Nu-View #7: A Grace-ful Perspective


Doctor Who: The Movie  (Story #160, 1996)
Viewed 24 Apr 2012

Doctor/Companion: Eight, Grace Holloway, Chang Lee
Stars: Paul McGann, Daphne Ashbrook, Yee Jee Tso
Preceding StorySurvival (Seven, Ace)
Succeeding Story: Rose (Nine, Rose)
Notable Aspects:

  • We've seen it before!
  • Only on-screen appearance of Eight
  • Broadcast mid-Hiatus; only new TV story in that 16 years

It's a new year for the Nu-Views! What a crazy few months this has been. Nearly a third of the way into the year and we finally managed to get the Ladies together again. Well, most of us; jO couldn't make it. But we're back in business, and hopefully there will be more frequent Nu-Views in the coming months.

With all my recent chatter about Gally (well... within the last couple of months; this it the first time we've been together since then!), I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when jE requested we watch The Movie again. After all, even though I'd seen it some eight times before (~ahem~), they'd only seen it the once, and that was at the beginning of our WhoFest get-togethers, something like a year and a half ago. So, after spending some time regaling them with tales of Gallifrey One (if you haven't read my posts yet, you can start here), we headed back to San Francisco, December 1999.

Vague memories began to emerge as the record skipped while the Doctor relaxed with his book and cuppa in the TARDIS. There were glimmers of recognition throughout, but much of it was like watching it for the first time again.

For me, the focus was mainly on performance. This time around I decided that what bugs me about Roberts' portrayal of the Master is how often and how rapidly it switches between truly menacing and comic-book-caricature. For example, when he first encounters Lee in the TARDIS and mentally dominates him into approaching and handing over the Doctor's things, the interchange goes like this.


Confession #21: I Believe in the 13 Regeneration Limit


Common fan knowledge puts a Time Lord's Regeneration limit at 13. That is, a Time Lord can regenerate twelve times for a total of thirteen Regenerations (or incarnations). A couple of years ago, Russell T. Davies (RTD), the man greatly responsible for bringing Doctor Who back to our screens in 2005, once again added his own particular brand of fan-geekery to the mix, trying to show everyone in yet another way that he "knows better" than us.

In an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures called "The Death of the Doctor," Eleven ends up visiting Sarah Jane and her gang again. SJS-Companion Clyde, who previously met Ten, is stunned to see this regeneration thing for himself. Whilst peppering the Doctor with questions ("Can you change color, or are you always white?" "No. I can be anything."), he asks how often the Doctor can regenerate. The answer is a quick and flippant "five hundred and seven."

Apparently, RTD thought that was a hoot. He could casually rewrite decades of "canon" (whatever that means) with a so-funny-he-makes-everyone-who's-RTD-laugh line. Here's what he has to say on the whole number-of-regenerations question:

There's a fascinating academic study to be made out of how some facts stick and some don't – how Jon Pertwee's Doctor could say he was thousands of years old, and no-one listens to that*, and yet someone once says he's only got thirteen lives, and it becomes lore. It's really interesting, I think. That's why I'm quite serious that that 507 thing won't stick, because the 13 is too deeply ingrained in the public consciousness. But how? How did that get there? It's fascinating, it's really weird.

*Let's not get into RTD's own obvious ignorance/ignore-ance of the Doctor's age.

Personally, I don't think it's weird at all. And here's why.


Dashing and Debonair


Review of the Eighth Doctor's era

  The Movie  

Given that my first DVD review for the blog was of The Movie, a lot of what I have to say about this particular story has already been said. However, here it is my intention to focus less on the plot and more on the characterization of the Doctor and the production context of the piece, to be consistent with my other commentaries on the various Doctors' eras.

First off, I love that even though it was primarily an American production, those involved did everything possible to maintain continuity with the pre-Hiatus series. In no particular order, these ties include the Seal of Rassilon throughout the TARDIS (as seen during the eras of Four, Five, and Seven, at least); the use of jelly babies (Four); the Doctor reading Wells' The Time Machine (he met Wells as Six); the pseudonym John Smith (Two, Three); the appearance of a long, striped scarf while Eight is finding clothes (Four); a classic first reaction to the TARDIS' dimensional transcendence (everyone); the need to give the TARDIS console a bit of a konk to make it behave (many Doctors); and, most importantly, the regeneration from Seven (which actually doesn't come until ~20 minutes in).

Sure, there are plenty of things that don't quite sit right. But that's going to happen when there are so many fingers in the pie, and some of those fingers are trying to stir up a more "American" flavor (a "car" chase? in Who? hmmm...). I could point out plot inconsistencies (like why would there be a tour of the operating arena at 10pm?), but that's kind of below the belt. All eras of Who have that; you just have to ignore it.

What I do find particularly intriguing about Eight's character here - and who knows where this would have gone if the show had been picked up as a regular series by FOX - is the fact that he seems to have more temporal awareness of individuals' time streams than in any other Regeneration. As she heads off to get a syringe to take a blood sample, the Doctor tells his not-yet-Companion, "Don't be sad, Grace. You'll do great things," and before they part ways he tries to forewarn her of something else.


The Ugly Docling


Review of Doctor Who: The Movie (Special Edition)

DVD Release Date: 08 Feb 11
Original Air Date: 14 May 96 (US)
Doctor/Companion:   Eight, Dr. Grace Holloway
Stars:  Paul McGann, Daphne Ashbrook
Preceding StorySurvival (Seven, Ace) - 1989
Succeeding StoryRose (Nine, Rose Tyler) - 2005
Notable Aspects:

  • Only televised story to include the Eighth Doctor
  • Doctor's first on-screen kiss
  • Bridge between Classic and Nu-Who
  • DVD:  First North American video release

There are those who think The Movie is one of the worst crimes ever committed against the Whoniverse.  I am not among them.  Despite some notably bad features, I actually really enjoy it.  Not the least of my reasons is that it's the one and only on-screen appearance of Paul McGann as the Doctor.

The made-for-tv Movie came about (in its final form) as a "back-door pilot" for a potential series re-launch.  It was to be set in the US and aimed at the US market, so the tone was somewhat "Americanized."  Among other things, it added a splash of romance (much to the horror of Old Skool Whovians), a "car" chase, and an actual American Companion (as opposed to Peri - played by Nicola Bryant, a Brit).  Not all of it worked, but there's a reason McGann continues to this day to get work as Eight in audio-dramas and other projects:  he makes a brilliant Doctor.

After learning more about the tortuous path this story took getting to the screen (see the extras, below), it's easier to understand - and even forgive - some of its flaws.  To my mind, the most notable one is the casting of Eric Roberts (that's Julia's brother, for Six Degrees of Separation buffs) as the Master.  The Powers That Be wanted an American actor as the villain of the piece, so it came down to a matter of who was acceptable to the right corporate suits (and who would take the money offered), rather than who was right for the part.  Roberts' resultant Master is campy, never more so than when he dons that quasi-Gallifreyan get-up.  The role has always been camp (just listen to Roger Delgado's muahaha! some time if you don't believe me), but this takes the biscuit.  And somehow, it's not Master-y to me at all.  Where's the "devious and overcomplicated" plot, the exceedingly clever adversary?  Mostly, he just poses and attempts (poorly) to intimidate.  At least there was some mind control and ruthless disregard for life to make him seem more Master-ful.



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