The Doctor: These shoes! (stomps the ground happily) They fit perfectly!
The One With… the perfectly-fitting shoes.
In 1996, seven years after its cancellation, there was a near-Herculean effort to return Doctor Who to the small screen. The lone fruit was a Backdoor Pilot TV special on Fox that sadly never got developed into a series. The finished product was notably very different from the original script, but we'll explain more about that later.
Despite being made in Canada and set in San Francisco, it's remarkable how true to the old series this movie was, and how much of a precursor it wound up being for the new series as well.note
Written by Matthew Jacobs. This movie first aired May 27, 1996 (May 14 in the United States).
As we open, the Master has apparently escaped the cheetah planet, only to be EX-TER-MIN-AT-ED by the Daleks (who now sound like cyborg chipmunks) for no stated reason. (Then again, it's the Daleks. Did they really need a reason? Maybe the Master slipped them helium, hence the execution?). The Seventh Doctor, a lot more wiser, and more weary since we last saw him on screen, is charged with bringing his ashes back (yes, ashes; maybe the Daleks decided he wasn't worth the usual level of agony they use with their guns) from Skaro. This is in spite of the planet being reduced to ashes previously (the planet is still not-destroyed to this day; again though, do we need a reason when Daleks are involved?). He's supposed to take them to Gallifrey for, well, maybe a really dignified and tasteful ashes-scattering ceremony over the seas of Rassilon or something. The Doctor has also not only shed his question mark pullover but Ace as well, though that’s a story for another time.
Before the Master's ashes can be returned, though, they turn into a semi-intelligent blob of amorphous goo. This blobby thing escapes from the little casket, wreaks havoc with the TARDIS controls, and, most heinously, throws the Doctor's record player out of whack! The TARDIS (which has updated its "desktop theme" beautifully at some point after the cheetah planet), the Doctor, and the blob who was the Master crash-land in San Francisco, on New Year's Eve 1999. Unfortunately, they've landed in the middle of a Chinese gang war. Half a second after the Doctor sets foot outside the TARDIS, he's hit by two stray bullets from the shootout. How the most meticulously calculative incarnation of the Doctor ended up falling victim to such a simple blunder is beyond us given that that Doctor can view the outside environment from within the TARDIS, but hey, maybe he was just in that much of a rush.
One of the gang members, Chang Lee, is nice enough to call an ambulance. The ambulance arrives, with EMT Bruce. Bruce, Chang Lee, and "John Smith" are whisked away to the hospital, where the Doctor's physiology is sufficiently different from the human norm to cause a few raised eyebrows. Trauma surgeon Dr. Grace Holloway is called in (from a performance of Madame Butterfly, where she was weeping tenderly, while on call) to check out why the man seems to have a double-speed heart beat. And to see why every scan keeps showing two hearts. As such, cue the Irony: the Seventh Doctor, the master manipulator, is now failing at the task of manipulating the continuance of his own life. He grows panicky, desperate to warn these surgeons not to operate on him; they are now assuming he is a human, having never seen an alien at all, and since he looks human, the difference doesn't register. He fights the anesthetic two times to beg them not to take a peek inside him, but his pleas are written off as sedative-induced irrationality. He's put under each time. Even though the bullet wound is Only a Flesh Wound and pretty much harmless, Grace inadvertently does more harm than good when she starts poking inside the Doctor's arteries. The surgery takes a turn for the worse when Grace gets a probe stuck in the Doctor's unfamiliar physiology and it snaps off inside his body. Seven wakes up from the shock a third and final time. But he's not got any words left in him. Just a huge scream. The painful last gasp of the seventh incarnation of our Time Lord protagonist drowns out the sound of the music and the Doctor flatlines on the operating table. From exploratory surgery. Congratulations, Grace! You're the first (and surprisingly not the last) companion to successfully kill the Doctor! The Daleks could take lessons from this woman!
Chang Lee takes advantage of the confusion to swipe the Doctor's stuff. Bruce the EMT, for whom this must be sad but routine, ambles off home... completely unaware that the blob which is the Master (and can turn into a snake) has invaded his EMT outfit and has designs on the rest of him. At night, the Master slithers into Bruce's body and gives him some neat glowy green eyes plus the strength to Neck Snap his wife. Because the Master never misses a chance to Kick the Dog.
Back at the hospital, as the man himself would later state, death is Time Lord for man flu, so the Doctor's not totally dead just yet. But thanks to the anesthetic, he came close to clocking out permanently. Thankfully, hours later, the Doctor starts to regenerate in the morgue. His bone structure crackles as it transforms, and energies fling out of his body. His face does a lot of wicked contorting and changes into someone looking like Paul McGann. Meet the Eighth Doctor. Right off the bat, Eight is confused and suffering from a bad case of post-regenerative amnesia. But his regeneration has boosted his strength. He starts pounding on the cold storage door several times until it falls down with a heavy thump. The Doctor scares Pete the morgue worker half to death by appearing right when the guy is watching Frankenstein. Wandering around the hospital in a daze, the Doctor ends up in the run-down "broken mirrors and creepy dolls" wing where he takes to a moment to scream "WHO AM I?!" dramatically, while wrapped in that white shroud and showing off his half-naked torso. The fact that he Looks Like Jesus is neatly paired with shots of the satanic Master looking very serious.
The Doctor swipes a Wild Bill Hickok costume from the employee locker room, explained as being there in preparation for the hospital's New Year's Eve fancy dress party, thus creating a new Whovian Iconic Outfit (the screenwriters needn't have bothered with an explanation — being dressed up as an old Western hero around town is, by San Francisco standards, only mildly eccentric). True to his character, the Doctor sees no need for the costume's gun-belt accessory and therefore leaves it behind.
Now dressed, though still barefoot and sporting a toe tag, the Doctor tries to figure out who he is. The sight of Grace jogs his memory, and he follows her to her car, where she is even further freaked out when he viscerally extracts a stray bit of medical probe from his person and explains that he's the two-hearted guy she killed the night before. Grace takes this about as well as can be expected, especially considering she just quit her job over a Doctor-related coverup, and her boyfriend just left her for leaving the opera halfway through. But eventually, she takes him home with her (not like that... well... okay, maybe like that) and gives him her ex-boyfriend's shoes. The Doctor's memory is soon restored, and he snogs Grace a few times out of sheer joy, forever shattering the series' No Hugging, No Kissing policy and setting the template for the last four incarnations in his regeneration cycle.
The Master, meanwhile, has paired up with Lee, and Lee is able to freely wander around the TARDIS (using the Doctor's key) because the TARDIS apparently likes him. Maybe being the only member of that earlier gang war to actually try helping the wounded Doctor endeared her to him. The Master exploits Lee's naivete, claiming that the Doctor is a villain who stole the Master's body, and promises him some bags of gold dust the Doctor keeps onboard the TARDIS in return for helping him. The two open the onboard Eye of Harmony, thus overloading the TARDIS and wreaking havoc on Earth.
The Doctor senses this, and decides that he must, simply must have a beryllium atomic clock to repair the TARDIS. As luck would have it, one is being inaugurated that very night, at a posh party that Grace (even more luckily) has tickets to. There's a traffic jam, so the Doctor swipes a police motorcycle by threatening to shoot himself. In all fairness, he's succeeded with even weirder stunts before.
The Doctor finally gets his hands on the beryllium atomic clock, after pissing off half the fanbase by confusing the script's first draft with the final product and thus randomly claiming he's half-human, forever drawing the ire of Whovians for decades to come. The day is saved from being wiped out by an overloaded TARDIS going boom (no cracks in time though, that's for much later down the road).
Oh, and the Master tries to steal the Doctor's body while blowing things up, the Doctor is put in bondage gadgets, the Master tenderly kisses Lee on his forehead for no reason, and the Eye of Harmony eventually saves everyone by sucking the Master into its core. The Doctor reaches out and tries to save him, but to no avail. The Master gets killed Deader than Dead for real... for a while (although, it was the Time Lords' doing that one time). You know, the usual for the Master.
And Grace and Lee both die, but the TARDIS revives them... somehow, and the three return to San Francisco at the stroke of midnight. As a parting gift, the Doctor gives Lee a bag of gold dust and sends him on his merry way. The Doctor asks Grace to come with him, and Grace asks the Doctor to stay with her. They figure that it won't work out either way and just say a sweet goodbye. And with the world saved and the Master safely dead (presumably), the Doctor decides to return to relaxing in his TARDIS as it busks around aimlessly in the time vortex, but not before having to deal with his faulty record player again.
Oh, cruel world, you have got to be kidding us! Nine more years before we see him again?!
Yes, Fox had to be ruddy gits and turn down the attempt to produce an official revival of Doctor Who. The series would not return once and for all until 2005, when Russell T. Davies managed to enstate a revival of the series with much greater production values.
Although the UK broadcast was a ratings success and the film was positively received by critics on both sides of the Pond (though the fandom was a bit more split on the matter), the US ratings were what its future hinged on; despite great ratings with males for the day it aired, it had little-to-no female demographics, and that made its marketing potential look rather one-sided and unexploitable to the fullest (which is blamed on Fox's decision to run the movie against David and Darlene's wedding on Roseanne, uncannily echoing the BBC's tanking of classic Who in its waning years by airing it against Coronation Street). Fox disliked this, for some reason. And so, Doctor Who was put back into limbo for almost another decade— though this may have been a good thing, since there were plans to enact a Continuity Reboot that took even worse liberties with the show's base concepts had the movie succeeded in getting Doctor Who back on the air. If you thought the Doctor being half-human was bad, the plans for the Fox series made it look respectful by comparison. Meanwhile, the adventures of the Eighth Doctor would continue in literary, comic book, and audio format, with Paul McGann reprising his role in the latter up to this very day.
However, McGann did not get flagged down for a role in the 2005 revival, and admits he wouldn't have been up for the task even if he had. Davies's master plan for the new series involved a Darker and Edgier characterization of the Doctor, in direct contrast to Eight's romantic, cheery, and warm personality established here. To avoid breaking character or having to explain the abrupt change in his personality, Davies had the Eighth Doctor regenerate off-screen, and started things fresh by introducing the Ninth Doctor, who would assume the darker persona Davies wanted. Eight's adventures would be left to the novels, comics and audio dramas, which chronicle his transition into this personality, but the actual cause of his regeneration was for the better part of a decade one of the great unsolved mysteries of Doctor Who — that is, until a mini-episode entitled "The Night of the Doctor", made during the Eleventh Doctor's tenure and becoming an instant Broken Base by referencing the Eighth Doctor's Big Finish Doctor Who adventures but ignoring other people's favourite tie-ins.
The "half-human" thing has been brushed aside and tentatively discussed a few times in the new series. It has been either accepted, ignored, or hand waved by various Expanded Universe works. On one memorable occasion, the novel Unnatural History had Faction Paradox messing with the Doctor's timeline to the point where his supposed human ancestry was shown as simply one of his many Multiple-Choice Past options, his timeline and origins constantly in flux. Whatever the case, remember, the Doctor lies...
- Affectionate Gesture to the Head: The Master kisses Chang Lee's forehead.
- Agent Scully: Grace is a bit like this. Helped by the fact that Daphne Ashbrook bears a passing resemblance to Gillian Anderson.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Grace's boyfriend leaves her and her new love interest is an amnesiac Time Lord."I finally meet the right guy... and he's from another planet!"
- All There in the Manual:
- The novelisation goes to great lengths to try and explain away the more egregious plot holes, and doesn't do too bad a job of it either:
- The first chapter and a half goes into more detail about aspects of the TARDIS and how and why the Doctor got the Master's remains. In particular, the early part of the book suggests the Seventh Doctor has only just changed the TARDIS interior. Though possible, there's no on-screen evidence the interior has been recently changed. The Seventh Doctor seems quite settled in his surroundings. Stories in other media have contradicted this. In particular, many Big Finish Productions audios posit the Seventh Doctor well-ensconced in the telemovie's console room. Notably, mention is made of a church organ taken from Cheldon Bonniface, a village visited twice in the New Adventures novels Timewyrm: Revelation and Happy Endings and a koi pond filled with gumblejack.
- The final cut of the movie never quite explains how Chang Lee knows the ambulance driver's name is Bruce, nor why he would have been allowed to travel in the ambulance with the Doctor. The novel features a scene in which the police who arrive at the scene of the shooting interrogate Lee and determine that he might be of help to the paramedics since he claims "John Smith" is a friend of his and they were out walking together when the shooting happened. A policeman introduces Lee to the paramedic, who introduces himself as "Bruce Gerhardt". Bruce's last name is never revealed on screen.
- When the Doctor says to Grace, "it was a child's dream that made you want to be a doctor", the movie leaves the audience to wonder what that dream might have been. The book shows us a flashback to Grace's youth in Sacramento. There, we witness her mother dying young and Grace dreaming of finding a way to prevent other kids having to endure the pain of their parent's premature death.
- Chang Lee is given backstory - his parents were industrious, law-abiding shop owners. His brother, Chang Ho, two years his senior, wanted to use the shop as a front for selling crack for his gang. His parents refused and were killed by a rival gang. This left Lee under Ho's protection and he brought Lee into his gang. A rivalry with another gang intensified and Ho was knifed to death.
- In the back of the ambulance, it's made clear that the Doctor has seen through Grace's ruse to get him to the hospital.
- The Master explains to Chang Lee that the bearded man sculpted on the TARDIS busts is Rassilon.
- The Doctor explicitly states that the Eye of Harmony in his TARDIS is linked to the one on Gallifrey. To open the eye, he elaborates would be like, "driving your car down a freeway at seventy, climbing onto the hood and putting your hand into the heart of the engine."
- The Nth Doctor, by Jean-Marc Lofficier, details just about every single attempt to get Doctor Who back into the public eye. None of these succeeded, but many plot points were reused in the TVM. For example, one storyline had the Master taking over Gallifrey with his own army of specially-modified Daleks (i.e. not Davros' Daleks), which is to them a major crime. This is why they have him on trial. Granted, we probably would have learned this had the TVM resulted in a series, but alas....
- The novelisation goes to great lengths to try and explain away the more egregious plot holes, and doesn't do too bad a job of it either:
- And the Adventure Continues: "Time... Time... Time..." "Oh, no — not again!"
- Apocalypse How: The TARDIS' Eye of Harmony being opened creates an apocalyptic Time Bomb to the planet suffering a Class X via spacetime distortion. The ceiling display in the Doctor's TARDIS however seems to suggest it might've actually been a Class X-3.
- Arbitrary Scepticism: Grace comes off a bit like this; one minute, she's floating the possibility that the man with two hearts and blood that is "not blood" is some kind of (presumably hyper-advanced) "weird genetics experiment". The next minute, when he's claiming to be an alien, she's screaming that he's a lunatic and running away from him in terror. Granted, the Doctor's not exactly presenting his case as well as he can at that point
- Artistic License – Medicine:
- Grace attends an opera even while she's on call. (Though since she's an opera fanatic, it's possible this was her only opportunity to see this particular show and she decided to risk it, with the novelization confirming that her boyfriend also egged her into going despite her being on call)
- The doctors use X-rays to look at the Doctor's heart(s) and think it's an error in the machine, but apparently never used a stethoscope on the Doctor, which likely would have told them right away he had two hearts. Although, at her place, Grace uses one on the Doctor and believes the extra beats she hears are his heart still fibrillating. It takes the Doctor actually moving the stethoscope to the other side of his chest for Grace to realize the truth.
- Bruce the EMT says they can't treat the Doctor until Lee signs for him. Although it's not said what exactly Lee is signing for, hospitals are required to treat you in life-threatening situations, even if you don't have insurance, so if Bruce had actually refused to treat the Doctor he could have gotten the hospital into legal trouble.
- An Ass-Kicking Christmas: The Doctor warns Chang Lee, "Next Christmas, take a vacation. Don't be here." However, here the Doctor is referring to San Francisco, not London.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: After intriguing Grace with his memories of Gallifrey, the Doctor then becomes more interested in the fact his new shoes fit perfectly.
- At the Opera Tonight: Grace is at the opera when she's called in to operate on the Doctor.
- Autopsy Snack Time: A mild example: the mortuary guy is eating popcorn while taking a break to watch a movie in his office.
- Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: The Eighth Doctor's outfit is full Victorian; he stole it from a man going to a costume party as Wild Bill Hickok, discarding Bill's gunbelt and hat.
- Back for the Dead: Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor, who returns to Doctor Who just so he can be shot and regenerate, thus linking the movie with the classic series.
- It's worth noting that Sylvester McCoy had always been vocal about his willingness, if asked, to return to the show and provide a true regeneration, after he had previously had to be a Fake Shemp to his own predecessor Colin Baker when Colin had refused to come back and film a hand-over himself when Sylvester had taken the role in 1987. Colin would've returned if the BBC had given him another full series, which they refused.
- Back from the Dead: The TARDIS revives both Grace and Chang Lee when they're killed by the Master.
- Batman Gambit: How does the Doctor manage to steal a Policeman's motorbike? He threatens to shoot himself. It works.
- Badass Longcoat: The Master wears a long leather coat for a while, before he moves on to full-on Time Lord gear.
- Bad Vibrations: The Doctor's tea cup, when the blob is messing with the TARDIS at the beginning.
- Big Bad: The Master.
- Big Damn Heroes: Grace, and then the Doctor returns the favor.
- The Big Damn Kiss:
- The one with the fireworks in the background especially, although the first one probably counts too since it was the first time the Doctor was ever shown snogging anyone (at least on screen. There were implications long ago that the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith did more than snog).
- And again when the Master kills Grace.
- Big Damn Movie: Inverted, despite being advertised as one. This is probably one of the simpler stories in Doctor Who, not to mention it being shorter than many serials from the classic series as well as some from the new series. There is the whole "the world is about to end" part of the plot, but then for the Doctor that's just a regular Friday.
- Big "NO!": The Doctor does this immediately after regaining his memories and realizing the Master's trying to kill him and seize his body.
- Big "YES!": And the Doctor does this right before his Big "NO!" when he is excited about his memory slowly returning to him (and his new shoes).
- Bittersweet Ending: Earth is saved and the Master is defeated (for now), but the Doctor leaves Grace behind.
- Black Eyes of Evil: Possessed Grace and Chang Lee.
- Blob Monster: Having been apparently vaporised by the Daleks, the Master's remains are stored in a Sonic Screwdriver-locked chest. It cracks open, and emits a mass of transparent, shape-shifting goo, which hijacks the TARDIS, turns into a snake and dives down poor Bruce's thoat...
- Body Horror:
- Bruce undergoes this when the Master takes his body. According to the DVD commentary, the Body Horror was to get progressively and dramatically worse over the duration of the film as the Master's body decayed, but this concept was ultimately toned down, as Eric Roberts proved allergic to the prosthetic they planned to use.
- The Doctor's regeneration counts too, being one of the few times we actually get to see his face twist and morph from one form to the next. This scene was helped immensely by Sylvester McCoy's ability to make really weird faces.
- Book Ends: Both the Seventh Doctor (at the beginning) and the Eighth Doctor (at the end) sit down to read The Time Machine and listen to a jazz record — which begins to skip, suggesting that trouble's afoot....
- Bottomless Magazines: Averted. When the gang members fire their machine guns at Lee, and then at the TARDIS, they fire for about three seconds before having to change clips.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Grace, due to being hit by the Master's poison/acidic saliva.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Grace looks right into the camera after the Doctor runs off after remarking about his shoes.
- Brief Accent Imitation: The Master makes fun of the Doctor's English accent. It makes no sense when you consider that the Master himself, as with all other Time Lords, has an English accent in other incarnations.
- Camp: The Master. Boy howdy, the Master. All incarnations of the Master are supremely camp, but Eric Roberts seemed determined to out-camp them all. Rather hilariously, later interviews revealed that he actually made an effort not to come across as effeminate and that he considered Paul McGann the camp one.The Master: (swanning in wearing a Time Lord robe and striking a pose) I always dreeeeeezzz for the occasion.
- Cassandra Truth: The Doctor has a hell of a time trying to convince Grace of anything:
- Firstly, the Seventh Doctor tries to tell Grace not to operate on him, because he's an alien and it'll kill him. Unfortunately, Seven is a very humanoid-looking alien, and he sounds like he's daft from anesthetic drugging. She doesn't listen. He dies.
- Secondly, the Eighth Doctor tries to persuade Grace that he's an alien, the same man she operated on the night before and that the world is going to be destroyed at midnight if she doesn't help him. She tries to get him committed, and it takes getting acidic vomit being spat on her arm by a dead paramedic with unnaturally green eyes possessed by an evil Time Lord to convince her that maybe there's some validity to his story. To be fair to Grace, though, he's not exactly presenting his case as effectively as he could this time.
- Chain-Link Fence: When Chang Lee and his friends are running from the gangsters at the beginning.
- Chekhov's Gun: The heart probe.
- Clock King: Perhaps in an attempt to ease Americans into the setting, the Doctor has a collection of clocks inside his TARDIS. On a deeper level, Eight exhibits an ability to sense the fate of people and see into their timestreams. Another suggestion of this occurs when he handles the Wild Bill Hickok costume he adopts as his outfit; he seems to pick up a psychic impression from the period clothing.
- Cloudcuckoolander: This is the Doctor we're talking about here; but, even so, Eight is one of the loopier Doctors.
- Come Back to Bed, Honey: Bruce's wife uses this exact phrase, not realizing he's been possessed by the Master.
- Comically Missing the Point: The Doctor hears that an ambulance summoned to take him to a psychiatric ward has arrived, and happily concludes that it's going to take him straight to the beryllium clock he needs to save the day. Of course, it's being driven by the Master anyway, so it's academic, but still....
- Also, Chang being sort of a doofus in forgetting that the vehicle he and the Master are in is an ambulance, during a chase scene. Which an annoyed Master lampshades hammily.The Master: Wha-what are we waiting for?
Chang: Well, the road's still blocked.
The Master: This. Is. AN AMBULANCE!!!
- Also, Chang being sort of a doofus in forgetting that the vehicle he and the Master are in is an ambulance, during a chase scene. Which an annoyed Master lampshades hammily.
- The Comically Serious: Chang Lee is an absolute expert at the deadpan double-take. Once the Master starts drezzzzing for the occasion and randomly kissing his forehead, Chang's only response is the most perfectly stoic "why am I here and when can this end" expression.
- Continuity Nod:
- This is not the first time (nor will it be the last) that the Doctor has stolen his new outfit from a hospital locker.
- He also likes offering people Jelly Babies (like the Fourth).
- The Master's deformed eyes resemble the cheetah eyes he acquired in the previous TV serial, "Survival".
- The Master extends his life by stealing someone else's body, which isn't a first.
- The freshly formed Eighth Doctor briefly fumbles with what seems to be Four's scarf when going through the hospital lockers.
- Continuity Reboot: Was considered to become a form of this during pre-production, but the final product averts this. John Leekley had plans in progress for remaking the First Doctor's tenure, alongside renaming old foes like Cybermen into "Cybz". Leekley's scripts were not well received by any of the production companies, so he was removed from the project in September 1994.
- Contrived Coincidence: Grace happening to have tickets to the clock inauguration, for one.
- Crazy-Prepared: Where did the Master get that helmet and spreader from? Apparently, the Doctor has a collection of bondage gear stashed away in his TARDIS, just in case the Master drops by.
- Creator Cameo: As mentioned on the DVD commentary, director Geoffrey Sax voices the Daleks during their cameo in the opening sequence.
- Crucified Hero Shot: The not-exactly-subtle Christ imagery.
- Danger Takes a Backseat: The Doctor, although he's harmless.
- Deus ex Machina: The Eighth Doctor and Grace find a fire axe in a fire emergency cabinet when the Master's chasing them through an observatory, but they just use it to bar the doors behind them.
- Digital Destruction: Both the NTSC DVD and Blu-ray use the 4% sped up PAL version, messing up the timing and causing Vocal Dissonance as it makes Paul McGann's voice noticeably higher-pitched than the lovely deep voice he uses for the Eighth Doctor in the audio dramas. An Enforced Trope for the PAL DVD and UK broadcast, but totally avoidable elsewhere.
- Disney Villain Death: The Master suffers something similar when he falls into the Eye of Harmony. The Doctor's partly responsible, since he shines a light in the Master's face as he leaps at him and causes him to overshoot, but does offer him a hand. (Of course, he's revived to fight again in the Time War, which he also survives.)
- Disposable Fiancé: Grace's boyfriend, who apparently dumps her for having the audacity to do her job, and then plunders her home and steals the furniture. Jerkass variant indeed.
- Double Entendre: Eight shows just how much of a Chaste Hero he is, even if he is the first Doctor to snog on camera, by innocently walking straight into one of these:The Doctor: See, I told you it [a gadget] was small.
Grace: What is it they say?
The Doctor: Yeah, they say that on my planet too.
- Dramatic Irony: The Seventh Doctor, The Chessmaster, the man who would manipulate companions to achieve his goals... get two slugs in the chest and dies on an operating table. By his standards, a dubious way to go.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Of all the incarnations, the Seventh Doctor's end is possibly the most anti-climatic and absurd way to trigger a regeneration.
- Dull Surprise: Paul McGann couldn't move his forehead too much without the seam of the wig showing, which is part of the reason why he hated it so much.
- Easily Forgiven: The Doctor figures that Chang's suffered enough punishment being kicked around by the Master, so he lets him off easy and even gives him the gold dust.
- Establishing Character Moment:
- Eight awakening in a morgue cupboard seems to fit with his Big Finish persona. His Doctor is frequently relegated to Gothic Horror stories.
- The "these shoes!" bit of dialogue (the bit including the page quote) is always the first thing anyone goes to when describing the Eighth Doctor.
- Grace's establishing moment is when we see her crying at the opera. This is lampshaded on a DVD featurette.
- The Master, believe it or not, gets one of these. Perhaps the only moment in the Movie where he really seemed like the classic Master.Grace: I suppose you knew Madam Curie too.
The Doctor: Yes, intimately.
Grace: Does she kiss as good as me?
The Master: As well as you.
- This exchange from the climax is cited by fans in summing up both the Doctor and the Master:The Doctor: You want dominion over the living, yet all you do is kill!
The Master: Life is wasted on the living!
- Extremely Short Timespan: The entire plot unfolds from the evening of December 30, 1999 to shortly after midnight on January 1, 2000.
- Evil Is Hammy: Even without the acidic saliva, Eric Roberts literally devours the scenery.
- Eye Scream: The contraption the Master sticks the Doctor in at the end, which holds his eyes open A Clockwork Orange style for the sake of the Master's nefarious purposes. Apparently, it really was at least as unpleasant for McGann to film those scenes as it looks. His eyes really were held open, tears streaming down his face, with all that wind blowing around, the works. According to Daphne Ashbrook, she didn't even hear him complain once.
- Fake Guest Star: Eric Roberts is credited as a guest star - probably because it was intended as the pilot to a new TV series, but said show failed to materialize.
- Fake Shemp: The Master (played by Gordon Tipple) was briefly seen on Skaro prior to his execution. The cage obscured most of his face. Originally, Tipple's Master provided the opening voiceover narration but his lines were replaced by Paul McGann's Doctor in the final cut. As a result, Word of God appears to have no problem with fan assumptions that this incarnation is actually intended to or may as well be the Anthony Ainley incarnation of the Master.
- Fanfare: The theme tune gets revamped as a fanfare for the intro.
- Fat Comic Relief: Pete the morgue worker speaks to the Seventh Doctor's then-dead body as though it were a spa attendee, faints slapstick-style upon sight of the resurrected Doctor, and (among other comedic antics) has the following conversation with Grace:Pete: (standing in front of the open freezer after the Doctor regenerated and walked out) It wasn't the same guy.
Grace: Sounds like you saw the guy stole the body.
Pete: He was wearing a shroud and a J.D. tag on his toe.
Grace: Somehow, I don't think the Second Coming happens here.
Pete: Right. You think he's gonna go to a BETTER HOSPITAL? You know what? I'm going home.
Grace: Hey, Pete. Stop by psychiatric and pick up some more mind-altering drugs.
Pete: Okay, sure.
- Faux Horrific: Downplayed with the Nixon Mask: when the Doctor picks it up, ominous baritone choral music happens and he quickly chucks it over his shoulder.
- Finger-Twitching Revival: The Doctor does this as he's Waking Up at the Morgue. The shot alternates with Frankenstein's Monster coming to life in the black-and-white movie the morgue attendant is watching. Yes, they tried to make the Doctor out to be quite spooky. Afterward, he escapes the morgue via Barrier-Busting Blow, maintaining the spookiness factor, and then we see him looking confused and clutching his shroud tightly around himself and flinching when the morgue attendant screams and faints when he sees him.
- Fingore: At one point, the Master pulls off one of his fingernails and flicks it aside.
- Fireworks of Love: The Doctor and Dr. Grace kiss as the New Year's Day fireworks explode over San Francisco.
- Five-Finger Discount: The Eighth Doctor demonstrates a talent for pickpocketing people while directly speaking with them. He uses this talent to steal an ID card and a gun... which he uses to hold himself hostage.
- Foregone Conclusion: Courtesy of the opening narration, the audience knows instantly that Seventh isn't long for this world and that Eighth is just around the corner.
- Foreshadowing: Both the fact that the Master was calm during his trial and execution and his "somewhat curious" request that his remains be taken to Gallifrey by the Doctor. We later learn he was calm because he had found a way to survive the execution, and he wanted the Doctor close at hand so as to steal his remaining regenerations.
- Forgot I Could Fly: "This is an ambulance!"
- Gangbangers: The Seventh Doctor gets shot by a bunch of Chinese-American gangsters. Chang Lee is one of the gangsters, but he turns out to be possibly not so bad, despite behaving like a bit of a kleptomaniac and being tricked by the Master.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: The Master has constantly glowing green, cat-like eyes which he concealed behind sunglasses and used to instantly hyptonise Chang. The eyes are a continuity nod to "Survival", in which the Master was infected and under the influence of the Cheetah Planet that gave his last incarnation Supernatural Gold Eyes.
- Grammar Nazi: One of the Master's lesser-known quirks.
- Grand Theft Me: The Master takes over a paramedic named Bruce and attempts to steal the Doctor's body.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat:
- Believe it or not, Eric Roberts realized Paul McGann was taking the brakes off and dialled his own performance down. And the whole "WHO AM I???" thing from the Doctor.
- "The Master wants to take all my remaining lives... SO THAT HE WILL LIVE AND I WILL DIE!"
- Hellbent For Leather: The Master wears a leather jacket.
- Hellish Pupils: The Master has green eyes.
- Hero Stole My Bike: The Doctor steals a policeman's motorbike by holding himself at gunpoint.
- Hidden Depths: Grace shows off some sci-fi savvy when she steps into the TARDIS for the first time. The Doctor is impressed.The Doctor: Grace, this is a Type 40 TARDIS, able of taking you to any planet in the universe, and to any date in that planet's existence. Temporal physics.
Grace: Oh, you mean like interdimensional transference? That would explain the spacial displacement we experienced as we passed over the threshold.
The Doctor: Yes, if you like...
- Later, she successfully jump starts the TARDIS' console and time rotor by herself, without the Doctor's help.
- High Collar of Doom: The Master's elaborate Time Lord outfit.
- Hospital Hottie: Grace, especially when she was called in to perform surgery with no time to change out of her big dress that she'd been wearing to the opera.
- Hypocritical Humor: The Master is executed for his "evil crimes" by the Daleks.
- Idiot Ball: The cunning, calculating Seventh Doctor leaves the TARDIS without checking the scanner and gets shot by a street gang. If only Ace were there...
- Impairment Shot: For the newly regenerated Doctor in the waiting room.
- Impersonating an Officer: The Master, thanks to body snatching a Paramedic.
- Impractically Fancy Outfit: The Master always drezzzes for the occasion.
- Inhuman Eye Concealers: the Master wears wraparound shades to cover up his slit pupils - apparently a remnant of the Cheetah virus that he caught during "Survival".
- Intimate Open Shirt: The Doctor unbuttons his shirt for the purely practical reason that Grace wants to check out his fascinating alien body, but the fact he starts undressing the moment he steps in the door comes across as a bit eager.
- Intro Dump: Literally the first thirty seconds of the episode is a lengthy monologue in which the Doctor introduces, in this order: the planet Skaro, "my old enemy" the Master, the Daleks, the fact that the Daleks have put the Master on trial for some reason, the rivalry between the Doctor and the Master, the Master's last request, the Time Lords, and Gallifrey. What makes it particularly frustrating is that most of this, other than the fact that the Doctor and the Master are alien time travellers who are enemies, has anything to do with anything else that happens in the episode, and just comes off as a rather clunky attempt to introduce a whole lot of thirty-year old concepts to an American audience unfamiliar with them.
- Jerkass: Brian, Grace's quickly-ex-boyfriend. We only see him for about ten seconds, but he just seems to ooze "self-centered, smug git". Then, he moves out and takes away a whole bunch of stuff from their apartment. And, it seems, this isn't the first time he's hassled Grace over her career.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Chang Lee works for the Master, but only due to manipulation. He comes in his senses in the end.
- Just in Time: Grace saves Earth from being destroyed by sending the TARDIS into temporal orbit right at the very last fraction of a second before the midnight deadline hits.
- Karma Houdini: The street gang that kills Lee's friends and shoot the Seventh Doctor is never seen or mentioned again.
- Kirk Summation / Shut Up, Kirk!: Distilled into two sentences:The Doctor: You want dominion over the living, but all you do is kill!
The Master: Life is wasted on the living.
- Large Ham:"WHOOOOO AAAAM IIIII?!?!?!"
"The Master wants to take all my remaining lives! SO THAT HE WILL LIVE AND I WILL DIE!"
- Like a Son to Me: The Master calls Chang Lee "the son I've always yearned for" – shortly before snapping his neck.
- Lovecraftian Superpower: Aside from the Grand Theft Me and gooey snake body, the Master's condition also gives acidic saliva. And that's just the start of what it can do...
- Made-for-TV Movie: Duh.
- Magical Defibrillator: When the Doctor flatlines on the operating table, he is shocked by a defibrillator seven or eight times in the span of about thirty seconds in attempt to revive him. It fails, but presumably only because he is an alien with different physiology.
- Messianic Archetype:
- The movie really goes to town with the "Doctor-as-Jesus" imagery and subtext.
- Inverted with the Master (obviously). He turns into a snake, he lies, he tempts Chang Lee with power and wealth... It's even lampshaded by Grace, who asks if the Master is the devil.
- Milking the Giant Cow: The Doctor does this not long after he revives and finally regenerates, during his Resurrection Sickness.
- Mind-Control Eyes:
- When she's under the Master's influence, Grace's eyes go completely black; the effect is quite creepy.
- Bruce's eyes go a sickly green colour when the Master possesses him, but that's more "Killed-the-Original-Occupant-and-Possessed-His-Body Eyes".
- Minion with an F in Evil: Chang Lee's not evil, he's just incredibly greedy.
- The Movie: Officially marketed by the BBC as Doctor Who: The Movie.
- Mythology Gag:
- The seal of Rassilon (and statues of Rassilon as he appeared in "The Five Doctors") shows up around the interior design of the TARDIS.
- The Doctor keeps bags of gold dust in one of the TARDIS's cupboards. Gold dust is the primary weakness of one of the Doctor's archenemies, the Cybermen, so it would make sense for the Doctor to keep some with him during his travels.
- The Nth Doctor: Paul McGann makes his debut as the Doctor while Eric Roberts takes over as the Master.
- Natural Disaster Cascade: During the climax, when the Earth is seconds away from being pulled into a spacetime distortion by the Eye of Harmony, we get treated to a montage of lightning storms plus a tornado wreaking havoc.
- Never Trust a Trailer: Several of the FOX trailers for the film feature an impressive special effects sequence showing the TARDIS approaching a space station. Impressive, yes, but a decade old and not in any way related to the TVM; the footage was produced for the first episode of Season 23 back in 1986 ("The Trial of a Time Lord") and was recycled by FOX, but not used anywhere in the film itself.
- New Year Has Come: Most of the action takes place on New Year's Eve 1999.
- Next Sunday A.D.: The movie is set in the near-future, having been filmed in 1996, but set on New Year's Eve 1999.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice Job Killing the Seventh Doctor, Grace.
- Nixon Mask: The Doctor finds one while raiding some lockers which happen to be full of costume-party ensembles. He seems a bit scared of it.
- Noodle Incident: We're very interested to know how the Doctor came to know Marie Curie... intimately.
- No Name Given: Incredibly, despite this being a relaunch and an attempt at introducing the character to (non-PBS-watching) Americans, the "Doctor who?" gag is never used and no attempt is made to discern the Doctor's real name. (Mind you, it doesn't hurt that Chang Lee continues the Running Gag of dubbing the Doctor "John Smith" and the Master borrows "Bruce.")
- No Sense of Distance: The Doctor says that Galifrey is on the other side of our galaxy, two hundred and fifty million light years away. Our galaxy is only a hundred thousand light years wide.
- No Sense of Personal Space: The Doctor repeatedly gets excessively cozy with Grace, to her evident annoyance.
- No Title: The only official title ever given to this story is Doctor Who. As such, it is more commonly referred to as "The TV Movie" or some variation thereof. Producer Philip Segal offered "The Enemy Within" to fans as an unofficial title; some fans use it, others don't. "The American telemovie with the Pertwee logo" is the term given by The Completely Useless Encyclopedia. Pretty much sums it up. BBC Worldwide for the DVD release simply calls it Doctor Who: The Movie.
- Novelization: The Novel of the Film by Gary Russell tied in with the movie and was rewritten slightly by Russell in 2022. Being re-released with the subtitle changed to "The TV Movie".
- Oblivious Janitor Cut: When the Doctor and Grace escape from the Institute.
- Off-the-Shelf FX: The TARDIS key prop was a commercially licensed TARDIS key replica.
- Oh, Crap!:
- The Seventh Doctor's reaction when he sees the Master has escaped is pretty epic.
- Grace's reaction to the Doctor pressing on her glass window — then stepping through it, thus proving that Earth is doomed — is also epic.
- Oh, No... Not Again!: The last line of the movie, when the Doctor's gramophone starts to skip at exactly the same point it did at the start of the movie.
- Ominous Message from the Future: The Doctor gives Chang Lee a cryptic warning to stay out of San Francisco next Christmas, implying something bad might happen to either the city, or possibly just him, if he doesn't.
- One-Winged Angel: The Master turns into a snake made of goo. It doesn't help.
- Only One Name: Bruce's last name is never revealed onscreen.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Paul McGann's Scouse accent sort of fades in and out. In the DVD commentary, he attributes it to having been tired.
- "Open!" Says Me: The newly regenerated Doctor breaks down a heavy steel door to escape from a morgue. This terrifies Pete on the other side so badly he faints, even though the Doctor is almost trembling in his shroud and generally giving every indication of being nearly as scared of him as vice versa.
- Opening Narration: The first time it had been done since part 1 of "The Deadly Assassin".
- Orifice Invasion: The Master-as-a-Snake entering Bruce's body through the mouth.
- Out of Continues: The Master's whole motivation, not spoilered because it's made clear from the beginning: Having run out of regenerations, the Master wants to steal the Doctor's. (Or, as he put it, "I NEED THE DOCTOR'S BODY"!) I'll get me coat...
- Percussive Maintenance: The TARDIS needs a little tap to get going at the end.
- Plot Hole: Averted. In the episode "Resolution", the Thirteenth Doctor mentions visiting the 2000 New Year's Day celebration in Sydney. Which is nineteen hours ahead of San Francisco. Time enough to fix any Doctor Eight December 31st plot holes.
- Pretty Boy
- Put on a Bus: Grace Holloway and Chang Lee. Rights issues between The BBC and NBCUniversal currently prevents the two characters from reappearing anywhere in the Whoniverse (and that includes the Expanded Universe). If they do get mentioned at all, it's through a very oblique reference. While both are excluded from Big Finish audios (though both of their actors have returned in other roles in some stories) and the novels, Grace has appeared in at least four separate comic stories, with significant roles in both The Fallen and the Eighth Doctor's chapter of Prisoners of Time. Chang Lee, however, has yet to reappear.
- Quintessential British Gentleman: Okay, so the Doctor's always been a bit of an anglophile, but the movie and the Eighth Doctor really takes it up a notch. Dresses like a Victorian poet, oft-stated fondness for tea, highly eccentric — it's a wonder they didn't have him save the day with a crumpet, a bowler hat and a copy of The Times, really.Grace: Wait! He's... British.
The Doctor: Yes, I suppose I am!note
- Quote Mine: The line "I finally meet the right guy, and he's from another planet" comes out of absolutely nowhere and is often considered to have been put in the script solely for this purpose.
- Rebuilt Set: The TARDIS interior is redesigned in a very Steampunk feel.
- Reckless Gun Usage:
- The Doctor shows he's an Actual Pacifist by threatening to shoot himself in order to commandeer a policeman's motorcycle. However, when Grace wants a word with him, he starts pointing the gun vaguely in the direction of the policeman while looking the other way. It's not even clear if he's actually aiming at the cop or if it's simply slipped his mind that the object he's holding is a gun.
- When Grace takes the gun off him, she shoots the radio on the cop's motorbike — and seems very shocked by it, implying a bit of this trope was involved as well.
- If the film had been more realistic, the results of this whole stunt from the theft of the gun on would have been Grace being dead and The Doctor becoming John Hurt.
- Recycled IN SPACE!: Doctor Who IN AMERICA...BY WAY OF CANADA!
- Red Right Hand: The Master's decaying fingers.
- Refusal of the Call: Grace turns down the Doctor's offer to travel with him. Then, in an interesting turnaround, she offers him the chance to leave with her instead; he considers it, but ultimately refuses.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The Master turns into a snake. It doesn't help. Oh, and it's not just a snake, but a snake made of goo. At least it was fairly well-rendered CGI goo, by the standards of 1996.
- Reset Button: Closing the Eye of Harmony reverts time just enough to bring Grace and Chang Lee back to life.
- Resurrection Sickness: The Doctor's amnesia was the worst yet. He even forgot who he was for quite some time. He explained to Grace that the anaesthetic repressed his regeneration, resulting in him being "dead too long".
- Retcon: When he first arrives at the hospital, the Master taps his fingers a few times in a quick four-drum-beat. It meant nothing in the TV movie, but it was made very important in the new TV series.
- Save the Villain: Attempted, but the Master refuses the Doctor's help.
- Scaled Up: The Master turns into a cobra-thing that forces its way down Bruce's throat.
- Scenery Porn: As mentioned below, the interior of the TARDIS. Having a budget meant they could really play with the whole Bigger on the Inside thing, and boy did they ever.
- Scully Syndrome: Grace suggests that the Doctor might be "the result of some weird genetic experiment", but she's extremely skeptical of the actual explanation.
- Selling the Show: In this interview, Paul McGann and Daphne Ashbrook have nothing but nice things to say about almost everything... except Eric Roberts, who was apparently standoffish, rude (making personal remarks about McGann being "effeminate"), and sometimes "amazingly bad".
- Serpent of Immortality: The Master's initial form.
- Shirtless Scene: When the Doctor is wandering around the hospital after his regeneration, wearing nothing but a shroud draped in a way that shows off his chest.
- Shout-Out: The Master's line, "Life is wasted on the living" is a quote from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978), which was written by former Doctor Who writer and script editor Douglas Adams.
- Shut Up, Kirk!:The Doctor: "You want dominion over the living, but all you do is kill!"
The Master: "Life is wasted on the living".
- Sinister Shades: The Master wears them to hide his glowy green eyes.
- Spear Carrier: Believe it or not, the Seventh Doctor. The Chessmaster who could plot his foes into oblivion if he wanted is simply Back for the Dead. He gets relegated to a mere ten lines, all of which are very abbreviated, doesn't have much impact, and seems to be settling in from a big mission at the start of the story. His main purpose in this story is to lead the way for Paul McGann to take over. Then he gets one final scene as a hologram. Sylvester McCoy felt like it would have been better to just start with the Doctor already regenerated and then go back and tell the story of what happened to his incarnation to capitalize on the Seventh Doctor's portrayal. Sly Sylvester seemed to get the short end of the stick on this one. Ironically, that did happen to the Eighth Doctor.
- Steampunk: The re-vamped TARDIS interior is all brass trim and wood panels and it's completely gorgeous. The New Series would draw its inspiration from this console room much more than from the classic series' stark white console room.
- Sticky Fingers:
- Chang Lee, who's very insistent on stealing the Doctor's personal effects before he even has any idea whether they're valuable.
- The Doctor indulges in quite a bit of theft as well.
- Stop, or I Shoot Myself!: And it is awesome.
- Technobabble: The "temporal orbit".
- Thanatos Gambit: The Master let himself be executed by the Daleks, having arranged for his essence to survive the death of his body. He then makes his last will and testament that the Doctor take his remains inside his TARDIS (in order to bring them back to Gallifrey), planning to rise from the dead once there and highjack the TARDIS's power source to steal the Doctor's remaining lives.
- That's What She Said: The Doctor innocently remarks, upon obtaining the MacGuffin, "See? I told you it was small." Grace raises an eyebrow and says, "What is it they say?" But according to the unofficial commentary, she just means "good things come in small packages." (But it could just as easily mean, "It's not the size that counts, it's how you use it.")
- Those Two Guys: Morgue attendants Pete and Ted. The former jovially welcomes to the morgue the Doctor's temporarily dead body; and, on sight of the newly regenerated Eighth Doctor, rather comically faints. The latter, in recount of Pete's deathly encounter, attends the hospital's costume party as a shrouded corpse.
- Time Bomb: The Doctor and Grace have until midnight (on the dot!) on New Year's Eve to save the Earth from being pulled inside-out by the opened Eye of Harmony. There's even a ticking countdown during the climax and it's only right at the very last millisecond that Grace saves the Earth by sending the TARDIS into a temporal orbit.
- Trauma-Induced Amnesia: The anesthesia almost stopped the Doctor regenerating entirely — when he did regenerate it had been several hours since his death, and as a result he was unable to even remember his own name when he came to.
- Travelling at the Speed of Plot: Though TARDIS journeys are usually portrayed as instantaneous or taking a few seconds at most, here The Doctor settles down with a cup of tea and a book after programming a course for Gallifrey. The Doctor later tells Grace that it takes the TARDIS ten minutes to travel from Earth to Gallifrey.
- Trojan Ambulance: As the Doctor and Grace are escaping on a stolen motorcycle, the Master kindly reminds Chang Lee that they don't need to wait for traffic to clear up to follow them, since they just so happen to be in an ambulance.
- Villainous Breakdown: After spending the movie as both coldly methodical and campy, the Master completely loses it when the Doctor escapes his chains.
- Voice of the Legion: When he starts to absorb the Doctor's lives, the Master's voice goes thunderously deep.
- Waking Up at the Morgue: The Doctor wakes up in a morgue in the middle of amnesia-inducing regeneration trauma. Then he finds a few feet of camera probe coming out of his chest. Eight's first day was a bit scary.
- Wham Episode: While this may have been retconned out later (it's hard to tell, with all the spinoffs), the revelation that the Doctor is half-human certainly counted at the time.
- Wham Line:
- While now not canon, this qualified at the time.The Master: The Doctor is half-human.
- And for the benefit of those who missed it the first time:The Doctor: I'm half-human. On my mother's side. note
- While now not canon, this qualified at the time.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Fans of the established series were left wondering what had happened to Ace between the show's cancellation and the movie. This never has been addressed within the show, though the Expanded Universe has given her several different fates. According to The Sarah Jane Adventures, she became a charity worker when she returned to Earth, though the circumstances behind it weren't stated.
- When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Coincidentally, the malfunctioning TARDIS will cause the planet to implode precisely at midnight local time. Mildly averted when the Doctor installs the beryllium clock and closes the Eye of Harmony, but still doesn't avert the vaguely defined universal disaster. When Grace protests that it's only 11:48, the Doctor replies, "Yes, but there's no context!"
- You Have to Believe Me!: The Doctor gets a bit hysterical immediately after he realizes the Master's loose, in his TARDIS and planning to suck the Earth through a black hole and steal his body. Unfortunately, this doesn't help him convince Grace of this. Although to be fair to him, he'd just very suddenly recovered all his memories and was presumably knocked a bit out of joint; his later attempts at trying to convince her of this are a lot calmer and more rational, but by this point she's not believing a word he says.
From this point, the show launches into the revival series, jumping ahead to a whole new Doctor. If you are wondering how the Eighth Doctor's life panned out, the journey continues HERE. And HERE. And HERE. And, for a short time, even HERE.