Would it be possible to bring the Eighth Doctor back to TV?
We recently put out a tweet asking if people would watch a TV series starring the Doctor’s eighth incarnation, and there was quite a positive response…
And this got us thinking. Would it be feasible to bring back the Eighth Doctor (played by Paul McGann) after a 25 year absence from TV, save for a mini episode in 2013? And if so, could it fit in with the current series of Doctor Who? Or would it be too confusing?
It’s a good question. And as the Time Lord once said, “Anything is possible.”
So, just for a bit of fun, here are some of the ways that Paul McGann’s Doctor could be re-introduced to the Whoniverse in 2021…
An adaptation of the Eighth Doctor novels
As some of you know, Paul McGann’s Doctor debuted in the 1996 TV movie (also known as ‘The Enemy Within,’ in my house.) This was a co-production between Universal, Fox and the BBC, and it was intended to act as a backdoor pilot for a full, US-produced series of adventures for the newly-regenerated Time Lord.
Alas, the movie’s low ratings in the States put these plans on hold. But the film did spawn a new dimension of adventures for Doctor Who in the form of the Eighth Doctor book series – an official collection of novels produced by BBC Books which picked up where the TV movie left off.
These proved to be immensely popular, and new stories continued to be written for eight years – right up until Doctor Who‘s TV return in 2005. In the event, some 73 novels were penned for the Eighth Doctor, beginning with 1997’s ‘The Eight Doctors’ and concluding with ‘The Gallifrey Chronicles.’ And they could provide a strong basis for a new series of scripts.
Moreover, many of these novels benefitted from the fact that they followed on from each other, with complex plot arcs spanning numerous publications, parallel universes and time paradoxes. They would certainly lend themselves to the box set culture of 2021. (Plus a whole generation of Eighth Doctor theory videos on YouTube. Could you imagine? ‘Who do YOU think is behind the War in Heaven?!’)
An adaptation of the Eighth Doctor audios
Away from the books, the Eighth Doctor has also enjoyed countless adventures on the radio, courtesy of the production company Big Finish. Again, these are officially-licensed stories that tell the continuing story of Paul McGann’s Doctor. They don’t contradict the continuity of the BBC books, but they do nonetheless exist in their own ‘universe’ (figuratively speaking.)
That being said, they too have proven popular, and there are a number of stories that would lend themselves to adaptation, such as ‘The Chimes of Midnight,’ or even the anti-time trilogy comprising of ‘Neverland,’ ‘Zagreus’ and ‘The Next Life.’
At the same time, a new Eighth Doctor TV series might have to take into account the fact that Paul McGann looks visibly older, as 25 years have passed since he first appeared in the 1996 movie. So it might make sense to adapt Big Finish stories that take place later in the Eighth Doctor’s life, such as the ‘Dark Eyes’ or ‘Doom Coalition’ box sets.
Equally, it would make a lot of sense to adapt some of the ‘Time War’ stories. Today’s audience is more familiar with this period of Who history, as it underpins much of the New Who narrative and indeed was the basis of the 50th anniversary special ‘The Day of the Doctor’ in 2013. So an Eighth Doctor TV series that took place during the Time War might appeal to a wider range of people.
A brand new series of adventures
Alternatively, the production team of an Eighth Doctor TV series might want to start from scratch, and pen its own stories for Paul McGann’s Doctor.
And it would certainly be possible to fit this around the current series of Doctor Who. Perhaps the Eighth and Thirteenth Doctors could ‘share’ a season, and we could alternate between the two incarnations for each episode? Indeed, there is some precedent for this concept; it was mooted for the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors as a potential 2014 season, which both Matt Smith and David Tennant were keen to do. Of course, in the event the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) won the TARDIS keys, but there’s no reason why a similar scenario couldn’t play out in the future.
Alternatively, we could wait until the Thirteenth Doctor regenerates. When Jodie Whittaker eventually departs, perhaps Paul McGann could ‘take over’ for a season or two – not as a new incarnation, but just as the Eighth Doctor. Then the Fourteenth Doctor could be unveiled at the end of his travels, and Paul McGann could ‘pass the baton,’ as it were.
Of course, all of this is just speculation; there is nothing to indicate that an Eighth Doctor TV series is on the cards. But there’s no denying that he’s still a popular Time Lord with regular releases from Big Finish, and he even co-stars in the new ‘Time Lord Victorious‘ range alongside the Ninth and Tenth incarnations. Undoubtedly, there is still a lot of Eighth Doctor action to look forward to in the future – even if it’s not on TV.
But if Paul McGann’s Doctor were to return to our television screens, how would you like it to be handled? Would you like to see an adaptation of the BBC books, or perhaps the Big Finish audios? Or would you prefer to see a brand new series of original stories? Let me know in the comments below.
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