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DOCTOR WHO: THE MOVIE, the tv movie review
You have to understand the mindset in 1996. There was no DOCTOR WHO. It was dead. As much as I wanted to believe in the New Adventures, I really didn't. I didn't really enjoy a large majority of the comics and for a time, older Doctors were put in the comic stories which was okay. We had DIMENSIONS IN TIME, a sorry replacement for THE DARK DIMENSION, which was lost mostly due to actors' egos (they did'nt want Tom Baker to get all the good stuff, which he really should have anyway). While it was nice to see the older actors and companions, for the first half, the shock value towed us through. The second half, however, was abyssmal. It was fun, though. On TV there was no Doctor Who. We all knew it could be come back as a good show. I mean there were tons of good shows on including EARTH 2. Between DOCTOR WHO the classic series, we started getting GOOD horror series with continuing characters, something only KOLCHAK THE NIGHT STALKER did and which FRIDAY THE 13TH SERIES started up again...and it never really died. Of course POLTERGEIST THE LEGACY and the X FILES kept that momentum going.
I longed to have DOCTOR WHO come back and show itself to mainstream US (and UK audiences) and prove it wasn't as poor as McCoy's last season or any of his seasons, or as bad as most of Colin's stories or as grim and depressing as all those New Adventures. IN fact, I wanted it to be glossy, with good effects, monster costumes that did'nt suck, and emotional stories with characters that had backgrounds and uncliched personalities. That still hasn't happened to this date, well, it sort of did in 2005 but that's petered out by July of 2009.
I digress. The mindset was that after tons of advance reports of many movies being made and cast, DOCTOR WHO, somehow was being made and was airing. Unfortunately none of us knew at the time that the powers that be (no, not the John Forsyste show wit the mother from TWO AND A HALF MEN) already decided that there would be no show to follow this. Later I read what the producer planned: remakes of TALONS, GUNFIGHTERS, EARTHSHOCK and others. I also found out about previous scripts for this...and most of them were awful with a few good things scattered about and almost all of them mentioned either Dalek variations, the Doc's mum's ghost, the Doc's dad, Borusa being a TARDIS voice or something or other. THIS, what we got was far better.
I'm not saying it wasn' t flawed: it was. Terribly. But then I didn't notice. It's not like they could have put on any old crap and I would have liked it. But when that music started (grand es and like TREK, yes) and there were mentions of Skaro, Daleks, the Master, Time Lords, regenerations, Gallifrey, and more...and this was not terrible and was sort of...well mounted...I knew that I'd like it. And for more than half of it, I loved it. Paul McGann is a terrific actor and a GREAT GREAT Doctor. He shines in every scene he's in. Chang Lee could have been another Adric/Turlough type to be redeemed. Grace needed stuff sorted out in her life. And Sly McCoy was back. There were new aspects to the TARDIS that I loved. I didn't really have time to think about how all of this gelled with the old show or the novels or the comics and I didn't want to. DW was back on TV and the US had it. It was so exciting that that excitement carried me through to almost the end of this tv movie, which, to be honest, wasn't as good as it could have been, nor as bad as it could have been. It was just professionally made, and was not off the rails...at least as far as I could see through rose colored glasses...
There were, at RTD has said, some great classic moments from this movie, some of the best DW moments ever as he's said. There are also some very poor choices. The morgue attendant: his name seems to be Bill (his partner is Ted in a nod to BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURES series and movies) but also something else as Grace calls him another name (Peter maybe?). Nevermind that, he's far too over the top and everyone at this hospital, Grace included, seems to be on mind altering drugs. The operating room does not seem sterile, everyone seems to joke around, or make teases...and the 8th Doctor revives with his chest open and a camera in it which he pulls out...and we don't really see Grace sow it back up but maybe she did in a scene or in between scenes. Ouch.
On top of that, the Master is jerky in Bruce's body...it's coming apart so I can see that but...but...but he starts pulling his fingernail off in front of a nurse, who notices but thinks nothing amiss and he talks like Arnold in TERMINATOR. If he did't want to get caught, why do this? I guess he did'nt care.
Chang Lee: I'm sure the novelization or the script mentions if he's a homeless kid of not. I believe I recall something about his family...and possibly having had someone in his family, maybe a cousin, or brother or someone killed in gang warfare or crossfire. What's odd about the gun stuff is that this looked and sounded like a lot of the New Adventures, taking place "2o Minutes into the future" like MAX HEADROOM and with violent death right off the bat, classic music, and a modern day setting but in the near future. And someone leaving someone in a relationship. And a cover up. Yeah ABOUT TIME 6 tells us about all the stuff made for AMERICA and it's all true: this resembles LOIS AND CLARK, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE X FILES and others and that's not so terrible...but is it DW? It also resembles the New Adventures.
The regeneration is...well, at the time, it was great but now, it just looks FAST FAST FAST and too off the wall with the stretched face. It's not exactly like the great ones (One into Two, Three into Four, Four into Five, Five into Six and...tha'ts about it)...and using Frankenstein---I'm not sure that was a good move or not, I"m still undecided about that. Especially as I like the God/Jesus motif that Paul has going...and it's all ruined when Bill?Peter or whatever his name is, falls fainting out.
THe longer version has Paul wandering into a part of the hospital that is still being built. That explains why he is suddenly in the main part of the building and then in a weird bombed out area that is open to the outside, yelling, "WHO AM I?" At the time, I fully accepted the movie, HIM, IT, and all else this had to offer. Now, I"m not so sure. I accept Paul as the 8th Doctor, no problem. I even accept his being half human...but before we get into THAT, McCoy's Doctor tells Grace on the operation table more than once "I AM NOT HUMAN. I AM NOT LIKE YOU!" So there's all this fan speculation about why ..and alot of it makes sense and alot of it is fun. But none of it makes sense as presented on the tv screen but then I accepted it and still do accept alot of it...but why, I can't tell you. Perhaps some of that magical feeling of "IT's back" lingers.
What actually happens is good: the Doc has the Master's remains, he gets shot, Chang Lee and Bruce bring him to the hospital, the Doc dies but regenerates alone in a morgue, he remeets Grace, the Master snake goes into Bruce and I guess kills him, Bruce kills his wife, then wants the Doc's body as he's the new Master. Eric Roberts is GREAT as the Master and besides the TERMINATOR type sequences and the jerky bits of the Master acting...as if he doesn't get humans on Earth at all (it's not like he's not been here for long periods of time in the past), ROberts is menacing and creepy and manipulative. Grace quits over the two hearts thing...and the whole two hearts thing reminds me of Scully finding out about some strange new phenomena on the X FILES which would take up 30 minutes. On DW it should only be a 5 min thing.
Then the Doctor, heartfully, tells Grace about her past, her dreams, her future, and Puccini. He's heartfelt and kind and nice. He's not the manipulative bas#$@ 7th Doctor we saw in GHOST LIGHT and FENRIC. He's also got a nice innocence going. And all the right touches are given (Key, sonic screwdriver, scarf, hat, jacket, etc). Some of it works, most of it doesn't. Alot of it is played tongue in cheek and over the top ("Mind altering drugs") but not by Paul. More later...