Story: Shortly before the end of Doctor Who on BBC-TV in 1989, an up-and-coming Columbia Pictures TV producer named Philip Segal contacted the BBC about obtaining the rights to create an American version of the popular show. As fate would have it, Segal became the BBC’s choice to bring the Doctor’s adventures to the U.S. – but the road between winning that approval and finally getting a singular show on the air (the 1996 movie aired on Fox) would prove to be longer and more convoluted than any adventure ever endured by the Time Lord.
Review: In the fine tradition of the Howe-Stammers-Walker reference works, repsected Doctor Who novelist and journalist Gary Russell teamed up with Doctor Who movie producer Philip Segal, the man who would have liked to revive the series proper in America and did manage to bring the eighth Doctor to the world. The story of the many twists and turns Segal undertook in the process of getting Doctor Who back on the air, even if only for two hours, is almost beyond comprehension when one tries to fathom the sheer bureaucracy involved in a U.S.-British co-production. Everyone’s fingers were in the pie: Steven Spielberg’s Amblin (Segal’s former employer), Universal Studios, Fox Broadcasting, the BBC…and various people in various positions within those organizations, all trying to attach their names permanently to the project for their own reasons.
One of the things I gleaned from this book was that we’re lucky the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie was as good as it was. Just pure luck. Over the seven torturous years of recreating the show for American consumption, every avenue was explored, from something consistent with the mythology of the original series to a complete re-invention of Doctor Who which would only use the names, settings and a few conventions as introduced by the BBC’s series. By sheer luck – and even some budget cutbacks – the movie turned out to be fairly consistent with what had gone before.
But don’t blame it all on the Yanks – even the BBC was reluctant to agree to Sylvester McCoy’s appearance for a handoff to the eighth Doctor. And when Segal inquired about finding a way to show Ace’s departure, the BBC vetoed any appearance by Sophie Aldred.
There are some interesting bits in here about casting as well: everyone from Earth: Final Conflict’s Lisa Howard to Marie Marshall was considered for the Doctor’s new assistant, with other interesting names including Jessica Steen (of Captain Power fame), Megan Gallagher (from Nowhere Man), and Stacy Haiduk, who had worked with Segal previously on seaQuest DSV. And among those who tried out for the part of the TARDIS’ chief occupant himself were Jason Connery, Arnold (Darkman sequels) Vosloo, and even comedian Tony Slattery, who’s made a few appearances on Red Dwarf.
And any review of this book would be lacking if it didn’t mention the huge treasure trove of design sketches, blueprints and paintings, pre-production and behind-the-scenes photos, along with stills from various actors’ screen tests. This is an area where the 1996 movie has remained largely undocumented, making this book a real find.
Authors: Philip Segal with Gary Russell