Our Countdown to Day of The Doctor continues with History of The Doctor: Doctors Seven and Eight!
“You don’t understand regeneration, Mel. It’s a lottery, and I’ve drawn the short plank.” This was one of the first words of the Seventh Doctor. He was a Doctor that seemingly drew the short plank in a lot of ways. The show was entering its 24th season in 1987. There was still a following for the show but not like had been seen in previous years. As the 1980s would draw to a close, so would the time of the Doctor (at least for a season). In this article we will look at the Seventh and Eighth Doctors, Sylvester McCoy & Paul McGann.
Like I had mentioned at the end of the previous article, the Sixth Doctor Colin Baker did not leave on his own terms. The regeneration between the Sixth and Seventh Doctor took place in the first serial of the 24th season “Time and the Rani”. It was the only time in the original run that did not have the departing Doctor involved in the regeneration (in fact Sylvester McCoy had to wear a blonde wig to simulate Colin Baker).
The Seventh Doctor started out kind of eccentric. One of the things the Seventh Doctor liked to do was play the spoons (this was something the actor loved to do in real life). However, as time went along, there was a darker side that was played up by the producers and writers. This seemed to be a trend in the 80s with the Sixth and Seventh Doctors. There is some thought as to this is one of the factors as to the downturn of popularity of the show.
The 24th Season saw the show moved once again to Monday nights. There were only 4 serials that season, which would be standard the rest of the original series run. By the end of the season, the Seventh Doctor’s first companion Mel would depart and would be replaced by Ace. The only major villain the Seventh Doctor would face that season would be the return of the renegade Time Lady, the Rani.
When the series returned for the 25th season, the show moved again, this time to Wednesday nights. The Seventh Doctor would once again face off against his old enemies, the Daleks and the Cybermen. The serial with the Cybermen, entitled “Silver Nemesis” was the 150th serial of the show and aired the first episode aired on the 25th anniversary of the show on November 23rd 1988.
The next season (the 26th season) would unfortunately be the last season of the original run. The heads of the BBC wanted to cut ties with the program even though there was still those viewers who tuned in and watched (and there were plans in the works for stories for the next season). This last season was one of the darkest during the run. During the final season it did see the return one more time of friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and UNIT. The last serial that aired “Survival” (November-December 1989) saw the Doctor once again match wits with the Master. In the end, the Seventh Doctor and Ace walked off into the sunset.
In 1993, there was a special that ran during the telethon “Children in Need”. It was a crossover event with Doctor Who & the soap EastEnders. It would be the only broadcast in celebration of the 30th anniversary. The two episodes, which totaled between the two 13 minutes, featured the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors as well as numerous past companions. The major villain in the piece was the Rani. Although this was made in honor of the anniversary, this does not fit in with the continuity of the show and is considered not canonical.
In 1996, there was hope to revive the show. With a joint production between the U.K., Canada and the United States, a TV movie was made. The hope was that it could possibly become a pilot for a new American-produced show. Instead of featuring the Seventh Doctor, a new Doctor, the Eighth Doctor was featured. The Seventh Doctor did appear at the beginning of the movie as he was near death before regenerating into the Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann. It also featured a new companion, Grace Holloway.
The TV movie saw the Doctor pitted against the Master again, who himself had regenerated again and was played in the film by Eric Roberts. This Doctor, at least portrayed on TV, was a little bit lighter than his previous incarnation. He also had a tendency to bouts of amnesia, as well as the ability to pickpocket from various people.
The TV movie aired in the U.S. on FOX May 14, 1996. It aired in the U.K. on BBC 1 a few weeks later on May 27, 1996. It was well received in the U.K. garnering a 9.0 rating. However, it only received a 5.6 rating in the U.S. and because of this no new series was commissioned. This would end up being the only televised appearance of the Eighth Doctor. He would appear in radio plays and novels but as far as for the TV, this was it (however, he has recently appeared in “Night of the Doctor” a prequel to “Day of the Doctor” which came out online this week).
I’m sure many thought after the TV movie that it would be the last time the Doctor would appear on screen. But as we all know now, that is not the case….
[At the end of each article, I will recommend at least one serial that you should watch for each Doctor. This is besides the first and last serial of each Doctor if they are available]
Serial of the Seventh Doctor: “The Curse of Fenric” Season 26 (1989)