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05 August 2013 @ 06:04 pm
The Randomizer: Doctor Who, The Movie  
I lost my tame lay person at this point. He announced that he'd seen The Movie before and it wasn't good enough to justify rewatching.

It is extremely tempting to play compare and contrast with Doctor Who: The TV Movie and Rose since they are both attempts to kick-start a new series. I'm going to avoid doing that, I think, if only because others have done it better.

So instead I amused myself, watching this, in wondering what sort of a series you could actually have followed it up with. I'm not sure what Philip Segal's plans were, though I assume they are known. It is moderately obvious that he valued Doctor Who's detailed backstory and was eager to showcase it, so I assume the plan was to do more with the idea of a rich universe full of time lords, daleks and so on. However I was struck both by how reminiscent the first third of the movie is to a US hospital procedural, and by the fact that Grace and Chang, the proto-companions are left behind at the end. I ended up wondering if you could make Dr Who as a show set in San Franciso in which Grace, with her medical credentials, hospital position and links into the San Francisco scientific community, and Chang, embedded in the San Francisco underworld, call upon the Doctor when the strange or unusual appears. It made me think, a bit, of the now-being-remade 1980s Beauty and the Beast show: beyond the Tardis doors is a magical world, one we would probably now refer to as "steampunky" (this often emphasised by the lighting and set dressing), but outside them is a real world which has its own problems and sometimes the two blend and become inter-twined.

It was, of course, not to be.

Other things that struck me while watching were that Eric Roberts, as the Master, was mostly not that bad. When he dons the Time Lord robes he clearly decides the whole enterprise is too silly to bother with and descends into somewhat camp posturing, but I liked him both as the doomed paramedic and as the creepy Terminator-like replacement. The other thing was that Grace was rather awesome. She trouble-shoots her way through the mystery of the Doctor's second heart, remains cool when she's convinced she has a dangerous lunatic in her living room, jump starts the Tardis based on a hint about alarm clocks alone, and ultimately tells the Doctor that if he likes her company he can stay in San Francisco and be her companion.

But in the end I have to agree with its many critics, Doctor Who: The TV Movie is too slow to get going, too centred in Who lore to be particularly engaging, uneven in style, and ultimately a bit pointless and silly without being self-aware enough to enjoy the fact.

Oh, and before anyone asks, yes I am excited about last night's redacted because I've friends on Facebook who don't want to know casting news.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/103000.html.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on August 5th, 2013 08:01 pm (UTC)
My review (from 2008 - a 1996 review would be unprintable) is here: in short, a lot of it nearly works, which is deeply frustrating. Making the Doctor alternate between 'gibbering idiot' and 'babe-magnet' is now standard for the programme, however shocking it seemed at the time. Basically, while this seemed terrible in 1996, post-2005 it looks like a step in the right direction, combined with several steps backwards and a couple to the side.

I'm not sure what Philip Segal's plans were

Mostly insane, from what I recall (warning: I may be mixing some of this up with other mooted ideas for US co-production, but I think this is all from the infamous 'Leekley Bible' for a projected series). He wanted to do a lot of remakes/re-imaginings of original series stories. The Gunfighters (or similar) would perhaps be inevitable in a US production, but I'm not sure the world really needs a cut-down remake of Genesis of the Daleks with the Master added in. Nor does it need an arc about the Doctor's family - here the Doctor is motivated by his quest for his missing father (Ulysses!), the Master is his half-brother and the spirit of Cardinal Borusa (spelt Barusa, I think) possesses the TARDIS (or something). Apparently "Power up the crystals, Cardinal!" would have been the Doctor's catch-phrase on dematerialization. I really want someone to put it on a t-shirt, because it would be the most obscure in-joke ever.

I think you are right about Grace. Looking back at my review, I seem very impressed with Daphne Ashbrook, more so than Paul McGann or Eric Roberts. A lot of people picked up on parallels to Spearhead from Space; perhaps there was a deliberate attempt to set up a regular earthbound element to the format similar to UNIT or the Powell Estate in the first two Davies seasons. Of course, it could just be because ER was very popular at the time.

I think your friends on Facebook are going to be spoiled about You Know Who long before transmission (he was staring out of a lot of newspapers this morning), but good luck to them!
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on August 6th, 2013 07:49 pm (UTC)
I had a vague impression that the Leekley bible was a bit apocryphal. I'm very surprised Segal hasn't provided chapter and verse in a DWM interview at some point. The remakes sound like a very odd idea, though I don't think focusing an arc around the Doctor's family in some way would necessarily be a disaster.

I think my FB friends are out of luck as well, however, I suppose there is no virtue in being the one to do the evil deed.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on August 6th, 2013 10:08 pm (UTC)
Having had a quick look online and in About Time 6, it seems that the Leekley Bible was written at a much earlier stage of development and Matthew Jacobs threw a lot of it out for the TV Movie. I don't know what the idea behind the remakes was, except that Segal seemed to see this as a reboot for a new (US) audience, not a continuation of the 63-89 series, and perhaps he hoped he could make lightning strike twice. Mind you, people do occasionally write in to DWM asking why they can't remake lost sixties stories (someone did in the most recent issue, arguing that An Adventure in Time and Space could lead on to a remake of Marco Polo. I think this is fairly unlikely to happen or to succeed.)

I think Segal co-wrote a book on the TV Movie's production with Gary Russell some years ago (Regeneration? Something like that), including summaries of the Leekley Bible. The book was an expensive coffee-table-type book and I only flicked through briefly in the bookshop - I was a poor undergrad with a deep hatred for the TV Movie at the time! There was a throwaway comment in the latest DWM saying that the TV Movie team refused to be interviewed for a DVD special feature documentary, saying it was all too painful to recall, which may explain a lack of comment elsewhere. I think there may also have been a tendency for DWM to steer away from the TV Movie from 1997 or 1998 onwards under Gary Gillatt and Alan Barnes, whether as a reaction to the Movie's failure or as part of the side-lining of what new Who existed in the late nineties and focussing the magazine on the original run and on the fan experience in general. This may be wonky memory on my part, though.
louisedennislouisedennis on August 7th, 2013 01:52 pm (UTC)
I stopped getting DWM at some point during the 1990s (and missed most of Gillatt's run as a result). I suppose we may learn more about it all once more time has passed (e.g., as with the Trial of a Time Lord - though I do wonder how much of that is post facto justification and memory rewriting).
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on August 7th, 2013 03:48 pm (UTC)
Indeed. Although the fact that (I assume) most of the people who made the TV Movie live in the US away from DWM and that Doctor Who was a much smaller part of their careers than it was for, say JNT or Eric Saward, will mean that it will never get the attention that other eras get.

I admit there is a part of me impatient to see how contemporary Who is viewed twenty or thirty years down the line, including if we will ever really find out why Christopher Eccleston left.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on August 8th, 2013 01:32 pm (UTC)
Watching The Avengers last night, I was reminded that a number of Cathy Gale episodes were remade in part or whole in colour with Emma Peel (The Joker, the episode I was watching, was a remake of Don't Look Behind You), the decision being apparently motivated by the fact that the black and white videotaped episodes could not be sold to the USA, but they were buying the filmed colour episodes and it was worthwhile to reuse favourite scripts, although in one case a writer under contract to write one more episode who did not like the less realistic, more humorous direction the programme was taking simply redrafted an old script to fulfil his contract.

The remakes are often better, if only because of far-superior production values (the videotaped episodes of The Avengers, though not without charm, show just how fast-paced and technologically innovative Doctor Who in that period was while operating under similar constraints), although the scripts were sometimes improved too. But a whole series of remakes decades later seems odd, I agree.
reggietate: the doctorreggietate on August 6th, 2013 08:28 am (UTC)
I seem to remember enjoying it a fair bit (I liked McGann's Doctor) despite its obvious disappointments, but I think the best bit was the beginning with Sylvester McCoy.

Am also very pleased at the choice of the new Doctor, and I hope he stays in the part for a few years.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on August 6th, 2013 07:51 pm (UTC)
I think it opens well and then drags horribly through to the regeneration - which finally takes place something like 20 minutes in, Grace's subsequent scenes are good, but it again takes too long with her getting to know and trust the Doctor, then it spends too long being a chase scene.

It has lots of nice bits, but most of them slightly outstay their welcome.
kristen_mara: Hair!kristen_mara on August 6th, 2013 10:10 am (UTC)

This sets off a lot of memories...

* How I was glad that Sylvester McCoy agreed to do the bridging scenes - I remember in an interview how he said he didn't want it to be like when he had to pretend to be Colin Baker at the start of his first ep.

* How I loved, loved, loved hearing the Dr Who theme done by a full orchestra. I enjoyed the version of the theme from Tom Baker's last season/Peter Davison's era, but this treatment was fantastic, with the drums standing in for the 'nanna-na-nung's.

* My favourite console room, complete with fish pond, library, sculptures, tea area... I've got a Primeval/Dr Who/Hornblower crossover I've been working on for years, where I get to have fun with letting Nick and Stephen loose in that console room/TARDIS. Must look up more pics of it online...

* Grace was a great role and I remember wanting her purple velvet/whatever coat. Lovely colour and cut ;)

* I was five or so mins into watching the movie's premiere when the phone rang and a friend was up for a chat. She even said, "How's the movie going so far?" and I thought, "You know it's on and you're STILL calling me NOW??"

louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on August 6th, 2013 07:53 pm (UTC)
I don't think I saw it when broadcast, though I can't quite recall why. It has lots of good bits, of which the sets are definitely one!