Doctor Who Am I
Review by Jen Bush
Directors: Vanessa Yuille and Matthew Jacobs
Producers: Vanessa Yuille and Matthew Jacobs
Featuring: Matthew Jacobs, Vanessa Yuille, Paul McGann, Daphne Ashbrook, Eric Roberts
When I was 15 years old, I attended my first science fiction convention. Knowing that I was going meet Tom Baker, MY doctor was monumental to me. I say MY doctor because there have been over 10 actors who have portrayed the role of the enigmatic Time Lord. While it’s possible to like multiple incarnations of The Doctor, everyone has a Doctor that signifies something special to them. When I was 17 I fearlessly and ambitiously got on a plane all by myself to fly to Chicago to attend a Doctor Who convention. Just about every whose who of Who was in attendance. I even attended a late night cabaret that was supposed to be for ages 21 and over. I looked about 12 but somehow, I got in anyway. The reason I’m mentioning this is because when a documentary related to Doctor Who came across my desk for review, I was thrilled. Luckily, it did not disappoint.
First, a little WHOstory. Doctor Who began broadcasting on the BBC in 1963 as a children’s television program. The Doctor is a mysterious alien known as a Time Lord hailing from the planet Gallifrey. His spaceship is known as a T.A.R.D.I.S. and is permanently stuck in the form of a British police telephone box. He travels through time and space with various companions or assistants who are mostly from Earth. He is a benevolent heroic being who routinely saves the people of Earth and other civilizations throughout the galaxy. The Doctor doesn’t die, he regenerates hence several actors playing him throughout the decades. Due to several factors including low ratings, after 26 years on television, Doctor Who was cancelled. The story doesn’t end there. The BBC promised the series would be “regenerated”. In 1996 a Doctor Who TV movie was produced and broadcast as a joint venture between the BBC, Fox and Universal Pictures. They changed the canon slightly. The film was intended to be a pilot for an American produced Doctor Who TV series. Unfortunately, it wasn’t picked up for further development. That rascal The Doctor is a resilient Time Lord who is loved by multiple generations of Science Fiction aficionados. His T.A.R.D.I.S. would spin in space again when the show was resurrected by the BBC in 2005. To this day, The Doctor is still galivanting through time and space. Doctor Who Am I focuses on the writer of the TV movie, Matthew Jacobs and is a loving tribute to Doctor Who fandom.
Matthew Jacobs was the screenwriter for the ill-fated Doctor Who television movie. Mr. Jacobs had a wonderful connection to the show from childhood. His father Anthony Jacobs was an actor and portrayed a character in The Gunfighters episodes. Mr. Jacobs had the thrill of visiting his father on the set one day. It’s these little gems of information that fans eat up but he purposely avoided the American convention circuit because of poor reception from the fans. He made some significant changes to the character which didn’t sit well with die hard Who fans. Many years later, Mr. Jacobs was persuaded to attend some Doctor Who conventions in America. It turns out that Mr. Jacobs had nothing to worry about. He was welcomed back into the WHOniverse with open arms.
Genre fans are typically portrayed as nerdy misfits. That couldn’t be further from the truth. They are intelligent, compassionate and enthusiastic people who share a common interest. Vanessa Yuille and Matthew Jacobsbeautifully captured and celebrated Doctor Who fandom at its best. These deeply passionate people were thrust into a positive light. We saw talented fans who put together incredibly creative award-winning costumes. We saw fans who bared their souls and shared how Doctor Who was the only light in their lives during a time of personal adversity. Some scientists and astronomers making a living in the world have Doctor Who to thank for the inspiration.
This documentary is the Doctor Who version of Trekkies. That is meant as a compliment. It’s impossible not to make that comparison. One big difference was that it concentrated on the journey of Matthew Jacobs. We saw wonderful candid moments with Mr. Jacobs. We got a firsthand account of what it’s like to attend a convention. The leads from the TV movie (Paul McGann, Daphne Ashbrook and Eric Roberts) took a walk down memory lane with their spirited interviews. Doctor Who am I is taking film festivals by storm and winning well deserved awards. It was a featured selection at the Boston Sci-fi Film Festival which is the longest running genre film festival in America. Boston Sci-fi honored the film with the award for best documentary.
The stars in the galaxy aligned for Vanessa Yuille and Matthew Jacobs. Vanessa Yuille is an award-winning filmmaker. Doctor Who Am I marks her feature film directorial and editorial debut. A fun fact is that she made this documentary about an alien and she happens to have a degree in astronomy! Matthew Jacobs is a British writer, producer, director and actor best known for Doctor Who and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Just like The Doctor and one of his companions, they made a good team. WHO knew a documentary could be this good?