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Doctor Who - The Eighth Doctor

Updated on December 9, 2011

The Eighth Doctor Who

In a partnership between the BBC and FOX in the US, a television movie was commissioned, featuring an eighth incarnation of the Doctor in San Francisco, California.  It did not, as some hoped, bring the weekly television serial back to the air in the UK, but did provide fodder for a whole bevy of new stories until the series returned nearly a decade later.

Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor

Paul McGann, one of several brothers who also act professionally, had been a stage, television and film actor for several years. He spent much of the late 1980s and early 1990s playing in well-received BBC serials, art house films and even A-list Hollywood blockbusters.

When he was selected to play the Eighth Doctor it was with the understanding that if the show got picked up, he'd be the Doctor. While this has led to a great deal of work for McGann, playing the audio version of the Doctor in spin-off adventures, it never resulted in reprising the role for television. He continues to make appearances at Doctor Who and science fiction conventions and has allowed his image to be used with the many novelizations that have appeared since.

Recent recorded work by McGann since 1996 includes, a very large variety of roles, including a large number of television films and short serials.

How did Paul McGann play the Eighth Doctor?

Due to his violent regeneration, and probably the time he spent as a corpse, the Eighth Doctor has been portrayed in his sole television appearance (and in spin-off media) as someone prone to temporary bouts of amnesia. While he is conscious, however, the Romantic-era garbed Doctor is perhaps one of the most enthusiastic about his human companions.

Clearly older than we'd last seen him, the Eighth Doctor is more than willing to reveal more of his psychic abilities to relative strangers and seems to have a taste for sensory stimulus. He also appears to have the slight of hand skill enjoyed by the Third Doctor and he makes use of it as a reluctant pick-pocket.

What was the most recognisable trademark of the Eighth Doctor?

His long hair, coat and tie are reminiscent of a much younger First Doctor. With large and slightly droopy eyes, this further adds to his eccentric look, having been acquired at a fancy dress shop, anyhow.

Dr Grace Holloway
Dr Grace Holloway
The Eighth Doctor and his arch-nemesis the Master battle over the Eye
The Eighth Doctor and his arch-nemesis the Master battle over the Eye

Who were the Eighth Doctor’s assistants?

After being shot and brought to hospital, he was unsuccessfully treated by Dr. Grace Holloway, who was clearly distraught by having lost this patient.  Later, he proves his identity as the regenerated (and very much alive) version of the formerly deceased patient and he enlists her help in defeating the Master.

Grace has the distinction of being the only assistant that the Doctor has ever seriously kissed until Rose.

Which main enemies did he face?

There was only one so, of course, it was the Master.  Not even stopped by the loss of his body, the Master simply goes out to look for someone else's to steal, as he's done several times before.

The Beryllium Atomic Clock
The Beryllium Atomic Clock

What technology did he rely on?

The beryllium atomic clock that is counting down to the millennium is a vital (though less advanced) piece of technology plays an important part in this story, as it's the only thing that can help the doctor seal up the interface with the Eye of Harmony that powers the TARDIS and all Time Lord technology.

We do, however, see the sonic screwdriver for the very first time since it was lost to the Fifth Doctor.

Doctor Who- The Eighth Regeneration

The Doctor's eighth regeneration

The series that many had hoped for was dependent upon FOX television in the US going ahead with their US options on the Doctor Who intellectual property. However, the night that the 90-minute movie aired was pre-empted by a sporting event, so hardly anyone saw the show in North America while over 9 million people were watching in the UK.

Therefore, in the intervening nine years between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors, McGann had given quite a few audio book performances. Not wishing to reprise his role when the new series launched in 2005 and limit potential , the audience simply met the Ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston in his first story of Season One, “Rose.”

Spin-off media has created a lengthy narrative by where the Eighth Doctor (and the Third Romana) is actually responsible for the “Time War” that the Ninth Doctor will later discuss.

Filmography of the Eighth Doctor

Television Special – 1996

  • The Enemy Within – The Doctor is tasked with taking the recently executed remains of the Master back to Galifrey, but he becomes a substance that forces the Doctor to land in 1990s San Francisco and can inhabit bodies.  The Master battles to take over the Doctor's body so he can continue to live.

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