Welcome to the Movie and TV Mistress review.
Today I’m reviewing the 1996 Doctor Who Movie with Paul McGann as the Doctor and Eric Roberts as the Master.
This film was meant to be a pilot for a new TV series targeted at American audiences as this was a BBC, FOX TV and Universal TV collaboration, it also meant that some changes were made, which at the time I did not like; however, after watching it again you can see some of them are still part of the new series.
I should put some perspective on this, I was a child of the 80's I was to young for Peter Davidson, Colin Baker was weird and scary but Sylvester McCoy was like a fun uncle and so he was my Doctor as a child. I was excited to have Doctor Who return even in a movie so in 1996 my family and I sat down to watch this movie.
Last night I watched it again, I have to say I was glad that they allowed Sylvester McCoy to come back and open the movie and do the regeneration scene, so at least it tied into the original series. Now with that in mind it does beg the question why there was any debate about Paul McGann actually being part of official canon.
But lets get back to this movie, so the movie starts with the 7th Doctor transporting the Master from Skaro back to his home planet after the Darleks destroyed him and his final regeneration. We at this point have loads of clocks in the Tardis and the Doctor reading The Time Machine by HG Wells while listening to a Jazz record that skips and repeats the word Time; hmm I wonder what it all means is this movie all about time? I know a lot of time travel films start with loads of images of clocks but that was a bit over the top, I guess some TV executives have a very low opinion of their viewing audience.
The Liquid Master, which is like an early voldermort, breaks out of the cylinder and messes with the controls making the Tardis have to make an emergency landing in San Francisco's Little China, where there is an Asian gang shooting happening, The Doctor steps out of the Tardis and is shot.
This is not how Sylvester McCoy's Doctor should have gone and thankfully he doesn't die yet, no we have a medical drama like ER and Grays Anatomy and no one works out why he has two hearts on the x ray, which makes the doctors look stupid especially when he dies on the operating table trying to sort out the problem with his heart. The doctor would have been OK if they listened to him.
So while this is happening the liquid Master has followed Chang Lee; who stayed with the Doctor after he was shot and put the Doctors name on the Insurance forms in the Ambulance as John Smith. Well the liquid Master hides in Eric Roberts jacket sleeve, and later that night while he is in bed snoring the liquid forms the shape of a G'ould creature and enters his body though his mouth taking over his body. The creepiest part of the scene is the smile on the face of the lady in his bed, I guess she is meant to be happy about him not snoring but it looks sinister.
And so Doctor is dead and the master lives, the Doctors body is put in the morgue and stored behind a heavy metal door and the coroners talk about what they are dressing up as for the New Years party then we have the cliché scene where one of them is watching that very famous Frankenstein movie which is in so many Sci Fi movies and TV shows, and lightning effects as the doctors body finally regenerates and then he dents and knocks down that very heavy metal door I mentioned; the doctor is not super strong well he wasn't before or since.
Next we have him walking aimlessly in white sheets and posing like Jesus when he realises he doesn't know who he is, then he's fine and starts going through lockers which are unlocked and steels the costume of one of the coroners. He then sits in the hospital and watches people and everything goes slowmo and weird angles when people start saying TIME, just to remind you this I about TIME. Seriously how stupid do they think we are. The Master Turns up and it looks like Eric Roberts wants to impersonate The Terminator. The Doctor then stalks Doctor Grace who operated on him and screwed up and while in the back of her car he pulls out the tube that the camera travelled through out of his chest.
Doctor Grace doesn't call the police right away and listens to the Doctor explain everything that is happening and have him remember who he is, meanwhile Chang Lee has used the key to the Tardis and is looking around when The Master turns up and tells him that the Doctor has stolen his body, Chang Lee doesn't ask any real questions and just seems to accept it. The Master gets Chang Lee to open the eye of harmony for him so that he can see what the doctor looks like and see through his eyes. Great trick which is never done again after this, so that seems pointless. So the Doctor realises what is happening and closes his eyes and Grace runs back to her house and locks the Doctor out and finally calls the police while the Doctor walks through a window without breaking it. Then they sit down like every is fine and watch the news, again we have lines repeated in slowmo and weird angles when the Atomic Clock is mentioned, I guess thats important.
The Master arrives and Grace thinks he's arrived to take the Doctor to a Mental Institute like she requested on the phone. While in the ambulance with the Master the Doctor realises or knows Eric is the Master and uses a traffic jam to escape but the Master spits some weird yellow liquid on Grace before she leaves it looks like it burns but it is forgotten about till the final battle in the Tardis where she is under the Masters control, until he sucks the venom out of her mouth by kissing her so he can use her to open the eye of harmony again so he can take the Doctors body.
At the New Years party the Doctor claims the Tardis needs a atomic/brillium clock to work, yeah cause Earth tech always works with alien tech, anyway we see the Doctor use his telepathy on a guy at the party and steel a chip from the atomic/brillium clock, so he didn't need the clock just the micro chip that makes it work, whatever this just feels dumb and its funny there is no mention in this movie of the millennium bug which was SO scary in the run up to 2000.
Grace and the Doctor get back to the Tardis but The eye of harmony being open has drained the Tardis' battery, who knew the Tardis was like a car when you leave the lights on. The Doctor and the Master have some cheesey one lines like "But you have time to change” “I always dress for the occasion.” The Doctor Pleads with Chang Lee that the master is evil, then Chang is killed by the Master so we get the kiss I mentioned earlier and the eye of harmony is opened again the Master runs to his spot and the doctor is chained to his and the master drains the doctors life force or something, I don't know.
Grace then with no knowledge of the Tardis rips out some wires and fiddles with them till she apparently jump starts the Tardis, she then seem to know how to make it go into temporal orbit. She runs to the doctor and unchains him. The Master chucks her over the ledge and kills her. The Doctor and Master have a short fight ending with him being sucked into the eye of harmony which I have since found out is a black hole.
The ending seems like a downer, but then this is a Hollywood movie so it can't be, the Doctor time travels and Chang Lee and Grace are brought back to life and the Tardis has a bit of indigestion, he drops them off on New Years eve at midnight and we get the Doctor hinting at Christmas invasions or something and the Doctors first kiss with a companion and he leaves her behind and the movie ends like it started.
So people had problems with this movie when it aired because it was not what they were expecting, but when have you ever had what you expect with Doctor who, every Doctor is different and some you like and others are well... Colin Baker.
Some people me included at the time were unhappy with the changes to the inside of Tardis but look they have changed it many times over the 48 years it has been around and it was time for an update, it was looking dated in the 80's.
Other things the public weren't happy about at the time was that the Master was American, well it was co-production and Eric Roberts did a good job The Master had always been a campy villain and Eric Roberts is great at being campy and a villain.
The main controversy I remember was the Doctor kissing the girl in the movie, again this was for American TV and they just love sexual tension, but there has been sexual tension on the show without kissing in the past, if you have watched some of the Peter Davidson's Doctor Who episodes, he was young attractive and apparently he was not allowed to touch the girls but you can tell they fancied him. Well if it wasn't for Paul McGann's Doctor we may not have had the current Doctors kissing all the girls he can get his hands on, it's like he has reached puberty and is now just a horny teenager.
This was a good Doctor Who story, it does feel slow and longer then it is but I say people should re-watch this, it ties in with the new shows quite well.
But I have some questions about what happened to the Master, OK so he is sucked in to the eye harmony (Black Hole) how did he end up on a planet at the end of the universe as Derek Jacobi a human with a time lord fob watch which contains all his time lord memories.