The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann), who came to us in 1996, maybe one of the lesser-known Doctors. That is, in terms of TV viewers, at any rate. Collectively, we have only seen him on screen three times in Doctor Who, with a total screen time of less than two hours. However, there’s more to The 8th Doctor than most casual fans are probably aware. Paul McGann says that “the Eighth Doctor lives on audio”, and with over 100 Big Finish releases to his name, it’s very easy to see why.
That and dozens of other appearances can make that incredibly daunting. So, where do you begin? And how does it all tie together? That’s where we are here to help! And what better time to do this than the birthday of the legendary Paul McGann himself? Let’s dive into the adventures of the Eighth incarnation of everyone’s favourite Time Lord!
The 1996 TV Movie
Paul McGann was cast as the eighth incarnation of the Time Lord for the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie, also called “The Enemy Within”. Originally its purpose was to be a TV pilot to engage potential fans in the US. However, it was not meant to be. Between a mixed critical reception and less-than-stellar viewership, it was never picked up as a series. For a few years, it was the one and only time McGann would play The 8th Doctor. Adventures following “The TV Movie” would be published by BBC Books as the Eighth Doctor Adventures line.
The ‘Wilderness Years’ of the Whoniverse had returned, and the show’s future looked more uncertain than ever. Yet the future wasn’t as bleak as it seemed. In 1999, Big Finish Productions began their expansive catalogue of officially licensed stories. Over the first few years of their existence, they created some amazing adventures with loads of classic Doctors and companions. Two years later, in 2001, the Eighth Doctor finally embarked on his first audio adventure, with McGann locked into the role.
2001-2007 | The Monthly Adventures
The first adventure, “Storm Warning,” introduces us to this new Time Lord. Demonstrating his kindness, compassion and fascination in his adventures. He meets a girl who would become his first companion. Charlotte Pollard (India Fisher), or Charley to her friends. She’s a young woman who left home seeking adventure. She gets everything she is searching for by running into the Doctor. After an encounter with the Triskele, he rescues her, and they go on many more adventures, battling Daleks and Cybermen and even meeting the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney).
In many ways, The 8th Doctor’s adventures through The Monthly Adventures are like the TV series with McGann he deserves. However, it goes so much further than a TV series ever could, doing things that could not be done onscreen. It was all started when Zagreus, a creature of anti-time, possessed the Doctor. Following this encounter, the Doctor exiles himself to the Divergent Universe – a place with no concept of time. This arc features popular and acclaimed stories like “Scherzo” and “The Unnatural History of Fear”.
Whilst discovering this new universe, he meets a new friend in C’rizz (Conrad Westmaas). We see a whole new side to the Eighth Doctor. Having his main sense of time taken away, there’s a much darker side to the Time Lord. After battling their own demons, old adversaries, and defeating Zagreus, the team return to the main universe. However, it’s not all good news. The pairing of stories “Absolution” and “The Girl Who Never Was” offer a tragic conclusion to such a beloved team.
2007-2011 | The Eighth Doctor Adventures
Doctor Who is now fully established back on our TV screens. To match the excitement of the revival, Big Finish removed The 8th Doctor from The Monthly Adventures. As a result, the Eighth Doctor Adventures range was born. It was a soft reboot for the Doctor, with episodes now closer in format to the incredibly popular revival.
Regarding the timeline, Charley has moved on and is now travelling with the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker). The 8th Doctor isn’t alone, though, acquiring the fierce northern Lucie Miller (Sheridan Smith). This period has the high-adrenaline stories and character-driven adventures we are familiar with. Big Finish has released Series 1 of the Lucie Miller Era. Allowing fans to experience the earliest stories and what was described as a “Golden Age”. It also brings back a side of the Doctor that seemed to have been avoided since back from the very first episodes back in the 1960s.
We are introduced to the Doctor’s family. Seeing the return of Susan (Carole Ann Ford) and the introduction of the Doctor’s great-grandson Alex (Sonny McGann, the son of Paul McGann!). Listeners here get a glimpse of a fatherly side to The Eighth Doctor. Unfortunately, it does not last, and happiness turns to loss. The Doctor allows his companion and family members to sacrifice themselves for the good of the universe. The finale, “To the Death”, remains one of the saddest Doctor Who stories.
2012-2015 | Dark Eyes
The 8th Doctor is in his darkest hour. In search of hope, he finds himself being sent by the Time Lords to World War 1. Knee deep in mud, he meets a headstrong Irish VAD, Molly O’Sullivan (Ruth Bradley), and also his old adversary the Daleks. The “Dark Eyes” series was originally set as a one-off set but ended up bringing a regular occurrence to The Eighth Doctor’s audio world. A new format with four stories in four boxsets, introducing grand cliffhangers and climaxes.
Furthermore, we meet another companion for The 8th Doctor, Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker). She’s a Med-Tech from the future, a change of pace from the companions from the past and present we had seen previously. Liv is a match for the Doctor in every way, from her technical skills to her dry sense of humour. The pair’s friendship blossoms and sees them through many adventures that have continued to this date.
2013 | The Night of the Doctor
The 50th anniversary brought us one of the most memorable surprises we are all waiting to see if the 60th can live up to. “The Night of the Doctor” aired on the 14th of November 2013 (Paul McGann’s birthday), ten days before the official 50th anniversary. Weary from trying to avoid the Time War by standing by his principles, the Doctor comes to rescue a young warrior, Cass (Emma Campbell-Jones). When Cass discovers the identity of her rescuer, she shows her anger at the Time Lord. To the point they both can’t escape the ship crashing, taking them to their deaths.
The 8th Doctor returns to Karn, where the Sisterhood of Karn (previously seen in “The Brain of Morbius”) revives him. All to attempt to make him see that the universe needs him to end this conflict… whilst dealing with The Doctori’s low tolerance of boredom. It ends with the introduction of the War Doctor (John Hurt). It also showed how much Big Finish belongs within the Whoniverse. Steven Moffat wrote in The Doctor’s Audio Companions in his final words, the first time any audio drama had been explicitly mentioned in the show.
Charley, C’rizz, Lucie, Tamsin, Molly… friends and companions I have known, I salute you.The Eighth Doctor in “The Night of the Doctor”
2015-2020 | Further Boxset Adventures
It is safe to say that since the 50th anniversary, Big Finish has gone from success to success. In turn, we have seen the audio adventures grow. Visiting so many different times, enemies and shown sides of the Doctor which we all wondered about. The sets Doom Coalition and Ravenous provide us with a long adventure, filled with heart-wrenching episodes like we saw on the TV. They also see the introduction of Helen Sinclair (Hattie Morahan), a 1960s museum historian. She joins the Doctor’s adventures, and sees the mortal peril a life in the TARDIS can bring.
Over the course of these adventures, the TARDIS team do battles with all sorts of famous foes. These include The Kandyman (Nicholas Rowe) and the titular Ravenous. Also introduced is the ever-popular Eleven (Mark Bonnar), an evil Time Lord with a regenerative disease. He’s one of the Doctor’s scariest foes, with all ten prior incarnations literally living in his head! The Eighth Doctor certainly has the best enemies of the Whoniverse on audio!
Also featuring this TARDIS team are the sets Connections and What Lies Inside, which have come out very recently. They’re a great sort of soft-reboot for their adventures, less connected to wider arcs. Also released in this era were sets such as Charlotte Pollard: The Further Adventuress and The Further Adventures of Lucie Miller, which demonstrates a great ability to look back at (and temporarily revive) some of the old Tardis teams. Who knows who might be next?
2020 – 2022 | Stranded & Time War
Big Finish is very good at reading the times we live in. That was clear when they brought out the box set series “Stranded”. The TARDIS team are stuck in 2020, and the Doctor has lost two things that make him who he is: time travel and his TARDIS. He has to cope with being stuck in the same place daily, potentially being his future. We hear his despair and struggles whilst, at the same time, we are going through the struggles of the COVID pandemic.
We have also discovered what happened nearer the end of this doctor’s life, as we are also introduced to the adventures of the Time War. Given what we learned in “The Night of the Doctor”, this series takes us through the period of the Doctor doing what he can to avoid being part of his people’s war. Over the course of the five (and counting) boxsets, he does all he can to save those innocent from the existential threat the Time War poses.
2022 | The Power of the Doctor
Nine years after the surprise TV minisode that none of us were expecting, our eyes got another glimpse of The Eighth Doctor. This came as a surprise cameo in Jodie Whittaker’s final story, “The Power of the Doctor”. As we love, he shows his unique characteristic, his anti-lordliness. You see, he doesn’t wear robes but appears in full costume! This starkly contrasts with the other Guardians of the Edge helping the Thirteenth Doctor.
Somehow, this is the first actual TV appearance of the Eighth Doctor. Hopefully, it’s the first of many. Very recently, McGann himself has signalled to be open to more appearances in the future. Fingers crossed that this is the first of many more to come! Knowing how positively so many fans reacted to this appearance, it seems almost like a no-brainer.
The future is all the more exciting for the Eighth Doctor while we anticipate what the 60th Anniversary has in store. We are also excited about new adventures in the audio world. It seems like Paul McGann is everywhere on Big Finish these days. Just recently, he’s gotten a new companion in Audacity, met the Paternoster Gang in Trespassers, and had an emotional meeting with his Granddaughter in The Union. With rumours swirling of a potential TV return and more audio adventures on the way, the Eighth Doctor’s future has never looked brighter!
And that is where we are with The Eighth Doctor! But who knows what lies ahead for this passionate and direct Time Lord? With so many exciting adventures on the way and even whole new eras being carved out all the time, the sky’s the limit! Physician, heal thyself, and let the adventures continue!
Doctor Who will return on November 25th 2023, with “The Star Beast“, the first in three special episodes as the show’s 60th Anniversary headliner event. David Tennant returns as the 14th Doctor alongside Catherine Tate as Donna Noble. Ncuti Gatwa’s first episode as the Fifteenth Doctor will air over the festive period, while his series 14 will debut in 2024 with Millie Gibson. Disney+ will be the exclusive home for new seasons of Doctor Who outside of the UK and Ireland.