...a blog by Richard Flowers

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Day 2434: Mysteries of Doctor Who #11: So DOES Paul McGann Count?


Well, in SPITE of the current Whopremo being Mr Russell Television Davis, the SAME Mr Russell Television Davis who included THE LINE in his RISQUÉ drama series "Queer as Folk", the OBVIOUS answer is YES.

Mr Dr Paul has appeared (or will appear) in over forty adventures playing the role of Dr Who, twelve of which have been broadcast by the BBC.

Oh yes they have: "Time Waits for No Man" aka "The Sensational TV Movie Staring Paul McGann" (obviously) back in 1996; then "Storm Warning", "Sword of Orion", "The Stones of Venice", "Invaders from Mars" and "The Chimes at Midnight" were all broadcast on digital radio station BBC7 in 2005; and then BBC7 commissioned eight NEW episodes for the stories "Blood of the Daleks", "Horror of Glam Rock", "Immortal Beloved", "Phobos", "No More Lies" and "Human Resources" and broadcast them at the start of this year.

That's two more stories than Mr Dr Christopher got broadcast. (And unlike Mr Dr Paul, that was his own silly fault!)

Mr Dr Paul's likeness was used for the lead character in the longest-running comic strip in the world's longest-running TV tie-in magazine, the quite remarkable Doctor Who Magazine where the eighth Doctor was the comic lead in a-hundred-and-ten monthly (ish) issues from issue 244 to issue 353. That's NINE years – even if one of them WAS "The Inglorious Dead". [A: which felt like nine years on its own.]

And a character bearing some or no passing resemblance to him appeared in original (and unoriginal) novels in one jolly "New Adventure" from Virgin publishing and a seemingly interminable seventy-three "Eighth Doctor Adventures" from the BBC, many or even some of which are actually readable. Daddy Alex says he can name AT LEAST TWO [A: Considers… THREE]!

The REAL question ought to be, not DOES he count, but WHICH ONE counts?

As I have previously discussed the books and audios go off and flatly contradict one another. However, with a BIT (okay a LOT) of fluffy foot-waving, you CAN just about make them fit together again. That is the GREAT THING about Doctor Who continuity – if you leave it long enough for the DETAILS to become BLURRED then it can LOOK like it really does fit together. Here's how.

The eighth Doctor books basically fall into two distinct halves: for the first thirty-six stories ("The Eight Doctors" to "The Ancestor Cell") the Doctor is based entirely on Mr Dr Paul's most Sunny Delighted performance in the television movie; he travels with the equally insanely perky Sam Jones, a wannabe Greenpeace poster girl and all-round goody two-shoes; his enemies are often people or creatures that he has met in his earlier incarnations, but also a time-travelling voodoo cut called Faction Paradox who come from a War, something like a hundred and fifty years into his future, between the Time Lords and COUGH, COUGH, COUGH not the Daleks.

Then in "The Ancestor Cell", the Daleks, COUGH, COUGH, COUGH not the Daleks, the "enemy" attack the Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey and Faction Paradox use this as cover for their own takeover of the planet and indeed all of history. To stop them all, the Doctor blows up his homeworld.

For the remaining thirty-seven books, ("The Burning" to "The Gallifrey Chronicles") the Doctor is a sulky, grumpy, moody so-and-so who has lost his memories of everything before the big FOOM; he travels with the equally gloomy, moody Fitz Kreiner, a wannabe failed rockstar and lurve god (plus either uber-annoying whiny careerist Anji Kapour, or uber-annoying con-woman-without-a-character Trix); his enemies are all ones you've never heard of before, though with a habit of resembling known Earth animals (wasps, rhinos, poodles, baboons, cat-monster-tigers etc) and/or famous Dr Who monsters with the serial numbers filed off ("Silverati" my big fluffy behind!), but also time-travelling Victorian scientist/magician-with-an-agenda, a time-spanning organisation or just a collection of crystal bosses depending on who's writing for him this month, Sabbath.

Then, in Mr Justin Richard's Time-themed trilogy "Plot Zero", "Plotless" and "Someplot Never", Sabbath and everything to do with him is wiped comprehensively from history leaving the Doctor free to enjoy his last few adventures before "The Gallifrey Chronicles" not so much wrap things up as leave him to ride off into an heroic sunset…

The universe is just completely utterly different after Gallifrey is blown up. Nothing is familiar and many of the old "rules" of the TV series don't seem to apply any more. Even the writers' grasp on physics seems looser. Ahem. Lots of people – well, not LOTS as such, but many of the range's remaining dwindling readership would ask: "is it all different because Gallifrey has gone, or has Gallifrey ceased ever to have existed and how does that work anyway?"

Well, the much more OBVIOUS answer is that the universe is so different because it is a DIFFERENT UNIVERSE. The explosion that destroys Gallifrey at the climax of "The Ancestor Cell" – known for traditional reasons as the "FOOM" – tears a great big hole in space and time and blasts the Doctor into another continuum entirely, probably some collapsing bubble universe filled with strange shadows and echoes of the real one.

The otherwise completely impenetrable "Blue Angel" might be considered a foreshadowing of this. Or if you prefer, then Dr Who ends up inside one of those "Universe in a Bottle"s that appeared all over the Doctor Who books at the time.

Ironically, there are certain things that with hindsight and a bit of a squint you can now fit together to make a sort of sense. The Daleks were NEVER meant to be "the enemy" of the early novels. In fact, quite the contrary, as editor of the range Mr Justin wanted them to be Sabbath's secret bosses, and there are all sorts of hints at this in the second half of the range. EXCEPT… at the last minute, they couldn't get the copyright clearance. Which means that actually you CAN say that the Daleks were the enemy all along. Those hints become – like the bits of left-over Time Lord stuff – just flotsam from the end of the Time War. Thanks to the new series, even if they weren't at the time, the Daleks now have always been the enemy. I think Faction Paradox would approve!

Moreover, there was a big hint that the enemy actually came from Earth… but also didn't. Well, the Big Fish story "Terror Firma" has Davros take over the Earth and build a new race of Daleks there before they force him to become their Emperor. Dr Who forces them to flee the Earth. So in the future, the Daleks will come from Earth but also not. Handy, huh?

With its "Once Upon A Time" opening and iconic image of Dr Who stepping out of the TARDIS and back into the comic-strip Universe, "Endgame", the start of Mr Dr Paul's adventures in DWM, makes a perfect he’s back and it's about time. And, so long as you IGNORE the connection to continuity-busting "Ground Zero", the eighth Doctor comic strip does not in itself clash with the other continuities. Too much. And with that open-ended opening and a matching "they walk off into the sunset" closing it forms a single continuous unit that can be safely placed into his life as a block, before we arrive at the still-ongoing continuing adventures on audio.

So THAT's the solution.

The timeline of the eighth Doctor goes:

"Time Waits for No Man": Ms Dr Grace kills Dr Who when he is Mr Dr Sylv, and gives him amnesia…

Part One: "Time's Wet Nosed Puppy" (The Eighth Doctor Adventures, one to thirty-six)

"The Eight Doctors": a booby-trap, left by the Master, gives Dr Who amnesia…

Travelling with Samantha "Sam" Jones, he returns to San Francisco to fight Vampires, fights Zygons in Victorian London, and meets Faction in "Alien Bodies". He loses Sam, foolishly finds Sam again, and returns to San Francisco AGAIN, before the shadow of the Time War falls over him in "Interference". Time Lords from the future come after his new companion, former Faction acolyte Laura "Compassion" Tobin in "The Shadows of Avalon" because she is evolving into a TARDIS! He goes on the run with her but events come to a head in…

"The Ancestor Cell": Dr Who intervenes in his own future, ending the Time War and falling into an alternative universe. And giving himself amnesia…

Part Two: "Time's Grumpy Amnesiac" (The Eighth Doctor Adventures, thirty-seven to seventy-three)

Dr Who spends a hundred-odd years (in fact, a hundred-odd ODD years) in the bubble universe. While the TARDIS regenerates, he is trapped on Earth, dealing with a fire elemental, meeting Alan Turing and adopting a daughter. Afterwards he travels with Fitz and Anji through a universe where magic seems to work. In "The Adventuress of Henrietta Street" he meets Sabbath, with his Babwyn-powered, time-travelling submarine, who causes no end of trouble, tangling the time lines so that eventually this bubble universe shatters completely.

But then it turns out that his masters are going to explode the Earth to make themselves all-powerful, so Sabbath sacrifices himself to stop them, and Dr Who fools them into destroying themselves. In fact, they destroy themselves so much that they never existed in the first place, leaving Dr Who to have a few more adventures in the bubble universe, before escaping sometime after "The Gallifrey Chronicles".

Part Three: "Time's Animated Adventurer" (Doctor Who Magazine comic strips)

Returning to the real universe, or at least two dimensions of it(!), Dr Who meets Izzy Sinclair in his old haunt of Stockbridge. After polishing off the Celestial Toymaker – and some Daleks – he fakes a regeneration to deal with comic-strip villains The Threshold in "Wormwood" before teaming up with a Cyberman-with-a-soul to thwart the Master – so he DID escape from falling into the Eye of Harmony! – and his latest plan for universal dominion and "The Inglorious Dead", and THEN having to deal with Izzy's body-swap trauma from "Ophidius" to "Oblivion". Finally, a face-off with a far-future form of famous foes the Cybermen (sorry, they don't begin with an "F") in "The Flood".

For some time after this Dr Who travels with redeemed reptile-girl Destrii. After she leave he meets Samson and Gemma Griffen and has more (unrecorded) adventures with them before Davros captures him. And gives him amnesia!

…which leads directly into "Storm Warning".

Part Four: "The Big Finish"

On board the airship R101 is Edwardian Adventuress Charlotte "Charley" Pollard. She runs into Dr Who and together they go off on a series of THRILLING escapades. And also "A-hundred-and-forty-seven Minuets in Hell". In which he has amnesia.

But rescuing Charley causes a PARADOX, one that results in Dr Who being infected with ANTI-TIME turning him – fortunately temporarily – into the eponymous "Zagreus". To save the real universe, he accepts banishment into yet another alternative universe FOREVER… or at least until that gets dull. Or possibly quite some way AFTER that gets dull. Now he is back in our universe and will soon be bidding farewell to Charley because – in another twist of time – we've seen into his future and he'll be reconciled with the Time Lords again and meeting up with spunky Lucie Miller for more adventures.

And you've got a fifty-year gap before the Doctor catches up with the Time War again…


Knife and Spoon said...

Since today is part of the countdown to my essay hand-in, I am going to have a think about this during my next teabreak. (Although of *course* Mr Dr McGann 'counts' - can you imagine how things look if he doesn't?!)

Have you read the Flood graphic novel? The notes at the end about RTD sending his brain round corners trying to work out how DWM can regenerate the Doctor in their comic strip? One could suggest that this, coupled with 'Human Nature's extreme disruption of NA continuity suggests a preference for 2-D over Virgins, if you know what I mean.

Not to mention my theory that the entire TV Movie is set during the Time War...


Will said...

In addition to your reasons why McGann counts, his Doctor appears in the sketches in Human Nature...