I have been looking forward to this week since I started this series of blog posts at the beginning of the month. There are so many TV characters that I love, and it is interesting to look back on how my tastes have changed over the years. For instance, there was a time when I just didn’t get the appeal of Doctor Who. I saw it on late nights on PBS, but I just never got it. More and more people were talking about it, so I tried to give it another shot, and found a new favorite character.
The original Doctor Who television series ran from 1963 to 1989, ending with Sylvester McCoy playing the Doctor in his 7th form. The show simply was not resonating anymore with its target audiences, so it was canceled. 26 years is a pretty good run for any show, but it is a stellar run for a show that wasn’t even supposed to last a year. Doctor Who had endured, and its fans were a big reason why. There was devastation when the series was canceled, and this ushered in a dark age where the Doctor was lost from the television airwaves for 15 years, until 2004 when Christopher Eccleston took up the mantle and successfully brought the Doctor back into our homes. He didn’t just bring the show back, but he laid the foundation for it to reach heights it never had before. Those 15 years were hard for any long time Doctor Who fan. They were all hoping that Eccleston could be the Doctor to bring the show back. They had reason to be concerned, because the Eccleston/Davies reboot was not the first attempt to bring the show back.
In 1996, Paul McGann became the chosen actor to pick up the role of the Doctor and hopefully relaunch the series. He was young, hot actor, and seemed like a great choice. And he was. However, the attempted reboot was an utter failure. It was supposed to begin with what is now called the Doctor Who Television Movie, and then lead into a weekly serial. It only made it as far as the movie. Why? Well, it wasn’t McGann’s fault. If you have never seen the movie, please find a way to watch it, and treat yourself to some amazingly bad cinema. The story was just so out of the norm for Doctor Who, that it just doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of canon. In the first few minutes of the film, the Doctor gets gunned down by a gang member in San Francisco. He gets shot! Really? He has faced Cybermen and Daleks and all sorts of big baddies, and then some low life gang member with a gun gets him? It was bizarre, and only got more so as the story goes on. The whole story takes place in San Francisco, in an attempt to attract more of an American crowd. The Master is supposedly dead, although we know that never quite works out, and he comes back possesses some guys body, so he’s now an American. The weirdest part, is we discover, at least according to this movie that the Doctor may be half human. What!? The whole thing was just strange, including the appearance of the Doctor. Sylvester McCoy regenerates into Paul McGann, who finds himself naked in the hospital morgue. Somehow, the clothes he finds are the very modern looking clothes he is wearing in the above picture. If the goal was to connect to the younger, American crowd of 1996, dressing him like that was not the answer. As I mentioned before, all of this led to this being the only appearance of the 8th Doctor on-screen, leading into 9 more years of total Doctor darkness.
But it wasn’t McGann’s fault. They got the right actor to play the role, they just didn’t know what to do with them, or the character or any of it. McGann would go on to develop his Doctor character through Big Finish audio recordings, much to the acclaim of fans everywhere. He became a fan favorite through those recordings, making many wonder what a series with him as the Doctor would have been like. When the new relaunch was announced in 2004, it was announced that Christopher Eccleston would be taking the role. He would be the 9th Doctor, and would go on to successfully re-establish the character for younger audiences. It looked like McGann would never see the screen again as the Doctor. Until Moffat gave us all a treat just before the release of the 50th anniversary episode. He gave us a mini-episode called “Night of the Doctor” and it featured McGann as the 8th Doctor and he got to regenerate on-screen. And he looked awesome:
I have a feeling if he had looked like this in 1996, the show may have gotten off the ground. Not only did he look awesome, he was awesome. If you have never seen it, here it is in its entirety:
Since I saw this mini-episode, I have been obsessed with the idea of seeing a series with McGann as the Doctor. This would be a fantastic spinoff, and the time is ripe for a spinoff like this. We could see the Doctor at the beginning of the Time War, see how it breaks out and how he was involved, even before the War Doctor that we saw in Day of the Doctor. We could see how he came to the point that he was on this ship with Cass, alone, without a companion. It would be very different form the Doctor Who we know and love now, and it could be awesome. Plus, it would give McGann the opportunity to really work this character over and show the world his Doctor.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that is ever going to happen. There are always rumors swirling around that it could happen, or that they are in talks to make it happen, but they all turn out to be just rumors. At Salt Lake Comic Con last September, Paul McGann was one of the guests, along with Colin Baker. He was asked if any of those rumors were true, and he said that none of them were to his knowledge. That’s too bad.
Whenever I am in San francisco, I think of that made for TV movie, and then I think of Night of the Doctor, and I wonder what could have been. I think of what could be. I would love to see it happen, but for now, I just need to get my hands on some of these Big Finish recordings and get to know 8 better that way. Any suggestions for where to start on those?
Ah, the War Doctor. When writing a series like this, how does one approach the War Doctor? He does not fit in with the traditional numbering of the Doctors, partially because he didn’t really exist, I think, until it was clear that Eccleston was not going to do the 50th. It was all very neat and tidy, McGann was 8, Eccleston was 9, Tenant was 10, Smith was 11. Easy, peasy. Then along came Moffat, and messed the whole thing up. He had to come up with something to take Eccleston’s place in the 50th, so enter the War Doctor. I have elected to place him in the order where he has been placed in the story, instead of the order which he appeared in the series. If I did that, he would be in the last post, after number 11. But he doesn’t regenerate into Capaldi’s Doctor, so I placed him here, where I guess he belongs. If all of this is very confusing, well, blame Moffat. I will try to explain more when we get to his entry here, but first we have 2 other, fantastic Doctors to discuss.
Due to the lack of popularity for Doctor number 6, and in an attempt to bring the ratings for the series back up, the producer decided in the Fall of 1987 that it was time for a new Doctor. Colin Baker’s Doctor was anything but likable, and very dark. They went in a different direction with number 7 and brought in the likable, warm, funny Sylvester McCoy. Of the classic Doctors, McCoy may be my favorite. He was witty, charming, calm, funny, and clever, all at the same time. He was not easily ruffled, performing superbly under pressure. Again, they gave the Doctor a signature look, but they decided to ditch the clown costume worn by 6, and went instead with a question mark sweater that would make Bill Cosby proud, a sport jacket, a signature hat and his question mark handled umbrella.
As number 7 appeared, at first he seemed to not be very bright or strategic. Often times it seems like he had no idea what was going on or what kind of danger he was in. However, as his time went on, he became very cunning and strategic, almost dark, but never losing his charming air. Despite the change in character, this Doctors time was cut short after just a few seasons, due to cancellation. He would appear again in 1996 in the TV movie. Number of episodes wise, he was an averaged tenured Doctor. Number of years, he had a longer tenure than most, lasting from 1987 to 1996.
In 1996, The BBC tried to reboot the Doctor Who series with a made for television movie and a brand new Doctor. The 8th Doctor was played in one movie and one mini episode by Paul McGann. The movie was strange, to say the least and introduced at least one very odd piece of “maybe it’s canon and maybe it’s not” information when it hints that maybe the Doctor’s father was human. This has been completely ignored as the series was successfully launched. McGann has ended up being one of the more popular despite only being on-screen in the movie. His popularity grew through audio stories in the absence of TV episodes. Many fans wondered what it would have been like if McGann’s series had gotten off the ground and they had gotten to see more of him than just the movie. They got a little satisfaction last year when he appeared in a mine episode on YouTube just before the 50th anniversary special. His regeneration was the only one we never saw on film, but in the mini episode we did get to finally see it. As a side note here, the Salt Lake Comic Con is quickly approaching, and rumors are flying that there will be some Doctors here as guests, and just announced this morning, Paul McGann will be there. Any Doctor is huge, but McGann seems big because he doesn’t seem to do a lot of the conventions.
For years, since the series relaunched, it was assumed that McGann regenerated into Eccleston, the 8th Doctor became the 9th Doctor. Last year, we learned that wasn’t the case. There was a Doctor in between, it was one the Doctors after tried to forget, because of what he did, or at least supposedly did. Since the relaunch, the Doctor has been carrying around this huge amount of guilt. Why? Because he was responsible for completely destroying two whole species, one of them was his own. He was the last of the Time Lords because he killed all the others in the last great Time War. I suppose, if I had destroyed my whole world and everyone in it, I would feel guilty too. It was always assumed that either number 8 had pulled that trigger, or number 9. Then we found out it was neither. There was this guy, who wouldn’t even call himself the Doctor. He was regenerated for one purpose, to bring an end to the Time War, and he was willing to do it at any cost. He was first introduced in the episode “The Name of the Doctor” and appeared as one of three Doctors in the 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor.” He was played masterfully by John Hurt, and he has become a Doctor that I would like to find out more about. By the end of “The Day of the Doctor,” he finds a way to redeem himself, and takes his place among the other versions of the Doctor. At the very end, to remove all doubt, we see him regenerate into what is obviously number 9.
That wraps up this part. I will be back on Friday with part 6, which will cover 9, 10, and 11, just in time to settle in on Saturday and begin getting to know number 12.
A couple of weeks ago I talked about the first two teaser trailers that dropped for the upcoming season of Doctor Who. BBC just launched a full length trailer for the new season and it has all sorts of tidbits. If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is, for your viewing pleasure:
This trailer is a little bit longer, so as expected, it gives a few more glimpses into the upcoming season. The first thing that hit me was Daleks. The Dalek voice and the Dalek eye scope thingy at the beginning, and the scene actually showing a few Daleks. It all made me think that this season may be a little heavy on the Daleks. Which would be great. Their one of my favorite baddies, so i am always down with more Daleks.
We also get to see some regulars come back in the trailer. Clara, of course, will be there, as she is the bridge from the last Doctor to this one, but we also see that Vastra will be back, which is exciting. I think she and her companions are great and fun to watch. They always seem to add a little bit of lightness to the whole thing, especially when the Doctor is in some very dark situations, like right after Amy and Rory left.
Speaking of dark, it seems like this season is going to be a little darker. It seems to me that Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is quite a bit more serious and sinister than Matt Smith’s. It was hard to tell when he first appeared and was complaining about the color of his kidneys, but as each trailer comes out and we see a little bit more of him, it becomes more apparent that he will not be talking about a lot of silly things like the color of kidneys.
And there is still this question of Clara not knowing the Doctor or if he is a good man. What makes this regeneration so ambiguous there? She knows the Doctor better than most, out of all the companions, she should have the least trouble with the whole regeneration thing. She has seen every version of the Doctor. Why is this one such a struggle? She keeps saying she doesn’t know who he is and whether he is a good man. Why? I’m sure I’m making a big deal about nothing. I’m sure it’s all coincidental, and Moffat hasn’t done any of it on purpose.
We also see that this season will see quite a few adventures and baddies, including more Dinosaurs, this time in London instead of a spaceship. All in all, the trailer looks great. I am looking forward to meeting and getting to know this new Doctor. Is it August yet?