We watched the original broadcast version of The Five Doctors. Sadly, 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.


The Five DoctorsNicol: I’m not watching any William Hartnell with you. You can forget it.
Me: Be patient, Nicol.
Sue: Don’t worry, Nic. Neil’s promised me that it’s just the one episode. We can watch University Challenge when this has finished.

The story begins with a rousing speech.

Sue: That was poignant.
Me: Do you remember where that comes from?
Sue: Of course I do. It’s from a William Hartnell story. It must have been important because they gave him a very long speech. That was risky.
Me: It was when he left Susan behind 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?
Me: Well…
Sue: I’m excited.

The Doctor is showing off the new TARDIS console to Tegan.

The Five DoctorsSue: 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 bit rough around the edges. It’s too swish, now.

At least Tegan looks better.

Sue: That’s 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.
Nicol: Doesn’t he want to kill the Doctor any more? Did they ever sit down together to 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 mysterious, black-gloved hand is up to no good.

Sue: Is it the Master?

I think it’s safe to say that you could have put your mortgage on that.

Meanwhile, the First Doctor is strolling through a rose garden.

The Five DoctorsNicol: 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 which tumbles away into the distance.

Nicol: Death by PowerPoint.

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. His entrance receives a hearty “Yay!” from Sue, but then reality sets in.

Sue: Blimey, he’s aged a bit. Hang on a minute… This isn’t possible.
Me: What do you mean?
Sue: That’s not 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 Five DoctorsThe Doctor and the Brigadier reminisce about old times. They fondly remember the Yeti, the Cybermen, Omega.

Second Doctor: And the terrible Zodin.
Sue: I don’t remember her. Which one was she again?
Me: Your memory is getting worse by the day, dear.

Meanwhile, on the Eye of Orion, the Doctor has 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?

The mysterious figure in black places more pieces on the board.

Sue: Those things are a bastard to dust.

And then…

Sue: It’s Jon Pertwee in Betsy! I bet the fans went mental when they saw this.
Me: Aren’t you excited? Even just a little bit?
Sue: A bit.

The Five DoctorsThe Doctor is kidnapped by the malevolent isosceles triangle of doom, and another collectible figurine is placed on the table.

Sue: Where’s his car? He should be sitting in a little model of his car.

Meanwhile, in Croydon.

Sue: Sarah Jane!
Nicol: K9!
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 too keen on the coat, though.
Sue: Sarah Jane never had any fashion dress sense.

Sarah decides to leave K9 behind.

Sue: That’s right. If this is supposed to be a celebration of everything Doctor Who is best known for, then I’m not surprised that K9 has been left behind. Typical!

We drop in on the Fourth Doctor and Romana punting on the Cam.

The Five DoctorsSue: Tom’s very good in this. It looks like he’s up for it, thank God.

Nicol is laughing at the script, unaware of its provenance.

The Fourth Doctor and Romana are swallowed up by the triangle.

Sue: They had 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 away? Even Adric? We’ll be here all day.

Sue is warming to the new TARDIS console.

Sue: That 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. I like it a lot. 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 in the middle of the incidental music.
Nicol: Oh, mother! What’s happened to you?

Before we can catch a breath, we find ourselves on.

Sue: Gallifrey!

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.

The Five DoctorsSue: What an excellent twist. Does this mean it can’t be the Master playing with those toys? Or is it a double-bluff?
Me: It must be somebody else. I wonder who it might be.
Sue: It’s the Black Guardian. It’s his black gloves that give him away.

The First Doctor finds himself in a metallic corridor.

Sue: It’s a decent likeness. They are just about getting away with it.
Nicol: His mannerisms aren’t quite 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.


The Five DoctorsThe Dalek ends up shooting itself. Stupid Dalek.

Sue: The laser beams were rubbish but this is fantastic.
Nicol: Yeah, that’s not bad, actually.

They are referring to the Kaled mutant which is thrashing around in the Dalek casing.

Sue: They must have thrown some money at this. The new series couldn’t have done much better than that.
Nicol: So are there old monsters in this as well as old Doctors and companions?
Me: Yes.
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 very same location.

The Five DoctorsSue: Patrick Troughton’s wig reminds me of the very first hair cut I ever gave someone. It was for my friend Tucker, and I may as well have stuck a bowl on her head. She didn’t forgive me for weeks.

Sarah Jane is wandering around the Death Zone as well. 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: That will 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 ****’s sake.

Sarah is amazed to see the Third Doctor instead of the Fourth (at least we think it’s amazement, it could very well be disappointment).

The Five DoctorsSue: Everything is in the wrong order. I’m sure they shouldn’t be allowed to do that.
Nicol: Didn’t she just tell him that he would end up looking like Tom Baker? Is that allowed?
Sue: It’s very timey-wimey.

Meanwhile, 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: **** off.

The First and Fifth Doctors meet in the TARDIS.

Sue: Shouldn’t they blow up when they touch each other? I’m confused.

Tegan can’t believe what she’s seeing, either.

The Five DoctorsFifth Doctor: It only happens in the gravest emergencies.
Me: And birthday celebrations.

The First Doctor sends Tegan away to make some tea. But before she can knock his block off, the Fifth Doctor sends Turlough to help her.

Sue: I like that. It shows how the Doctor has changed over the years. It also reminds me that he used to be a sexist git.

The Second Doctor explains the concept of the Death Zone to the Brigadier.

Second Doctor: They set up this place, the Death Zone, and walled it around with an impenetrable force field, and then they kidnapped other beings and set them down here.
The Brigadier: But what for?
Nicol: To die, I expect. I think the clue is in the title.

The Master is sent to the Death Zone to rescue the Doctor via an open-ended transmat beam. It’s Sue who spots the continuity error first:

Sue: He’s suddenly wearing a cloak. Where did he get that from?
Me: The transmat beam has a cloaking device.

Meanwhile, the TARDIS crew are enjoying some light refreshments.

The Five DoctorsSue: 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.

The Third Doctor and Sarah are driving down one of the Death Zone’s perfectly tarmaced roads.

Sue: Hang on a minute… 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 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 Five DoctorsThe Third Doctor and Sarah run into the Master.

Sue: This is a bit weird. It doesn’t feel quite right. It’s making me feel a bit sad.

Laser bolts start raining down from the sky and the Time Lords 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.

The Second Doctor tells the Brigadier about Rassilon.

Second Doctor: The greatest single figure in Time Lord history.
Me: Rassilon was played by Timothy Dalton when David Tennant was the Doctor. Do you remember? 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. And maybe a giant snake.

The Five DoctorsThe Fifth Doctor and the Master meet face to face. A Cyberman spots them during a stroll.

Cyberman: Ah-ha!
Nicol: If he had his phone with him, he could have posted a photo to Instagram.

Tegan and Susan spot a phalanx of Cybermen coming over a hill (eventually) and they make a run for it. Unfortunately, Susan snaps her ankle on some shrubbery.

Sue: How the **** did she trip over that?
Me: It’s Susan’s party piece. It’s a celebration, remember.

It appears that someone on Gallifrey is misusing the Death Zone. Well, misusing it more than normal, that is.

Sue: It’s either the Black Guardian or it’s Colin Baker. I don’t think it’ll be O-mega again, because it’s far too soon to have him back again. Or 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 Five DoctorsThe Cybermen plot their next move.

Sue: At least the bad weather lends this scene some much needed atmosphere. But it’s a complete accident; it isn’t down to the director at all.

The Doctor escapes to the Capitol, leaving the Master to forge an uneasy alliance with the Cybermen.

Cyberleader: Promises to aliens have no validity. When the Tower is in our hands, he will be destroyed!
Sue: The Master has been betrayed and he hasn’t even done anything yet. That has to be a new record.

Back in the TARDIS, Turlough and Susan can hear somebody knocking on the door.

Sue: Ooh, are they going to knock four times? It must be Rassilon.

Sue is easily confused.

Sue: It reminds me of The Lord of the Rings. It’s got a Dark Tower in it and there are all these journeys to get there. And there’s Gollum.

The Five DoctorsShe’s pointing at the Raston Warrior Robot.

Sue: That’s scary. I like that. Is this new? It’s not an Auton, is it?
Me: No, it’s a new monster.
Sue: I thought so. I wouldn’t have forgotten that in a hurry. Nice arse.

Back at the Capitol, the Castellan is shown to be a traitor. As the chancellery guards escort him away, Borusa authorises the use of a mind probe.

The Castellan: No! Not the mind probe!

Sue turns to me and laughs.

Sue: It is supposed to be a pantomime, isn’t it?

And then we hear a scream.

Sue: They didn’t waste any time, did they? They must have had a mind probe waiting for him in the corridor.

In the Death Zone, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier are menaced by a Yeti.


The Five DoctorsThe beast corners them in a cave.

Sue: Just play your recorder at it!

The Doctor chucks a firework at it instead.

The Brigadier: You’ve maddened it!
Sue: Maddened it? Who talks like that?

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 the Cybermens’ worries.

Sue: Bloody hell, look at that! This is brilliant.

The Raston Warrior Robot makes short work of the Cybermen.

The Five DoctorsSue: I love it. I just wish his poles were a bit shorter. I don’t see how he could keep 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.
Sue: Bullshit.

The robot decapitates a Cyberman, just for kicks.

Sue: He’s ruthless and well hung.
Me: That sounds like a strap line from The Jeremy Kyle Show.

The Fifth Doctor confides in Chancellor Flavia that he doesn’t believe the Castellan was a traitor.

Fifth Doctor: You saw his reaction to the Black Scrolls. It wasn’t that of a man discovered, but of sheer disbelief.
Sue: Really? I think he’s crediting the actor with more talent than he actually has. He was staring blankly at them, like he was waiting for his cue.

At this point, Nicol threatens to retire.

Me: Stick around, Nic. There’s a maths riddle coming up soon.

The Third Doctor steals the robot’s equipment and he manages to lasso a zip-line to one of the Dark Tower’s turrets.

Sue: No ****ing 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!

The Five DoctorsTurlough and Susan watch helplessly as the Cyberman attach a bomb to the TARDIS.

Turlough: Big, isn’t it?
Sue: That’s what he says to all the girls.

The Master leads the Cybermen into the Dark Tower.

Sue: Did the Master just have a stroke? Either he was in terrible pain or he was trying to hold back a fart.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Sue: Yes, it was definitely 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 and diced by laser beams.

Sue: The direction is a joke. It makes no sense.

The Five DoctorsWith 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.

The Master: Try it, Doctor, it’s as easy as pie.
Sue: He means Pythagoras.
Nicol: Mother!
The Doctor: The Greek letter pi!
Nicol: 3.141592.

The Doctor can recite two digits more than Nicol, but I’m still very impressed.

The Doctor crosses the board.

Nicol: I don’t get it. He just walked across it! What the hell?
Me: Don’t worry, Nicol, we’ve tried to make sense of it for the last thirty 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.
Nicol: Fourth.
Sue: Whatever. It’s not rocket science, you know!

The Five DoctorsDeep inside the Tower, the Third Doctor encounters some very familiar faces. Well, sort of.

Sue: Mike Yates! Liz! No, wait, that’s never Liz. No, hang on… Yes, it is her. I think… So where’s Benton?

The First Doctor pauses to give Tegan a quick pep talk:

First Doctor: Fear itself is largely an illusion. And at my age, there’s little left to fear.
Sue: He should mess his lines up a bit. That would make it 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.

I pause the DVD.

Me: Did you spot the continuity error?
Sue: No.
Me: Okay. So how does the Second Doctor know that Zoe and Jamie’s memories were wiped? It hasn’t happened yet, because if it had, he should have regenerated by now. You know what that means, don’t you?
Sue: What?
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 bloody writer can’t. And I thought they had Ian Levine to deal with this kind of thing? Where the hell was he?

The Five DoctorsBack at 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 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.

He is joined by his future selves. The Doctor’s companions huddle together for a quick chat.

Me: This is what it’s like in the bar at a Doctor Who convention. You’ll find out in a couple of weeks.
Sue: Oh joy.

The Fifth Doctor confronts the real villain of the piece – Borusa.

The Five DoctorsSue: 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 bloke before.
Me: Yes we have. Well, we haven’t, but 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 yes, he was really nice, wasn’t he?
Me: Yes, hence the massive twist.
Sue: I like the way he dresses in his kinky bad guy gear when he’s up to no good.

Borusa is seeking the secret of immortality.

Sue: But I thought Time Lords were immortal already?
Me: No, they have 13 regenerations.
Sue: Yes, but they offered the Master 13 more earlier on, and that means they must be able to top-up if they run out.
Borusa: Timeless perpetual bodily regeneration. True immortality!
Sue: What’s the ****ing difference? It’s like saying you’ll give 110% effort. It doesn’t make sense.

The last Time Lord who was truly immortal was Rassilon himself.

Sue: So where the hell is he? It didn’t do him much good, did it? He’s got a ****ing tomb.

Borusa explains his insane plan to the Doctor.

Sue: His game has some really silly rules. It’s 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: Hypnotism. You have to have hypnotism in a Doctor Who special. It’s the law.

Four incarnations of the Doctor 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 listening to Pink Floyd without Roger Waters.

The mighty Rassilon appears.

The Five DoctorsSue: It’s the genie from Aladdin! If he gives out three wishes, one of the Doctors is going to be very disappointed.
Nicol: It’s not exactly Timothy Dalton, is it?
Me: Are you still awake, Nicol?
Nicol: Barely.

I ask Sue if she notices anything odd about the Tomb of Rassilon.

Sue: Yeah, there’s a panel missing. Did they run out of time? That’s funny.

Borusa takes the Ring of Rassilon and he ends up spending the rest of eternity as a Stone Relief of Rassilon.

Sue: What a fabulous comeuppance. I should have seen that coming, really. 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?
Me: Yes.
Sue: That means we can never watch it. 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.

Third Doctor: Our dress sense hasn’t improved much, has it?
Sue: You ain’t seen nothing yet!

The Second and Third Doctors gently rib each other. But forget about my slash fiction.

Second Doctor: Goodbye, fancy pants.
Third Doctor: Scarecrow.
Sue: That’s rich coming from Worzel ****ing Gummidge!

The Five DoctorsThe Third Doctor introduces Sarah Jane to the Fifth.

Sue: (as Sarah) Can I stay with this one for a bit, please? He’s gorgeous.

The Doctors leave the Fifth alone with his thoughts.

Sue: It’s quite sweet, really.
Fifth Doctor: I’m definitely not the man I was, thank goodness.
Sue: You can say that again.

The TARDIS separates and disappears.

Sue: Nice Quantel overlay slice effect, there.

The Doctor is given the presidency of Gallifrey. He immediately passes the responsibility to Chancellor Flavia.

Sue: That’s funny. We worked for a woman called Flavia for years.
Me: Don’t remind me.

The Five DoctorsBack on the TARDIS, the Fifth Doctor tells his companions that he has decided to run away from his own people in a rackety old TARDIS.

The Doctor: After all, that’s how it all started.
Sue: That’s 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: Sshhh. Nicol’s fast asleep.


The Score

Sue: That was fun. The plot was a bit silly, and the direction was appalling, but I really enjoyed it. As a Doctor Who story it left a lot to be desired, but as a celebratory romp, it did the job. It helps if you’re drunk, though.


Me: Would you like me to show you the Special Edition? It’s got new effects and a 5.1 score and…
Sue: No. You’ve had you chance. I’m not going to watch stuff twice. I don’t care how much I enjoyed it, I’ve got better things to do.


Coming Soon




  1. Thomas  October 19, 2012

    It’s a shame Tom didn’t join in, but I can understand why he would’ve declined- too soon to his departure and trying to make a name outside of the program and all that.

    I quite enjoy Five Doctors- it’s rather silly and not nearly as good as Three Doctors, but fun in its own right, and a decent little celebration. One wonders what it would’ve been had Robert Holmes been able to complete work on it…

    • Dave Sanders  October 19, 2012

      We found out a couple of years later. It wasn’t very good.

      • Thomas  October 19, 2012

        Well, now, I’ve yet to see that particular episode, but plot-wise it’s totally different from what we’ve heard “The Six Doctors” was going to be like (though the Sandifer/Shearman analysis of that one is interesting as well. I’m intrigued to see it, though I’m only in S21 right now).

        • Dave Sanders  October 19, 2012

          Actually, the main reason it’s not very good is it was written and made under much the same trying conditions and executive meddling as Holmes’ Five Doctors script had been, and it shows.

          • encyclops  October 19, 2012

            If you’re talking about the one I think you’re talking about, it’s my favorite televised story with that Doctor in it. I might attribute that to the skill and agreeable perversity of its author and to the relative quality of the scripts around it, but to be fair it’s been many years since I’ve watched any of those, including the one two stories before which is its only competition in my book. But I’ll foist my unasked-for opinion on everyone when we get to those stories. 🙂 I realize the one I think you’re talking about and know I’m talking about is widely disparaged, and I think there are good reasons to dislike it, but in context it’s always seemed like a breath of fresh air to me, and a bracing middle finger to the idea (which I sometimes espouse) that this show must always be tasteful and correct.

            SO off-topic! Sorry Neil.

          • Jazza1971  October 20, 2012

            I haven’t a clue what your talking about…I’m sure it will become clear in time.

  2. Jonathan  October 19, 2012

    “If he had his phone with him, he could have posted a photo to Instagram”

    Laughed out loud at that.

    Screw season 6B – this really fucks up my UNIT dating theory…

    • Auntie Celia  October 24, 2012

      “If he had his phone with him, he could have posted a photo to Instagram”

      Laughed out loud at that.

      If he’d had his phone with him, he could have lent me mine!

  3. jsd  October 19, 2012

    7/10 sounds exactly right to me. A nice bit of fun.

  4. Dave Sanders  October 19, 2012

    I hope Glen’s got the Captain Zep: Space Detective theme handy for when Hugo Lang turns up.

    • Glen Allen  October 19, 2012

      Yes you’ve mentioned that before 🙂

      • Dave Sanders  October 19, 2012

        Oh did I? This must be the Special Edition repeat edit with shit cliffhangers then.

      • Terry Francis  October 19, 2012

        And just in case you don’t have it, I handily uploaded a decent quality copy of it onto YouTube last month:

  5. encyclops  October 19, 2012

    The only thing I wouldn’t echo about Sue’s verdict is the score. For me this is no more than a 6 at most. 😉

    Splendid commentary, and thanks so much for the unexpected update! I love that Sue’s the one instigating now. Enjoy it while it lasts!

    I’m even less interested in Series 6B than you are, but I must say I don’t see why this would preclude “Shada.” Surely they were just put right back in the middle of it after being frozen in time?

    • Nick Mays  October 19, 2012

      In fact, in the recent novelisation of Shada by Gareth Roberts, he inserts a little ‘time glitch’ reference in the punting scene, which both the Doctor and Romana feel.. It passes quickly, as they are restored to the time line by Rassilon and have no memory of the scoop.

      Something for the fans there…

      • John Miller  October 19, 2012

        I’m not sure “fans” is the correct word there…

  6. Kale Sy  October 19, 2012

    I love how the comments section is being referenced more and more in the blog itself, like some kind of Bidmeadian recursion. And I totally agree the tediosity of these long-winded continuity discussions too.

    I’m glad it’s not just me who can see the similarity between the middle-aged Susan and Valerie Singlehead. I’m always disappointed that the Fifth Doctor barely flickers upon being reunited with his own grand-daughter… in the same way that there’s no emotional continuity for the companions between stories (the destruction of Traken, etc.), there seems to be no thought for emotional continuity through the series as a whole. In fact, one thing the JNT era sorely lacks is any kind of emotion at all, beyond the usual fear/gloating/relief etc.

    Anyway, 7/10 is a fine score – Five Doctors is a decent romp, even if it makes no actual sense.

    • encyclops  October 19, 2012

      I just had a thought, which must mean that at least 500 fans have had it before me: if regeneration means, as it obviously does, that a Time Lord’s outward appearance changes in pretty much every respect, does that mean his DNA (or the Gallifreyan equivalent) is also different? And if so, does that mean Susan is still biologically his granddaughter, assuming she ever was?

      Do Time Lords maybe have 13fold DNA somehow, so that all of their selves are somehow contained as potential in their coding just waiting to be expressed? So that if you want a new set of regenerations, you need your DNA recoded somehow?

      Come on, people. With a bit of work we can totally get a tedious fanwanky discussion going here. LOCKED COMMENTS OR BUST! 😉 😉 😉

      • Wholahoop  October 19, 2012

        Well of course in End of the World an untransmitted scene had the tree lady (Jabe?) scanning the Doctor and seeing multiple DNA strands. I think it got cut because it was utter fanwank.

        Maybe Gallifreyans have layered DNA with a core set that is consistent and the other layers that are responsible for the external appearance, short sightedness, big nose, big chin and big ears (delete as appropriate) and if that makes any sense to anyone at all I would appreciate a translation

    • Thomas  October 19, 2012

      Agreed completely about the lack of emotional coherence in the JNT era (much as I’m rather fond of it). It always bewildered me that they never satisfactorily wrapped up the consequences of of Logopolis- especially considering the following story is Bidmead again (though as a last-minute replacement, so it’s somewhat understandable). In this regard, Jack Graham’s two-sentence summary of this story is just hilarious.

      It’s really a shame they don’t get the emotional stuff sorted out until the next script editor.

    • Richard Lyth  October 19, 2012

      To be fair, Peter Davison does try to show some emotion on being reunited with Susan, giving her a big smile and looking her up and down, but unfortunately it just looks like he fancies her. Hopefully they’ll bring her back for the 50th anniversary so she can have some proper emotional scenes with Matt Smith to make up for this one.

      • John G  October 19, 2012

        Yes, I’m hoping that will happen too, as it’s about time the Doctor properly fulfilled his promise to Susan. It would be even better if Ian were to pop up – it’s a great shame neither he nor Barbara appear in The Five Doctors.

        • dlee  October 25, 2012

          Hear, hear!

  7. Dave Sanders  October 19, 2012

    Sod Season 6B, I want to talk about 80s Gallifrey. Although that does entail mentioning The Two Doctors and OH F**K I’VE ALREADY BLOWN IT.

    I think the main problem with Gallifrey in this period isn’t that it looks drab and boring, but that we’re given every opportunity to *see* that it looks drab and boring. The Gallifrey of The Deadly Assassin (and to a lesser extent, The Invasion Of Time) looks and feels like a fully populated, lived-in world. Arc Of Infinity… not so much. The Five Doctors, for all the backstory about Rassilon, doesn’t give us much visual reason to care, since there are so few others around the place to give a shit about it either. Though I suppose that’s missing the point a bit. It’s not until the political machinations in The Two Doctors and The Mysterious Planet that Gallifrey starts to feel more substantial again, and in neither occasion do we even get to see the place. Now why do you ROBERT HOLMES suppose that is?

    • encyclops  October 19, 2012

      I think “fully populated, lived-in” is a bit generous in ALL cited cases, but relatively speaking, yeah, good point!

    • Thomas  October 19, 2012

      One of the things that bothers me about the visual aspect of the Time Lords in the Davison years is that we’re always looking at them from the side- be it sitting in risers in Arc of Infinity or gathered around a long table in Five Doctors. It all just looks so flat and dull. In the Baker stories there was always a focal point that towered over the camera in the sets, and you always felt you were amidst the going-ons rather than drably observing them.

      It’s a difficult point for me to articulate, but I think the fact we’re always side-on rather than head-on in Davison stories does a lot to undermine any epic power they might have.

      • Dave Sanders  October 19, 2012

        Yeah, that’s very true. David Maloney versus Peter Moffat, not a contest.

        • Thomas  October 20, 2012

          I think it’s also a matter of the sets, as well- even Maloney couldn’t have made the Gallifrey set in Five Doctors visually compelling. It’s the fact that we get a bad set paired such with limp direction that makes it so dull in the Davison years.

          • Dave Sanders  October 20, 2012

            I’m sure he’d have tried – he could have shot it from a low angle and made everyone in it look more noble and majestic. He could have got away with it too, since BBC studio sets had proper ceilings by this point.

            Wait, why are we even having to contemplate this? We’re talking about the man who made the Gallifrey from the end of The Wars Games look etherial and unearthly, Five Doctors? Pffft, no trouble.

  8. Antti Björklund  October 19, 2012

    Good points on the story from Sue, some I’d not seen.

    Personally I’d give it 7 or 8 out of ten, mainly because of the “season 6B” problem. Good that you noticed the fog in the scene where Sarah Jane trips – I really think that isn’t such a big thing as it’s been made to be in terms of bad direction.

  9. Glen Allen  October 19, 2012

    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?


    • Wholahoop  October 19, 2012

      You forgot the War Chief ffs

      7 may be generous but it was always on a hiding to nothing given what was on the list of what was going to be in the programme

      • Nick Mays  October 19, 2012

        We all know the War Chief survived, escaped and went undercover, by marrying an Earth Woman in the late 20th century, then was subjected to a life of misery from a houseful of ghosts!

        (That’s discounting his appearance as the Robber Chief in ‘The Changes’ a couple of years earlier, natch).

        • Dave Sanders  October 19, 2012

          So Dobbin The Pantomime Horse IS canon.

          • Nick Mays  October 19, 2012

            Definitely Dave – he even turns up in ‘Warriors of the Deep’! ;o)

          • Dave Sanders  October 19, 2012

            Don’t explain the gag. 😛

          • Nick Mays  October 19, 2012

            Oh no I won’t!

          • Wholahoop  October 19, 2012

            And Dobbin the Donkey is actually a criminal offence

          • Frankymole  October 19, 2012

            As is Muffin the Mule.

  10. Richard Baker  October 19, 2012

    Thanks for the Chessboard of Rassilon stroke/fart debate. Never spotted the gritted teeth in that one before. What with that and Ainley’s earlier slip in front of the entire High Council (“Chancellor Flavia!” *ffffp*), it would seem the Master’s having a bit of a bad week on the flatulence front.

  11. Alisaunder  October 19, 2012

    Seeing the Doctors together is always worth extra points and I really hope they do for the 50. But I never liked the warrior beating up the cybermen, as I *like* Classic Cybermen. Also liked Borusa so making him the villain was a no starter for me.

    Did Sue get that pink Romana coat Neil?

    • Dave Sanders  October 19, 2012

      Apparently, JN-T himself stepped in and directed that bit himself due to time pressures. I think he missed his calling.

  12. Steve O'Brien  October 19, 2012

    It’s a heartstopping moment when a man asks his wife, “Did you spot the continuity error?”

  13. Leo  October 19, 2012

    The Children In Need ticker only affected transmission in some regions, so not everyone watching it at the time would have had that.

    Patrick Troughton isn’t wearing a wig in the story, but he did later say that he’d forgotten to have his hair raised with curlers, which used to be done for him in his era.

    Zoe is wearing bubble wrap because Wendy Padbury was pregnant while appearing in this story and they were trying to conceal it.

  14. John Miller  October 19, 2012

    Loved Sue’s reviews/comments on this one. I also laughed out loud(and agreed) with the “It looks like something made by Amstrad. I think I preferred it when it was a little bit rough around the edges. It’s too swish, now.” Also, the “There’s a maths riddle coming up soon.” and “Bingo.” comments. “The Five Doctors” is a wonderful “Doctor Who on 45” episode.

  15. John Miller  October 19, 2012

    Oh, and quick “Season 6B” killer. Second Doctor mentions OMEGA to Brig. Second Doctor/First Doctor both recognise Pertwee. Conclusion:They both retain all memories of Three Doctors. Second Doctor sees his own future(literally!) in Three Doctors. Second Doctor can’t be remembering events when he says “So how do you know who we are?” to “Jamie”/”Zoe” because end of War Games says they will remember him, but not travelling with him. Thus it’s a post-Three Doctors/pre-War Games Second Doctor guessing the futures of both himself and Jamie/Zoe.

    Although Sue’s “I don’t see how I’m supposed to remember this stuff if the bloody writer can’t. And I thought they had Ian Levine to deal with this kind of thing? Where the hell was he?” works just as well, really. 🙂

    • Nick Mays  October 19, 2012

      If you think ‘Who’ continuity is a minefield, try sorting out the continuity in ‘Red Dwarf’. I mean, how many parallel universes and timelines have those guys gone through?!

      • Dave Sanders  October 19, 2012


        That’s not me by the way, that’s Doug Naylor in the next room.

        • Nick Mays  October 19, 2012

          LOL! The beauty of it is, they probably DIDN’T happen in the Red Dwarf version of reality… or one of them, at least! So they did happen, but also didn’t. Which is fine.

          Mind you, the ‘Damn! Wrong Number!” bit is worth believing in Series 8 alone!

          • Dave Sanders  October 21, 2012

            Couldn’t the plot-device-on-a-stick have been made non-canon while they were at it?

    • Donald G  October 21, 2012

      The continuity error that leads to the speculation concerning Season 6B isn’t that Zoe and Jamie remember the Doctor, as “The War Games” establishes that Zoe and Jamie will remember their respective first encounters with the Doctor. It’s that Jamie specifically recognizes THE BRIGADIER, of whom he should have no memory. It’s after Jamie’s line “The Brigadier’s right…” that the Doctor twigs to the wrongness, and that “It’s a matter of memory.”

      • Neil Perryman  October 21, 2012

        No, the error is that the Second Doctor wouldn’t know any of this because he supposedly regenerated into the Third straight after.

        • Frankymole  October 21, 2012

          The second Doctor remembered Omeha, which showed he remembers The Three Doctors (where Pertwee fills him in on some past history – possibly including the Earth exile bit as explanation of why he’s stuck there and the TARDIS doesn’t work)… it’s only when “the Wisdom of Rassilon” kicks in and everyone is sent back to their proper times at the end of “The Five Doctors” that their memories are wiped (including Sarah forgetting that she’s met the Doctor again, and him forgetting that he’s met her). At this point presumably Troughton forgets Omega, as well as his future adventures and knowledge gained during them.

          • Frankymole  October 21, 2012

            Omega ^

        • Dave Sanders  October 21, 2012

          I’ve always put it down to the seperate Doctors having access to a shared pool of collective knowledge whenever two or more meet, since they’re part of the same person – so basically the writers can pull whatever shit like this they want.

          • Wholahoop  October 24, 2012

            I think the most important phrase you use there is “basically the writers can pull whatever shit like this they want” which sums up most of the continuity errors over the life of the programme IMHO

    • Robert Dick  October 23, 2012

      I’m so going to regret this… (because I so don’t care) but surely if one buys into season 6B then it makes more sense that The Three Doctors is set there too…

      • John Miller  October 23, 2012

        But isn’t that rather self-fulfilling? “If Season 6B is true, and if The Five Doctors is a Season 6B story, then The Three Doctors could also be a Season 6B story!”. What is funny is that people again obsess over Troughton looking older, yet ignore that Pertwee isn’t looking his best either, and Hartnell looks like a totally different man. All they have is a craving to create fan fiction, and one line “So how do you know who ”’we”’ are?”(emphasis mine) which actually proves that he can’t be from after “The War Games”. They also ignore the fact that he’s genuinely baffled that the TARDIS landed exactly where/when he wanted it to.

        • Nick Mays  October 23, 2012

          Perhaps… just perhaps… it’s one of those things about the Doctor that we, the audience, will never truly know, rather like exactly what happened with the Time War. There does seem to be enough canonical (?) evidence (i.e. The Two Doctors) to suggest that the Second Doctor did – at some point in his timestream – continue his travels with Jamie as an agent of the Time Lord CIA. Whether he – or indeed any of the Doctors – retain their memories of the events of The Three and Five Doctors (or even The Two Doctors) is unclear and will probably never be explained.

          Obviously in ‘Time Crash’ the Tenth Doctor remembers his meeting with the Fifth Doctor, but that meeting seems to have been under random chance circumstances, rather than engineered by the Time Lords.

          So I guess the Season 6B thing is something that you can choose to believe in as part of the canon or not, rather like the Audios, Original novels, Missing Adventures etc. As regards the ongoing series, I don’t think (personally) that it makes a lot of difference to one’s enjoyment or otherwise of the series.

          Red Dwarf don’t even attempt to explain their continuity contradictions and I still enjoy that!

          • John Miller  October 23, 2012

            The fact that Two, Three and Five have no memory of the Five Doctors would mean that One, Two and Three’s memories were wiped(by Rassilon, as Frankymole already said).

            As for the next multi-Doctor story, can we leave discussion until after Sue has actually seen it, so as to avoid spoilers?

            And, just going by the tv show, there is nothing that suggest a “Season 6B”. Indeed, Spearhead From Space went to anal detail to make sure Pertwee was wearing the exact same outfit that Troughton was at the end of The War Games. So, Derrick Sherwin, Barry Letts, Terrance Dicks, Robert Holmes, none of THEM thought there was a “Season 6B”.

          • Nick Mays  October 23, 2012

            “And, just going by the tv show, there is nothing that suggest a “Season 6B”. Indeed, Spearhead From Space went to anal detail to make sure Pertwee was wearing the exact same outfit that Troughton was at the end of The War Games. So, Derrick Sherwin, Barry Letts, Terrance Dicks, Robert Holmes, none of THEM thought there was a “Season 6B”. ”

            Er… well of course they didn’t, as they were filming it in 1969 and the The Two Doctors (sorry Sweetie, spoilers!) didn’t happen until 15 years later in1985 when the whole Season 6B idea was RETCONNED then, not that Robert Holmes gave a stuff one way or the other.

            In 1969, as far as Dicks, Sherwin and Letts were concerned, the War Games led directly into Spearhead, although much, much later Uncle Tewwance quite happily bought into the Season 6B mythos.

            And anyway, if the Second Doctor regenerated into the Third (who retained no memories of his adventures other than up to his ‘War Games’ trial), then of course the Third is wearing the Second’s clothes.

            Not quite sure of your argument here.

            Not that I’m fussed either way, you say Potato and I say Potatuh…

        • Leo  October 23, 2012

          Why even talk in terms of this or that thing “proving” anything anyway?

          We know that any kind of continuity or backstory in the series was largely improvised in a way that was contingent on what was required for each story as it came up, with the latter being more important than keeping to an absolute consistency for the former. Doctor Who wasn’t unique in that respect, Only Fools And Horses would often play quite fast and loose with things like exactly how old Del was when their father left home, and even the age difference between hi and Rodney. And that was all written by one person!

          So things like eg Season 6b, and goodness knows what else, are just attempts at making some kind of consistency out of what’s produced, but as that consistency was never something it was designed to have in the first place, and as opinions as to the rights or wrongs of these attempts will inevitably be based on unquantifiable things like individual preference, there’s no possibility of a universal consensus and no point in wasting energy trying to create or advocate one. It would be like building a statue out of jelly and expecting it not to collapse.

          There’s nothing on screen to prove or disprove anything conclusively when it comes to an argument like this. All there are are a number of potential indicators which can be taken any which way, hence there’s a number of possible theories, but, as mentioned, no possibility of a final universal consensus, because the basis of those theories are so open to disagreement.

          Do we know whether the third Doctor, or anyone else, ever told the second Doctor that Jamie and Zoe would have most of their memories of him wiped at a trial?

          No, and so we have no means of ever knowing. We can infer that he did. We can infer that he didn’t. There is no worthwhile argument to be had on that front, because there is no way of ever settling a question like that.

          Do we know whether the second Doctor was referring to events he had ben told about, or events he had experienced, in the Five Doctors scene with Jamie and Zoe?

          Again, there is no means of ever knowing. We can infer the former, we can infer the latter. We can not prove anything there, again, it can only be based on personal preference, if we want to have any opinion on that at all.

          Do we know whether the third Doctor in Spearhead From Space was set straight after The War Games? He’s wearing the same clothes, but does also have a wristwatch TARDIS homing device thing on his wrist, which his predecessor doesn’t seem to have had. Does it prove anything? Not really, there are always reasons you can come up with to cover anything like that.

          Are there any good grounds for thinking that any of the people involved in the series at that time had any intentions of an untelevised set of stories occurring between Seasons 6 and 7? Mostly no, because it was largely a fan theory developed years later to account for alleged continuity errors in 80s stories. Although I say largely because in fact TV Comic had already come up with an extra period of life for the Troughton Doctor for their comic strip, which they tried to tie in for Spearhead when the new series was on its way. The production team of the time did oversee and approve these products so may well have been aware of it, although that’s not to say it necessarily influenced them in any way.

          But there is a more important observation concerning the TV Comic strip. That being, that if a professional publication could run with an idea like this, for their own purposes, and apparently no-one at the BBC had any problem with it, then the Season 6B concept already had a life of its own that wasn’t dependent on fandom, and indeed still isn’t. If we accept that officially licensed products could do this, then that already outweighs fan speculations. I don’t mean continuity here, I don’t mean any questions of whether it “really happened” or not, I just mean in the realm of ideas. Concepts. The concept has existed for 43 years. Whether anyone wishes to unofficially incorporate it into the series’ own untelevised backstory is largely a matter of preference.

          It doesn’t matter to me what people prefer. It doesn’t matter what arguments anyone has, or what conclusions they choose to infer from what material is available. It doesn’t matter much to me what anyone intended at the time, as, given their later tendency to change their minds eg Terrance Dicks, with his novels, as it does help show that they themselves didn’t or don’t regard it as that important either. If Terrance Dicks, who co-wrote tHe War Games and wrote The Five Doctors, isn’t bothered about whether or not Season 6B ever happened, then neither am I.

        • Robert Dick  October 24, 2012

          I more meant the fact the Time Lords have the ability to scoop the second Doctor up to deal with Omega and then put him back when they supposedly (officially) don’t know where he is until The War Games. And he’s not concerned at any point that the Time Lords may keep him after he deals with Omega now that they’ve found him.

          • John Miller  October 24, 2012

            But those Time Lords scooping him are from the Pertwee era. Pertwee is exiled to Earth. His TARDIS has been deactivated. And all the TARDIS logs/records are recorded in the Time Lords databanks/Matrix/whatever they were calling it at that point. So the Time Lords is Troughton’s own era didn’t have a clue where/when he was, but the Time Lords in the Pertwee era had records of all the Doctor’s travels since he left Gallifrey. It is annoying that both the First and Second Doctors should have been alarmed at this development, but Three Doctors was explicitly stated as being about “the show as it is(1973), bot as it was”. By 1983, the idea that the Doctor had once been on the run, with no control whatsoever over his TARDIS would have seemed as bizarre as a Tennant /Smith fanboy being told that the Doctor must be definition be an eccentric, middle-aged character actor, and definitely not “sexy”.

          • John Miller  October 24, 2012

            “…not as it was”. Bleh!

  16. Jazza1971  October 19, 2012

    Superb. So many fun moments.

  17. Gavin Noble  October 19, 2012

    As a nine year old I thought that was brilliant. Imagine being that age and seeing all the Doctor’s (I wasn’t aware Tom had declined to appear in the episode at all back then) and so many monsters in one story. It was fun and exciting.

    I don’t feel the same about the plot now but I still get a lot of pleasure from watching it because it was intended to be a celebration of the series and it suceeds in that aim.

    Best bit for me as a kid was the Raston Warrior Robot and I think it still kicks ass now

    Can’t wait for Sue’s comments on the next story because I have to admit it is one of my guilty Who pleasures. Yes the faults are there to see but I find it a lot more fun to watch than some stories that other fans like so much.

    Oh, and we never got the Children In Need numbers in Yorkshire either – as someone else pointed out it was just certain regions that had them scrolling across the screen.

    • Paul Greaves  October 19, 2012

      I think 7/10 is fair. I have so much love for this story. The show was celebrating 20 consecutive years on air, which was no mean feat for a drama series that wasn’t a soap. Yes, we all know it has its faults but it was a birthday bash and none the worse for it. I was 10 when it aired and it was THE most exciting thing in the world. I bet I don’t get as excited about whatever it is Moffat does for the 50th.

      • Nick Mays  October 19, 2012

        I quite agree. I was a mere lad of 21 when this aired and, like many fans, I’d read the novelsiation the week before (in fact, I read a goodchunk of it on a train journey and… oh forget that, but it’s very ‘time and place’.) I annoyed the hell out of my girlfriend when we watched the Five Doctors a week later because I kept saying “Oooh, good bit coming up with the Cybermen” or “Hmmmm… that was different in the novel”. ;o)

        At the time though, I was more pissed off that JN-T had arranged for the special to be shown in the USA at a Convention on November 23rd, i.e. before the UK got it, because the Beeb decided to slap it on with ‘Children In Need’.

        So yep, all in all, it’s got its faults, Borusa’s actions show no logic, but it’s FUN! And back in the day, 20 years’ run for a drama series was a great achievement!

    • Ian Walker  October 19, 2012

      Totally agree, the RWR is one of the best monsters ever, and I’m so glad that Sue liked him.

      Hard to use for an enemy in a whole story, because it’s basically unstoppable, which means that for the heroes to survive would require something improbable/magic.

  18. chris-too-old-too-watch  October 19, 2012

    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.

    So are the rest of us Sue………

  19. Chris Orton  October 19, 2012

    I love the term “The thin Ricky Gervais”!

  20. Ryan Hall  October 19, 2012

    Cant believe Sue didnt mention the Cyberman throwing up !!!!! : D

    oh and the raston warrior robot went on to find work on Kylie minogue’s “Fever” world tour back in 2002 …true story.

    and just for sue…..

    • Gavin Noble  October 19, 2012

      Could it get work with Justin Bieber and One Direction and decapitate the f*****s as well?

  21. John G  October 19, 2012

    “He should mess his lines up a bit. That would make it more authentic. He’s too good an actor. Actually, I think I prefer him to William Hartnell. Is that bad?”

    It has been a disappointing feature of the experiment to me that Sue never really warmed to Hartnell, as I think he’s a fantastic Doctor. I can see what puts many people off him, but I don’t think the fluffed lines should be held against him. He was ill, after all, and given they were making episodes week-in, week-out for the vast majority of the year back then it’s no surprise he struggled a bit with lines – Pat Troughton also fluffed on several occasions, and yet he never gets criticised.

    Anyway, I think Sue’s score for this story is spot on. The plot was never going to be first-rate, given the number of Doctors and former companions involved, but it is a fun, nostalgic wallow, and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Hurndall actually does a pretty decent job as the first Doctor, though I think we can all thank our lucky stars that they decided to completely change the Doctor’s character and appearance at each regeneration, as recruiting Bill Hartnell lookalikes would have ensured the show did not last long beyond 1966! I’m not actually that bothered about Tom’s absence, as I fear he would have dominated too much if he had been involved. Glad Sue liked the Raston Warrior Robot – those scenes indicate JNT might have made a better director than producer…

    I think there is something quite poignant about the story’s celebratory atmosphere too, knowing with hindsight that things would soon start to go horribly wrong for the show. I do wonder if JNT came to the conclusion, looking back, that this would have been the right moment to leave…

    • Dave Sanders  October 19, 2012

      Dunno if that’s entirely fair… on the other hand, we’ve have had Caves Of Androzani a lot sooner if he had done.

    • John Miller  October 19, 2012

      Except that those “fluffs” were written into the scriptan as part of the character of a somewhat absentminded old man. Hartnell’s other roles of the day didn’t have that character, and he nailed those word-perfect.

      • John G  October 19, 2012

        Yes, I think some of the fluffs were deliberate, though I don’t think they all were. There is an uncomfortable moment in The Web Planet episode 1 where you can feel Hartnell frantically searching for the right line.

      • Kale Sy  October 19, 2012

        I don’t think they were scripted – I’ve never heard that before, and they certainly don’t *seem* scripted. Most of them are an actor remembering words wrongly, rather than an old man losing his train of thought, and I can’t imagine they’d write lines like that for him. There was deliberate ‘absent-minded’ writing in there too, of course, but the actual fluffed lines were all Billy.

        I would imagine the Doctor Who’s intense shooting schedule contributed a lot to this, which would probably explain why he was much smoother on other shows of the era where he played a less central role.

    • |Doug  October 19, 2012

      Completely agree. As for “Nicol: I’m not watching any William Hartnell with you. You can forget it”, Nic, you break my heart. I thought you were a young lady of good taste… 🙁


    • DPC  October 19, 2012

      The last I’d read, JNT wanted to leave after season 20, heard of “The Five Doctors” special, wanted to make it, and the BBC said that he could make it on the condition he produce season 21… The more I’ve read over time only made me think he’d eventually get pigeonholed… 🙁

      And, yeah, JNT – who did direct more than just the Raston scene in his tenure on the show – would have made a first-rate director as well! But, with production, he got things made within budget and that’s what was wanted.

      • Lewis  October 21, 2012

        What else did JNT direct?

        • Wholahoop  October 24, 2012

          Underwater scenes in Curse of Adric, whoops sorry, Fenric IIRC

  22. BWT  October 19, 2012

    Some great comments here. First there was,

    Nicol: “Death by PowerPoint.”


    Nicol: “Oh, mother! What’s happened to you?”, which would make a great t-shirt.

    And then…

    Sue: “He’s suddenly wearing a cloak. Where did he get that from?”
    Me: “The transmat beam has a cloaking device.”

    …is just so bad it’s good. However…

    “The Second and Third Doctors gently rib each other. But forget about my slash fiction…”

    Has scarred me forever!

    • Robert Dick  October 19, 2012

      >>Sue: “He’s suddenly wearing a cloak. Where did he get that from?”
      Me: “The transmat beam has a cloaking device.”

      …is just so bad it’s good. However…<<

      It's an old fandom joke that one. Brilliantly Terrance Dicks tries to relate it to Peter Davison on the DVD commentary but ends it with something along the lines of "and the fans all say it must have had a black cloak dispenser.".

      The Dicks/Davison commentary is one of the best and well worth listening to. I was always more of a fan of listening in to a conversation on a DVD commentary as opposed to the interview-led change-the-cast-every-episode ones we get now.

  23. David McKee  October 19, 2012

    This was one I’ve been looking forward to as I love The Five Doctors. Watched it as a kid and its my go to Who story for lazy Sundays even now. Yes it’s flawed but it is rather good fun. Nostalgia helps me overlook the bad stuff. Shame Sue didn’t watch the special edition for Sarah Jane’s best line “Doctor, missed!” I think 7/10 is fair. Personally I’m more of an 8 or 9 but then, you know, nostalgia

  24. Wholahoop  October 19, 2012

    Me: Stick around, Nic. There’s a maths riddle coming up soon.

    Which remains a riddle to this day. It says something if the plot point cannot even be explained in the novelisation properly

    • Andrew Bowman  October 19, 2012

      Given that my maths knowledge is limited at best, as is about to demonstrated, I always understood that all shapes, even squares, had a ratio. Even then, all shapes, even squares, could contain smaller circles, thereby allowing the application of pi. Equally, a large circle could contain many squares, the centre to diameter of such equaling pi. Therefore, the application should be fairly straightforward, providing you keep within the ratio line of the circle as you imagine it. I may very well have got that wrong, but that’s how I’ve justified it. In any case, according to Mark Strickson on the DVD commentary, the actual theory does make sense, as he knows about these things now. As I say, however, my maths knowledge isn’t great.

      • PolarityReversed  October 21, 2012

        The Pythagorean limit approximation of pi comes from the idea of placing polygons with ever increasing sides both inside and outside a circle. The more sides to the polygons, the closer you get to a value you will never be able to define with total accuracy – the area of a perfect circle. Which can’t exist in applied maths, but is a core principle in pure maths. (Much like the square root of minus Adric.)

        How that is supposed to help with Cyberman hopscotch is something Aristotle, Pythagoras and Einstein couldn’t explain, let alone Doctors 1 through 5.

        • Wholahoop  October 21, 2012

          Unfortunately my copy of The Five Doctors novel is somewhere in the UK while I am here in Aus but my recollection is of sometime later the 5th Doctor explaining to Tegan the application of pi as being dependent on you seeing where the first beam landed and then you might be able to guess the safe route. About as well thought through as one of the Master’s plans I reckon

          • John Miller  October 21, 2012

            Here: “So, using the first hundred terms of pi as co-ordinates – Yes, that’s it, it must be. ” So, it’s not just Square 3, Square 1 etc. also “Tegan never did understand quite how the ‘safe’’ sequence worked, even when the Doctor (her Doctor) explained it to her later. All she could gather was that if you could observe exactly where the lightning bolts struck each time, and if you could then carry out some terrifyingly complex mathematical calculation at blinding speed, you might then be able to work out a way of crossing the second part of the board without setting off the trap. ”

            Which is all another way of saying that Dicks himself didn’t really know.

          • Andrew Bowman  October 21, 2012

            Of course, the application could be abstract, as the circles are not actually visible. Wibbly-wobbly mathsy-wathsy, if you will.

          • Frankymole  October 21, 2012

            I bet Terrance Dicks doesn’t know how a real Transmat works either. And Ian Marter probably never really knew how Jethryk allows warp travel! Frauds.

          • John Miller  October 22, 2012

            But this isn’t Dicks explaining how the TARDIS works. The whole point was that it is a logical puzzle that the characters need to solve to survive. Some die, others make it across the board. And there’s no sensible explanation for the viewer to go “Ah”” like there was with the Doctor in “Dalek Invasion Of Earth” or “Pyramids Of Mars” or “Death To The Daleks” etc. It’s just “Pi”. Yet nothing that suggests pi is in any way relevant. Dicks had a chance to clarify things with the novelisation, but tells us “Tegan never did understand” and mentioning paying attention to the lightning bolts. But once the lightning starts it’s already too late. So basically it’s a logical puzzle that’s too complicated for humans to understand. So much so that even the writer hasn’t got a clue. That could be Rassilon setting a particularly hard puzzle. But it’s more likely Dicks couldn’t come up with anything better. “If you can’t entertain them, confuse them!” Marc Platt was no doubt paying attention.

      • solar penguin  October 22, 2012

        It’s simple. You just have to multiply Pi by the numbers of the years the the UNIT era took place in. Then it all makes perfect sense.

        • Nick Mays  October 22, 2012

          Ah yes, but surely you also have to factor in the year in which Season 6B took place as well? And then borrow 3 from the aborted Season 22 stories…

          • PolarityReversed  October 22, 2012

            The span of the UNIT era is far from a unit, it’s a genuinely irrational number. You see…

          • Wholahoop  October 24, 2012

            Plus you add Shada with Tom Baker, subtract Shada webcast and take away the first number you thought of and there you have it

  25. JonH  October 19, 2012

    One of those niggling thoughts that has occurred to me is how come they transmitted a whopping long story like this in the middle of Children in Need? Seems like a mad idea, but at least it’d give Wogan a rest.

    • tom_harries  October 20, 2012

      They needed something big to kick off Children in Need (was it the first one? I can’t remember) and it was on the same week as the anniversary; it was probably also the only space in the schedule that week for a 90 minute show.

      • Leo  October 20, 2012

        The first Children In Need was in 1980. They did pause that one to show some other scheduled programmes for the duration. There was an episode of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, for example.

        • John Williams  October 20, 2012

          Children in Need was still evolving at that point and hadn’t yet become quite the dominant schedule-filler it is now. The first Children in Need wasn’t that much more than a series of links slotted in between the normal Friday programmes although they did throw in a bonus episode of Dallas to tempt the viewers in. Things were pretty similar in 1983. It was also quite regional – in the Midlands I seemed to see more of Alan Towers than Terry Wogan until towards the end of the evening.

          If anyone is interested, the other programmes shown that night along with The Five Doctors were Knots Landing and James Last in Concert.

          • John Williams  October 20, 2012

            Another notable Doctor Who-related Children in Need was in 1981 when Beryl Reid was a guest. She was asked several times about her forthcoming appearance in Doctor Who and thankfully didn’t give away the fact that the Cybermen were involved. Still I suppose it would have been more astonishing if she’d even remembered what the Cybermen were called.

          • John Miller  October 20, 2012

            Presumably the 1993 and 2011 Children in Needs weren’t notable for Doctor Who fans?

          • Dave Sanders  October 20, 2012

            1993: define ‘notable’.

          • Dave Sanders  October 20, 2012

            I think ‘notorious’ is the word you’ve got in mind.

          • John Williams  October 20, 2012

            I meant notable other than the bleeding obvious ones.

  26. Paul Mc Elvaney  October 19, 2012

    Ah, the Five Doctors. The first classic series story I ever saw, I remember being utterly charmed by Troughton. Totally agree with the comments that Ian and Barbara should have made a comeback, I would love to see their reaction to the other Doctors! Here’s hoping we get something similar next year for the 50th. I can imagine Smith and McCoy getting along like a house on fire. Tennant would probably just spend the whole story going all fanboy over Tom…

    • DPC  October 19, 2012

      Aye! Ian and Barbara would have been shocked…

      But I thought Tennant was a fanboy all over Davison?

      • Paul Mc Elvaney  October 20, 2012

        That’s true, but I’d imagine he might pass out if he met Tom’s Doctor. Actually seeing Smith and Tom together would be very interesting too.

        • bethhigdon  October 22, 2012

          Ten will fanboy over anybody though. Show him Dodo and he’d just give her a big grin and hug and ramble on and on about how he’s not seen her for ages and how wonderful she was, ect. ect. 😛

          • Nick Mays  October 23, 2012

            Surely Dodo’s dead though? (Who Killed Kennedy?)

            In fact, you could say she’s as dead as a…

  27. James Coleman  October 19, 2012

    No comment about Kamelion then?

    • John G  October 19, 2012

      No, I wonder how long it will take!

  28. DPC  October 19, 2012

    “Sue: No, Nicol, they’re men. It’s all unspoken and beneath the surface with men.”


    On initial viewing, my PBS station had aired season 19 but not 20 and this was shown on the 23rd… so I had no idea who Turlough was or where he came from… then they re-aired Tom Baker’s era so it’d be another year before I’d find out the whole scoop… 🙁

    I liked Hurndall’s interpretation as well – he, if I recall, was on record saying he did not want to merely clone Hartnell, but to do an interpretation of Doc1… he was right. I loved Hartnell, but Hurndall was an inspired choice…

    Another awesome review, thanks y’all!

    • charles yoakum  October 22, 2012

      absolutely! I enjoyed seeing an interpretation of the character of the first Doctor, not a william hartnell impersonator. Just as we’ve seen the actors re-doing Star Trek characters, Kirk, Spock, rather than aping Shatner and Nimoy. Now, lets face it, I’m not sure that ANYONE is capable to doing a second Doctor justice, or a fourth. Patrick and Tom are utterly unique and fascinating individuals, and they make the idea of someone interpreting, say, the fourth Doctor, almost a nightmare brief. But it could be done. Might not be done successfully however.

  29. Tim Cook  October 19, 2012

    Radio Times readers would have been expecting a Dalek-K9 showdown…and couldn’t we have seen a bit more of the Yeti? I think, at the time, people were more interested in seeing old monsters rather than old companions.

    • Jamie  October 19, 2012

      I remember there was a Radio Times strike around that time, so it wasn’t on general sale Nationwide.
      Heck,being based in London I had to buy one from John Fitton, which I believe was the North West edition.

  30. Jamie  October 19, 2012

    Never mind “Where’s his car?”
    The Third Doctor lost a cape but gained a bow-tie!

    • Kale Sy  October 20, 2012

      “Don’t think of it as losing a cape. Think of it as gaining a bow tie”.

  31. Fuschia Begonia  October 19, 2012

    The external bits on Orion & Hurndall in the garden were filmed at Plas Brondanw in North Wales. It’s just up the road from Portmeirion and was built by the same bloke. Nice place for a visit…

  32. John G  October 19, 2012

    One point I forgot to make earlier – this is one of the best showings for the Ainley Master, who gets something a bit different to do and feels like a slightly more substantial character than the one-dimensional panto villain he was normally condemned to be. I suppose it helped that Uncle Tewwance was on writing duties…

    • Wholahoop  October 24, 2012


      My favourite Ainley Master scripts are those by Dicks and Holmes where his pantomime cackle/giggle seems to be minimised. My favourite Ainley line from Robert Holmes “Corporeally Madam I am not present”. Maybe they had a better understanding of the Master?

      • John G  October 24, 2012

        Yes, I think they did, and it’s not surprising given that they both had a hand in creating the Master.

  33. Matt Sharp  October 20, 2012

    Sue: Maddened it? Who talks like that?

    A missing scene from the novelisation, The Three Commentaries:

    ‘The chair creaked as the stocky, florid faced gentleman leaned forward, frowning at the flickering screen before him.

    “That’s Saward again,’ he sighed, exasperated yet again at his successor’s notorious tin-ear for dialogue. The man with the pleasant, open face seated nearby remained silent, merely rolling his eyes heavenward in sympathy.’

    • Dave Sanders  October 21, 2012

      That’s not a Terrence Dicks novelisation, that’s Nev Fountain. 🙂

  34. Tempusfugit  October 20, 2012


    I’m from Spain, I just discovered your web some days ago and it makes me laugh my ****ing ass off! Since I’m watching the classic series (just reached the end of season 22 by now), I feel identified with Sue’s comments, as I’m a first watcher of classic series too! (I started watching the new ones some time ago and then decided to watch the classic ones too)

    As for this episode, I love the multi doctor stories 🙂
    I didn’t found much sense in puting a single Dalek with first doctor in that corridor, I was like WTH, did Borusa just sucked it from skaro or any random planed and put it there with the doctor and susan? and it wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box, wasn’t it? it just blow up itself! But anyway, it was fun to watch.

    And seems like Borusa sucked some cybermen too LOL. I don’t like their voices, they’re too “human” IMHO, I preferred thousand times the cyber voices during Troughton era (tomb of Cybermen and so…), these were the best cybermen voices ever! (I’m watching the classic series in English version subtitled, I just have to say that Spanish Dalek voices in the new series just SUCK!)

    I liked Tegan changing her clothes, I was becoming VERY tired of her wearing always the same clothes. I’m now watching 6th doctor and Peri series and shechanges her clothes every time, good for her 🙂

    Sue: Does he play the Doctor Who theme music on it? That would be funny.

    I just LOLed myself with that XDXD 😀

    I’ll keep reading you!

    best regards from Barcelona (will the doctor take any companion to the planet Barcelona any day? It’ll be VERY funny)

  35. Ollie  October 21, 2012

    I think there’s so much here anyone who is a fan of the show is going to like something. But in hindsight it could have been so much better.

    Which I suppose is the case with half of the series but even so…

  36. Cracked Polystyrene Man  October 21, 2012

    I agree the direction on this story borders on sheer incompetence at times.

    Was the Pi chessboard scene even rehearsed? Hurndall doesn’t seem to know what the hell he’s doing when it comes to crossing the floor. I know studio time can be tight but he doesn’t even try to mix up his steps.

    Even worse is the scene with Sarah meeting the third Doctor. Any director with half a brain would have realised the scene wasn’t working as scripted and would have quickly just shot a scene of Sarah walking out of the fog and coming across the Doctor driving along. Pertwee could have slammed on the brakes as she stumbled out in front of him if they wanted a bit of drama.

    • Matt Sharp  October 21, 2012

      Yes… I think it’s only in a Peter Moffatt directed story that the biggest explosion in Doctor Who’s history (and this must be a BIG explosion) would end up unremarked upon.

    • John Miller  October 21, 2012

      The Doctor DID cross the board using PI. But as a three-dimensional being, you were unable to properly experience his five-dimensional crossing of said board.

      • Nick Mays  October 22, 2012

        I can’t help wondering if Terrance Dicks ever thought that his Deadly Chessboard Death Device Riddle Solved By Pi would be the subject of such intense debate 29 years after this fun romp of a story was screened? I think we’re getting into “And Bawwy said to me…” tewwitory here… ;o)

        Perhaps the Moff will bring the Chessboard of Death back for the 50th anniversary special and multiple Adric clones can be set to run across it and get fried.

        (Screeches from 40/50 something fanboy viewers: “Gotcha! That’s because I wasn’t chosen as Adric!” Nyeeerrr!”)

        • PolarityReversed  October 23, 2012

          Well, I’m not a fan of multi-Doctor stories – they seem a bit panto to me. Maybe that’s the territory of the whole show. Still, the pressure to do a many-doctored thing for the anniversary must be immense, and I’ll probably just have to sit there and try to care about the baddies materialising “behind you!”

          A propos the chessboard, I don’t really give a Rassilon’s hat about the logic behind the puzzle, and it’s such a minor element in this “romp” anyway. But I reckon Dr Who is at its best when the solution to a problem, large or small, is woven into the story, hidden in plain sight but you don’t twig. Parachuting in a dose of: “reversing the polarity”; sonic screwdriver; K9; getting everyone to hold hands and think nice thoughts so it never happened; or “oh, it’s pi” is cheap, lazy and akin to the Flash Gordon cliffhangers with inserted scenes.

          Sure, the “do something clever” can be a bit huh, this is sci-fi/sci-fant (delete as applicable) after all, but I find it more satisfying when there’s at least something for my pitiful 4-dimensional, 21st century intellect to cling to.

          We’re all doomed. The universe, all universes, in fact the whole of reality is buggered. Even the orchestra … is doomed. But never fear – I’ve got this nurgle gun in my pocket that I’ve never told you about before. And with a single bound, they were free! In fact, they were never doomed in the first place, because none of it ever happened.

          Who the hell wanted to be Adric? You wanted to be the Doctor, didn’t you?

          • Jazza1971  October 23, 2012

            Best. Post. Ever. 🙂

          • Thomas  October 23, 2012

            Just sayin’, Three Doctors is legitimately great as a story. Re-watched it a week or two ago and was surprised of its quality (I wasn’t too huge on it on first viewing). Five Doctors is fun as a celebration piece, but Three Doctors succeeds both on a celebratory level and a story level.

          • Jazza1971  October 23, 2012

            I totally agree that “3” was a far better story than “5”, but then it had a much easier task. It only tried to take a snap shot of 10 years, rather than 20. Plus, “3” laid down the expectations for “5”, it’s anniversary so you have to have a multi Doctor story sort of thing. Of course this makes the 50th anniversary a nightmare since even more passed Doctor’s have passed…

          • Nick Mays  October 23, 2012

            “Who the hell wanted to be Adric? You wanted to be the Doctor, didn’t you?”

            Well DUH! Of course I did! And when I was 6, 7 years old, I used to play Dr Who in my Dad’s square black shed that looked a bit like the Tardis. My two cousins played Jamie and Zoe, then later Liz and the Brigadier. I think I’m in good company – a certain David T wanted to be the Doctor and that got him into acting… and lo and behold, eventually, he was the Doctor!

            Dunno anyone personally who wanted to be Adric, but I bet someone did, given all the fanboy vitriol the poor sod’s got over the years.

        • Cracked Polystyrene Man  October 23, 2012

          I don’t have a problem with the Doctor working out the solution involving pi – for all we know it’s based on some ancient Time Lord maths riddle which is why it’s application to the chessboard seems perplexing to us.

          I have a problem with Hurndall working it all out then just strolling casually across the floor. You can justify it by saying that the route he takes just happens to look virtually straight this time – but it looks odd and momentarily jolts the viewer out of the whole drama of the scene. Why didn’t the director tell Hurndall to take the odd sideways step?

          • PolarityReversed  October 24, 2012

            “some ancient Time Lord maths riddle … application to the chessboard”

            The 8 Queens problem, praps?
            Coat. (And tin hat.)

          • PolarityReversed  October 24, 2012

            Just had a thought. Are you supposed to celebrate a 50th anniversary when you’ve spent 15 of those years acrimoniously divorced?

  37. Robert Dick  October 24, 2012

    “Dunno anyone personally who wanted to be Adric, but I bet someone did, given all the fanboy vitriol the poor sod’s got over the years”

    I did. I never wanted to be The Doctor. I was at the right age when Adric was in the show and because there was a boy in the TARDIS that’s who I wanted to be, I could go off and travel with the Doctor. Maybe if I’d been slightly older or younger and getting into the show with no boy in the TARDIS I’d’ve wanted to be the Doctor.

    • Nick Mays  October 24, 2012

      Being serious now… that’s a good point Robert. I remember an interview or a feature in DWM some years ago when the writer (or interviewee) put the point that the Doctor appeals to the adventurous child in all of us, especially if we’re shy, or fat, or gay or in any way ‘different’ to our peers and he offers a chance of adventure, excitement, a way out of mundane day to day life and petty minded people. Above all, the Doctor is an outsider himself, he knows what it feels like to be ‘different’.

      When I was a kid, if I really stopped to think, I’d realised I’d never be as clever as the Doctor, so being a companion on his travels would be the next best thing.

      One thing the series has shown us over the years – particularly the new series which has more of an emotional theme – the Doctor DOES change people, and it’s usually for the better, he makes them realise their potential and more. That’s a very positive message and I think that’s why the show – and the character – appeals so much to so many people.

    • Frankymole  October 24, 2012

      I only did O-level and then A-level maths because of season 18-19. Partly because of Adric (and the Doctor being a scientist), and partly because of Christopher H Bidmead’s stories. So the show did do some good, of sorts.

  38. Simon Harries  October 24, 2012

    I can’t believe I just spent 20 minutes reading all the comments above…

    • Cracked Polystyrene Man  October 27, 2012

      A feature length anniversary story, packed with guest stars, celebrating twenty years of a television classic and what do we here get bogged down discussing? The mathematical application of PI.

      Be proud of yourselves people – the age of the nerd has truly arrived and we reign supreme!

      • PolarityReversed  October 28, 2012

        +3.14159265 (roughly)

        Oh come on, someone had to do it. Didn’t they. Didn’t they?

  39. Paul Mudie  October 29, 2012

    Another cracking blog entry, and I think Sue’s score is perfectly fair.

    It was a shame that Tom Baker sat this one out, but I can understand his reasons. I wonder if he regrets the decision now that he’s a bit happier to be involved in all things Who?