Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Recap: "Doctor Who: The TV Movie" Part 2: The Doctor and the Doctor

Geez, somebody should give the Doctor a name tag, just so he doesn’t forget who he is again.

...he said knowingly.

Spoilers.
A foggy morning rises in the city of San Francisco. Dr. Grace Holloway is waking up in her office, because she spent the night there. And she spent the night in her office because…



Anyway, the Doctor, having apparently finally finished his screaming, has made his way to the hospital staff’s lockers with nobody noticing him. I have to admit, this is a nice scene. Five lifetimes ago, the Doctor stole clothes from a hospital after regenerating, and he’ll do so again in the future.

First up, he finds an impractically long scarf.

"What kind of fool would wear something like this?"
Elsewhere in the city, Chang Lee has finally decided to go through the Doctor’s things. The first thing out of the bag is none other than the sonic screwdriver. As he examines it, the Doctor has just found something horrifying in one of the lockers. So horrifying, that the music changes to let you know that he’s stumbled across… pure evil.

"Yeesh. If I ever ran into this fellow, I'd want to lose my memory."
Over with Chang Lee, he’s found the yo-yo that the Fourth Doctor liked to use to check the local gravity whenever he landed on a new planet. And back with the Doctor, he’s found his new outfit. A voice-over flashes back to Ted telling Bill that he was going as Wild Bill Hickok for the New Year’s costume party; something so insignificant that it’s really not worth bringing up. Except to pre-empt the questions as to why there’s an old-timey getup in a hospital locker. I’d ask where exactly Ted got this outfit, seeing as how it’s actually very well-made and clearly wasn’t bought off the rack at Halloween USA… but I like the outfit too much to question its origins. Let’s just say that Ted’s an avid cosplayer and leave it at that.

After Lee examines a pocket watch that fans of the new series use to explain an upcoming point of contention (I’ll explain later), and the Doctor tosses out a hat, Lee pulls out the last item in the bag: the key to the TARDIS. Alien empires throughout the universe would kill to get their hands on one of those…. And it’s in the hands of some punk from Chinatown.

Hey, speaking of killing, Bruce’s wife has just woken up to find her husband staring out the window, monologuing about how he needs to find the Doctor before his new body wears out. But his wife is just glad she could get some sleep last night, and urges her “honey” to come back to bed, ostensibly to “play Doctor” herself.

Bruce: “My name is not ‘Honey.’”
Bruce’s Wife: “Oh, well… what would you like me to call you, then?”
Bruce: “’Master’ will do.”
Bruce’s Wife: “Well, come back to bed. Master.”

You know, once I learned that Bruce’s wife was played by Eric Roberts’s real life wife, Eliza, I couldn’t help but visualize this as the foreplay to their I Dream of Jeannie-themed roleplay sessions. Don’t ask how that thought got into my head, because all I care about is getting that thought out of my head.

Bruce turns around, revealing his new, cat-like eyes. I’d gush for a moment about how this keeps with the continuity of the last story the Master was in, where he was slowly becoming a Cheetah-man (don’t ask), but the cynical part of my brain is telling me that they just threw it in because it looked cool.

Or maybe someone working on this was just a fan of "Thriller."
Bruce’s wife, however, is not okay with this, so the Master chokes her to death offscreen. Back at the hospital, Grace is ready to examine the body of “Mr. Smith.” But the fact that it’s not there presents a bit of a problem. Bill explains to her that the body’s gone, but what’s weird is that the guy who must have stolen was wearing a shroud and a tag on his toe.

Grace: “Somehow, I don’t think the Second Coming happens here.”
Bill: “Right. You think he’s gonna go to a better hospital!?”

A better hospital? Like… any other hospital?

Grace returns to the upper levels of the hospital, ironically walking right past the Doctor. He recognizes her, but is distracted by the idea of “time” before he can follow her. While the Doctor starts thinking about clocks, Grace enters a meeting with Dr. Swift, the hospital administrator. He takes a look at the Doctor’s x-ray and starts thinking.

Dr. Swift: “Two hearts. No wonder you got lost.”
Grace: “Exactly.”
Dr. Swift: “Or maybe… this really was a double exposure. In either case, I can’t afford to lose you.”

And because this story takes place in a universe where losing a single patient gets your fired, Swift burns the x-ray in exactly the way that x-rays don’t. Swift tells Grace that with no body and no x-rays, there’s no evidence that this “John Smith” was ever there, so it’s like she never screwed up! Win-win! But because Grace actually has, you know, ethics, she resigns. In no time flat, she’s walking through the halls of the hospital carrying all of her stuff. When she enters the elevator, she finds herself standing next to a rather strange man with no sense of personal space.

Like most strange men in elevators.
The Doctor swears up and down that they’ve met before, and it has something to do with Puccini, but Grace denies both points.

Doctor: “You’re tired of life, but afraid of dying.”

Yeah, but that description fits most people.

Grace makes her way to her car as the Doctor swears up and down that while he may not remember who he is, she must remember who he is.

Doctor: “Do you know who I am?”
Grace: “I don’t care who you are; leave me alone!”

She yells at him and packs her things into her car. When she looks back and doesn’t see him, she gets in and prepares to drive off, only to find that not only has the Doctor stowed away in her backseat, but he’s screaming about some kind of pain in his chest. And like a very disgusting magician, he pulls the remains of the heart probe from last night out of his chest.

"And for my next trick, I'll change the color of my kidneys!"
 Doctor: “Please, you have to help me- drive!”

And because you really can’t say “no” to a madman pulling medical equipment out of his own chest, she speeds away. Back in the hospital, the Master has arrived in his best Terminator cosplay.

Or his worst Morpheus cosplay.
As it turns out, the green contact lenses irritated Eric Roberts’s eyes while the prosthetics they were going to use to show the Master’s new body decaying irritated his skin. And on top of that, his costume was too tight. So costuming gave him some sunglasses and a leather jacket, and voila! One of the last leather-and-sunglasses ensembles in fiction before The Matrix ruined the style for everybody.

Anyway, the Master makes his way over to the help desk and asks to know where Sarah Connor the Doctor’s body is. As he talks, he rips off his entire fingernail before tossing it away. Because unlike Seth Brundle, he doesn’t feel the need to make a creepy collection in his bathroom.

Master: “Where are his things?”
Receptionist: “The kid that brought him in ran off with them.”
Master: “The Asian child.”
Receptionist: “’The Asian child’? Oh, Bruce, you’re sick.”

I honestly have no idea what her semi-playful response is supposed to mean. Is she getting after him for not saying “Chinese-American”? Is he coming across as a pedophile? What is happening here? I should not be this confused.

As the Master heads off to find the “Asian child,” Grace arrives home with the madman who decided to follow her around. But when she looks around her house, she discovers that her boyfriend has not only decided to move out, but he’s already relocated all of his stuff overnight. With no job, no boyfriend, and no sofa, Grace takes the Doctor to the dining room to listen to his hearts and theorize about why he can’t remember much.

Grace: “Maybe you have selective amnesia brought on by shock.”
Doctor: “Maybe. I can’t remember.”

As she puts her stethoscope to his chest, he notices a replica of a Da Vinci sketch on her wall, and notes that he had a cold when he drew it. When she hears how his heart is all aflutter, he moves the stethoscope to show her that she’s actually listening to two heartbeats. As she listens, he grabs Grace’s CD case for Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and suddenly remembers being with Puccini before he died. In 1924. But Grace is more occupied with the fact that the Doctor has two hearts, which… um, I thought she had figured out long ago?

Grace: “Who are you?”

Exactly, Grace.

"Wait, who is he?"
"Ignore him, Grace. Newt pulled that gag on me earlier. Still don't get it."
 Doctor: “I was dead too long this time. The anesthetic almost destroyed the regenerative process.”

There is precedent for this. It was established in the Classic Series that aspirin is fatal to Time Lords. Which… you know what? Let’s set that little fact about anesthetic aside for later. Because believe you me, it’ll raise some questions in the Revived Series.

Anyway, Grace is too excited about the Doctor’s physiology to listen to the Doctor try and explain his physiology, and she goes to get a syringe for a blood sample. She’s a bit skeptical of the Doctor’s claim regarding coming back from the dead.

Grace: “The dead stay dead. You can’t turn back time.”
Doctor: “Yes, I can.”

But Grace isn’t convinced.

Grace: “Only children believe that crap.”

Fox was a little worried that “crap” might be too inappropriate for TV. Fox was worried that the word crap was inappropriate. If you don’t know why that’s funny, go ahead and turn on any of Fox’s animated shows.

The Doctor shows off his never-explained-or-seen-after-this-movie ability to instinctively know about people’s pasts and reminds her that it was her childhood dream that made her a doctor.

Doctor: “You dreamed you could hold back death.”

“Oh, please. I teach trick that right after the chapters on bottling fame and brewing glory.”
Anyway, Chang Lee has ventured back to the alleyway with the TARDIS, and uses the key to get in. When confronted with the spacious interior, he finds himself forced to go outside and walk around the thing to double check that this police box is somehow bigger on the inside than the outside. This bit went over the heads of many first-time American viewers, who simply didn’t know where the scenes inside the TARDIS were supposed to be taking place.

Speaking of the inside of the TARDIS, Lee walks back inside, finding the Master in there… somehow. I can only imagine that he used the Doctor’s spare key above the police box sign. Lee recognizes the Master as the paramedic from the other night. The Master explains that he isn’t actually Bruce, but is merely possessing his body. And then he hypnotizes Lee into handing over the bag of the Doctor’s things. Releasing Lee from his control, the Master demands to know where the Doctor is.

Chang Lee: “Those are mine, now. He’s dead.”

The Master hisses that the Doctor isn’t dead while slamming Chang Lee into the central console. Then he decides to try and convince Lee that he’s the good guy and the Doctor is the bad guy who stole his original body. He’s also decided that Lee will help him find the Doctor whether he likes it or not.

Chang Lee: “What’s in it for me?”
Master: “You get to live.”

Oh, yeah. Clearly this guy’s on the up-and-up, Lee.

That night, Grace is busy examining the Doctor’s blood under a microscope. Why does a cardiologist have a microscope in her house? Because they’re lovingly trying to rip off Scully from The X-Files. As she tries to figure out just what the heck she’s dealing with, the Doctor helps himself to the shoes that her ex-boyfriend left behind. Because of course he took everything except his shoes, that’s just what you do.

They decide to take a break and go for a walk. As they stroll, Grace keeps trying to figure out exactly what the Doctor is. She theorizes that he’s some kind of biological experiment, and asks if he can remember anything.

Doctor: “I remember, I-I-I I’m with my father, we’re lying back in the grass, it’s a warm, Gallifreyan night.”
Grace: “Gallifreyan?”
Doctor: “Gallifrey! Yes, this must be where I live, now where is that?”
Grace: “I’ve never heard of it. What do you remember?”
Doctor: “A meteor storm! The sky above us was dancing with lights! Purple, green, brilliant yellow, yes!” Grace: “What?”
Doctor: “These shoes! They fit perfectly! Yes.”

And that is the establishing moment for the Doctor. The character has always been a little eccentric, but this incarnation was definitely the loopiest one until Matt Smith came along. Charmingly loopy, of course. Paul McGann’s performance really shines here as he goes from excitement over his memories to simply being happy with his shoes.

Back in the TARDIS, the Master lies about the TARDIS being his before the Doctor stole it.

Chang Lee: “You know, I was told he was dead.”
Master: “That body had died, but now he’s regenerated into another one. My body can do this twelve times, but he’s taken most of my regenerations.”

He spins a few yarns about how evil the Doctor is, including the claim that he was once Genghis Khan.

Master: “Look, I’m no saint, but he is evil.”

Is that how you justify pretending to be the good guy after you threatened Chang?

The Master gets inside Lee’s head again, but this time, he does it by asking him some personal questions instead of hypnotism. Lee explains that he’s all about that sweet C.R.E.A.M. Get the money. Dolla dolla bills, y’all. Oh, God, I'm quoting Steel.

Master: “And what would that buy you?”
Chang Lee: “Power?”
Master: “Power.”

And so, the Master hands over some gold dust left over from the Cyber-wars as up-front payment before taking the “Asian child” deeper into the TARDIS. Specifically, to the Cloister Room. Long story short, it contains big ol’ bell that rings whenever the TARDIS itself is in danger. And in this story, the Cloister Room has another addition. The Eye of Harmony.

Where to begin....
Sticking to the relevant information, the Eye of Harmony is the black hole that powers time travel. It’s contained on Gallifrey, not in the Doctor’s TARDIS. Hardcore fans were probably a bit upset over this change, but hoo boy, they’d soon have bigger fish to fry.

The Master uses Chang Lee’s gaze and what appears to be the Staff of Ra to open the Eye of Harmony, because for some reason, it requires a human eye to open. And for some reason, when it opens, the Doctor gets all of his memories back, making him so happy that he kisses Grace. Which was controversial, to say the least.

Why yes, I made sure to find the one frame where you can see the drool as they pull away from each other.
Back in the day, New Who fans, the Doctor was generally not a sex symbol. It’s hard to be a sex symbol when you look like this.

Though not impossible.
Romance was a no-no on Doctor Who, mainly because the Doctor was usually an old guy with a young female companion. In fact, his original companion, Susan, was made into his granddaughter for this reason. While the Third Doctor’s unrequited affection for Jo Grant was the exception to the rule, this was a big deal at the time, even though it must sound laughable to you Ten/Rose fans.

Well, "successful" isn't how I'd describe it in its last days.
Doctor: “I am the Doctor!”
Grace: “Good! Now do that again.”

The Doctor acquiesces, and for some reason, opening the Eye also allows the Master to find the Doctor. And for some reason, they’re treated to a close-up of the Doctor’s eye.

Master: “See that? That’s the retinal structure of the human eye. The Doctor’s half-human!”

Oh, boy. Where to begin? This shows up nowhere else in Doctor Who. In fact, several stories go out of their way to contradict this retcon. But Segal, the producer, wanted the Doctor to be half-human. In fact, an earlier script revolved around that fact. But this plot point was so hated that they never brought it up again. They even specifically pointed out that there had never been a human/Time Lord hybrid.

"Weeeeell... spoilers."
As such, the most common explanation for this is that the Doctor’s watch that Lee stole is actually a bit of species-shifting technology introduced later in the Revived Series.

Really, it's a darn shame that this questionable revelation is pretty much the only thing the TV movie is remembered for. I mean, about 99% of the movie has nothing to do with that line of dialogue. It's really not fair to condemn this whole thing over a single line, no matter how infuriating that line was for Doctor Who fans.

Suddenly, the Doctor throws himself off of Grace and starts babbling about how the Master is planning to take over his body, has opened the Eye of Harmony, and all sorts of other things that are making Grace really rethink kissing this stranger. You know, Doctor, if you really wanted to keep making with an Earthgirl, you probably should have used a better line.

Take note, Doctor.
The Master and Lee look through the Doctor’s eyes at Grace before the Doctor closes his eyes to keep them from doing so. As the Doctor starts babbling words like “TARDIS,” “Time Lord,” and “Skaro,” Grace tries to makes sense of all this.

Grace: “And this Master, is he like the devil?”

How is that the first question that pops out of your mouth, lady?

The Doctor starts ranting about how the Earth will be destroyed by the Eye of Harmony unless he finds an atomic clock to fix the problem, which proves to be too much for her. So she runs back home while, in the TARDIS, Chang Lee tells the Master that the woman they saw through the Doctor’s eyes was Dr. Holloway from the hospital. So the new plan is to find her. She’s at home, ignoring the Doctor’s warnings about the end of the world.

Though it is hard to take people seriously when they’re shouting through your letter slot.
She tells him that she’s going to call an ambulance to take him to the psychiatric ward of the hospital while he futilely tries to explain that unless he closes the Eye of Harmony, the Earth will be destroyed by it.

Doctor: “We have until midnight!”

How dramatically convenient.

As she dials 911, the Doctor proves his point about the Eye’s effects on matter by walking through her glass door.

I'm not sure about this science.
So, Stephen Hawking. Tell me, do black holes really make things like this happen?

“Hell, no. Now leave me alone; I’m still mentally scarred after that Fantastic Four review.”
The Doctor reiterates that they have until midnight before the planet is turned inside out, which only gives them three hours. After the Master and Chang Lee go to get them an ambulance themselves, the Doctor weighs himself to assess the local mass fluctuations.

Doctor: “I’ve lost twenty pounds.”
Grace: “Congratulations.”

On the news, the newscasters are talking about the strange changes happening to the Laws of Physics all around the planet. Apparently, top scientists are attributing it to changes in the Earth’s gravitational pull that occur every millennium.

Doctor: “I love humans. Always seeing patterns in things that aren’t there.”

You laugh now, Doctor, but in an earlier draft of the script, the top scientists were right. It was called the “Millennium Star.”

The news then changes to San Francisco’s new atomic beryllium clock, which will be activated at the stroke of midnight, and there’s a huge party at the Institute for Technological Advancement and Research to celebrate the birth of San Francisco Mean Time. As the Doctor gets excited about this, the Master arrives at the door, waiting to take them into the ambulance. The Doctor, completely missing the point, tells him to take them to the Institute.

Coming up in Part 3! Clocks, coincidences, and car chases!

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