Despite the strong Brit pedigree of the 15-ish actors that have played Doctor Who over the past six decades, there’s one Time Lord that doesn’t belong: the Doctor Who that came to Vancouver.
In the mid-‘90s, there was an effort to bring Doctor Who to American audiences. Doctor Who-producer BBC partnered with Universal and FOX for a one-off TV movie. The hope was that it could be a backdoor pilot to a new series, and spoiler: that was not the case.
Set in San Francisco in 1999, the Doctor Who: The Movie filmed in Vancouver in 1995. This would be the first time the series would film outside of the UK. And bits of mid-‘90s Vancouver are sprinkled throughout, beginning with the TARDIS beaming into a Chinatown alley. Unfortunately gangsters promptly shoot up Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor.
Post shooting, the Doctor is rushed to a hospital (played by BC Children’s & Women’s Hospital) where he dies on the operating table. It’s actually a pretty standard meet-cute: the Doctor’s weird alien heart is stabbed by his surgeon/soon-to-be-love-interest (Daphne Ashbrook).
Doctor Number 8 / Mambo Number 5
The Doctor then regenerates in front of Will Sasso, which is amazing. Elsewhere: ooze turns Eric Roberts ambulance driver into the big baddie who needs to find an atomic clock, somewhere for some reason.
Luckily, the final act takes place at the Plaza of Nations, which has said-atomic clock! The venue is hosting a New Year’s Eve Millennium party for scientists. Is the end of this movie more memorable than the actual 1999 New Year’s Party with Lou Bega that happened at the Plaza of Nations? We’ll never know.
The TARDIS’ last appearance in Vancouver happens at Andy Livingstone Park, where the Doctor says goodbye to his would-be murderer/girlfriend. As the police box fades away, so does Paul McGann’s brief Doctor Who run.
There’s a not-at-all-subtle scene in the telefilm that cuts to clips from Frankenstein as the new Doctor regenerates, and it makes perfect sense. This version of Doctor Who is an odd mash-up unlike any of the others: he’s a British icon made for American audiences brought to life in Vancouver.
One of the things Doctor Who fans love to talk about is who “their” Doctor is. It’s nerd-speak for describing which Doctor is either their favourite, or the one that introduced them to the world of Who. I’m guessing not many people ever pick McGann’s maudlin Doctor as “theirs” but I’d like to make the case that Vancouver should embrace Paul McGann’s short-lived Eighth Doctor as ours.