Doctor Who: Wilderness Era

doctor_who_1996_posterBroadcast Title of Main Story — Doctor Who: The Movie

Unofficial Title — The Enemy Within

Year: 1996

Synopsis: Referencing largely unelaborated events, the Master is captured and executed by the Daleks, who task the Seventh Doctor to take the remains home to Gallifrey, but the conscious remains trigger events that quickly lead to the emergence of the Eighth Doctor. This renewed Doctor must fight the after effects of regeneration and the self-resurrected Master.

Pros:
• A decent, if by far not the best, regeneration story.
• Tried respectably to push the show forward in albeit americanized ways.
• Is always a pleasure to see and learn more of the TARDIS, regardless of desktop theme.
• Paul McGann does an amiable job as the playful Eighth Doctor
• Eric Roberts may at first seem like an odd recasting choice for the Master, but he makes the role his own.
• The Master seen here was perhaps the most dangerous and disturbing, being on the edge of life and death the entire story.

Cons:
• The overall watchable story tended to become weaker as it progressed.
• The soft-reboot elements like the Doctor claiming to be “half-human,” can be seen as a clever lie in the context of the continuing show, but was certainly confusing for long-time fans.
• Some long-time fans might not have liked the dramatic remodeling of the TARDIS.
• Story elements like the the reestablished Dalek homeworld of Skaro or why the Daleks would ask the Doctor for anything go unexplained, and only explained in the revived show by proxy after 2005. Technically, the novel Lungbarrow (1997) explains some of this, but the whole New Adventures spin off continuity was deprecated in 2005.

Discussion:
“I love humans. They’re always see patterns in things that aren’t there,” The Eighth Doctor.

The Wilderness Years of Doctor Who was a confusing time for continuity, even though this time travel show never had to worry about such things in the same way as more linear shows. Dimensions in Time (1993) could be considered within the continuity, but might at best be an aborted timeline. The succeeding Curse of Fatal Death (1999) was a parody, while Scream of Shalka (2003) was officially ignored by the 2005 rebirth. The spin off New Adventures novels were also largely ignored starting 2005. Those are genuinely good stories, and worth reading at least as a “Legends of the Doctor” continuity, not unlike what Disney now brands as “Star Wars Legends.”

The 1996 TV film was far from immune to the continuity breakdown of its era. The goal of the special was to be a soft-reboot for a new americanized show. There are many elements that presumably would have been explained later in the planned series: the Doctor somehow being “half-human,” Skaro’s reestablishment, the Doctor agreeing to take the Master’s remains, what happened to the Master after being thrown into the TARDIS’ Eye of Harmony. All of that was technically explained more than a decade later via “the Doctor Lies” and The Last Great Time War, but it certainly was a bit different than planned. In the end, The Last Great Time War was the perfect explanation for the broken continuity of Doctor Who between 1989 and 2005, and how the timeline was likely still recovering from those events until the reestablishment of the Timelord homeworld of Gallifrey sometime after the events of The Time of the Doctor (2013). Because of that necessary storytelling, looking back on these Wilderness Years is much more interesting than the nostalgia that largely fueled it.

Luckily for the universe, we had not seen the last of Doctor Who or even the ultimately tragic Eighth Doctor

Related:
Doctor Who Franchise
Wilderness Era Specials


Official Website

Archived Official Website

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