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McGanniversary Week: Ten From Eight

Dr. Moo picks his favourite Eighth Doctor stories.

As we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Paul McGann’s Doctor (It’s a McGanniversary!) let me take a look at some of the best stories to feature the Eighth. There are so many to choose from but after much difficulty I managed to narrow it down to a top ten. This is in no particular order so I’ve put listed them by their release dates.

Everything’s up for grabs here: TV, audio, novels, anything to feature his Doctor. Let’s begin!

Doctor Who: The Movie (1996)
Written by Matthew Jacobs (I was at school with someone with that name!)

It’s easy to overlook just how good Paul McGann was in his extremely short on-screen tenure as the Doctor. Forced to play the lone Brit in a vast sea of Americans, he comes across on first viewing as an eccentric mad man that’s best left as the footnote on history that his tenure as the Doctor is. Look beyond that and you’ll see that actually the performance he gives is a thing of beauty. McGann masters the eccentricities he’s forced to deliver surprisingly well and slips gradually into the role of the Doctor with ease, so that by the time the credits roll you wish we’d had more with him. Just ignore the fact he’s randomly half-human and the high camp of Eric Roberts’s Master and you’ll be fine. To be honest this movie has so many issues that I could devote an entire article to it (in fact I already did) but Paul McGann is brilliant and it’s his performance here that earns the movie a spot on this list.

Alien Bodies (1997)
Written by Lawrence Miles

One of the novels in the Eighth Doctor Adventures range, Alien Bodies is a unique story. It grabs your interest right from the start and doesn’t let you go until you’ve finished it. The story sees the Doctor and Sam arrive at an auction where he himself is one of the lots on sale. As well as that, the supporting characters all offer something different in a way that only the great Robert Holmes had ever done before. It’s a shame that Lawrence Miles has said such unpleasant (and dare I say unprofessional?) things about the revived series because if he can deliver something of this quality I’d have liked to see him transfer that ability to the screen. If you haven’t read it then you really should track down a copy.

Storm Warning (2001)
Written by Alan Barnes

Following the TV Movie with an ongoing book series, Paul McGann had yet to actually reprise the role of the Doctor. Then Big Finish got him in to start recording more stories with Doctor the Eighth and this was the title that kicked it off. Storm Warning wastes no time in getting McGann off to a great start by introducing the Doctor to “Edwardian Adventuress” Charley Pollard in 1930s Germany on an airship that’s destined to crash and kill everyone – Let’s see what happens! This story has held up very well and marks the beginning of Paul McGann’s further adventures as the Doctor, which makes it essential.

The Chimes of Midnight (2002)
Written by Robert Shearman

This one became an instant classic upon its initial release, and it’s not hard to see why. The Chimes of Midnight sees the Doctor and Charley arrive in an Edwardian manor house where they discover a murder mystery – and then things start to get weird! Time plays a huge part in this story as it plays out, with McGann giving one of his best performances as a Doctor who manages to be both frightened and fascinated by what’s going on and also a genius problem solver figuring out the solution. India Fisher is the scene-stealer here though as she explores Charley’s past and possibly her future. Add to this the omnipresent ticking clock sound effect and you’ve got all the trappings of a bonafide classic!

Zagreus (2003)
Written by Gary Russell and Alan Barnes

One of the weirdest Doctor Who stories to exist in any medium, Zagreus is the closest thing we got to a fortieth anniversary special. As well as Paul McGann we have a return for Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, Peter Davison and even Jon Pertwee, with all but the latter playing roles other than the Doctor. Zagreus is a creepy story and not easy listening (listen out for Charley begging the Doctor to kill her) but as the conclusion to two full seasons worth of adventures with Charley it’s a fully satisfying end to everything that came before, and setting up for where the series will go next.

Human Resources (2007)
Written by Eddie Robson

Bringing the first series of The New Eighth Doctor Adventures to a conclusion, this quirky two-part adventure sees the Doctor and Lucie come up against the Cybermen. Human Resources is incredibly fun, filled to bursting with some fantastic dry humour, it offers satisfying resolutions to ongoing storylines and serves as a wonderful example of just how great Eight and Lucie were together. This is a wonderful story and I don’t understand why it’s so rarely brought up.

Lucie Miller / To the Death (2011)
Written by Nicholas Briggs

This two-part release from Big Finish brought the story of one of their best original companions to a tragic end. The legendary Sheriden Smith was always a pleasure to hear as Lucie Miller and her chemistry with Paul McGann was amazing. Then this story happened. Also featuring Susan Foreman and her son, with the Meddling Monk and Daleks as the villains, this story is one of high stakes and ends on a tragic note that listeners will never forget. It's an ending that I don’t want to spoil if you don’t already know. An essential release from Big Finish if ever there were one.

The Night of the Doctor (2013)
Written by Steven Moffat

The Eighth Doctor returns to the screen! Paul McGann’s appearance in this mini-episode was a welcome surprise and one of the highlights of the fiftieth anniversary. Finally we got to see how this Doctor met his end and see the circumstances of his regeneration. We got to see the return of the Sisterhood of Karn for the first time since 1976. We got to see the birth of the War Doctor. This minisode puts the Doctor’s morals to the test and provides a nice character study of how he behaved in the early days of the Time War.

The Light at the End (2013)
Written by Nicholas Briggs

Big Finish’s contribution to the fiftieth anniversary, The Light at the End saw all eight of the ‘Classic’ Doctors team up to defeat a plot by the Master. While the official fiftieth anniversary special The Day of the Doctor was criticised by some as being more a celebration of the Davies/Moffat era (not a fair criticism but a common one all the same), this was a celebration of the classic 1963-96 era. It’s always a joy to see multiple Doctors interact and this was no exception.

The Rulers of the Universe (2015)
Written by Matt Fitton

The Eighth Doctor meets River Song! Cue fanboy response: SQUEEEEEEE!!!

Sorry about that. Let me compose myself for a moment…

This story sees River Song investigate the grand plot that all of series one of The Diary Of River Song has been building towards only for things to get that little bit more complicated when her husband shows up. We get a glimpse of the Eighth Doctor during the Time War as the conscientious objector we met him as in The Night of the Doctor, which is a welcome addition to this incarnation’s backstory (for want of a better word). This is a high stakes, action packed, “timey-wimey” story, and above all loads of fun. Picking up The Diary Of River Song Series One is worth it for this story alone.

So those are ten of my favourite Eighth Doctor stories. Agree, disagree? What are yours? 

When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.

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