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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 497 > POSITIVITY TINGED WITH REALISM


Time waits for no McGann... except one! DWM catches up with the Eighth Doctor himself – Paul McGann – to celebrate his 20th anniversary...

By the mid-1990s, Doctor Who was an ex-series. It had a start date and an end date. If there had been an actual tombstone, we’d have been able to read it for ourselves, set in stone. ‘Here lies Doctor Who, who lived for 26 glorious years, adopting seven different faces, from 23 November 1963 to 6 December 1989. RIP.’

Despite the ongoing efforts of Virgin Books, independent video producers, fans across the world, and this very magazine to keep the Doctor’s spirit alive, facts had to be faced. Doctor Who had ceased to be. It was dead.

But then, one day, it wasn’t.

“I came back to life before your eyes!” cried the Eighth Doctor (yes, suddenly there was an Eighth!) in the 1996 TV Movie. And in that moment, Doctor Who became not only the show that came back to life, but the show that could never truly die.

That was 20 years ago, and DWM has sent out a message to Doctor number Eight – 56-year-old actor Paul McGann – to see if he knows where all that time has gone. After all, as the American tag-line of the TV Movie reminds us, ‘Time waits for no man... except one.’

Paul McGann on the hospital set in Vancouver.

“It seems like yesterday. If you’d have said ‘ten years’, I’d have said, ‘That’s about right.’ But actually it’s 20! I remember every bit of it...”

“Maybe it’s a sign of middle age, or just getting old, but one always feels surprised at how quickly 20 years can fly by,” says Paul, who’s chatting to DWM by phone from the set of a new movie he’s making with writer/director Joe Ahearne in the West Country. “It seems like yesterday. If you’d have said ‘ten years’, I’d have said, ‘Yeah, that’s about right.’ But it’s actually 20! I remember every bit of it. It’s an anniversary, isn’t it? We love anniversaries in magazines, and we love anniversaries on the telly.”

We’re chatting to Paul on Tuesday 9 February 2016, exactly 20 years since he was shooting scenes in the TARDIS control room, according to our copy of the TV Movie’s schedule. Although the project had been reported on in DWM’s pages for some months during the latter part of 1995, there had been an air of rumour and ‘We’ll believe it when we see it’ about the proposed film. But then Paul’s casting was suddenly confirmed in a BBC Worldwide press release on Wednesday 10 January 1996, by which time he had already flown to Canada to join the rest of the production team. Suddenly it was all go! It was real! After all the rumours and false starts, the TV Movie actually all seemed to happen very quickly – with the finished film on air in May. Did it seem like such a whirlwind for you, Paul?

“Once the production had started – once it was agreed that it was going to happen – we got swept away to North America, and it was over in the blink of an eye really,” Paul says. “So you’re right; there was a real momentum to it. But in the year before we went out there… I was first approached and persuaded to do it, particularly by Phil Segal [the TV Movie’s executive producer], and there was a kind of phoney war atmosphere… ‘Is this really going to happen?’ It was necessarily quite quiet and secretive, and it seemed so slow in those months. But as soon as it was a yes, and there was an announcement, we were out there pretty quickly, and back home pretty quickly too.”

The new Doctor stands inside his impressive new TARDIS.
MAIN IMAGE © Mark Bryan-Brown/Radio Times

Was it what you expected?

“It was a pilot,” Paul considers. “I hadn’t shot a pilot before, and I’ve never shot one since. But I’m guessing they’re pretty much all the same, in the respect that it’s ‘Will they, won’t they? Is this going to go? Is it not going to go?’ And then suddenly it’s happening, and then suddenly you’re back home again and it’s over.”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

A special issue celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1996 TV Movie! Contents include: interviews with actors Paul McGann, Eric Roberts, Daphne Ashbrook, Yee Jee Tso and Gordon Tipple, and Executive Producer Jo Wright; a feature examining the legacy of the TV Movie; Steven Moffat answers readers' questions; Fact of Fiction – The Power of Kroll; Part One of a new comic strip, Witch Hunt by Jacqueline Rayner, illustrated by Martin Geraghty; The Time Team watch Victory of the Daleks; plus news, reviews, previews, prize-winning competitions and much more.