Paul McGann, best known among fans of genre TV from Doctor Who as the eighth incarnation of the Time Lord, celebrates his 60th birthday today.
McGann initially had only a single outing as the Doctor in a TV movie aired in 1996, seven years after the series went on indefinite hiatus due to its steadily declining ratings and long before work began on the 2005 revamp, which will soon return for a second season with Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor.
Sometimes referred to as Enemy Within, the film was made as a pilot episode for a new series of Doctor Who produced with an American audience in mind, but fared poorly due to its radical alteration of the show’s core ideals and mishandling of established lore. However, McGann’s performance as the Doctor was still celebrated, and despite the movie’s failure he’s remained an integral aspect of the mythology.
He went on to voice the Doctor in a lengthy series of audio dramas, along with his likeness being used on the covers of novels and in the pages of comics. In addition, he rejoined the TV continuity prior to the show’s 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor, in a surprise reappearance in online short The Night of the Doctor, with a laconic and fourth-wall teetering declaration of “I’m a Doctor, but probably not the one you were expecting.” The six-minute story ended with his regeneration into John Hurt’s War Doctor, the previously unknown incarnation who fought in the Time War. About a week later, he made a brief appearance as himself in light-hearted parody The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
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Beyond the annals of Doctor Who, McGann has had a varied career, appearing in the likes of cult farce Withnail & I, sci-fi horror Alien 3, vampire flop Queen of the Damned, historical naval drama Hornblower, dire horror comedy Lesbian Vampire Killers, and dark crime drama Luther.
While 60 years old is still around 1140 years shy of matching the age of his most famous role in Doctor Who, in a brief time McGann became a fundamental aspect of the show, and through his work has continued to remain so.