Doctor Who: The Problem of Getting to Know the Eighth Doctor
If there was one clear winner from the hoopla surrounding the 50th Anniversary celebrations of Doctor Who it was Paul McGann. In a surprise short episode, the Doctor often listed as one of the least favorite for his one-time appearance in a mediocre television movie, made a triumphant return to film his lost regeneration sequence and introduced a whole new audience to the Eighth Doctor.
"The Night of the Doctor" did more than fill a large hole in the show's history, though. It started a wave of interest in McGann's take on the part. There's a Tumblr dedicated to how amazing he still looks, a petition on Change.org to have him star in a new series that's reached over 17,000 signatures, and his face is hidden in the flames on the recently released promo pic for "The Time of the Doctor". Clearly, McGann has climbed from DW to near-center stage.
So what's a new fan or an old fan who wrote Eight off to do now? In one respect he's the cheapest and easiest Doctor to explore because he has just the one film. On the other hand, the vast majority of the Eighth Doctor's life and experiences exist outside of television. While the other ten Doctors also have libraries of off-screen adventures, they serve mostly as amusing supplements to the established television canon. With Eight, those off-screen supplements pretty much are the canon. There are three main paths to travel down if you're hoping to get to know Eight, and in all three paths there are some real headaches.
1. The Audio Plays: The best place to start with Eight is definitely the Big Finish audio plays. First of all, you get McGann himself performing as The Doctor, and it doesn't take very many episodes before he can quickly become your favorite. He's more forceful in the plays than he was in his film, adding some real edge and power to offset his still romantic and dashing take on the character. There's also cracking good scripts from guys like Steve Lyons, Gary Russell, and Mark Gatiss.
Because McGann is technically the current Doctor as far as Big Finish audio stories are concerned, he has two series. The first is as a part of the regular monthly releases. These begin with "Storm Warning" and introduce companion Charley Pollard. The upside is that most of these are really cheap as downloads, as low as $2.99. The downside is that it does take McGann a little bit to grow into the part.
The better jumping off point is the Eighth Doctor Adventures line, which starts with "Blood of the Daleks" and has run four seasons so far. These are more expensive, around $10 per episode after tax, but McGann is an old pro by this point with his own unique and singular interpretation. Also, they are trimmed for radio broadcast, which makes the scripts tighter and more modern.
There are several downsides to the audio adventures. For one, they're only available from BigFinish.com. which means no downloading them right to your iTunes. Instead, you have to download them to a PC and synch with your account, which is a sort of archaic way to do business these days. It would be nice if they would at least come up with their own app.
More annoying is frankly the price. Though cheaper than DVDs, your typical Doctor Who television adventure usually provides a ton of extras that makes the cost to watch time ratio fairer. With the audio, it's considerably less, and Big Finish doesn't sell them as bundles except for the recent "Dark Eyes" release. A discount for a mass download would be nice.
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