33 Stupid Things about
“Doctor Who: The American Telemovie With No Name”
(And 17 Cool Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)
By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore
(With thanks to Paul Winter)
Originally published in Celestial Toyroom Issue 439/40
1. The last time the Master worked with the Daleks was in “Frontier in Space”, so it's entirely possible that the Daleks would want the bastard executed. Why they would put him on trial rather than just tracking him down and exterminating him is more of a mystery.
2. As is why they would give the Master's remains to the Doctor-- and the Doctor accept them without suspecting some kind of trap.
3. What has happened to the Daleks' voices? Have they lost all their balls?
4. Gordon Tipple! Why has nobody got him along to a convention yet?
5. “Time Lords have thirteen lives... but rules never meant much to [the Master]”. Since this line was spoken in 1996, it's surprising that so many fans got so worked up about the question of how the Doctor could survive beyond his thirteenth incarnation.
6. Among the Doctor's tools are the magnetic clamp, magnetic drone, probe and laser cutter he used to defuse the bomb in “Earthshock.”
7. Why does the Doctor now sniff jelly babies? And why have San Francisco's police force and private security personnel also taken up the habit?
8. California's wonderful health services, which provide even uninsured derelicts shot in gang fights in Chinatown with state-of-the-art heart surgery in clean, spacious hospitals, and pull top surgeons out of productions of Madame Butterfly to attend them, all because some Chinese kid says he knows him.
9. Chang Lee's writing “John Smith” for the Doctor's name is one of those things you accept when you first see it, because of fandom, and then, when you think about it, you realise how little sense it makes.
10. Also, Grace tells the morgue workers to tag him as a John Doe simply based on the fact that he failed to respond when she called him Mister Smith when reassuring him as surgery began-- which, as she was killing him at the time, is not unexpected.
11. Eric Roberts' second greatest role was as Doctor Nathan Sands in veteran horror film director Roger Corman's epic Sharktopus. It's a role which sees Roberts sitting on the bridge of a boat with a bottle of whiskey, getting drunker and drunker by the scene, and still managing to be the best thing in the movie.
12. To be fair, Eric Roberts as the Master is one of the best things about this story too, correcting Grace's grammar, falling effortlessly into Chang Lee's Valley-speak, and camping it up outrageously at the end.
13. The perspective through the Doctor's eyes suggests a strangely washed-out, blue-toned view of the universe. Are Time Lords colour-blind?
14. How does the man who's taking the wealthy donors on a tour round the hospital (at ten at night, during the Christmas holidays) know in such detail what operation Doctor Holloway is performing?
15. The close-up on the monitor in the operating theatre shows blood platelets. That's one hell of a closeup for a heart operation.
16. Grace Holloway knows the Doctor's physiology is abnormal, and yet carries on operating on him as if he's a normal human being. Amazing, the level of competence of American heart surgeons.
17. Grace is the first companion to kill the Doctor, succeeding where the likes of Turlough failed.
18. The director seems obsessed with making visual connections which don't work when you actually think about them for five minutes. For instance between the Earth and a fish eye, the double-snake symbol on Bruce's paramedic uniform and the Master's snake form, and the Doctor and Frankenstein's monster.
19. The visual parallels between the Doctor and Jesus Christ (with the Master as the serpent) do make more sense, but in a market as notoriously touchy on religious issues as the American one, you have to wonder why they went there.
20. The Master's means of getting into Bruce's body, as it were, seemingly involves Alien-style oral rape, which is not really the Master's usual modus operandi. Then again, the homoerotic subtexts to his scenes with Chang Lee are so blatant that perhaps this regeneration swings more that way.
21. Why do Paul McGann and Sylvester McCoy have the same hairstyle? They have the same colour eyes and are about the same height, so, is this a regeneration or a rejuvenation?
22.“The dead stay dead, you can't turn back time” (Grace). “Yes, you can” (newly rejuvenated Doctor). Although the Master later calls it a “regeneration,” he's a rejuvenation all right.
23. The Doctor sees himself reflected eight times, then sees himself reflected five times more, making thirteen. This seems to imply that all the other Doctors also look like McGann at some point-- another for the rejuvenation hypothesis, and also writing out all the other Doctors.
24. How can the Doctor punch his way through a ten-inch steel door? He's from Gallifrey, not Krypton.
25. An eighteen-stone morgue attendant, falling backwards onto a marble floor from a standing position, would suffer brain damage at best, and death at worst.
26. The hospital has a state-of-the-art operating theatre with an allegedly top-performing surgical team, a well-staffed emergency room, a clean and spacious morgue, and, for some reason, a deserted wing with detritus and trolleys scattered across the floor, broken windows, and a gushing water pipe.
27. What are the chances of finding a Tom Baker-style scarf in someone's locker in San Francisco in 1999?
28. The Tardis key is the “spade” design, which first appeared in the Jon Pertwee era.
29. The Eighth Doctor also looks improbably like he's starring in the 1994 production of Interview with a Vampire.
30. The Doctor regenerates, but the probe that killed him is still in his chest, and he can pull it out with only a wince, rather than the massive organ damage one might expect, even in a Gallifreyan.
31. Other stories indicate that if the Doctor dies, he can regenerate, but only with outside help (e.g. Cho-Je or the Sisterhood of Karn). How he does it all on his own here, after several hours, is never explained at all.
32. That long coat does make McGann's legs look terribly short.
33. In “The Christmas Invasion”, we learn that the Doctor's body is malleable for some time after regeneration. Is that why his feet apparently adjust to fit the shoes he borrowed from Grace?
34. In “The Deadly Assassin”, the Time Lords were surprised to discover the Eye of Harmony; they thought it was mythical, despite it being the basis of their power. Here, the Doctor has one in his, not-exactly-top-of-the-range, Tardis, and has, if the dialogue is to be believed, known it was there for 700 years. This implies all Tardises would have one on board, and making their earlier lapse a bit like forgetting what a carburetor is.
35. There's a fan theory that the Tardis Eyes of Harmony are all aspects of the actual Eye of Harmony. If that's true, what happens when Gallifrey is destroyed (or shunted off into a pocket universe)?
36. There's a second fan theory that Tardises were all fitted with a mathematically modeled duplicate of the real Eye of Harmony. But if that one's true, how could the Time Lords do that, seeing as they'd all forgotten that it even existed?
37. The implication in the story is that Time Lords all have snaky-looking eyes, except the Doctor, who has human eyes due to being half-human.
38. It's suggested not only that the Doctor is somehow psychically linked to the Eye of Harmony, but also, since the Doctor knows the Master's plan after the Master opens the Eye, that it can create a mental link between the Doctor and the Master.
39. “The beginning of San Francisco Mean Time”. This implies that they are changing the meridian and using San Francisco as the zero point, which would cause untold hassles in geography, aviation, timekeeping, and just simple daily living.
40. “Oh, great. I finally meet the right guy and he's from another planet.” Worst. Line. Ever. But with “And I thought surgery was difficult!” as a close second.
41. Dialogue indicates that the Doctor can transform himself into another species, but only when he dies. This raises a lot of questions about Romana's regeneration in “Destiny of the Daleks.”
42. A piece of technology from the late 1990s is completely compatible with Time Lord technology from another planet. This is a convenience Doctor Who uses rather a lot, but it's unusually egregious here.
43. The Doctor taking the Tardis back to before the Eye of Harmony being opened is not going to cancel out the Eye being opened in the first place. Just saying.
44. Being spat on by the Master apparently makes Grace more intelligent.
45. It seems the reason the Eye of Harmony hasn't been opened before is because you need to have human eyes to do so. Why build a device which can't be opened by the race which built it?
46. When the Master does his transformation bit, he's visibly turning into the McGann Doctor.
47. How can you “enter temporal orbit”?
48. Why, when it's midnight in San Francisco, is it also dark in the UK, France and India?
49. The miraculous non-death of Chang Lee and Grace also seems to be a rejuvenation, which links back to the idea, first mooted in “The Power of the Daleks,” that the Doctor's changes of form are linked to the Tardis.
50. Influences on the new series (by no means comprehensive): irritating orchestral score, vortex-and-spinning-Tardis opening credits, the girders-and-steampunk console room, story set, and themed, around the Christmas holidays, Chang Lee's jump over a chain link fence, the Doctor meeting Richard Nixon face-to-face, a child having a dream and growing up to fulfill it as an adult, faux-controversial snogging, gabbled-out technobabble explanations, annoying closeups of newsreaders' mouths, a Time Lord kissing a companion to remove some kind of influence from them, gratuitous montage of world tourist sites including the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal and the Statue of Liberty, characters that ought to be dead not staying dead, changing time, avoiding “spoilers” so as not to alter the course of history, riding motorbikes in and out of the Tardis. As if we didn't have enough to complain about with the new series already.