Published on October 21st, 2013 | by Christian Cawley

Paul McGann: I’m not in the 50th

You’d like to see one-time Doctor Who star in the 50th anniversary special, wouldn’t you? After all, everyone loves Paul McGann, including according to legend, Steven Moffat. Well, cool your boots, man – the star of Withnail & I has revealed that neither he not his predecessors will be making and appearance.

Speaking at the London Film and Comic Con last week, the actor (as you can see above) attempted to put all rumours to bed with a succinct “we’re not in it.”

Nor are we in the Christmas special let me tell you. I don’t think so anyway! Not unless they are going to shoot it next week.

The Liverpudlian actor explained how difficult it is to deal with rumours in the Internet age.

There’s all kind of rumours and counter-rumours and everything doing the rounds. One gets tired trying to refute things on Twitter and the like. Take it from me, I’m not in it.

Before moving onto talk about Peter Capaldi (“hopefully he’ll swear like a trooper, like Malcolm Tucker!”) and his work with Big Finish and The Minister of Chance, McGann also reminded his interviewer that he could easily return in the future if needed.

The thing about Doctor Who of course is that if not now, then maybe some other time. That’s the beauty of it. We can always come back.

We know that Paul. We just want to see you sooner rather than later…



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About the Author


A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

29 Responses to Paul McGann: I’m not in the 50th

  1. Well it’s been 17 f*^#%&* years! Don’t you think we’ve waited long enough for a return of Paul McGann. Even PAUL is still convinced it could happen…still waiting for it to happen even. But how much longer can one wait after 17 years have gone by since McGann’s appearance on TV. The 8th Doctor has a lot of unfinished business to be taken care of. He, IMHO is the one most deserving of coming back but I am convinced that the BBC and Moffat and whoever else runs DW don’t give a damn about McGann and just wish he would go away. They don’t even give him full credit in the brand new trailer (hiding him behind an Ood) or the from the neck down blink and you miss atrocity in TNotD. He’s even less seen in the recent 11 Doctors poster. He hasn’t been invited to the official Doctor Who celebration on Nov. 22-24th either. It’s unfathomable the blatant disrespect he has gotten during the 50th anniversary. And the saddest part about all of this is that Paul is still such a professional that he is still so nice about it when asked if he’s in the 50th or not. He’s still amazingly warm and upbeat…that is so very admirable because I think I wouldn’t be so nice if I were in his shoes.

    • avatar Geoff says:

      I’m not quite as angered as you but I find it impossible to disagree with any if your points. I just can’t fathom why they wouldn’t want to use him.

      • Yeah, sometimes I think I’m a little too passionate. I get so wound up at times when I get deep into it.

      • avatar David F says:

        And I can’t fathom why so many fans are so fixated on McGann being in it. I really, really can’t. Doctor Who has to come from a story idea first. If any character is not naturally part of the story, there’s no reason to jam that character in. I don’t understand this idea that he’s been treated badly or with any disrespect. It seems to be based on a need to be annoyed for the sake of it.

        He was hired for a job in 1996, which he did and was paid for. That’s how acting works. All actors know that. No one from the BBC has been horrible to him, or conned him, or broken any contract or promise. He’s enjoyed a steady stream of spin-off work over the years, which is a bonus not available in most jobs.

        In 2005, they could have pretended his Doctor was not part of the official narrative, but they didn’t, and he’ll have a hat tipped to him in the 50th along with all the other Doctors who are (probably) not back for newly recorded material either.

        Many fans have decided they know how he feels, and are getting angry on his behalf, and it verges on the bizarre.

        Please, someone explain to me where the disrespect is. I simply don’t see any at all.

        (You’d think that people would be far more worked up about Tom Baker. The man who probably encapsulates Doctor Who more, as a cultural icon, than any other. Who was in it for seven years rather than one episode that most current viewers probably haven’t seen. But I’ve heard barely a bleat about him. Surprising.)

        • avatar authorman94 says:

          I think the reason most people aren’t getting worked up about Tom Baker is (and feel free to correct me or disagree with me on this) the apathy towards the original series that still exists (look at the One Show when they announced the return of Web of Fear, the people on the show kept making fun of the Yeti costumes and saying they couldn’t even hide the zip) and that people of a different age bracket had McGann as their first Doctor (and possibly favourite as well) instead of Tom Baker and thus have an attachment to him. Well, that’s just my perspective on why people haven’t been too upset over Tom not being in it, I could be wrong.

          • avatar Bob James says:

            And Tom did keep his distance from the show for awhile. Paul never really did, and was back doing audio work for the BBC as his incarnation of the Doctor as early as 1998 (two years after the TV Movie), and then of course on to Big Finish. And the BBC certainly never distanced itself from the Fourth Doctor, as he never seemed to not be featured in merchandising of some sort or another, all through the Wilderness Years, and even more currently. The Eighth Doctor would have been a more contemporary fit with newer Doctor Who and in any post 2005 stories as his Doctor has always had more to do with newer Doctor Who, thematically, than Classic. I find the suggestion that Tom has been in any way slighted to be ironic and amusing.

  2. avatar Terrorlentil says:

    Ian and Kathy Beale were in Dimensions in Time and I’m distraught they’re not back for the 50th. Having shared precisely the same number of episodes as Paul McGann I’d have thought they’d at least have earned a part as a pantomime Zarbi. And don’t get me started on Janet Ellis.

    • avatar David F says:

      I’m furious that they haven’t exhumed the bodies of the first three Doctors and hung them by the collars on the TARDIS hat-stand throughout this “special”. It’s an insult to them and their families that we won’t see them as they are now, and is yet more evidence of how little disrespect the BBC have for human life.

      And how dare they not secretly clone Tom Baker forty years ago, so that by 2013 there would be a perfect Fourth Doctor lookalike in this special. It’s a disgusting way to treat the fans.

      Come to think of it, how dare they fail to make a separate, bespoke 50th anniversary special for each individual fan and have it delivered on a velvet cushion strapped to the back of the crawling director-general. This is the 50th anniversary of a TV show I really like, yet Steven Moffat flatly refuses to feed me grapes and massage my shoulders while I watch it?

      I want my own TARDIS, Mummy. Now. I’m not doing my homework till I get it. Mummy . . .

      • avatar Geoff says:

        Ok David, your first post makes some good points and I suppose your second is kind of funny even if you do ram the point home at bit.
        I would just like to clarify though: I don’t spend days and hours fuming at the injustices ranged to Paul McGann. I don’t really give it much thought at all except the few minutes every few days I look on this site. It won’t spoil the 50th for me if he’s not in it but I stand by my point. I can’t understand the argument for not giving him some screen time when they are introducing a whole new previous incarnation we all know nothing about. My only guess is that with the introduction of the Hurt Doctor Capaldi will be revealed to be the final incarnation which will allow the 50th to set up a big cliffhanger story arc to be resolved in Capaldi’s tenure.

    • avatar Bob James says:

      Comparing minor, or one off characters with the Eighth Doctor? Someone obviously doesn’t have a clue. And even if it wasn’t intentional, that’s clearly disrespectful towards McGann. None of those characters was a canonical Doctor, and I don’t recall them going on in books or audioplays for 17 years and running after their initial appearances. I won’t even touch the use of “Dimensions In Time” being cited as reference point for anything.

  3. avatar authorman94 says:

    I must confess, while I’m still watching Day of the Doctor, I am a bit let down they decided not to use Paul (or any of the classic Docs for that matter). I understand why, but at the same time, they’ve done a lot for the show and the show’s done a lot for them in return, and it makes even less sense that Paul isn’t involved when Moffat’s saying things like “Paul is one of the best Doctor Who’s” and “he gave such a brilliant performance in the TV Movie” (although by the sounds of it, Peter Davison isn’t involved and Moff’s admitted he’s his favourite Doctor). So, I can’t deny it’s a bit sad my favourite Doctor is given the shaft yet again. That said, Paul is being very professional and such about it, shows what a good bloke the guy is (from what I see of him in his public appearances).

  4. I won’t believe anything until I see the episode. I will say the event will be a massive failure if they don’t have all of the doctors involved which they are able.

    • avatar David F says:

      Really? A massive failure? No matter how great the story is, or how many other elements of nostalgia the episode features?

      If it turns out you find yourself enjoying it anyway, will you lie, and tell everyone you didn’t?

  5. avatar Andrew Dorgomire says:

    Fingers crossed for 55th or 60th or even a surprise random episode cameo.

  6. avatar TonyS says:

    Let’s reserve judgment until we have seen the episode. What is important is a strong episode that celebrates the shows past and looks forward to the future. (You know: what with it being about time and all that.) If it has appearances from classic-era Doctors that would be good if they were used properly. If it was just cameos to please the fans, I for one would be disappointed.

    Allegedly one of the reasons that “The Dark Dimension” fell through was that some of the Doctors were less than happy with the small parts they had in the story. With eleven Doctors some would inevitably have been sidelined.

    Judge the special on what we see. Not on who is not in it!

  7. avatar Paul McGann's Cat says:

    I find the mocking of McGann in this talkback to be really quite distasteful. He is a canon Doctor and he has, as a man, done much much more for the fans and franchise in general than is reflected in his screen time. It amazes me that people can be so dismissive of him yet the likes of Eccleston are idolised, despite not wanting to touch DW with a ten foot bargepole.

    • avatar David F says:

      No one in this thread has mocked Paul McGann. Not a single person.

      I like him. He’s one of the Doctors, a nice man, a good actor. If he were in this episode, I’d be very happy.

      I never said otherwise, and that’s not the point. This is:

      It’s ludicrous to allege that the BBC has any kind of vendetta against him, as others have on this page. It’s ludicrous to suggest that he is the be-all-and-end-all of an anniversary special, as others have on this page. It’s ludicrous to be so wound up about McGann being treated badly when he seems so philosophical about it himself.

      No matter how much we like him, the fact is this:

      He was in one episode. That’s not his fault, and in itself no argument against bringing him back, but it does mean that elevating him above all other concerns is bizarre. There is no generation misty-eyed with nostalgia for childhood Saturday evenings watching the McGann Doctor, because there was no run of stories. And that makes it much less of a priority to bring him back

      I could make a list of a hundred things — including McGann — that would be cool to bring back in a one-off special, but if more than a few of them did come back, the story would turn into an unwieldy mess.

      So there was no mocking of McGann. Only mocking of people who are dismissing an episode they haven’t seen on the grounds that it probably doesn’t contain one actor out of the hundreds who’ve been in Doctor Who.

      • David, have you ever listened to Paul’s Big Finish audios? He was in one episode….on TV but if you look at how many audios he’s done for Big Finish you’ll find that he has done way more than Tennant or Smith. But even this is not an argument for bringing him back. Paul is so good (IMHO but many others agree) in the audios that he leaves us wishing that we could SEE him again. While we are extremely thankful to have and enjoy this outlet, after 17 years one gets tired of being resigned to that fact that this is all we’ll ever get…that we will never see Paul reprise his Doctor on TV again. When I say “we” I don’t claim to speak for everyone but I know I am speaking for many fans out there. All of the Doctors get some disrespect from trolls out there but none more than McGann (maybe C Baker). The most common comment out there is “McGann’s Doctor shouldn’t be considered canon”. Whether you see it or not I have noticed that during this 50th year McGann has been just a blip in just about everything that has been put out. Examples are: The BAFTA tribute, TNotD, The Doctors revisited…he was never interviewed for his own documentary and neither was Phillip Segal, The recent 11 Doctors poster…where you can’t see McGann’s costume but you can see all the other Doctor’s costumes, and now the new trailer…yes I know 2, 6, & 7 weren’t featured much either. And going back to 2005 Paul was never considered for the role nor did he even get the courtesy of a regeneration scene. RTD has claimed that he sent a letter of apology to McGann but McGann claims he never got such a thing.

        I don’t spend hours upon hours fretting over this. I have a life too. There are people who spend hours and hours on DW forums who discuss and get into heated arguments about every little detail of what happened in the latest episode. Right now they are picking apart every frame of the new trailer and philosophizing it as if it were their religion. Good for them. While I am not into this I can understand their passion. I view my desire to see the 8th Doctor back on the screen again as a sort of quest. It doesn’t have to be an appearance in the 50th but I wish it would be soon. Fans have every right to have a voice in their opinions and what they wish to see…that’s called feedback.

        • avatar Paul McGann's Cat says:

          That’s pretty much exactly my take on it.

  8. avatar lozzer says:

    He never said he’s not in a minisode…

  9. avatar DanJack says:

    I would like to see an official regeneration for McGann, so they would have one for each Doctor. Whether that’s in the 50th special, or a mini-episode, I don’t care. I just want to see it done somehow.

  10. avatar Lee says:

    While I would really like to see Paul Mcgann resurrect his 8th Doctor I wonder if there’s some legal issue with the fact that the 8th Doctor film was co-created with American organisations. So he might be prevented from being the Doctor on TV again because the American organisations might be able to take a big slice of ownership/royalities of any new programme featuring him… But I guess we’d never know that for certain.

    I really hope I’m wrong and that Paul Mcgann can appear…

    • avatar TonyS says:

      Lee, that is a possibility. But I think the copyright in the character (even in the 8th incarnation) rests with the BBC.

      I would like to see another appearance from Paul McGann. At one point there was talk of a mini-series.

      I think the Day of the Doctor is going to be quite busy enough without cramming any more into it.

      • avatar Bob James says:

        Those rights issues were cleared up a long time ago. If they weren’t we wouldn’t be seeing the Eighth Doctor appear at all. The BBC now holds all the rights, and Fox and Universal are long out of the picture. There might be some issues regarding the use of other TV Movie characters (or at least there were, as even the BBC licensed Big Finish couldn’t use Grace Holloway or Chang Lee), but not the Eighth Doctor.

    • There are no legal issues.

      If there were (and it now seems likely that what issues did exist were overblown by the BBC as an excuse not to revive Doctor Who sooner) then the show would never have returned.

  11. avatar DonnaM says:

    I’d be happy to see Paul McGann in the 50th; I’d be happy to see any of the earlier incarnations in it, just as long as they’re a contributory factor to the story and not a procession of nostalgia figures for that part of the audience that actually cares about the Classic series. Moffat’s too smart to allow “wallowing in the past” to impact on “telling a rollicking good story”: or at least I hope he is!

  12. avatar SteveF says:

    I just think its a wasted opportunity. Of all the classic Doctors, Paul is the only one who still closely resembles the character he played, he’s lucky enough to have aged well. Just hope he can make an appearance this side of 2020.

  13. Rick Fillman ‏@wtf_peyton69 18h
    @KeyannaLM Yeah you want to know what pisses me off? Paul McGann that professor snape looking motherfucker should NOT be counted

    Rick Fillman ‏@wtf_peyton69 18h
    @KeyannaLM because he had 0 substance 0 development he was in 1 movie did nothing else in the name of the doctor

    Rick Fillman ‏@wtf_peyton69 18h
    the only reason I bring this up is because I don’t think Paul McGann deserves to be credited as his own doctor HE WAS IN ONE MOVIE THATS IT!

    Viqui ‏@xviquix 7h
    Just a friendly reminder that when listing actors who have played Dr Who, Paul McGann doesn’t count.

    These tweets are just in the last 18 hours by two different people. Think what you want about whether or not McGann is properly respected as the Doctor or not but I personally get tired of these types of posts and at times find them very hard to ignore.

  14. avatar David F says:

    Well, after all that, let’s just boil this down to basics.

    Some of us are really happy about the prospect of The Day of the Doctor. Really, really happy. After teenage years of being ridiculed for liking Doctor Who. After the long nineties of almost nothing. We’re realistic: we don’t expect it to be an earth-shattering classic, but we want to be positive about whatever it is. And as part of this period of giddy expectation, we like coming on these forums and chatting about it.

    We don’t really mind which elements are in the story. Moffat’s a fan too, and we know he’ll do something to celebrate the past. We’re happy to let him decide what form that takes, and which actors he does and doesn’t use.

    And we just feel deflated by groundless negativity. That’s all. It’s just a shame.

    But everyone will have their views, so I guess that’s just how it is.

    Over and out.

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