following the end of the original series, there was a US/UK joint effort at rebooting the series in the form of a television movie; this is the movie in question, and it was released in 1996.  Due to many Americans being unfamiliar with the classic British show, it received abysmal reviews in the US and no further episodes were made.  In 2005, the series rebooted with the ninth doctor and continues to this day, currently with the eleventh incarnation portrayed by Matt Smith.

The television movie here up for review begins with the seventh incarnation of the Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, transporting the remains of longtime enemy and fellow Time Lord, the Master, back to their home planet of Gallifrey.  The Master’s spirit, though locked and concealed, manages to escape the box causing the TARDIS to spin out of control and “crash land” in San Francisco in 1999.  When the Seventh Doctor exits the TARDIS, he is shot by a gang of hoodlums chasing down another Asian hoodlum, Chang Lee (Lee Jee Tso).  The Doctor is rushed to a local hospital and, while in the ambulance, the Master’s spirit begins the process of taking over a temporary body; this being the body of the EMS employee.  In the hospital, because of his alien anatomy, heart surgeon Dr. Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook) accidentally kills his seventh form on the table.  This sets the regeneration process in motion until the Doctor regenerates into his eighth form, played by one of my favorite (and most underrated) British actors, Paul McGann.  A bit amnesiac from the regeneration, the Doctor has to remember exactly who he is and starts a friendship, and slight romance, with Dr. Holloway who becomes his companion for this movie.  The Doctor has to stop the Master from destroying the fabric of the universe and stop the Master from taking over the Doctor’s body, since the Master’s temporary human body can’t handle the soul of a Time Lord.

Compared to the lower budget effects of the original series, this television movie is extremely high tech.  The camera moves, direction and editing are all much better than many of the older serials, just because of larger budget.  Unfortunately, the story isn’t as good as it could be.  It is oddly almost like a Terminator meets Doctor Who, as the Master in human form (played by Eric Roberts) is very reminiscent of T-1000.  I also hated the acting of Eric Roberts in this role, it was just too over-the-top and campy for me.  Yet, the worst actor in the lot, I think is Lee Jee Tso; he is just awful.  However, I liked Daphne Ashbrook as Dr. Holloway and actually really enjoyed Paul McGann as the doctor!  It’s a shame the script wasn’t better and that he didn’t have further chance to solidify himself in the role after this one televised appearance.  Furthermore, I have no idea why they allude to the fact that the Doctor is half human; it does nothing for the story and has never been alluded to before or after.  I just pretended that they didn’t say this about the Eighth Doctor, he is all Time Lord in my mind and that helps me enjoy the film more.

All complaints aside, I did enjoy the movie.  Yes, it could have been better, but it wasn’t a train wreck, especially for any true Doctor Who fan.  There are many nostalgic moments and lots of inside “jokes” for fans, and like I said, I really enjoyed Paul McGann as the Doctor.  Then again, Paul played in my all-time favorite British comedy, Withnail and I.  So, maybe I’m a bit biased.








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