Wednesday, April 04, 2007

My Review of Doctor Who's: "The Movie"

Written by Matthew Jacobs
Directed by Geoffrey Sax

Grace: “I only have one life, can you remember that?”
The Doctor: “I’ll try.”

A couple of years before the 2005 series had seen The Doctor ride the ratings and public affection high once again, there had been a few attempts to bring the show back. One was the awful gimmick “Dimensions In Time” as well as “Curse Of Fatal Death” and “Scream Of The Shalka” (the former by Steven Moffat and the latter by Paul Cornell). However the only official canon was in fact the 1996 Movie and I can tell you, I actually quite enjoy it.

Seven years is arguably a long time for a show to be gone and perhaps a shorter time to try and bring it back but this movie does make a decent attempt of doing so. We might not know what happened to poor Ace or how The Master escaped Cheetah world but the opening with the latter getting wiped out by the Daleks is a good starting point.

A part of me is massively surprised that for the first 20 minutes, it’s the Seventh Doctor we’re dealing with. You’d think the movie would want to start with the Eighth and gradually explain or at least throw some hints about the regeneration process. It’s an audacious move on the writer’s part and perhaps a tad better for a newcomer who gets to delight in seeing an actual regeneration (which we got denied of in “Rose”).

The Seventh Doctor is set to take The Master’s remains back to Gallifrey upon his enemy’s final request but he’s smart enough to lock the box that contains the remains of his best enemy. Of course, The Master has always been a conniving so and so and it’s not rocket science that he decides to use this as an opportunity to escape and part of that plan has the TARDIS crash landing on earth.

Now The Doctor loves Earth quite a lot so he probably wasn’t expecting to have the TARDIS protect some kid named Chang Lee nor for the moment he opened the door did he expect to be shot multiple times by the same gang in pursuit of Chang Lee. Well the writers needed to speed up the regeneration and there’s some fun here in seeing The Doctor mortally wounded as The Master in a snake like formation slithers away to find a new body.

With The Doctor and The Master both on the verge of change, it’s the shaping of their companions that propels things along as well. On The Master’s side you’ve got a naïve boy in Chang Lee, who while not above gun violence, seems to be more manipulated by The Master’s lies of The Doctor being evil rather than anything. It’s also an unusual joy to see The Master with a companion even if Chang Lee is kind of annoying.

The Doctor on the other hand nearly has his regeneration process wrecked by medics when they put a probe inside him to see why his heart is racing so far. The hospital banter, in particular with discussion of Grace’s on-off relationship with Bryan comes across as being somewhat inane and the moment where both The Doctor and The Master (who swipes the body of ambulance driver Bruce and then kills Bruce’s wife) won’t win point for subtlety.

As Doctors go, Paul McGann is great. He’s on the right side of being both vulnerable and manic with excitement as memories of past events come flooding back. I also appreciate that The Doctor and Grace’s team up is pretty quick to. Yes following her into the parking lot and sounding like someone loose from a psych ward may not have the resonance of other Doctor/Companion moments but it more or less does the trick in its own way.

Grace is also a pretty good strength to this movie also. She may not be up there with either Sarah Jane, Martha or Ace but she’s instantly likeable and pretty efficient even if it does take her a while to actually believe The Doctor’s entire story. As for the multiple kisses these two exchange – I really couldn’t care less. It just didn’t bother me a lot.

The Master on the other hand is let down a bit by Eric Roberts. He’s not the worst actor in the world but compared to the likes of Roger Delgado or John Simm, you almost get the feeling that he’s phoning in his performance. He started off great with the moment in which he killed Bruce’s wife but when he actually captures The Doctor and uses a possessed Grace and Chang Lee to steal The Doctor’s remaining lives, the camp factor does kick into overdrive.

Perhaps The Master is pissed off for all those times The Doctor has bested his plans and I get that wanting to stay alive is important but there’s something not quite as satisfying with this general plot. The Eye Of Harmony is the cause of the problems with the TARDIS and the goal for The Master to survive but it feels as if it should’ve been more of a battle for The Doctor to defeat him. Even The Master winding up trapped in the Eye Of Harmony and Grace and Chang Lee being resurrected feels a bit too easy.

Still this movie was always going to have to be a bit self-contained in case it bombed and the ending with Chang Lee getting some of The Doctor’s stuff and Grace and The Doctor saying their goodbyes is satisfying enough. We’ve had stronger departures but I ended up liking Grace a hell of a lot more than I expected to. Daphne Ashbrook’s consistent performance ensured. It’s only sad that this is the only televised adventure with her and The Eighth Doctor. I wouldn’t have minded seeing some more.

Also in “Doctor Who: The Movie”

Annoying that we not only didn’t get to actually see the Daleks kill The Master but the voices didn’t even sound Dalek like.

The Doctor: “Here it comes.”
Chang Lee: “Hold on there, old man. Chang Lee will help you.”

The Frankenstein moment between The Doctor and The Master was the not subtle thing I meant earlier on. Pete was watching the movie during the regenerations.

Wife: “What would you like me to call you then?”
The Master: “Master will do fine.”

Grace: “Somehow I don’t think the Second Coming happens.”
Pete: “What you think he’s gonna go to a better hospital?”

Both The Master and The Doctor mentioned they’ve snogged Marie Curie. Well it wouldn’t be the first time either of them have invaded the other’s turf. Both of them also kissed Grace for different reasons.

Grace: “No sorry, the dead stay dead. You can’t turn back time.”
The Doctor: “Yes you can.”

The Doctor: “I am The Doctor.”
Grace: “Good, now do that again.”

The Doctor showed both Grace and Chang Lee the future as well as Gallifrey. This is also one of the few times in which he’s mentioned his father.

The Doctor: “That’s very witty Grace. At least Freud would’ve taken me seriously.”
Grace: “He’d have hung up his pipe if he had met you.”

Props go to the makeup team for the gorgeous icy blue makeup and black eyes when Grace was possessed. Daphne Ashbrook looked rather hot during those scenes.

Chang Lee: “You’re a funny guy.”
The Master: “I’m glad one of us is amused.”

The Doctor: “But time to change.”
The Master: “I always dress for the occasion.”

Standout music: Puccini’s “Madam Butterfly”, despite being massively distracting.

Grace: “I’m gonna miss you.”
The Doctor: “How can you miss me? I’m the guy with two hearts. I’m easy to find.”

There was a dedication to Jon Pertwee at the end of this movie but it doesn’t seem to be on the DVD.

For something that was supposedly so bad, I actually found “The Movie” really enjoyable. Yes it was kind of Americanised and Eric Roberts made for a bad Master but everything else was pretty fun, even the mansion like TARDIS upon repeated viewing. Still anything is better than “Dimension In Time”, right?

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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