We watched the original broadcast version of The Five Doctors. Unfortunately, I couldn’t source an off-air copy with the Children in Need ticker running across the bottom of the screen. I hope this doesn’t invalidate the science at the heart of this experiment.
Nicol: I’m not watching any William Hartnell with you. You can forget it.
Me: Be patient, Nicol.
Sue: Don’t worry, Nic. Neil says it’s only one episode. We can watch University Challenge as soon as this has finished.
The Five Doctors begins with a rousing speech.
Sue: Well, that was poignant.
Me: Do you remember where it comes from?
Sue: Of course I do. It’s from a William Hartnell story. And it must have been important because they actually gave him a speech. That would have been risky.
Me: It was when he left Susan on Earth.
Sue: Oh yes. That was so sad, I can almost remember it.
We are then thrown into the modern title sequence.
Nicol: Are there really going to be five Doctors in this?
Sue: I’m excited!
The Doctor shows his new TARDIS console off to Tegan.
Sue: How many buttons?
Me: I thought you’d like it.
Sue: It looks like something made by Amstrad. I think I preferred it when it was a little rough around the edges. It’s a bit too swish, now.
At least Tegan looks a lot better.
Sue: That’s probably Tegan’s best outfit so far, although that’s not saying very much.
Turlough is outside, drawing landscapes of the Eye of Orion.
Nicol: What’s he still doing there?
Sue: He’s one of the good guys now, Nic.
Nicol: Doesn’t he want to kill the Doctor any more? Did they ever sit down and discuss that?
Sue: No, Nicol, they’re men. It’s all unspoken and beneath the surface with men.
Nicol: I would have kicked him out. I don’t trust him.
Elsewhere, a black-gloved hand is clearly up to no good.
Sue: Is it the Master?
You could have put your mortgage on that.
Nicol: Oh look, it’s William Hartnell. In colour!
Sue: No it isn’t. It’s a stand-in. Oh dear. Why are they doing this?
The First Doctor is kidnapped by a flying triangle.
Nicol: Death by PowerPoint.
And then the black-gloved hand places a figurine of the First Doctor on a brightly lit table top.
Sue: You’ve got a doll just like that. Yours is better, though. Forbidden Planet didn’t have their act together back then.
Nicol: Are they going to play a game of Doctor Who Subbuteo on that table?
The Second Doctor arrives at UNIT HQ.
Sue: Blimey, he’s aged a bit. Hang on a minute… This isn’t possible.
Me: What do you mean?
Sue: That isn’t his Brigadier. He’s arrived in the wrong order.
Nicol: He’s a time traveller, mother! Even I know that.
Sue: But he normally turns up in the right order. This isn’t right.
The Fifth Doctor suffers an attack of cosmic angst.
Sue: I can see a little cottage in that valley. It looks lovely. I wonder what the property prices are like on Orion…
More pieces are placed on the board.
Sue: Those things are a bastard to dust, you know.
Sue: It’s Jon Pertwee in Betsy! I bet the fans went mental when they saw this!
The Doctor is kidnapped by the malevolent isosceles triangle of doom, and another collectible figurine is placed on the table.
Sue: Where’s his car gone? Shouldn’t he be sitting in a little model of his car?
Meanwhile, in Croydon…
Sue: Sarah Jane!
Sue: I can’t keep up with this. We should be playing Doctor Who Bingo. Two more companions and I’ve got a line. Ooh, I love Sarah Jane’s handbag. Don’t you, Nicol?
Nicol: Yes, it’s very nice. I’m not keen on her coat, though.
Sue: Sarah Jane never had any dress sense.
Sarah decides to leave K9 behind as she heads for the shops.
Sue: If this is a celebration of everything Doctor Who is best known for, I’m not surprised K9 has been left behind. Typical!
We drop in on the Fourth Doctor as he’s punting on the Cam.
Sue: Tom’s very good in this. It looks like he’s well up for it, thank God.
The Fourth Doctor and Romana are swallowed by the triangle of doom.
Sue: They’d better make a little model of his boat.
Sarah Jane is kidnapped, too.
Sue: Is this thing going to take all the Doctor’s companions? Even Adric? We’ll be here all day.
At least Sue is warming to the new TARDIS console.
Sue: You know the thing that goes up and down…
Me: The time rotor.
Sue: Yes. Well, this one is a lot steadier than the last one. I like it. It looks like it means business.
And that’s not all:
Sue: I like the music, too. I like it when they put the Doctor Who theme tune in the middle of the incidental music.
Nicol: Oh, mother! What has happened to you?
Before we can catch our breath, we find ourselves on…
President Borusa is now in charge.
Sue: It’s whatshisface from Dad’s Army.
Me: It isn’t John Le Mesurier, but thanks for playing.
The Master (aka “the thin Ricky Gervais”) has been summoned to Gallifrey. The High Council want him to rescue the Doctor.
Sue: What an excellent twist. Does this mean it can’t be the Master playing with those toys? Or is this a double-bluff?
Me: It must be somebody else. I wonder who it could be…
Sue: It’s the Black Guardian. It’s his gloves that give him away.
The First Doctor finds himself in a metallic corridor.
Sue: It’s a decent likeness, I suppose. They’re just about getting away with it.
Nicol: His mannerisms aren’t right.
Me: And how the hell would you know that, Nicol?
Sue: Oh look, it’s Susan! The real one! My, she’s grown up… She looks like Valerie Singleton.
The Doctor and Susan are chased by a Dalek.
But the Dalek ends up shooting itself. Stupid Dalek.
Sue: The laser beams were rubbish, but this is fantastic.
Nicol: Yeah, it’s not bad, actually.
They’re referring to the Kaled mutant that’s thrashing around in the Dalek casing.
Sue: They must have thrown some money at this. The new series couldn’t have done it any better than that.
Nicol: So are there old monsters in this as well as old Doctors and companions?
Sue: I hope the Cybermen are in it. And the Yeti. You have to have a Yeti.
The First Doctor and his granddaughter have been transported to the Death Zone on Gallifrey.
Sue: What kind of planet has a Death Zone? That’s a bit weird.
The Second Doctor and the Brigadier find themselves in the same location.
Sue: Patrick Troughton’s wig reminds me of the very first hair cut I ever gave someone. It was for my friend Tucker. I may as well have stuck a bowl on her head. She didn’t forgive me for weeks.
Sarah Jane is also wandering around the Death Zone when she loses her footing in the fog and careers down a gentle slope (and that’s being generous). Nicol and Sue are too stunned to say anything, but when the Doctor arrives to rescue Sarah, I can’t shut them up.
Sue: He’s going to kill her. If he accelerates too quickly, he’ll drag her face into that rock. It’s a health and safety nightmare.
Nicol: She could walk up that!
Sue: It’s ridiculous. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. Who directed this?
Me: Peter Moffatt.
Sue: Oh, for fuck’s sake.
Sarah is amazed to see the Third Doctor instead of the Fourth (at least we think it’s amazement, it could be disappointment).
Sue: Everything is in the wrong order. I’m sure they shouldn’t be allowed to do this.
Nicol: Didn’t she just tell him that he would end up looking like Tom Baker? Is that allowed?
Me: It’s timey-wimey.
The First Doctor and Susan stumble across the Fifth Doctor’s TARDIS.
Sue: Why didn’t they see the TARDIS five minutes ago? That really is shoddy direction.
Me: It’s a celebration of bad peripheral vision in Doctor Who.
Sue: Fuck off, Neil.
The First and Fifth Doctors join forces.
Sue: Shouldn’t they blow everything up when they touch each other? I’m confused…
The Doctor explains that this only happens in the gravest of emergencies.
Me: And anniversary celebrations.
When the First Doctor sends Tegan away to make some tea, the Fifth Doctor quickly sends Turlough to help her before she knocks his previous self’s block off.
Sue: I like that. It shows us how the Doctor has changed over the years. It also reminds me that he used to be a sexist git.
The Master is sent to the Death Zone to rescue the Doctor via an open-ended transmat beam.
Sue: Why is he suddenly wearing a cloak? Where did he get that from?
Me: The transmat has a cloaking device.
Meanwhile the TARDIS crew are enjoying some light refreshments.
Sue: It’s a bloody cocktail party. They were only supposed to make some tea! They’ll be too pissed from drinking piña coladas to do anything constructive now!
Nicol: They should be playing The Girl from Ipanema in the background.
Meanwhile the Third Doctor and Sarah are driving down one of the Death Zone’s perfectly tarmaced roads.
Sue: Hang on… Where’s Tom Baker gone?
Nicol: Something went wrong with his triangle. Pay attention, mother.
Sue: So Tom Baker isn’t in this?
I pause the DVD.
Me: He didn’t want to do it.
Sue: But I just saw him. Did he walk off in a huff or something? I don’t remember seeing that bit on the river before.
Me: They used a clip from Shada. You know, the story they never finished.
Sue: Oh, that.
Me: In fact, that scene was written by Douglas Adams.
Nicol: I thought it was good.
Sue: So Tom refused to do it, did he? What a bastard.
The Third Doctor and Sarah bump into the Master.
Sue: This is weird. It doesn’t feel right. It’s making me feel sad.
Laser bolts start raining down from the sky and both Time Lords are forced to make a run for it.
Sue: The Master is running faster than the Doctor is driving!
When we cut back to the Doctor, we see that Bessie has taken a direct hit.
Sue: They killed Betsy!
Me: Bessie. Show some respect, love.
Sue: I never really liked that car. It was a toff’s car.
Meanwhile the Second Doctor educates the Brigadier about Rassilon, the greatest single figure in Time Lord history.
Me: Rassilon was played by Timothy Dalton when David Tennant was the Doctor. Do you remember that? It happened just before he regenerated.
Sue: Yes. They were the days…
Me: Are there any old monsters you’d like to see in the Death Zone?
Sue: The Yeti, obviously. Autons would be nice, too. Oh, and some Ice Warriors. Oh, and maybe a giant snake.
When Tegan and Susan spot a phalanx of Cybermen coming over a hill, they make a run for it. Unfortunately, Susan snaps her ankle on some shrubbery.
Sue: How the fuck did she trip over that?
Me: That’s Susan’s party piece, remember?
Someone on Gallifrey is misusing the Death Zone. Even more than usual, that is.
Sue: It’s either the Black Guardian or Colin Baker. I don’t think it will be Omega because it’s too soon for him to be back. Maybe it’s the Toymaker. He is making toys, after all. Or it could be the Monk.
Me: Unless, of course, the Monk and the Master are the same person. Shall we pause the DVD and chat about that possibility for a couple of hours?
Sue: No, I’m fine, thanks.
The Cybermen plan their next move.
Sue: At least the bad weather lends the scene some much-needed atmosphere. However, it’s completely accidental – this isn’t down to the director at all.
The Doctor escapes to the Capitol, which leaves the Master no choice but to forge an alliance with the Cybermen. What he doesn’t know is that the Cybermen plan on killing him as soon as they get what they want.
Sue: The Master has been betrayed and he hasn’t even done anything yet! That has to be a new record.
Sue points at the Raston Warrior Robot.
Sue: That’s scary. I like that. Is this new? It isn’t an Auton, is it?
Me: No, it’s a new monster.
Sue: Thought so. I wouldn’t have forgotten that in a hurry. Nice arse.
Back at the Capitol, it’s revealed that the Castellan is the traitor. As the chancellery guards escort him away, Borusa authorises the use of a mind probe and the Castellan practically shits himself.
Sue: (Laughing) This is supposed to be a pantomime, isn’t it?
We hear the Castellan scream off-camera.
Sue: They didn’t waste any time, did they? They must have had a mind probe waiting for him in the corridor.
Back in the Death Zone, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier are being menaced by a Yeti.
The beast corners them in a cave.
Sue: Just play your recorder at it!
The Cybermen advance on the Third Doctor and Sarah…
Sue: They aren’t very nimble, are they? That one almost slipped on some slate.
But this is the least of their worries.
Sue: Bloody hell, look at that! This is brilliant!
The Raston Warrior Robot makes short work of the Cybermen.
Sue: I love it. I just wish his poles were a bit shorter. I don’t see how he keeps them up his arms like that. There’s no room for them.
Me: Maybe he runs over to his cave to get another spear and then he runs back to throw it. Because he’s quantum locked, you can’t see him when he’s running backward and forwards.
Nicol threatens to retire for the night.
Me: Stick around, Nic. There’s a maths riddle coming up later.
The Third Doctor uses the robot’s equipment to lasso a zip-line to one of the Dark Tower’s turrets.
Sue: No fucking way! I can buy just about anything in Doctor Who but I don’t buy that. And why is Sarah Jane so hysterical? She never used to be this bad. Get a grip, woman!
Turlough and Susan are forced to watch as the Cyberman attach a bomb to the TARDIS.
Turlough: Big, isn’t it?
Sue: I bet that’s what he says to all the girls.
The Master leads the Cybermen to the Dark Tower.
Sue: Did the Master just have a stroke? Either he was having a stroke or he was trying to hold back a fart.
The Master shows the Cybermen how to cross the Electrified Chessboard of Rassilon.
Sue: That wasn’t suspicious at all.
The Cybermen follow, only to be sliced to death by laser beams.
Sue: The direction is a joke. It makes no sense!
With the Cybermen disposed of, the Master demonstrates the safe path across the board once again.
Sue: The Doctor can’t jump like that! He’ll break his hip!
Before he departs, the Master leaves a tantalising clue: it’s as easy as pie.
Sue: I think he means Pythagoras.
The Doctor realises that the Master is actually referring to the Greek letter Pi.
The Doctor manages to recite two digits more than Nicol before skipping crosses the board.
Nicol: I don’t get it. He just walked across it! What the…?
Me: Don’t worry, Nicol, fans have tried to make sense of that for the last 30 years.
Nicol: Can I go to bed now?
Sue: That scene was a disaster. The director clearly didn’t understand what was supposed to be happening, but they went ahead and shot it anyway. The Doctor should have walked on the third square, then the first, then the third…
Sue: Whatever. It isn’t rocket science, you know!
Deep inside the Tower, the Third Doctor encounters some very familiar faces indeed. Well, sort of…
Sue: Mike Yates! Liz! No, wait, that’s never Liz. No, hang on… Yes, it is her. At least I think it’s her. So where’s Benton?
The First Doctor gives Tegan a quick pep talk.
Sue: He should mess his lines up a bit. That would make it seem more authentic. He’s too good an actor. Actually, I think I prefer him to William Hartnell. Is that bad?
The Second Doctor comes face to face with his own phantoms.
Sue: Why is Zoe dressed in bubble wrap?
But the Second Doctor sees through the deceit.
Me: Did you spot the continuity error?
Me: How does the Second Doctor know that Zoe and Jamie’s memories have been wiped? That hasn’t happened yet, because if it had happened, he would have regenerated by now. So you know what that means, don’t you?
Me: The comments section will be full of people talking about Season 6B instead of The Five Doctors. It will be torture!
Sue: I don’t see how I’m supposed to remember this stuff if the writer can’t. I thought they had Ian Levine to deal with this kind of thing? Where the hell was he when this was going on?
Back in the Capitol, the Doctor is playing the Harp of Rassilon.
Sue: Does he play the Doctor Who theme music on it? That would be funny.
Me: No it bloody wouldn’t.
The First Doctor is, appropriately enough, the first incarnation to reach the Tomb of Rassilon.
Sue: Please let him bump into Ian. Please.
When the Doctor is joined by his future selves, his companions huddle together for a quick chat.
Sue: This is what it must be like in the bar at a Doctor Who convention.
Meanwhile the Fifth Doctor confronts the story’s real villain – Borusa.
Sue: Oh, I didn’t expect that.
Me: Are you joking? How many suspects were left?
Sue: I thought it was going to be somebody better than that. We’ve never seen this person before.
Me: Yes we have. It’s Borusa!
Sue: I don’t remember him.
Me: He’s regenerated three times.
Sue: No wonder I can’t keep track of him.
Me: He was the Doctor’s teacher at the Academy.
Sue: Oh yeah… But he was nice, wasn’t he?
Me: Yes, hence the massive twist.
Sue: I like the way he wears kinky bad guy gear when he’s up to no good.
Borusa wants the secret of immortality.
Sue: I thought Time Lords were already immortal?
Me: No, they can only regenerate 12 times.
Sue: Yes, but they offered the Master 12 more earlier, so that means they must be able to top-up if they ever run out, doesn’t it?
The last truly immortal Time Lord was Rassilon himself.
Sue: So where the hell is he, then? It didn’t do him much good, did it? He’s got a fucking tomb!
Borusa explains his insane plan to the Doctor.
Sue: His game has some really stupid rules. It’s even worse than Monopoly. And if he wanted the Doctor to reach the Dark Tower, why did he put so many obstacles in his path?
The Fifth Doctor falls under Borusa’s spell.
Sue: You must have hypnotism in a Doctor Who special. It’s the law.
Four incarnations of the Doctor will have to join forces to overcome Borusa’s will. Sue sighs.
Sue: This is where I miss Tom Baker. It doesn’t feel right, him not being there. The band isn’t back together. Not really. It’s like Pink Floyd without Roger Waters.
The mighty Rassilon appears.
Sue: It’s the genie from Aladdin! If he gives them three wishes, one of these Doctors is going to be very disappointed.
Nicol: It’s not exactly Timothy Dalton, is it?
Me: Are you still awake, Nicol?
I ask Sue if she notices anything odd about the Tomb of Rassilon.
Sue: Yeah, there’s a panel missing. Did the BBC run out of time? That’s funny.
Borusa ends up spending the rest of eternity as a Stone Relief of Rassilon.
Sue: What a fabulous comeuppance. I should have seen that coming. So what happens if more Time Lords reach the tomb? Is there room round the back for more?
Rassilon returns the Fourth Doctor to his own time stream.
Sue: Was that from Shada as well?
Sue: That means we can never watch it. Because this story wouldn’t make any sense if we did. What a pity.
The crisis averted, the Doctors get down the important business of insulting each other. The Third Doctor even refers to his former self as a scarecrow.
Sue: That’s rich coming from Worzel fucking Gummidge!
The Third Doctor introduces Sarah Jane to his fifth incarnation.
Sue: (As Sarah) Can I stay with this one for a bit, please? He’s gorgeous.
The TARDIS separates and disappears.
Sue: Nice Quantel overlay slice effect, there.
When the Doctor is given the presidency of Gallifrey, he quickly passes the responsibility to Chancellor Flavia.
Sue: That’s funny. We worked for a woman called Flavia for years.
Me: Don’t remind me.
In the console room, the Fifth Doctor tells his companions that he’s decided to run away from his own people in a rackety old TARDIS. After all, that’s how it all started.
Sue: That was the first big close-up in the whole thing. Unbelievable…
The credits roll.
Sue: I like the way they’ve used the old music. It takes me right back.
Me: Well, it has been a couple of months since you last heard it. You must be overwhelmed by nostalgia.
Sue: Sshh! Nicol’s asleep.
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Sue: That was fun. The plot was a bit silly, and the direction was appalling, but I enjoyed it. As a Doctor Who story it left a lot to be desired, but as a celebratory romp, it definitely did the job. It probably helps if you’re drunk, though.
Me: Would you like me to show you the Special Edition? It’s got new special effects and a 5.1 soundtrack…
Sue: No. You had your chance. I’m not going to watch anything twice. I don’t care how much I enjoyed it, I’ve got better things to do.