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Calling The Doctor (1996)

1996-01-11 Daily Mail.jpg


LIKE millions of youngsters, Paul McGann crouched petrified behind the family sofa on Saturday evenings as Doctor Who battled to outwit a grisly array of alien invaders.

It wasn't so much the Daleks that scared him more than 30 years ago. He found the original Doctor, William Hartnell, every bit as frightening.

Peering through his fingers at the horrors flickering on his TV screen, McGann never dreamed he would grow up to play the much-loved Time Lord.

But yesterday he was preparing for his role as the Doctor in a BBC TV film based on the long-running series.

The star of The Monocled Mutineer beat Sting, Simon Callow and Alan Rickman to land the part.

He is following in the Tardis tracks of seven TV Doctor Whos - Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy - and Peter Cushing, who starred in two Sixties movies based on the series.

Shooting on the two-hour film, in which the 700-year-old time traveller is exiled from his own world with his granddaughter, will begin in Los Angeles in the next few weeks. If it is a hit, there are plans for a further six two-hour adventures.

'Taking on such a key role hasn't really sunk in yet,' said McGann, 36.

'It's just beginning to dawn on me what all this means.

'Sylvester McCoy is a friend so he's told me everything I need to know.

'I loved Dr Who as a kid. William Hartnell used to terrify me. My favourite villain was the Yeti but the Daleks never did it for me - they couldn't run upstairs.'

He pledged: 'This film will be loyal to the spirit of past series, but will find fresh appeal too.'

The £5million project is a joint production between BBC Worldwide - the Corporation's commercial arm - and Universal Television.

It will be produced in Canada and broadcast on BBC1 here and the Fox network in the U.S.

BBC1 Controller Alan Yentob said: 'We're delighted that Paul McGann is playing Doctor Who, and particularly pleased to be working in collaboration with Universal and Fox on such an exciting project.'

McGann's career to date has spanned theatre, TV and film.

He starred with his three brothers - Joe, Mark and Stephen - last spring in The Hanging Gale, a four-part costume drama on BBC1.

Less than a year earlier it was revealed that he was having an affair with Darling Buds of May actress Catherine Zeta Jones.

They broke up when the affair became public, with McGann claiming he didn't want anything to come between him and his wife, Annie. The couple have two children, Jake, four, and Joe, six.

Doctor Who was first screened in November 1963. But viewing figures slumped to four million and it was axed in 1989 amid claims that the format and budgets could not compete with multi-million-dollar Hollywood productions such as Star Trek.

Old Doctor Who episodes are still seen in 80 countries.

WILLIAM HARTNELL (1963-66): The first, and probably for that reason, the most revered Dr Who. Before that, he had been best known for playing abrasive NCOs in British wartime dramas and comedies. He mellowed as the time traveller, but always retained a touch of the irritable sergeant major around the Tardis. Hartnell died in 1975.

PATRICK TROUGHTON (1966-69): Like anyone inheriting a hit show, he was a distinctly relaxed Dr Who, bringing an impish touch to the part and exhibiting a fallible side to what up to then had been a slightly terrifying authority figure. He had a fondness for playing the recorder. Jamie, his long-term assistant, was played by Frazer Hines. Troughton died in 1988.

JON PERTWEE (1970-74): Transformed Dr Who into an altogether more flamboyant hero, full of style and swagger. Perhaps the first Dr Who adults could enjoy as much as children - not just idiosyncratic, but downright eccentric. He drove a vintage yellow roadster, Bessie, and the futuristic Whomobile and regularly used his sonic screwdriver.

TOM BAKER (1974-81): Tall, rather gentle and vague. Despite the fey charm, however, there was never any doubt that this Who was in charge. On the slightly amateurish sets, Baker injected an Alice in Wonderland quality which more than made up for technological inadequacies. Assistant Romana was played by Lalla Ward, who Baker later married and divorced.

PETER DAVISON (1982-84): The squeaky-clean Mr Normal among the timelords.

Closer in age and style to his youthful assistants, but with a blokeyness that was inclined to turn too swiftly to panic. He dressed with the air of a Victorian cricketer, complete with a double striped white jersey and an ever-present cricket ball in his coat pocket.

COLIN BAKER (1984-87): Dr Who in steep decline, the one in charge of the Tardis when the BBC ignored the weeping and wailing of a shrinking audience and dumped the series for a year back in 1985. In any popularity poll among Who fans, this garishly costumed Doctor would come a long way last. As a different character, in 1983 he 'shot' Peter Davison's Doctor.

SYLVESTER McCOY (1987-89): Dr Who as Comeback Kid, and perhaps the best actor among the lot of them. Inclined, however, to send up the part and give it a tongue-incheek touch of pantomime which enraged the purists. He had a sense of wonder and a nice line in irony - perhaps because his assistant was the inimitable Bonnie Langford.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Carroll, Helen (1996-01-11). Calling The Doctor. Daily Mail p. 19.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Carroll, Helen. "Calling The Doctor." Daily Mail [add city] 1996-01-11, 19. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Carroll, Helen. "Calling The Doctor." Daily Mail, edition, sec., 1996-01-11
  • Turabian: Carroll, Helen. "Calling The Doctor." Daily Mail, 1996-01-11, section, 19 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Calling The Doctor | url= | work=Daily Mail | pages=19 | date=1996-01-11 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 January 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Calling The Doctor | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 January 2019}}</ref>