e’re still in the Wilderness Years, the show has completely disappeared from our screens. The only way us Whovians could have our fix of Doctor Who was to purchase newly released video tapes, watch the reruns on BBC Two/UKTV Gold, try and bag a Doctor Who novelisation and the then brand-new issues of DWM (Doctor Who Magazine.) It was as though Doctor Who was struggling to survive, that was until 1996.
1996 saw the return of Doctor Who to our television screens, Sylvester McCoy returned to the role of the time travelling Doctor to hand over the role to Paul McGann. Many fans were hoping that after the TV Movie’s debut that Doctor Who was to return to television once and for all.
However after the TV Movie was aired Doctor Who complete vanished yet again, but it was after McGann’s debut that he gave DWM the greenlight to use his likeness for the comic strips in each issue. Also Big Finish Audio Productions released a number of Eight Doctor Adventures for BBC Radio Four and on CD. Not forgetting the series of books released by Virgin Books.
If it wasn’t for Big Finish, DWM and Virgin Books the spirit of Doctor Who wouldn’t have survived for its return in 2005. So, we’re still in the wilderness years! Years of hardly anything. Before 2013 McGann’s only television appearance was in the TV Movie.
1996 was also a sad year for Doctor Who as Third Doctor; Jon Pertwee died of a heart attack in New York. The news came as such a shock to the fans and former cast members of the show that the T.V. Movie was dedicated to Pertwee.
However four years before the show was to turn 40, a parody of Doctor Who written by non-other than former Showrunner and Executive Producer; Steven Moffat. Doctor Who: The Curse of Death (1999). The two part special that was commissioned for the telethon event; Comic Relief. The parody featured Rowan Atkinson, Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Joana Lumley as the Doctor.
The Special involved the Doctor announcing his retirement from saving the universe and that it was time for him to settle down with his fiancé; Emma (Julia Sawalha). The Doctor breaks the news to his arch-nemesis the Master (Jonathan Pryce), which results in communication through flatulence and the Daleks attempting to become rulers of the universe, as per-usual, the Daleks wanting to be come rulers of the cosmos, not the flatulence bit!
The parody borrowed stock footage of the TARDIS inflight from the 1996 TV Movie and original soundtracks from the show's past. It was something for the fans made by a fan. The special itself was also written by British film director Richard Curtis, who penned the 2010 episdoe Vincent and the Doctor. If only they knew that was only the beginning for their involement in the Doctor Who universe.
It wasn’t until 2003 did the BBC go Doctor Who MAD! For one night only Doctor Who took over BBC One to such an extent the Anniversary celebrations dominated Children In Need. With the celebrations of the 40th Anniversary came an animated adventure, brand-new! Which featured the voice of Richard E. Grant as the Ninth incarnation of the Doctor. It was originally planned for Grant to be the following incarnation of McGann’s Doctor, however this plan fell through. The animation also featured David Tennant’s first involvement in the Doctor Who universe, two years before his casting as the Tenth Doctor.
It wasn’t until 2004 did the fans receive the news that all fans were dying to hear. Doctor Who was to return to British television screens. The Doctor was to be Christopher Eccleston and he was to be joined by Billie Piper as his companion through time and space. The show was to feature Big Finish writer/director/voice actor; Nicholas Briggs as the voice of the Daleks and the man behind the show’s revival was non-other than Russell T Davies.
However, prior to Eccleston’s debut as Ninth Doctor, many fans were speculating whether his Doctor was canon, due to the lack of a regeneration scene from McGann’s Doctor over to Eccleston. That was until the prologue to the 50th Anniversary. The Night of the Doctor finally showed viewers the regeneration that they were all waiting for. Paul McGann’s Doctor had finally regenerated and all questions were answered. However, the Anniversary Special and prologue actually revealed that Eccleston’s Doctor was in fact the Tenth Incarnation not the Ninth.