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Creator / Paul McGann

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"I'm not a sci-fi lover; I wasn't from the start. So perhaps I miss that passion for other worlds, other dimensions, that sort of scope and that magnitude of storytelling; that's not my thing though I meet plenty of people whose thing it definitely is."

Paul John McGann (born 14 November 1959 in Liverpool, England) is an English actor who made his name on the BBC serial The Monocled Mutineer, in which he played the lead role. He's also known for his role in Withnail and I, playing Bush in Horatio Hornblower, and for portraying the Eighth Doctor in the 1996 Doctor Who television movie and subsequent Big Finish Doctor Who audio plays, along with a brief appearance in the revived series.

Despite his extremely brief on-screen tenure in Doctor Who, his Doctor is well-loved due to his being a connecting thread during Who's cancellation years; his comic series and audio adventures have quite a large fandom. Starting in 2008, he stopped being a regular in the monthly episodes and started starring in his own separate Big Finish Doctor Who series The New Eighth Doctor Adventures. McGann finally got to canonically connect the dots between his Eighth Doctor and Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor via John Hurt's War Doctor seventeen years later in the minisode The Night of the Doctor.

In 2022, he again reprised his role as the Eighth Doctor in the BBC Centenary Special "The Power of the Doctor".

His three brothers Stephen, Mark and Joe are also actors. Stephen is probably the best known, playing Dr. Turner on Call the Midwife. All four starred together as brothers in The Hanging Gale.

Tweets as @pauljmcgann.


Tropes associated with this actor's works include:

  • Cozy Voice for Catastrophes: His deep, soothing voice has led him to narrate documentaries on uncomfortable and/or frightening subjects. (Counting multiple-episode documentaries, he's narrated nearly a hundred.)
  • Evil Is Hammy: Whenever he plays a villain. A good example is the Doctor's evil Split Personality Zagreus from the Big Finish story of the same name.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Almost every movie he's in casts him as a lust object.
    • The Rainbow pushed the trope to its natural limit by having him frolick naked through the woods.
    • Withnail and I could easily just have been called "Paul McGann Is Almost Naked A Lot".
    • He spends his first ten minutes as the Eighth Doctor wearing nothing but a sheet.
    • Lampshaded a bit in a Big Finish episode where, despite it being a sound-only medium, he still manages to lose his shirt. Twice.
    • Horatio Hornblower: He's not the only one Mr Fanservice is this series, but his Mr Bush tends to get wet a lot and has some glorious Shirtless Scenes.
    • He appeared in the Doctor Who after-credits behind the scenes feature to wish the show a happy fiftieth birthday... Which he then followed up with a kiss while looking seductively at the screen. Woof.
  • Older Than They Look: Time has been very kind to him between the Doctor Who movie (mid-30s) and the present (late 50s). This allowed him to play the Doctor on screen 17 years after his first outing without much problem.
  • Old Shame:invoked A mild one, but don't bring up the wig he wore for his role as the Eighth Doctor for the TV movie, he hated wearing that wig. One of the reasons he got cast was the producers like his naturally curly mop top which he had for his roles in Withnail and I and The Hanging Gale (which according to Paul his role as Father Liam helped get him the part of the Doctor). Unfortunately he had to cut it for another role, so when he arrived in Vancouver to begin filming the makeup people hastily produced a wig to match his old look. When he was asked to return as the Eighth Doctor for The Night of the Doctor, reportedly his only condition was that he didn't want to have to wear the wig again.
  • The Other Marty: He was cast as the title character in Sharpe, but was forced to drop out mere days into filming, following a knee injury. He was replaced by Sean Bean in his Star-Making Role.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: No matter what he's in, it's almost a guarantee his blue eyes will get at least one close-up.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • He was the second choice for the role of James Bond in GoldenEye before the casting of Pierce Brosnan.
    • He was the first choice for the title character of the Sharpe TV series, but a broken leg meant the role went to Sean Bean.
    • He was considered to return as the Eighth Doctor when Doctor Who was revived again as a series in 2005. But producer Russell T. Davies ultimately decided to start with a new Doctor instead. There were then brief talks of having McGann shoot a regeneration scene to start the first episode, but Davies worried it would be too confusing for newcomers.