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Doctor Who: The Movie (Special Edition)
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118 of 124 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2006
Format: DVD
As "Dark Angel" and "Firefly" fans well know, the talking heads at the FOX network have an uncanny knack for truly sticking it to the science fiction community and this mismash of eleventh-hour script rewrites is no exception. It's a glorious "What-Could-Have-Been" storyline that is brilliant in its first half, falls into incomprehensible mush for the second half, then rushes to an admittedly-satisfying ending. Visually it borrows heavily from elements of "X-Files" and "E.R.," up to and including the hospital-oriented dramatics, with a recurring theme of advancing clock hands/digital clock displays. The storyline might best be described as a fusion of Pertwee's "Spearhead From Space" and Tom Baker's "The Deadly Assassin" set in present-day San Fransisco.

First off: Paul McGann is brilliant. He adheres to the cardinal rule of "reinvent the Doctor the way YOU think he should be played" that has worked so well for every actor before him, and we get a charming, easily-distracted romantic with a hypnotic gaze. Eric Roberts likewise brings a great combination of sadism and quirky humour to the Master. Sylvester McCoy is back on form as the Doctor's seventh incarnation as if he never left, and Daphne Ashbrook manages to steal scenes even when the script has relegated her to the familiar "stand to the side and ask 'What's it all about, Doctor?'" routine. Mention should also be made of Yee Jee Tso's very good performance as the wayward teenager who becomes an unwitting pawn in the Master's plan to regain his physical Time Lord existence.

The TARDIS interior is unbelievable. You get the impression that this is what the series's original designers would have aimed for all along had they the budget. This TARDIS is truly a living entity, with its own personality traits and an architecture that combines Victorian decor with a Gothic cathedral and then dresses it all up in a Jules Verne wrapping. Many fundamental premises from the original series are preserved, including the TARDIS key, the contents of the TARDIS's tool kit and even the familiar materialization and "cloister bell" sound effects. Other passing cues include jelly babies, a weirdly long scarf, squawking Daleks in the background, and a "500 Year Diary."

What the fans haven't been able to accept are the out-of-nowhere plot changes that conflict with many established premises, of the type that seem to have been added to the script for the benefit of new audiences. Why would the Time Lords construct a time machine who's power source can only be opened by the retinal scan of an alien (human)? A motorcycle/ambulance chase scene does nothing to advance the plot, although the Doctor's interactions with secondary characters are at times touching, at times hilarious. There is also an over-reliance on CGI visual effects that, while dazzling to look at, don't really add to the story and end up looking pretty out-of-place (hey, this IS the series famous for its wobbly sets and lurching green bubble-wrap monsters). I need to also work in some praise here for John Debney and Louis Febre's beautifully composed orchestral soundtrack: there are a number of moments where the music carries the story --certainly a long way from Dudley Simpson's dull clarinet fanfares or Keff McCulloch's over-synthesized chase scenes.

Like it or hate it, this episode IS the only visual representation of the Doctor in his eighth incarnation (McGann would go on to broaden the role in audio adventures), and while it has been accepted as canon by the fan community, the acceptance is a bit grudging. Nevertheless there are enough definitive "that IS the Doctor" moments to offset the weak second-half script, good DOES triumph over evil at the last instant, and of course we all know... the Master WILL be back.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
A cat has nine lives. Luckily for fans of Doctor Who, the time traveler many more. "Doctor Who: The Movie" was an attempt to revive the BBC TV franchise for both American and British audiences after the series run out of steam in the 1980's. While flawed with a script that tries to do too much (be a pilot for those who don't know the series, Americanize the story/character a bit and craft an entertaining TV movies that long time fans could also enjoy)and features enough plot holes for the Tardis to fly through, "Doctor Who: The Movie" succeeds because of the charming performance of Paul McGann. It's too bad this pilot didn't get picked up because McGann is marvelous (although he has quite a bit different interpretation compared to his predecessors)in the role and I have the feeling the series would have improved.

While transporting the remains of his nemesis The Master, the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) crashes his sabotaged Tardis in San Francisco in 1999. Shot as he leaves the Tardis, The Doctor ends up in the hospital where Dr. Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook)tries to save his life causing the Doctor to regenerate (Paul McGann). The Master takes over the body of a paramedic (Eric Roberts)with a new goal--to take the Doctor's body because that's the only way he can survive.

Watch for a very clever reference to Tom Baker's Doctor.

While not the best Doctor Who movie I've seen, it's far from the worst and a marketed improvement over some of the ones that aired when Sylvester McCoy or Colin Baker "inhabited" the role in the 1980's. That said, you'll either like the film and be willing to over look the flawed script by Matthew Vaughn ("The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones", "The Emperor's New Groove)the direction is fairly solid by Geoffrey Sax ("White Noise")keeping the story moving along at a nice pace. The main flaw here is that the Doctor who does quite a bit of detecting in the show does little here primarily running around.

The digital visual effects look dated but otherwise the production values (particularly for the redesigned interior of the Tardis)look quite nice (the TV film had a budget of $5 million MUCH bigger than anything the original series ever had).

The DVD transfer looks good although it comes with some problems; the darker scenes tend to bury detail in murkiness but colors look quite good. It's a pity we don't have a Blu-ray transfer of this but, I suspect, this was probably assembled on video. It would require a complete rescan/reassembly of the original film elements for the film to truly benefit from a high def transfer.

Audio sounds terrific with a nice, robust stereo mix.

The special features will wow most fans. We get visual effects reels produced prior to production; we also get a featurette "The Seven Year Hitch" (titled because of the seven year hiatus until the TV movie)with producer Phillip Seagal detailing his efforts to "regenerate" The Doctor.

"The Doctor's Strange Love" focuses on how the TV movie has caught on with some members of the Who audience. "The Wilderness Years" details the books written that kept the character of The Doctor alive while the show was on hiatus for a decade. We also get "Tomorrow's Times" which focuses on the press coverage when McGann was announced as the new Doctor.

Two commentary tracks one with the director (which has long periods of silence)and one featuring actors McCoy and McGann are both interesting--the latter is quite lively. Nicholas Briggs moderates the discussion and trio play well of each other.

Although "Doctor Who: The Movie" isn't perfect it IS entertaining and features a charismatic performance by McGann (who really should have been considered for another chance to play the Doctor or at least a cameo in the rebooted series for a regeneration sequence).

I'd suggest Whovians give it a chance. Is it a great TV movie? No but it IS entertaining and even in its cheesy moments it's fun.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon February 22, 2011
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Paul McGann's Doctor Who is a wonderful surprise. He embodies pathos, humor, and intelligence, much like Jon Pertwee and David Tennant. Where could this have gone? If only the TARDIS had been liberated to land all over the world - not just the U.K. or USA, but Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Thank you to Philip David Segal for the stubborn persistence in getting this thing made after the ten year ruination under the infamous John Nathan-Turner, that demented question-mark celery laden pox on Who.

Problems: The half-human issue. The Spielberg Strings. The Dirty Nerds in "Strange Love." Co-Producer Jo Wright attacks on Sylvester McCoy, who in fact did a great job! It's in poor taste, and a case of BBC "smoke and mirrors," to attack Sly McCoy and his Doctor Who. The show's low ratings prior to cancellation were the result of the horrible disco/cutesy nonsense of John Nathan-Turner and his crew of BBC sanctioned Doctor Destroyers. Even the marvelous Radiophonic Workshop ruined the music under JNT's direction. What a shame. Back to this TV movie: The silly motorcycle chases. The unsubtle romance stuff. The repeated New Year's countdown. The female Doc's wardrobe. Eric Roberts' camp. The snake spit.

BUT the pluses outweigh these issues, especially Paul McGann's and Sylvester McCoy's acting. The surgery. The horror (though I don't have two hearts, I've woken up during surgery - well depicted). The regeneration scene is priceless. The humor and pathos. The Frankenstein movie. The interior of the TARDIS is FANTASTIC. Segal gets what the TARDIS is about. Infinite. Cozy. Cool. The Doctors (McCoy, McGann) both indulge in Jelly Babies, H.G. Wells, and vintage jazz. What might have been . . .

Note: Paul McGann is also excellent, with his brothers, in the superb The Hanging Gale.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2007
Format: DVD
The Doctor Who TV movie, a British-American joint venture aimed at potentially launching a new TV series, is routinely slammed among Doctor Who fans as nasty and aborted chapter in Doctor Who history best locked away and forgotten.

But it's not that bad.

Paul McGann's Doctor is funny, quirky and intense - perfect to follow Sylvester McCoy's reign as the Time Lord. In fact, McCoy gets the first twenty minutes of the film to himself before the Frankenstein-themed regeneration sequence. The Seventh Doctor's final appearance is a strong performance and perhaps the best part of the movie.

Once McGann settles in, the plot gets murky and takes turns most Who purists wish it had not. The fact that McGann's Doctor is half human is an integral part of the plot and can't be swept under the carpet as easily as some fan would like. The effort even features an American-style car chase, of course. The Eighth Doctor's performance, however, is solid throughout.

The TARDIS stars in this story alongside The Doctor, Grace, Lee and The Master. Even when poor camera work in some of the TARDIS scenes makes the mostly adequate special effects look like spray-painted Styrofoam and flashing lights, the time machine looks grander than ever. Even the high-tech TARDIS of the new series pales beside this one. The old girl has class.

While Yee Jee Tso's performance as Lee is wooden and amateurish, he does not have enough dialog to do much serious damage to the production. Eric Roberts first does a nice impression of the previous Master's voice, but after a line about getting used to his new body, Roberts' own mannerisms turn a menacing foe into something that eventually becomes like a perturbed Liberace.

The plot wraps up with convoluted convenience, but the story ultimately does not leave a bad taste in the mouth. It's a good effort and worth seeing. Just don't watch too closely.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2011
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I was kind of hoping the Doctor Who movie was going to be a case of, "What was everyone talking about, this is really good!" Well, it's not, but it's not horrible either.

One issue is with the continuity issues: I know many fans have an issue with the fact that the Daleks are holding a trial; Daleks don't' have trials, they exterminate. That I don't have a problem, Davros is brought back to Skaro to be put on trial at the end of "Revelation of the Daleks." But Skaro was destroyed at the end of "Remembrance of the Daleks." Yes, I know one of the novels explains that away, but still.

Why would the Daleks put the Master on the trial? I assume some untelevised story, but why would the Daleks be holding the trial? And more importantly, why would they allow the Doctor to have the remains? I'd think that the Daleks would exterminate him as soon as he came to collect the remains.

The Doctor being half-human? The Eye of Harmony bit, the movie seemed to indicate that it was only located in the Doctor's TARDIS. I thought it was on Gallifrey, and powered all TARDISes? And seems he moved it from the cloister room to beneath the TARDIS controls sometime?

The plot is simplistic, but that's understandable - they're trying to sell it to an audience that unfamiliar with Doctor Who.

Eric Roberts as the Master. Not horrible, but after watching Anthony Ainley, Roger Delgado, and John Simms... well, Eric Roberts seems to pale. I like the continuity of taking over a human body, a la the classic series. And we get to see the only time the Master appears in traditional Time Lord apparel. Which apparently makes him act effeminate...

Paul McGann does a good job as the Doctor, though really he's only on-screen for really a short amount of time.

I was never a huge fan of Sylvester McCoy; I think in hindsight because I never liked any of his companions and he was in some really weak stories. He's not in the movie that much, just in the beginning, but he's in it more than usual in any regeneration story. Usually the previous act appears in the regeneration story for a few seconds (or at all, thinking back to "The Eleventh Hour" or "Rose"). Showing him enjoying himself in the TARDIS at the beginning was kind of neat.

I liked the redesign of the interior of the TARDIS (though, where did all the dead leaves in the cloister room come from? And aren't having those lit torches a fire hazard?). You can imagine the TARDIS being lived in and traveled in, not like the sterile way it was depicted starting with the second Doctor. I think. The way the TARDIS was depicted in the first Doctor stories, you could imagine living in it.

Anyway, I'd say it was a solid "C". The extras were good, but I don't if you need to watch them more than once. Maybe rent it on Netflicks, but I don't know if I'd call it essential to own it.
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on December 29, 2014
Format: DVD
I recently watched this movie; I didn't have time for all of the extras, which might have been interesting, but.... Anyway, the premise of the movie wasn't bad, but it left a little to be desired. As did the "romantic" bit, where the Doctor and the other Doctor kissed, as it runs contrary to the past, where the Doctor (Who) didn't get physically involved with his female companions. As for Paul McGann, he wasn't bad as the Doctor, but I really didn't "buy" Eric Roberts; who might be fine in other roles, but seemed out of place as "The Master" here. He did the best he could, I guess, with the role. I can't understand why they couldn't have found a British actor, in keeping with the tradition of Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley as the Master. That being said, the regeneration sequence from Sylvester McCoy to McGann was pretty neat, as well as when he was starting to put together his "look" as the Doctor. He (McGann) deserved maybe a longer run, than just the one off, to see how he might have developed as the Doctor, and how he might have played off future companions. [We'll never know.] It's hard for an American production to quite capture the magic of the series. Thank God they had the sense to not "Americanize" "Americanise" the Doctor.
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on April 17, 2014
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
i only like the movie b/c Paul McGann is amazing in it. but, the master being played by an american is a travesty. the female companion is laughable. and the plot is just so non-canon. also, the doctor being half human? NO. WAY. uh-uh. again, this movie is AWFUL except for the guy playing the actual Doctor.
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Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This movie was filmed in the 90's, so the picture and sound quality match that. I don't have issues there.

But.... the DVD itself is of low quality. It took my expensive Sony machine several minutes to recognize the "fresh out of the box" disc, and about 10 minutes in, the sound and movie didn't match up.

I know this is a money machine for the BBC, but really, they need to step up the quality of what they're selling, not just the show productions.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS Tape
As the BBC continues to chrun out the latest series and it's spinoffs they are also remastering (where possible) vintage Who. Why BBC doesn't release this one astonishes me as it ws a recent produciton so it can't need that much work and all the principles are alive for commentary.
This film originally airing in the US on Fox in the late 90's was supposed to introduce the Doctor to the US audience widescale (I guess the miyriad of PBS shows that made Dr Who reruns a staple in pledge drives in the 80's made someone think it could work).
And it might have if ever given a chance. The film was a regeneration episode which are usually marred by weak plots anyway. it was further muddled by too many cooks in the kitchen. it is obvious studio execs wanted this to "feel" like other fox shows of the time.
Mcgann is excellent and evne Eric Roberts is good (and he usually annoys me as he overacts worse than Shatner). I was lucky enough to tape it on original broadcast and it occasional airs on STARS. Worth the 2 hour sit down if you cna see it and if you can watch a r2 or it is released in the US it is worth buying
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 9, 2011
Format: DVD
As a new Doctor fan who hasn't seen the Classic stuff, I immediately picked up on what this was... some sort of in between. I also got an odd feeling. It's part BBC Doctor Who and part "Hollywood". I didn't really look to see who worked on this movie, but if wasn't Hollywood studios I'll be surprised. I've got nothing against Hollywood when they do their thing, but there are some things that just don't work as a Hollywood production or with a Hollywood feel. Doctor Who isn't their thing.

The Doctor is put in charge of getting The Master's remains back to Gallifrey. The remains get loose, hijack a human body and, of course, all hell breaks loose just in time for Y2K. The Doctor and his human doctor must make things right less we face a real end of the world doomsday scenario. And that's where the Hollywood feel comes into play. Big car chases through San Francisco freeways (complete with chickens blocking traffic). Big glitzy parties that the doctor's companion can just happen to get into when the doctor doesn't have his aliens tools handy. Etc.

The doctor was great. The Tardis was great. Everything else was just okay and would not have worked in the series, not today anyway.

I don't really like most Hollywood Sci-fi or most action movies... the feel in those movies that makes me not like them was all here. But there's just enough of what makes Doctor Who, well, Doctor Who to allow me to still give it 3 stars. It's okay. Just don't expect great things from it. If you want great and haven't yet been introduced to Doctor Who, skip this and go straight to the modern tv show.
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