The Movie

Information

  Format:   DVD
  Written by:   Matthew Jacobs
  Directed by:   Geoffrey Sax
  Duration:   85 minutes approx
  Transmission Date:   27/5/1996
  Cover Design by:   BBC
  Sleeve Text by:   BBC
  Product Release Date:   13/8/2001
  RRP:   £19.99
  Classification:   Classification: 12
  Reviewed by:   Handbag
New Years Eve 1999. Earth is about to run out of time...

Returning home to Gallifrey with the remains of his arch enemy, the Master, the TARDIS is forced off course, returning the Doctor into the middle of a street gang's gun battle in downtown San Franciso.

Critically wounded in the shoot out, the Doctor has to regenerate to save his own life. And he's not the only one - the Master too has a new body with which to wreak havoc, and his ultimate goal is to take the Doctor's own existence.

As the clock counts down to the start of a new millennium, the Doctor has to stop the Master destroying all life on Earth. But at what cost...?

Special Features

Commentary by Geoffrey Sax (Director).

Behind the scenes feature including interviews with Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Daphne Ashbrook, Geoffrey Sax, Eric Roberts, Philip Segal.

Tour of the TARDIS set.

BBC Trailers.

Alternate Takes.

New Interview with Philip Segal.

Isolated Music Soundtrack.

Photo Gallery.

Scene Selection.

Graphical Menus.

Production Information Subtitles.


Review

  Submitted:   10/9/2001
  Reviewer:   Handbag
 

I remember when I first saw Doctor Who, the TV Movie. I was fourteen years old, recently immersed in fandom, soon to go to my first big convention, still heartbroken at the death of Jon Pertwee, and with little time for anything so mundane as girls and alcohol (oh for the days… so much cheaper…) It was Thursday the 23rd of May, 1996, the day after the video release. I went to the bookshop after school, bought the novel and the video, scurried home and watched ninety minutes of the finest Doctor Who in seven years unfold, in a room quarantined from the rest of my family, without lights and without blinking.

I remember the stunning pre-credits sequence, not caring that there were now production credits at the beginning and no individual story title (oddly enough, because I might well have done. I was that sort of child).

The story certainly moved. First impressions were gobsmacking - the vortex with it’s barrelling asteroids, the brassy arrangement of the theme, Sylvester McCoy, the TARDIS, the console. Doubts that this was some spoilt bastard offspring of the show I loved vanished with a pop. Doctor Who was back, and about bloody time! Upsets were fleeting and unaffecting. I remember noticing straight away the jarring editing of the gun-fight, and not being terribly keen on the hospital scenes, (I’m not terribly keen on being in hospitals) but my interest soon picked up again. I remember the stunning adrenaline rush thereafter, as McGann, Ashbrook, Yee Jee Tso and Roberts shone, the wonderful dialogue, and the assured, imaginative direction. The kisses didn’t annoy me at all - all fairly innocent and justified. The half-human bumph would later piss me off something rotten for a while, but it was only a minor irritation at the time.

The ending was a little unclear but the gist of it was there (they’d already closed the eye, but it was too late to stop it’s effects, so they had to bend time around the TARDIS - a temporal orbit - and thus shunt everything back. Like Superman saving Lois Lane in one of the films. See?). So I loved it.

And so a long weekend passed. The TV movie’s transmission, with one fell swoop one bank holiday Monday in May, stopped the mockery at school for being a Doctor Who fan. Rather like an Alan Turing who loved cheap sci-fi instead of sums, I’d been unashamedly, obliviously ‘out’ as a Who fan since I was young and often paid the price, until then. I’ll always love it for that. Better - Insanely better -than any other Who we’d had since Survival - Paradise of Death, The Ghosts of N-Space and the paltry pseudo-Who, Dimensions In Time. (which bloody well is NOT canon!) it gave immense hope for the future.

Five years later...

Well, there wasn’t a future. But never mind - the movie was beautiful, witty, made with real care and a great ride. As a one-night stand, hard to beat. I’ve relived the TV Movie quite a bit since that first time. One bored, slightly drunken night, I thought about watching it with the Children In Need 3D specs and, due to the constantly sweeping camera work, it worked splendidly.

I’ve read the novel. Digested the utterly superb Regeneration book by Gary Russell and Philip Segal. Bought the video. Watched the UK transmission. Watched the unedited UK repeat. Read umpteen reviews, page after page of fan review and analysis, and come to an odd conclusion. This is a Doctor Who story that I love just as much for the same reasons as I did when I was fourteen years old. The Nth Doctor and Regeneration make us harshly aware of how utterly appalling the story could have been - fathers, brothers, Gallifrey, redesigned Daleks… We got off so lightly with the half-human malarkey, it’s untrue, and the Eye of Harmony being in the TARDIS doesn’t really matter. It may be called ‘THE Eye’ in lazy conversation, but then we always say “THE TARDIS” when we know there’s more than one of them knocking around, so who’s to say AN Eye of Harmony isn’t in every TARDIS? If the ending is vague, that doesn’t really matter. Resurrection of The Daleks has no story at all and people love that. The Jon Pertwee era WAS car/bike/hovercraft chases, and people love that. Sometimes on a night, when your head’s a bit fuzzy, and you’re having / remembering a wonderful time, it’s OK to give the attractive girl nearby a spontaneous smacker on the lips. If she doesn’t slap you, there’s nothing lost. With small supporting roles dotted here and there, all played by very capable and memorable actors no less, the four leads dominate the story.

What the story lacks in textual depth, it makes up for by well and truly being about the Doctor, so that once we meet the eighth incarnation, he’s rarely out of our sight, exactly how it should be. Paul McGann, the reluctant Doctor behind the scenes, takes to the part like a duck to water. With his enthusiastic return to the Big Finish soundstage, I have a theory about why he was hesitant at the time to take on the role. I wonder if he was afraid he might enjoy something seen by many as… well, childish. Later, as we all do at some point, he realised that it’s far too much fun to care what other people may think, and good on him. At the time of writing, I understand Paul’s going to make his first con appearance - good luck matey, and don’t let the more… ahem… eccentric members of the audience put you off!

Daphne Ashbrook has great teeth, doesn’t she? She’s also a very, very good actress who’s chemistry with McGann is excellently judged and it’s a shame she doesn’t tag along at the end - especially as it would have saved us the woeful Sam Jones in the books…

Yee Jee Tso is also perfectly cast - young and cocky but very likeable, and again, a very traditional sort of companion who had the potential to stay. The villain’s lackey he may be, but because he has no idea what is really going on, you’re with him all the way.

Warning - *I’m going to uses the word ‘ooze’ in a moment. It’s utterly predictable and clichéd to do so I know, and a thousand reviewers have applied it in this context since the crack of doom. But I don’t care.

Eric Roberts oozes charm and camp and evil. Oozes, oozes, oozes! There is no other way to put it. He’s having a whale of a time, so we do too. He and makes the Master menacing for the first time since AT LEAST Delgado’s first few stories. Why is he a snake? What’s with the oozy goo? Who cares when he’s played this well?

Story wise, for the third time, a principal lead seems to have been left behind for ever at the end of the story - and if I didn’t know better, I’d almost do a complete manifesto volte face (in my campaign for zero referencing) and beg somebody to actually bring this particular old villain back. See, we’re all fallible! With the happy ending, and a moving, touching suggestion of the companion asking the Doctor to stay for a change, the future looked bright. Unfortunately there wasn’t one, we’re told.

But does it really stop there? The Movie on DVD is just as lovely a package. Crisp and clean as we should expect the picture and sound to be, you really get a better opportunity to take in Richard Hudolin’s magnificent sets and the dramatic, distinctive score.

Sax’s commentary is very much a technical one, and little of the actual information he imparts will surprise you if you’ve read Regeneration, but he still comes across as enthusiastic and personable. The on-screen captions by Richard Molesworth are a very nice feature which do bring up some interesting new points - locations, and most notably, the end of each ‘Act’ as it was shown on American TV (the points where the commercials interject.)

Segal is interviewed at length, both then and now, and is typically frank. It’s a shame the most vociferous whingers of fandom have reduced this guy to apologising for much of the show, and I felt a bit sorry for him in places. I’m sure he wasn’t the reason Doctor Who was cancelled in 1989, and though we know he did away with The Dark Dimension, having read the story outline, I for one am not shedding tears at the loss of that calibre of unashamed fanwank, Graham Harper or no Graham Harper.

You get a nice music feature, the BBC trailers (I must have seen them at the time but I don’t remember them) and the Fox promo, which divorced from clippage is a fascinating insight into American TV tactics in it’s own right if you aren’t familiar with them.

All in all, this is a superb value package for a really fine production, and crusty detractors would do well to remember that… yes… actually… come to think of it… there was a future! The BBC felt the need to actively promote the series again, and the merchandise drive that followed wasn’t just cash-cow cynicism, but a golden opportunity to bring Who back to respectable public consciousness that actually worked. We’ve got audio dramas now. We’ve got a radio series that’s actually got potential. Tom bless the TV Movie - and all Who sale in her.

There’s life - and there’s hope.




© Copyright Handbag, 2001.

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 Page Last Updated: 29/1/2009

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Reviewed By

Handbag
Submitted: 10/9/2001


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