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Leonard Nimoy wanted to direct the Doctor Who movie

The 1996 Doctor Who TV movie starring the Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, could have been directed by Leonard Nimoy, but studio thought it would be kitsch

Paul McGann in Doctor Who

After seven incarnations of the Doctor since 1963, the initial run of Doctor Who came to an end in 1989. Before the series was successfully relaunched in 2005, there was a one-off TV movie in 1996 starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor. This was intended to be a back-door pilot that would launch a series, but it ended up being a false start that failed to get off the ground.

The TV movie, and McGann’s incarnation of the Doctor, has since grown in reputation and gained something of a cult following. McGann has since played the role in a series of audio dramas, and appeared in the 2013 episode The Night Doctor alongside John Hurt.

Surprisingly, it has emerged that Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy expressed an interest in directing the 1996 TV movie that McGann appeared in. Speaking to the Radio Times, producer Philip Segal said; “I had several meetings with Leonard Nimoy who wanted to direct it. I met with him at Amblin [Entertainment], and we had wonderful conversations. He was genuinely excited about the possibility.”

So, how come it didn’t happen? “FOX did not want him to do it. They were concerned it looked very kitsch to go, ‘Aren’t we clever? We’ve got Spock from Star Trek directing.’” Segal revealed that the TV movie’s US broadcaster would only permit Nimoy to direct if he took a role in the TV movie, potentially as The Master; “That was just insulting to Leonard, because that wasn’t the object of the exercise.”

As well as directing two Star Trek movies, Nimoy directed the highest grossing film of 1987 – comedy movie Three Men and a Baby. It’s now a very different era for both Star Trek and Doctor Who. Star Trek is currently in a very fertile period, with Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks, and Strange New Worlds. And Doctor Who is about to transition from the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) to the Fourteenth (Ncuti Gatwa), as well as celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2023.

Check out our guide to the best sci-fi series.