Category: Paul McGann

moonbase01For my most recent reviews of Doctor Who Classic at The A.V. Club, please visit Click on season numbers to browse individual episodes.

To see the reviews in publication order, it’s easiest to start at my staff page at The newest material is at the top of the list.

TV Club: Doctor Who, “The Television Movie”

“Doctor Who: The Television Movie” (Originally aired May 27, 1996)

The lone official appearance of the Eighth incarnation of the Doctor marks an odd, outlying moment in the history of Doctor Who, a brief reappearance during a nearly unbroken 15-year void between the 1989 cancellation of the original series and the 2005 revival. The TV movie, broadcast on Fox in 1996, was meant to be a pilot that could kick off a new series of its own, jointly produced by the BBC and the American studio Universal. The fact that it didn’t do so is simply explained: It’s terrible. DW:TVM is deeply flawed, incomprehensible to first-time viewers, infuriating and incomprehensible to longtime fans, and basically off-putting to anyone who just who likes a good story well told. It is formulaic and fatally wrecked by a script that becomes more and more incoherent as it goes along, not to mention a wretchedly over-the-top performance by Eric Roberts as a snake-eyed version of the Master, the Doctor’s longtime Time Lord nemesis.

Having said that, it’s also a key transition, crucial to the development of Doctor Who into what we know it as today. It did much to rescue the series from the doldrums of the 1980s, and anticipated or innovated much of the approach that the 2005 revival would take. Though it tanked in the ratings (partly because it aired opposite the series finale of Roseanne), I think it helped spark the idea that the continuation of Doctor Who was worth pursuing, even if this version wasn’t. Russell T. Davies’ 2005 revival, especially the debut episode “Rose,” would fix many of the mistakes made here, and get a relaunch off the ground the right way.

Originally published July 24, 2011 on Read the complete article.

Primer: Doctor Who

Primer is The A.V. Club’s ongoing series of beginners’ guides to pop culture’s most notable subjects: filmmakers, music styles, literary genres, and whatever else interests us—and hopefully you. This week: The rise and fall and rise again of Britain’s venerable science-fiction series Doctor Who.

Doctor Who 101

An icon of modern British culture and the longest-running science-fiction TV show in history, Doctor Who has never been more popular than it is today, thanks to producer Russell T. Davies, whose revitalization of the series returns this month under the aegis of new producer Steven Moffatt. Matt Smith, taking over the title role from David Tennant, will become the 11th actor to officially play the time-traveling wanderer.

The original series ran for 26 seasons, each consisting of several feature-length serials broken into half-hour episodes with cliffhanger endings. No matter who’s playing the lead, the basic premise has been essentially the same since the show’s debut: A mysterious, eccentric alien known only as The Doctor (not “Doctor Who,” in spite of the title) travels through time and space having adventures and fighting evil. He’s usually accompanied by one or two humans picked up along the way. They journey with him in a time machine called a TARDIS, which looks like a blue phone booth. If grievously wounded (especially by that fatal condition “actor-quits-itis”), he can regenerate his entire body, gaining a new face, a new personality, and a new name at the top of the cast list in the credits. This has also given the show an easy way to make more sweeping stylistic changes to evolve with changing times, and a way to correct elements after they go stale or otherwise become unworkable. In fact, it’s become expected that a regeneration of The Doctor will also regenerate the whole show. (Fans generally know each Doctor by the order in which they were introduced, so William Hartnell, who originated the role, is the First Doctor, and newcomer Matt Smith is the Eleventh.)

Originally published on April 8, 2010. Read the complete article.

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