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Doctor Who – The TV Movie by Gary Russell (book review).

March 26, 2021 | By | Reply More

How thrilling that ‘Doctor Who’ gets a TV movie. The excitement this generated in 1996 when we didn’t have Twitter to moan/speculate on it was incredible. This was the big chance to bring the Doctor back from his long holiday and then there was that wig. It would have its own Twitter account these days. Then there was that kiss. Enough said. Some say it was all downhill from there.

Before reading this novelisation, I went back to watch ‘The Night Of The Doctor’ where a rather more rugged Paul McGann is about to shuffle off his Eighth status. It puts an entirely different light on the character as do the many audios from Big Finish which develops it much more. Here we go back to the very beginning, where the Seventh gets shot in an alley and the Eighth breaks out of his locker in the morgue. His outfit is fancy dress, it really is and so the cravat and long coat became the enduring image of this Doctor. It shows much has changed if you look at the costume choices of the new series Doctors, image is everything.

It starts when the Doctor has to take the remains of the Master back to Gallifrey. Needless to say he gets sent to Earth instead and the whole thing revolves around the millennium. This version of the millennium is far more exciting than the real thing. The Doctor meets a real doctor called Grace and almost manages to convince her he is a time traveller before defeating the Master and dropping her for the joys of time and space.

The other main character is street criminal, Chang Lee. It’s his fault that the Doctor gets shot and it’s disappointing that he doesn’t end up as the new companion after changing sides and helping the Doctor but he could never replace Adric.

Gary Russell has written a new forward and explains some changes to his novelisation of Matthew Jacobs’s screenplay. This was originally published alongside the film. Does anyone else remember how this was standard practice before we could all just buy the film? He’s put more detail into the book where it was cut to avoid confusing the audience new to the Doctor. The film was aimed at the American market and they didn’t want to dump the history of past lives and companions.

On reflection, this was a big story to drop on the unsuspecting American public and I can quite see why nothing came of an American series if that was the plan. Imagine if they had made one season and then dumped it into the ocean on the eve of the millennium’s eve. It might never have had the chance to make a magnificent comeback in 2005.

As novelisation, it’s enjoyable and nostalgic for a much more straightforward timeline of the Doctor than seems to be planned for the future. I can’t imagine a reader coming to this cold without the weight of history but would love to find one who could offer an opinion as to why it pushes so many buttons in so many people.

Sue Davies

March 2021

(pub: Target/BBC Books, 2021. 224 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78594-531-1)

check out website: www.penguin.co.uk

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Category: Books, Doctor Who

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