In 1989 the Seventh Doctor was played by Sylvester McCoy and the show runner was Jonathan Nathan-Turner.
The show was suffering with bad ratings but it was placed opposite the most popular show at the time Coronation Street so that didn’t help.
Jonathan Nathan-Turner wanted to leave the show, but they couldn’t find anyone to replace him and the Controller of BBC 1 (Jonathan Powell) did not care for Turner so it was either continue running Doctor Who or leave the BBC.
The show was put on extended hiatus in 1989 but it was effectively cancelled. It seems that the production crew knew it was cancelled.
Philip Segal worked for Columbia Pictures and really pushed for the show to come to the US.
It would take years for Segal to get the movie made and by that time he was working for Universal.
Trevor Walton (an Englishman working at Universal) couldn’t commission a series but he could commission a TV movie, so it was used as a backdoor pilot to a TV series.
It was originally made to revive the series but in the US
Aired in Canada first on May 12th, 1996. Then in the US two days later and in the UK 13 days after that.
I had only 5.5 million viewers in the US, but 9 million in the UK. Fox declined to pick it up and without a US partner it was too expensive for the BBC to continue production, so the idea of a new series was scrapped.
Only Doctor Who episode to be shot completely outside of the UK (Vancouver, CA)
The casting agents for the movie reached out to Christopher Eccleston for the part but he declined to audition. He felt he was too young and didn’t want to become associated with a brand yet.
Peter Capaldi also declined to audition for the part. He thought he wouldn’t get it.
Fox and Universal’s top choices for The Doctor were Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford and Jim Carrey. All three of them turned it down. Tom Hanks is a fan of Classic Who, and felt an American shouldn’t be the Doctor. Ford didn’t want to do television. Carrey had never seen any Doctor Who so he thought it wouldn’t do the fans justice.
Others who were considered are Rowan Atkinson, Chris Barrie, Sean Bean, Jim Broadbent, Pierce Brosnan, Martin Clunes, Robbie Coltrane, Billy Connolly, Russell Crowe, Rupert Everett, Ralph Finnes, Hugh Grant, Anthony Head, John Hurt, Derek Jacobi, Ian McKellen, Sam Neill, Peter O’Toole and Michael Palin.
Steve Martin did want the role and is a huge fan of the show. Not sure why he didn’t get it.
Christopher Lloyd almost played the Master