‘THE TV MOVIE’
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The Eighth Doctor with the Master, Grace and Chang Lee
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 later directed ‘Stormbreaker’ in 2006). This was an intriguing viewing experience.
This story was originally released on DVD in 2001. It was re-released on a 2-disc Special Edition DVD in the ‘Revisitations’ DVD box set (with ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ and ‘The Caves of Androzani’) in 2010. The 2-disc DVD set has the story on Disc 1 and the 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 since 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 making an appearance as the Seventh Doctor. It turns out Sylvester briefly appeared at the beginning and regenerated into Paul McGann. This was to fulfil the fans’ dream of watching Sylvester McCoy Doctor regenerate in ‘Doctor Who’.
In a way, it was a nice gesture to give Sylvester that 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 a morgue at a 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 complete.
I like how in the regeneration sequence we cut back and forth to the 1931 ‘Frankenstein’ film with Boris Karloff being watched by that 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 wonders 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 saddened that this was his only full-length TV appearance as the Eighth Doctor, as he’s really good. It’s such a shame that his ‘Doctor Who’ TV era didn’t last beyond this single adventure.
Thankfully however, Paul McGann’s Doctor has had more adventures in the Big Finish audios as well as in the books and comics, which have allowed him to greatly develop his Doctor. Paul has also reprised his role as the Eighth 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 here. She’s a medical doctor at a San Francisco hospital who operated on the Seventh Doctor before he died. She then meets the Eighth Doctor; gets to know him and has an adventure with him.
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 also 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 Chinatown 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 when told that the Doctor is evil.
‘The TV Movie’ 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 very confusing for the US audiences to understand what went on in ‘The TV Movie’.
This story is more of an ending as well as a beginning, since it features the closure of Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor as well as the beginning of Paul McGann 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 like 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 work so 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 about it with Professor Wagg.
I found it disconcerting with the Eye of Harmony in the cloister room of the Doctor’s TARDIS. That confused me since I thought the Eye of Harmony was on Gallifrey. Thankfully, Terrance Dicks corrected this mistake 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 since they could have had adventures in the TARDIS together, had the new US ‘Doctor Who’ TV 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 DVD audio 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. There’s also a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Seeds of Doom’ with Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen.
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. 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’ 50th 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
‘TOMORROW’S TIMES – THE EIGHTH DOCTOR’
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‘Tomorrow’s Times – The Eighth Doctor’ is currently available on ‘The TV Movie’ 2-disc Special Edition DVD and ‘The TV Movie’ Blu-ray.
‘Tomorrow’s Times – The Eighth Doctor’ is presented by Nicholas Courtney, who played the Brigadier in ‘Doctor Who’ with Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison and Sylvester McCoy on TV. Nick Courtney has also read the introductions to every ‘Tomorrow’s Times’ DVD special feature.
It was nice to see Nick Courtney do this ‘Tomorrow’s Times’ edition on the Eighth Doctor era of ‘Doctor Who’ and this was before he sadly passed away in 2011. The ‘Tomorrow’s Times’ edition on the Eighth Doctor era is so unusual as it focuses on the single TV story for Paul McGann’s Doctor – ‘The TV Movie’.
It was interesting to hear the press reactions to ‘The TV Movie’ before, during and after it came out on UK television. Reviewers and critics shared how ‘The TV Movie’ looked better with a big budget of a UK/USA co-production to it compared the smaller production values that were in the classic TV series.
It was amusing to hear the reactions of Paul McGann’s Doctor kissing Daphne Ashbrook as Grace Holloway. Nowadays it’s something we take for granted when the Doctor kisses one of his companions. It was intriguing to hear former producer John Nathan-Turner’s views on ‘The TV Movie’.
The sad news of Jon Pertwee’s death gets reported in the newspapers during the time ‘The TV Movie’ was transmitted on UK television. Sadly, ‘The TV Movie’ didn’t guarantee ‘Doctor Who’ having a proper return in the 1990s as newspaper critics hoped. This item does end on a positive note though.
‘DOCTOR WHO – THE TV MOVIE’
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The Review of the TV Movie Novelization 😀
It’s fascinating and intriguing to talk about this certain ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelization/audiobook.
When I read the sampler book from ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ called ‘Doctor Who and the Library of Time’, it contained extracts of the first ‘new’ Target novelization I was looking forward to in 2021. This of course was on ‘The TV Movie’ by Gary Russell and it features the Seventh and Eighth Doctors.
It’s ironic because there was an original ‘novel of the film’ by Gary Russell, which was published in 1996 a couple of days after ‘The TV Movie’ was transmitted in the UK. An abridged audiobook of the novelization read by Paul McGann came along with the 1996 ‘novel of the film’ afterwards in 1997. 😀
Gary Russell makes it clear in his introduction for the new 2021 novelization entitled ‘the ‘thanks very much’ bit (2021 remix)’ that it’s not the same book as the 1996 edition of the novelization. This became evident to me once reading the sampler extracts. Noticeable updates are made to the book.
This includes the mention of Ace being of A Charitable Earth in the opening chapter of the book. I don’t mind this so much. It’s just as well that I didn’t purchase the original 1996 ‘novel of the film’ from Amazon before the 2021 edition of the book came out with certain noticeable updates made. 🙂
There is also a brand-new audiobook made for the 2021 ‘TV Movie’ novelization read by Dan Starkey. I’ll talk about how I feel about him reading the novelization later on. I purchased the paperback edition of the 2021 ‘TV Movie’ novelization from Amazon and was very excited to read it.
I also purchased the audiobook as a download via Audible. It’s great to read these new Target novelizations of ‘Doctor Who’ as paperbacks whilst having to hear the audiobooks in the background on Audible. I hope it’ll be the same experiences for the ‘Dalek’, ‘The Crimson Horror’ and ‘The Witchfinders’ books.
I like ‘The TV Movie’ of ‘Doctor Who’ very much. I know there are flaws to it, but it’s a pretty fascinating excursion in trying to make a ‘Doctor Who’ story for American audiences in order to revive the series. A shame a US TV series never got made in the 1990s, but it’s still a decent attempt.
It’s very interesting how Gary Russell got to novelize ‘The TV Movie’ for BBC Books back in 1996. Gary Russell’s contribution to ‘Doctor Who’ has been immense from being the editor of ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ at one time to being a producer/director of Big Finish audios and a writer of ‘Who’ books.
I like Gary Russell as a ‘Doctor Who’ writer. He’s written some very decent books over the years, including ‘Beautiful Chaos’ featuring the Tenth Doctor and Donna, which I enjoyed. Some are divided over some of Gary’s books like ‘Divided Loyalties’ featuring the Fifth Doctor team, but I enjoyed that. 🙂
At the time of ‘The TV Movie’s release in 1996, not a lot of ‘Doctor Who’ was promoted on TV due to the show being cancelled since 1989. There had been books and comics made to keep the spirit of the TV series alive, but not enough TV-related stuff since then. ‘The TV Movie’ was a breakthrough. 🙂
Gary had written ‘Doctor Who’ books for the Virgin range of novels that were published in the early 1990s including ‘The New Adventures’ and ‘The Missing Adventures’. ‘The TV Movie’ novelization was the first of many ‘Doctor Who’ books published by the BBC in the late 1990s in the wilderness years.
This was before the BBC range of ‘Eighth Doctor Adventures’ books got published in the late 1990s. I suppose because Gary Russell was the editor of ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ and had written books beforehand that it made him an ideal choice to novelize Matthew Jacobs’ script for ‘The TV Movie’.
I imagine Gary Russell was very lucky to novelize ‘The TV Movie’ into prose. He certainly does a good job novelizing the film from reading the 2021 edition of the book. He writes in the style of Terrance Dicks whilst also embellishing additions that reflect his expertise about the ‘Doctor Who’ universe. 🙂
He also amends certain aspects of ‘The TV Movie’ that might be considered weak for many ‘Doctor Who’ fans from watching the film itself. This includes the reducing ‘half human’ aspect of the Doctor as well as clarifying the climax in order to make it less confusing, keeping Grace and Chang Lee alive.
When I see Gary Russell again at a convention or something, I would like to ask him about the challenges of novelizing ‘The TV Movie’ both in 1996 and for this 2021 edition. He certainly knows how to improve a story and has had a lot of experience with being a writer, a producer and a director in books and audio.
I enjoyed reading ‘The TV Movie’ 2021 novelization with the audiobook read by Dan Starkey. Dan Starkey plays the Sontarans both on TV and audio and he’s well-known for playing Strax of the Paternoster Gang. Dan does a good reading of the story, but he’s not my first choice as a narrator. 😐
I can’t believe that I have to keep addressing this every time when it comes to a ‘Doctor Who’ novel/audiobook, but a lot of the narrators chosen by the BBC for certain stories, whether it’s novelizations or original books, don’t make sense. Why was Dan Starkey chosen to read this story? 😐
As far as I’m concerned, Dan had no involvement with ‘The TV Movie’ back in 1996. It’s good he’s a ‘Doctor Who’ fan and he clearly know the story well enough, but wouldn’t it make sense to have either Paul McGann, Daphne Ashbrook, Yee Jee Tso or Eric Roberts narrating the audiobook instead?
Maybe due to Covid-19 restrictions happening at the time this audiobook was made (I assume Dan Starkey recorded it in 2020), it wasn’t possible to get Paul, Daphne, Yee Jee or Eric to read the audiobook. But it does feel like a random choice on the BBC part’s for Dan Starkey to read the story.
Again, I stress that Dan isn’t a bad narrator. He’s demonstrated he can do good readings of ‘Doctor Who’ audiobooks in the past like with ‘The Krikkitmen’ for the Fourth Doctor and ‘Molten Heart’ for the Thirteenth Doctor. I enjoyed the voices Dan provided for Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann’s Doctors.
This must come from working with Sylvester and Paul in the Big Finish audios over the years. But I would have picked a reader that was more suited to ‘The TV Movie’ and had an involvement with ‘The TV Movie‘ itself. Not somebody random who is generally associated the ‘Doctor Who’ series overall.
Let’s talk about ‘The TV Movie’ novelization itself. Again, I like how ‘The TV Movie’ is novelized by Gary Russell. It reminds me of how I used to enjoy move novelizations of superhero films I enjoyed in the 2000s like the original ‘Spider-Man’ trilogy and the ‘Fantastic Four’ novelizations by Peter David.
It’s very nostalgic. As well as ‘The ‘thanks very much’ bit (2021 remix)’ introduction at the beginning, the story is divided into eight chapters in the book. Mind you, you could argue that it’s a prologue and seven chapters, since the last seven chapters have more ‘TV Movie’ material contained in them.
The opening chapter/prologue (there aren’t any Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, etc listings in the book) features the Seventh Doctor receiving a call from the Time Lords and the Time Lord President that the Master is about to be executed by the Daleks. He soon heads off to collect the remains of his dead adversary.
This is before his TARDIS gets attacked by the Master morphant creature in the second chapter of the story. I enjoyed the opening chapter, since it does feel epic, especially when we have the Daleks making an appearance. The Daleks also have excellent voices provided when hearing the audiobook.
I’m not sure if it’s Dan Starkey who voices the Daleks in the audiobook since it sounds like Nick Briggs came in to voice the Daleks briefly for this audiobook. Then again, I’m sure Dan Starkey can do a good voice for the Daleks and the ring modulator tones can disguise the fact that it’s Dan Starkey. 😀
I’m also curious as to whether the Time Lord President who communicates with the Doctor is Romana herself. This is accounting for the fact that the Time Lord President is female and Gary Russell worked on the ‘Gallifrey’ audios. It might be President Flavia, but it still makes me curious. 😀
It’s interesting how Gary Russell divides the story into chapters in ‘The TV Movie’ novelization. From what I recall in reading the info-text commentary on the 2-disc Special Edition DVD, there were certain points in the film for commercial breaks. This was when the movie was shown on Fox TV in the US. 🙂
So each chapter of the book ends at points when the movie stopped for commercial breaks on US TV. This explains why the chapters are so lengthy and why it’s a short chapter structure in being 8 chapters. You have to have certain hours to read the chapters when reading the audiobook as well here.
I like how we get to know more about the characters and their certain backstories compared to seeing them in the film. This is especially when getting to learn more about Grace’s history with her parents and wanting to be a medical doctor as well as Chang Lee being involved with street gangs. 🙂
It was intriguing to hear that Grace’s mother died of cancer when she was five and that her father comforted her. This adds extra information on why Grace wanted to be a medical doctor. Grace’s relationship with Brian gets explored as well as her anxiety and her not wanting to reunite with him.
I also like how Grace’s interaction with the Doctor and getting to know him was handled in the book. Grace’s scepticism about the Doctor claiming who he says he is gets explored and how she gradually comes to believe him. The dialogue between the Doctor and Grace is so well handled in the book. 😀
In fact, Gary Russell improves a lot of dialogue in the confrontations between the Doctor and the Master in the last two chapters of the story. It echoes the confrontational style between Jon Pertwee’s Doctor and Roger Delgado’s Master as the Eighth Doctor interacts with the Master here. 🙂
It was also intriguing to hear about Chang Lee’s backstory since his mother and father owned a shop. He also had an older brother named Chang Ho who died three years beforehand. It was interesting how Chang Lee’s relationship with the Master was explored and how he wanted all of that gold dust.
It’s good that Gary Russell challenged Chang Lee’s thinking into whether being friends with the Master was a good idea or not. It’s lucky that Chang Lee got paralysed rather than have his neck snapped by the Master and its lucky Grace didn’t get killed by the Master in the book’s final chapter.
Bruce and his wife Miranda are given full names as their surname is Gerhardt. It was intriguing to hear Bruce’s character and what his and Miranda’s family life was like before he got turned into the Master. The Master in Bruce’s body killing Miranda in cold blood was pretty chilling when I read it. 😀
It was also good to learn more about the supporting characters such as the nurses at the hospital who are given full names like Angela Wheeler and Shelly Curtis. The doctors are also given full names like Dr. Jim Salinger and Dr. Roger Swift. The supporting characters feel more important in the book.
Professor Wagg is also given a full name as his first name is Joseph. He also happens to have a daughter named Sophie who was the girl that kissed Gareth Fitzpatrick, the student/security guard, at the end of the film. I really like how the romance between Gareth and Sophie gets developed in the book. 😀
Although the kiss on the cheek from the random girl is sweet, it did seem to come out of the blue, especially when Gareth was pleasantly surprised by it. I like how Gary Russell develops on that since it made me curious why the girl who kissed Gareth on the cheek actually did that by the film’s end. 🙂
It was fun how Gareth was introduced early in the book along with his fellow student friend David Bailey at the Institute for Technological Advancement and Research in San Francisco. Gareth works it out that the Doctor isn’t Professor Wagg when he’s interacting with Sophie who’s flirting with him. 🙂
Thus Gareth catching the Doctor and Grace out at the atomic clock when they try to steal the beryllium chip is not a surprise in the book. I also like how the Doctor recognises Gareth from somewhere earlier on before he realises who Gareth is, telling him to answer ‘the second question’.
There’s also more given on characters who were seen briefly and unnamed in the film. This includes Bruce’s paramedic partner Joey Sneller as well as Chang Lee’s friends Pik Sim and Ling Wang who get shot by a rival gang. I’m certain Pik Sim and Lin Wang are a reference to the actress Pik Sen Lim from ‘The Mind of Evil’.
It was unusual how the story ended with the Master being changed into a strange white glowing monster or something rather than reverting back to the Bruce form he had. It makes me wonder how the Master continues to look like Bruce when Eric Roberts portrays him in the Big Finish audios.
The way that Bruce’s body decays when the Master inhabits him is pretty gruesome when reading the book. I liked the mentions of Traken, Xeriphas, the Cheetah People and the Tzun Confederacy when the Doctor is explaining to Grace about the Master’s attempts to cheat death and prolong his life.
I also like how the book ends with Grace contemplating whether she should have travelled with the Doctor or not, but decides that she made the right choice by staying on Earth. She wonders how she’ll get her job back though. It does leave the story open-ended on a potential future US TV series.
‘The TV Movie’ novelization of ‘Doctor Who’ by Gary Russell is very good. I can’t claim to know how different the 2021 edition of the novelization is compared to the 1996 novelization without having read it, but I’m glad I’ve explored a novelization of an underrated attempt to reinvent ‘Doctor Who’ for the US.
It’s been especially good to read the novelization with the audiobook read by Dan Starkey in the background. Dan Starkey is an odd choice to read the 2021 edition of ‘The TV Movie’ novelization, but he still provides a very good reading. I have enjoyed exploring more of the story by Gary Russell.
‘Doctor Who – The TV Movie’ rating – 9/10
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