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Feature
The Doctor Who's Who: A Guide To The Time Lord's Incarnations Through The Years
The Doctors profiled, vote for your favourite companion and the best episodes to watch

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The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann, 1996)

PAUL MCGANN
THE ONE-SHOT WONDER

 

The 1990s were a dark time for fans of Doctor Who, at least in its television incarnation. With the abrupt cancellation of the series in 1989, the novels and audio adventures could only do so much to plug the gap. We had Children In Need adventures, spoofs and recollections, but it would be seven years before The Doctor actually returned to screens. It wasn't for want of trying – the BBC had intended to let the show "rest" for a few of those years to shake off the cobwebs, but never quite got around to commissioning a new show until 2005. Yet though the show hadn't quite "broken" America the way it has these days, there were plenty of fans across the Pond, and producers saw a chance to resurrect the Time Lord for the then-modern era. The result, courtesy of producer Philip Segal, director Geoffrey Sax, writer Matthew Jacobs and star Paul McGann, was a one-off TV movie intended as a pilot for a new take on the show, overseen by the BBC and Fox in the US. Trivia fans might like to know that Drive Angry director and current Terminator co-writer Patrick Lussier edited it. Sadly, while McGann's Doctor proved remarkably popular, it didn't lead to anything besides a lot of frustrated viewers and several audio adventures and one big surprise leading up to the 50th anniversary show. This Doctor was a dashing, youthful distillation of previous incarnations, a man who embraced humanity (and kissed it on occasion) and who controversially claimed to be half-human, something that has largely been swept under a convenient TARDIS rug in subsequent stories.
 


COMPANIONS

American actress Daphne Ashbrook plays Dr. Grace Holloway, a passionate, smart heart surgeon who tries to save the Seventh Doctor's life when he's brought in after being shot by a street gang. Shocked to discover a new man from the morgue who claims to be her patient, she's swept up in an adventure where the entire world is under threat. Technically young street punk Chang Lee (Yee Jee Tso) is also a companion, but his status is a lot more ambiguous.
 

Quick poll: Vote for your favourite Doctor Who companion


THE EPISODES TO WATCH

1 The TV Movie (AKA The Enemy Within)
Not many choices here, to be honest. While McGann's performance endeared him to many fans, the TV movie itself couldn't be more of a mixed bag if it was chucked in a blender. Jacobs' love for the show pours from the script, but it's an overcooked mish-mash of familiar elements and lots of new ideas thrown in. The resulting clash of tones makes it feel like half-baked fan-fiction come to life. Attempting to service both those who had watched since the early days and clueless newcomers hoping for sci-fi, it falls between the two stools and ends up with a bruised arse. Eric Roberts hams it up like a panto villain and while money has clearly been spent on the effects and the well-appointed TARDIS interior, it feels fake except when McGann is giving it his all.

2 The Big Finish Audio Adventures
We're largely staying away from books, comics and audio adventures and sticking strictly to the TV canon for ease of reference. But if you're charmed by McGann's take and want more from the Eighth Doctor, you should track down several of his recorded works, which continue the character's adventures with a variety of companions.

3 The Night Of The Doctor
A huge surprise for Who fans arrived in November when the BBC premiered a new “minisode” in anticipation of 50th Anniversary show The Day Of The Doctor. The Night Of The Doctor finally bridged the gap between McGann’s incarnation and Christopher Eccleston’s, showing how our hero died on the surface of Karn, only to be temporarily kept alive by the mysterious Sisterhood. The weird sisters also gave him the chance to regenerate into any form he liked, leading to the arrival of The War Doctor (John Hurt), about whom we find out more in The Day Of The Doctor.

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Have Your Say
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Your Comments

1
I might be missing something but shouldn't John Hurt be on the list as the 9th Doctor? More

Posted by CaptainAwesome on Thursday November 28, 2013, 13:53

2 This was great...
...although I guess **SPOILERS** (sort of) you'll have to re-arrange the numerical order now - and although it was a one-off, I would consider Sally Sparrow to be a companion, and definitely one of my favourites - such a shame that now Carey Mulligan has made it SO big, we're unlikely to see her reprise the role... well, not until the 2025 Children In Need special anyway More

Posted by christofurr on Monday November 25, 2013, 15:41

3 RE: Missed one
L: Morehumanthanhuman I'm not a massive Dr Who fan, but I fail to see why Paul Mcgann gets a mention as the 8th doctor and yet Peter Cushing played the character several times never gets a mention. I loved those films as a kid getting constant repeats during the summer holidays. Peter Cushing played A Doctor, not THE Doctor. And he only did it for 2 TV movies. While the two movies, Doctor Who and the Daleks, and Doctor Who: Daleks Invasion Earth were based on the television series, they are not considered as canon within the main, TV universe. Cushing's Doctor was a human inventor, not a Time Lord. He also invented and built his Tardis, rather then it being the product of Time Lord science. The characters name was also Doctor Who. Who being used as the family/surname, rather then just the title of The Doctor. More

Posted by GrizBe on Monday November 25, 2013, 00:05

4
livapr99. There WAS A Christmas Carol for the Doctor. It was called a Christmas Carol and aired on Christmas Day 2010 More

Posted by PaoloCorleone on Sunday November 24, 2013, 20:58

5 Missed one
I'm not a massive Dr Who fan, but I fail to see why Paul Mcgann gets a mention as the 8th doctor and yet Peter Cushing played the character several times never gets a mention. I loved those films as a kid getting constant repeats during the summer holidays. More

Posted by Morehumanthanhuman on Sunday November 24, 2013, 13:39

6
Nice handy article :) Also concur that The Girl In The Fireplace and Blink should be in the mix. Still don't understand why Moffatt's more intellectual approach to story-telling is often viewed negatively - beats the dumbed down approach of RTD's run (The Big Red Button Era). I would disagree with the comment on the 10ths Master - Jacobi was fantastic, Simms was pantomime dreadful! RTD's period was often camp, but Simm's Master was better suited to Adam West's Batman. Shame, as he is a great actor usually. More

Posted by sirvolkar on Sunday November 24, 2013, 11:54

7
until I saw the bank draft that said $8966, I be certain ...that...my father in law woz like they say truley bringing in money in their spare time on their apple laptop.. there neighbour has done this less than seventeen months and resently paid the dept on there mini mansion and bought a gorgeous Porsche 911. I went here,...JUMP85.COM More

Posted by RachelMcCarter9012 on Sunday November 24, 2013, 02:53

8 Love the article. But...
...it's DEREK Jacobi. Not David. More

Posted by wgfuzzydunlop1 on Friday November 22, 2013, 20:36

9
What about 'A Christmas Carol' for the Eleventh Doctor? Overall, though, a good article. More

Posted by livapr99 on Friday November 22, 2013, 18:25

10 Where's K-9?
You forgot the snooty dog thing. Both of them. More

Posted by Sean Alexander on Friday November 22, 2013, 17:23

11 Great Article
Fantastic piece this. Genesis of the Daleks from the Tom Baker era has to be my favourite Doctor Who story, even though I am a huge fan of the modern era shows. Despite the still somewhat wonky sets, Genesis was the first thing on television that showed me that a TV series could have real dramatic depth and still be entertaining. His moral anguish when on the brink of committing genocide is brilliantly played by Tom Baker, off an excellent script. More

Posted by Topper_Harley on Friday November 22, 2013, 00:48

12 Probably one of the best articles you've written for a while...
But I agree with the others. Girl in the Fireplace and Blink defiantely needed to be on the list for the 10th, and A Good Man Goes to War and Vincent defiantely for the 11th. More

Posted by GrizBe on Thursday November 21, 2013, 21:36

13 Great list but....
Great list but for me Girl in the Fireplace & Vincent and the Doctor are 2 of my favourites. Blink is a great episode too and well deserved to be on the list. More

Posted by casheliser on Thursday November 21, 2013, 20:19

14 Amazing Feature
But for the 11th Doctor, I feel "A Good Man Goes To War" should included. It perfectly shows eleven's wit and his amazing sense of showmanship, as well as his wrath. Best 11 episode in my opinion. More

Posted by tommyinglis on Thursday November 21, 2013, 19:23

15
Awesome list but there's an episode missing from Tennant's run in my opinion: the awesome Girl in the Fireplace; my favourite tenth stand-alone More

Posted by cahoopuk on Thursday November 21, 2013, 14:53

16
Excellent feature and beautifully presented. Thanks. More

Posted by TimEdwards on Thursday November 21, 2013, 13:57

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