Writer: Matthew Jacobs
Director: Geoffrey Sax
Producer: Peter V. Ware
Executive Producer: Alex Beaton, Phillip Segal, and Jo Wright
Companion: Dr. Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook)
Summary: The Master has been taken by the Daleks to be executed on the planet Skaro, but his last request is for the Doctor to transport his remains back to Gallifrey. But en route, the Master breaks free of his confines, crashing the TARDIS on Earth in San Francisco on December 30, 1999.
A gang member named Chang (played by Yee Jee Tso) is being chased by a rival gang when he happens on the TARDIS. The gang opens fire, and when the Seventh Doctor comes out, he is shot and taken by Chang to the hospital.
At the hospital, Dr. Grace Holloway attempts to revive the Doctor, but fails because she is confused by the two hearts in the Doctor’s X-ray. In the midst of these events, the Master possesses a paramedic named Bruce. (played by Eric Roberts) He then hatches a plan, using Chang as a pawn, to steal the Doctor’s remaining lives, giving him a new regeneration cycle.
Review: This movie has divided the fanbase immensely. I’m one of those who actually enjoy it. (In fact, this will not be the only time I review an Eighth Doctor story. That’s right, I review audio dramas on this site!)
Let’s get what I don’t like out of the way. My main gripe is that Eric Roberts is terrible as The Master. Why didn’t they get Anthony Ainley, who played the Master starting with “The Keeper of Traken”? Sure, he wasn’t nearly as good as the late Roger Delgado (who died in 1973), but with the right script, he could be pretty good. (And before any of you say it, he died in 2004, and this movie came out in 1996, so it’s not like it wasn’t feasible to get him) He makes the Master seem more like the Terminator rather than an evil schemer. I’m also not a fan of the revelation that the Doctor is half-human “on his mother’s side”, as I don’t think it was a necessary motivation for him to favor humanity and Earth so much (my head-canon was that he’d crashed on Earth prior to “An Unearthly Child”, and he and Susan had met several humans prior to meeting Barbara and Ian, and then it was Barbara and Ian who warmed him up to obtaining more companions. Heck, he practically invites Vicki to join them in “The Rescue”) The Seventh Doctor’s death is a terrible way for him to go. (in an interview for Doctor Who Confidential‘s first episode, Sylvester McCoy said he felt his regeneration should’ve occured in a separate episode of what would’ve been the subsequent series) It lacked the heroism of most of his predecessors (excluding the Sixth Doctor just hitting his head on the walls of his TARDIS in “Time and The Rani”, and the First Doctor simply dying of old age in “The Tenth Planet”).
What I do like is Paul McGann’s performance as the Doctor. He does a fantastic job, especially after the Doctor finally regains his memories (and even before). Daphne Ashbrook is great as Grace Holloway and I really hate the fact that Fox retained partial copyright of this movie (which is why it took so long to get on DVD), which bars Grace and Chang from appearing in any Eighth Doctor story (of course, this means nothing to fanfic writers).
The production work is fantastic. The TARDIS is beautiful, and this “desktop theme” is what inspired the revival to redesign the TARDIS. While the arrangement of the theme is somewhat different, I do like it. Overall, I say check it out if seeing the web mini-episode “The Night of the Doctor” intrigued you.
Overall Rating: 7/10 (I’d rate it higher if it weren’t for the continuity errors)
Continuity: The Seventh Doctor has his sonic screwdriver, which was destroyed in the episode “The Visitation”, during the Fifth Doctor’s era. The Master had used up all his regenerations in “The Deadly Assassin” during the Fourth Doctor’s era. Then in “The Keeper of Traken”, he got a new body. In “Utopia” we see that either his body has aged or he possessed another one prior to his memories being restored. During the Seventh Doctor’s regeneration, we see that an orderly is watching Frankenstein. This is a link (sort of) to the Big Finish dramas, where Mary Shelley, the writer of Frankenstein, became a companion of the Doctor, beginning with In the Company of Friends (note: this is an anthology) and ending with The Army of Death. (played by Julie Cox) The Doctor has a 900 year diary, a nod to the 500 year diary that appeared in the Second Doctor’s first episode, “Power of the Daleks”. The Third and Eleventh Doctors also stole their trademark clothes from hospital lockers in their first appearances (“Spearhead From Space” and “The Eleventh Hour”) The Eighth Doctor also seems to have retained the Second and Fourth Doctor’s love of jelly babies (please bring this back for Peter Capaldi’s run, Moffat!) The Eye of Harmony was introduced in “The Enemy Assassin”, but nothing there was said about it needing a human to look into it in order to open it (nor is it within the confines of the TARDIS). The revival has acknowledged the Eighth Doctor subtlely in “Human Nature”/”The Family of Blood”, “The Next Doctor”, and “The Eleventh Hour” by using images from the movie. His final adventure was chronicled in the web mini-episode “The Night of the Doctor”, which can be found on YouTube.
Trivia: While Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso have not repeated their roles in the movie for Big Finish, they have played in some of Big Finish’s dramas featuring the Eighth Doctor. Daphne appears in The Next Life as Perfection and as UNIT captain Ruth Matheson in Tales From the Vault and Mastermind. Yee Jee Tso appeared as Reece Goddard in Real Time (a webcast Big Finish story), Major Jal Brant in Excelis Decays and Warrant Officer Charlie Sato in Tales From The Vault and Mastermind. The movie also had the working title “The Enemy Within”, which is how many fans have viewed it prior to its DVD release.