Paul McGann: “I remember thinking Doctor Who is now finished…”

The 1996 TV movie version of Doctor Who divided fans.

For many, the simple fact that any form of the BBC science fiction show was back on the screens after a seven-year absence since the BBC had axed the show in 1989 was a good thing – but for others, they didn’t like the idea of a co-production with American TV and thought the story suffered for it. Well, as history will tell us, regardless of the fan opinion, the movie didn’t lead onto anymore Doctor Who for another nine years until the show was rebooted by Russell T Davies in 2005.

But what was it like to be the Doctor in that one-off movie special? Well, only one man knows, Paul McGann who played the Eighth incarnation of the Time Lord.

“I remember thinking Doctor Who is now finished and I’m probably partly responsible for it” McGann told, recalling how he felt after the movie when it didn’t end up getting taken on into a full TV series in the UK or America.

Speaking in an interview to coincide with the release of the Doctor Who Am I documentary which charts the making of the 1996 movie, McGann also reveals that he was nervous about attending Doctor Who conventions for some time. However, he explains that Speaking to Christopher Eccleston, who played the Ninth Doctor for the first season of the Russell T Davies reboot of the show had convinced him that there was nothing to worry about.

“The misgivings I had about doing conventions were pretty general honestly, just like any shy performer – I think Chris [Eccleston] was the same. For years, like me, Chris had resisted. He said the same things as I used to say, ‘Why would I want to do that?’ – I caught up with him during the lunch break on his first day [of a convention], and I asked him, ‘How is it, how do you feel?’ and he just beamed. He said, ‘I love it. What was I scared for?’.”

But despite these anxieties about fan reaction to his short time in the TARDIS, Paul McGann has become a celebrated part of the history of Doctor Who, with his Eighth Doctor seen as just as important as every other incarnation of the Time Lord, in many ways helping to bridge the gap between the classic series of 1963 to 1989 and the 2005 new Who era masterminded by Russell T Davies.

Just days ago, fans were delighted to see the return of McGann – albeit briefly – as part of The Power of the Doctor, Jodie Whittaker’s final episode as the Doctor and the final chapter of Chris Chibnall’s time as showrunner of Doctor Who. And with the 60th anniversary next year ahead of us, perhaps we’ll be seeing more of the Eighth Doctor in the future.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the 1996 movie, the documentary Doctor Who Am I is out in UK cinemas now, with a home entertainment release on October 28th.