In an attempt to appease the legions of Dr. Who fans who were upset at the “suspension” in 1989 of their favorite show, a British/American/Canadian television production of Who was commissioned in 1996. The intent was that it would be a backdoor pilot spawning a new series fronted by the Fox Network. In the end the tv movie did not drive the numbers necessary for Fox to pick it up.
As a result we had exactly one movie with Paul McGann starring as the eighth Doctor. I have mixed feelings overall about that development. Paul McGann would have made an excellent Doctor and has in various audio plays and characterizations in books that followed the movie. On the other hand the movie as a whole was an abomination. It was a run of the mill sci-fi production that happened to have Doctor Who in it. The dismissal of Sylvester McCoy seemed cruel and unnecessary, Eric Roberts as the Master was just plain terrible, everything about it seemed sub-par.
SPOILERS AHOY: Unless you go ahead and watch the short below.
So it was a huge surprise for fans when Paul McGann reprised his role seventeen years later as the eighth Doctor for the ‘Night of the Doctor‘ mini-episode above. In this we get to see the eighth Doctor’s regeneration into what is now known as the “War Doctor” or the 8.5 Doctor. A supposed regeneration between Paul McGann and Chris Eccleston.
So, here is my proposal. If we get a legitimate eighth Doctor in McGann, who is widely recognized as an official Doctor even though we dismiss many aspects of the 1996 film as non canonical, shouldn’t we consider the Peter Cushing version of the Doctor in the 1965 Dr. Who and the Daleks and its 1966 followup as a 1.5 Doctor?
Shouldn’t Peter Cushing’s interpretation at least be as valid as a new mysterious 8.5 War Doctor incarnation? I completely understand that there are huge hurdles to cross here and I will need to rewatch these early films to see if this is even possible. The core difference is that McGann was playing a new Doctor while Cushing was essentially playing the William Hartnell character, although I will suggest that that Cushing and Hartnell’s portrayals are significantly different enough that they could possibly speak to a new regeneration or that we could incorporate Cushing as an alternate Doctor in the same way that the Valeyard is a possible future timeline.
I don’t normally enjoy mulling around in pedantry with fictional characters, but the War Doctor has opened up some new possibilities for story telling in the franchise that I don’t think we have seen the full potential of.