What Whovians Can Learn From Paul McGann’s Audition Tape

Paul McGann auditions to be the Eighth Doctor

Paul McGann auditions to be the Eighth Doctor

Yesterday, as part of the DVD package for the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie, a section of Paul McGann’s audition tape for the role of the Eighth Doctor was put online. It’s a fascinating video for lots of reasons, not the least of which is his absolute and clear suitability for the part.

You can see the Doctor’s whimsy, his gravitas, his ability to mentally wander off and his sudden snap into total focus. It’s all on Paul’s face, and this is one of the reasons why he, and the TV movie, has been welcomed as part of the totality of the Doctor and his life. As we said yesterday, the Eighth Doctor IS the Doctor, in a way that, say, the Peter Cushing Doctor of the ’60s movies is not.

But the audition also reveals a few extra facets of the plot that never made it to the screen. There is a discussion of a Time Lord called Ulysses, a pioneering explorer who had two children with an Earth woman. One became the Master, and the other was… well just watch and see:

So yes, the Doctor turns out to be half-human (just like the DoctorDonna), and his relationship with the Master is not that of school friends who have become enemies, it’s closer than that: they’re family.

It’s an intriguing idea, and one that makes a lot of sense in a way. But it probably only existed as an idea because the producers of the movie had to find a way to quickly explain the animosity between the Master and the Doctor for people who had never seen the show before, and while it’s fine to take some liberties with the continuity of a science fiction reality (especially one that has developed over 50 years and doesn’t want The Rules to get in the way of The Story), the Doctor’s relationship with Gallifrey – and the Master – is better explained if he’s not biologically different to the other Time Lords. His decision to hop on board a TARDIS and explore the universe should not an issue of breeding, or race, or family (that’s already been well covered by Star Wars, after all), but one of personality and principal.

As you’ll see when you watch the movie, this scene never made the cut, and the idea to throw this much light on the Doctor’s past was abandoned, possibly only temporarily.

Had there been a sequel, maybe everything would have been different, we’d be well used to a different version of Doctor Who, and we’d now be talking about the Doctor as a half-human Time Lord with a bothersome brother – a cross between Spock and Thor – and a fully explained back-story, rather than the walking enigma he still is.

Thankfully, the questions the movie does aim to answer can be fairly easily assimilated under one sweeping statement from the rebooted show – the Doctor lies – and we can now relax and get on with enjoying the adventure.

You can see the Eighth Doctor movie in full on BBC AMERICA this Saturday, after Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited – The Eighth Doctor, which begins at 8/7c.

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 13 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Music.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

See more posts by Fraser McAlpine