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A Time Lord's place is in the past

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1996-05-28 Telegraph.jpg


HE had travelled through the seven ages of television exploitation, his Tardis always too quick for the tardy monsters pursuing him. He had built a youthful following through the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton incarnations of the Sixties, achieved a Seventies zenith with the 14.5 million who watched Tom Baker confront the City of Death, and declined to creaky old age through the Eighties. After his 695th episode in late 1989, to the orchestrated wailing of his still considerable fan club, he was pronounced dead. He had served, and he deserved to be left to rest in peace.

It is a measure of the desperate television times in which we now live that Doctor Who (BBC1) was last night summoned from beyond the grave and asked to achieve the impossible. He was to be shiningly packaged for the Nineties while retaining the old-fashioned quaintness of his trade mark. He must be enveloped in the latest Hollywood hi-tech special effects while being true to his style of magical offbeat sci-fi. He had to be accessible to a mass American audience, previously unaware of his existence, while not offending the sensibilities of British fans ready to spot any detail out of place.

The resulting feature-length pilot movie was understandably very dark. It was as if director Geoffrey Sax, realising that the Time Lord was bound to fall somewhere between so many stools, had decided to make a virtue of inevitability and turn his film into a representation of a star being sucked into a black hole. The star Paul McGann, the eighth incarnation of Dr Who, had little to say in the Matthew Jacobs screenplay. He needed all his breath for the whirling action and any gasped snatches of dialogue were likely to be drowned in the relentless soundtrack. The other-wordly McGann face looked right, his antique costume looked pretty, but this was no time to be caught acting.

No sooner was he seen to have replaced the seventh incarnation (Sylvester McCoy), than the new Doctor was flung into battle against The Master (Eric Roberts). "Who am I?" he asked plaintively. Before answering himself, in the next fleeting soundtrack diminuendo, "I know who I am, I'm the Doctor." Though he travelled in a Type 42 Tardis, it was still disguised as a blue police box, now extinct even in Britain, a counter-productive device in 1999 San Francisco.

The Master was keen to mark the arrival of the new millennium by dragging the planet through the Eye of Harmony and turning it inside out. Could The Doctor and his energetic heart surgeon ally, Dr Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook), stop this destructive event with necessary alterations to an atomic clock? Of course they could, though they naturally left the rescue to the breathless last seconds before midnight on New Year's Eve. His reward, Dr Grace giving him his first human kiss in 33 years, aroused him rather less.

I belong to the philistine minority which has always found Dr Who a bore. In the field of hi-tech fantasy I prefer the more amusingly preposterous knockabout of Bugs (BBC1, Saturday). There is no disguising the absurdity of their miraculous ability to press the right buttons, overcome every technological puzzle, stay just ahead of the explosions in their wake and escape with one bound from every peril. Yet Ed (Craig McLachlan), Ros (Jaye Griffiths) and Beckett (Jessie Birdsall) somehow remain human scale and well-spoken baddie Jean Daniel (Gareth Marks) is a good class of villain. The Stephen Gallagher screenplay Schrodinger's Bomb had a typical plot. A Middle-Eastern despot, seemingly unwilling to trust his aides with his dirty work, endeavoured to buy massively destructive weapons with the profits from treasures recovered from tombs in his country. The strength was in the story's coating of understated wit. I specially liked the idea of the dastardly Daniel outbidding two other criminal syndicates in a takeover battle for the prison in which he was held. A nice comment on the logical conclusion of privatisation.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Day-Lewis, Seán (1996-05-28). A Time Lord's place is in the past. The Daily Telegraph .
  • MLA 7th ed.: Day-Lewis, Seán. "A Time Lord's place is in the past." The Daily Telegraph [add city] 1996-05-28. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Day-Lewis, Seán. "A Time Lord's place is in the past." The Daily Telegraph, edition, sec., 1996-05-28
  • Turabian: Day-Lewis, Seán. "A Time Lord's place is in the past." The Daily Telegraph, 1996-05-28, section, edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=A Time Lord's place is in the past | url= | work=The Daily Telegraph | pages= | date=1996-05-28 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=15 July 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=A Time Lord's place is in the past | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=15 July 2024}}</ref>