There are some intriguing rumors that the Eighth Doctor might be on his way back to television this season. Regular readers will be familiar with my endless devotion to Paul McGann, The Doctor of the oft-maligned but way better than you think it is 1996 television movie. I’m thoroughly addicted to the audio plays starring him from Big Finish audio, and in that medium, he’s not only the “current” Doctor but also pretty clearly the best.
McGann’s star has risen greatly in recent years. His most recent audio adventures are much closer in length and style to the revived series than the classic one, making them the go-to bridge for younger Whovians to get into them. On top of that, he made a surprise return in a webisode for the 50th anniversary to film his missing regeneration sequence and introduce his Doctor to new fans for the first time.
And McGann looked good, there’s no argument. The 17 years between his appearances somehow just made him look even more like The Doctor, and considering he’s been playing the character regularly since 2001 in audio, he wasn’t really stepping back into the role so much as he was putting on a fancy outfit for the day to go to work. Is it happening again?
Warped Factor reported that the rumored series finale for Series 9 will involve some sort of de-generation scene that will flash backwards through The Doctor’s life. Obviously, much of this will be CGI and old footage such as in “Day of The Doctor,” but these would include a few longer sequences with new footage. McGann has apparently already filmed those scenes.
That might not be it, though. Earlier this month, McGann also canceled an appearance at Dragon Con for professional commitments, and since filming on Luther is already wrapped up, it’s probably not that. There are a few sites claiming that McGann has been spotted in Cardiff, where Doctor Who is filmed, but mostly it seems to be people conflating the McGann rumor with the verifiable appearance of David Tennant in Cardiff recently.
Interestingly enough, another Who cast member, Alex Kingston (River Song), also just canceled an appearance for work reasons, and the timing of it next to McGann is especially telling because the two are both involved in something that may change Doctor Who forever.
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Big Finish has recently received permission to begin incorporating aspects of the post-2005 series into its lineup. No return for Tennant, Christopher Eccleston, Matt Smith or John Hurt yet, sadly, but the two formerly separate canons are finally coming together in more than a brief verbal cameo. New monsters like The Weeping Angels will meet old Doctors, Ian McNeice will reprise his role as Winston Churchill in a series where he recounts how the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors aided in World War II, and Torchwood is getting its own series.
The real news, though, is that River Song will meet the Eighth Doctor in her own audio set The Diary of River Song, due out in January 2016. On a quest to find the secret rulers of the universe, River stumbles across her future husband and must make sure he doesn’t find out who she is too soon. This will come out after the first installment of McGann's new series, The Doom Coalition, featuring new companion Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker) in October.
Could Kingston and McGann’s recent con cancellations, tied in with rumors of both characters’ returns to Series 9 and with their own prominent Who projects coming out very soon, mean that whatever is going to happen between Eight and River will get a visual aspect as well as an audio one? Will Big Finish, which kept Doctor Who going and growing in the cancellation years, finally ascend and be recognized as an equal part of Doctor Who the television show? That’s the rumor, and boy, I hope it’s true.