Saturday, December 31, 2011

DOCTOR WHO: The Television Movie

Directed by Geoffrey Sax
Written by Matthew Jacobs
Starring Paul McGann, Eric Roberts(!), Daphne Ashbrook, and Sylvester McCoy

The previous Doctor comes back for a quick, nearly wordless cameo before he gets gunned down and replaced by this guy...

...who is fancy and British in all sorts of ways. He has to battle his arch nemesis The Master, played by Eric Roberts in a role that basically spells out why he isn't as famous as his sister.  There's also some romantic tension going on, which is a new thing for the Doctor, though it isn't taken to the same degree as in later seasons.

Well, 'tis the holiday season, so what better time to pay tribute to a show that consistently busts out sappy Christmas specials every year. It must be a British thing. This episode in particular has nothing to do with the holidays aside from a little fireworks show at the end, but it does seem properly wintery throughout.

On a side note, I have become a recent fan of Doctor Who, particularly the latest incarnation, Matt Smith. I've seen a little bit from each of the Doctors, even the awful ones...

...but I never got the chance to check out this lone entry from the Eighth Doctor. It's sort of remembered as a footnote in the Whoniverse. Not late-80s-awful, but also not quite modern enough to relaunch the franchise for the nineties. I was genuinely curious about this one.

While having some major flaws in tone and melodrama ("WHO. AM. I?!"), it does seem to pave the way toward the later series. It definitely has some of the campy appeal of the earlier, kid-oriented seasons, particularly when the Master is on screen dressed like Ming the Merciless.

But it does feel darker in a way that the other serials never did. (Except for that time the Sixth Doctor tried to strangle his companion for no reason. But let's ignore that.) The stakes seem genuine, even if the time-heavy climax made no sense to me. And like I noted before, the added romance was a nice touch, and an inevitable change for modern audiences.

I also liked the redesigned TARDIS, which is similar to the later seasons, but slightly cheesier. I assume it looked more realistic before they started filming, and then Eric Roberts got too close and brushed up against it.

Not really. Campy, sure. But not enough to push it over the edge into a definite recommend. Now that I've seen it, I understand why it's a footnote. I also understand why it's not exactly reviled by Who fans. Check it out if you're interested in the character. It's a TV movie through and through.

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