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Doctor Who Regeneration:
The Story Behind The Revival Of A Television Legend

Philip Segal with Gary Russell
HarperCollins Entertainment UK, 161 pages

Doctor Who: Regeneration
Philip Segal and Gary Russell
Philip Segal is the producer behind such sci-fi series as seaQuest DSV, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and Earth 2.

ISFDB Bibliography: Philip Segal

Gary Russell has written several Doctor Who novels including the highly acclaimed Legacy and the novelization of the TV-film itself.

ISFDB Bibliography: Gary Russell

Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Maddox

With an almost forgotten wheezing and groaning sound, time and space were torn asunder to reveal the familiar shape of a blue police box. The TARDIS appeared. The Doctor had returned. It had been seven long years that the heroic Time Lord had been absent from the television screen and BBC Enterprises, Universal Studios along with Fox Entertainment were determined to make his return the spectacle it should be.

Doctor Who fans were inundated with the excitement surrounding the release of the television movie in mid-1996. The teaser ads had been airing for a month and the rumours and expectations were flying. It was a time marked with one feeling all around: "Finally!"

Actor Paul McGann, of the popular Withnail and I, burst onto screen as the enigmatic new incarnation, the Eighth Doctor. He had the youthful exuberance of Peter Davison's Fifth Doctor, the comic timing of Patrick Throughton's Second Doctor and the confidence of Tom Baker's famous Fourth Doctor. And something none of the other Doctor's have had: sex appeal! Many new mysteries were revealed, more secrets were unlocked and an old enemy, in the form of The Master, appeared to instigate the battle.

Well, that event has come and gone and, unfortunately, we still live in a Doctor-less world. However, the entire history of the made-for-TV film is recounted in Doctor Who Regeneration, a book by Philip Segal and Gary Russell, which succeeds in bringing back the excitement surrounding the attempted resurrection of Doctor Who. For the first time, the machinations, broadcasting politics, pitfalls and eventual revival of a television legend are laid out for all to see.

Philip Segal recounts the trials and tribulations endured in trying to create the new show through endless licensing bureaucracy. Gary Russell chronicles the entire event from start to finish, giving his own insight and narrative. When the Doctor Who series was put on hiatus in late 1989, after an unprecedented 26-season run on television, BBC Executives claimed it was merely temporary, but as the months turned into years, fans began to despair. The New Adventures novel series and a proposed 30th Anniversary special (which later was cancelled) failed to bring the Doctor back to life. Several film ideas passed through the BBC over the years, but with the rights bouncing back and forth between different production companies, it seemed as if the Doctor had used up his regenerations early.

However, Philip Segal wasn't about to let this phenomenal series wither like a Vervoid. He hoped to get a film and possible new series going. After many years of work, a deal was finally cemented with Universal Studios. The producers then decided to create a new Doctor that retained the continuity and history of the original series, but allowed new viewers to jump on board without having to worry about the 26 years of back-story.

As Russell states, the book is "a journey through the making of what is officially known as Doctor Who, but more commonly known as 'the 1996 TV film' or 'that American thing starring Paul McGann and using the Pertwee logo.'" Like the film itself, it helps to have an understanding, and in truth a deep love, of the series to truly appreciate this chronicle. However, it does stand as a step-by-step guide to what goes into licensing, writing, producing, casting and eventually filming a large scale SF TV-movie.

The book covers all the bases featuring new series ideas, such as the John Leekey Bible, that completely ignored all past continuity. Fans will be amused by aborted story concepts such as having the Doctor be the last of the Time Lords searching for his father Ulysses with the help of grandfather Borusa. The book displays wonderful production designs, sketches of the new and improved "spider" Dalek and artistic concepts of the elaborate console room which did make it into the final film. There's a list of actors who auditioned for the part as well as a complete annotated commentary of the film, featuring insight by both stars and producers. There's even a feature on scenes deleted from the British release but not from the American version.

Acting as a bridge to the past, Sylvester McCoy, the Seventh Doctor, recounts his promise to fans back in 1990 to appear for a regeneration scene. McCoy wasn't able to shoot a regeneration scene with Sixth Doctor predecessor Colin Baker due to BBC politics at the time. He comments that he was "not used to having a trailer all to himself" and that everyone on set kept calling him "sir." As an added bonus, the Afterword of the book is written by Nicholas Courtney, a man as important to Doctor Who as the Sonic Screwdriver, who played Brigadier Alistair-Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart through many years and many Doctors

While audience reaction was positive, the ratings were not high enough for Universal to fund a new series. Some British fans felt the film was too Americanized, while American fans found it too British. There were many complaints that the Doctor had been reduced to "American car chases." Of course these people must have forgotten the years Third Doctor Jon Pertwee spent running around the countryside in his roadster Bessie with UNIT.

But, love it or hate it, the Doctor Who TV-film was the best attempt at reviving a franchise since Star Trek: The Next Generation (although not quite as successful). This book stands as a testament to those who did not and still don't want the Doctor's adventures to end. It's a wonderful collector's piece and will even given new insight into the TV-film itself.

While the Eighth Doctor has returned in comic scripts, several BBC books and even a series of radio dramas, it is unknown whether he will ever be seen on the television screen again. But, if this book stresses one thing it's that Doctor Who fans have patience. As always, it is the hope of the fans that one day, the Doctor will return. William Hartnell, the immortal First Doctor, said it best in The Dalek Invasion of Earth:

"One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine."

Copyright © 2001 David Maddox

David Maddox
Science fiction enthusiast David Maddox has been many things, including Star Trek characters and the Riddler in a Batman stunt show. He holds a degree in Cinema from San Francisco State University, and has written several articles for various SF sites as well as the Star Wars Insider. He spends his time working on screenplays and stories as well as acting in any venue he can. Residing in Los Angeles, he continues to be part of this wacky business called show.

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