Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
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Man, you have to pity poor Paul McGann. The poor guy will forever be known as the George Lazenby of Doctor Who. One unfairly maligned entry into a long running series only to fade away, never to be heard of again. Ah - but I'm getting ahead of myself. First, let me introduce the series:
From 1963 to 1989 (and a couple of false starts thereafter) the BBC ran an immensely popular family program called Doctor Who. The main character is called The Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. He travels the universe in the TARDIS, a wondrous spaceship that can go anywhere in time and space - provided that the Doctor can steer it correctly. During his adventures, he and his companion (usually a young human female with weak ankles and good lungs) combat evil and injustice wherever they find it. Key to the longevity of the series - Doctor Who can do what the James Bond movies have done several times. When fatally injured, Time Lords have the ability to regenerate, totally changing their faces and personalities, allowing the ability to swap out the lead roll when the actor wants to leave the series. So there have been several Doctors with different faces (ten, so far), but all of them the same character.
Oh, and the name of the show is Doctor Who. The main character is simply called The Doctor.
The plot, such as it is, is as follows; the Master having somehow cheated death yet again by becoming a T-1000 putty snake thing, possesses a convenient human as a temporary body whilst he sets about trying to steal the Doctor's remaining lives. To do this, he needs the Eye of Harmony - which used to be under the Panopticon on Gallifrey, but now apparently is a key component of the Doctors TARDIS. Oh, and it'll steal the Doctors soul if he looks into it for too long, leaving his body empty and ready for the Master.
The problem with the Master's plan is that Earth will be sucked through the Eye of Harmony in the process. To prevent this, the Doctor must to steal a beryllium chip from an atomic clock, and attach it to the TARDIS and close the Eye of Harmony before its too late (with the help of the surgeon that he met not but 12 hours earlier).
Once he defeats the Master, he uses the TARDIS to rewind time until before he arrived, which somehow undoes the events of the last day without negating either his regeneration or his battle with the Master.
First - here's what the show got right. Paul McGann is freaking brilliant as the Doctor. He manages to nail the character right out of the gate from the get-go. He plays it as whimsical sensitive and quirky without boiling over into Over-The Top. He manages to project vigor, a love for life that really says "I'm the Doctor!" (As good as he is in this, Paul really gets a chance to show off his chops in the Big Finish audio productions that have been running ever since 2000. The man is vastly underrated and has quite a range).
(The flip side of that is that poor old Sylvester McCoy gets hung out to dry! There's nothing for him to do except get shot and die. McCoy carries himself the best he can, but he's way too passive for the Doctor we knew.)
Speaking of Doctor Seven, I love the irony of his death. Here's Seven , the master manipulator, laying century old traps for his enemies, always thinking several steps ahead of everyone and pulling the strings from behind the scenes like a puppet master - and he gets gunned down by something as random as a drive by shooting and ultimately killed because of blind incompetence of a MD. Brilliant!
I love the TARDIS set. It's quirky and feels Gallifreyian and still makes it's own stamp. It really shows off the budget that they spent on the production. While I'll always love the classic white console room, this one beats out the new series version. It's just so damn beautiful. The old girl never looked better.
Geoffrey Sax's direction is downright inspired. I love the Master/Doctor scene at the very end, with the framing of their faces counter pointing the yin/yang these two characters represent. Also of note is the Regeneration scene, inter-cut with the clips from the 1931 Frankenstein. Unfortunately all the good will built up by that scene is completely squandered by the Fat Comic Relief's reaction. Ah well - whatcya gonna do?
Now - the not so good. The biggest problem the episode has is a HUGE exposition dump in the first half hour or so. Time Lords, Regeneration, the Master, the old Doctor, Gallifrey and Daleks, Hell - I've been watching the show for 20 years now, and I found it hard to keep up. The noobs that were tuning in for the first time must have been completely overwhelmed.
While the fan boy in me is thrilled to get some closure on the McCoy era, it's a complete narrative dead-end. When Tom Baker left the roll, he had been the Doctor for an entire generation. Why would the audience care about this (comparative) stranger? I'll admit that he may not be the perfect producer, Russell T Davies was wise to cast off all the continuity when bringing the series back in 2005, stripping the character down to the core premise, and introducing us to his world through the eyes of Rose.
Fans often criticize the plot as weak and flimsy, but really - it's not all that bad. It's certainly no worse than a simple chain of events like The Caves of Androzani. Yeah, we've seen better, but there's been much, much worse offenders in the long history of the show.
Eric Roberts was adequate as the Master. He was certainly no Roger Delgado or John Simm, but he acquitted himself well enough. Now if only they hadnt gone with the Terminator look. The other two major supporting rolls - Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook - one of the few stars to both appear in Star Trek and Doctor Who) and Chang Lee (Yee Jee Tso, who did some bit parts on the Stargate TV show before pretty much falling off the radar) - were passable, if not outstanding, in the rolls. Not the worst acting the series has seen, but not the best either.
Despite very solid ratings and very impressive video sales in the UK, a new series never appeared. The show on the American side of the pond was firmly and completely trounced by Rosanne with one of her biggest shows the entire run of her series. As a result, the show quickly fell off the radar, presumably never to be seen again - well, until a little announcement by the BBC in 2005. . . .
THE DVD -
Being the most recent of the Doctor Who productions that fall into the Restoration Team's jurisdiction, the show was already pretty clean and didnt require all that much cleanup to be DVD worthy. As the show was shot on 35mm film, it has a nice earthy feel that the old series often lacked.
The major problem? The rights to the movie are tied up at Universal, who refuse to release such a low selling disc as what the Doctor Who range often moves. So you will probably never see this disc released in R1. If you want a complete collection, you either import it from Region 2 or you buy the Laserdisc release from Hong Kong. Other than that, you're out of luck.
THE EXTRAS -
Being early in the Doctor Who range, we dont get quite the bounty of extras that we're used to - but some of that is because of Universal (the co-producers of the movie). From what I gather upon doing some reading, the extras that the Restoration Team wanted to include were denied by Universal or would have run over the discs meager budget.
We get a commentary from Geoffrey Sax.- who while being a great director, is about as fascinating as listening to paint dry. There's also a couple of trailers from BBC1, an electronic press kit from Fox a couple of brief interviews with Paul and Sylvester, a photo gallery, an isolated score (a big bonus - the soundtrack to this thing rocks), and the subtitle production notes track.
THE BOTTOM LINE -
Honestly, while not the best episode the show has to offer, this is far from the worse. Paul McGann stands up wonderfully as the Doctor, the effects look great, the TARDIS looks fantastic and there's some nice directing touches. Ok, the plot doesnt make a lick of sense, and Eric Roberts ain't all that as the Master, but I think the good outweighs the bad here.
OTHER DOCTOR WHO EPISODES ON DVD:
DOCTOR ONE -
* The Beginning * Doctor Who and the Daleks * The Aztecs * The Lost in Time Collection*
DOCTOR TWO -
* Tomb of the Cybermen*
DOCTOR THREE -
* Spearhead From Space * Carnival of Monsters*
DOCTOR FOUR -
* The Ark in Space * Genesis of the Daleks * The Pyramids of Mars * The Robots of Death *
DOCTOR FIVE -
* The Five Doctors * Resurrection of the Daleks * The Caves of Androzani*
DOCTOR SIX -
* Vengeance on Varos * Revelation of the Daleks*
DOCTOR SEVEN -
* Rememberance of the Daleks * The Television Movie*
THE NEW SERIES -
* Doctor Who - Series One * Doctor Who - Series Two * Torchwood - Series One * Doctor Who - Series Three * The Infinite Quest*
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older