The eagerly awaited two-hour television movie, DOCTOR WHO, based on the long running and phenomenally popular BBC series of the same name, will have its world premiere Mae 14 when it airs on “The FOX Tuesday Night Movie” (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT). The film will be simultaneously released in the United Kingdom by BBC Video, prior to its British television airing.
British actor Paul McGann (“Withnail & I,” ”Aliens”) stars as The Doctor, Daphne Ashbrook (“Midnight Heat”) stars as his companion Grace Holloway, and Eric Roberts (“It’s My Party”) plays The Master, an evil force who threatens to destroy the universe.
Sylvester McCoy, who played the most recent Doctor on the BBC series, makes a cameo appearance in the film, reprising his role until the character transforms into the new Doctor, played by McGann.
“Doctor Who,” the longest-running science-fiction series in the world, began as a BBC series in November 1963 featuring William Hartnell as the Time Lord The Doctor. Righting wrongdoings and conquering alien threats, The Doctor travels through time in his TARDIS, which resembles a London police box on the outside, but is a sprawling H.G. Wells-esque spaceship on the inside. With unique regenerative capabilities, The Doctor has survived death and changed physical appearances seven times in his many years on television. Hartnell’s Doctor was followed by Patrick Troughton in 1966, Jon Pertwee in 1970, Tom Baker in 1974, Peter Davison in 1982, Colin Baker in 1984 and Sylvester McCoy in 1987.
Doctor Who is produced in Canada by Universal Productions Canada for distribution by BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, and MCA Television Limited. Philip Segal and Alex Beaton are executive producers and Peter Ware is producer. Matthew Jacobs wrote the screenplay and is co-producer. Jo Wright serves as executive producer for the BBC. Music is by John Debney, Emmy Award-winner for “SeaQuest DSV.” Geoffrey Sax is the director.
While transporting the remains of The Master back to his home planet, The Doctor’s time machine malfunctions, forcing him to land in San Francisco on Dec. 30, 1999. When The Doctor is wounded and rushed to the hospital, The Master escapes and takes over the body of an unsuspecting paramedic. Meanwhile, unaware that The Doctor has two hearts, Dr. Grace Holloway inadvertently kills him on the operating table. After The Doctor regenerates into his new body, he turns to Grace to help him discover his identity, find The Master and save the universe.
- The Doctor – Paul McGann
- ‘The Old Doctor’ – Sylvester McCoy
- Bruce/The Master – Eric Roberts
- Grace Holloway – Daphne Ashbrook
- Chang Lee – Yee Jee Tso
- Salinger – John Novak
- Dr. Swift – Michael David Simms
- Wheeler – Catherine Lough
- Curtis – Dolores Drake
- Pete – Will Sasso
- Gareth – Jeremy Radick
- Miranda – Eliza Roberts
- Motorcycle policeman – Bill Croft
- Professor Wagg – Dave Hurtubise
- Ted – Joel Wirkunnen
- Security Guard – Dee Jay Jackson
- The Old Master – Gordon Tipple
- News Anchor – Mi-Jung Lee
- News Anchor – Joanna Piros
Written by Matthew Jacobs
Produced by Peter V. Ware
Directed by Geoffrey Sax
Executive Production by Alex Beaton
Executive Production for the BBC by Jo Wright
Doctor Who was filmed over the course of 29 days in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Although the BBC series was known for low production values, the movie features amazing special effects and incredibly elaborate sets. Sax explains their importance in movies today: “l think that people expect now a certain production standard and certain production values.”
About directing scenes with larger-than-life, hi-tech special effects, Sax says, “We work a lot from story boards, so it’s not as difficult as it may appear to be. We know exactly what the shot is going to be. It’s harder, if anything, for the actors than it is for me, because they’ve got to imagine things that aren’t actually there at the time but are going to be there later.”
Most of the actors agree with Sax and found working with special effects to be quite challenging. “lt’s impossible. You just pretend to know what you’re doing, but it’s really hard,” claims Roberts. “But it’s fun. It’s like being a little boy again. ‘Okay, Eric, here it comes! Look scared!’…It’s kind of silly-looking.”
Roberts’ wife, Eliza, who plays the wife of the paramedic whose body The Master takes over, concurs. “It’s tough. You can use your imagination to a certain degree, but you have to be concerned with things like, is your eye line in the same place that it was four seconds ago? And, you just don’t know. Working with special effects is an acquired skill.”
In addition to the special effects, the sets were on a feature scale. The control room of the TARDIS was especially elaborate, with an incredible attention paid to detail. Segal envisioned an interior very much influenced by the literary descriptions of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. “The Doctor fits very nicely into that lovely Edwardian-Victorian world. And it creates a wonderful contrast to the ’90s. The design is really wonderful. Production designer Richard Hudolin has done a magnificent job. We’ve taken a lot of old world charm and put it into this set: very ancient switches and lovely antique wood. The detail is really terrific. It’s really a masterpiece.”
During one of The Doctor’s adventures, his time machine’s cloaking device got stuck, causing the TARDIS’ odd exterior. The exterior is a battered, blue police box, which used to be very common on the streets of England 30 years ago. Resembling a phone booth, police boxes were used by British constables as a place to call headquarters to notify it of trouble or call for back-up as well as a place to lock up criminal suspects until a police car could come and take them away.
“When you step through the police box front doors, you step into Doctor Who’s world. Temporal physics, basically, is the reason for the box being smaller on the outside and larger on the inside. The idea is that this space exists in another dimension, in another time. We don’t know how large it is. It’s infinite. We’ve got a library. We’ve got a smoking room. We have a reading room. We have a garden. We have an office. We have corridors that lead to other spaces in the TARDIS,” describes Segal.
It was important to Segal and Hudolin to link the new TARDIS set to the BBC series. All around the TARDIS, there are props from the BBC series as reminders of The Doctor’s past. “There’s a recorder that was used by one of The Doctors,” elaborates Segal. “There are also some chess pieces that were used in one of the original episodes. So there’s a little flavor everywhere. Some of the things you might not see, but everywhere you look, there’s magic. Every time you turn around, there’s a piece. And what the pieces represent are his adventures: pith helmets from the Germans, knights in shining armor, a big candelabra, the hat that Admiral Nelson gave him and all kinds of things from when he visited China. Who knows who he’s had drinks with in here? It could have been Napoleon, it could have been Genghis Khan.”
On the BBC set, round bells covered all the walls. “What the production designer has done is added that round motif to everything,” says Segal. “When you look around the circles and the girders, the Seal of Rassilon, the circles up on the high pedestals, the gold seals, the roundness is everywhere, even up on the railings. The shadows on the floor will create the constant feeling of those circles. So it is a really nice kiss to the past.”
Lastly, Segal adds, “When the lights are down and the set is completely lit, all the light is centered on the control console and steering mechanism. And it’s magical. It’s really magical. You could push a button and feel like you’re going back 10,000 years. And I, for one, would love to do it!”
The Doctor Who TV Movie will be broadcast tonight on FOX in the U.S. and on May 27 in the UK, it will however be prerelease this Saturday on VHS in Britain after a short delay.