Sunday, October 09, 2016

Doctor Who (1996)

The original Doctor Who ran for 26 seasons.  When it ended in 1989, a lot of people were disappointed.  In 1996, hope arrived in the form of a TV movie/backdoor pilot that aired on Fox, brought to us by Universal Television, BBC Worldwide and the Fox Network.  It starts with Sylvester McCoy as The Doctor, transporting the remains of his mortal enemy, The Master, back to their home planet for interment.  He crash lands on Earth and is promptly shot.

Rather than die, he regenerates.  He is the same person with the same memories, but has a different appearance.  He’s now played by Paul McGann.  Over the course of the movie, The Doctor has to stop The Master from destroying Earth.  Both The Doctor and The Master have help.  Of course, since this was supposed to be the start of a new TV series, we can assume that The Doctor saves the day.

When the movie first aired, I remember liking it.  I think this may have been because it was the first new material in such a long time.  My only access to the show was the reruns on PBS.  Here was something I could actually watch new.  I was even a little disappointed that nothing ever came of it.  When I saw that I could rent the movie through Netflix, I decided to give it a second look.

I don’t think that this would have been a worthy successor to the original series.  It had a different feel and was probably made to appeal to both American and British audiences.  Judging by the fact that it wasn’t picked up, it probably failed on both counts.  I suspect that a good deal of that had to do with too many hands in the pot.  You had three production companies, each making their own demands and trying to serve two audiences.  When a new show was eventually produced, it was produced solely by the BBC.

The movie also seems a bit light on the story, probably because it was meant to bring Americans up to speed.  Yes, some of us had seen the show, but not everyone watches PBS.  This was well before Netflix or Redbox.  It would have cost you a fortune to get all those VHS tapes from Blockbuster.  They had to get across a lot of information in short order, like Time Lords having two hearts and 13 lives.  The movie ultimately got pulled in too many directions.

I suppose every franchise has one or two entries that fans would sooner forget.  Star Trek fans make fun of the odd-numbered movies.  I heard that James Cameron wasn’t fond of some of the Terminator sequels.  (He considers Genesys to be a direct true sequel to Terminator 2.)  Highlander II: The Quickening is disavowed by some fans.  This may be the weak link in the Doctor Who universe.  (I don’t recall it being mentioned much in the new series, but that may have more to do with rights and clearances.)

Ultimately, it worked out well.  Christopher Eccleston took over the role in 2005.  Several other actors have taken over the role since then.  The show has been going strong since then and we have a Christmas Special to look forward to each year.  It would be interesting to see what happens in another 50 years.

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