Episode 10: The Doctor Who TV Movie (1996)

In this extra long episode, the Daleks Aren’t Robots!? Team looks at the TV movie from 1996 starring Paul McGann and Eric Roberts.  They discuss the Wilderness Years, the BBC’s multiple attempts to kill the show and the Doctor’s elusive tea preferences.

Daleks Aren’t Robots!? is a podcast in which two Whovian friends take two non-Whovians on a deep dive through the show from the very beginning.

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Theme: Garage – Monplaisir

Podcast Contents Include

Editor’s Note: The following are my original notes for the podcast, slightly edited for readability. They’re very far from the full contents of the pod, though.  – Kari

THE TEAM

  1. The Doctor is the main character here, and he’s in fine form. He starts out as Sylvester McCoy, Seven, who I am basically totally unfamiliar with, but who drinks what is apparently black tea, with milk. What kind of tea is canon the Doctor’s favorite?
  2. After he dies the Doctor regenerates into Patrick McGann, a big-R “Romantic” Doctor with long fluffy hair, wearing part of a Wild Bill Hickock costume and looking like a happier and less creepy version of Lord Byron. He seems a lot more psychic than usual (and the Master is psychic too). I am told that this is considered the good-looking doctor, although, having not seen ANY of the others but First, I like Eccleston.
  3. This Doctor, he tells us multiple times, is somehow half human on his mother’s side. Also he has two hearts. Those two things are the only things I originally remembered about Doctor Who from this TV movie.
  4. This Doctor kisses Grace several times during the course of the movie and seems pretty into it, which is fine, because the First Doctor was pretty into Cameca in “The Aztecs.” Both One and Eight are into chicks at least.
  5. At one point the Doctor needs to get somewhere and a cop is blocking him, and he doesn’t threaten the cop–he threatens himself. This Doctor would probably NOT murder someone with a shovel or a rock. He is more stealy than murdery, and does sleight of hand to steal things from people twice.
  6. This is the first regeneration we have ever seen, so is this normal. Is it normal to be kind of manic? Is it normal to lose your memory and just kind of wander around confused? Also does anyone cosplay naked Eight in a sheet? THEY SHOULD.
  7. Grace is the main Companion in this, and also the love interest. She’s smart, great in a crisis, and funny. I like her. She’s a heart surgeon who isn’t able to save Seven after he’s shot a bunch of times, partly because he has two hearts, so she gets lost (surgically) in his chest. Now, the thing is, she had an x-ray that did show the guy having two hearts, which is a thing that CAN actually happen. Bodies can be weird in a number of ways, you can even have situs inversus which means ALL YOUR ORGANS are flipped around. Extra organs are called Supernumerary organs, and extra spleens are so common they’re called “accessory spleens” and more than one in ten people have them. It’d be weird to have an extra heart but not UNHEARD OF.
  8. Chang Lee is an Asian teenager who’s avoiding being gunned down by a gang when he sees Seven get shot. He makes sure Seven gets to the hospital and goes along with him in the ambulance, so he’s not a massive jerk or anything, but the Master is able to trick him pretty easily into helping him, the Master. Is he the first person of color to be a Companion? or just the first Asian person? Does he count as a Companion? I like him, though, he’s a bit cynical but not hard.

THE GUEST STARS

  1. The main other character here is the Master, who is played by Eric Roberts. I don’t know where to start with this guy. Now keep in mind I don’t know anything else about the Master. I have never seen the Master in any other incarnation in any material apart from maybe photographs.
  2. The Master is very, VERY queer-coded and in fact seems incredibly gay for the Doctor, but not in a good way. He’s definitely the s***ty abusive ex here that does not understand how to take no for an answer. He eventually wears this amazing flamboyant set of red and black evil robes and puts the Doctor in this weird fetishy bondage gear torture device looking thing. He said no, dude, and even if he hadn’t like, you didn’t even discuss safewords.
  3. This movie starts out with the Doctor in a voiceover telling us that the Master has finally been executed for his crimes on Skaro, the Dalek homeworld, which… frankly makes no sense to me because the Daleks are not super friendly with the First Doctor, but whatever. Also Skaro is red now and last time I saw it it was a vivid jungle green. So this is interesting, because the Time Lords DEFINITELY have capital punishment. Is this why the Doctor is so murdery?
  4. The Master is in this weird restraint thing that’s a super version of Hannibal Lecter’s restraints, and then he gets zapped into ash and put into an urn so the Doctor can bring him back to Gallifrey. Then he turns into, and I am not exaggerating, snot. For the first part of this movie the Master is literally a slimeball, and someone steps in him when he’s a slime puddle, and eventually he becomes a snot snake, and then he steals the body of an ambulance attendant played by Eric Roberts and stays there for the rest of the movie.
  5. What the f*** IS the Master? The premise here is that he is out of lives and needs to steal the Doctor’s body to stay alive but during this movie he can slime people and burn them with burny slime, and his eyes glow green-yellow and he can possess someone and hypnotize people into doing what he wants them to do. The Doctor can’t do any of these things, are they even the same species?
  6. There are some other people but none who are particularly important. The morgue attendant is meant to be comic, but no one really cares. Also is it that weird for some dude to come out of a refrigerator? He doesn’t look at all like the guy the morgue attendant just put in there, wouldn’t he just assume someone snuck in there or was hiding there from before somehow?
  7. Also Grace has a boyfriend named Brian who leaves her after she has to go to work because she’s on call during a date. When he leaves he takes the sofa but NOT HIS SHOES, LIKE A CRAZY PERSON. Also there’s an eccentric scientist in charge of the atomic clock at the fancy event, and there’s a stoic unbending security guard there too.

THE SETTING

  1. The time tunnel looks great, and we also actually get to see it DURING the movie, not just in the credits.
  2. The Tardis interior looks FANTASTIC. It’s warm and homey and has kind of a steampunk look to it, with lots of dark wood and dark metal, and a cushy chair and a record player.
  3. The Tardis is CONFIRMED TO EAT PEOPLE. The Doctor says it literally has indigestion at the end after it has just eaten the Master. Also at one point the Doctor says “The Tardis is dying” and I was like “Yeah, you haven’t fed it for EIGHT LIFETIMES.”
  4. There’s a lot of confusing stuff in this episode. I don’t know what the Eye of Harmony is, I don’t know why the Doctor is half human and they even mention he can change his species upon regenerating? Is that why he’s half human? I don’t know really who the Master is, other than that he’s bad and is SUPER into the Doctor and wants his body, probably on multiple levels.
  5. And I don’t know whose Tardis this actually is but when the Doctor says it’s his I thought: The hell you say, sir, I believe it is NOT yours. Also the Tardis can resurrect dead people?

THE PRODUCTION

  1. Why didn’t this work? This obviously didn’t kickstart a new era of Doctor Who. I liked the movie when I saw it when it originally aired, and I think it holds up really well too. It’s well shot and at one point there are chickens. It seemed good so why didn’t it work?
  2. This wasn’t through the BBC and seems to have been an American thing, what’s with that?
  3. Did they have trouble getting Seven back? What did he think of it all?
  4. Why did they choose the companions they did?
  5. Was the Master meant to be that gay? has he always been gay or at least, into the Doctor, since their genders have both swapped now at least once.
  6. How much did this cost, what were the ratings?
  7. What was the fan response?

Sources Include

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