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Following the original series, which ran from 1963 to 1989, and Fox's unsuccessful attempt to Americanize Doctor Who in 1996, the closest we got to a revival of Britain's most celebrated TV show was this affectionate Comic Relief spoof from 1999, which pays homage to and lampoons the Time Lord's adventure.
Structured like a regular story from the classic show (i.e. divided in multiple parts), The Curse of Fatal Death stars Rowan Atkinson, once a candidate to play the role in the official series, as a mock-up version of the Ninth Doctor, who's traveling through time and space with a new female partner when he runs into the latest incarnation of the Master (Jonathan Pryce) and the Daleks.
At this point, any sign of actual plot evaporates, as Steven Moffat, who later went to write the new Doctor Who series, is more interested in making fun of two of the show's trademarks: time paradoxes and regeneration. The first aspect is handled through a classy battle of wits between Master and Doctor, based on an elementary pattern: the Master traveled back in time to set up a deadly trap, the Doctor anticipated the move and traveled further back in time to stop him, and so on. The second aspect, the fact that Time Lords can have thirteen different incarnations, constitutes the bulk of the episode's second half, as the Ninth Doctor is wounded and keeps regenerating, effectively using up all his lives. Then again, why complain when you transform into Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and, um, Joanna Lumley?
It's all a bunch of nonsense, but delivered with that typical Britishness which makes it a must-see. The dialogue, no matter how stupid, manages to come off as extremely witty, and the actors are a joy to behold, especially Atkinson, the two Grants and Pryce, as they infuse their performances with the correct mix of seriousness and self-parody. And let's not forget the terrific idea of having everyone, including the Daleks, address possible continuity problems or plot holes with the deadpan "We'll explain later!".
Bottom line: fan of Doctor Who? You'll love this humorous take on the legend. To quote the "real" Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston): "Fantastic!".
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