THE CUSHING FILMS
Of all the many incarnations of this franchise over the years, one of the strangest is this two-film series. DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS (1965) and DALEKS — INVASION EARTH: 2150 AD (1966) are a sort of alternate continuity. Peter Cushing plays Dr. Who, a human whose surname is literally Who, with companions Susan, Barbara, and Ian who are all radically different from their TV counterparts. Cushing’s character does not feel like an incarnation of the Doctor; more like someone attempted to adapt a TV show and got everything wrong.
I went into these films with low expectations, but I told myself “How bad can they be? I like Cushing as an actor. Don’t compare these to the show and just enjoy them as generic B-movies.”
I couldn’t. About twenty minutes in I asked myself “Why am I watching this? I’m not entertained. All this is doing and constantly reminding me of the TV show and making me wish I was watching that instead.”
That’s all I have to say about those. Life’s too short to waste watching boring movies.
THE 1996 TV FILM
Now this production, on the other hand, I will slightly defend. Yes, its plot is quite forgettable and Eric Roberts‘ take on The Master is a pretty laughable villain of the week. But I think it’s important to remember that this really wasn’t intended to be a standalone movie but a TV pilot. Had the show continued, it would have developed into a “reboot” of the franchise for a new audience, and Paul McGann gives a fine performance. So while the result is flawed, I do give it credit for attempting to introduce the franchise to an American audience and put a new spin on the material. Unfortunately, this “Americanization” is exactly what many fans hate about it, and it does feel very derivative of THE X-FILES as well as American horror films in general, given its mostly nighttime setting. Virtually all of McGann’s screentime deals with him adjusting to his regeneration rather than moving the story forward. It would have been nice to have less epic fights with The Master and more, you know, time traveling.
But there’s one point I think deserves a mention. At the beginning of this film, we see an older incarnation of the Doctor, who then dies and regenerates into Paul McGann. At one point during development, the producers considered having this older incarnation be played by Tom Baker, reasoning that he was the most popular Doctor as well as an actor known to American audiences. In the end, they decided to make it Sylvester McCoy in order to keep continuity with the Classic Series and because they wanted to give the Seventh Doctor the proper, dignified sendoff that he’d never received. And what is the dignified send-off they give him? They have him stupidly walk into the line of bullets in the middle of a gang shoot-out and then get taken to a hospital where the doctors kill him out of their ineptitude. Oy vey!
But I bring this up because in retrospect, it actually WOULD have been better had they cast Tom Baker in the role! Doing so would have made it clear to the audience that this a different continuity; that we were seeing a brand new take on DOCTOR WHO that was paying homage to the Classic Series, but was its own thing. By casting McCoy, and thus explicitly making McGann the Eighth Doctor, this film feels even more confused about its identity. Is it a reboot, a remake, or a sequel?
This movie feels even stranger today when compared to the subsequent Revived Series, which clearly learned from its mistakes. McGann would not appear onscreen as the Eighth Doctor for seventeen years, but what a return he’d get! And speaking of that revived series…
THE DOCTOR AND GROD BUZZ WILL RETURN NEXT WEEK FOR THE FINAL INSTALLMENT!