Review by Logan
I’ll admit it, I’m a whovian. I’ve watched every episode of the rebooted show, read the fan pages, obtained a trench coat, and even watched the first season of the show from 1963-1964. Eventually I could live with myself no longer having not seen the film.
Going into it, my expectations were medium at best. The movie was made in 1996 as an attempt to revive the show, which had been cancelled in 1989. As a revival attempt, it’s pretty good. As a film in its own right, it falls somewhere between “Meh” and “Dude. Nice.”
It begins with The Doctor having received the remains of The Master, his archenemy, with the request to bring said remains to their home planet of Gallifrey. To those who don’t know the mythology of the show, The Doctor and The Master are both Time Lords. This means an abundance of things, but here’s a quick rundown: they have two hearts, they travel through time, and they have thirteen lives, each regeneration bringing a new face.
The Doctor winds up in 1999, where he naturally gets shot and The Master’s spiritual “remains” possess the paramedic. Makes sense.
Fast forward a few insignificant plot points, and we wind up with two against two. The E.R. doctor on The Doctor’s side and the kid who brought The Doctor in to the E.R. on The Master’s side (with the help of a few lies, of course). The Master uses the kid to open the Eye of Harmony, which basically sucks Earth into if it’s open for too long. Very harmonious, right? To add to the problem, The Master, who has used up all of his regenerations, plans to steal The Doctor’s body.
Short story shorter, we find out that The Doctor’s half-human (*gasp*) and The Master gets destroyed.
When you get past the corny ‘90s special effects, the film is somewhat enjoyable. In comparison to the show, the movie has a much more epic feel. The Master himself is much darker than he ever is in the television series, especially the newer episodes (I know he was destroyed, but he pops back up again in the series, played by John Simm. Go figure). Paul McGann also delivers a nearly flawless performance as The Doctor in a peppy, quirky character fans won’t easily forget. The main problem was with the pacing. Unlike most films, which aim for rising steadily until the climax then closing with falling action, this one seems to lack a middle between the beginning and the climax. The beginning is very interesting, especially how the anesthesia disrupted the regeneration process, but we go straight from that to the impending end of the world. That’s cool and all, but it’s a little too quick. Give us a little bit of time to get used to the new Doctor first, bro.
The worldview happens to be one of my favorite parts of this movie. In these kinds of films, there is often one overarching aspect that sets the hero and the villain apart. If you know the backstory of these two, you know that they were once friends, in their young childhood days. So what set them on different paths? What is it that makes one good and the other evil (other than, you know, the whole destroying the Earth and stealing the other’s body thing). Two things: dishonesty and selfishness.
Dishonesty is the biggest. The Master pulls Chang Lee in by essentially pure lies. When it’s finally revealed to Lee, he turns on The Master, who then kills him (although he’s able to be resurrected afterwards). This has a very immediate application for us. Satan is the “father of lies,” the Bible tells us (John 8:44), and while he may promise us good things, he will always turn on us in the end. The Master even called Lee “the son I’ve always wanted.” Didn’t mean much to him in the end, did he? On the other hand, The Doctor is an upstanding model of honesty. He tells the truth even when Grace thinks he’s crazy.
Selfishness is another key issue. The Master clearly says at one point that he has wasted his lives. However, that doesn’t stop him from trying to steal The Doctor’s body so he can live longer. That kind of selfishness is what leads a man to so easily toss aside one who had once been his friend. It’s a kind of selfishness that we ought to be aware of, because it’s a trap that we can fall into. We may not try to steal our friend’s body, but we might disregard their concern for our own, and thus be guilty of the same sin, only in a more subtle form.