20 years ago, The Doctor returned…briefly. After an almost eight year hiatus and several failed attempts, the BBC finally freed our favourite Time Lord from cinematic purgatory on May 27th, 1996 with the hugely anticipated TV event simply titled: Doctor Who.
Starring Paul McGann and Eric Roberts, the 2 hour special was conceived as a “backdoor pilot” for a planned full series of new episodes to air on BBC and FOX (who co-produced the movie) but to the chagrin of Whovians everywhere, disappointing ratings and budget overruns ultimately consigned the show to one-off status.
Two decades on, and opinion among Who fandom remains divided on the short series; some praised McGann’s charismatic take on the Doctor and the beautifully designed new TARDIS, while others bemoaned it’s simple plot and the “Americanization” of the show. And we won’t even get into the whole “half human” debate.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 8th Doctor’s birth, 5for5 has put together a few fun facts about the TV Movie you might not have known…
- Paul McGann wasn’t the first choice; FOX wanted either Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey or Harrison Ford to star while the BBC pushed for Tim Curry or Monty Python alumni Eric Idle. At one point Tom Baker was even considered to reprise the role, as he was the most recoginizable to U.S. audiences. McGann was one of at least 15 actors who were approached to audition, including both Christopher Eccelston and Peter Capaldi.
- In the morgue scene, the attendant (played by Canadian comedic actor Will Sasso) is watching the 1931 version of Frankenstein. An android version of the monster appeared in the 1964 serial The Chase, which coincidentally took place in 1996.
- The hospital set was the same one used in many X-Files episodes.
- Director Geoffrey Sax provided the voice for the Daleks that can be faintly heard in the background during Paul McGann’s opening narration. American voice actors had originally been hired for the part but they had no idea that the Daleks were meant to be menacing and mechanical sounding, so their reads were useless and had to be replaced.
- Aired first in Canada on May 12th, then two days later in the U.S. The BBC didn’t air it until May 27th, as part of the agreement with FOX stipulated that the show be released on VHS in North America before being screened in the UK. The British version was an edited version that omitted more of the violent scenes.
- Steven Spielberg was originally involved early in the production through his Amblin Televison company. He pulled his support when some of the early scripts (featuring the Doctor battling Nazis to find an ancient treasure) too closely resembled his Indiana Jones films.
- Christopher Lloyd was originally attached to star as The Master. Also considered for the role were Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray and Judd Nelson. The character of Borusa was also set to appear at one point, when the plot was to focus on a younger Doctor seeking out his lost Father while battling his long lost brother (The Master)