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Britain's 'Doctor Who' is revived in Fox TV movie

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To legions of devotees, it's an inconceivable question, but many people still are likely to ask it this week: "Who is Doctor Who?"

Those who don't know can find out at 7 p.m. Tuesday (WFTC-TV, Ch. 29), as Fox broadcasts a new TV-movie version of the classic British science-fiction series that aired in its home country from 1963 to 1989, and also had a healthy life in America via a syndicated run on many PBS affiliates.

Paul McGann becomes the latest of eight actors to assume the role of the so-called Time Lord — with Sylvester McCoy, the previous one, turning up in an opening cameo to "regenerate" the Doctor into his new appearance. In the movie, the time-traveling character and his TARDIS vehicle, which resembles a London phone booth, become stuck in San Francisco on the eve of the millennium.

There, he pursues his enemy the Master (Eric Roberts), with the help of a heart surgeon (Daphne Ashbrook) who unwittingly "killed" Doctor Who while believing she was saving his life, not realizing at the time that he possesses two hearts. Since Time Lords have 12 lives, four remain for the Doctor ... a fact that both Fox and England's BBC (which cc produced the film) are counting on rather heavily, since at press time, a new "Doctor Who" series was being considered as a possibility for next season.

"The Doctor, over the years, has become an incredibly special character," said coexecutive producer Philip Segal, who also had a major hand in "seaQuest DSV's" launching. "He's classic in every sense of the word, and in some ways, he's a little bit of an antihero. Unless you have the right sense of humor and danger and sense of whimsy, it's very difficult to play, because it shifts tonally. If you cross that center line that makes it believable, [the character] becomes almost psychotic and silly."

In regard to the selection of McGann to become the latest Doctor, Jo Wright — the executive producer for the BBC on the project — said the casting of that role "is very important to the people of England, because they've gone through seven [others in the part] before this one. It had to be a very good actor, because he has to play someone who is a time-traveler and takes that seriously. It's not camped up; he actually believes in it, and always, the best science fiction is [created when] the person who plays it believes in the show."

Since "Doctor Who" has the same sort of faithful and passionate fans as do "Star Trek" and "The X-Files," the trick in reviving it is to acknowledge those who know the saga thoroughly, yet make it accessible to newcomers. Segal vows that those who already are loyal followers will "enjoy the incredible adventure. If you've never seen the show, there is a wonderful love story [between the Doctor and the Ashbrook character] that in some ways has the warmth and the fun of the 'Romancing the Stone' relationship."

Segal knows firsthand the dedication of "Doctor Who" fans, since many of them attend annual Appreciation Society gatherings that celebrate the series. Those events can be likened to "Star Trek" conventions or even "Rocky Horror Picture Show" screenings. "They dress up," he reported. "They really care, and I think what we mustn't forget is that they have kept [the show] alive. There are little pieces of the mythology that are very special to every person, and I think that's terrific."

Meanwhile, Wright also credits those Britons who might not be as fervent about "Doctor Who," but still have respected and enjoyed the program. As a result, she said, "Everybody's fascinated" about the revival.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Bobbin, Jay (1996-05-12). Britain's 'Doctor Who' is revived in Fox TV movie. Minneapolis Star Tribune p. TV Week, p. 25.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Bobbin, Jay. "Britain's 'Doctor Who' is revived in Fox TV movie." Minneapolis Star Tribune [add city] 1996-05-12, TV Week, p. 25. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Bobbin, Jay. "Britain's 'Doctor Who' is revived in Fox TV movie." Minneapolis Star Tribune, edition, sec., 1996-05-12
  • Turabian: Bobbin, Jay. "Britain's 'Doctor Who' is revived in Fox TV movie." Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1996-05-12, section, TV Week, p. 25 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Britain's 'Doctor Who' is revived in Fox TV movie | url= | work=Minneapolis Star Tribune | pages=TV Week, p. 25 | date=1996-05-12 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=25 September 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Britain's 'Doctor Who' is revived in Fox TV movie | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=25 September 2023}}</ref>
  • Title: Doctor Who returns in FOX version of British series
  • Publication: The Billings Gazette
  • Date: 1996-05-11

  • Title: Classic 'Doctor Who' to return as Fox Movie
  • Publication: The Post-Star
  • Date: 1996-05-09