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Published on November 17th, 2007 | by Brian A Terranova

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Was the Eighth Doctor Really So Different?

With the recent success of the new series we are hearing more and more backlash from many fans about the canonical nature of the TV Movie (TVM) starring Paul McGann. Most complain that it was “Americanized,” that the plot was jumbled, or that it messed too much if the past history of the show.

But was the TVM so different? Does it deserve its place in the history of the show?

Let’s take a look at the Eighth Doctor’s only TV outing and see just how different it really was.

One thing that most fans agree on is that Paul McGann made a fantastic Doctor. Even his outfit was in keeping with the shows past. It was very Edwardian and helped him to stand out in a crowd. He even wore a wig much like William Hartnell.

To be honest, getting the Doctor right seems like pretty much half the job there. I mean after that all you need is a good companion, the TARDIS, an alien threat (or major historical event), and a good story.

Let’s look at the new companion, Dr. Grace Holloway, played by Daphne Ashbrook. Grace is a medical doctor with a career and a life already in motion for herself before she meets the Doctor and gets caught up in his hectic world of saving the universe, or as is more often the case, the Earth. From her first scene entering the TARDIS we can see that she has a good understanding of scientific theories as well as her medical skills. (True this could be the Master’s influence over her, but nonetheless it’s there) But is she right? Is this too different for Doctor Who?

It would seem that Grace set the standard for one off companions. Until the new series invited Catherine Tate back to the show as a full on companion she was by all intents and purposes considered a companion. Who knows if she would have been given that title had the precedent not been laid out before by Daphne Ashbrook’s character.

As I said before, Grace is an intelligent woman, not to mention a beautiful one, and looking back on the 26 years of past companions it’s easy to see that Dr, Holloway fits in with the history of the show. You need only to look as far back as the Pertwee era where we have the pretty and very brilliant Dr. Elizabeth Shaw to see that Grace is in good company. Fast forwarding to 2007 we can see Dr. Shaw’s, but more so, Dr. Holloway’s influence in the character of, medical student, Martha Jones.

Not so different so far. Let’s try another…

The TARDIS. From the exterior it seems to be the same machine as ever–a big, blue Police Box. The interior, however, is a subject of much fan debate.

For one thing it is still much bigger on the inside than the outside. Chalk one up for the TVM. It still has a central console and center column that rises and falls when in flight. That’s 2 for the TVM. The console is made of wood, however. Could we have a difference here? A deviation from the original series? No, I don’t think so.

Looking back as far as the Tom Baker era we can clearly see that, for a few seasons at least, the console room and the console itself were both made out of wood. We also saw the Doctor give the console a complete overhaul in the Davison era, and Sarah Jane mentioned a “redecoration” of the console room in School Reunion. So it’s natural to assume that the Doctor had redecorated again some time before the TVM and was forced, or preferred to use 19th century components in his ship.

The TVM also seems to have influenced the New Series once again with its console design. This can clearly be seen in the floor to ceiling central column, as well as the coral support structures that mimic the steal framework surrounding the TVM console.

Another complaint heard from many fans is the stonework and leaves that were in the room with the Eye of Harmony. Which is odd when you think about it, because in Tom Baker’s last story we see that the cloister room had both stonework and vines in abundance. In fact, going further back to The Invasion of Time we are shown that the TARDIS interior can change its shape just like the exterior. In that story we see the Castellan press a button on a stone statue that disappears along with the rest of its surroundings in that section of the ship. This would prove that the Doctor’s ship is capable of making solid structures out of holograms, or perhaps nano technology.

The New Series is keen to point out that the TARDIS is a living machine (a concept that has been mentioned in the past as well) and proves this with its coral design growing all over the place. That and the Doctor’s comment that TARDISes are grown show very clearly that vines and leave should seem right at home in this living structure.

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Doctor Who and me go way back. I first discovered it on my local PBS Station WHYY in the suburbs outside Philadelphia when I was a young kid; though I am uncertain of the exact age.




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