Its the 20th anniversary of the TV Movie starring Paul McGann, Daphne Ashbrook and Eric Roberts as The Master. We take a look back at this failed attempt to bring back Doctor Who in 1996.
Doctor Who Movie 1996
By Matthew Jacobs
“If the Eye of Harmony isn't closed, this planet will be sucked through it! Grace, I need to fix the timing mechanism on the Tardis and close the Eye. I need an atomic clock. Grace, please, help me find one”
The newly regenerated Doctor now in his 8th body is in turmoil as the TARDIS needs to be reset and needs a part of an atomic clock to help close the Eye of Harmony before Earth is destroyed. While he was in his 7th incarnation he was attempting to deliver the remains of The Master back from his trial and execution on Skaro to Gallifey. Things don’t go according to plan as The Master breaks free from his urn as an ooze like creature and makes the TARDIS to dematerialize by provoking the emergency procedure. The TARDIS lands in San Francisco 1999 on December 30th.
The 8th Doctor meets up with Grace who thinks he is completely bonkers until stuff he is talking about becomes real. The Master who now inhabits ambulance driver Bruce’s body opens the Eye of Harmony which is causing Earth weather to go haywire and will eventually destroy the planet. With the help of Chang Lee The Master needs to steal The Doctor’s body so he can claim his remaining regenerations for himself. The Doctor and Grace must find a way to stop The Master and close the Eye of Harmony and yet again save the Earth.
What really dampens the movie and probably confused a lot of new viewers was that they tried to cram so much into it. The Regeneration which for me was really good and gave us diehard fans some closure to the McCoy era was probably not needed and was in hindsight a bad idea to include. New viewers might have gotten confused and turned the movie off at this point as they did not understand what was happening. Russel T. Davies started the new series with no regeneration and it was received better as it was introduced later and given the mythos a chance to explain it to the newbies. But in the TV Movie it was thrust upon us and while exciting for us fans was a turn off for newbies at the time.
The second factor to failure was that it was co-produced and made with US money with a US film crew and aired on Fox. While I agree my countrymen did not do a good job with Doctor Who but partnering with Fox who hates Science Fiction, Firefly anyone, was a death kneel before the first words were written on a script. Fox more or less pulled the plug on it even though it did well in the ratings in the UK and moderately in the US. Science Fiction on Fox has never done well with the exception of The X – Files and Fringe and in the case of Fringe the fans really saved that show to make it last as long as it did.
The story was not all that good. Like I said before the crammed a lot in and the story seemed rushed as the hurried towards the conclusion. I just did not like the way the Master was using the TARDIS to try and steal The Doctor’s body and then having an anticlimactic fight inside the TARDIS having The Master falling into the Eye of Harmony just seemed to be a bit of a disappointment. It had the feel of a bad US Action TV Movie with science fiction thrown in. It did not feel like Doctor Who at all and that is a shame as this movie could have been the start of something good.
So here is to the failed Doctor Who Movie of 1996 which could have been so much more but wasn’t. It could have been the start of something special. At least we got the magnificent Paul McGann as the 8th Doctor who we can enjoy all the time in the Big Finish audios for his Doctor. Grade C