Doctor Who: The Movie

Director: Geoffrey Sax (1996)
Starring: Paul McGann, Eric Roberts, Daphne Ashbrook
Find it: IMDB

Knock-knock. Who's there? Doctor. Doctor Who? The infamously unsuccessful attempt at remaking Doctor Who for an American audience, that's who. How did they go about that? Well, thankfully Geoffrey Sax's Doctor Who doesn't re-cast the Doctor as an American (although, just sayin', Nicolas Cage would probably be up for it) but instead has Eric Roberts playing the Master and the Doctor kissing his assistants. Watching it now, there's a lot of groundwork laid for the Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat versions.

Crash-landing the TARDIS in San Franscisco on the eve of 1999, the Doctor is promptly shot, causing a regeneration from cuddly Sylvester McCoy to the rakish, Byronesque Paul McGann. The Master, meanwhile, is reborn as Eric Roberts, brother of Julia and slavering scenery-chewer. In spite of what its reputation might suggest, there's few sins here that the television series hasn't since repeated - kissing companions, crap sidekicks and a reliance upon deus ex machina. Even Roberts' unsubtle turn as the Master looks positively subtle compared to the mad gurning antics of John Simm. A touch too Terminator, maybe, but I like his Master. Eric Roberts, I'd bottom for you anytime. Even in that daft Dracula collar and cape.

McGann is excellent as the Doctor - by far the film's strongest suit. It's a shame that he never managed a full series, as he could have been really great. The radio plays and recent developments rectify this somewhat, but it still burns. Especially when you consider how the likes of Tennant ("I don't want to go") went on for (heresy, I know) a bit too long. I'm far from a Doctor Who scholar (aside from The Unearthly Child and a Tom Baker and Peter Davison episode here and there, I've not seen much outside of nu-Who) but I'd already rank McGann as my second favourite to Christopher Eccleston. Less is more, I guess.

This TV movie is funny, fast-paced and fun for fans and newbies alike. It gets a bit silly towards the end, and the Master's minion is annoying, but this is in no way the absolute failure some would have you believe it to be.

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