Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Welcome back, Doctor, whoever you are

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1996-05-28 Times.jpg


C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas le Doctor Who. Actually, it was only fairly magnifique, but on a wet Whit Monday we weren't going to argue about that. For years, nay decades, people have wondered what Doctor Who (BBC1) would look like if it had some decent money spent on it. Now we knew — it looked different, very different.

This, of course, was the Doctor Who that the BBC was too mean to make. Despite the tireless clamour of its fans, despite the growing worldwide appetite for television in which things go bump in the fifth dimension, it was only the open cheque book of Universal Television that ensured the Doctor got an eighth regeneration at all. Inevitably, this new lease of life was secured at heavy cost. Last night's feature-length film was awfully, awfully American.

Now, this was not necessarily a bad thing. After 30-odd years of materialising in the same Surrey gravel pit, it was high time that the Doctor got to go somewhere interesting. San Francisco? Barring a slight worry that most of its inhabitants already had sonic screw-drivers, I had no problem with San Francisco.

But I did have a bit of a problem with what happened once the Tardis, still sounding like an asthmatic starter motor, materialised in one of those steam-filled back alleys, complete with chained and cliched wire gate at one end. I waited for a naked Arnold Schwarzenegger to tumble into it as he does in all the Terminator films. Instead a gang of American Asians pitched up and shot the Doctor's seventh regeneration, Sylvester McCoy. That, as they say, was just the start.

It quickly became clear, however, that the ambitions of the American producers and the hopes of British devotees were occupying different dimensions. What the Americans wanted was another New Adventures of Superman, where a naïve but kinda attractive superhero goes round thwarting evil with the help of a sophisticated and definitely attractive 1990s career woman. Grace Holloway's low-cut ball-gown may have been the most arresting outfit since Leela's little chamois number but her character was pure Lois Lane.

Whovians (if that is the right word) hoping for nostalgic echoes of the series' much trawled-over past were in for a disappointment. The Daleks got a passing mention for exterminating the Master (of course, they hadn't, he'd simply turned into a long, wriggly special effect) and that was about it. Instead, we were treated to a trawl of America's rather more recent cinematic past. Lots of Terminator, bit of Ghostbusters, a touch of Indiana Jones ... all good films, but they are not Doctor Who.

Paul McGann, once he had regenerated in the hospital morgue, definitely was. He already looks the part of the frock-coated eighth doctor and once he curbs a slight tendency to mumble he should sound it too. But perhaps his lips were still recovering from the after effects of the Doctor's first kiss.

If the series is to return, it will need stronger scripts than this simplistic offering, which struggled to fill 85 minutes and laboured somewhat in its search for wit. Although it was splendid to see the Earth being saved by a beautiful woman pushing two bits of wire together again, little of what went before made much sense.

Why had the Eye of Harmony not been opened for 700 years when any old human could do it? Why did its opening suddenly restore the Doctor's Memory (thankfully putting an end to awful "Who am I?" lines)? And why did it require an atomic clock to close it again? I'm not even sure that Who knows. Still, it was good to see the old Time Lord back and I hope we don't have to wait another seven years before his next outing.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Bond, Matthew (1996-05-28). Welcome back, Doctor, whoever you are. The Times .
  • MLA 7th ed.: Bond, Matthew. "Welcome back, Doctor, whoever you are." The Times [add city] 1996-05-28. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Bond, Matthew. "Welcome back, Doctor, whoever you are." The Times, edition, sec., 1996-05-28
  • Turabian: Bond, Matthew. "Welcome back, Doctor, whoever you are." The Times, 1996-05-28, section, edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Welcome back, Doctor, whoever you are | url=,_Doctor,_whoever_you_are | work=The Times | pages= | date=1996-05-28 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 July 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Welcome back, Doctor, whoever you are | url=,_Doctor,_whoever_you_are | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 July 2024}}</ref>