I have a bone to pick with Doctor Who fans and it’s something that really gets on my nerves. I’m sick to death of it, but why do Doctor Who fans keep slamming the 1996 television movie with Paul McGann? I don’t understand the intense dislike that so many fans hold towards this movie. It’s been over ten years since the movie and fans still can’t stop from complaining about it. I mean it can’t be because of Paul McGann, could it? Why would it be? His portrayal of the Eighth Doctor was flawless from the moment he steps out of the hospital morgue. McGann imbues the character with a refreshing portrayal of our favorite Time Lord. His portrayal draws you in and you can’t but help liking his Doctor. The scene where the Doctor is stumbling around the disused hospital ward in nothing but a white sheet is fascinating. The Doctor doesn’t know who, or where he is. After the traumatizing events in the hospital surgery and being locked in a freezer full of dead bodies it’s no wonder he is confused. The flashes of lightning and booms of thunder frighten him and the moment when he stumbles in front of the broken mirror is heartening. And then, when he falls to the floor, arms stretched out wide and shouts, “Who Am I?”, you can’t help but feel deep sorrow and regret for the Doctor. This scene alone is extremely powerful and symbolizes the turning point in the television movie when the Doctor begins his quest to find out who he is. The journey, and adventure, for the Eighth Doctor starts here and now.
Maybe the fans dislike the fact that the Doctor refers to himself as half-human. I’ll be the first to admit that when I first watched the movie, this statement bothered me too. But I think you have to take this comment in the context that it was said. I mean, the Doctor was still recovering from his regeneration and what with it having been a traumatic event for the Doctor, could you really believe everything that he said? I don’t think the Doctor was thinking straight at that point in time. But then maybe he said that he was half-human just as a joke. I don’t really know. Yes, if you look at the history of the show up till that point in time, there had been nothing said or mentioned to indicate that this statement was true. But think back to the Sylvester McCoy story Silver Nemesis. At one point in that story, Lady Peinforte infers that the Doctor is something more than a Time Lord. The Doctor doesn’t reply to that statement, but looks somewhat surprised by that it. Maybe Lady Peinforte was getting at the truth. What ever the reason was for the Doctor saying he was half-human, I think, like many things that don’t sit well with established Doctor Who continuity, you have to take it with a grain of salt.
Yes, yes. I can hear you saying, “what about when he’s talking about Gallifrey and says ‘it’s a warm Gallifreyan night, and he remembers walking with his father”? Yeah so what. Who’s to say that Gallifrey doesn’t experience seasons like we do here on Earth. There is a sun nearby and if I recall from past visits to the planet, there was some degree of vegetation on the planet. So obviously the planet must experience some sort of warming sunlight and temperature fluctuations. So if the Doctor refers to a night on Gallifrey where the temperature is warm, that’s completely feasible. As to the Doctor having a father, I think that’s completely possible. Obviously there are male and female Time Lords on Gallifrey as we’ve seen in the television series. So bearing this in mind, I would imagine that they reproduce by some sort of similar biological function as we humans do. Therefore just considering this alone, why wouldn’t the Doctor have a father and mother? Even if Time Lords reproduced via looms as was inferred in the New Adventures novel Lungbarrow by Marc Platt, why couldn’t they use titles like mother and father?
“What about calling the TARDIS’ chameleon circuit a cloaking device?” I now hear your asking. Chameleon circuit, cloaking device, tomato, tomatoe. I think we’re arguing semantics here folks. If you want to get pedantic here we can. The dictionary definition of “chameleon” is: “any of a family of small lizards having grasping tails, long tongues, protruding eyes, and the power of changing color”; while the definition of “cloaking” is: “a covering” or “conceal”. So if I understand what the function of the chameleon circuit is – a device that allows the TARDIS to blend in with its surroundings – then isn’t either term correct as in essence, both terms can mean the same thing. Like I said, Chameleon circuit, cloaking device, tomato, tomatoe. Semantics. Besides, the use of the words “cloaking device” was a scripting discrepancy of the movie explaining what we already knew and understood to new viewers. This really is a moot point if you ask me.
“Ah but Bob, there’s that kiss.” Yeah I know. I hate it too. But again, I think you have to take it in the context that it occurred. The Doctor has been trying to remember who he is and the kiss comes at the point in the movie where his memory finally comes back to him. He recalls who he is, where he is from. This is a very exciting and important moment for the Doctor, and I think he kisses Grace, not in any sort of romantic or sexual nature, but more out of sharing his excitement with her. It’s only Grace who misreads the kiss and turns it into something more than what it was.
Maybe Who fans dislike the ending of the movie where the TARDIS brings both Chang-Lee and Grace back to life from the dead? Well, I hate to say it but why couldn’t the TARDIS have this power? For years the Doctor has inferred that the TARDIS is more than just a time travelling machine. He has inferred that it can think, that it has a mind of its own, and the Doctor’s even inferred that he is closely linked to the TARDIS – as far as the first regeneration. If you watch the scenes where the First Doctor regenerates into the Second, the story implies that the process is not something instigated or controlled by the Doctor, but rather it is intrinsically linked to the TARDIS itself. Then if you look at some of the new series episodes like Boomtown where at the end of the story, Blon Slitheen is sucked into the heart of the TARDIS, or in The Parting of The Ways where Rose is able to suck in the TARDIS life-force and pass it on to the Doctor thus saving him. So who’s to say that the TARDIS couldn’t bring someone back to life, or suspend their life?
“But there’s Eric Roberts over-the-top portrayal of the Master.” And exactly what wasn’t over-the-top about John Simms portrayal either? Personally I thought Eric Roberts was fantastic as the Master – a villain that is so over the top to begin with. By this stage in the Master’s life, I don’t think he would resemble the character we knew from the Pertwee years. So much has happened to him over this time that I think anyone would be somewhat bonkers if you asked me. His mind has been so affected that I don’t think the Master would be thinking straight if he tried. His grip on reality is tenuous to say the least, so with this in mind, Eric Roberts’ portrayal is spot-on. Roberts brings a new dimension to the character, and definitely brings out the malevolence and madness of the character. This is no better displayed than in the scene in the TARDIS as the Master struts down the staircase in the cloister room, pauses midway and recites the line “I always dress for the occasion”. How camp, and its exactly in line with something the Master would say. Over-the-top and so focused on him. When the Master is around, it’s all about the Master. No one else.
I could cite other instances, but why? Yes, the movie isn’t perfect, but I think if fans really thought about the movie objectively they’d realize that it’s not that bad. It’s well acted from all parties. The effects are very good for a mid-1990s production. The script is well written. So what else were fans expecting? As far as I’m concerned, the movie does have flaws, but overall it’s pretty damn good. I enjoyed it and I continue to enjoy it to this day. I thought everyone in it was great and I do really feel that the producers achieved what they set out to achieve by producing an entertaining production. So isn’t it time we all gave up moaning about the TVM and just enjoyed it? I think so.