Getting to know Who: Doctor Who: The Movie

By Christopher Allen

“He’s back… and it’s about time” trumpeted the TV adverts, as fans eagerly awaited the return of the Doctor to their screens, in the form of Paul McGann. Bold, glossy and with state-of-the-art computer graphics, it marked the start of Doctor Who being made for a global audience. And although the movie failed to revive the series for good, it remains an undeniably important chapter in the show’s history.


The final appearance of the Seventh, and a newly-regenerated Eighth.


“Amazing” Grace


The Doctor must carry the remains of the Master home, but even in death he can't be trusted. On the eve of the millennium, the new Doctor must not only save the world, but also his future lives...

The story so far…

  • Rather than “rebooting” the series, Doctor Who: The Movie continues the same narrative that began in 1963, directly regenerating the Seventh Doctor into the Eighth.
  • The Seventh Doctor is travelling alone – there’s no indication of what happened to Ace, or how much time has elapsed since Survival. However, he’s had time to revamp the TARDIS.
  • As seen in the pre-credits, the Master has been caught, tried and exterminated by the Daleks. The ability to become a snake-creature after death is not something seen before in the series, and is explained in later novels as part of a deliberate plan by the Master.
  • Doctor Who: The Movie was made in Canada, as a co-production between the BBC and Fox. It aired in the US two weeks before the UK, on 14 May 1996.
  • Although Doctor Who: The Movie failed to spark interest in a continuing series, the Eighth Doctor lived on in a series of official novels from BBC Books, comic strips in Doctor Who Magazine and audio plays from Big Finish, voiced by Paul McGann.

Key quote:

The Doctor: I love humans. Always seeing patterns in things that aren’t there.

Why it’s worth a watch

Doctor Who: The Movie is an odd beast. Parts of it still enrage fans to this day - the Doctor being "half human", Eric Roberts' overly camp Master, the TARDIS's happy ending circuit. But at the heart of it, it's full-throttle knock-about, traditional Doctor Who, with added gloss and a car chase. Paul McGann is pitch perfect: Doctorish without being wacky and holding the movie together in many places. The TARDIS interior redesign is a bold move, which when supplemented with a bit of CGI, is very successful. And the thoroughly-modern Grace becomes the first companion to overtly fall in love with the Doctor, going so far as to ask him to stay with her - a theme that would be central to the revival of the series, 9 years later.

More: Read more about Doctor Who: The Movie at the BBC Doctor Who website, or get to know more Doctor Who adventures.

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