‘THE FIVE DOCTORS’
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Let’s play the game of Rassilon! – Celebrating 20 years of ‘Doctor Who’
25th November 1983
I really wish that I can go back to 1983 to experience the celebrations of 20 years of ‘Doctor Who’! There was a lot happening back then with breakfast channels; news reports; conventions, etc. It must have been heaven for the fans who have happy memories (or not, as is the case e.g. Longleat).
Of course the main event was the 20th anniversary special called ‘The Five Doctors’. This, I loved! ‘The Five Doctors’ is a tremendous celebratory adventure and it’s one of my favourite stories! It was a story that got me to knowing more about the show’s history, as I was a newcomer to ‘Doctor Who’.
Be warned though! From the title, it doesn’t mean that there are actually the first five Doctors from ‘Doctor Who’ in this. As David Tennant states in a DVD commentary; it is ‘three Doctors, stock footage and a bloke in a wig’. I will explain more about what I mean about this later on in my review.
I purchased the original 1999 DVD of ‘The Five Doctors’ containing the Special Edition version of the story. That DVD had few special features on it, except for a guide booklet and a special music feature. I saw the DVD over one Christmas period back in 2006 and really enjoyed it again and again!
In 2008, 2Entertain re-released ‘The Five Doctors’ on DVD to celebrate its 25th anniversary. It was re-released as a 2-disc edition containing two versions of the story. There’s the original 1983 version on Disc 1 and the Special Edition on Disc 2. I prefer the Special Edition version, as it has more scenes.
I’ve now had the 25th anniversary DVD cover of ‘The Five Doctors’ signed by Peter Davison at the ‘Science of the Time Lords’ event in Leicester, January 2016 and by Mark Strickson and Paul Jerricho at the ‘Fantom Films at Memorabilia’ event in Birmingham, March 2016. I also had signed photos of Turlough in ‘The Five Doctors’ signed by Mark Strickson and of the Castellan signed by Paul Jerricho.
‘The Five Doctors’ is a 90/100-minute anniversary special by Terrance Dicks. It was produced by John Nathan-Turner and was directed by Peter Moffatt. ‘The Five Doctors’ is a story worth celebrating ‘Doctor Who’; especially since we’ve now moved on to celebrate over 50 years of the show’s history!
I really love how the story opens with a clip of William Hartnell as the First Doctor making his famous speech to Susan in ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’. This was a great way to start the story, since it pays tribute and homage to the actor who’d first played the role of the Doctor back at the very beginning.
The story begins and we find Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor with his companions Tegan and Turlough. They’re on the Eye of Orion and hope to spend some quality time there. But the Doctor gets a twinge of cosmic angst that grows worse as his previous lives get stolen and taken out of time.
With help from Tegan and Turlough, the Doctor sets the TARDIS off to Gallifrey. They find themselves in the Death Zone, a place where deadly games are played to the amusement of the Time Lords. The Doctor faces his past, as his past selves and his companions come to play the games.
This was the second time I’d seen Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor. It was great to watch him and to see him as the current Doctor for this 20th anniversary special. Peter excels in this, as I loved his meeting with the First Doctor in this and him getting into the heart of things with the Time Lords on Gallifrey.
The First Doctor returns, but he’s now played by Richard Hurndall (to replace William Hartnell). Seeing Richard Hurndall as the First Doctor was interesting. It’s clear he’s not William Hartnell but he brings the spirit of the First Doctor. Despite not looking like him, I was able to suspend my disbelief.
Patrick Troughton returns to play the Second Doctor. I had seen Patrick’s Doctor before in ‘The Invasion’. For me, it was a sheer delight to see Patrick’s Doctor again. He hasn’t lost his quick wit and charm in this and he’s still very funny and reassuring as ever. I enjoyed his scenes with the Brigadier.
This was the first time I’d seen Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor. I enjoyed watching him in this, driving his car Bessie and when he reunites with Sarah Jane. I also enjoyed him facing the Master in this tale and him and Sarah Jane facing the Raston Warrior robot and escaping hordes of Cybermen.
Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor appears in this, technically speaking. I’d only seen Tom before in ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ and didn’t know that he refused to take part in the anniversary special. Tom appears as film footage from ‘Shada’ with Lalla Ward’s Romana and punts on the Cann in Cambridge.
Eventually all the Doctors (except Tom) meet up in the tomb of Rassilon in the Dark Tower. It was great to see these Doctors interacting with each other. I do love the moment when Doctors 1, 2 and 3 try to set Doctor 5 free from the villain’s control by putting their minds to it and make them as one.
Watching the Doctor’s companions in this story was also a great pleasure! It is a shame that they couldn’t get all the companions to appear. Certainly companions like Sarah Sutton as Nyssa (who’s my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ companion) and Katy Manning as Jo Grant were worthy to be featured in this anniversary special.
Janet Fielding as Tegan is with Peter Davison’s Doctor. She gets to take part in the adventure, as she joins the First Doctor. It was interesting to watch Tegan, who I’d seen for a second time after ‘Earthshock’. Not sure about the footwear she wears for those rugged conditions of the Death Zone.
This was the first time I encountered Mark Strickson as Turlough, who is also a companion to Doctor 5. It took a while for me to realise what a dark and shifty character Turlough was, as I found him pleasant at first. He doesn’t get to have many scenes in this story, as he’s mostly stuck in the TARDIS.
So does Carole Ann Ford as Susan, the first companion and granddaughter to Doctor 1. I’d seen Susan before in ‘The Beginning’ DVD box set and had seen her leave in ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’. She doesn’t get much to do, but I did enjoy it when she’s reunited with her grandfather as Doctor 1.
It was also great to see Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier. I’d only just seen him in ‘The Invasion’. The Brig pairs up with Doctor 2 and together they go into a cave; face a Yeti and eventually end up in the tomb of Rasillon. I did like the Brigadier’s line about the Doctors: “Wonderful chap! All of them!”
It was equally lovely to see Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith, who I’d seen already in ‘School Reunion’ and ‘Genesis of the Daleks’. She’s so surprised by why the Doctor is Jon Pertwee and not Tom Baker. I enjoyed it when the Doctor and Sarah Jane faced Cybermen, the Raston robot and all.
Lalla Ward as Romana also appears in this story, although it’s actually stock footage from ‘Shada’ with Tom Baker in this. This was literally the first time I’d seen Lalla Ward’s Romana in this ‘Doctor Who’ story. It would take a while for me to get to know Romana and who she was during the series.
There are also cameos of other companions in this. They’re either ghosts from the past or fleeting appearances. There’s K-9 (voiced by John Leeson); Richard Franklin as Cpt. Mike Yates and Caroline John as Liz Shaw for Doctor 3; and Frazer Hines as Jamie and Wendy Padbury as Zoe for Doctor 2.
The rest of the guest cast for ‘The Five Doctors’ are members of the High Council of Time Lords. They are as follows. There’s Phillip Latham as President Borusa; Paul Jericho as the Castellan (who appeared in ‘Arc of Infinity’) – “No! Not the mind probe!” – and Dinah Sheridan as Chancellor Flavia.
A Dalek makes an appearance in this anniversary special. It chases the First Doctor and Susan down a lot of corridors, shouting “Exterminate!” before it eventually gets blown up by its own gunfire. We get to see the inside of a Dalek for the first time, with the mutant creature wriggling inside its casing.
The Cybermen also appear in this story. These are the ‘Earthshock’ Cybermen with their Cyber Leader (played by David Banks) who says “Excellent!” a lot. They don’t do well, as lots get blown up by the Raston Warrior Robot and they fall foul in an alliance with the Master who leads them astray.
The Raston Warrior Robot is an inspired creation by Terrance Dicks. The ‘perfect killing machine ever devised’ that kills you when it senses any movement and moves like lightning. It’s a frightening creation and there’s an exciting and violent sequence where the Raston Warrior Robot kills off the Cybermen.
This story was also the first time I saw Anthony Ainley as the Master! I didn’t know who the Master was until I discovered he was an evil Time Lord and the Doctor’s enemy. Anthony Ainley is tremendous as the Master. I love his elegant evil and when he chuckles, full of mischief and delight.
There’s also a Yeti that makes an appearance in this story. It threatens Doctor 2 and the Brigadier in the cave. The Yeti appeared twice in ‘Doctor Who’ in the classic stories ‘The Abominable Snowmen’ and ‘The Web of Fear’. It was great to see the Yeti in this, especially for the 20th anniversary special.
The DVD special features of the 25th anniversary Special Edition DVD are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s a commentary on the original 1983 version of the story by Carole Ann Ford, Elisabeth Sladen, Mark Strickson and Nicholas Courtney. There’s also an Easter Egg commentary by…David Tennant, new series producer Phil Collinson and new series script/writer Helen Raynor. I love both DVD commentaries!
There’s also a ‘Celebrations’ documentary that focuses on the making of ‘The Five Doctors’ and the 20th anniversary celebrations with behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews. There’s an isolated music option by Peter Howell and an info-text commentary option on the original 1983 version of the story to enjoy. There are also trailers and continuity announcements; a photo gallery of the story and a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story.
On Disc 2, there’s a commentary on the Special Edition version of the story by Peter Davison and writer Terrance Dicks. There’s an isolated music option by Peter Howell and an info-text commentary option for the Special Edition version of the story to enjoy. There’s also ‘The Ties That Bind Us’ documentary that focuses on the continuity elements featured in ‘The Five Doctors’ story.
There’s ‘Five Doctors, One Studio’ that features behind-the-scenes footage; ‘(Not So) Special Effects’ that focuses on the special effects; out-takes and a selection of publicity clips from ‘Blue Peter’, ‘Nationwide’, ‘Saturday Superstore’ and ‘Breakfast Time’. There’s an Easter Egg to be found on this disc. There’s also a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Invasion of Time’ with Tom Baker.
‘The Five Doctors’ is a tremendous anniversary special to celebrate 20 years of ‘Doctor Who’. This story has a legacy of its own and has continued to provide a line of anniversary specials such as ‘The Light at the End’, ‘The Day of the Doctor’ and ‘The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot’ spoof by Peter Davison.
For me, ‘The Five Doctors’ is a great way to introduce new ‘Doctor Who’ fans to the classic series. I highly recommend this classic TV adventure to anyone who is new to the classic series or to ‘Doctor Who’ altogether. You won’t be disappointed, as it’s a love letter to the show’s past and to its future.
By the end of ‘The Five Doctors’, Chancellor Flavia offers the Fifth Doctor to have the chair of the President of the Time Lords on Gallifrey. The Doctor however runs away with Tegan and Turlough and they have more adventures in a ‘raggedy old TARDIS’. After all, that’s how it all started, isn’t it?!
‘The Five Doctors’ rating – 10/10
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For the Fifth Doctor was
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For the First Doctor is
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For the Fifth Doctor is
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