Ever since Doctor Who restarted on British TV screens in 2005, I’ve been an avid fan – watching every episode and owning most of the DVDs. But, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit, I’ve never watched any of the original episodes that aired in its original run between 1963 and 1989, nor had I watched the 1996 film, starring Paul McGann as the eighth Doctor.
The film is on Netflix, so tonight Christine and I watched it for the first time.
I’m guessing the budget for the film wasn’t that large, as even by mid-90s standards some of the special effects were poor. And it hasn’t aged very well – the stream we watched was in in the 4:3 aspect ratio that was common for TV shows at the time, but this looks odd on modern widescreen TVs.
The story wasn’t bad though and is at least as good as an average episode of the newer series. It did, however, remind me of the most recent series of Torchwood, Miracle Day. Both this and Miracle Day were examples of cult British science fiction shows transplanted to America, with American characters and American popular culture references that wash over a typical British audience. That being said, my main criticism of Torchwood: Miracle Day was that the story had been stretched too thinly – not a problem for this Doctor Who film which was paced reasonably well.
The film was meant to be the start of a new American Doctor Who series, picking up where the British series had left off in 1989. As it happened, American interest wasn’t that great and it would be nine years until the BBC revived the series in Britain, with Christopher Eccleston making a clean break as the ninth Doctor.
Paul McGann thankfully made an appearance again as the eighth Doctor in The Night of the Doctor – a short webisode released last year ahead of the 50th anniversary show. This helped to bridge the gap between the original and revived series and showed McGann’s eighth Doctor regenerate into John Hurt’s ‘War Doctor’.
Doctor Who is a series where the Doctor’s ability regenerate allows it to ‘reboot’ every few years, in contrast with many other franchises. Consequently it’s always re-inventing and changing itself without having to retread too much.
Later this month we have Peter Calpadi taking the reigns as the twelfth Doctor. I can’t wait.