The Crystal Bucephalus
The Five Doctors Collectors' Edition
The Five Doctors
(Later divided into four)
With Peter Davison, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee,
Richard Hurndall, Tom Baker, and William Hartnell,
Carole Ann Ford, Nicolas Courtney, Elizabeth Sladen,
Lalla Ward, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson.
Written by Terrance Dicks. Script-edited by Eric Saward.
Directed by Peter Moffatt. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.
Synopsis: The first five Doctors are taken out of time and thrust onto the
Death Zone on Gallifrey to play the Game of Rassilon against enemies from
the past and present.
|Note: Availble in four versions: The movie-length American, the movie-length and episodic UK versions, and the 1995 remix released on video.|
Just How Many Timelords Can Fit in One Tardis? by Dennis McDermott 25/2/97
OK, so the story's a little light-weight, but who cares when you're having so much fun? The little twists in the plot are delightful, particularly those relating to the Master, and the moral at the end was pointed if a bit obvious. Mostly it was fun watching the Doctors outdo each other, and if Patrick Troughton got the best of it, it wasn't by much.
This episode really is a tribute to the quality of actors the show has attracted. In particular, this may have been Peter Davison's finest show. I didn't think much of him when I first saw him in the 80's (I was weaned on Tom Baker), but he not only shared his stage with grace, he displayed a presence that when beyond the vulnerablity he was his trademark.
The only real drawback here is that the companions were pretty much there only for the Doctors to explain things to. Sarah Jane, for example, is much beloved not only for her wit, charm and beauty, but also for her willingness to stick her nose in it. Here, she falls and screams. Oh, well... if only life were perfect.
A Review by Jen Kokoski 27/3/97
Often shown during PBS pledge drives, I've seen this particular story more times than I can count. Some people hate it, but I love it. Given the number of leading men (Doctors), supporting roles (companions), villains and Gallifreyans in the cast, the script was fantastic. Everyone had at least one good, quotable line, which is more than any actor can hope for in an ensemble cast. And the basic story was a simple weave of Gallifreyan legend, mystery and betrayal enjoyable for any Whovian to watch.
A Review by Cody Salis 1/1/98
Like Jen, I saw this show during a pledge drive on NHPT channel 11 on July 17, 1988. This gave me a chance to see more of the first two Doctors.
Richard Hurndall gave an excellent performance of the first Doctor in the stead of the late William Hartnell. His appearance and mannerisims actually were a copy of Hartnell, and after looking at the preview in the TV Guide and seeing that Hurndall was listed as the first Doctor supprised me, but once I saw the story I was impressed!
All of the ingredients (the Doctors, Companions, and Villians old and new) made an interesting story. The effects of the Doctors and Sarah Jane Smith being sent to the Death Zone reminded me of the imprisonment scene of "The Three Villians form Krypton" in Superman the Movie.
Borusa was to me an interesting villian. He did not reveal his true intentions throughout the story until he was found out by the fifth Doctor. But once found out he was just like any other villian, wanting power to defeat the good guys. But how did Borusa find that game room?
The Raston Robot was the scariest and most interesting of the things that the Doctors met while in the Zone. The costume of the Raston Robot reminded me of Spider-Man because it had no face and the movements of its armements were like the web being slung at its oppponents.
Anthony Ainley does an excellent job as the Master. He hoestly tries to help the Doctors, but at every turn is told no, and the Doctors believe that they were brought to the Zone by him. By the end he reverts back to his normal self and tries to defeat the Doctors, but ends up himself the loser as usual.
I liked this story not only from the standpoint of the twentieth anniversary of Doctor Who, but also to take in how popular Doctor Who has become with the present actors as well as the actors who started the program.
Five for One by Ari Lipsey 4/2/98
On the 20th anniversary of Doctor Who, fans were treated to a meeting of four out of the five personas of the Doctor all meeting in the same place. Surely, The Five Doctors must have been highly praised the first time it was aired simply because on the first showing, and it stands up rather well. However, there's a lingering sense that something is missing, as though the anniversary is not all it's cracked up to be. If you watch The Five Doctors again, you might pinpoint exactly what it is. Since what I felt was missing has yet to be pointed out in the previous reviews, I'll donate the majority of my review to explain in great detail my qualm: Terrance Dicks' script.
As I stated in my review The War Games, no one does plot like Dicks. The sub-plots in The Five Doctors are for the most part excellent. I liked the inclusion of the Master, and the fifth Doctor in the capitol was a neatly played out. The problem is the three remaining Doctors have more or less the same plot done over three times. They have to get to the Dark Tower while crossing the dead zone landscape. Yay. What bugs me most is for Pat Troughton and Jon Pertwee, it's basically 15 minutes out of their eras with familiar companions. I don't know about you, but I would have liked to have seen Susan travel with the third Doctor, and perhaps have her relationship with her grandfather explained. How about Sarah Jane with the second and the Brig with the first (and Richard Hurndall didn't do such a bad job)? Since it's for the fans, why do we need to see Pertwee's Doctor with Sarah Jane again?
My other qualm is the Doctors themselves. Why wasn't some witty dialogue exchanges between them ever done? All we got was a five minute tease. The most magical scenes in The Two Doctors were when Colin Baker acts with Frazer Hines or with Pat Troughton. The Three Doctors only redeemable feature were the exchanges between Pat Troughton and Jon Pertwee.
Even though I liked The Five Doctors, it wasn't a surprising storyline. It was what I would have done with the preset guidelines. It's two stories shared amongst four characters. It's logical, not imaginative, and this why I fault Dicks.
On the whole, not to bad episode, it just could have been a lot better.
The things you can do without a plot by Joseph Nunweek 11/2/98
It's an established fact that the multi-Doctor stories are not especially strong on plot. However, The Five Doctors still holds itself up with nostalgia and characterization, despite a few gripes.
Good points first-- Richard Hurndall was absolutely perfect as the First Doctor. Patrick and Jon recaptured the style of their Doctors well, and Tom Baker's brief scene made me desperate for a complete version of Shada. Meanwhile, the Fifth Doctor's dealings in the Capitol were good, although I wish they made Borusa less obviously the bad guy. So much for subtlety. The Brigader was fine, and Anthony Ainley was brilliant as The Master. The only reason people criticize his performance is because they would've preferred another Delgado-style Master. It was nice to see a Dalek, and the Raston Robot and the Cybermen were good, especially in the great FX sequence where they meet.
Gripes: Sarah was terribly done. I would've preferred her in Season eleven style. I would've liked Zoe, Jamie, Yates, and Liz to be proper companions rather than holograms of Rassilon. The Fifth Doctor's casualness to the Cybermen seems out of place after the events of Earthshock (Adric's death). And finally, it should have been longer-- say a six-parter. Then maybe we could've seen the Ice Warriors and Sontarans, had the companions I mentioned above, had more chances for the Doctors to play off each other...
A slightly flawed but fun and exciting outing.
Not even close to a classic by Michael Hickerson 20/3/98
Why does everyone love The Five Doctors so much?
I will give you that it sucessful brings together the five incarnations of our favorite Time Lord along with some nice previous companion cameos and gives them each a small moment to shine on screen. And give Terrance Dicks credit, he is able to bring in a large number of the villains and monsters that made Doctor Who great.
But why, then, when I watch do I always come away feeling let down?
I think the main reason is that The Five Doctors is basically a bunch of nice scenes that are strung together by a pretty much pointless plot. The Doctor is being taken out of each of his eras by a corrupt member of the High Council to do his dirty work. Part of the problem is that we already saw a bit of Gallifreyan corruption earlier in Arc of Infinity so this plotline seems a bit stale. The other is that this plot detracts from the real reason we're here-- to see the five Doctors back on screen again and working together to stop some form of evil.
Which brings up another point of contention-- we spend eighty-odd minutes of screen time building up to the all the Doctors coming together and then it's pretty much a let down. One of the things that elevates The Three Doctors above it's meager premise is the superlative interplay between Troughton and Pertwee. I'd love to have seen more of this in The Five Doctors. Unfortunately, we spend a lot more time on the quest to get to the Dark Tower when we should have seen some great previous Doctors interaction.
Of course, if you had too much continuity you'd lose some of the more casual fans of the show. Let's face it, this story was made to celebrate 20 years of a great show and it was written with a more casual fan in mind. There are slight refrences to the past that casual fans could easily pick up on and the story is not so complex so that if you've missed the last six or so years, you will be totally lost. It's a story for mass consumption and I suppose on that level it works.
But speaking as a fan of the show who loyally watches, I wish it had been more.
Finally, another major problem I've got is how many different versions of this story there are running around out there. I can think of at least three I've seen, each with different scenes added or cut. None of the added or deleted moments are particularily vital to the plot, but they still make it more interesting. I had thought when they re-edited the story for the new re-mastered with super new effects video release we might finally get the complete version of The Five Doctors. Not so.
Once again, the story disappoints me.
Overall, I am ultimately disappointed because the story has such potential. The concept of bringing back all five Doctors together has so much promise that it's a shame to see it wasted here.
A Review by Daniel Spelner 12/5/00
A glorious celebration of 20 years of Doctor Who. All five Doctors are here (one way or another) in an adventure written by trusty Who writer Terrence Dicks, who somehow managed to weave all the requirements into an epic story that unites the Doctors against the forces of evil. The story has each of the Doctors making their way to a Tower which is situated at the heart of the infamous Death Zone... Obstructing their progress are an implacable mixture of adversaries including Cybermen, Yeti, a Dalek, the Master and the seriously dexterous Raston Warrior Robot! There's also a variety of assistants on hand to help our heroes in their perilous quest. Full of memorable encounters, you just have to see it! But above all, the nostalgia of The Five Doctors triumphantly recaptures some of the 'magic' of previous times in this unforgettable special. As the Doctor would likely say, "Splendid!"
The Way it Should have Been by Nate Gundy 8/2/01
This isn't really a review of The Five Doctors. It's...well, you'll see...
It's like all crossovers isn't it?
Kirk meets Picard! Well, not until the last fifteen minutes.
Same with the Five Doctors. What's the bleedin' point if they're not going to spend some time together?
Granted, I haven't seen the The Three Doctors or The Two Doctors, but this is how I would have done the 20th Anniversary special (and I'll even do it without Tom Baker).
FOUR DOCTORS LOCKED IN A ROOM FOR ONE HOUR.
That's it. Put them in a room and give them an epic problem to fix in one, uninterrupted hour. Forget the Daleks. Forget the Cybermen. Forget the companions. Forget EVERYONE. Just the Doctors and maybe the Master on a monitor to taunt them once in a while.
You don't have to worry about action, you don't have to worry about length. One hour. Concentrate on the chemistry. Hell, write a few drafts, then bring the actors together to read and contribute.
Hell, I bet even Tom Baker would agree to that. He seemed to be having the most fun trying to out-act his adversaries. Let's see him out-act Troughton!
I'm getting excited just thinking about it. And yet it will never happen. Still, I needed to get that out of my system.
Thanks for listening.
A Review by Rob Matthews 3/5/01
The Five Doctors is probably one of JNT's more successful attempts to package up and sell the show. He's the real operator of the time scoop, cramming as much as he can of the series' past into ninety minutes so that the kids will want to know more, and hopefully purchase those handy new videos the beeb would put out later.
It worked for me. If it wasn't for The Five Doctors (and later The Two Doctors), I might never have been inspired to seek out the adventures of those three mysterious old men from the time before Tom. Sometime's TFD's success in so conditioning the minds of younger fans is overlooked.
And there are a couple of scenes imprinted on my brain from this story as classic Who - the adventure of the Raston Robot versus the Cybermen. Pure visceral fun - Vwap! Schoossh! Ker-smash! And the scenes of the timescoop chasing after the Doctors and companions were genuinely scary to me at the time (although even aged five I was suspicious of its similarity to that big mirror in Superman). Also the Dalek in that tunnel of mirrors.
But, but, oh my dear, but...
It's just not very good. Not when you consider what might have been. The plot is so very lame, and stolen from Carnival of Monsters. A load of Doctors, companions and baddies chucked into a sort of giant boardgame for no reason at all, except to entertain Borusa and the viewer. Some say that the lack of plot doesn't really matter, that that's not the point. Come off it! Any fan could have came up with a better storyline in about ten minutes! Especially if the makers of this special hadn't been so ambitious. Because whichever way you look at it, this is not The Five Doctors. This is The Three Doctors, The One Stand-In, and the Unused Footage from Shada. Taking into account Tom's refusal to participate, this should have involved Troughton, Pertwee and Davison only. At least they actually were Doctors, and that way they'd all have had more to do.
I have nothing against Richard Hurdnall's portrayal of the Doc in itself, but I think it was a ridiculous idea to recast him in the first place. Since regeneration was invented to allow for changes of actor to take place without the viewer feeling too alienated, doesn't anyone else think it was ludicrous to add extra changes on top of that? Imagine if this trend had continued with the next Doctors in line - Sylvester McCoy meeting up with the second Doctor as played by, I don't know, Michael Jayston or something. Or imagine that upon failing to get Tom on board for the anniversary show, JNT decided to replace him too! I mean, you wouldn't dare, would you? Yet it was fine to implicitly dismiss Hartnell's interpretation of the role! Well, sorry, but a long white wig and a bad mood do not a Bill Hartnell make. At least the real thing turned up via that well-chosen prologue clip. They should have left it at that.
Since I'm on the subject, the Doctors do not interact enough to justfiy the setup. And though I can understand Tom's reasons for not wanting to do this so soon after leaving the show, I dearly wish we could have seen him on screen with Troughton.
The Death Zone is in itself quite a good idea, giving an insight into Gallifrey's dark and brutal history. But , incidentally, who the hell went to the trouble to put tarmac roads there? If I were kidnapping all sorts of species from all across the galaxy and dumping them into a savage battle for their lives, I doubt I'd think to provide highways. Unless the olden-day Time Lords thought an occasional car chase would liven things up.
Good old Borusa turns out (to no-one's surprise) to be the villain. Erm... so that means Davison's Doctor has seen this whole thing happen four times over. And he's still useless! (except for the admittedly hilarious quip "And very fetching it is too"). I can just about accept the sixth Doctor not remembering the machinations of Dastari in The Two Doctors (it was a long time ago, his brains were more scrambled than usual post-regeneration , and the second Doctor mentioned that the drug Dastari had given him affected the memory), but for someone not to remember something he's seen happen four times already... it beggars belief. Perhaps the Time Lords did some of their mind-wiping a la The War Games, but if so, it should have been made clear in the script.
Oh, and WHY do none of the other Doctors acknowledge Susan as their granddaughter?!
And how come the time vortex that Tom's trapped in looks like the BBC car park? What's he doing under that fence?!
Is Rassilon a ghost? A simulation projected from the Matrix? Or merely a confirmation of the stereotype of Doctor Who as a load of incoherent pants?
So, though I remain fond of it in many ways, this adventure utterly sucks. Some fans have said 'oh who cares, it's got a load of old Doctors and companions and its a bit of fun'. Personally I just don't think that's enough. Indulgence and clumsiness aren't virtues, you know.
The five Doctors in The Five Doctors by Dean Belanger 31/7/01
As my son and I watch the complete series in order we find ourselves at The Five Doctors. Not the special edition... just the old regular tv version. My son by the way is 7 years old and loves the Doctor. Who says an old BBC sci-fi series wouldn't appeal to todays videogame cultured youth. Another subject for another time perhaps. I thought we would review The Five Doctors by reviewing... well... the five Doctors.
All in all this episode is a celebration of a great television series and it's wonderful history, and that is how it should be watched. Don't look for any morale lessons or deep issues. There aren't any. It is simply a bang-up good adventure.
Where on earth is Tom Baker? by Mike Jenkins 7/11/01
Well, that pretty much sums it up. And I agree with many other fans. Where's the doctor interplay! If I want to see Troughton with Lethbridge-Stewart I'll get The Invasion. If I want to see Pertwee with Sarah I'll get something from season 11. It would've been great to see Troughton and Baker together in an all out joke contest but not only is this concept wasted but we don't get to see Tom. I can't Imagine how many fans he disappointed by not coming back. Baker and Troughton could've have kept the other more serious doctors in line but it was not to be.
Although the plot has somewhat of a quality of old about it, it seems to insult old school Doctor Who by not being very worthwhile. However, despite this I think it is probably stronger then the tenth anniversary story, The Three Doctors simply beacuse the production and plot exposition were so weak in that story. Sure, there was Doctor interplay but not enough to save the story. We'll talk about that one later though. Rassilon is hilarious. He looks like some reject from a Charles Dickens film adaptation. Whether this was on purpose or not it is one of the highlights of the story for me.
A Review by Gareth McG 29/1/02
It's an absolute credit to Terrance Dicks that he managed to make The Five Doctors so good because it really should have failed miserably. There were far too many characters to do justice to a 90-minute script. Even Robert Holmes gave it up as a bad job half way through and just as well too because by the sounds of it his version had all the wrong ideas. Dicks keeps it simple and provides a lovely blend of nostalgia, fun and adventure. It's a blast from start to finish with all the usual suspects (Daleks, Cybermen, the Master and a corrupt Timelord) involved. There are so many nice touches to this show such as the figurines of those stuck in The Death Zone and the prologue for the late William Hartnell. When I watched this originally I actually thought it was Hartnell playing the First Doctor. That's a credit to Richard Hurdnall who is stunningly accurate in his portrayal of the Doctor. What a shame that they didn't remake some of the lost episodes with Hurdnall.
Pat Troughton, the rascal, is definitely the star of the show and I particularly love the footage of him fighting off the Yeti in the cave. All of his scenes are extremely witty and he suits having the Brigadier by his side more than Pertwee ever did. Pertwee himself turns up in Bessie and throws in a dependably solid performance while his sidekick Liz Sladen (Sarah-Jane) reminds us that not all the companions were crap actors. The Raston Warrior Robot encountered by the pair is one of the best enemies in Who history begging the question of why it never made a reappearance. Peter Davison does well too although his scenes are mostly shot in the High Council's room which are the dullest in the show, particularly after the atmospheric shots in Wales. Speaking of which, the location filming of this programme was absolutely fantastic. The bleak, foggy landscapes in Wales must have been exactly as Dicks imagined The Death Zone while the studio footage of the Tower, inside and outside, was chilling, the satanic music adding to that haunting effect.
It's a terrible shame that Tom Baker chose not to return for this show and even more frustrating to hear that he regrets it in retrospect. His inclusion would have made the adventure absolutely perfect. Getting stuck in a time loop was a pretty lame excuse for his exclusion although the scenes on the punt from the aborted Shada are classic Baker. I would like to see a DVD of the show that includes the original version, the special edition and the episodes promotion. That type of treatment is warranted for this truly unique story that worked brilliantly against all the odds.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 11/5/02
This wonderful bit of nostalgia evokes smiles all round amongst my Doctor Who mates. Season 20 had cruelly been cut short, ending with the only average King's Demons. And then a special was announced for Children in Need Night. I remember perching myself before the TV and cheering as each incarnation of the Doctor and each companion was introduced. It must have seemed to fellow watchers like one of those tacky American Sitcoms, where the audience cheer upon arrival of their hero/heroine. I am not sure whether my family enjoyed watching it with me though. Upon each characters arrival I gave a brief character-portrait, clearly boring the pants of my father! I have watched it recently, it still is a marvelous nostalgia-fest.
What is the astounding thing about this story is just how well it combines all the Doctors and companions, with an interesting story. It could very well be Terrance Dicks best contribution to the Who universe. It somehow managed to be the ultimate fan story, and combining a pretty good story around it. Uncle Terrance deserves the highest plaudits for this celebration.
The whole idea of the Death-Zone on Gallifrey is one rich in possibilities. Legends from the dawn of time (and stuff like that!) are staple ingredients of Doctor Who. Another is people in power going mad, and we get that too with Borusa. The script is a clever and witty one. Dicks knows his Who better than most, and he gives everyone something to do. There are dozens of funny lines reminding us just how glorious Doctor Who really is. A Celebration indeed.
Who fare the best is a common argument amongst fans, speaking of the Five Doctors. Personally I would say the 2nd Doctor gets the best introduction, but the 3rd Doctor is the most dominant from thereon. The 5th Doctor gets some good material too. Of the companions it is wonderful to see the Brigadier again, and Sarah-Jane showed just how precious she is too. The 4th Doctor inserts, whilst reminding us of how much a shame it was Tom Baker wasn't in it, were also welcome, and you hardly noticed the join.
Multi-collaboration Doctor efforts are often disappointing. How refreshing this still is then, showing to be the best Multi-Doctor story of them all. It really is a terrific nostalgia-trip, and a worthy monument to 20 years of the Time Lord. Amazing to think the 40th Anniversary is coming up in 1 year - how time flies. 10/10
The Three and a Bit Doctors by Andrew Wixon 29/5/02
Now it goes without saying that the very idea of making The Five Doctors is, in hindsight, of questionable merit. While it seems vaguely appropriate, following a season where the use of old continuity had gone from being an additional extra to the whole raison d'etre for some of the stories, for a story like this to be made, it's still a hugely self-indulgent, introspective wallow with a self-satisfied glow around it that probably isn't warranted. If I hadn't been a fan, I wouldn't have had a clue who half these people were.
And while it would have been fine had The Five Doctors actually had the five TV Doctors in it, this is of course not the case. Tom's non-participation really cripples the show at the most fundamental level. It's Hamlet without the Prince, it's King Kong without the gorilla, and so on and so forth. And the first Doctor... well, it has to be said that Richard Hurndall does bear a striking resemblence to Richard Hurndall. Or, alternatively, Monty Burns from the Simpsons. I suppose in long shot at dusk he has a passing likeness to Edmund Warwick, but really...
But, goldurnit it, this is a story I never fail to enjoy. Okay, so there's only a wafer-thin plot but this wasn't supposed to be a clever story (though a friend of mine swore he read an early draft where Tom was the villain). Terrance Dicks wisely opts for just a string of set pieces, and they're good set pieces for the most part: the various Cybermassacres (the big fellas' performance against the Raston Robot was a touch disappointing), the interaction between the different eras of the show... Dicks' knowledge of and enthusiasm for the series shines through and it's irresistible stuff. The dialogue is full of gems - 'Nice to see you again,' says the Brigadier just before clobbering the Master, 'Mine was pretty unpromising too,' commiserates Troughton on meeting the Brigadier's replacement, 'After you,' says Davison to Ainley as Cybermen bear down on them...
So it's dumb, and it's self indulgent, and it doesn't really have Five Doctors in it (I'll bet Peter Cushing would've appeared if they'd asked him)... But it's got Pat Troughton in it. And Nick Courtney. And Lis Sladen. And a bit of Tom. And there's nothing wrong with a good wallow now and then. I suppose in a way the biggest sin of The Five Doctors is to remind us all of how good the series had been in the past... and how (comparatively) disappointing the 80s turned out to be.
It's my party and I'll be crap if I want to! by Joe Ford 11/3/03
I can think of shows that have done worse anniversary shows but I can't think of many that sold out its audience as much as The Five Doctors. Personally whilst I find it superficially entertaining it is (intelligently and storytelling wise) one of the biggest pieces of tripe the show ever churned up. Hmm what a mixed metaphor.
People give lots of excuses for this one, oh it's the anniversary story so it doesn't matter that's a series of loosely connected set pieces... it's just supposed to be fun. Well if it's supposed to be fun why bother to try and create a 'dramatic' story for it? The Five Doctors does such a disservice to Gallifrey (well after Arc of Infinity who would have thought it could have got lower?) by once again dressing it up like a panto but also creating Time-scoop technology enabling to bring together all the Doctors. What an excuse for a story! Sorry Terrance, have another go! If Gallifrey is really run by those three idiots in fancy dress than I'm glad I wasn't born there! But hey there's a small fountain in the corridor, Gallifrey must be sophisticated then! The premise, execution and writing are all incredibly childish.
What's worse is the mulitple companions and Doctors showing up. Admittedly I don't mind the screen time being taken away from Doc 5, Tegan and Turlough as they are worse than useless but when there are five Doctors and numerous companions to follow it becomes stupid to care about any of them. Too many cooks spoil the broth and I lose track of many the sub plots throughout. Does anybody else get a genuine shock when we return to the TARDIS to find Turlough and Susan under siege from Cybermen... their scenes are so short and stretched apart the plot is almost redundant.
I know I sound like an old Scrooge but I don't think this how an anniversary story should be done. The Two Doctors got it right by concentrating on just two Doctors and giving them a generous helping of screen time. The Three Doctors despite its production nightmare does actually have a sound story behind it but this is just a mess of pretty set pieces.
Sarah is given such a disservice, I cringe when I think of poor Lis Sladen being given such material. Her fall down that gentle slope is pathetic and her whimperings when scaling the tower is worse. She's just brainless and lost all of her pluck, not how I remember her at all. Susan too does nothing but hang off people's arms and twist her ankle. Yes they did have moments of stupidity in their original stories but they were never this unbearable.
Poor Jon Pertwee despite his best efforts is given some of the most generic lines in the show's history. He wants to make his Doctor stand out the most but unfortunately he fares the worst, even his genuinely amusing banter with Troughton is cut to an absolute minimum.
Plus the inclusion of stupid Cybermen. Once ruthless tacticians are now defeated by a guy in some body stockings and a chess board. Oh and there's a Dalek in there too for no other purpose than to scream Exterminate. C'mon guys, the fans are worth more than this pathetic nostalgia.
Does anything work in this I hear you ask? Actually quite a bit. The Cyber massacre whilst diminishing their effectiveness does look fabulous, one of the most exciting action scenes in the show's history. Most of the location work is great too, Peter Moffat was always a good director when it came to OB work and he manages to give the Death Zone the unhospitable feel it needs. Unfortunately there are too many model shots of the tower superimposed which just looks rubbish but I'm supposed to complimenting now so I'll stop there.
Somewhat astonishingly it is Peter Davison who manages to come up trumps, just behind Troughton (nobody can beat Troughton!!!) but I think the script was designed to work that way. He gives quite a confident performance here and is far more memorable than in anything he did during season 20. His Master scenes actually WORK in this one mostly because Ainley has dropped any pretense of being scary and playing the role as the panto villain we all knew he was. Davison's "Sorry, must dash!" to the Cybermen is one of about ten great scenes he has in his era. And especially brilliant is his goodbye to everyone at the end where he mimicks each Doctor as he says goodbye. Quite wonderful.
Tegan and Turlough. Need I go on. "Doctor look out Cybermen!", "I'm Tegan Jovanka, who might you be?", "How long d'you plan to play pitch and toss?", "You mean you're deliberately going on the run from your own people in a rackety old TARDIS?"... dear oh dear somebody shoot the woman. Generic doesn't begin to describe this woman. And Turlough does nothing but stay in the TARDIS so let's not bother with him.
Troughton is fab and pairing his up with Nick Courtney was a great idea giving us at least one fun combination to follow. His childish glee at everything is such fun, I really get a kick everytime I hear "Not allowed, me? I'm allowed everywhere!" Of course we're all waiting for him to meet Pertwee and their banter is as cool as ever. It's hysterical when he hides behind Pertwee's back when Borusa appears!
Richard Hurndall I've heard much about and I can't say I agree. Yes Hartnell was a bit grouchy at times and could snap at people but he also had a sense of fun, of adventure and such a childish sense of wonder that Hurndall completely misses. He plays him like some overbearing parent, capturing about one hundreth of Hartnell's appeal. Still I suppose it was the best they could manage. Unfortunately seeing Hartnell in the credits does the production no good at all.
Ahem, sorry to go on but this is far from the masterpiece it is often
praised as. I have spent the last half hour moaning about it. And it
turned up in my Top Ten Best Davison Stories...
I guess that shows just how good his tenure really was. Hmm?
Why no three people should watch Doctor Who together by Joe Ford and family
You know how it is, you've got a week off work, your mother has come down to visit you, your boyfriend is lounging about the house bored out of his skull... never fear Doctor Who to the rescue! But imagine my horror when my mother suggests we watch the one where they all come together because "Peter Davison is so lovely"... oh vomit.
I have already written a thorough and scathing review of this piece but I wanted to write a supplement, if only to prove just how Doctor Who is perceived with such variety. We watched the whole thing through, Mum loved it, Simon was indifferent but was leaning on the right side of positive and I was bored to tears. Different generations maybe? Or just different tastes... needless to say the story came in for some real praise and even more criticism...
The tape begins and Davison is wiping down the TARDIS console with a feather duster (not the most arresting of openings I have to say Davison fans). Yes this is the original Peter Moffatt version; I hate that extended thing with stupid padding, toned down music and only marginally better effects! The Cyberman doesn't even say "Arrrrh!"... Anyway, Davison is spring cleaning and the conversation immediately focuses on the TARDIS. "They'll have to update that in the new series" says I. "Not too much" says Mum "the TARDIS is one of the few things I recognise as Doctor Who!"... to which Simon, interior designer mad says "Its so grey... it could do with some plants and furniture, like in the sixties." Hmm, good point.
"Is he gay?" Mum asks when she spots Turlough scribbling a wet weekend in Wales. Momentarily confused I ask why she might think that. "He's quite camp, plus I remember him pulling these tight little shorts off once"... disturbing, but persistent I inform her that sexual issues have no place in the show. Simon comments a "will they, wont they" relationship will be essential in capturing a larger audience with the new series, that nookie in the TARDIS will happen eventually because television is geared at such a level.
I harrumph and turn back to see Richard Hurndall posing as William Hartnell admiring some gardens. "Gosh" says my Mum, "that's two different locations and neither was a quarry." It appears this particular joke has been burnt into the public's consciousness.
"I love the idea of this story" Mum says, giddily excited as K.9 and Sarah appear. "The idea of bringing together all the old Doctors and companions... it feels like a real event rather than a normal Doctor Who story." I point out this cheap ploy is why I hate the story, that it is selling out the fans to force so much nostalgia down their throats until they are sick of it. She tells me to shut up and respect my elders.
There was much discussion about the costume design for this story that I feel I should bring to your attention. Female attire rarely bothers me (unless it is Sarah from Hand of Fear) but I suddenly felt I had walked into a Peter Davison DVD commentary as Simon and Ma competed for shallowness. "The costume is awful!" she cries; point at Sarah-Jane "She is far to young to be wearing anything that frumpy!". Susan is apparently "overdressed" (Mum), Tegan "looks as though someone has been sick over her" (Simon), Zoe-phantom is "so fragile she has to be dressed in bubble-wrap" (me) and (worst of all) Romana II is "your father's wet dream" (Mum) dressed as she is in a schoolgirl's outfit. I have to say I rather like Turlough's school uniform but for entirely perverse reasons (shame the git is so ugly).
Anyway back to the story.
Troughton and Courtney are trapped in foggy Wales. "A quarry!" Mum cries. Simon laughs with her. "Oh I love this bit, the guy with the arrows", I let her know that is a long way off yet but it is interesting that a well-filmed action scene should stay so vivid in her mind. (On an entirely unrelated note it is amazing how strong a powerful Doctor Who moment will stay in your mind. On the way to Eastbourne I spotted David Collings on the train and Mum, who rarely watches the show, remembered him instantly as the guy who lost his mind after seeing the blood dripping from the robot hand. Doctor Who has the ability to plant a seed of a memory, giant maggots, Mr Sin, "the monsters where the eyes don't move" (The Sea Devils, courtesy of my Uncle) that you never, ever forget).
"He's so lovely" Mum swoons over a youthful Peter Davison who has fainted in the TARDIS. Simon is obsessed with how much eyeliner he has on. I am filing for parental divorce; Mum admits Davison is by far her favourite (must be a hormonal thing) and that "the fat, multicoloured shouty one" is horrible (after I comment that the sixth is my favourite!). Simon is well trained "he is so boring" to which Mum takes much affront "No he is just polite and kind, a real gent. I would love to travel with him which more than I can say about you two." That told us and I fear my Davison bashing was over for this video. I guess this is why Davison had good ratings, middle aged women lusting after his body (that cannot surely be your excuse Mike?).
"You expect him to snigger at the audience any minute" Mum says as the Master is asked to rescue the Doctor "the way he keeps twitching his mouth is so OTT." I rather like the Master in this story but my attempts at praising Ainley's pantomime acting is drowned out when the Master is shown the transmat device and giggles with glee leading to Simon mimicking the leaning forward and going "Oooh" throughout the story and Mum cracking up. Yes he's embarrassing, let's move on.
Mum thinks that Hurndall is nothing like Hartnell, that he is apparently too nice. I think he is too prickly and Simon dismisses us all saying he has a "bloody good try". I am hugely impressed that Mum remembers the "I am the Doctor! The ORIGINAL you might say!" and says it before it Hurndall. How sad is she?
We all laugh ourselves silly when we hear "I'm Tegan Jovanka who might you be?" What is it about Janet Fielding's delivery that causes spontaneous unintentional laughter?
"I cannot believe that the Doctor cannot spot those Cybermen!" Mum spits when they emerge from hiding and attack the Doctor and Master. She is soon silenced as the rock explodes and knocks the fiendish villain out ("Ooh that looks like it hurt!") and the fifth Doctor says his best ever line ("Sorry, must dash!").
"There's lots going on, I love how it hops back to all the different characters" Simon is impressed with how the story keeps track of everybody, not letting you get bored. As you may know this my MAJOR reason for despising this fan favourite, too many cooks spoil the broth, Turlough and Susan are forgotten about for an age as are the 2nd Doc and the Brig... Simon compares this to Ghost Light (that he hates), this is light, fluffy, entertaining... not too deep and easy to follow if you're a non fan. I call The Five Doctors an insult as a celebratory story, too silly, too nostalgic... apparently I just "don't get it. Parties are about getting as many people together as possible. About reminding you of what you have achieved so far" Maybe they have a point, maybe a little indulgence is okay if the timing is right. Maybe I am starting to enjoy the story a bit.
"That is one the best monsters I have ever seen" Mum says as the Raston Warrior Robot zips through the air firing arrows. "It's a bit different and it looks scary." Simon is determined he has seen the Raston Robot in the show before and after a heated debate we realise he is talking about the black androids from Earthshock. Strange what memories the Cybermen stir up...
Zipping forward a bit... "Isn't it nice that the least intimidating Doctor is getting the limelight. If Tom Baker had been involved he would have dominated the story." Mum has a point but then it is Peter Davison's era, he should be the lead. The least imposing, the least effective, I say but she throws the slipper at me. Mum laughs herself silly when the Doctor is at the harp and comments "A collection of notes... a tune!" Talk about questioning the Big Man's intelligence.
"What is that bloody noise?" Simon screams over the fart horn of Rassilon. Mum thinks it is atmospheric but I just growl something about Zagreus that neither of them understand.
"Ner ner ne ner ner!" Mum shrieks, mimicking the Cyberleader schoolboy tones as he suggests, "I will destroy you!" before his embarrassing defeat. I have to admit that Tegan's sudden mathematical genius is the quote I most use in regular society ("The ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter is represented by the Greek letter pi!" along with "I think you'll find most educated people regard mythical convictions as fundamentally animistic!" just to prove how well educated I am.) and we all think that the "Easy as pi? EASY AS PI?" is a pretty wonderful scene despite the fact that Hurndall just walks across the board willy-nilly with no aid of any equations.
It seems remarkable to me that Simon should remember Borusa in all three of his previous appearances. He comments that his sudden villainy is obvious and distasteful, after three rather good showings he is the second most regenerated Time Lord, even more than the Master (well if you include the TV Movie he does) and this is rather sudden and predictable end for his character. He wonders if there is a single Time Lord without delusions of grandeur. I have to admit, there isn't. Although it is nice to see how infected with the Doctor Who vibe my love has become. My mum shakes her head with despair, she declares Simon a Doctor Who fan and I am reminded of my Coming out as a Doctor Who fan article as he shrinks back in horror. Of all the insults!
We all agree it is nice that they leave the Doctors coming together to the end of the story and that their resistance to each other is hilarious. Especially Troughton's impish dominance "He might be the tiniest but I think he is the most powerful" Simon points out. We all giggle at Sarah and Tegan's fake background acting and Mum considers this is why the actresses get little work after they leave the series. Simon brilliantly does the 'contact' noise from The Three Doctors as the three combine their minds to defeat Borusa's control of the fifth. Yep, he's a fan all right.
Mum thinks Borusa's defeat is rather brilliant and appropriately horrible. Simon keeps screaming "Anti-climax!" I am indifferent; clichéd defeat by the Doctor(s) is as predictable as a gay character popping up in the Davies' new series. I wonder why the Doctor can't lose and Mum scoffs the idea, saying it would heresy to try anything that pessimistic on an anniversary story. I again mumble Zagreus.
We each decide to wrap up the story...
"I thought it was fabulous. It was cheap, childish and postmarked with some hideous acting that could only be Doctor Who. But because it is Doctor Who it is imbued with real imagination, a sense of humour and a warm sense of nostalgia. It was very watchable." (Mum)
"A putrefying lump of sugary reminiscence, it makes you embarrassed to be a Doctor Who fan because it gives the impression that they do this sort of thing all the time. Seeing the old Doctors is a treat but when the numbers pile up, monsters, companions, etc it is clear this is trying so hard to be liked." (Me)
"Frazer Hines looks so old! Is that really Jamie?" (Simon)
You decide which Doctor Who viewer you are most like and be thankful you are not a member of this dysfunctional family...
A wonderful anniversary present by Tim Roll-Pickering 24/4/03
In the days before virtually every existing episode and clip was available on video the series' twentieth anniversary came along. This could have been merely marked quietly perhaps with a documentary or even maybe with a special 'episode' that featured the-then current regulars talking to provide in-character links for a series of clips. But instead it was decided to create a special anniversary story featuring as many elements from the past as possible, whilst at the same time telling a new story. This was perhaps the best anniversary present the series could get and it was worth it.
Many commentators bemoan the absence of Tom Baker from The Five Doctors and criticise Richard Hurndall's performance as the original Doctor. But it would be difficult if not impossible to accurately recreate Hartnell's performance and so Hurndall instead wisely develops the performance to give his own take on it. The result may not please the purists but it works well enough. Tom Baker's absence was more unfortunate but there are at least a couple of clips of him in it. Whilst the two scenes seem a little strange and disconnected, they are successful in allowing the viewer to see Tom Baker for a bit. Furthermore Baker's absence prevents the production from becoming over-heavy and thus allows all four of the other Doctors to play a substantial role in the story.
The title itself is reminiscent of the earlier The Three Doctors and there are some similar elements shared by the two tales such as the various Doctors and companions being transported off to another strange dimension where they encounter one of the key figures from Time Lord history. Even the location for UNIT HQ is the same. But The Five Doctors is no mere imitation of its predecessor. The plot may be a relatively straightforward affair that allows for the available cast to be mixed and matched but at the same time we get to see many homages paid to the series' history. This story is a celebration of twenty years and is in no way ashamed of it.
In a clear throwback to the traditions of the Hartnell years, the first scene of the story is set in the TARDIS console room, showing the Doctor and his companion discussing things before the adventure begins rather than with a scene establishing the setting for the story. Along the way there are many other such scenes that remind the viewer of times past, such as Jon Pertwee's Doctor driving Bessie and taking an action role, Patrick Troughton's Doctor showing a complete disrespect for authority or the Master ruthlessly exploiting events for his own advantage. Even the scene where Susan trips and twists her ankle is entirely appropriate for this story since it reminds us of the way female companions were used in the show's earlier years. Then there's the scene with the booby trapped board that is very similar to a scene from Death to the Daleks. There's a good plot as well and whilst it may involve yet another member of the High Council of the Time Lords turning traitor for their own ends, there is at least an attempt to keep the viewer guessing through hints that either the Master or Rassilon may be behind the scheme. The story's resolution may be a bit deus ex machina but it shows how the original Doctor was always one step ahead of the rest and how defeat and victory often go hand in hand, as is the norm for many stories in the Davison era. The story begins with a brief clip of one of William Hartnell's finest scenes as he promises 'One day I shall come back' and then ends with the Davison Doctor once more fleeing Gallifrey and reminding us that this is how it all began. Thus ends one of the best stories in the programme's history.
There's loads of continuity in this story and I spotted: the William Hartnell/Richard Hurndall Doctor, the Brigadier, UNIT & its HQ, the Patrick Troughton Doctor, the Jon Pertwee Doctor, Bessie, Sarah Jane, K9, the Tom Baker Doctor, the Lalla Ward Romana, Borusa, the Castellan from Arc of Infinity, Gallifrey, the Master, Susan, a Dalek, Cybermen, the Cyberleader, a Yeti and Rassilon all competing for attention. But it all works and many of the cast slip effortlessly back into their old roles with Patrick Troughton giving perhaps the finest performance of all. There's also some new ideas in the story as well, most obviously the Raston Warrior Robot, and the result is a story that is milking the past shamelessly but also finding new ideas as well and so doesn't feel at all dated in any way.
Productionwise The Five Doctors features some good location filming for the Death Zone scenes, whilst the studio sets are either nostalgic reminders of Gallifrey or good at enhancing a downbeat setting for the Dark Tower. There are many action scenes in the story such as the various massacres of the Cybermen and these scenes give plenty of action. Indeed it is hard to find much in this story to disagree with since it casts such a good mood. This story set out to summarise the series' history and gave it a truly fine celebration in the process. 10/10
A Review by Paul Rees 30/7/03
As a fan, I always feel an overwhelming sense of nostalgia whilst watching The Five Doctors. However, upon closer inspection we find that this story is really less than the sum of its parts.
Peter Davison's performance as the Doctor is as assured as ever here. Special praise, though, must go to Pat Troughton and Jon Pertwee who give virtuoso performances and who effortlessly recreate their roles; it is almost as if they have never been away. Richard Hurndall, however, is simply awful as the First Doctor: not only does he not look like William Hartnell, but he makes no apparent effort to recreate his mannerisms either. Combined with the near total absence of Tom Baker, this leaves the viewer feeling a little short-changed.
On the guest companion front, Sarah Jane Smith and the Brigadier are wonderful (although they seem oddly distant towards one another when they actually meet) and the Doctor's 'granddaughter' Susan is perfectly O.K (although she twists her ankle remarkably easily). We also see the introduction of the Raston Warrior Robot, a wonderful creation which surely merited a return to the series at some point.
The Cybermen play their part adequately, but their impact in such a 'special' story is rather diminished by the fact that they had only just appeared in the previous season's Earthshock. It is also rather odd that just one solitary Dalek appears, and then only very briefly.
The unveiling of Lord President Borusa as a baddie is a nice touch, although the legendary Rassilon's appearance is less than impressive (he looks like he should be advertising exotic food or something). Overall, however, the acting, the characterisation and the atmosphere are well realised.
Where this story really falls down is in terms of its plotting. It has a very straightforward plot - and there is nothing wrong with that - but it doesn't appear to be very well thought through. As has been pointed out numerous times before: if Borusa wants the Doctors to actually reach the Tower, why on earth does he send Cybermen and a Dalek to get in his way? Similarly, surely there was an easier way for Borusa to gain access to the Tower: by 'kidnapping' the Doctor's various selves he merely creates a Gallifreyan constitutional crisis and is thus setting himself up for a fall. It is also worth pointing out that the First Doctor's application of Pi to the chequered death trap in the Tower defies any rational explanation at all.
Another point that has always bothered me: the Second Doctor realises that Zoe and Jamie are ghosts because they remember who he and the Brigadier are. However, in The War Games it is stated that although their subsequent adventures with the Doctor have been erased from their memories, their initial meeting was not. So, the fact that they recognise the Brigadier should alert the Doctor, but not the fact that they recognise him.
These are, however, fairly minor quibbles. Overall, The Five Doctors is the ultimate 'feel-good' story. Not a classic by any means, but enjoyable nonetheless. Just don't examine the plot too closely, or you'll find you can drive a no.43 bus through it. 7.5/10
Five Go To Wales (But Nothing Interesting Happens) by Scott Nisbet 3/4/04
I remember reading in The Fifth Doctor Handbook? about Robert Holmes' ideas for the twentieth anniversary of Doctor Who. One was about all five Doctors battling the Master and the Cybermen for the secret of time travel, with the First Doctor and Susan being evil robot replicas (hence the fact that they looked different) and a quest to a glowing mountain/TARDIS that was causing the time distortion allowing the Doctors to meet each other, and thus threatening the fabric of space-time. It sounded fantastic to me. Granted, it may have been costly (I doubt glowing mountains come cheap on a BBC budget), and it may have been rubbish, but it shows that so much thought was going into Doctor Who's twentieth anniversary. To this day, I would love to see that adventure.
How, then, did we end up with the insomnia-cure that is The Five Doctors?
The common excuse for the flaws of The Five Doctors is that it's just a harmless romp and isn't meant to be taken seriously. This story, we are told, is just the production team having a party in honour of the twentieth anniversary, and it's just fun, and if you criticise it or object, you're a humourless killjoy. But I don't object to this. I like parties. I'm all for the production team having fun. All I want out of the deal is a good, entertaining story. Surely that's not too much to ask? They have fun, the viewer gets entertained, and everyone wins.
It's when the production team has fun and the viewer gets ninety tedious minutes of the main characters trudging through endless wet fields, gravel quarries and boring sets on a grey weekend with an anti-climatic ending tacked on that I start being a killjoy. In fact, the only one having fun here seems to be Terrance Dicks chucking in everything and the kitchen sink continuity-wise into his script. The actors don't seem to be having a whopping great time, since none of them have anything remotely interesting to do, and given the lacklustre direction and plodding music, the crew doesn't seem to have found the experience a barrel of laughs either. This is made most apparent in the episode's big fight scene between the Cybermen and a Raston Warrior Robot is hampered by the fact that everything - the Cybermen, the otherwise excellently-realised Raston Warrior, even the quarry - is grey and muted, making it possibly the dullest fight scene ever filmed. Everything about this serial, which is supposed to be epic, exciting, awe-inspiring, just screams 'tedium'.
Please don't get me wrong. I'm not asking for The Lord of the Rings here (although this is clearly what Dicks is trying to write). And I understand that since it's an anniversary story, Dicks has clearly gone to town putting in all the best companions, the best monsters, Gallifrey, the Master, and as much back story as he can think of. Again, no problem here - I actually like continuity references, and this is an anniversary, so why not?
The problem, however, is that he's stuck them in without actually writing a plot around them or anything for them to do, so there's no real point to any of them being in there. The companions are included simply to be dragged around the Death Zone, be pulled up from embarassingly shallow 'drops' and get hypnotized at the climax until it's all over, and thus contribute nothing to the adventure (and WHAT is Sarah Jane wearing?!). The Cybermen are included simply to lumber around and be massacred by a chessboard and a man in grey spandex and to try and blow up the TARDIS for some unexplained reason. A Dalek is included simply to trundle around screeching 'Exterminate!' then get blown up. Borusa, the Castellan and Chancellor Flavia are included simply to sit around a conference table and act wooden. The continuity is presumably included to please the fans and show how this is just a special anniversary celebration. But considering how the entire season preceding it was all about returning monsters, returning friends, and sequels to previous adventures, the continuity makes this supposed 'special' a lot less special, and a lot more self-satisfied. So in the end, there's no point to the continuity either.
And let's face it, the appeal of a multi-Doctor story is that the Doctors all actually get together, squabble like children, and then somehow save the universe. Except here we only get three actual Doctors, one misguided replacement (replacing William Hartnell with Richard Hurndall was a big mistake, since all Hurndall ends up doing is his best William Hartnell impression for an hour and a half), and some unused footage representing, arguably, the most popular of the lot (and Tom Baker's presence is seriously missed). It's unfair to blame the production team for the death of William Hartnell and Tom Baker's decision not to participate, but they could have surely realized the limitations of what they were making and tried something else. And the production team could surely have come up with a more involving plot that actually unites and involves the participating Doctors - they don't actually all get together until the last five minutes, and even then it's just to say goodbye and bugger off.
And the Doctors don't actually provide any solution to the story's problem. The Big Surprise Villain Borusa is defeated through a complete deus ex machina when Rassilon himself saves the day (although it doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to work out Borusa's the bad guy, and in any case if you don't know who Borusa is you won't care). And in fact, if Borusa could just teleport straight into the Tomb of Rassilon, why the hell did he bring all the Doctors together anyway? So at the end of the day, there's no point to the Doctors being here, either. Which, for a story in a show in which the Doctor is the main character and which is celebrating his anniversary, is probably the worst indictment I could give.
There are, however, two things I love about this story.
The first is possibly this serial's one interesting, original and clever twist, and it concerns the Master; here, the Master is not the villain, but is trying to help the Doctor. This is a fantastic idea, and Anthony Ainley clearly thinks so. His seething frustration at the Doctors as he tries to persuade them that he really, truthfully IS on their side this time is a pleasure to watch. So much so, in fact, that it makes his return to treacherous bad guy at the very end all the more disappointing.
The second is the opening scene between Peter Davison and Janet Fielding, as their characters argue good-naturedly about the reliability of the TARDIS. This is just a wonderful moment, and a rare one in this partnership, because it demonstrates that the characters actually are friends, and they can actually have a gentle disagreement without it turning into a tantrum competition or sulkfest. If the soap opera of most of the rest of the Davison era had been more like this easy, friendly interchange, it would have been a lot better for it.
But unfortunately, the rest of The Five Doctors is boring and grey, a pointless waste of time, made even more disappointing when you think about how it could have been. If the production team wanted to celebrate by bringing back everything that had made the previous twenty years great, had wanted to indulge in the past of a great television phenomenon, I wouldn't have minded. I just wish the writer could have included me in the celebration.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 15/5/04
As an anniversary story, The Five Doctors (or put more accurately The Four Doctors plus one cameo) succeeds. Its aims are simple, celebrate 20 years of Doctor Who in an entertaining yarn. The regulars are on fine form, although confining both Turlough and Susan in the TARDIS obviously shows that Terrance Dicks had too many characters to deal with effectively.
For the most part the various pairings actually work, both Tegan and the First Doctor may seem a little too similar, but the use of the Second Doctor and the Brigadier, and the Third and Sarah Jane work, as they were used somewhat sparingly in their respective eras. There are some gratuitous moments however, the Yeti and the inclusion of K-9 spring instantly to mind. The appearances by the Dalek and the Cybermen are more effective; the latter particularly (despite their massacre), thanks to the inclusion of the Raston Warrior Robot, which manages to look alien, helped in part by its movements.
While Tom Baker`s presence is missed, it is perhaps a blessing in disguise, although how the story would have worked with him remains to be seen. In Richard Hurndall, we have a passable First Doctor, he captures the character without trying to imitate William Hartnell. We get the more playful side of Patrick Troughton`s incarnation and with Jon Pertwee, we get pomposity, charm and gallantry all mixed into one. The Master is also put to better use here, his reaction to the Doctor`s refusal to believe him speaks volumes of Anthony Ainley`s portrayal.
As the current Doctor it is also fitting that Peter Davison goes to the tower, his confrontation with Borusa tinged with both anger and sadness. In short then The Five Doctors serves its purpose admirably.
A clumsy but special gathering on Gallifrey by Konstantin Hubert 23/6/04
In the history of Doctor Who some tales, such as Tomb of the Cybermen, Inferno, Pyramids of Mars, stand out because they are considered masterpieces, others, such as Unearthly Child, Genesis of the Daleks, Deadly Assassin, are special on account of their fundamental contribution to the programme's mythology, while others stand out because they are celebrating the programme itself. Three Doctors, Dimensions In Time and of course Five Doctors belong to this last group of episodes.
Five Doctors, which was first transmitted in November 1983, 20 years after the legend's birth, would have literally been the
One episode to gather them all, one episode to find them
One episode to bring them all and on Gallifrey bind them
In the Dark Tower where the Tomb of Rassilon lies
if not for Tom Baker's notorious refusal to take part in its making. But we get a glimpse of his Doctor (a beautiful clip from Shada was used), while Richard Hurndall played the First Doctor replacing William Hartnell, who had passed away in 1975. We see all five Doctors and several companions are gathered and more or less seen and this gathering of many of them results unfortunately and not to my surprise at all in a frivolous, quasi mindless story. With indulgence I will confess that it is hard to come up with a coherent and of good quality script when this one requires, despite its limited duration (90 to 100 minutes, depending on the edition), the inclusion of so many protagonists, five Doctors plus some of their companions, and of several old familiar villains. One major reason is because many scenes, therefore many minutes, will be spent on briefly introducing, presenting the various protagonists or villains and where there are many protagonists it is difficult to assign to each of them an essential role, so inevitably a few of them will be either overshadowed or ridiculed.
Moreover, the way in which so many timetravellers will find themselves and for the first time in a same spacetime is bound to defy logic and be more or less characterized by silliness. In the case of Five Doctors, a mysterious Gallifreyan force detects the Doctors and some of their companions, literally grasps them and immediately brings them on Gallifrey's Death Zone, where they encounter obstacles and the old familiar villains. Yet, I think that Terrance Dicks, if more thoughtful and careful while developing this script of this special episode, could have made up a decent story.
The weak plot unfolding on Gallifrey's carnival of monsters makes Five Doctors abound with ridiculous scenes: the battle between the Raston robot and the Cybermen (what a shame for the legendary archenemies, who are again quickly and inactively defeated in the chessboard hall; for consolation I remind you that in Revenge of the Cybermen they are seen triumphing when spreading death on Voga), the scene when the Third Doctor rescues Sarah, the Fifth Doctor playing harp and its Musical key, even in the end the one featuring the insults or the arrogant remarks (it is just a celebration, what is the point in seeing the 4 Doctors teasing each other in the few minutes of the only time they are gathered?).
The cameo appearance of Liz Shaw and Captain Yates and especially the one of Jamie and Zoe rank however first among the inadmissible scenes, the zenith of the episode’s humorous offer. How could these cameo appearances have been properly presented? In the form of memories... Five Doctors should have been mainly a story of recollections and to a lesser extent an adventure. Although we witness nostalgic or classic moments, for example the greatest and most well-directed scene of this special episode is, in my opinion, when the Master negotiates with the Cybermen in the misty environment of a prairie and the opening scene with the Fifth and Turlough/Tegan discussing while contemplating a Gallifreyan landscape is also nice, they fail to compensate the episode's lightweight storyline. It isn't astonishing that the regulars, Doctors and companions, don't deliver a remarkable performance: the First Doctor is somewhat aloof, the Third and Fifth are senseless, the Fourth barely seen, whereas only the Second leads a respectable fate. The companions on the other hand to whom is accorded a more or less minor role don't manage to excite us. A scene very indicative of the companions' inertness is found in the end when Borusa commands them to be silent and not move or speak until he gives them leave. The companions remain dead still obeying the command, which suggests they are... redundant.
I will now present you the premise on which would have been based my script of this celebration episode: the Cybermen ally with the Daleks and the Master and together plan to take over Gallifrey and for this purpose to use the five incarnations of the eminent, heroic Time Lord and his companions as hostages in order to force the Gallifreyans to surrender seems a sound expedient. Cybermen and the Daleks first capture the Second Doctor and a companion of his. They set in orbit a giant spaceship and when they arrive on Gallifrey for military/strategic purposes and disembark from a shuttlecraft, the Fifth Doctor and Turlough/Tegan perceive their presence and try and eventually manage to rescue the Second and the companion, who thereupon inform them of the archenemies' evil secret plans. So, they must now warn the other three incarnations and the whole Gallifreyan society of the imminent menace. To warn the other three incarnations would involve of course travels in time and space. Meanwhile, the Master in his attempt to capture the Third Doctor and a companion of his fails and finds himself deeply regretting his alliance with the Cybermen and the Daleks and when they return to Gallifrey, they inform the Gallifreyan leaders of the sword of Damocles hovering over the planet. The climax could occur inside the aliens' giant spaceship and the episode be polished with a few ground battles between the Gallifreyans and the invaders. All in all, the result would have been a small, brief adventure of big proportions, incidents.
Emphasis would have been given on a witty dialogue between the Doctors. In Five Doctors their interaction is terrible, brief and without any reference to the past, devoid of emotion, so that it becomes forgettable and fake. The number of present companions would have been limited (six at most) and some of the others would have been presented in the form of memories, that is, a Doctor recalls a past companion and thereupon a brief clip featuring this companion is shown. By following this policy we avoid the laughable and out of place cameo appearances like the aforementioned ones and correctly commemorate the character itsef. Peter Moffatt's direction, if cinematographic and not televised, would have optimised Five Doctors' image. It should have been a movie of cinematic standards, not a TV movie.
Don’t get me wrong, I watch Five Doctors with pleasure but it is really overestimated and does not live up to the programme’s long and rich history. John Nathan-Turner and Terrance Dicks sacrificed quality, emotion for adventure and action and didn't spare those unique moments mainly for a nostalgic purpose but instead aimed at producing just another adventure, nay, not a well-contructed or sophisticated one. I congratulate them however for their decision to open this celebration episode with an august clip from The Dalek Invasion Of Earth featuring William Hartnell demonstrating his acting mastery. And the final moment, where the Fifth tells "after all that is how it all started" makes sure the diehard fan stays not with dry eye. Those two scenes aside, it doesn't move nor impress the average fan and doesn't fulfill its nostalgic purpose.
I will avoid grading Five Doctors because being too unconventional isn't susceptible of comparisons to the other episodes of the series. I will sum up however: overrated and obviously marred by flaws, it doesn't succeed in being the respectable commemoration of the show's twenty years it should have been. In providing the viewer with 90 or 100 entertaining and enjoyable minutes it succeeds and I recommend its DVD version, the special edition.