‘THE TV MOVIE’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
The Best of the Doctor with the Master
‘It was on the planet Earth that my favourite TV show ‘Doctor Who’ was becoming for me a fact of life. They say calmly I was obsessed as I watched through the list of ‘Doctor Who’ episodes…and enjoyed them with such flourish. Then I made my next…and I found somewhat unusual decision. I decided…that I, Tim Bradley, a relatively new ‘Doctor Who’ fan, should watch ‘The TV Movie’ starring Paul McGann, which was made back in 1996. It was a decision…I should never have made…’
Ha; ha, only joking. Honestly, I enjoyed watching the ‘Doctor Who’ TV Movie with Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor. Some bits are bizarre and unusual, but this is like a new series episode of the show with action sequences; amazing glossy sets; visual effects and the Doctor kissing a companion.
‘The TV Movie’ of ‘Doctor Who’ is a BBC/Universal co-production to re-introduce the TV series in the USA in 1996. The episode was by Matthew Jacobs; produced by Phillip Segal and directed by Geoffrey Sax (who also directed ‘Stormbreaker’ in 2006). This was an intriguing viewing experience.
This story was originally released on DVD in 2001. Now it has been re-released on a 2-disc special edition DVD in the ‘Revisitations’ DVD box set (as well as ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ and ‘The Caves of Androzani’). This is a 2-disc DVD set and has the story on Disc 1 and special features on Disc 2.
I’ve had the special edition DVD cover of ‘The TV Movie’ signed by Daphne Ashbrook at the ‘Dimensions 2015’ convention in Newcastle, October 2015. I really like Daphne, as she’s very friendly. I met Daphne again at ‘The Capitol II’ convention in Gatwick, May 2017 and had more chats with her.
As well as Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, they also had Sylvester McCoy make an appearance as the Seventh Doctor It turns out Sylvester appeared briefly at the beginning and regenerated into Paul McGann. This was to fulfil the fans’ dream of watching Sylvester’s regeneration in ‘Doctor Who’.
It was a nice gesture in a way to give Sylvester a pay-off as the Doctor. But in retrospect, I wish they hadn’t bothered with the regeneration. I’m sure it would have confused the USA audiences to see ‘the old doctor’ transform into ‘the new doctor’, without having seen or heard of ‘Doctor Who’ before.
The actual regeneration is pretty impressive. The Seventh Doctor is put into the morgue at the hospital after his death. Eventually, some electrical currents emanate from his body and we have the morphing of Sylvester’s Doctor’s face into Paul’s Doctors’ face until the transformation is completed.
I like how in the regeneration sequence we cut to the ‘Frankenstein’ movie with Boris Karloff being watched by the chubby guy. The Doctor smashes through and breaks down the morgue door, giving the chubby guy a shock. The new Doctor is troubled in his state of mind and is wondering who he is.
I like Paul McGann’s performance as the Doctor in ‘The TV Movie’. I’ve also met Paul at ‘Doctor Who’ conventions. I’m sorry that this was his only full-length TV appearance as the Eighth Doctor, as he’s really good. It is such a shame that his ‘Doctor Who’ TV era did not last beyond this single adventure.
Thankfully however, Paul McGann’s Doctor has had more adventures in the Big Finish audio realm as well as in books and comics, which have allowed him to greatly expand his Doctor. Paul had also reprised his role as the Doctor in ‘The Night of the Doctor’ during the 50th anniversary celebrations.
I enjoyed Daphne Ashbrook as Grace Holloway in ‘The TV Movie’. Grace gets to be the Doctor’s companion in this. She’s a medical doctor at a San Francisco hospital who operates on the Seventh Doctor before he dies. She then meets the Eighth Doctor; gets to know him and have an adventure.
The villain of this story is Eric Roberts as the evil Master. I found Eric’s performance as the Master interesting and enjoyable to watch. He has a sense of humour as well as an air of unswerving menace. The Master is so frightening with his green eyes when he kills his wife and lies to Chang Lee.
Yee Jee Tso stars as Chang Lee, ‘the Asian child’, in ‘The TV Movie’. Lee belongs to a street gang in a China town of San Francisco. He’s the one who gets the Seventh Doctor to hospital after he was gunned down by a street gang. He also gets manipulated by the Master telling him the Doctor is evil.
This TV movie episode was meant to be the first of a new series of ‘Doctor Who’ in America. Sadly the TV movie didn’t work in the US. Whilst viewing figures in the UK were high, the figures in the US were low. It must have been confusing for US audiences to understand what went on in the TV tale.
This story is more of an ending as well as a beginning, since it features the closure of Sylvester as the Seventh Doctor as well as the beginning of Paul as the Eighth Doctor. I would have liked it if they didn’t include Sylvester (no disrespect) and just have Paul, or at least have flashbacks with Sylvester.
The good things that I liked about ‘The TV Movie’ are the motorbike chase sequence with the Doctor and Grace and the brand new TARDIS console room interior design. I also liked the Doctor’s relationship with Grace as much as the Doctor himself, since the two of them worked well together.
What I found disappointing about ‘The TV Movie’ were certain inaccuracies about the story and the Doctor’s character. The half-human element shocked me. Perhaps the Seventh Doctor set this as a trap for the Master, but the Eighth Doctor forgot about it. He made a joke of it with Professor Wagg.
I found it disconcerting with the Eye of Harmony in the cloister room of the Doctor’s TARDIS. This confused me, as I thought the Eye of Harmony was on Gallifrey. Thankfully, Terrance Dicks put this mistake to rights when he wrote the novel ‘The Eight Doctors’ and he resolved the continuity error.
I hoped that the Doctor and Grace would continue travelling together in the TARDIS. I wanted Grace to say ‘yes!’ to the Doctor’s offer to travel with him, but Grace kindly declines. This was sad, as they could have had adventures in the TARDIS together, had the new US ‘Doctor Who’ series been made.
The DVD special features on the 2-disc special edition DVD are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s ‘The Seven Year Hitch’ documentary which looks into executive producer Philip Segal’s journey of reviving ‘Doctor Who’ in America with ‘The TV Movie’. There’s also ‘The Doctor’s Strange Love’ discussion on ‘The TV Movie’ with writers Simon Guerrier and Joseph Lidster as well as comedian Josie Long.
There are also two commentaries on the story. The first is with director Geoffrey Sax and the second is with Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann, moderated by Nicholas Briggs. There’s an isolated music option by John Debney; four music tracks; an info-text commentary option to enjoy and an updated photo gallery of the story.
On Disc 2, the special features are divided into ‘Pre-Production’, ‘Production’ and ‘Special Features’. In ‘Pre-Production’, there’s an audition video of Paul McGann; test reels of some CGI effects shots for the opening credits and the Spider-Daleks. Spider-Daleks! Were they out of their minds on this?!
In ‘Production’, there are original cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of ‘The TV Movie’. There’s a tour of the TARDIS set provided by executive producer Phillip Segal himself. And there are alternate/extended scenes of ‘The TV Movie’ to enjoy.
In ‘Special Features’, there’s ‘The Wilderness Years’ documentary and the ‘Who Peter 1989-2009’ (Part 2) documentary (Part 1 is on ‘The Horns of Nimon’ DVD). There’s also the ‘Stripped For Action – The Eighth Doctor’ documentary. This is looks into the comic book adventures of the Eighth Doctor and can be found in the ‘Endgame’; ‘The Glorious Dead’; ‘Oblivion’ and ‘The Flood’ graphic novels.
There’s ‘Tomorrow’s Times – The Eighth Doctor’, presented by Nicholas Courtney; BBC trailers of the story and a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story. There’s also an Easter Egg to look out for on Disc 2.
Recently, ‘The TV Movie’ has been made onto Blu-ray. The additional special features on the Blu-ray include ‘The Night of the Doctor’ anniversary special.
I enjoyed watching the ‘Doctor Who’ TV Movie! It didn’t work as a TV pilot, but it set in motion the future of ‘Doctor Who’, as the show’s return in 2005 is proof of that. Paul McGann’s Doctor is reassuring and such a real joy to watch; even though his TV era is shorter than the Big Finish audios.
‘The TV Movie’ rating – 8/10
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