Friday, 5 October 2012

Countdown to Doctor Who at 50: The Eighth Doctor

My quest to look at each Doctor in the run-up to Doctor Who's big 5-0 continues as we turn our attention to Paul McGann, the Doctor for just one night. But you can't miss him; he's the guy with two hearts, remember?

          I love humans - always seeing patterns in things that aren't there.'
                                                                        The Doctor (Paul McGann)

Few actors coming into the already-demanding role of the Doctor have had it as hard as Paul McGann. For one thing, he has to endear himself to the audience, get them to accept him as the latest incarnation of the character and put his own spin on it all in one television movie. In which he doesn't even appear until twenty minutes in. Even worse, as the movie is separate from the classic series and the revived series that followed it a few years later there's an argument that he shouldn't be counted among the other Doctors at all. Thankfully, though, Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor burns briefly but so brightly on screen; banishing all those deniers. In the short time we get to know him, we are shown enough - although we would have liked more- to see that Paul McGann is the Doctor!

In a sharp difference to his previous persona, a scheming wizard, the Eighth Doctor had an insatiable love of life and adventuring. He was brave (abseiling down a tall building despite a new-found fear of heights), a genius (working out the Master's fiendish plan), a bit of an action-hero (he's good in a motorbike/ambulance chase!) and he's also a little bit psychic (don't ask). And half-human (really don't ask). His appearance befits his character perfectly; in his green velvet coat, cravat and waistcoat (all stolen from a hospital lock-up - sound familiar?) and long locks he seems quite the dashing Victorianesque hero; which is exactly what he is. Gone are the question marks of his last few bodies, this Doctor just wants to go for it and have fun. Hurrah!

Although we only see one adventure of this Doctors he does have a companion of sorts; one quite intimate companion.
After dying from being shot on the streets of San Francisco on the eve of the new millennium, the newly-regenerated Doctor, temporarily bereft of his memories, only recognises one face; that of Dr Grace Holloway, the woman who operated on him. Skilled, determined and intelligent, the Doctor finds a near-equal in Grace. In fact, he takes such a shine to her that upon recovering his memories he snogs her - twice! At the end of the adventure, after another kiss and a resurrection from death or two (what did I say about not asking?), the two doctors part company on good terms; but the Doctor and Grace's relationship would have a big impact on the revived series. Every Doctor since the Eighth has kissed every companion they've had (I could compile a full list but I think those who enjoy that sort of thing will have more fun working it out for themselves). Clearly, the Doctor - a character who never to seemed think that way at all -  got the taste for romance in his eighth incarnation - and liked it.

The One to Watch

The TV Movie

The movie is like no other Who story. Without the feel of the classic series and the spark of the revived series it just sort of sits in the middle somewhere; a mixture of both but with added American.
None of this is a bad thing, of course, as the movie is actually great fun. Despite all the plot holes - and there are many - it's very hard not to just enjoy yourself. Yes, the Master's plot to steal the Doctor's lives doesn't make too much sense but who could fail to see the fun in Eric Roberts melodramatic, campy Master - delivering lines like 'Soon, Doctor, I will have all your lives!' and admitting how he likes to 'drezz' for the occasion. Also, there's some fascinating developments to the Doctor's character which have not been taken up by the later series giving the movie a somewhat unique slant on the character.
Overall, it's a blast but a full series, as was hoped, was never made. So, sadly, we never got to see the Eighth Doctor again (at least on television; Paul McGann still stars in regular audio-based adventures featuring his Doctor). The next time we saw the Time Lord, when the series finally did come back proper. he was a lot lonelier, begrudged and northern...

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