The Eighth Doctor made two televised appearances, but has led to countless books, audio dramas, and comic appearances. Paul McGann’s first appearance in the 1996 movie Doctor Who The Enemy Within gave us a romantic Doctor that took a drastic turn from the previous Machiavellian Doctor in his seventh regeneration. The movie, albeit slightly corny, provided supple groundwork for writers afterwards to continue the Eighth Doctor’s adventures in time and space.
The movie starts not with Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, but instead with Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor. The Seventh Doctor traveled alone to pick up his deceased nemesis, the Master. The interesting thing about this is the seventh Doctor travels alone. It leaves us to wonder what happened to his previous companion, Ace. The audios by Big Finish have told of their adventures together after the series, but they have not quite laid what has happened to Dorthy McShane. The Doctor nonetheless travels alone until the Master remains break out and strand the TARDIS in San Francisco in 1999.
The Doctor leaves the TARDIS without checking things outside. He gets shot. Sadly, this is one of the worst parts of the film. The Doctor who manipulate events far in advance, the Doctor who manipulated companions to save the day, the Doctor who (heh) took down gods gets shot in a gang war. I understand the simplicity of it, and to some extent his beginning was similar. The Sixth Doctor simply seems to have fallen and regenerated into him. Nonetheless, the future characterization of the Seventh Doctor in books and other media lead me to believe it was a bit of a careless plot device.
The gang war introduces us to Chang Lee who ends up becoming a companion of the Master. He’s also the person who brings the Doctor into the hospital where he meets his companion in the story, Grace Hollaway. Grace gets called in because the Doctor has two hearts. The other Doctors and nurses think it’s because of a double exposure, and with his erratic heart-beat they need to operate. Inevitably, this is what kills the Doctor. The anesthesia, we are to believe, is the reason behind the delayed regeneration.
Several hours later, the Eighth Doctor regenerates on a slab in the morgue. He comes out wrapped in the plastic that covered him with a toe-tag. He stumbled into a locker room and dresses as Wild Bill Hickcock. Thus, the Edwardian Doctor was born.
A lot of the corny plot deals with the Doctor unable to remember who he is. This leads to some hazardous interaction with Grace. Grace is a skeptic. The Doctor simply asks her to believe in him to a large degree. The interaction between the two is fun nonetheless.
The secondary plot is that with the Master. Eric Roberts comes in to play an American version of the Master. In this, Bill is taken over by the gooey snake the Master had become post-death. He kills Bill’s wife, manipulates Chang Lee into following him, and then goes after the Doctor directly.
The story actually reminds me a little bit of the more modern Doctor who with a couple sub-plots leading to the actual plot. There is a time table they must adhere to in this case it’s midnight. The villain wants to stop the Doctor, and end the universe, while the Doctor and his companion set out to save the day.
The Doctor lets out hints of people’s lives as he goes along. It’s an interesting trait that the others Doctors really didn’t do. It would imply that he’d seen into their timelines, or perhaps he had seen them before. It’s a trait that I’m not sure if they continue through the majority of the novels, comics, or audios.
The part that many people reviewing it get all fussy about is the fact there’s lines about the Doctor being “Half-Human On [His] Mother’s Side”. I do not really care one way or the other. The Doctor will always simply be the Doctor whether or not he is half-human or not. Apparently the Eighth Doctor Adventure novels allude to this fact of his mother, while others say that it was a way to trick and trap the Master. Nonetheless, I do not think it takes away or adds much to the story except shock value.
The movie ends happily, even though both Lee and Grace temporarily die. The Doctor saves the day and asks Grace to travel with him. She’s one of the few companions who decline, and with a kiss he is off on his next adventure.
Overall, the movie leaves a lot to be desired, but having seen it countless times and follow the Eighth Doctor on his other adventures, I can understand that is also gave a lot of things for people to utilize in their stories and that’s a great introduction to have. He’s a romantic. He’s a bit childish. He has an eccentric way of speaking. And he has a new TARDIS interior to play in. It’ll be interesting to follow his journey into the novels and comics as I continue my Adventure with the Edwardian Doctor.