tek's rating: ¾

Doctor Who, on CITV (Canada) / FOX (USA) / BBC One (UK)
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This was a British/American co-production, which aired in 1996. I watched it and liked it, but that was before I started writing reviews. So I'm writing this after watching it in 2021 on DVD. It was meant as a potential pilot for a revival of the 1963-1989 Doctor Who TV series, but it didn't do well enough (at least in the U.S.) for that to happen. (Of course, a new series would debut in the U.K. in 2005.) I didn't remember any details of the plot, but I do vaguely recall thinking it was "too American". And watching it this time, I think I must have liked it less than I did the first time I saw it. Really, there were any number of things about this movie that I didn't like, probably the most irritating one being that the movie claimed the Doctor was half human. Like, WTAF, amirite? But I guess it wasn't all bad.

Anyway, it starts out with narration by the eighth Doctor, even though the seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) hasn't regenerated yet. We learn that the Master stood trial on Skaro (of all planets), and was exterminated by Daleks, who then apparently just let the Doctor take his ashes, to deliver them to Gallifrey. Unfortunately, through some means that is never explained, the Master's ashes turn into goo and break out of the box they'd been locked away in. This apparently causes the TARDIS to make an emergency landing on Earth, in San Francisco, in December 1999. There were a few young Chinese-American gangsters who were running from a rival gang. The TARDIS materializes in front of one of them, Chang Lee (Yee Jee Tso), before he can be shot. The Doctor then emerges from the TARDIS and gets shot, himself. The gangsters leave and Lee wants to get an ambulance for the Doctor... and one shows up before he can even call for one. There's a paramedic in the ambulance (played by Eric Roberts), whose body the goo-Master later takes over. Meanwhile, at the hospital, a doctor named Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook) operates on the Doctor, but because of his alien anatomy, she makes a mistake that kills him. He eventually regenerates into the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann), who breaks out of the morgue (totally scaring Will Sasso in the process). Unfortunately, the Doctor has amnesia. But he eventually comes across Grace, and remembers seeing her in the operating room. So he begs for her help, which she's understandably reluctant to give at first, because he seems crazy. But eventually he does remember who he is, and a bit later she comes to believe the truth about him.

Well. Lee had stolen a bag of the Doctor's possessions, including a key to the TARDIS, which he lets himself into. Unfortunately, the Master is already inside. (I'm not sure how he got in there, unless he somehow knew about the spare key that the Doctor himself uses later in the movie. Though why he would have put the key back where he found it I have no idea. Maybe we're just not supposed to question his being in the TARDIS.) Anyway, he convinces Lee that the Doctor had stolen the TARDIS from him, as well as stealing his remaining lives. So Lee helps him with his plan to steal the Doctor's remaining lives, since the body the Master is currently in wouldn't last long. That's basically the plot. But just to make things more interesting, if the Doctor doesn't stop the Master by midnight on December 31, the Earth will be destroyed. For reasons. Of course, the Doctor ultimately does defeat the Master and the Earth is saved.

I'm sure I was disappointed back in 1996 that this didn't become a series, but now I have mixed feelings. I might have liked to see more of the eighth Doctor, but I probably didn't miss much. (That regeneration has subsequently appeared in various media like comic books and audio dramas, but I don't know anything about all that. Maybe it's better than a TV series would have been.) Anyway, I'm glad to have seen the movie again, even if I found it somewhat disappointing.


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