5: On My Mother's Side
Paul McGann played Doctor Who for precisely 89 minutes. (He was unconscious for a lot of it.) His single episode was not a success: the whole point of it was to facilitate an American revival of Doctor Who, and no American revival of Doctor Who was forthcoming. The series remained in limbo for another nine years. (I have no beef with the episode itself. Some people liked it, others not so much.) It would have been perfectly possible to have ignored it and started Doctor Who up again in 2005 as if nothing had happened.
And that's another reason why we are pleased when Peter Davison morphs into Paul McGann. Paul McGann doesn't do anything in the story, any more than Ian does anything in the story. He is just there. But him being there is kind of important. Because the Eighth Doctor has now appeared in definitely official New Who. (His face appeared in Human Nature; and he appeared in a Minisode during the the Fiftieth Anniversary, and I think he was in that weird sequence where Wonderful Clara turns out to have been in charge of Doctor Who continuity from the before the beginning.) But this is unequivocally part of the unfolding text. There are no gaps in the passing of the baton. All stories are one story, but that story is very big. Who said that fans talk about continuity, but what they really desire is linearity?
It would be strange if this principle, this principle that cameos are good in themselves because they tie the canon together, became a core narrative principle. But we keep hearing that Russell T Davies, with the distribution network of Walt Disney behind him, wants to do spin-offs. Wants Doctor Who to became a Vast Franchise like Marvel and Star Wars. And fans (some fans) instantly latch on. Wouldn't it be cool if Romana were recruited by UNIT to track down all three surviving incarnations of the Master and had to recruit K9 to help her find Jenny in order to...
No. No it wouldn't be.
I am trying very hard to be a semi-professional writer and have taken the leap of faith of down-sizing my day job.
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