on 21 May 2008
For any Who fan the TV Movie is definitely worth another look.
All though it was much lambasted by some at the time the TV Movie aged surprisingly well. To set things up first you must remember that Doctor Who was unceremoniously cancelled in 1989, the last show, Survival, aired December 6th of that year. From the moment it was cancelled fans did everything possible to convince the BBC to renew the series. Nothing worked, the BBC seemed rather glad to be done with Doctor Who.
A successful Book series was launched (The New Adventures of Doctor Who)with some fans becoming writers (like Paul Cornell, Mark Gatiss, Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat [IMHO Moffat wrote one of the best short stories of the era]) filling the gap left when the Doctor left the air and kept the stories moving forward.
Enter 1996 and the TV Movie unofficially titled "Enemy Within", some how the Americans became involved and were instrumental in resurrecting the series. All though the story leading to how they became involved is a long meandering one full of narrowly avoided pitfalls.
To reintroduce the show the producers took a cheat using one of the most uniquely Doctor Who gimmicks, regeneration. They would use the introduction of a "New Doctor" to lay out an outline of who's Who and what the series was about. It worked, good, bad and ugly, it worked.
Sure mistakes were made and some things were changed that were better off left alone. But on the whole this was a loving homage to a series America knew very little about.
The cloister bell rings and Paul McGanns outstanding voiceover sets the stage. The theme music is retooled to sound like it would have without Delia Derbyshire's revolutionary interpretation, a mistake IMHO but one worth listing to.
TV Movie begins after an intro with the 7th Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) finally out of the ridiculous question marked costume that 80's Who producer (JNT) insisted upon. For the first time since the 80's the Doctor looks distinguished -in his own eccentric way of course. The TARDIS interior looks wonderful! About time that we see what this multiphasic, multideminsional ships interior is capable of looking like. More than a couple of corridors filmed in an empty BBC building or a crumbling set of second hand Styrofoam.
Also (IMO)the Doctor looks comfortable in the TARDIS, completely at home and the TARDIS really feels like his home even with the quasi museum/library deco, or maybe because of it.
I won't go in the details of the plot just in case you are one of the few who hasn't seen it yet, perhaps one of the new series fans (who weren't born with this first aired ;) )
Instead I'll concentrate on what they got right. The Master's eyes (ala Survival), the seal of Rassilon, The Cloister room and the eye of harmony (some set pieces reused in final SG1 seasons, if you've got a good eye for it you'll catch it), TARDIS controls (instead of the futuristic flashing buttons they went for a retro Victorian look that felt right for the Time Lords.), the half Human revelation fed right into the shows mythology about the Doctor being Merlin, The Cloister bell, and last but not least the New Doctor Paul McGann, perhaps one of the best casting choices since Tom Baker (and before David Tennant).
The TV movie has one of the most gripping Regeneration sequences in the shows history, the 7th Doctor dies screaming and alone. The 8th Doctor wonders around lost and still injured. Sad really, the Doctor always has a companion around who (with the audience) mourns the passing of the old Doctor and helps the new one get on his pins.
There is a very alien feel to the death and resurrection of the Doctor, making it unique and memorable.
Part of the criticism included the Doctor riding a motorcycle and kissing his (would be) companion. In retrospect what a load of rubbish those criticisms were. The 3rd Doctor always found his way into driving some outlandish vehicle or another. Why wouldn't the Doctor know how to ride a motorcycle? Not to mention drive like a Bat out of Skaro!
As for the kissing being verboten the new series put that controversy to rest. Now a days it is more difficult to find when the Doctor IS NOT kissing his companions, who by the way fancy him like mad.
The Master by Eric Roberts was not to my liking but more tame than the outlandish, overacting John Simm.
It must be remembered that one of the main weaknesses of this Movie is that it was never intended to be a standalone, one off, production. It was intended to be followed by 13-22 more shows, and those would have defined the series. It would be like watching "Rose" from the new series and never seeing the rest of the episodes that followed. On its own "Rose" is a weak introduction to Doctor Who, and unremarkable, but followed by the rest of Series 1 it is well fitted.
The Biggest waste was never re-using Paul McGann as the Doctor. When the new series was started they producer's decided against using him because of the perceived failure of the TVM. I say perceived because it wasn't a failure in the UK and Paul McGann was the official face of Doctor Who since 1996, helped keep the idea of the Who alive and helped make the Audio Dramas a smash.
I for one would have preferred McGann over Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Fly By Night). Rose would have had more impact with McGann playing a morose, taciturn, wounded Doctor. The fact that "something very Bad happened" would have been brought home in spades just with a dark shift in McGann's performance from the last we saw of him in the TVM.
If the producer can find the time and the will to make Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures, then why not a Missing Adventure series for the Doctor. McGann would be brilliant, it also would help fill in the gaps of the new series and the old, not to mention give new fan a taste of what it was like when the Time Lords were watching out over everything, before the Time War.
Mentioning the Time War McGann's Doctor is assumed by most fans to be the one who fought in the Time War and inevitably the one who ended it destroying Gallifrey in the process.
In the End the TV Movie has it flaws but is memorable for the effort to revive the show and the things that were done right. To think of how bad things could have been one need recall no further than the 60's Dr. Who movies staring Peter Cushing