So this is an easy one to write you would think? Only one Eighth Doctor piece ever produced and this in the long hiatus (i.e. 1996) between what might be called Classic (1st – 7th) and Modern (9th-???). This may be true by volume and also to an extent by quality. What I would like to suggest though is that whilst this may be easy to overlook it is in fact more important than might be thought.
Hopefully if you read this you may be tempted to dig this out and watch it for the first or second time (hard core fans need not apply). Update 2014 – we are now on the Capaldi Doctor and have had the Night of the Doctor. I think the latter makes my point!
This starts with a swooping reveal of a Gothic splendour that is the TARDIS. Occupied by a solitary and mellow seeming Seventh Doctor as appropriately played by Sylvester McCoy. He is en route to pick up the last remains of The Master who is being executed by the Daleks. The Master is not wholly dead, the TARDIS ends up in Vancouver, the Doctor gets shot and dies in hospital. A Doctor Grace Holloway oversees all this and it is her using anaesthetics that almost stops the Doctor regenerating.
Paul McGann then appears as a slightly frantic (at first) Doctor; the Master as a slimy slug takes over someone and we have a plot revolving around opening the Eye of Harmony, the Doctor being part human, the Master trying to cheat death and all kinds of saving the earth before it’s too late. Oh and did I mention the clock and the fact that it is New Year’s Eve 1999 – 2000?
Needless to say all gets sorted, the girl (Grace Holloway) gets left behind and the Eighth Doctor goes off in the TARDIS to adventures new. Sadly despite popularity in the UK (this was a joint production) no series is commissioned. We wait until 2005…
Where to start? Off the top of my head:
- Eye of Harmony in the TARDIS – that’s a new one
- The Doctor is part human – very interesting. Done presumably to make the character easier for a US audience, this is a challenge in the scheme of things
- The Master being a mad slug – really?
- The Daleks co-operating with the Time Lords, again really. I almost wonder why have the Daleks at all, they only appear for a brief scene
However, let’s not dismiss it all out of hand, Don’t forget:
- A proper exit for McCoy, unlike Colin Baker. This though was not the case for Rose. Eccleston appeared cut from whole cloth; this worked as the modern audience were (in a lot of cases) not born with the show was in its prime
- A big TARDIS
- Paul McGann is a good doctor (see next section)
- A different feel, pace and action. This is the important element for me, this does in fact presage the more action oriented, longer episode format for the new shows
- It kept the show alive, amongst fan fiction, AudioVisuals and then Big Finish this was a stepping stone. Would we have had the RTD era without this?
What happened next?
The Eighth Doctor was a big fan success. Not my area but he appeared in many novels and comic strips and was a fans’ favourite. When Big Finish started in 1999 it was without McGann, but in January 2001 he appeared with new companion Charley Pollard. Many adventures later including the tremendous Eighth Doctor Adventure (see the Ballad of Lucie Miller) he is as much part of Doctor Who as any Doctor.
There you have, please do consider watching this, you can pick it up as part of Revisitations 1 along with Caves of Androzani (much rated end of Peter Davison era) and Talons of Weng-Chiang which led to the Big Finish Jago & Lightfoot spin-off (see my review Mannequin Madness in Victorian London).