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Doctor Who Episode Guide: the 1990s

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Beginning in November 1963, Doctor Who is the longest-running science fiction TV series in the world, spanning 26 consecutive years in its original form. It revolves around the adventures of a traveller in time and space generally known as 'The Doctor'. He is accompanied on his travels by a number of companions (also known as 'assistants') and faces alien monsters, historical villains and misguided maniacs all over the galaxy, but he often admits that Earth is by far his favourite planet.

Though Doctor Who disappeared from TV screens as an ongoing series in 1989, the Doctor returned in three different specials during the 1990s, each of which taking a different approach to the concept. For most of the decade, BBC executives considered the show to be ripe for adaptation into a movie. The resulting TV special failed to translate into a full TV series but nevertheless spawned a range of spin-off novels and audio dramas inspired by Paul McGann's version of the Doctor.

The movie was topped and tailed by two charity-related specials revolving around multiple Doctors working to defeat an old enemy.

Of these three Doctor Who productions, only the TV Movie is classed as an official listing in the 'canon' of official stories.

The TV Movie

'Doctor Who'

  • Broadcast: 14 May, 1996 (US) / 27 May, 1996 (UK)
  • Writer: Matthew Jacobs
  • Director: Geoffrey Sax
  • Incidental Music: John Debney

Taking the remains of his old enemy the Master back to their home planet, the Doctor's Tardis experiences a timing malfunction that sends the Tardis off course to San Francisco, 1999. There, the Doctor is shot in a gangland gun battle. Though one of the gang members, Chang Lee, manages to get the Doctor to hospital, his alien physiognomy leads to a complication during surgery. Left in the morgue, the Doctor's body regenerates. As he comes to term with his eighth persona, he meets Grace Holloway, the surgeon who operated on him before his death, learns that the Master has found himself a new body to possess, and races to prevent the destruction of Earth.

Note: This one-off 90-minute TV movie starred Paul McGann as the Doctor (with Sylvester McCoy playing 'The Old Doctor'). Eric Roberts played The Master and Daphne Ashbrook took on the role of the Doctor's companion, Dr Grace Holloway.

Charity Specials

'Dimensions in Time' (2 episodes, 10 and 5 minutes long)

  • Broadcast: 26 - 27 November, 1993
  • Writers: John Nathan-Turner, David Roden
  • Director: Stuart McDonald
  • Incidental Music: Keff McCulloch

The Rani has set a trap for her enemy the Doctor. Drawing his various incarnations to different locations and times in London, she hopes to ensnare him and add him to her menagerie as part of one of her diabolical experiments.

Note: Produced for the BBC's 'Children in Need' appeal, this two-part special saw the return of Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy play versions of their own Doctors in a battle against evil Time Lord the Rani (Kate O'Mara). The Doctor was joined by his old companions, parts of the story were set in EastEnders' Albert Square (complete with guest appearances by some of the EastEnders cast) and the entire story was shown in a form of 3D.

This adventure is generally recognised to be a 'skit', as opposed to an official story.

'The Curse of Fatal Death' (4 5-minute episodes)

This second charity tribute - in aid of Comic Relief's bi-annual Red Nose Day appeal - was more overtly comical and as such is again not considered part of the official 'canon' of Doctor Who stories. Here, the Doctor is seen to run through his last remaining incarnations, played by Rowan Atkinson, Richard E Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Joanna Lumley. Julia Sawalha played the Doctor's companion/finaceé Emma while Jonathan Pryce delivered an interpretation of The Master that was both hysterical and frighteningly close to that of original Master, Roger Delgado.

  • Broadcast: 12 March, 1999
  • Writer: Stephen Moffat
  • Director: John Henderson
  • Music Consultant: Mark Ayres (using stock music from previous stories)

When the Doctor agrees to meet the Master on the planet of Tersurus, the old enemies cannot resist playing a game of one-upmanship that results in the Master suffering a series of indignities. But the Doctor has only one reason to meet his foe - to announce his retirement and simultaneously his engagement to his assistant, Emma. The Master refuses to allow the Doctor to escape him and calls upon the Daleks to join him in a moment of revenge. But when a faulty Dalek machine threatens to destroy the universe, the Doctor risks his life five times over to prevent a catastrophe. His selfless act prompts the Master and the Daleks to recant their careers of evil in his honour. But at the last minute, the Doctor manages to regenerate one last time and Emma learns to her dismay that the Doctor is quite literally not the man she once loved.

Note: 'The Curse of Fatal Death' featured actor Roy Skelton's last contribution to the series as the voice of the Daleks (which he'd been playing on and off since 1967's 'Evil of the Daleks').

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