Doctor Who the TV Movie was a way to continue the Doctor Who franchise but instead it came close to killing it for good this time. This movie has the stupidest plot I’ve ever seen, numerous continuity errors, and special effects on par with season 1 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I can’t believe I’m talking about this movie just after listing the worst stories of the new series so far. To anyone who enjoyed the movie this is your worst nightmare.
It’s November 1992 and the “fan scholar” Adrian Rigelsford pitches the idea to BBC Enterprise to produce a television special celebrating the 30th anniversary of Doctor Who entitled “The Dark Dimension”. Naturally they don’t go with the idea because BBC was still run by assholes, most of the actors didn’t like the script and Phillip Segal was planning an American co-produced TV movie sequel to the series. So the idea was shelved in favour of John Nathan-Turner’s “Dimensions in Time” which was met with a face palm by Doctor Who fans. 3 years later we got the movie that would rebury the franchise for another 9 years.
So the big plan was to re-launch Doctor Who by partially selling it to Universal and Fox television, except for the fact that it made little sense. Barely anyone in the US knew about Doctor Who (and they were selling it to a major network that’s gonna axe any show with less than 7 million views) and the BBC had to make 2 things right when producing the film.
Don’t make it a sequel
Doctor Who had a pretty long run and covering all that backstory in a reasonable way would have been an impossible task. I’m not saying that a remake would have been preferable but it would have allowed for a fresh start and new characters and villains as well as zero backstory to cover. In the movie it became clear that a backstory of such a grand scale would have been unexplainable without sounding stupid and ridiculous. That was evidenced by the fact that every time they answered a question to the audience another question was raised and there was no answer to that question. Another reason why not to make it a sequel was the fact that not many people in America (as I’ve already said) have heard of Doctor Who and it would have been better if they simply rebooted the series with fresh story and perspective instead of leaving the US viewers wondering whether or not they’ve started watching the show halfway through the season. This was the first mistake made by the producers. They made a sequel and bothered to spend as much time to develop the backstory as they took to built the TARDIS exterior prop. At the very least when the show eventually did returned in 2005 Russell T Davies played the series production equivalent to the “get out of jail free” card and left the viewers wondering whether or not the new series is a sequel or a remake with the backstory being slowly leaked into the foreground of the show’s plot. By the time it became clear that the show was a sequel the backstory was so perfectly explained that it was just... well... perfect.
An iconic villain - yes, Regeneration - no
Adding an iconic image from the original series is a good idea because it could help to focus the story and draw in the fans. In the equation they used to make the movie only two villains would have worked the Rani and the Master. They chose the Master and he was introduced by a completely implausible backstory of him being captured by the Daleks, exterminated and his remains being picked up by the Doctor. I mean I can make a detailed list of all the things that were wrong in the introduction scene but that’s for a later section of the review. An iconic image from the original series was needed to bridge the new with the old but like almost everything else in this movie it was just made stupid. Also I’d like to talk about the regeneration of the Doctor, well basically it was pointless. I mean that you can introduce the new Doctor without having him regenerate and the audience would still accept it, but unfortunately the regeneration was needed not because it had to happen but so that the Doctor can be introduced to his companion. Pointless!!! I can talk about this out of place regeneration for another 3 hours but I’ll stop now.
Now that everything else has been said let’s talk about the story which is, well, boring. I can see why the series didn’t got picked up, its backdoor pilot’s plot was stupid, the backstory was like someone tried to make a shepherd’s pie but ended up with mess of half done mashed potatoes and a raw minced meat, and the ending is just blank. But let’s talk about it anyway only about the parts which I really despise (and why) or really like.
So the story begins when the Master gets captured, put on trial, and exterminated by the Daleks and the Doctor is called to pick up his remains. Okay first of all the Daleks don’t put anyone on trial they just exterminate you. Secondly what did they accuse the Master of, they don’t even have the jurisdiction to put him on trial because he’s not a Dalek, he’s a Time Lord, and I think that if anyone’s putting him on trial it’s the Time Lords NOT the Daleks. Furthermore where did they find him??? Was it on that cheetah planet from Survival because that’s where we saw him the last time, I don’t know because it’s never explained! And finally why didn’t the Daleks just exterminate the Doctor when he showed up, I don’t think they’ll have a better chance to do so, but because the plot requires it not to happen, it didn’t happen. So it’s revealed that the Master survived his cremation by becoming a snake like water thing that immediately starts messing around the TARDIS console while the Doctor is reading H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine. Apparently all it takes is a snake-like water thing or a creepy voice and a crack in the screen to make a TARDIS malfunction to the point where you have to make an emergency landing. Jeez the TARDIS is getting more breakable by the minute, no wonder nobody cared when he stole it.
This causes the Doctor to make an emergency landing on Earth, San Francisco, 30/12/1999 and to get shot in the chest by street gangsters. However he doesn’t immediately regenerate and get’s dragged all the way to the hospital where the companion of our story works. She operates on him, removes the bullets only for him to die when they try to stabilize his heart, well hearts but they didn’t knew that because they thought the second heart was a double exposure. Okay how can an X-ray scanner show double exposure, did he turned around halfway through the scan or is the scanner just rubbish. Either way is unlikely because the Doctor is unconscious and this is a hospital scanner which is checked for errors every week or so.
Several hours later the Doctor finally regenerates and punches his way out of the morgue, scaring the crap out of an intern in the process. While meanwhile the Master’s snake-like water thing possesses the hospital’s ambulance driver who’s played by the always awesome Eric Roberts. The next morning the Doctor finds a costume for a fancy dress party and puts it on since he doesn’t have any clothes, and then he finds the doctor who operated on him, Grace Holloway. That’s the reason why he regenerated, so that he can meet his companion. At the same time Chang Lee a gangster and an occasional thief who brought the Doctor to the hospital and stole his stuff finds the TARDIS and gets inside using the key only to get confronted by the Master. Okay how the hell did he get in!?! Well maybe he was following Lee and got inside when Lee was checking the exterior of the TARDIS, I don’t know. So they have a little chat and the Master manages to persuade Lee that the Doctor is evil and that he stole the Master’s body and TARDIS.
Meanwhile the Doctor manages to explain to Grace that he’s an alien and the regenerative process in a way that’s so cloudy that it’s next to impossible to understand. You know that even before watching the movie I had the feeling that it would suck because a failed backdoor pilot isn’t something to be watched otherwise the series would have been picked up, but I never imagined that it would be this bad. I was so bored out of my skull that I nearly fast forwarded over the Institute escape scene, one of the better scenes of the movie. The overall plot is plagued with ether discontinuity or poorly explained existing continuity. Then the Doctor reveals that he needs a beryllium chip from an atomic clock in a nearby nerd institute in order to fix the TARDIS, a fact that’s overheard by the Master who opened the eye of harmony which is now conveniently on board the TARDIS. This is where the discontinuity express really kicks into high gear.
First of all (again) the eye of harmony is an ancient power source developed by the very first Time Lords millions of years ago, it resides in a secret chamber in the citadel of the Time Lords on Gallifrey and it’s used to generate the energy needed to power the planet and the TARDISes, it’s most definitely NOT on board any TARDIS it simply uses a space-time link to transfer power from Gallifrey to any TARDIS. Secondly why does it need a human eye in order to be opened? The answer is: bad writing! And finally since when does opening of the eye allow someone to spy on the Doctor? The answer is: (again) BAD writing! However there are a few scenes which I liked like the morgue escape scene, the conversation between Grace and the Doctor (excluding any piece of sloppy backstory), the Institute scenes, and the psychotic intern scenes. I also liked the climax at first but towards the very end it got very stupid and boring again.
The ending was incredibly slow and stupid, at several moments and the discontinuity express came back very quickly. In the Doctor Who story The Deadly Assassin the Master attempted to use the power of the eye of harmony to attempt to regenerate, this time around he attempts to use the eye to steal the Doctor’s body which is discontinuity, but this would cause the Earth to be destroyed which is the only piece of good continuity. And here it comes the crown jewel of the movie’s discontinuity moments is the fact that Grace was blinded for a few minutes when the Master forced her to open the eye, while when Lee opened the eye his sight was just fine after a few seconds.
[Sigh] This movie is just a symphony of stupid but let’s talk about what happens. So the Doctor installs the chip and the eye closes, Grace get’s possessed by the Master (apparently by magic) and rams the Doctor with a large mallet, the Doctor wakes up, tries to talk some sense into Lee, it doesn’t work, the Master get’s dressed really stupid (like almost everything else is in this movie), Grace fits the Doctor a harness which keeps his eyes open, the Master asks Lee to open the eye again but Lee refuses, the Master kills Lee, depossesses Grace and forces her to open the eye, the Doctor and the Master get shone with beams of light from the eye, Grace rewires the TARDIS which was mysteriously drained of power by the eye (that’s just bullsh*t), she returns and frees the Doctor, the Master pushes her to her death, the Doctor and the Master have a fight which is so stupid (like almost everything else is in this movie) that it makes me want to laugh out loud, the Master gets sucked into the eye, Grace and Lee are resurrected, they leave, and the Doctor continues to read H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine.
I think I’ll need to go see a therapist after this.
Other things happen I guess
So much miscellaneous and/or convenient events happen in this movie that it gets even more stupid. For example when Lee recognises Grace when they are spying on the Doctor through the eye, he and the Master almost immediately get to her house. Considering the fact that Lee never met Grace before in his life, now he knows where she lives and they arrive with an ambulance which is what Grace called for after she refused to believe that the Doctor is an alien for no reason. Is it just me or is this so convenient that it’s stupid (like almost everything else in this movie)? First of all (yet again) there is no reason in hell that Grace is unable to believe that the Doctor is an alien but let’s go through all the facts just to be sure. It’s been established that Grace is aware that the Doctor has two hearts, that his blood is not human, that he has amnesia and that he remembers that he is an alien so all evidence points that he’s an alien with shock induced amnesia but she still doesn’t believe him. We have to watch the stupid I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-science trick which finally convinces Grace that he’s telling the truth. Secondly where did Lee and the Master found an ambulance, I think that the hospital is pretty far away from the TARDIS. I don’t know because it WASN’T explained nor is the reason for their super quick arrival. Another thing in this movie which bothers me is the fact that the Master’s eyes are all cat-like. When he possessed the body of Tremas his eyes didn’t change but they did change when he was on that cheetah planet. If this is some attempt from the producers to make continuity then mission accomplished they’ve succeeded in making the stupidest discontinuity ever.
Ultimately the story was bad and almost unwatchable from start to finish, it doesn’t get any worse than this. Final Score for the movie is 2/10-definitely unwatchable. There are a few good moments in this movie but the overall plot is just too damn stupid. But don’t get me wrong, Paul McGann delivers some good performance as the Eight Doctor and I’m disappointed that this was the only TV story in which he appeared. I was also mildly impressed by Eric Roberts’ performance as the Master but like the Doctor only British actors should play him. Ultimately in America nobody liked the film because they didn’t understand it, and in the UK nobody liked it ether because the Americans were involved. You can be free to agree or disagree with me. I mean after all this is only my opinion.