Seven years after Sylvester McCoy’s last story, Survival, a weird co-production involving Fox television and the BBC, introduced Paul McGann as the Doctor when McCoy regenerated into him after being shot in San Francisco (actually Vancouver), at the end of the 20th century.
The story is deeply flawed, conflicts with canon in a number of ways including how The Master (Eric Roberts) undergoes his regeneration (perhaps he’d found a way to instil his essence in to some alien, snake-like goo or something… I dunno and the glowing green eyes… who knows) and the claim by the Doctor that he’s half human on his mother’s side.
That one, I prefer to fall back on a line that has been proven right time and again these last few years: The Doctor lies. Perhaps he loves Mother Earth so much, and has protected it for so long, that he feels half-human. A turn of phrase, nothing more.
With an airdate of 14 May, 1996, writer Matthew Jacobs updated the look of both the TARDIS (including moving the Eye of Harmony, a Gallifreyan artifact into the beloved ship) and the Doctor, giving both a bit of a Victorian steampunk feel.
McGann got the short end of the stick here.
He would have been a wonderful Doctor.
Unfortunately those who were producing it, and controlling the financials all had their fingers in the creative process and turned it into a muddled mess.
Sure there are nods to the series past, but the story itself… oh dear.
The Doctor has a rough time with his regeneration, forgetting who he is, but begins to recall some of it. And once things start to get underway, McGann has a lot of fun.
Daphne Ashbrook finds herself in the Companion role of Dr. Grace Holloway, and in a new twist, something that would reappear in later series, a potential love interest for the Time Lord.
The pair run into trouble with Chang Lee (Yee Jee Tso) who comes across the TARDIS key, and gets pulled into the adventure on The Master’s side.
As the party of the century gets underway, The Doctor must confront his age old nemesis again, and do his best to save the Earth.
The story suffers most from the fact that it is way too Americanised, in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience it let go of a number of things that made it uniquely British, and so enjoyable in the first place. There are some fun, eccentric moments, but they are pushed aside to appeal to a wider, North American audience.
There were glimmers of possibility and wonder here, but we’d have to wait almost another decade before the Doctor truly returned.