The film was the first attempt to revive Doctor Who following its suspension in 1989. It was intended as a backdoor pilot for a new American-produced Doctor Who TV series. It introduced Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor in his only televised appearance as the character until "The Night of the Doctor" in 2013 (though McGann has portrayed the Doctor also in various audio productions). It also marks the final appearance of Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor, the only appearance of Daphne Ashbrook as companion Grace Holloway, and the only appearance of Eric Roberts's version of The Master. Although a ratings success in the United Kingdom, the film did not fare well on American television and no series was commissioned. The series was later relaunched on the BBC in 2005. The only Doctor Who episodes between the film and the new series were a 1999 spoof, Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death, and a 2003 animation, Scream of the Shalka.
Although the film was primarily produced by different people than the 1963–1989 series and intended for an American audience, the producers chose not to produce a "re-imagining" or "reboot" of the series but rather a continuation of the original narrative. The production was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, to date the only episode of Doctor Who filmed in Canada.