Christopher Eccleston, who would later play the Ninth Doctor in Doctor Who (2005), was offered the role of the Eighth Doctor but declined to audition, because at the time he felt he was not yet an established enough actor and did not want to be associated with a "brand name" so early in his career.
The line "Life is wasted on the living!" is a reference to the original Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy radio series. Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker's Guide series, is a former writer for Doctor Who (1963).
The "sonic screwdriver" seen in action at the start of the film, was first used by the second Doctor. This marks the first appearance of the sonic screwdriver since it was destroyed in Doctor Who: The Visitation: Part Three (1982). Upgraded versions of the device have become a staple in the revived series.
For 21 of the 26 season of Dr Who the key used for the TARDIS was a simple Yale lock key and was used in the normal way. The unique key used in this film was devised by Jon Pertwee and was used for his last three years in the show and was also used by Tom Baker's Dr for his first two seasons. For the first time viewers are shown exactly how this version of the key works.
The BBC originally wanted Tom Baker to be the Doctor at the opening of the film, as this version of the Doctor is the one most familiar to American audiences. The American producers insisted on Sylvester McCoy, as they were avid Doctor Who fans, and felt the Seventh Doctor still deserved a proper send-off. BBC One Controller Alan Yentob and executive producer Jo Wright were very resistant to the return of Sylvester McCoy, as they associated him with the decline in popularity and eventual cancellation of the original series. Wright eventually said that McCoy could appear as long as he was "in it for a very short time and didn't say anything". This was revealed on a documentary made about the film.
The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) carries a small paper bag filled with jelly babies (a British candy), which he offers to people he meets. This is a reference to the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), who did the same.
Producer Philip David Segal was born in the U.S., but grew up in England, and was a fan of Doctor Who as a child. It was largely due to his determined efforts that this movie was carried to completion, and that its story stayed mostly within established Doctor Who canon.
This is the first time the Doctor is shown kissing a woman. Previously the character never displayed any romantic interest in his female companions or any other women and although at the beginning of the TV series he traveled with his granddaughter, his family life is rarely mentioned. The Doctor being asexual was in part due to the family-orientated nature of the show.
The TARDIS set cost $1 million to build and was constructed in the hope that a series would have emerged from the film. Although it does not resemble the control rooms seen in the original series, it has long been established that The Doctor is capable of changing the interior configuration of the TARDIS anytime he chooses, as well as the TARDIS having more than one control room.
Both Fox and Univeral Studios wanted a huge name to play The Eighth Doctor in the movie, to ensure a huge ratings success. The studios three top choices were Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford and Jim Carrey, all three of whom turned it down. Hanks, who is a fan of the classic series, turned down the role as he felt an American playing the role would not do the show's legacy any justice. Ford turned down the role as he didn't want to work in television. Carrey, who has never seen a single episode of Doctor Who, turned down the role as he felt it would cause outrage amongst Doctor Who fans if the role was played by someone who wasn't a fan of the classic series.
Trailers for this film used special effects footage from the 1986 television story, "The Trial of a Time Lord". The footage in question is the famous shot of the TARDIS being pulled into the Gallifreyan space station by the tractor beam.
In the scene where Grace is examining him, the Doctor says "I have twelve lives". This was overdubbed by Paul McGann at the last moment when executive producer Philip David Segal was informed that, in Doctor Who mythology, Time Lords in fact have thirteen lives.
Intended as a pilot for a new American-produced Doctor Who TV series, but although it was a ratings winner in the UK (achieving 9.1 million viewers, the best rating for a Doctor Who (1963) episode since Doctor Who: Time-Flight: Part One (1982)), it flopped on American TV and so no new series was purchased.
Producer Philip David Segal was trying to make this film at the same time another company had the rights to a theatrical version of Doctor Who, but their rights were on the verge of expiring while Segal was trying to secure his version. The other company originally tried to extend their rights by having Leonard Nimoy shoot a bit of footage as the Doctor so they could claim they were starting production. However, Segal told Nimoy what they were up to, and Nimoy backed out, thus allowing the rights to expire.
The title logo used for this film is based upon the logo used by the original TV series between 1970 and 1973. The logo is now used by BBC Worldwide as the standard Doctor Who logo for all "classic" material (all DVDs, books, etc of stories predating the Ninth Doctor and the 2005 series revival).
Bruce the ambulance driver is seen waking up next to his wife Miranda, after being possessed by The Master. Miranda, who is then promptly strangled by The Master, was played by Eric Roberts (Bruce/The Master) real life bride Eliza Roberts.
The original UK television broadcast was shown before the 9pm watershed and contained some edits for violence due to the BBFC, including the Seventh Doctor's death on the operating table was trimmed down quite a bit including his final scream, and the gunning down of Chang Lee's friends was cut out, making it appear as if they suddenly vanished. When BBC America cablecast the eighth Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special "The Doctors Revisited" on August 31, 2013, they showed this watered down version.
Although unsuccessful at relaunching the franchise, this film was adopted into the continuity of the television series. The episode "Night of the Doctor" allowed Paul McGann to play the role again, just long enough to regenerate into The War Doctor (John Hurt), who subsequently regenerates into the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), who played the part in the first season of the new series.
Steven Spielberg was originally involved in the film's development, through his company Amblin Television. When an early script featured the Doctor in World War II battling Nazis in search of an ancient artifact, Spielberg pulled his support, saying it was getting to be too much like Indiana Jones. Fearful that the production deal might fall apart, the American producers didn't tell the BBC that Spielberg's Amblin studios were no longer involved until after production was underway and it was too late to back out.
Paul McGann was Jo Wright's first choice for the role of the Doctor because he was "a good actor, very good looking and had a great voice". Earlier actors to play the character had usually been selected for their eccentric or unusual looks rather than their attractiveness.
The Master's human body was originally supposed to slowly degrade throughout the film. This plan was abandoned when Eric Roberts found the make-up prosthetics to be too uncomfortable. One scene of this plotline remains, when he peels off a fingernail in front of the ambulance dispatcher.
Gordon Tipple was given an on-screen credit because he recorded the original monologue that was to have opened the movie but was discarded in favour of a monologue by Paul McGann, which was itself discarded in favour of a second monologue by Paul McGann that is now in the finished movie.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
All kinds of Easter Eggs and references occur in this film. The Fourth Doctor's scarf found in the locker by The Eighth Doctor suggest that the morgue attendant is a Doctor Who (1963) fan and perhaps this is where the Doctor finds the bag of jelly babies. Another Easter egg, the hour glass with all the sand run down behind the chest that stores the masters urn symbolizes that The Seventh Doctor's time is almost up. The sculptures and symbols of Rassilon all over the TARDIS. The Seventh Doctor's famous love of blues and jazz music. The way the tea cup swirls when The Master's remains are using telekinesis to break out, echos the Fourth Doctor's childhood experiments in time. Some elements of the movie later show up in the rebooted series; like riding a motorcycle or scooter in or out of the TARDIS. Or the atomic clock inventor's bow tie, which The Eleventh Doctor wore. Also the time energy/regeneration energy that resurrects Chang and Grace was reused over and over in the reboot series.