Made to re-launch television’s most famous time traveller, Doctor Who: The Movie is an expensive feature-length episode which attempts to continue the classic series and work as a stand-alone film. Transporting the remains of the Master, Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor is diverted to San Francisco in 1999. Regenerating in the form of Paul McGann, the Doctor gains a new companion in heart surgeon Dr Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook) and must stop the Master from destroying the world. All of which might have been fine, had not the most eccentrically British of programmes been almost entirely assimilated by the requirements of American network broadcasting. Matthew Jacobs’ screenplay is literally nonsense, dependent on arbitrary, unexplained events while introducing numerous elements that contradict established Doctor Who mythology. The Tardis is re-imagined as a bizarre pre-Raphaelite/Gothic folly, while the Doctor, now half-human, becomes romantically involved with his lady companion. From the West Coast setting to metallic CGI morphing, from the look of Eric Roberts as the Master to a motorcycle/truck freeway chase, director Geoffrey Sax borrows freely from James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Doctor Who fans should feel relieved this travesty was not successful enough to lead to lead to a series, though McGann himself does have the potential to make a fine Doctor. This is the slightly more violent US TV edit, rather than the cut version previously released on video.
On the DVD: There are two BBC trailers and a Fox promo “introducing the Doctor” to American audiences. The interview section features Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Eric Roberts, Daphne Ashbrook, director Geoffrey Sax and executive producer Philip Segal, twice. The main interviews are on-set promotional sound-bites. However, Segal’s second interview was filmed in 2001 and finds him spending 10 minutes explaining why the programme turned out as it did, and coming very close to apologising for it. He also offers a two-minute tour of the new Tardis set. Alongside a gallery of 50 promotional stills is a four-minute compilation of behind-the-scenes “making of” footage. There are alternative versions of two scenes, though the “Puccini!” scene is so short as to be pointless. As usual with Doctor Who DVDs there are optional production subtitles and these offer a wealth of background information. Four songs used in the film are available as separate audio tracks, and John Debney’s musical score can be listened to in isolation. Finally there is a commentary track by Geoffrey Sax, which contains some interesting material but does tend to state the obvious a lot. The sound is very strong stereo and the 4:3 picture is excellent with only the slightest grain. —Gary S Dalkin