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Script to Screen: Doctor Who - The TV Movie

By Jon Preddle

In May 1996 BBC Books published Doctor Who - The Script of the Film which, according to the introduction, 'contains the finalized script used throughout filming. However there may well have been changes during the film-editing process so parts of this script may differ from what appears on the screen'. So, armed with this book I took up the task of making a comparison to see what was different; and here, is my analysis. I have not noted every single difference (I might just as well have typed out the whole script for you to make your own comparisons), just those of particular interest.

TEASER

The Master's trial was written differently to that which appears on TV. The sequence was filmed exactly as scripted, but the Master's speech was removed and replaced by the Doctor's narration, apparently after American test-audiences admitted to being confused by the original filmed version. Here is the scene as written, without the narration. The Daleks' lines can in fact be heard on the TV version if you listen very carefully.

LIMBO. BIG CLOSE-UP - THE MASTER'S EYES
The eyes are pure evil, snake-like and glowing.
MASTER: (whispered)
I do hereby make my last will and testament...
We move in on one of his eyes as he continues.
If I am to be executed, and thus cruelly deprived of all existence, I ask only that my remains be transported back to my home planet by my rival Time Lord and nemesis - he who calls himself ... the Doctor.
With this we sweep right into the eye. The iris transforms into:
LIMBO. OVERHEAD SHOT OF PUPIL-LIKE IMAGE
We crane down to reveal what is in fact the skull of a 'spectral-collared' Master, standing in a column of light, awaiting his execution.
DALEK: (off-screen)
You, who dare to challenge the power of the Daleks, have been found guilty as charged. Prepare to die...
The Master's eyes suddenly peel back in abject terror.
EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!
In a blast of negative heat, the Master is vapourised, leaving only his screaming eyes, which implode into a spheric crystal that hangs in the limbo for a beat, then suddenly barrels towards us, becoming ... the main title:
DOCTOR WHO

ACT ONE

The script gives few descriptive details about the opening TARDIS scenes. All the stuff with the gramophone getting stuck on the word 'time', the Doctor reading The Time Machine and the smashing tea cup is not specified in the script. All it says is the Doctor settles himself down for the trip to Gallifrey.

The next change is only minor, but it clearly shows how lines change at the time of filming:

CURTIS: Who's on tonight?
SALINGER: (smiles) Grace Kelly ...

On TV, Salinger says: 'Amazing Grace'. This change could have been at the behest of Geoffrey Sax who introduced many religious images into the film ('Amazing Grace' is the title of a hymn).

In the script, it states only that Pete is watching an old black and white movie on TV. There is nothing to indicate that this is to be Frankenstein.

ACT TWO

The script is also very undefined when it comes to the Doctor finding his 'costume'. All it says is that he searches the lockers and finds Ted's Wild Bill Hickok costume which he quickly tries on. The finding of the long multi-coloured scarf and Richard Nixon mask are not scripted actions.

The next change is in fact a cut made to the finished programme as Grace and the Doctor arrive at her Condo:

EXT. GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE. DAY
We sweep back from a view of the city from the Golden Gate Bridge to reveal the Marin headlands beyond.
DOCTOR: Look at that! San Francisco when it was still inhabited! Amazing ...

This then runs into the scene with them stepping inside her Condo and finding the furniture gone. It is odd that this small line was deleted, because later in the TARDIS, Grace mentions the fact that the Doctor knows 'what is going to happen to ... this city', obviously in reference to this missing line.

The next change is in the same setting, Grace's Condo. The Doctor is trying hard to explain to Grace that he is not human. In the script, the Doctor says 'I have twelve lives'. And in fact if you look carefully this is what McGann's mouth is saying, but his words have been over-dubbed with 'thirteeen lives'. Clearly the error was picked up in editing and corrected accordingly.

ACT THREE

The shot where the Doctor stares at Grace through the magnifying glass is not scripted that way.

When Chang pulls the reflector staff out and the Eye opens, the script says:

We look into the Eye from Lee's point of view and can see seven different faces forming a ring.
LEE: There's the guy I took to the hospital.
MASTER: The Doctor's past lives.

The script does not contain the TV line 'The new Doctor. He is so young'. I would hazard a guess that this was only added after McGann had been cast. From the script's directions it was clearly intended to show all the previous Doctors' faces in the Eye. It is a pity that never happened as it would have been a perfect way of showing new viewers the history of the show.

Towards the end of Act Three the script contains a scene not in the finished episode:

INT. AMBULANCE / EXT HOSPITAL. NIGHT
We are inside the back of an empty ambulance. The doors open and a gurney is pushed inside by the ambulance driver. The doors are slammed shut again.
The camera pans, following his footsteps as he comes around to the driver's door, opens it and climbs into the driver's seat. He gets out his keys and puts them in the ignition. He is about to turn the key when without warning he is attacked from behind by some unearthly force.

This is, of course, the Master and Chang stealing the ambulance. It is not clear if this was filmed or not, but the titles do include 'Driver' in the credits.

ACT FIVE

A scene that was filmed but cut from the TV version comes early on in this act, just after the Doctor and Grace arrive at the ITAR and register as guests:

INT. GLASS CORRIDOR. 2ND FLOOR. NIGHT
The Master and Lee speed around a corner and come face to face with four armed guards, aIl pointing their weapons straight at them.

This scene explains where the four guards the Doctor and Grace find covered in slime came from. Oddly, the script book contains a photo from this missing scene, showing clearly that it was filmed but cut, most likely for timing reasons.

ACT SEVEN

As in Act One, the closing TARDIS scene is not very descriptive. Again, the gramophone getting stuck on 'time' is not scripted. But the script does end on a positive note, as 'the Doctor's next adventure is about to begin'. If only we knew for sure!

This item appeared in TSV 49 (November 1996).

Index nodes: Script to Screen, TV Movie