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Clever 'Dr. Who' has not lost his touch

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Fans of Dr. Who know that he has 13 lives, but I'm sure he has many more. As long as the character continues to draw audiences, he will emerge in a new incarnation.

The latest Dr. Who, the renegade Time Lord, returns to WALA-10 (Fox) at 7 p.m. today in a pilot for another series of expeditions. As played by British actor Paul McGann, he's still in remarkably good shape and shows no signs of age, though he has had dinner with the likes of Julius Caesar and Leonardo da Vinci.

"Dr. Who" is the clever science-fiction series produced by the BBC that had a long run on many PBS stations in the United States. You may remember the good doctor traveling in a time machine called TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space). The exterior is nothing more than a British police call box, but inside it resembles a large study/laboratory in a classic science-fiction or horror film or the interior of an H.G. Wells spaceship. As this new TV movie opens, the Doctor is reading Wells' "The Time Machine." (Could he have told Wells a thing or two!)

All of this is part of the charm of "Dr. Who," which became something of a cult favorite here as well as in Britain. It did not overwhelm the viewer with fancy gadgetry. Indeed, it used what looked like old objects to suggest the very latest in technology, with the disparity in appearance and function drawing smiles. Viewers could look at the call box and say "No way!" and in the process never forget the contraption.

While Time Lords are supposed to refrain from intervention in human affairs they are pure scientists, completely objective observers Dr. Who, being very human, cannot stand by while the planet is destroyed by the evil Master (Eric Roberts). (Both Dr. Who and the Master have regenerative capabilities, which come in handy for a TV series. Dr. Who can be conveniently recycled.)

As the movie begins, Dr. Who has just landed in San Francisco two days before humanity moves into the 21st century. He is wounded in a gang shootout and ends up on the operating table.

In a wonderful scene, cardiac surgeon Dr. Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook), looking spectacular in a green gown, literally runs into the emergency room from the opera and immediately suits up. Never having treated a Time Lord before, she does all the wrong things. The anesthesia almost destroys the doctor's powers of regeneration. When his two hearts appear on the screen, everyone is convinced it's a double exposure, and the procedure does him in, or so everyone thinks. It's quite a shock to the man in the morgue when Dr. Who emerges and tries to ask questions.

He has once again triumphed over death, but he has a severe case of amnesia.

Grace, of course, becomes his new "partner," even though at first she understandably thinks he or later she is crazy. It's not easy watching someone walk through a sliding glass door. But like a good Dr. Who sidekick, she comes to his defense, and the two rush to stop the Master. All of Dr. Who's sidekicks have to be track stars.

McGann as the Doctor and Ms. Ashbrook as the other doctor make for a winning "Romancing the Stone"-like couple, and writer Matthew Jacobs gives Grace some wonderful lines. When she finds herself falling under the doctor's spell, she observes wryly, "Great, I finally meet the right guy and he's from another planet." And when she enters the chamber of the time capsule, she says with genuine surprise, "This looks pretty low tech."

Though Dr. Who as a Time Lord is supposed to be celibate, he cannot resist Grace's beauty and intelligence. They kiss several times. Eric Roberts, who has a host of feature films to his credit, has a grand time as the Master and camps it up when he makes his entrance toward the end in a large cape with an upturned collar. "I always dress for the occasion," he tells our heroes.

This "Doctor Who," produced in Canada and distributed by the BBC, is a welcome addition to the series that, like its title character, refuses to die.

Macho scientists

The elegant Dr. Who and certainly the team of tornado chasers in the new movie "Twister" are determined to prove, in the Harrison Ford tradition, that scientists are not nerds buried in books. Out with "The Absent-Minded Professor," in with Superscholar. Is this movieland's way of responding to our educational crisis? Grace and Dr. Who are both scientists, extremely attractive, and they can out-chase the best of them. Dr. Who doesn't hesitate to hop on a motorcycle and weave through expressway traffic.

Jo and Bill (Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton), the two tornado researchers in "Twister," up the ante. Dr. Who is, after all, refined the epitome of the British gentleman.

In contrast, Bill, in his blue jeans, is an athletic, cowboy-type scholar who drives his pickup over merciless terrain and charges into funnel clouds. Ms. Hunt of "Mad About You" fame reveals such a great body in her form-fitting clothes (she even looks smashing splattered in mud) that you know she will have another career if her research grants run dry.

When the Twister Team visits Jo's Aunt Meg in the Oklahoma countryside, she cooks up a big dinner for these "fellars" enormous steaks and perfectly fried eggs. No prissy vegetarian, low cholesterol dinners for these brains! These are scientists at home on the range. In fact, Melissa (Jami Gertz), Bill's fiancee and a reproductive therapist, is the only wimp in the bunch. She looks repulsed at the food on her plate, drawing amused glances from the rest of the crowd. Of course, we knew from the outset that Melissa couldn't keep up with Jo and the boys.

"Twister" also gives new meaning to the word "crisis counseling." Melissa is forever receiving calls at the wrong time from her clients on her cellular phone. In one case, as they dash toward an especially threatening funnel cloud, Melissa tells a persistent client, "This is just not a good time, Donald."

While Melissa is quaking in her seat, Jo and Bill lead the charge. The message? Counselors are wimps (Jo teases Bill about being in therapy, which he, offended, denies); raw, hard scientists have guts as well as brains.

"Twister" and "Dr. Who" are setting new requirements for the Nobel Prize.

Fox photo Paul McGann stars as The Doctor, a renegade time traveler, in "Doctor Who," airing at 7 tonight on Fox.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Connelly, David (1996-05-14). Clever 'Dr. Who' has not lost his touch. Mobile Register p. D1.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Connelly, David. "Clever 'Dr. Who' has not lost his touch." Mobile Register [add city] 1996-05-14, D1. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Connelly, David. "Clever 'Dr. Who' has not lost his touch." Mobile Register, edition, sec., 1996-05-14
  • Turabian: Connelly, David. "Clever 'Dr. Who' has not lost his touch." Mobile Register, 1996-05-14, section, D1 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Clever 'Dr. Who' has not lost his touch | url= | work=Mobile Register | pages=D1 | date=1996-05-14 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 July 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Clever 'Dr. Who' has not lost his touch | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 July 2024}}</ref>