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File:Eightpic 1577.jpg

The Doctor: A meteor storm... t-the sky above us was dancing with lights! Purple, green, brilliant yellow... yes!

Grace: What?

The Doctor: These shoes! [Stomps the ground happily.] They fit perfectly!
—The Doctor takes a brief moment away from remembering his dark past to rejoice on how awesome the shoes he just got are.

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.

Despite being made in Canada and set in San Francisco, it's remarkable how true to the old series the movie was, and how much of a precursor it wound up being for the new series as well.


As we open, the Master has just been EX-TER-MIN-AT-ED by the Daleks (who now sound like cyborg chipmunks) for some random reason. [1] And the Doctor is charged with bringing his ashes back from Skaro, in spite of the planet being reduced to ashes previously.[2] 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.

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 and wreaks havoc with the TARDIS controls. The TARDIS, the Doctor, and the blob 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.

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 "John Smith"'s physiology is sufficiently different from the human norm to cause serious problems. 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 the weird fibrillations. And to see why every scan keeps showing two hearts. Even though the bullet wound is Only a Flesh Wound, Grace inadvertently does more harm than good when she starts poking his heart, and the Doctor dies on the operating table. From exploratory surgery. Congratulations, Grace! You're the first and only companion to kill the Doctor!

Chang Lee takes advantage of the confusion to swipe the Doctor's stuff. Bruce the EMT, for which this must be sad but routine, ambles off home... completely unaware that the the Master 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.

Anyway, the Doctor's death doesn't last, as is routine for Time Lords. Hours later, a very confused Doctor, now looking like Paul McGann and clutching his death shroud around him, escapes and wanders the hospital. He scares the morgue worker half to death by appearing right when the guy is watching an old Frankenstein film. He then takes a moment to scream "WHO AM I?!" dramatically in the run-down wing of the hospital, 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 Victorian costume from the employee locker room -- explained as being there in preparation for the hospital's New Year's Eve fancy dress party[3], thus creating a new Whovian Memetic Outfit.

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 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.

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. The Master promises him gold in return for helping him, and 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.

The Doctor finally gets his hands on the beryllium atomic clock, after pissing off half the fanbase by randomly claiming he's half-human, and the day is saved from being wiped out by an overloaded TARDIS going boom.

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 Master gets killed Deader Than Dead for real. ... For a while. [4] You know, the usual for the Master.

And Grace and Lee both die, but the TARDIS revives them... somehow, and they return to their normal lives. Anyway, with the world saved and the Master safely dead, the Doctor heads back off to have many more adven...

Oh, cruel world, you have got to be kidding us! Nine more years before we see him again?!


As for why it wasn't picked up by Fox? Despite great ratings with males for the day it aired, it had little-to-no female demographics. Which Fox disliked somehow. And so, Doctor Who was put back into limbo for almost another decade. 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.

This is considered canon by most of the New Series production staff: Russell T. Davies specifically mentioned this story when promoting the revived show in 2005, a scene similar to McGann's escape from the morgue has appeared in the new series, and clips or sketches of McGann as the Eighth Doctor have been seen in the new series. The Tenth Doctor also mentioned in he's regenerated "half a dozen" times since the Fourth Doctor left behind Sarah Jane when he reunites with her and Craig stated that the Doctor he lived with was the Eleventh after their psychic headbutts, cementing that there is in fact an Eighth Doctor.

The half-human aspect does appear to have been brushed aside though. It has been either accepted, ignored, or Hand Waved by various non-canonical Expanded Universe works. And remember, the Doctor lies...

Watch it here.

Tropes

  • Agent Scully: Grace is a bit like this.
  • 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.
  • And the Adventure Continues...: "Time... Time... Time..." "Oh, no -- not again!"
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: 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. Oh really, Grace? Granted, the Doctor's not exactly presenting his case as well as he can at that point but it's not like her explanation is any more plausible.
  • At the Opera Tonight: Grace is at the opera when she's called in to operate on the Doctor.
  • 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.
  • Bad Vibrations: The Doctor's tea cup, when the blob is messing with the TARDIS at the beginning.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Grace, and then the Doctor returns the favor.
  • Big No: The Doctor does this immediately after regaining his memories and realizing the Master's trying to kill him and seize his body.
    • And again when the Master kills Grace.
  • Big Damn Movie: Inversion. This is probably one of the simpler stories in Doctor Who, not to mention being shorter than many classic series (and a couple of new series) serials. 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.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Posessed!Grace.
  • 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 prostethic they planned to use.
  • 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...
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Grace.
  • Call Back: This is not the first time (nor will it be the last) that the Doctor has stolen his new outfit from a hospital locker.
  • Camp: The Master. Boy howdy, the Master.

  The Master: [Swanning in wearing a Time Lord robe and striking a pose] I always dreeeeeess 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. She doesn't listen. He dies.
    • Secondly, the Eighth Doctor tries to persuade Grace that he's both an alien, 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.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: This is the Doctor we're talking about here; but, even so, Eight is one of the loopier Doctors.
  • 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...
  • Continuity Nod: As mentioned above, quite a few, jelly babies and mentions of Gallifrey being the most obvious.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Grace happening to have tickets to the clock inauguration, for one.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: The not-exactly-subtle Christ imagery.
  • Development Hell: Oh, Jesus. How can we begin to describe this? The concept for a revived series first started in 1989, but the BBC rejected it. Eventually, multiple companies were involved - at first, it was Universal, the BBC and Amblin Entertainment. Steven Spielberg himself was a fan of the concept[5] and wanted it done quickly. This was 1994.[6] However, the proposed script was pretty much a knockoff of Indiana Jones, which Spielberg hated. He left the production, and the producers struggled to keep it quiet from the BBC while they found a home with Fox. The Fox TV Movie department. To keep the BBC happy with this change, the pilot-turned-movie was then changed into a pilot-turned-movie-turned-backdoor-pilot. Should the ratings be high enough in America, the whole thing would be picked up for a series. And this is an abbreviated version of the hell it went through.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: The Seventh Doctor's fate.
  • DVD Commentary: The DVD release had two:
    • The first was a straightforward commentary by director Geoffrey Sax about casting, filming, and special effects shots.
    • The second was moderated by Nicholas Briggs, and featured Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann reminiscing about filming, gushing about Daphne Ashbrook, and making fun of the movie's sillier scenes.

 Paul McGann: [Referring to the Master's infamous "camp" entrance] Are those stairs going to light up as he steps on them?

  • Establishing Character Moment: 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 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.

    • Although this exchange from the climax is also 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 over the course of New Year's Eve 1999.
  • 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.
  • Forgot I Could Fly: "This is an ambulance!."
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The bondage-gear-looking device the Master uses on the Doctor -- and the Master's remark that he suspects Grace won't need any instructions on how to use it.
  • Grammar Nazi: One of the Master's lesser-known quirks.
  • Grand Theft Me
  • Heroes Want Redheads: As traveling companions, anyway.
  • Kirk Summation / Shut Up, Kirk: Distilled into two sentences.
  • Impairment Shot: For the newly regenerated Doctor in the waiting room.
  • Impractically Fancy Outfit: The Master always dresses for the occasion.
  • Large Ham:
    • Eric Roberts is the Master. 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!"
  • Location Doubling: Did we say "San Francisco"? Because parts of it look an awful lot like Vancouver...
  • Made for TV Movie: Duh.
  • The Messiah: And how. The movie really goes to town with the 'Doctor-as-Jesus' imagery and subtext.
  • 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'.
  • Nice Job Killing the Seventh Doctor, Grace
  • Noodle Incident: We're very interested to know how the Doctor came to know Marie Curie... intimately.
  • No Export for You: Even though it was partially an American production, complicated legal issues meant it was fifteen years before the TVM was released on home video in the United States.
  • No Name Given: The TV Movie does not have an official name or title. 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.
  • Oblivious Janitor Cut: When the Doctor and Grace escape from the Institute.
  • Oh Crap: The Doctor's reaction when he sees the Master has escaped is pretty 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.
  • Orifice Invasion
  • 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"!)
  • Percussive Maintenance: The TARDIS needs a little tap to get going at the end.
  • 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 to Eleven. 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!

  • 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.
  • 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. And then there's the bit where the Doctor does the Dramatic Gun Cock every time he aims again. Does he think he needs to hold the gun very, very still to prevent in uncocking itself? It shouldn't even be possible to do that.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stop or I Shoot Myself: And it is awesome.
  • Techno Babble: One of the complaints about the story is that it falls into this trap at the end; it's not really made very clear by the narrative what a 'temporal orbit' is or how this manages to save the day and bring Grace and Chang Lee Back From the Dead.
  • There's No B in Movie: Averted. The mortuary guy spends his shift watching the original Frankenstein.
  • 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 came to unable to even remember his own name.
  • Villainous Breakdown: After spending the movie as both coldly methodical and campy, the Master completely loses it when the Doctor escapes his chains.
  • Wag the Director: A mild example. According to the DVD commentary, Eric Roberts brought his own makeup crew, and oversaw the lighting and framing of all his character's shots.
  • 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!"
  • Worst Aid: What kind of cardiologist goes to the opera when they're on call?
  • You Have to Believe Me: The Doctor gets a bit hysterical immediately after he realises 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.

Notes

  1. Then again, it's Daleks. Did they really need one?
  2. Maybe it was from a different era?
  3. The screenwriters needn't have bothered--wearing Victorian formal dress around town is, by San Francisco standards, only mildly eccentric.
  4. like anyone believed for an instant that would stick. Although, it was the Time Lords' doing that time.
  5. Or at least the overly energetic way the old series was once described by one of the fellows trying his damndest to get this movie made
  6. The script for the pilot at the time, according to Word of God, would have featured the Doctor and his Grandfather Borusa. The Doctor would have gone on a journey to find his father, Ulysses. The original audition Paul McGann read this script for can be found on the recent 2-disc set.
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