Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Eighth Doctor: An Introduction

The Eight Doctor:
Paul McGann (Born 1959)

**Author's Note: I had planned to review the Doctor Who catalog on this site, but given the sheer number of stories I opted to spin-off those reviews to a separate site: Gallifrey Exile. As such, readers will find reviews may hop from one site to another. Reviews are collected at a link at the end of this essay. Also, this essay was updated in January 2021.

With Paul McGann as The Doctor, it's impossible to give a fair analysis. He appeared as The Doctor only once on screen, and that is not available in the United States*. Instead, I will give my impressions of McGann based on my memories of the Doctor Who TV movie.

I was very excited about seeing Doctor Who again, and eagerly started to watch. As the show went on, I started losing interest. Eventually, I did the unthinkable: I switched it off. I like to think that was the beginning of my starting to grow up, leaving aside childish things. Still, it would be nice to have it available if only for completion's sake.

Now, what I do remember about McGann's Doctor is actually quite positive. He seemed more eager for adventure, and more eager to defeat his arch-nemesis The Master once and for all. He also appears frankly less angry than the Seventh Doctor, though not as jolly as the Second. He gave me the impression that he should take part in the affairs of others because it would be interesting.

What I didn't like was the suggestion of romance between the Doctor and his newest Companion, Dr. Grace Holloway (although I think the reports that he kissed her passionately are exaggerated. I don't doubt he did, but I think it was out of joy of remembering who he was than out of an erotic desire).

Less disturbing than this idea of a romance between a Doctor and his Companion is him saying he's half-human. BLASPHEMY, I SAY! There was never anything to suggest he was anything other than what he was for twenty-six years: an alien being, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. Why this was done is irrelevant, the fact that it was done at all was disastrous. I prescribe it to post-regeneration trauma, not to any sense that this is the actual truth.

In retrospect, and with the benefit of hindsight, things become clear. The "half-human" bit was to try and start the show afresh. However, the idea was a bad one from the get-go: it alienated and angered longtime fans without bringing in new ones. It also would become a point of contention in the fanbase. Was the "half-human" story element Canon? Was McGann's version even Canon?

There are three schools when it comes to the Eight Doctor.  The first is that he is Canon, part of the chain that stretches from William Hartnell.  The second is that he is not Canon and can be ignored.  The third is that he is the last of Canon, with everyone following him being non-Canon.

My view is this: he is Canon.  Sylvester McCoy, whom no one questions as Canon, appeared as the Doctor prior to McGann's regeneration.  Since McCoy regenerated to McGann, he is Canon.

As I think on Paul McGann, I think he would have made for a great Doctor. He seemed a mix of romantic and naïve, childlike and wise old soul. He was simply not given a good shot, and that will always be a terrible shame. While he's done audio stories, it is a shame that he never got a chance to complete a series on his own. I hope that the new series will allow him to make a reappearance in the role of the Eight Doctor. It would be a sign of respect. 

Ultimately, the Eight Doctor is the one I know the least, through no fault on either side.

Next, The Ninth Doctor: An Introduction

Visit Here for Eight Doctor Review

*Update: In 2011 the Doctor Who TV Movie, also known as The Enemy Within, was released on DVD in North America. In 2013 McGann reprised the role of the Eighth Doctor in the mini-episode The Night of The Doctor, his first (and as of 2021 his last) on-camera appearance as The Doctor since the TV movie.

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