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Will Fox's 'Doctor Who' Woo Fans?

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If, like this viewer, you have never been exposed to "Doctor Who," a science-fiction series from Britain, then tonight's TV movie of the same name may not be the treat that Fox is hoping it is.

Then again, even if you are a follower, you might be less than enchanted.

"Doctor Who" is:

  • A Time Lord who travels through time and universes in a craft that looks like a phone booth, is really modeled after the old blue boxes used by police in London, and which houses a surprising number of well-appointed rooms.
  • TV's longest-running science fiction series, airing for 26 years on the BBC starting in 1963 -- which was three years before "Star Trek" premiered on NBC. It also aired on selected PBS stations and on cable TV's Sci-Fi Channel.
  • A character who has been played by seven previous actors.
  • A series known for its low budget.

In its "Doctor Who," airing at 8 tonight on Channel 35, Fox increases the budget and ups the number of actors who have played the good doctor to eight, casting Paul McGann in the lead.

McGann, a pixieish actor whose credits include "Alien3" and "Withnail and I," makes a likable, energetic doctor. But he is lost in a plot line that stops being interesting as soon as it begins to make sense.

You see, there's this other Time Lord, known as The Master, who's at the end of his allotted 13 lives. He has a plan to inhabit Doctor Who's body, since the doctor has several Tlives left. But first, The Master takes over the body of Eric Roberts (not my first choice) to do his evil work.

Doctor Who must stop him with the help of Daphne Ashbrook as the ditsiest surgeon this side of "Chicago Hope."

Complicating things, as if they could get more complicated, is the fact that it's Dec. 31, 1999. For reasons that might make more sense to Whovians, if The Master is successful with his plan, the planet Earth will be destroyed.

Unlike the various "Star Treks" on American TV, "Doctor Who" is asci-fi series whose interest in fiction far exceeds its interest in science.

Techies would scoff at the doctor's low-tech energy system -- something that looks like a giant eye set in the floor. Digital and computerized are not formats that exist in the doctor's universe.

The movie, which is a pilot for a possible new "Doctor Who" series, does other things better. For instance, fans of the original get to see Sylvester McCoy, the BBC's most recent Doctor Who, in early scenes before the character transforms into McGann as the new doctor.

Another nice touch is having a "Frankenstein" movie play on a TV set in one room while McGann comes to life as Doctor Who in another. The monster's hand twitches; so does McGann's. The monster's appearance makes someone scream; so does McGann's.

Prophetically, "Dr. Who" is set in the same period as that mega sci-fi bomb from last year, "Strange Days," starring Ralph Fiennes and featuring vertigo-inducing editing.

If there's a lesson to be learned from either, it would be to beware of end-of-the-millennium movies.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Durden, Douglas (1996-05-14). Will Fox's 'Doctor Who' Woo Fans?. Richmond Times-Dispatch p. D-1.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Durden, Douglas. "Will Fox's 'Doctor Who' Woo Fans?." Richmond Times-Dispatch [add city] 1996-05-14, D-1. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Durden, Douglas. "Will Fox's 'Doctor Who' Woo Fans?." Richmond Times-Dispatch, edition, sec., 1996-05-14
  • Turabian: Durden, Douglas. "Will Fox's 'Doctor Who' Woo Fans?." Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1996-05-14, section, D-1 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Will Fox's 'Doctor Who' Woo Fans? | url= | work=Richmond Times-Dispatch | pages=D-1 | date=1996-05-14 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 July 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Will Fox's 'Doctor Who' Woo Fans? | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 July 2024}}</ref>