Tuesday, 15 January 2013

65: The Three Doctors - Certainly A Celebration

Written by: Bob Baker and Dave Martin.
Companions: The Doctor, The Doctor, The Doctor, Jo Grant, Brigadier, Sergeant Benton.
Monsters/Villains: Omega, Jell guards, Time Lords.
Brief Synopsis: The Time Lords send the First and Second incarnations of the Doctor to aid the Third in stopping the infamous time lord Omega from causing universal destruction.
Rating: 4.5/10.

So here we are in the 50th anniversary year and I'm looking back to 1973 and the 10th Anniversary story, The Three Doctors. This one isn't the best, but it's certainly a celebration; it almost feels like a party. The Three Doctors boasts many impressive traits: there's yet another new TARDIS interior redesign, we're introduced to the Time Lord figure Omega, we learn a lot more about the Time Lords and their origins, we see the end of the third Doctor's exile to earth, but most excitingly, and as the title suggests The Three Doctors is the first multi-Doctor story. Which if you hadn't worked it out means, in this case: three incarnations of the Doctor all in one place and one time.

Unfortunately like most multi-Doctor stories, we don't quite get what's promised by the title; this one is more 'The Two Doctors.' Fans we're thrilled to see the return of Patrick Troughton to his role as the Second Doctor, and yes William Hartnell does make an appearance but only a disembodied one on a screen in the TARDIS.

The Time Lords with their weird circular note paper.
The Doctor should never meet another incarnation of himself as one of the Time Lords in this story remarks, "it goes against the first law of time!" So what disaster exactly would deem this extreme transgression necessary? Here is where the story gets interesting: We learn that the way that the Time Lords gained their mastery of time was owing to the efforts of Omega. 

Omega's costume is bad ass.
Omega was a steller engineer who caused a star to go super nova which enabled the Time Lords to harness enough energy to achieve time travel. Omega was believed dead but in actuality was pulled through the black hole created by the super nova where we lived as lord of the world of antimatter. The Time Lords call on three incarnations of the Doctor when Omega drains their power and threatens to destroy the universe. Fair enough.

Troughton and Pertwee. Brilliant!
So we get to see Pertwee and Troughton interact. Which is wonderful. They fight and bicker and work excellently as a comic duo. I can't help but wonder though: wouldn't you be more upset to know that at some point your version of yourself is going to effectively die and you'll be another person? Troughton doesn't even seem to consider it. The bickering is sorted out when the First Doctor gets on the scene, well sort of...

RIP William Hartnell.
Sadly this story would mark William Hartnell's last appearance as the Doctor and his final ever performance as an actor before his death in 1975. Hartnell was too ill to play a more active role in the story. Instead his scenes were filmed separately while he read his lines from cue cards. The script was rewritten with the explanation that the First Doctor was stuck in a "time eddy" due to the power drain caused by Omega.

I can't help but question: how ambiguous is the Time Lord's explanation of the 'power loss?' "Cosmic energy is being drained away, leaving the Time Travel facility in danger. Unless the energy losses can be stopped the whole fabric of space time will be destroyed." Ummm, why? Also why does it have to be the Doctor(s) who come to the Time Lords aid? Because: "No one [else] can be spared. Everyone is needed to combat the energy losses." Oh, okay! That makes sense...

These are called Gell Guards. I have no idea why.
UNIT HQ is assaulted by monsters that look like ear wax. Eventually The Doctor, the Doctor, Jo, the Brigadier, Benton, Bessie, the TARDIS and UNIT HQ itself all end up in the universe of antimatter, dragged there by some matter/antimatter-combo-time-bridge-organism-thing. Each one undergoing a conversion process allowing them to survive in the anti-matter world, which, of course, is a quarry! It feels like the regulars have gone on holiday, but they let Benton make the reservations. 

"I'm fairly sure that's Cromer."
The Doctor is brought before Omega, whom he respects and reveres, and knows from legend. Omega's reason for bringing the Doctor to his domain is simple. Someone must remain there in order to maintain the universe of antimatter or he cannot leave so he wants the Doctor to take his place.

Omega/Doctor silent disco, sexual wrestling match?
Jo then comes up with their escape plan. The Doctors' combined wills are greater than that of Omega so they could overpower him. Then there is this mega weird silent, black lit, sexual disco wrestling match between Pertwee and the dark side of Omega's mind. It's p-retty strange. The Doctor loses and agrees to take Omega's place, until he learns quite shockingly that underneath Omega's protective clothing there is literally nothing left of him. He is only alive because he wills it so.

The day is saved in a rather odd way. The whole fabric of space time is saved by a recorder. The recorder was inside the forcefield generator on the TARDIS and wasn't processed for the anti-matter world. Omega knocks it out of the Doctor's hands, the recorder falls out of the generator and all the matter and anti-matter atoms combine and annihilate everything.

Everyone is returned to their proper times and place and the epilogue concludes with the Time Lords sending the Doctor a new dematerialisation circuit and restoring his knowledge of time travel which neatly brings to an end the three year story arc of his exile to earth.

This is all well and good, but I can't help but feel like nothing has really happened. The Doctor or even Doctors don't save the day, it's all a bit of a fluke. It's been great learning more about the Time Lords and their sordid beginnings, and getting to see Troughton and Hartnell again, but I can't help but feel in all this jubilation someone forgot to write an actual story. It's a great idea to bring all the Doctors together in a story, but if we go by later examples one can't help but wonder if this orgy of Doctors is somewhat of a poisoned chalice? However, whatever you may think of multi-doctor stories, it can't be denied that The Three Doctors is certainly a celebration.

I wonder if we'll see a multi-Doctor story for the 50th Anniversary and if it'll be any good if we do... Also don't forget to check out my 2 year Bloggiversary Giveaway! There are some great prizes up for grabs. 

Join me next time for the rather wonderful story, The Carnival of Monsters.

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