One of the most frustrating things about the upcoming Doctor Who 50th anniversary special episode is that it’s got a severe shortage of Doctors. In spite of the fact that eight of the eleven actors who have played the Doctor over the years are still alive and kicking, only the most recent two — David Tennant and Matt Smith — will be involved in the special. Of course bringing them all back might have involved some logistical acrobatics, and yes most of the older Doctors look significantly different than they did during their years on the show, but if ever there was a time to figure out a way to make it happen, the 50th anniversary is it. Let’s face it, there’s going to be a lot fewer of them around when the 75th anniversary arrives. Now, however, a new rumor suggests that we might be getting one more Doctor in the special after all.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE UPCOMING WHO 5OTH BELOW!
The folks at Bleeding Cool have it “on very good authority” that Paul McGann, who played the Eighth Doctor in the Fox Doctor Who TV movie back in 1996, has recorded something for the 50th anniversary episode, although the exact nature of that something remains to be seen.
The most interesting possibility suggests that McGann may be appearing in some sort of short prequel episode, set to air at some point prior to the anniversary episode. This could show us the regeneration where he becomes the previously unknown Doctor played by John Hurt in the recent season finale and in the upcoming anniversary episode. That would certainly make sense, but I also have to wonder why they wouldn’t just incorporate that important moment into the anniversary episode itself, rather than making it a separate thing.
Two of the people most closely tied to Hurt’s Doctor are the one who came before (McGann) and the one who came after (Christopher Eccleston). We already know Eccleston isn’t participating (unless they’re being particularly sneaky), so bringing McGann into the mix, even if only very briefly, would be a great way to honor the Doctor’s lineage beyond just the Tennant and Smith years. If only Eccleston had agreed to join in, the 50th could have been a nice narrative representation of Who’s modern era, beginning with McGann’s movie and continuing through Smith and whoever takes on the role next.
Even if McGann’s rumored role is a small one, it would be great to see him acknowledged. We could gain some new insights into him by seeing exactly what he was going through before he regenerated into Hurt’s secret Doctor. Also, it would be nice just to find out more about McGann’s Eighth (I say that solely as a fan of the show; I’m sure there’s more info about him in the books and comics and what-have-you.) If we’re finally going to learn some of the secrets of the Time War, it’d be nice to find out more about the man who may have been forced to regenerate in order to fight it.
The Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode will premiere on November 23.