Thursday, February 10, 2011

Doctor Who: The Movie

There has been a lot of talk with the super successful return to television of the Doctor (and if you aren't watching, you really need to get on that, the first four seasons of NuWho are all on Netflix Instant Viewing) of the last attempt to bring the Doctor and his blue box back to our television screens.

The show had lasted from 1963 until 1989, had seven actors play the titular Time Lord,

William Hartnell (1963-1966)
Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)

Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)

Tom Baker (1974-1981)

Peter Davison (1981-1984)

Colin Baker (1984-1986)

Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989)
and told 155 stories through 694 episodes, but BBC was through with the show.

Classic Who was pretty low budget, and with the advent of Star Trek: The Next Generation and its fancy graphics, the BBC felt that the money necessary to produce Doctor Who at a high level simply wasn't feasible for the amount of attention that the show was getting.  There just wasn't the interest in the show that there had once been, and Colin Baker (the sixth Doctor) and Sylvester McCoy (the seventh Doctor) weren't as highly acclaimed as some of their predecessors, leading the powers that be at the Beeb to decide that perhaps it was time that the Doctor took a break, perhaps even a permanent one.

Cut to 1996 and with the help of Universal Studios and the FOX network, a new Doctor Who was produced as a back door pilot to a possible new series that would run on FOX and BBC.

While the movie did extremely well in the UK, it didn't do as well in the US, running against the final ever episode of Rosanne.

Since that airing, it has been very hard to find the episode here, although there have been various releases in the UK.

Until this week, that is, when the Special Edition DVD was finally released here.

There are a lot of people who really don't like the TV movie, and there are reasons to be a little skeptical, but overall, it is a fun story.  It is an outstanding bridge between Classic Who and the new series that has run for the past six years.  There is a lot in it that seems to have inspired Davies in the modernization of the character and the feel of the show now as compared to Classic Who, (for instance, the Doctor has kissed every female companion, and one male companion since the 8th Doctor kissed Grace in the television movie).

Sure there are some troubling parts, such as the subplot of the film which seems to indicate that the Doctor is half human (on his mother's side), but I think it is pretty simple to say that the Master is incorrect about his opinion of the Doctor's ancestry and that the Doctor is joking when he talks about it himself.

Take out that problematic plot point, and the story, while certainly weak at points and nonsensical in others, is still a lot of fun.  It isn't really that much more far fetched than some of the stories that we've gotten recently, but it is as exciting and whimsical as Doctor Who should be.

Paul McGann (1996)

Paul McGann is beyond fantastic, and if there had been more Who with the Eighth Doctor, he very well could have become my favorite.  He has a great handle on the role and makes you believe that he is the Doctor.  Sure, we're only a few hours away from the end of the world, his arch-nemesis the Master is intent on stealing his body and TARDIS, and he just regenerated into a new body, but that doesn't mean that we can't have a little fun and excitement in the process!  Paul McGann brings the necessary gravitas to the upcoming end of the world and brings a lighthearted whimsy to adventure at the same time.  I literally can't say enough how much I enjoyed his performance and lament the fact that we didn't get a chance to see him in the role a little longer, although I suppose that that is always possible in the future, and the 50th anniversary is coming up.

Overall, I think that the film is a lot of fun, a definite worthwhile addition to anyone's Doctor Who collection.

The huge plus to getting this special edition DVD, however, is definitely the special features.  There are a ton of them.

There are a couple of documentaries that are definitely worth your time.

The first is the nearly one hour long making of called The Seven Year Hitch, which chronicles the efforts of Philip Segal to get the rights to the show that he loved as a child and produce it in for an American audience in cooperation with the BBC.  It is a great look at the lengths that Segal went to in order to get Doctor Who back on the air as well as an explanation for why it didn't stay on the air.

The other great documentary is The Wilderness Years which looks at the fans love for the show despite its absence from the telly and the ways that the Doctor remained in our consciousness such as the books, audio plays, the magazine, comic strips, and fan made films.

There are also some other interesting bits throughout the other special features.  For instance, in Who Peter, a look at the relationship between Doctor Who and a British children's program entitled Blue Peter.  The interesting part about that documentary is the way that the relationship has been updated with the return of Doctor Who.  I'm not sure why this documentary is on this DVD release as it might fit better on a series from the new Who, but I'm glad I saw it.  I gained a new appreciation for one of my least favorite episodes for the nuWho, Love and Monsters, thanks to this documentary.

Watching the screen tests for Paul McGann reiterate how amazing I think that he would have been as the Doctor for a longer period of time, but also how glad I am that Segal's vision isn't the one that ultimately forged the future for Doctor Who.  The whole Doctor being half-human thing is clearly where he wanted to go with the role (as well as having the Doctor and the Master being half-brothers).  His ultimate storyline involved the Doctor searching for his father.  Personally, I don't think that it would have been a great choice, and the way things stand right now are much better for the show and for the character, but I still am a little saddened by the small taste of Paul McGann that we are left with.

Although there are a lot of audio adventures, novels, and comic strips continuing the adventures of the Eighth Doctor, some of which you can learn about in some of the other fantastic extras on this two disc set.

Until Next Time, A Christmas Carol, Matt Smith's first special is released next week, and I will review the special and the DVD (well, I'm getting it on BluRay, but you know) release for you then!

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