Busy times here at THT Towers, one which will continue for awhile at least and which in turn has meant limited time maintaining the Tour. But there’s an anniversary tomorrow (as of this writing) that simply cannot go unremarked upon.
On May 14 1996, the only officially sanctioned Doctor Who between December 1989 and March 2005 (and here we exclude for the purposes of this argument 2003’s “Scream of the Shalka” for all the pedants out there) aired as a BBC-Fox co-production when Paul McGann became the 8th Doctor in what many either call the TVM or The Enemy Within. We’re now 25 years since the TVM first aired. How did that happen?
For anyone who lived as a Doctor Who fan through the period between Survival and the TVM and all of the denial-ism born out of desperation which in turn led to resignation that Doctor Who would ever come back, the news that it was, albeit not as a pure BBC product but rather as this odd admixture or hybrid that it felt was needed to progress the show into the 90’s, was met at the time with equal measures of curiosity and skepticism. All of the fans were going to watch the show, that was a given, but perhaps they would be doing so with arms-folded and standing behind-the-couch instead of hiding behind-the-sofa as they did as children.
The 1996 TVM was not meant just for kids by necessity. As a one-off back-door pilot it had to hit and go for as large a family audience as they could manage. But the other thing which inadvertently held long-term fans at a distance was the clearly-in-evidence copious quntities of money lavished on this production. This was not the cozy stitched-together version of the program as we had come to know it as, but rather had big sets and name actors and effects and orchestral music. If the TVM was going to fail, as it ultimately did, it wasn’t going to be for lack of trying.
But whereas the size of scale might have been a lot of adjust to, in so many ways the smaller details were gotten right. From the unnecessary, and possibly dangerous from a larger audience point-of-view, decision, one which apparently was a hard-fought battle to put in and keep in, of having Sylvester McCoy there to do the hand-off right down to McGann’s casting.
Aside from keeping the flickering embers of Doctor Who alive, the lasting feeling many regard the TVM with is ‘big’. This is what lasts in the memory, an answer to what Doctor Who could be with more funding and perhaps more imagination, and that was the feeling which managed to hold all the way to March 2005 and from there to the present day. Whereas RTD managed the difficult trick of having Doctor Who feel ‘cozy’ all the while holding a sense of scale and ‘big-ness,’ the most important attribute Doctor Who now has, which started back in 1996, is a feeling of solidarity. And that’s big.
In terms of the Tour doing what the Tour does, we mark this 25th Anniversary of the TVM with a nice little bump of McGann ‘Who Not Who!’ images.