Tuesday, September 05, 2006

My Review of Doctor Who's: "The Five Doctors"

Written by Terrence Dicks
Directed by Peter Moffatt

Fifth Doctor (to Tegan/Turlough): “I am being diminished, whittled away piece by piece. A man is a sum of his memories you know, a Time Lord even more.”

Okay you happen to be one of those rare shows that manage to hit your twentieth anniversary and you desperately want to celebrate in a manner that’s suitably epic and memorable for viewers alike. Back in “The Three Doctors”, the first three versions of The Doctor did battle with Omega in a bid to stop him from escaping his prison.

Here things open up with previous versions of The Doctor being stolen from time with only the Fourth Doctor and Romana Mark 2 caught in some form of a time eddy. Well four out of five isn’t too bad I suppose. So our teams then consist of the First Doctor and Susan, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier, the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane and the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough.

With multiple Doctors and Companions trapped in the Death Zone on Gallifrey, you need a lot of villains so a lone Dalek, Rasillon’s booby traps (including a robot), a Yeti, an army of Cybermen and The Master sent by the Time Lord Council to help The Doctor should do the trick. Hey The Doctor is in danger of being killed for a reason and even The Master’s help might be useful, even if The Doctor is willing to sacrifice him to Cybermen.

Things I liked were all the Doctors talking towards the end and the Fifth Doctor realising he was different back then as well as the usual competitive streak between The Second and Third Doctors. Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton are excellent in that regard. The fancy pants/scarecrow thing was a nice nod too.

There are some good team ups here and two things I really liked a lot were the First Doctor and Tegan and Turlough and Susan. The First Doctor pushed Tegan with the Pi and I couldn't help but notice that Turlough was staring at Susan's rack. I like Turlough. This was one of the few stories I've seen him in and he was kinda great here. He did show some loyalty/concern for the Fifth Doctor. Tegan was a lot less whiny than usual too. That’s something I will always appreciate as a viewer.

The Master was at his best here too. Give Anthony Ainley a coherent plot and his Master can work as well as Delgado’s did. I felt bad when the Fifth Doctor abandoned him to the Cybermen. The Cybermen were suitably nasty in this episode too. I loved The Master using one of Rassilon's traps to get rid of them. That ballet dancing robot of Rasillon’s was just damn cool. The way it just casually wiped out the Cybermen (who were really nothing more than foot soldiers here) was just neat.

Also cool was The First Doctor getting the Dalek to get itself to explore. Why did we get only one Dalek and tonnes of Cybermen? That was a bit confusing. The Second Doctor and the Brigadier were also good together again as well. The Doctor might attract trouble but I think The Brigadier thrives on it despite his protests.

I have to admit that I saw President Borusa bring the traitor coming a mile off. His immortality at Rassilon's hand looked nasty. All that convoluted trouble with The Doctor and his plethora of companions, plus the baddies he added into the game and he gets defeated. For someone so smart, Borusa should’ve realised that immortality comes with a price. His entombment is quite nasty. The Master should count himself lucky he was defeated here. If he had succeeded in his quest for immortality, Rasillon would have another fool for his collection.

Something I do find rather hilarious is the reaction of the Fifth Doctor’s decision to run away from Flavia after she tried to make him President. No wonder he chooses to abandons his people. They can’t even catch a traitor in their own midst and this is the second time this season that Gallifrey trouble has been down to someone in that wretched council.

However there were some things that bothered me. Sarah Jane is one of my favourite companions and she kinda annoyed me a great deal here. The thing with the hillock and Susan twisting her ankle were so badly overplayed. I mean the hell? There’s passive and then there’s pathetic and both of their accidents of sorts reeked of the latter. Susan in particular overreacted on the hillock incident in my opinion.

I also hated that the only appearances from Mike Yates, Liz Shaw, Jamie McCrimmon and Zoë Herriot were reduced to just being illusions. Given that it’s been 14 years since we’ve seen Jamie and Zoë, 13 years since we’ve seen Liz and 9 years since Mike Yates last helped out, would it have killed for them maybe to have been captives of Borusa’s instead of illusions? It would’ve also helped with the danger element if Borusa actually had companions in his grasp with whom he could threaten all the Doctors with.

Mike was always adept at getting himself captured and I really wanted to know what happened to him after “Planet Of The Spiders”. Plus K9 had sod all to do. He could've been used for something productive other than trying (and failing) to warn Sarah Jane of danger. I also got bored watching the Fourth and Romana just talking about nothing of great importance for some reason. That would be down to Tom Baker’s no show and the scene going on a bit too long.

Also in “The Five Doctors”

Opening the episode with a clip of William Hartnell was a sweet touch. Richard Hurndall did a superb job in playing the First Doctor.

Second Doctor: “And, er…and who is this?”
The Brigadier: “That's my replacement, Colonel Crichton.”
Second Doctor: “Ah. Mine was pretty unpromising too.”

Robert Holmes was supposed to originally write this and Waris Husein was originally supposed to direct it but both of them pulled out.

Tegan (to Turlough): “Do something - help him!”
Fifth Doctor: “Oh no, no, don't look so worried - I'll have it all worked out soon. Everything's all right. Everything's quite all right.”

Romana: “Oh, I do love the autumn. All the leaves, colours.”
Fourth Doctor: “Yes. Well, at least with something as simple as a punt nothing can go wrong. No co-ordinates, no dimensional stabilizers, nothing. Just the water, the punt, a strong pair of hands and a pole.”

The scene between the Fourth Doctor and Romana Mark 2 came from the unaired serial “Shada”. Perhaps a future DVD release for that serial will surface.

Tegan: “Two hearts.”
Turlough: “Well, his body seems all right. He just seems to be fading away. Why did he have to set the TARDIS moving? We were safe before he did that.”
Tegan: “Look!”

Castellan: “We believe the attempt to lift him from his time stream was unsuccessful. There he must stay until we can find and free his other selves.”
The Master: “And if you cannot? The cosmos without The Doctor scarcely bares thinking about. What makes you think his other selves are in the Zone?”

This was the first serial released on DVD back in 1999 and is getting re-released in March 2008, almost 25 years after it first aired with an additional commentary from David Tennant, Phil Collinson and Helen Raynor.

Tegan: “Who are you?”
First Doctor: “More to the point, what are you young people doing inside my TARDIS?”

The Master: “As you see, I'm armed. I could easily kill you if I wanted to.”
Fifth Doctor: “And not humiliate me first? Ooh, that isn't your style at all.”

Kamelion is missing from this story which is weird given that he was made a companion in the previous serial. It’s also really inconsistent too for any show.

Third Doctor: “Quick! Over there! Their armourments are built in - and sensors detect movement, any movement.”
Sarah-Jane: “Anything else I shouldn't know?”
Third Doctor: “Yes. They move like lightning.”

Susan: “It's a bomb.”
Turlough: “Big, isn't it?”

Original people who were also supposed to resurface were Commander Maxil from “Arc Of Infinity”, Harry Sullivan, Victoria Wakefield and Sergeant Benton. Plus Jamie McCrimmon was supposed to have a much bigger role.

The Master: “Try it Doctor, it’s as easy as Pi.”
First Doctor: “What an extraordinary fellow. As easy as pie? As easy as pie?”
Tegan: “That's what he said.”

Mike Yates: “Doctor? Doctor, this way.”
Third Doctor: “Mike? Mike Yates? How did you get here?”
Mike Yates: “Same way as you. Liz Shaw is here, too.”

The illusion of Mike Yates had him in his UNIT gear. It’s unlikely that after “Planet Of The Spiders” he would’ve rejoined them. The Brigadier after all didn’t mention what happened to him in “Mawdryn Undead”.

Jamie: “No! Brigadier...!”
Second Doctor: “You're not real. When you were returned to your own people, the Time Lords erased your memory of the period you spent with me. So, how do you know who we are? Answer!”

The Master: “The decision is scarcely yours. Killing you once was never enough for me, Doctor. How...how gratifying to do it three times over!”
The Brigadier (before punching him): “Nice to see you again.”

I kind of wished we had seen Sergeant Benton, Jo Grant, Nyssa and Adric almost to complete the collection of sorts and maybe Davros/Omega but perhaps that might have been overkill.

Rassilon: “You seek immortality?”
Borusa: “I do.”
Rassilon: “Be sure, be very sure. Even now, it is not too late to turn back.”
Borusa: “I am sure.”

Turlough: “Won't the Time Lords be very angry?”
Fifth Doctor: “Furious!”
Tegan: “You mean you're deliberately choosing to go on the run from your own people in a rackety old TARDIS?”
Fifth Doctor: “Why not? After all, that's how it all started.”

This aired the 25th of November 1983 in the UK. Two days after the US viewing and two days after “An Unearthly Child” premiered 20 years prior.

Okay, now that I have seen this in full I’ll admit to thinking “The Five Doctors” is pretty good. “The Three Doctors” might have had a stronger plot but there's much to be enjoyed here. Seeing old companions is definitely a nice reminder to some of the show’s stronger storylines and having all our Doctors (minus the Fourth) team up is a good thing. It’s just why couldn’t we have had other stories as good as this during this era of the show? You know besides “Earthshock” and “The Caves Of Androzani”.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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