Transporting the remains of the Master, Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor is diverted to San Francisco in 1999. Regenerating in the form of Paul McGann, the Doctor gains a new companion in heart surgeon Dr Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook) and must stop the Master from destroying the world.
Out of the ashes of the behemoth which was the institution we all loved came this certainly different version with its very Americanized feel to it. I could spend this whole post moaning about the deficiencies of this film and for those of you that love to read a good whinge, you won’t be disappointed but there are some good points to be taken from this attempted TV pilot.
Any attempt to resurrect, or should I say regenerate (notice my razor-sharp punnery there?) this show was always going to be an admirable venture to undertake, no matter what the outcome. The problem being that the changes were too much to fast. The highly stylised production values disregarded all of the history, not to mention atmosphere of the show which the long term fans were comfortable with.
A higher budget can be a curse as much as it is a boon, the good news is that Eric ‘Best of the Best’ Roberts is cast to play a wonderfully hammy and a bit loony Master which of course helps bridge over to the new series in which John Simm plays a more manically unhinged adaptation. Roberts complements Paul McGann’s Doctor wonderfully.
It’ s always great to see the Doctor returning to his roots and with the inclusion of Sylvester McCoy and also a return to the more traditional styling of outfit for the Doctor. Being just regenerated we get the usual intense and quirky feeling to the character which is just one of the many points on which to speculate over how a new series would have gone had the viewing figures and critics given this the thumbs up.
Everything else about the production feels a bit underwhelming, the story feels contrived and has the usual heavy-handed metaphors which today’s TV seems to excel at, the supporting cast seem a bit weak, although companion Grace seemed fairly promising. The ‘comedy’ was predictable fare and the lack of any underlying subtle themes was disappointing if not unexpected.
It may seem I’m having a jibe at American TV here, I’m really not, or maybe I am a bit. It’s just that all the changes are very jarring and totally alien to what veterans of the show were used to and after such a long time off air the lack of nostalgia and sometimes plain contradictions of Doctor Who mythology is always going to grate…severely.
Still, years after the original backlash some fans now appreciate the movie more since the new show has placated us viewers somewhat, as retrospectively there are subtle nods from the new series which makes it nice retrospective viewing as well as a nice bridging continuity wise. A relaunch and a new audience are always going to be a challenge and for all its faults, this is canon and fun as long as not much is expected of it.
Having taken a step back and looking at it now, It is interesting to speculate where it could have gone with both characters. Overall despite the flaws I confess upon rare occasion I do love the B-movie cheesiness of it all, the ending is completely standard and rather disappointing but all in all for any fan – like it or not – you have to watch it to be a completest and it is a good excuse to watch even more Who and wonder after all these years how would the 8th Doctor have evolved.
If you wonder where the seventh Doctor review is..I posted it below, earlier today in case you missed it.