Sigh. So, my buddy Glenn Walker suggested that I do this as part of the “classic” run of Doctor Who. I suppose it has merit, including it, so here we are. I’m not a fan. I’m not expecting that will change with this rewatch – I just watched it about three years ago, to see how bad it was, and it was still bad.
But, anyhow, here we are. Gonna do two posts, try to find a halfway point that makes a good cliffhanger-ish ending and cut it there. Might be before or after the halfway point of the movie, but hey.
Still seems unreal that I’m done. But, anyhow, let’s do this…
We open with some scenes of planets as The Doctor does a voice-over, talking about the trial of The Master (which took place on Skaro, which doesn’t really make any sense to me) and his last request – “He demanded that I, The Doctor, a rival Time Lord, should take his remains back to our home planet – Gallifrey.”
We see The Master being killed, Dalek voices saying “Exterminate” as he stands in an energy cage of sorts and then explodes. The Doctor’s voice-over continues, “It was a request they should never have granted.”
The opening sequence begins, the sparks from the exploding Master turning into a field of stars and music plays. The Doctor Who logo comes up (and I have to admit, I really liked this one) then zooms into space. We get a bit of the time tunnel effect as the main cast names come up.
The theme is pretty unrecogniseable as anything to do with Doctor Who, I have to say. It’s horrible.
We see The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) placing The Master’s remains in a box for the trip back to Gallifrey, as the Eighth Doctor continues the narration voice-over, talking about how, though The Master had used up all his thirteen lives, rules didn’t matter to him and so The Doctor was taking precautions with his remains, “Because, even in death, I didn’t trust him.”
The Doctor sits down with some tea, listening to some soft jazz-type music. I like the sitting room and library of books with the TARDIS console amidst it all.
The console column is two moving parts, one moving down from the top, one rising up from the center of the console, another neat design. (I’ll give them props – some of the set designs for the TARDIS in this movie are most excellent.)
We see The Doctor’s 900 Year Diary (a tribute to The Second Doctor’s 500 Year Diary) laying on a table.
The box holding The Master’s remains shakes and we hear some grunting.
The Doctor eats fruit and reads The Time Machine.
The lock on the box breaks and opens. The record playing gets stuck on the word ‘time’ and keeps repeating until The Doctor gets out of his chair to reset the needle, returning to his book.
He glances at the tea, seeing it swirling in the cup. Suddenly, the cup launches into the air and lands on the ground, breaking.
The box with the remains breaks in half. Something silvery slithers under the TARDIS console, which begins sparking all about. The Doctor rushes to it, fiddling and pulling levers, pressing buttons and the like. He pulls at a viewscreen (which they do in the new series, at least in one of the Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS versions that I can think of off the top of my head.)
“Oh no,” The Doctor exclaims, reading the screen, which flashes INSTIGAGTE AUTOMATIC EMERGENCY LANDING and CRITICAL TIMING MALFUNCTION. (Huh, guess a timing belt is more essential on the TARDIS than in a car…)
The Doctor hustles to the box, discovering what he already fears – The Master has escaped.
The TARDIS exits the vortex, appearing in space near Earth.
In San Francisco’s Chinatown, three oriental youths run through the streets, pursued by someone in a car. They climb a fence and then pull their guns out to shoot at the car, which backs out of the alley as the youths shout at it.
As they walk off, four men with automatic weapons step out of hiding (they were just hanging out there in case they came down that alley?) and open fire, killing two of them. As they take aim at the last one, who they address as Lee, the TARDIS appears in front of them.
Their bullets bounce off the TARDIS. The Doctor open the door and exits and gets gunned down. The black car pulls up and the men jump in, one of them yelling, “What was that thing?”
Lee comes out from behind the TARDIS, after the car zooms off. He checks on The Doctor, who gasps, “Timing… malfunction…” (you’re not kidding, Doc.) Lee says he’ get him an ambulance.
The Doctor looks over at the TARDIS, seeing the silvery goo of The Master’s form oozing out of the keyhole. “Stop it,” he begs Lee, who looks over at the TARDIS, having no idea what The Doctor is referencing. “Hang in there, old guy,” Lee tells him, “Chang Lee will help you.”
Does anyone talk like that? Really? Granted, it’s 1999 (in story, as identified by the caption that let us know we were in 1999 San Francisco), so The Rock would talk like that. Maybe Chang Lee is a fan of The Rock?
Chang Lee goes off to flag down an ambulance, stepping in a puddle that moves along afterwards – it’s The Master!
An ambulance races down the road, sirens and lights going. Inside, the EMT asks Chang Lee if The Doctor is rich, saying he’d better be, based on where they’re going. (The EMT is played by Eric Roberts and we’ve already seen the opening credits which list Eric Roberts as The Master, so surely you can see what’s going to happen here.)
EMT Eric hands him something to sign, but Chang Lee says he’s not signing anything. EMT Eric says if he don’t sign, they can’t do anything (that’s bullshit, he’s dying.) Reluctantly, Chang Lee takes the clipboard to sign it and asks what the date is.
“December 30th,” EMT Eric replies.
“Nine…teen…ninety-nine,” Chang Lee says as he dates the form. Filling out the form, he lists the name of the patient as “Smith, John”. Now that’s funny.
The ambulance arrives as the hospital and The Doctor is rushed in. In the ambulance, we see a silvery snake move under the driver seat.
The Doctor is taken to an OR.
The silvery-almost transparent snake moves into the back of the ambulance.
A nurse puts up the X-ray, bewildered by the two hearts. The doctor tending to him says it’s a double exposure. The Doctor was shot three times, once in shoulder (went straight through) and two bullets in the leg. (So why is he dying – I mean, sure, with no medical attention, he might die from those wounds… but he’s unconscious and seemingly in bad shape.)
The ‘snake’ goes into the sleeve of a jacket in the ambulance.
One of the nurses says the patient’s heart “is still going like crazy”, but she doesn’t say which one. Even if they thought it was a double exposure on the x-ray, the monitors would pick up the extra heartbeat. The doctor says they’ll have to alert cardiology and when they ask him who’s on duty, he says, smirking, “Amazing Grace.”
We cut to the opera, where the camera zooms in on one woman watching in the crowd. Obviously this is “Amazing Grace”. Her beeper (oh, yeah, it’s 1999) goes off and she has to leave, much to the resigned disappointment of her date.
We see Grace rush through the hospital in her gown and then in the pre-op scrub room, barking orders. They tell her the X-rays are double exposed every time, so she tells them to try again. They say they’re getting another machine.
A nurse brings a phone to Doctor (Grace) Holloway, saying it’s “Brian”. The nurse holds the phone as Grace talks into it (as she just prepped her hands for surgery), apologising to Brian (her date, we presume). She argues, but he hangs up.
The Doctor lays on the table and Grace prepares to operate. The song from the opera is put on the stereo and as Grace gets ready to cut, The Doctor murmurs, “Puccini… Madame Butterfly,” and opens his eyes, grabbing Grace’s wrist (which is over him, holding a scalpel.)
He tells her not to do it, she tells him he’s going to be all right. He says he is not human, he is not like her (to which she replies that nobody is) and he continues, saying he needs a beryllium atomic clock, still struggling with her.
They gas him, and he struggles, as she says they’re going to cut him open to see why his heart is behaving so erratically. He is gassed and just as she declares that “he’s under”, The Doctor sits upright, exclaiming, “Timing malfunction! The Master! He’s out there!”
They force him back down and hit him with some more gas and Grace starts to cut, but again he protests. He finally goes black.
Overhead, a hospital director takes some people on a tour, as they watch down into the OR and observe the operation. Grace seems to be lost with the probe, but somehow causes a seizure. The probe snaps inside The Doctor and they’re forced to use defibrillators… but to no avail.
The Doctor is pronounced dead at 10:03pm and Grace demands to see his X-rays, stat. When she reviews them, she declares, “This is no double exposure.”
Chang Lee is woken in the waiting room by a nurse, who brings him to meet Grace. She tells him that “Mister Smith” died. He offers to take Smith’s possessions to the family and Grace confronts him, not believing him.
Chang Lee dashes off and Grace gives chase, still wearing her gown. Lee gets away.
We get a series of pretty skyline shots.
EMT Eric is snoring in bed as his wife complains. We see his jacket on a chair and ominous music plays as we zoom in. The ‘snake’ oozes out of the sleeve to the floor, and rises up, demonstrating a cobra-like head/hood effect.
Two guys in the morgue talk about going to a costume party. One of them is played by Will Sasso (ah, the 1990s…) They check The Doctor’s tag, which reads ‘John Doe’. They slip him in a cooler, to wait for autospy the next morning.
EMT Eric still snores. His mouth open, he rolls onto his back and, as his wife lay awake, her back to him, the ‘snake’ dives into EMT Eric’s open mouth and sliding down his throat, ending the snoring, much to the wife’s delight.
Will Sasso watches Frankenstein on tv at the morgue.
In the cooler, lightning flashes about The Doctor’s body and the sheet covering him flies off. Electricity crackles all about.
This is mirrored in the movie Sasso is watching.
The regeneration is more subtle than the ones we’ve seen of late; The Doctor’s face stretches and goes from McCoy to McGann pretty quickly.
More parallels – in Frankenstein, the monster’s hand falls into sight from beneath the sheet as Victor hustles about. In the cooler, The Doctor’s hand drops into sight, twitching and flexing.
The Doctor’s eyes open and he sits up as Victor Frankenstein gives the “it’s alive” monologue.
Hearing a thump, Sasso calls out wondering if that’s Ted. He gets no reply. The thumping continues and he goes to investigate. He watches in shock as The Eighth Doctor kicks down the door to the cooler he was in and staggers out.
Sasso faints. (Wow, this is just compelling telly.)
The Doctor staggers out, sees Frankenstein on the telly and then wanders into the hallway, humming the Puccini aria. Lightning flashes outside and there’s thunder. He’s still walking about, wrapped in a sheet. He enters a room filled with trashed gurneys and the like. Water is all over the floor and there’s a get well soon card on the floor.l
Seeing his reflection is dozens of surfaces, he wonders who he is. He falls to his knees, crying out, “WHO! AM! I?” (Get it? Who? Hahahaha, so clever.)
EMT Eric is awake in his bed, sitting up. The storm rages outside, but his wife is sound asleep.
Grace is sleeping on a couch in a lounge in the hospital the next morning.
The Doctor is still wandering about in his sheet. He starts going through lockers looking for clothes. He sees a long scarf.
In the streets, Lee opens the bag, examining a sonic screwdriver, a yoyo and other objects.
The Doctor examines a Richard Nixon mask, but tosses it aside. He takes a jacket and searches for more clothing.
Lee holds up an item that I’m guessing is the TARDIS key, though it doesn’t really resemble a key that much. It has strange carvings on it, and Lee mutters, “Weird.”
EMT Eric’s wife wakes up as the alarm goes off. Her husband stands at the window, shirtless, holding up his hands, muttering in a dark voice, “I must find The Doctor. This body won’t last long. I need The Doctor’s body.”
She cracks, “Sense of humour, no more snoring, you don’t need a doctor, come back to bed, honey.” She’s feeling frisky. He tells her his name isn’t honey but she can call him Master. “Well, come back to bed, master,” she replies.
Ah, the 1990s.
She screams when she sees his eyes, which are glowing green. He grabs her by the throat and kills her.
In the morgue, Sasso tries to explain while Grace gives him a hard time. We learn his name is Pete. We later see Grace walking down the hall, passing the newly regenerated Doctor.
He recognises her and follows her. He hears someone say the word time and this resonates with him.
The hospital supervisor suggests it was a double exposure and burns the x-rays, saying they can’t afford to advertise their mistake – suggesting it was HER mistake and they need not let anyone find out, saying he’ll take care of it.
She argues. He says he knows what is best. She says they need to find his body and learn from him. She threatens to quit if he covers it up, but he says she doesn’t mean that and walks off.
We next see Grace carrying her possession into an elevator. Just before the door closes, The Doctor walks in. He says, “Puccini. We’ve met before.” She says they haven’t.
He follows her, prattling on about Madame Butterfly, saying he doesn’t know who he is, but thinks she does. She yells at him to leave her alone. He follows her into the car, pulling out the probe and she realises that it must be him, especially as he rants about having two hearts.
He yells at her to drive, to get away, “Before they kill me again!”
Bruce (EMT Eric/The Master) shows up at the hospital, wearing shades. A nurse asks him why and he stiffly replies, “I had a bad night.” She laughs. He asks about the gunshot wound victim, saying he has orders to move the body.
She tells him the body is gone, stolen. He asks about the things, but learns that Lee ran off with them. His body is starting to fall apart already, evidenced by a fingernail falling off as they talk.
Grace takes The Doctor to her home, where she learns that Brian took all his stuff and left during the night.
She tells The Doctor to take off his shirt so she can listen to his heart. He corrects her, “Hearts, plural.”
She suggests he has selecdtive amnesia brought on by shock, but he says, “Maybe, I can’t remember.”
Listening to his hearts, Grace is amazed that he actually does have two hearts. She asks who he is.
“I was dead too long this time,” he replies. “The anaesthetic almost destroyed the regenerative process.”
“Oh, yeah, right,” she says. She gets up, wanting to do a blood draw. He tells her he has thirteen lives. She argues the dead don’t come back and that you can’t turn back time. He says he can. She gets mad, saying she’s not a child, and not to talk to her that way.
He says it was a child’s dream that led to her becoming a doctor. As she leaves the room, he says, “Don’t be sad, Grace, you’ll do great things.”
Lee is down where the TARDIS is. He uses the key (which is a key) and enters. He steps out and walks around it, after seeing how massive it is inside. He goes back in, calling out to see if anyone is in there.
I really like this TARDIS console room. It’s massive and filled with a library and the console and… Bruce. The Master.
When Lee touches one of the pillars, the console comes to life. The Master is amazed that the TARDIS likes him. Lee replies, “What are you talking about, Bruce?”
“I am not Bruce,” he says. “It took me a while with the talking and the walking, but I am not Bruce.” Okay, why did it take so long – The Master has possessed bodies before when he was out of regenerations – took over Nyssa’s father’s body, starting the Anthony Ainley Master era.
“I am merely inside his body,” he explains. Lee isn’t impressed until he takes off his sunglasses and reveals his green eyes. He seems to control the boy and orders him to give him the bag. When he takes it, and his eyes leave Lee’s, the boy seems to regain himself.
The Master demands Lee tell him where the person he got the items from is, saying he has his body and if they don’t bring him back there, he will die. When Lee asks what’s in it for him, The Master tells him he gets to live.
At her house, Grace examines blood through her microscope as The Doctor puts on a pair of Brian’s shoes, which she tells him to keep. She says his blood isn’t blood. She suggests going for a walk.
As they walk, she posits that he’s a result of some genetic experiment, but he says he doesn’t think so. She asks if he remembers his family, and he says no, but then has a recollection of laying in the grass with his father, “It’s a warm Gallifreyan night.”
She repeats the name and he gets excited, saying that’s where he must be from and asks her where that is. She doesn’t know. She asks what he remembers. He goes on about a meteor storm and then gets excited about the shoes he’s wearing. I think it’s supposed to be cute, but it’s dumb.
“Bruce” tells Lee that the TARDIS belongs to him, not to the man he found. Lee says that he was told that guy died, and Bruce explains that that body regenerated. “My body can do this twelve times, but he’s taken most of my regenerations.”
“What’d he do with them,” Lee asks.
“Unspeakable crimes,” Bruce replies.
“What about him?”
“That was him.”
WOW. That’s just horrid dialogue. The Master just said “Way!”
He asks Lee what he wants. Lee says a million, no two million, no a billion bucks. He offers Lee a bag of gold dust, saying he gets the rest when he gets his body back. They have a deal and ‘Bruce’ shows Lee around.
They end up at the Cloister Room, which Lee opens the door to, again, because “the TARDIS likes you.” They ascend a central structure in the room. “Here is the Eye of Harmony, the heart of this structure,” ‘Bruce’ tells Lee. It powers everything. He says if they can open the Eye they can find ‘him’.
He tells Lee to pull the “reflector staff” from its mooring, which Lee does. It reveals a hole from which a beam of light emanates. Bruce tells Lee to look into the light, “If the TARDIS really likes you, the Eye will open.”
When Lee argues, he grabs Lee’s head, shoving his face into the light. As the boy cries out, the Eye begins to open…
And that’s as good a cliffhanger as we’re going to get, I think, so we’ll stop here, pretty much the halfway point.