It’s been over 50 years since Doctor Who first emerged from his time-travelling phone booth and it still remains one of the Most British Things Ever.
Yet despite the strong Brit pedigree of the 13(ish) actors that have played the Time Lord, there’s a lone iteration of Doctor Who that doesn’t quite 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 – marking the first time the series would film outside of the UK. And bits of mid-‘90s Vancouver are sprinkled throughout this iteration of the Doctor, beginning with the TARDIS beaming into a Chinatown alley, where gangsters promptly shoot up Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor.
But good news! The shooting doesn’t kill him and he’s rushed to a hospital (BC Children’s & Women’s Hospital). But then bad news! He dies on the operating table when his weirdo alien heart is stabbed by his surgeon/soon-to-be-love-interest, played by Daphne Ashbrook.
The Doctor then regenerates in front of Madison star (and later Mad TV) Will Sasso. Elsewhere: ooze turns Eric Roberts ambulance driver into the big baddie who needs to find an atomic clock.
Lucky for him, there’s an atomic clock in the final act – at the Plaza of Nations, which happens to be hosting a super-fun New Year’s Eve Millennium party for scientists. Sadly this is actually 100 time cooler than the Lou Bega-centric party that actually happened there New Year’s Eve 1999.
The TARDIS’ last appearance in Vancouver happens at Andy Livingstone Park where the Doctor says goodbye to Dr. Murderer and warps away, mostly ending Paul McGann’s Doctor Who run, aside from some audio book work and a cameo for the 50th anniversary.
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 favorite, 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.
There’s a 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.