OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 702
STORY NUMBER: 161
TRANSMITTED: Monday 27 May 1996
WRITER: Matthew Jacobs
DIRECTOR: Geoffrey Sax
PRODUCER: Peter V. Ware
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Philip Segal, Alex Beaton & Jo Wright (for the BBC)
RATINGS: 9.08 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: Revisitations Box Set - Volume 1 (The Caves Of Androzani / The Talons Of Weng-Chiang / Doctor Who - The Movie)
The Doctor is summoned to Skaro to collect the Master's remains after the Daleks try & Execute him. The container holding the remains cracks and slime oozes out as the Tardis malfunctions and is set on course for Earth. The Tardis materialises in San Francisco on 30th December 1999 and is immediately shot down by a gang. He is rushed to hospital, while the Master takes over the body of an ambulance driver, where the efforts of surgeon Grace Holloway to save his life cause him to regenerate. The Doctor is initially bewildered but slowly gains his memory. The Master gains access to the Tardis and enlists the services of Chang Lee, a teenager who stole the Doctor's belongings to help him obtain the Doctor's body. Chang Lee gives the Master access to the Eye of Harmony that powers the Tardis which allows the Master to deduce the Doctor is half human. They come for the Doctor at Grace's house and take him to the research institute which is using a new atomic clock. They realise the ambulance driver is the Master and escape in a traffic jam, borrowing a police motorcycle to get to the institute, The Doctor steals a piece of the clock and they flee the scene returning to the Tardis where the Master is waiting for them. Doctor uses clock piece to repair Tardis. He needs to travel back in time to stop the Eye of Harmony being opened but finds the Tardis power drained. While trying to jump start the Tardis Grace is possessed by the Master and attacks the Doctor. Chang Lee starts to believe the Doctor so the Master kills him and uses Grace to open the eye so he can seize the Doctor's body, but causing chaos throughout the world as the eye's energies are unleashed. Grace activates the Tardis console, aborting the transfer of the Master into the Doctor's body, but Grace is killed by the Master before he is sucked into the eye. The Doctor takes the Tardis back in time bringing Grace and Chang Lee back to life before returning them to Earth and leaving to continue his travels through the universe.
Things that are good about the Movie: Sylvester McCoy. The Tardis set. Paul McGann. And I've got reservations about two of these. McGann is fab in this but he doesn't appear on screen until 20 minutes in and when he does he's playing the usual bemused/disorientated post regenerative Doctor. Yes it's great to see McCoy again but his stint at the start as the Seventh Doctor eats into his successors screen time. The new Tardis set, owing a debt to the Masque of Mandragora secondary control room and "Jules Verne" designs.
There's some interesting use of imagery throughout: eyes keep cropping up from the Master's (still Cheetah Planet affected?) eyes at the start through to the eyes giving away to Ambulanceman Bruce's wife that all is not well with the husband, to needing a retina scan to open the Eye of Harmony, the Eye of Harmony itself being shaped like an eye and the Doctor's eyes being forced open as the Master attempts to take his body. Then as the Doctor regenerates we get Frankenstein playing in the background as the Monster comes to life/Doctor comes back to life followed by some biblical Christ like images of the Doctor walking from the Morgue wrapped in a shroud which is continued later with the "crown of thorns" in the attempted possession by the Master sequence mentioned above.
Reaches for the hatchet.....
Right the Master's on trial by the Daleks and has requested the Doctor is going to collect his remains after his execution? Hmmm. Now I could maybe get the Daleks being a bit miffed with the Master over the failure of the Frontier in Space/Planet of the Daleks invasion but any Dalek action in retaliation against that would have begun & ended with the word "EXTERMINATE!". And if the Daleks are putting anyone on trial it's Davros we want to see post Revelation of the Daleks. Even if we allow them the conceit that they might put the Master on Trial surely the first thing they're going to do when he shows up is Exterminate him good and proper. We'll let the trial taking place on Skaro, destroyed in Remembrance of the Daleks, pass because it could quite easily have happened prior to the planet's destruction. I suspect the answer actually is that this is a huge trap for the Doctor set by both the Master & the Daleks, who've given the Master the ability to turn into this slime monster thing that can take over other people's bodies - cos he certainly wasn't able to do that before. yes, he could take over other people's bodies, there's form there in Keeper of Traken, but the slime monster thing? That's there because someone in special effects has gone "we can do this really cool moving liquid thing just like they did in Terminator 2" and someone else has gone "woooo, yeah, that'll be really cool!" and we've all gone "You've just ripped off Terminator 2".
That's not the only Terminator 2: Judgment Day rip off in the film either: the chase with the ambulance and the police motorcycle owes a lot to that film.... far more than it does to Doctor Who, Ambassadors of Death & Planet of the Spiders not withstanding.
The Doctor is half human now..... do you know what, out of all the things the Movie did I can probably cope with this the most. Yes it goes against all the ideas presented in the New Adventures that Time Lords are "loomed" (don't ask) rather than born, which rules out the possibility of the Doctor having a human mother. But it does neatly explain his fondness for Earth. The kiss between him and Grace is more of a shock as the Doctor has taken very little interest in affairs of the hearts before. But I suppose he might suddenly.....
The Eye of Harmony: OK when we last saw the Eye of Harmony it was located on Galifrey as the source of the Time Lord's power but yeah I can go with each Tardis having one, tapping into that power. It was a little less literal in the eye department the last time we saw it though. And needing a human to open it? That's not going to prove useful in most Time Lord Tardises is it?
Then there's the ending. Oh dear. Right from the very start the Doctor has been you don't go back and reverse events that have already happened. In Earthshock he doesn't go back to save Adric. And yet here time gets wound back to bring Grace & Chang Lee back to life.... It's not as if the Doctor goes back in time to make it happen either, the Tardis going back in time a bit seems to do it which is just mad.... Time flows normally inside the Tardis no matter what direction it's travelling. Any situation where we see something that has already happened on screen undone sits very *VERY* badly with. "And with a click of their fingers it never happened". Doctor Who has one previous example of changing what has already happened: Day of the Daleks. But in that instance the Doctors actions, in preventing the Dalek invaded world from coming to pass, are undoing interference with Time the Daleks have already committed.
I think in many ways the Movie serves as a lesson on how *NOT* to bring back Doctor Who. McCoy's twenty minutes at the start are a fan pleaser but they don't help to establish the new Doctor as a character at all, quite the reverse in fact by eating into his screentime. Then a considerable proportion of the rest of the film is taken up by the bemused post regenerative Doctor. Contrast this, when we get to it, with how Russell T Davies did things in Rose.
Cast: Being an American production you wouldn't expect the cast to have any prior or future links to the program. Sylvester McCoy obviously served as the Seventh Doctor, though according to the information text on Doctor Who - The Movie Revisitations DVD the BBC had been keen for the past Doctor part to have been taken by Tom Baker. This, along with Tom's proposed prominent part in Dark Dimension does tend to show the BBC's lack of faith in the incumbent Doctor. Replacing him is Paul McGann, famed for his appearance in Withnail and I. He has several brothers, all of whom are in the acting profession. Grace Holloway is played by Daphne Ashbrook an actress with a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine credit to her name as the title character in the season 2 episode Melora. The Master/Bruce the Ambulance Driver is played by Eric Roberts, the brother of film actress Julia Roberts. His wife Eliza Roberts plays his on screen wife Miranda.
Location filming for this story, and the studio recording, took place in Vancouver, Canada, which is rather flatter than the San Francisco setting for the story. At that time Vancouver was a popular area for TV series to be filmed in with genre series The X-Files being filmed there.
The Movie was the brainchild of executive producer Philip Segal who'd carried it with him through employment with several TV organisations including Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, hence the origin of the "Steven Spielberg does Doctor Who Movie" rumours. Indeed American interest in the series may have played a part in the initial 1989 cancellation and certainly helped to spike the proposed Dark Dimension 30th anniversary story. Both Director Geoffrey Sax and Writer Matthew Jacobs was English: Jacobs had even visited the Doctor Who studios when his father Anthony Jacobs appeared as Doc. Holliday in The Gunfighters.
Although well received in the UK, the movie didn't do so well in the US and didn't lead, as hoped, to a series being developed. As I said at the top I like the two actors playing the Doctor and I like the Tardis set but much of the rest of I'm not that fond of. However I've heard about some of the proposals for doing Doctor Who for a US audience and what we got is far, far better than some of them believe me. And if you don't check out the documentary on Doctor Who - The Movie Revisitations DVD which lays out in full the story behind this production. I think for me personally it marks a point in the years following Survival where Doctor Who passed from "It could come back" to "that's it, we're done with TV Doctor Who". It turned out I was a little bit wrong....
Doctor Who - The Movie was novelised for BBC Books by Gary Russell, former The Famous Five actor (he was Dick Kirrin) and Doctor Who magazine editor (1992-1995). The Video release of this story, (
20th May 1996 iirc - the Internet is vague, but I can recall buying a copy on my first day working for Bacon & Woodrow It wasn't, it was 22nd May two days later, with thanks to m'learned colleagues and Doctor Who Toybox), caused some controversy: In February, three months before, all existing Doctor Who videos were withdrawn from sale. At that point Hand of Fear, released 05/02/1996, had only been on sale for two weeks making this a hard to find item. The video contained more footage of Sylvester McCoy being shot than was show on UK television. The video, by nature of it's early release, is also missing the caption shown before the UK broadcast dedicating it to Jon Pertwee who died May 20th 1996.
The first DVD release of this story occurred in the UK on 13 August 2001 with a commentary track by director Geoffrey Sax. A clash of dvd distribution rights between the BBC and Universal, who produced the story in the USA, prevented it's release there. Doctor Who - Revisitations was released in the UK on 4th October 2010, adding new special features and a Sylvester McCoy/Paul McGann commentary to the restored film and releasing it with new versions of The Talons Of Weng-Chiang & The Caves Of Androzani. A US DVD release of the Movie finally followed on 8th February 2011.