As the Doctor Who TV movie hit our screens in 1996, the steampunk community probably rejoiced! For as well as a new incarnation who seemed to have stepped straight from their dreams, the TARDIS also appeared to have had an aesthetically-pleasing refit.
As the Eleventh Doctor would've put it, "Oh, you sexy thing".
What the TARDIS had in store for him four selves previously was substantially different from what had gone before. But why was such a radical face-lift for both himself & the ship which served as his home deemed necessary? As KW Taylor wrote in Is Doctor Who Steampunk?
"The Eighth Doctor looked quite like Lord Byron and even had his own Frankenstein’s monster-style regeneration (though it’s a bit early in the Victorian era, there is definitely an affinity amongst some steampunk aficionados for the Byron/Shelley literary group)."And that style carried over to his mode of temporal transport.
"The TARDIS itself in its Eighth and Eleventh Doctor years has sported more of a gears-and-machinery look and a more Victoriana-influenced look (sandwiching a rather living-organic spaceship style used by the Ninth and Tenth Doctors that was more Farscape than steampunk)."
The inspiration is in fact given a nod in the opening moments of the film when we see the Seventh Doctor relaxing with a book. What he's reading is a copy of The Time Machine, by HG Wells- whom he had of course met during his sixth incarnation in Timelash. The writer is remarkably matter of fact when confronted by beings not of this Earth, too!
HERBERT: My name is Herbert. From your sudden materialisation, I presume you are a spirit from the other side.He just can't resist the chance to sample a bit of what the Doctor might call the everyday, either. The man in the eyesore coat soon puts a stop to that, mind- the spoilsport!
VENA: My name is Vena. Thank you for looking after me.
HERBERT: No, the pleasure's all mine. Although I do assume you are from up there, rather than down there.
VENA: It would be more accurate to assume that I am from beyond the stars.
VENA: This is a strange and beautiful land.
HERBERT: Yes, I come up here every summer. The cottage belongs to my uncle. I'm a teacher, or will be next term. I use the place for a bit of peace and quiet. I fancy myself as a bit of a writer, actually, but nothing published yet, of course. When the weather's nice I do the odd bit of fishing on the loch. Perhaps you'd care to join me? But then on the other hand, perhaps spirits from the other side might find fishing a bit mundane.
HERBERT: Oh, Doctor, you can't leave me behind after all this.Of course, the implication by the end is that his adventure inspires Herbert to return to Earth & start writing the works which will make his name.
DOCTOR: We're not going on some joy ride, you know.
HERBERT: But Doctor, I don't care about the risk. I just want to travel in your time ship. Please, you must take me.
DOCTOR: Absolutely not.
PERI: Are you going to let him stay?Generations of readers will of course go on to enjoy the fact that "he does have an interesting story to tell". His vision stretches far beyond that, though. As Kasterborous notes-
DOCTOR: Oh, I don't think so. I rather think he'll take my advice and return to 1885. He'll tell the world, knowing Herbert.
PERI: But who'd believe him?
"The protagonist of H.G. Wells’The Time Machine, written in 1895, was more than just a precursor for every contemporary time travel story- without him there would not be a Doctor."And this eighteenth-century traveller in time & space bears more than a passing resemblance to the Eighth Doctor!
"A gentleman, dressed appropriately for his title, walks back to his magnificent machine. A machine which at his very will can take him to any point in our civilisation’s past, present or future."Anglophenia applies similar thinking it its appraisal of the man & his machine.
"Rather than go with the bright lights, flashing bulbs and submarine surfaces of the past, [the Eighth Doctor's TARDIS] is decked out like the suburban laboratory of a Victorian inventor. This could be because the Seventh Doctor likes to wallow in that particular period, but it doesn’t suit him half as well as it does the Eighth.
He’s a man of stripped wood flooring, of varnish and leather, of devices from a time before digital technology. And you can’t call his TARDIS steampunk, because it’s simply too sumptuous for that. The Eleventh Doctor’s first TARDIS is all bits and pieces, [the Eighth's] is a bespoke creation, made to measure using old techniques...."
The Big Finish audio drama Invaders From Mars finds the Eighth Doctor caught up in the furore over Orson Welles' famed radio dramatisation of another Wells narrative, The War Of The Worlds, in the midst of a real attempt at invasion of this corner of the galaxy....
THE DOCTOR: Gentlemen, I need your help. This planet is in grave danger. An extraterrestrial force has landed, and it'll probably be quite a job to get shot of them.You might recall that there was mass panic during the broadcast & its implications of a real Martian attack, which gets a nod here too.
JOHN HOUSEMAN: Are you serious?
ORSON WELLES: What do you want us to do?
THE DOCTOR: Can you get your actors back together again?
JOHN HOUSEMAN: What's all this in aid of?
THE DOCTOR: I'll explain later.
CHARLEY POLLARD: But people must have seen things. I mean, spaceships over New Jersey?
THE DOCTOR: Mass hysteria, Charley, and thanks to Orson and his friends the CIA already have their cover story.
JOHN HOUSEMAN: Which reminds me. Time to face the music.
ORSON WELLES: The Press are outside?
JOHN HOUSEMAN: Uh-huh.
ORSON WELLES: Oh no. How do I look?
THE DOCTOR: You look like someone who's just about to become the most famous man in America.
ORSON WELLES: You think so? Say...
"Look at you. Oh, you sexy thing! Look at you"....