Summary: The Eighth Doctor, played by Paul McGann, is simultaneously the Doctor with the shortest and longest run at the character. He appeared only once, in a pilot TV movie in 1996 (called variously, The Movie, The TV Movie, Doctor Who, and The Enemy Within) which was attempting to repackage Doctor Who for a new TV generation. It failed, in many senses of the word, but the Eighth Doctor himself, as portrayed by McGann, was excellent.
So excellent, in fact that even when it was obvious the TV Movie would not go to series, BBC decided to run with the character, doing with him what Virgin had done so successfully with the Seventh Doctor, producing a series of interesting, original SF books with the Doctor and various companions at the centre of the franchise. Telos Publishing were also licensed to produce a series of “deluxe” Doctor Who novellas featuring various Doctors, including the Eighth. As well as utilising some of the same authors that had worked on the Virgin and BBC lines, Telos brought in some well known authors from other areas to write media tie ins for the first time, including Kim Newman, Louise Cooper and Tom Arden.
Later, when Big Finish launched, the Eighth Doctor got another new lease of life as the “current” Doctor, and Paul McGann was finally allowed to develop the character beyond the 90 minutes that had spawned so much secondary canon. Many of his audio plays were also broadcast on BBC7, including several seasons of stories with companion Lucie Miller. Big Finish also took on the ‘Short Trips’ anthology series begun by the BBC and continued it as an audio and print series, so that hundreds of new short stories have been published featuring all the Doctors and companions. After 2005, when Christopher Eccleston launched on to our screens and Doctor Who really came back, the Eighth Doctor was sort of ‘retired’ as the current Doctor and recategorised as a Past Doctor, but in practice this didn’t make a lot of difference. Interviewed recently, Paul McGann spoke about how chuffed he was to see his Doctor acknowledged in New Who, because he had assumed he would be considered “not canon”.