The Five Doctors
The Five Doctors (Special Edition)
Target novelisation
Doctor Who - The Five Doctors

Author Terrance Dicks Cover image
Published 1983
ISBN 0 426 19510 8
First Edition Cover Andrew Skilleter

Back cover blurb: Why are all five Doctors being removed from their separate time-streams? Who is the enemy they will have to unite against? What will become of the Doctors when the battle is over? We have travelled a long way with Doctor Who. The Five Doctors gives us the chance to turn the clock back and meet some old friends - and some old enemies.


The Five, no Four, no Three Faces of Doctor Who... by Andrew Feryok 15/9/04

'I think our past is catching up with us. Or maybe it's our future.'
- The Second Doctor, The Five Doctors

The Five Doctors is a very special Doctor Who story. It is the most memorable of all the anniversary stories in the series, and never before has so much of the series' past been crammed into one story! By all rights it should totally collapse, but instead it stands up as one of my very favorite Doctor Who stories!

This story was actually my very first exposure to Doctor Who. While Tom Baker's The Androids of Tara would later make me a fan of the show, this was the story that began my childhood fear/fascination of the show. I loved the idea that the Doctor was five people at the same time, each with his own personality, wacky outfit, and companion. But there were moments that sent my flying behind the couch in fear, in particular when Borusa confronts Rassilon for the power of immortality. Years later, I no longer hid behind the sofa and now enjoy this story every time I see it. I don't know why, but whenever I get bored with the series, I always pop this back into the DVD player (years ago VCR), and it never fails to rekindle my fascination and love of the series.

But enough about the TV episode, I'm here to talk about the Target novelisation. I don't know if this is ironic, but the original script was written by the very guy who was frantically churning book after book for Target: Terrance Dicks. If it had been written by another author, it more than likely would have been novelised by Dicks anyway, so the fact that he was the original author REALLY helps this book. You can really tell that Dicks loves this story. In a period when Dicks was doing little more than churning out "scripts-in-print-form" for Target, this has a surprising energy to it. When I first picked up the book, I decided that I was probably going to read the first few pages and then forget about the book, as I had done so many others, especially since this was a story I was so familiar with, over the years, I could actually hear rythms to the dialogue as I watched it. To my great surprise,the book sucked me back into the magic of the story and didn't let me go till the end. It recaptures wonderfully the magic of seeing all the old Doctors (minus the fourth) together again with their friends and enemies. All those great lines are there and the description of events were as I would see them if I was coming to this story anew again. Dicks even goes so far as to expand the story a bit by giving Susan a time-scoop scene, which follows up the events The Dalek Invasion of Earth extremely well.

Unfortunately, despite all that this story manages to accomplish, by having so many elements in the story, it is inevitable that there is going to be disappointment. The biggest disappointment was the lack of Tom Baker. But when I listened to the commentary of The Five Doctors, and heard how Dicks had envisioned using the Fourth Doctor in the original script,it might have been for the better, since the First Doctor's role would have been severally limited! We would not have gotten the wonderful floor puzzle scene and his hilarious raport with Tegan. I think by giving the First Doctor a larger role in the story, it reinforced him as the original, "oldest", and wisest of the Doctors, and it is completely appropriate that he should be the one to ultimately win the day by solving Rassilon's riddle of Immortality. If he had been reduced to sitting in the TARDIS for most the story, as Dicks had originally envisioned, his ultimate heroics in the tomb would make little sense and there wouldn't have been the build up of his intellect and cunning brought on by the earlier scenes. He would have simply seemed to be a befuddled old man who has a sudden flash of brilliance at the end. Scenes, such as the one where he tells Tegan that he simply ignores the mind of Rassilon, reinforce the power of the original Doctor and show him to be above the frantic worrying of his later selves.

One other thing that both interested me and disappointed me was the lack of the Fifth Doctor's acknowledgement of Susan! I would have thought that the Fifth Doctor would be much happier to see her. From the end of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, we could see that it really hurt the Doctor to leave Susan behind on Earth, and he gave that touching speech that he would "one day come back", although with all his adventures, exile, and regenerations, he never did. Did he somehow lose his memory or affection for Susan over all those years and regenerations? When the fifth Doctor meets her in the TARDIS, he simply gives her a sly little grin and then completely ignores her for the rest of the story! I realize that his very existence is being threatened here, but still he could have at least given her a hug and said how much he had missed her (if he had at all). Oh well. I guess you can't have everything, but it does feel weird.

Okay, now onto the things I like about this story. One word: Patrick Troughton. For those who read my reviews of Doctor Who and the Cybermen and The Wheel in Space novel, you will know that I am a HUGE fan of Troughton's Doctor. Well, this was actually the story that made me fall in love with him for the first time! From the moment he first appears at UNIT HQ, you just can't take your eyes off him! His line "Not allowed! Me? Nonsense. I'm allowed anywhere" and the gag that follows in which the UNIT officer tries to grab him and only succeeds in removing his coat, to which the DOctor gives a polite "Thank You", is a classic moment that had me on the floor laughing! He really does steal every scene he is in, from his explanations of the legend of Rassilon and the tower, to his brief reunion with the ghosts of Jamie and Zoe, he is truly wonderful in this story.

I also like the Cybermen in this story. While they certainy get more focus than most of the villains/monsters in the story, the Cybermen are so appropriate here. Seeing/reading them march across the misty moors, get slaughtered by the Raston Warrior Robot, and then outsmarted by the Master (even though the logic of the floor puzzle is totally ludicrous), they are great atmospheric monsters who fit in perfectly with the anniversary feel of the story (Isn't it ironic that two of Doctor Who's three anniversary programs feature Cybermen in thier stories!).

Overall, I think that The Five Doctors is an excellent story which will certainly cure anyone's Doctor Who fix. It's got it all: friends, foes, legends, and wonder, and manages to wrap it all together in the most satisfying way that you could possibly bring such disparate ideas together. The novel brings this out beautifully, recapturing the magic seen on screen and giving a fresh view of story which most fans can quote by heart now.

Definitely a classic of Doctor Who! 10/10

PS: There two other scenes which I really adore in this story. The first is the most obvious: when the Doctors meet up for the first time in the Tomb of Rassilon and start bickering. In particular, I love how Troughton just shoves everyone aside to get a front-row look at the obelisk inscriptions! The other scene which I really like is Davison's final words at the end of the story. It finely book-ends the story with the opening quote:

TEGAN: So you're just going keep running around time and space in a rackety, old TARDIS?
DOCTOR: Why not? After all, that's how it all got started.