How Doctor Who’s US Reboot Would Have Changed The Doctor’s Backstory


Philip Segal, the producer of the failed Doctor Who TV movie released in 1996, hoped his film would launch a series that rewrote the Doctor’s history. When the BBC canceled Doctor Who in 1989, countless fans who’d grown up to become part of the film and TV industry sought to bring it back. In the end, British-American producer Philip Segal was the one who succeeded; he persuaded Fox to green-light a TV movie starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and Eric Roberts as the Master.


The TV movie is generally considered a failure; while British viewers were generally positive, in the U.S., only 5.6 million viewers tuned in, an audience share of just 9 percent. Still, for all that’s the case, the Doctor Who TV movie – often titled “Enemy Within” by Whovians after the name of the script – arguably set the pattern for Russell T. Davies’ relaunch in 2005. This was Doctor Who with a budget, with hints of a Doctor-companion romance, and the dynamic between McGann’s Doctor and Roberts’ Master was electric. Other aspects of the production undoubtedly showed Davies what to avoid. However, the Doctor Who TV movie was obsessed with continuity, whereas Davies deliberately stripped that away in his first season.

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Speaking to Radio Times ahead of the TV movie’s 25th anniversary, Segal has revealed his plans for the TV series he hoped would be launched by Fox. Segal had compiled a series bible called “The Chronicles of Doctor Who,” which would explore the Doctor’s backstory. Set on the Doctor’s homeworld of Gallifrey, it would see the Doctor caught in a political power struggle with his half-brother, the Master, with the Doctor banished to the wastelands in search of the Tomb of Rassilon. It would culminate with the Doctor’s theft of an old Type 40 TARDIS, partly because he sought to leave Gallifrey and partly because he sought to find his father, Ulysses, who he believed was still out there somewhere in time and space.

Philip Segal’s Doctor Who Plans Drew On Unmade Film Scripts

Segal’s plans for the Doctor Who launch are odd, given they would essentially reboot the world’s longest-running science-fiction TV show – off the back of a movie obsessed with established continuity. They seem to have spun out of one new element Segal introduced into the show’s lore; according to the Doctor Who TV movie, the Doctor is actually half-human on his mother’s side (a discovery that led to the Master mocking him mercilessly). It is ironic that the idea the Doctor is half-human, which Segal intended to serve as a launchpad for his show, proved to be the most controversial element of the TV movie; it’s since been retconned.

Segal’s ideas are lifted from proposed film scripts written between 1989 and 1995, which focused on the Doctor’s backstory and introduced his father, the Gallifreyan explorer Ulysses. The idea the Doctor and the Master are half-brothers is an interesting addition, generally believed to have been an idea the original BBC TV series toyed with back in the 1970s but abandoned after the tragic death of Roger Delgado, the first actor to play the Master. It’s probably for the best that this idea was never followed up on in Doctor Who lore.

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Source: Radio Times


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