DOCTOR WHO: THE MOVIE, the tv movie review

Chase - Posted on 18 August 2009


You have to understand the mindset in 1996. There was no DOCTOR WHO. It was dead. As much as I wanted to believe in the New Adventures, I really didn't. I didn't really enjoy a large majority of the comics and for a time, older Doctors were put in the comic stories which was okay. We had DIMENSIONS IN TIME, a sorry replacement for THE DARK DIMENSION, which was lost mostly due to actors' egos (they did'nt want Tom Baker to get all the good stuff, which he really should have anyway). While it was nice to see the older actors and companions, for the first half, the shock value towed us through. The second half, however, was abyssmal. It was fun, though. On TV there was no Doctor Who. We all knew it could be come back as a good show. I mean there were tons of good shows on including EARTH 2. Between DOCTOR WHO the classic series, we started getting GOOD horror series with continuing characters, something only KOLCHAK THE NIGHT STALKER did and which FRIDAY THE 13TH SERIES started up again...and it never really died. Of course POLTERGEIST THE LEGACY and the X FILES kept that momentum going.

I longed to have DOCTOR WHO come back and show itself to mainstream US (and UK audiences) and prove it wasn't as poor as McCoy's last season or any of his seasons, or as bad as most of Colin's stories or as grim and depressing as all those New Adventures. IN fact, I wanted it to be glossy, with good effects, monster costumes that did'nt suck, and emotional stories with characters that had backgrounds and uncliched personalities. That still hasn't happened to this date, well, it sort of did in 2005 but that's petered out by July of 2009.

I digress. The mindset was that after tons of advance reports of many movies being made and cast, DOCTOR WHO, somehow was being made and was airing. Unfortunately none of us knew at the time that the powers that be (no, not the John Forsyste show wit the mother from TWO AND A HALF MEN) already decided that there would be no show to follow this. Later I read what the producer planned: remakes of TALONS, GUNFIGHTERS, EARTHSHOCK and others. I also found out about previous scripts for this...and most of them were awful with a few good things scattered about and almost all of them mentioned either Dalek variations, the Doc's mum's ghost, the Doc's dad, Borusa being a TARDIS voice or something or other. THIS, what we got was far better.

I'm not saying it wasn' t flawed: it was. Terribly. But then I didn't notice. It's not like they could have put on any old crap and I would have liked it. But when that music started (grand es and like TREK, yes) and there were mentions of Skaro, Daleks, the Master, Time Lords, regenerations, Gallifrey, and more...and this was not terrible and was sort of...well mounted...I knew that I'd like it. And for more than half of it, I loved it. Paul McGann is a terrific actor and a GREAT GREAT Doctor. He shines in every scene he's in. Chang Lee could have been another Adric/Turlough type to be redeemed. Grace needed stuff sorted out in her life. And Sly McCoy was back. There were new aspects to the TARDIS that I loved. I didn't really have time to think about how all of this gelled with the old show or the novels or the comics and I didn't want to. DW was back on TV and the US had it. It was so exciting that that excitement carried me through to almost the end of this tv movie, which, to be honest, wasn't as good as it could have been, nor as bad as it could have been. It was just professionally made, and was not off the least as far as I could see through rose colored glasses...

There were, at RTD has said, some great classic moments from this movie, some of the best DW moments ever as he's said. There are also some very poor choices. The morgue attendant: his name seems to be Bill (his partner is Ted in a nod to BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURES series and movies) but also something else as Grace calls him another name (Peter maybe?). Nevermind that, he's far too over the top and everyone at this hospital, Grace included, seems to be on mind altering drugs. The operating room does not seem  sterile, everyone seems to joke around, or make teases...and the 8th Doctor revives with his chest open and a camera in it which he pulls out...and we don't really see Grace sow it back up but maybe she did in a scene or in between scenes. Ouch.

On top of that, the Master is jerky in Bruce's's coming apart so I can see that but...but...but he starts pulling his fingernail off in front of a nurse, who notices but thinks nothing amiss and he talks like Arnold in TERMINATOR. If he did't want to get caught, why do this? I guess he did'nt care.

Chang Lee: I'm sure the novelization or the script mentions if he's a homeless kid of not. I believe I recall something about his family...and possibly having had someone in his family, maybe a cousin, or brother or someone killed in gang warfare or crossfire. What's odd about the gun stuff is that this looked and sounded like a lot of the New Adventures, taking place "2o Minutes into the future" like MAX HEADROOM and with violent death right off the bat, classic music, and a modern day setting but in the near future. And someone leaving someone in a relationship. And a cover up. Yeah ABOUT TIME 6 tells us about all the stuff made for AMERICA and it's all true: this resembles LOIS AND CLARK, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE X FILES and others and that's not so terrible...but is it DW? It also resembles the New Adventures.

The regeneration is...well, at the time, it was great but now, it just looks FAST FAST FAST and too off the wall with the stretched face. It's not exactly like the great ones (One into Two, Three into Four, Four into Five, Five into Six and...tha'ts about it)...and using Frankenstein---I'm not sure that was a good move or not, I"m still undecided about that. Especially as I like the God/Jesus motif that Paul has going...and it's all ruined when Bill?Peter or whatever his name is, falls fainting out. 

THe longer version has Paul wandering into a part of the hospital that is still being built. That explains why he is suddenly in the main part of the building and then in a weird bombed out area that is open to the outside, yelling, "WHO AM I?" At the time, I fully accepted the movie, HIM, IT, and all else this had to offer. Now, I"m not so sure. I accept Paul as the 8th Doctor, no problem. I even accept his being half human...but before we get into THAT, McCoy's Doctor tells Grace on the operation table more than once "I AM NOT HUMAN. I AM NOT LIKE YOU!" So there's all this fan speculation about why ..and alot of it makes sense and alot of it is fun. But none of it makes sense as presented on the tv screen but then I accepted it and still do accept alot of it...but why, I can't tell you. Perhaps some of that magical feeling of "IT's back" lingers.

What actually happens is good: the Doc has the Master's remains, he gets shot, Chang Lee and Bruce bring him to the hospital, the Doc dies but regenerates alone in a morgue, he remeets Grace, the Master snake goes into Bruce and I guess kills him, Bruce kills his wife, then wants the Doc's body as he's the new Master. Eric Roberts is GREAT as the Master and besides the TERMINATOR type sequences and the jerky bits of the Master if he doesn't get humans on Earth at all (it's not like he's not been here for long periods of time in the past), ROberts is menacing and creepy and manipulative. Grace quits over the two hearts thing...and the whole two hearts thing reminds me of Scully finding out about some strange new phenomena on the X FILES which would take up 30 minutes. On DW it should only be a 5 min thing.

Then the Doctor, heartfully, tells Grace about her past, her dreams, her future, and Puccini. He's heartfelt and kind and nice. He's not the manipulative bas#$@ 7th Doctor we saw in GHOST LIGHT and FENRIC. He's also got a nice innocence going. And all the right touches are given (Key, sonic screwdriver, scarf, hat, jacket, etc). Some of it works, most of it doesn't. Alot of it is played tongue in cheek and over the top ("Mind altering drugs") but not by Paul. More later...  


Aurelius's picture

Here is a reposting of my review back in January on the old site:

What can be said of the “Enemy Within” or “DWM” or “Paul McGann Era” or whatever you choose to call it, that hasn’t been said already? Merely a few more cents to the ever increasing pot. Overall, the endeavor—when compared to the vast legacy of Whodom—is not good. But, that is not to say there isn’t a few diamonds that glitter quite brightly.

First, the bad (or rather the just plain silly).

Right out of the gate there are problems. The story opens up on Skarro, which if memory serves correctly was destroyed by the 7th Doctor in REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS. Here, we are told the Master has been put on trial by the Daleks. To me, this is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black, but hey … or is this perhaps part of the Time War? Suppose this is neither here nor there …

The Master. Eric Roberts does a strange job in this role (at one point, dressed in leather and sunglasses he appears like the Terminator and I was wondering if he was going to ask if anybody at the hospital had seen John Conner) that is more good than bad. With the Master there’s always this idea that he is never really dead (which, how did he survive being sucked into the Eye of Harmony? Did the Timelords resurrect him to fight in the Time War where he then fled and hid at the end of time to be found by the 10th?) and there’s the business of him as a liquid serpent looking for a host …

The Doctor. McGann does a fantastic job in the role, but there are some problems—super-strength: he apparently can batter down a metal morgue door, but can’t break free of the metal contraption holding him at the end? And then, the silly haf-human stuff—let’s not reopen that can of worms; either you accept it or don’t. The movie offers a half-hearted explanation that the Doctor was dead too long and that when he regenerates he may take on aspects of different species. This opens another discussion, of how regenerations in the past affected the Doctors that followed.

The Story. It is long, drawn-out and overall boring. It feels like a long episode or nowadays, a Christmas special. There is little or no action and sort of drags its feet. Then again, in the past, regeneration stories haven’t always been the best.

Now, the Good.

Tardis. Love, love, love the interior—very gothic, very “steam-punk.” You can see the current design is loosely based upon this, but with a more organic feel to it (I believe the 5th referenced it as the “coral” setting). Like that the cloister room (and bell) was used as well as the Eye of Harmony (there is too much mystery and conjecture surrounding this, its placement in the Tardis and its placement in the Whodom to get into, but nonetheless it worked in the story and in the “new” series to follow.)

And a few tid-bits:
- McCoy is great in this episode … love his improved outfit, sans the question marks, only wish we could have seen more of him.
- Like the bag filled with gadgets
- The return of the sonic screwdriver, though now heading into Series 5 it should just go away
- The Doctor mentions his father, and spending time with him watching a meteor shower

Despite the obvious flaws, the movie is an excellent transition between the classic and the new series as many of the elements were carried over by RTD. In closing, is the episode good? No, it should have been great. The price to pay was another nine years without the show. If nothing else this movie proves that McGann should get more time to shine as the Doctor, not merely in the audio adventures but on screen as well as he surely deserves it.

RATING: 4 out of 10.

"Gosh, that takes me back. Or forward. That's the trouble with time travel; you can never remember." (The Doctor, The Androids of Tara)

God, that was awful. Yes, McGann was good, yes, Eric Roberts was good and his hissing as the Master reminded me of Ainley's voice somewhat when each lost their temper. Yes, it is handsomely mounted and produced and filmed. The interior of the TARDIS: I liked it but would I want it in a regular series: hell no. Or if I was the Doc would I want all those torches and candles? Segal tours the TARDIS on the dvd special features and tells us perhaps the Doc had tea in the TARDIS with Genghis Khan or Napeleon, proving he understands nothing about the Doctor, the old series, or what it was about or meant. It all looks good though. The bats don't bother me, the design doesn't bother me...

The story: that bothers me. After the first 38 min or so it really totally falls apart. I love some of the chase sequences ("Doctor, will you try to remember that I have only one life" and "Breath in, Grace") but most of the action sequences that there are (not many) do not ....make sense.

How did Grace tell Wagg that the Doc had a secret when she only just heard that he had one? Grace shoots the motorcyle panel...the same motorcycle that she and the Doc steal. I hadn't realized that is that even possible? The Master has men webbed up...are they dead? Under his control? The same thing...the Doc references happened to Grace's wrist...that was burned...and forgotten about...are these men burned to death and now his servants? WHy aren't they more effective in stopping the Doc and Grace? I believe the novel or the script book tell more about this. It's an awkward, poor scene on tv. Why did the cop ride into the TARDIS, ride out and then leave? Why does the Doctor keep a key outside the TARDIS? Wouldn't any scientifically or tech savy enemy find it?

I find NOTHING wrong with the kisses, any of them. They were sexy and that was about time and they fit the characters. The back and forth between Grace believing and not believing the Doctor was annnoying  and frankly tedious.

Somethings of interest on the DVD text and in the show itself: The Doc can turn himself into another species when he regenerates. Apparently he dies when he regenerates or just before or does this time...formerly it looked as if he were dying but in PLANET OF THE SPIDERS he seems DEAD so there's a precedent. A circus, not just chickens, were supposed to be the traffic stoppers. The circus might have made more visually interesting stuff happen. Chang Lee lived in a water tower behind his grandfather's store. Why if his grandfather was still alive? The grand dad was being extorted by a gang that Chang Lee was associated with. Did they kill the old man? I seem to remember they might have in the novel. Chang and his friends seem to attack the gang, I think and that might be why and why they are then attacked. Some of the producers or directors or whatever worked on other things including END OF PART ONE show which did a parody of DOCTOR WHO called DR EYES. Another or the same staff member tried to get VAN HELSING CHRONICLES made and sold.

Some  of the bad stuff. Oh and see ABOUT TIME 6 for more of the stupidest moves ever and why most of this does not make any sense. But beyond the continuity stuff that doesn't gell...there's just the plain boring stuff that makes up the story as well as comical, stupid scenes that make no sense either.    

The New Year's Eve party: was everyone on drugs here? Or higher than a kite? Or just retarded again? They are embarassing. And the black guard just stands there as New Year's Eve decorations come down around him as the New Year rings in. Wagg starts to meditate, "Alm alm alm", and we have to view protracted (but mind you, 1 second of these partiers is enough) shots of the party and the people celebrating, back and forth through time and it's not funny. At all. The Master's: "I'm alive" is just silly. Ditto his, "You are my life!" Just what does he mean? Is he the Doc's lover? Or just in love with him? Or just that he wanted his life force? Are they father and son? Son and father? The Master starts roaring like BIGFOOT in the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN and starts trying to brain the Doctor with a  staff. Grace tries rewiring the TARDIS console and makes jokes about surgery. IT's all very unthreatening and frankly, silly and boring. At the time, it was like "What are they doing?" and yet it still seemed exciting because it was DW...but somehow at this point in the show, I KNEW it would never go a series ANYWHERE. ANd it would put the show back YEARS if it were ever to return.

Also frankly, I doubted that if it blew this chance to return (IT DID!) it would ever come back, but it did!

In France, this was called LAST OF THE TIME LORDS which tells you never to name ANY episodes that name or close to it ever again as they always suck.

The goodbye scene of Grace, Chang Lee and the Doctor is a nicely filmed, well lit one with rain, New Year's Eve decortions and another kiss (although not for Chang Lee). The actor who played Lee played again with Eric Roberts in some sci fi aliens hunting humans made for TV movie not long after this aired. It was better than this. Eric also appeared in another movie about being hit by lightning and living and then getting some kind of powers and it was better than this, too.

Anyway Chang Lee, the Doctor and Grace should have many adventures returning to Earth or after this story or in between scenes or something and an on line fan fiction series did just that.

Frankly, for years after this, I thought this was good, then I actually tried to watch it again about five years ago and thought this sucked. Then the new show returned and I tried to revisit it again and thought this was junk. It truly sucked except for Paul and Roberts.

Oh and what's with the ambulance sequence? The Master shrieks like he's Dracula being hit with garlic, "I can't be injured that way!?" There's more mumbling and more mumbling and we we mumble.

Look, this isn't even good as a join between old who and new who and honestly, I'm surprised the BBC novels (and THE DYING DAYS--the show certainly seemed to be dying those days) and the writers picked up Paul as the Doctor after this mess but he was a good Doctor and deserved better adventures and he got them, thank goodness.

Truth be told, the second half is almost unwatchable.                      

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