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Published on November 16th, 2013 | by Jonathan Appleton

Moffat: Bringing Back McGann “A Complete Treat!”

Steven Moffat has revealed that the Eighth Doctor’s appearance in this week’s astonishing prequel came about through his desire to spring a further surprise on us all in this anniversary year.

I was thinking, what else can we do for our anniversary year… I thought… Why don’t we get Paul McGann in and regenerate him into John Hurt? I’d like to see that! I’d love to see that!

Evidently a game sort, Paul was ‘dead keen’ and came in to shoot The Night of the Doctor over the last two days of the shoot for the fiftieth. Unsurprisingly, Moffat describes the secrecy surrounding the shoot as ‘phenomenal’:

I’m sure some people are a bit cross that we were so secretive but the fact is, there is only one way to ensure you keep a secret, and that’s to keep it! So, we kept it very tight and we hope it all came as great surprise to everyone.

Clearly an Eighth Doctor fan, Moffat sums up the McGann incarnation as:

He’s obviously dashing, terribly handsome and quite romantic. I always found it hard to imagine him fighting in the Time War. I’d always imagined the ‘Time War Doctor’ would be more grizzled, somehow, you know?

What do you think? Could you see the Eighth Doctor as the man to destroy Gallifrey?


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About the Author


has watched Doctor Who since those great big spiders did for Jon Pertwee, and it's way too late to stop now. When he's not at his job working for a charity in Hull he spends his time following Hull City's fortunes, listening to Bruce Springsteen and wondering why it took thirty years too long for Doctor Who action figures to come along. Favourite stories include the one with the mummies, the one with Mr Sin and the one with the Mona Lisa. Currently listening to: The Fifth Doctor Box Set. By, it were a crowded old TARDIS in them days...

24 Responses to Moffat: Bringing Back McGann “A Complete Treat!”

  1. avatar derekbd says:

    I don’t want to try to imagine the 8th Doctor of the TVfilm destroying Gallifrey, but BBC books’ 8th Doctor did precisely that in one of the worst 8th Doctor novels ever written, The Ancestor Cell by Stephen Cole. While some of the BBC books are brilliant I am in agreement to pretend that one never happened (even if it unhappened in a later novel.)

    • What was your favorite 8th Doctor novel?

      • avatar derekbd says:

        One favourite? Oh dear… I will say, for the moment, The City of the Dead by Lloyd Rose. Also consider Alien Bodies, The Turing Test, Unnatural History (which some fans really didn’t like)… There are others worthy.

        • avatar BOJAY says:

          I’d agree on “The City Of The Dead”. That was in fact, the first EDA I read, and then I went back, and forward. But “Alien Bodies”, “Frontier Worlds”, and “The Taint” also come to mind. I gravitated towards the novels where the author(s) best captured the Eighth Doctor’s “voice”. Post Big Finish, there were certain books that had dialogue that I could hear McGann saying in my imagination, that got his take on the Doctor. There were also a lot of them that, in my opinion, didn’t. It’s much easier for me to accept and embrace Big Finish as canon than it is for any of the BBC Books. It seemed to me that there were a lot of EDA’s that had someone called the Doctor and something called the Tardis in them, but really didn’t have much to do with Doctor Who. Some great stories from some talented writers in a lot of cases, that were obviously much easier to sell with the Doctor Who “brand” attached to them than they would have been if they were all new ventures.

  2. Pingback: Doctor Who: Why Moffat brought the 8th Doctor back - The Time Warriors

  3. avatar GallifreyanFallenAngel says:

    That GIF above now looks like utter nonsense. :P

    • avatar Geoff says:

      Indeed! It was really funny before as well!

  4. avatar Bradondo says:

    I kind of knew everyone was lying about this–it seemed to me they couldn’t not show McGann becoming Hurt–but it was still a tremendous thrill seeing 8 on the screen again. The return of the Sisterhood of Karn was a terrific suprise, though and a great nod to the long-term fans as well. Yet I fear that Paul McGann’s return may have created some sort of time-space anomaly from the sheer force of the collective fangasm it produced.

  5. avatar TimeChaser says:

    I like the idea that the Doctor avoided direct involvement in the War for as long as he could, that’s definitely in keeping with Eight’s personality.

    I never liked the direction the EDAs took, so between the novels, comic strips and audios, I think making a nod to the audios possibly being the main cannon now is probably the best choice.

    • avatar derekbd says:

      There is no main canon (or main cannon afaik).

      • avatar TimeChaser says:

        By “main” I meant in-line with the TV series continuity.

        • avatar John Miller says:

          However, if you take the Audios as “main canon”, then they make several references to the books and comics.

          • avatar TimeChaser says:

            And yet in Zagreus, they clearly stated that the various media threads are parallel timelines. Books like AHistory are good, but its impossible to cram every last scrap of media into a single canon without a ton of conflict and contradiction.

          • avatar derekbd says:

            It seems to be that any notion of canon is individual. The only possible ‘official’ canon would be what occurs on the current telly series as far as we can tell as viewers; we often can’t really know what Moffat or other creators have in mind.

            My personal canon includes the “current doctor” novels made during the ‘hiatus’ (7th Doctor NAs from Virgin, EDAs from BBC) mainly because I enjoyed them for the most part and they carried on the story and mostly had an ongoing plan. I don’t really appreciate audio drama so I can’t really take those tales seriously, even though I have enjoyed a few. These very specific (and somewhat arbitrary) rules about MY canon surely don’t mean anything to anyone else, and I am quite happy for it to be that way. :)

            This is just a general observation about “canon” and not an argument with anyone about what has been said above. Cheers.

          • avatar BOJAY says:

            The Eighth Doctor DWM comics were, in my opinion, a whole lot more of a common stripe with the television series, and better aspects of the TV Movie. They just broadened the scope. Later EDA’s went way out, sometimes, in my opinion, to the extreme of making the Doctor unrecognizable. They may have hoped for, but obviously never imagined the television series coming back, so they thought there were no parameters. The mythology and narrative were becoming something else entirely. I still believe in possible timelines, timelines that were, and then then weren’t, and events that took place but then didn’t. Especially in the wake of the Time War, a whole lot was in flux, and I don’t think the Universe and History that survived it was necessarily the same as before it took place.

          • avatar John Miller says:

            And yet the VNA and EDA lines were the two that explicitly stated they were taking place in different “universes”.

            And even just watching the television series results in a ton of conflict and contradiction.

            And since Night of the Doctor didn’t air on proper television, is it canon?

  6. avatar Ryan Gross says:

    I’m coming round more and more to the idea of Hurt’s Doctor. At first, I thought it was a big cheat, and a bit of retconning on Moffat’s part to add another Doctor. But, after the McGann short, I’m really pleased at how he chose to become this warrior, but at the same time completely rejects himself. It plays into Eleven’s comment in Beast Below about making a tough choice which means he can’t call himself the Doctor anymore. However, I feel like they covered this idea of the Doctor stepping back from being a warrior in A Good Man Goes to War. It was a good direction and nice character arc for the Doctor at the end of season 6 and a huge chunk of season 7. Surely the 50th will be a repetition of this idea, with no lesson to learn for 11. Unless he’s teaching his past selves which kind of rewrites his own character progression.

    • avatar Bradondo says:

      I don’t really see it as a retread–in A Good Man Goes To War the Doctor was acting out emotionally and didn’t even realize the larger issue surrounding his actions as he was so focussed on rescuing Amy. Here we have the Doctor basically giving up his own identity as a helper/healer against his own instincts (and engendering much self-loathing amd disgust) to step up to a responsibility he wants no part of but can’t see any way out of. If anything it adds resonance to the 11th’s discovery that he was again becoming his own most reviled self.

  7. avatar BOJAY says:

    I had always assumed that the Eighth Doctor had fought in at least part of the Time War, perhaps then giving way to the Ninth. But Moffat’s statement does make sense to me. We see that Eighth Doctor is indeed undergoing a change in his latest Big Finish adventures (Now we know they’re CANON!), but we haven’t seen an all out “warrior” aspect yet, and certainly not someone who could commit genocide. I’m pretty sure RTD never imagined the twist of the “War Doctor” (It would be remarkable if he had), but Moffat’s incorporation of him certainly provides some rationale and structure, going a ways to explain a lot. The Doctor driven to become someone else, but not, but still the Doctor, a someone who can do what’s necessary to end the Time War. The process of active denial on some level must surely have begun with the War Doctor’s regeneration into the Ninth Doctor, who lived with his survivor’s guilt, acknowledged that he had “made it happen” and began to run from it, back into the Universe and into Rose Tyler’s life. The apparent recent regeneration, when the Ninth stops to survey himself in the mirror in Rose’s flat, can also be explained now. Incredible work from Moffat and McGann. I didn’t see it coming, and I never would have imagined this, and that’s how I like my Doctor Who. And God, it was awesome to see Paul McGann in action again, other than in my head when I listen to the audios. I would certainly not mind seeing more.

  8. avatar Dee says:

    “Will it Hurt?” “Yes.” “Good.” HAHA I see what you did there…

  9. avatar Geoff says:

    I know a lot of people love the audios and why shouldn’t they? They are after all very polished pieces of Who and for many a year kept the show alive but as far as canon goes my view is that if it didnt happen directly on screen or be referred to directly on screen it never happened. That said 8 name checks a bucket loaf of audio companions just before he regenerated ( I’m still amazed to even find myself writing that!) so I guess that blows mt theory !

  10. avatar Bob James says:

    There’s no reason with Doctor’s 4-7 that the Big Finish audios should not be considered canon. There’s even less reason that the Eighth Doctor’s BF adventures shouldn’t be, because beyond the TV Movie, there was no era that actually featured Paul McGann portraying the Doctor. I’ve had many conversations over the years with Gary Russell, Jason Haigh-Ellery, and Nicholas Briggs about what BF can and cannot do, and where it can and cannot go. Nothing in the BF catalog featuring any Doctor can contradict the television canon, of Classic Who, or New Era Who. Though there is creative license, clearance with the BBC is needed for BF to engage in anything potentially effecting canon. Note that the PDA’s (Past Doctor Adventures) from BBC Books ceased altogether upon the arrival of the new series; they only recently resumed sporadically. The EDA’s (Eighth Doctor Adventures) from BBC Books also ceased. There was only current era Who as far as new Who fiction was concerned. Note, BF never ceased, and the license was renewed on multiple occasions since he show’s return in 2005. Yes, the BF stories sometimes reference the Virgin and BBC Books, with the occasional adaptation, and with the forthcoming Fourth Doctor and Romana (Lalla Ward) audioplays will even be adapting some of their stories to audio. But BF has been “greenlighted” to coexist with the current Who all along. Only those fans who don’t care for them, or haven’t heard them don’t recognize Big Finish.

  11. avatar Howard Railton says:

    ‘Destroying Gallifrey’? So the special is actually about the Doctor becoming a mass murderer. McGann was right on the money in his brief regeneration snippet, instantly able to ramp up the tension, to me, he looked more convincing in this few minutes as the Doctor than Eccleston did for 13 eps. Anyone else think he was better than Smith perhaps?

    • avatar DonnaM says:

      That dry, deadpan delivery was certainly more “my” kind of Doctor but I understood the choice 8 was facing as this: If you stand aside, everything gets obliterated. Goodbye, all of space and time. Or, you can take action and salvage something. It’s not about right and wrong, black and white. It’s about the least worst option. And if the Time Lords really have become as bad as the Daleks….

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