‘THE FIVE DOCTORS’
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Let’s play the game of Rassilon! – Celebrating 20 years of ‘Doctor Who’
25th of November 1983
I really wish I can go back to 1983 and experience the celebrations of 20 years of ‘Doctor Who’! There was a lot happening back then with breakfast channel items; news reports; conventions; etc. It must have been heaven for the fans who have happy memories (or not as the case maybe, e.g. Longleat).
Of course, the main event was the 20th anniversary special called ‘The Five Doctors’. This, I love! ‘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’ back then.
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 the ‘Easter Egg’ DVD commentary; it’s ‘three Doctors, stock footage and a bloke in a wig’. I will explain more about this later on during 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; by Janet Fielding at the ‘MCM Birmingham Comic Con’ at the NEC Birmingham, November 2017 and by Mark Strickson and Paul Jerricho at the ‘Fantom Events at Memorabilia’ event at the NEC Birmingham, March 2016. I’ve also had signed photos of Turlough in ‘The Five Doctors’ by Mark Strickson from the ‘Time Warp’ convention in Weston-super-Mare, July 2014 and of the Castellan by Paul Jerricho from the ‘Acceptable In The 80s’ event in Chiswick, London, October 2011.
‘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 about ‘Doctor Who’; especially since we’ve 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 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 story 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; 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 Cam 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 Rassilon. 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 Warrior 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 Captain 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 editor/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 items from ‘Blue Peter’, ‘Nationwide’, ‘Saturday Superstore’ and ‘Breakfast Time’. There’s also an Easter Egg to be found on this disc as well as 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’. The 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 – 9/10
‘DOCTOR WHO – THE FIVE DOCTORS’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Revisiting the Death Zone with Five(ish) Doctors and Companions
I purchased ‘The Five Doctors’ audiobook in Bath, November 2017!
I enjoyed reading/listening to ‘The Five Doctors’ novelization/audiobook by Terrance Dicks very much. I have wanted to read this novelization since ‘The Five Doctors’ in one of my stories from the classic series to celebrate 20 years of the show. This was a rewarding and very intriguing experience.
The audiobook for this novelization was released in November 2017. I purchased it a day after attending the ‘MCM Birmingham Comic Con’ where I saw Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton. It was at Waterstones in Bath where I purchased the audiobook. I was looking forward to it.
I later purchased the novelization from Amazon and received the 1990s paperback edition in the post. I was disappointed that I didn’t get the original 1983 paperback edition of ‘The Five Doctors’ novelization. But so long as the audiobook followed what was in the novelization already, it was fine.
I think its common knowledge that ‘The Five Doctors’ novelization was released in 1983 before the actual transmission of the TV story. I’m not sure how fans coped resisting the temptation of reading ‘The Five Doctors’ novelization before the TV story, but it must have been a great struggle for them.
I like how Terrance Dicks has novelized ‘The Five Doctors’ for the Target range of ‘Doctor Who’ books. Instead of matching the novelization to the TV story that was transmitted in 1983, he adds in all the extra scenes included in the Special Edition version, as well as a new scene and new dialogue.
The book is divided into 12 chapters, although ironically the divisions don’t match the cliff-hangers for the four-part version of the story when it was repeated again on TV. Thankfully ‘The Five Doctors’ was never a four-part adventure anyway. The audiobook has the story spread out on a 4-disc CD set.
The audiobook is read by Jon Culshaw. I am disappointed that none of the original actors from ‘The Five Doctors’ TV story were chosen to be the narrator for this audiobook. It would have been nice if Peter Davison read this audiobook instead. But I don’t mind Jon Culshaw, as he’s very good narrator.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard Jon Culshaw read a ‘Doctor Who’ audiobook. The first time I heard him was when he read the novelization for ‘The Pirate Planet’ by James Goss, which I enjoyed. I’ve also met Jon Culshaw in real life at ‘The Capitol II’ convention at the Arora Hotel, Gatwick, May 2017.
Jon Culshaw is a very good voice impersonator. So in a sense, he was ideal to be the narrator of ‘The Five Doctors’ audiobook. In this audiobook, Jon provides the voices for the Doctors as well as the companions and the other supporting cast. Some aren’t exact recreations, but they’re close enough.
I like how Jon Culshaw provides the voices for Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker Doctors, since they sound exactly like the actors playing them. I don’t think Jon provides exact recreations for the Second Doctor, the Brigadier and other companions, but he manages to get the tones for these characters.
My favourite is the voice Jon Culshaw provides for the First Doctor. Instead of creating Richard Hurndall’s performance in the audiobook, he recreates William Hartnell. That for me makes the First Doctor authentic and I could easily hear William Hartnell’s voice in the story when Jon provided that.
Jon Culshaw is also joined by Nicholas Briggs who does the voices for the Dalek and the Cybermen in this audiobook. As ever, Nick provides a great voice for the Dalek that chases the First Doctor and Susan in the corridor. It’s a shame there are only a few scenes with that Dalek, but what can you do?
The Cybermen however are a different story. I was disappointed with how the Cybermen made their appearance in the audiobook. Instead of the new series Cybermen voices I love, they had Nick Briggs do the ‘Earthshock’ Cybermen instead. And I know it’s supposed to match the dialogue in the book.
But this is the issue I have. In the ‘Earthshock’ novelization/audiobook by Ian Marter, the Cybermen sounded like new series Cybermen. Couldn’t they have matched what was in the ‘Earthshock’ audiobook for this one? It makes the continuity in the ‘Doctor Who’ novelizations very inconsistent.
In terms of what’s different in the novelization compared to the TV story, there aren’t a lot of changes to the plot. Bear in mind, Terrance Dicks novelized this story before it was transmitted on TV. So he more or less had to match what was already in the TV script as he didn’t see the story first.
But there is a brand-new scene featured in the novelization that wasn’t shown in the TV story. This is the scene where Susan gets abducted by the time-scoop. I wish we could have seen that scene, as I like how Susan gets captured and that this is set years after her time in ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’.
I also like how the novelization highlights that the First Doctor is on his way towards the end of his first regeneration. It makes sense to highlight this, considering that all the Doctors would be at their end of their regeneration points for this story. This also fits in to my timeline for the First Doctor. 😀
In the novelization, there are points when Susan addresses her grandfather as ‘Doctor’ in the story. This is especially when they’re being chased by a Dalek and Susan calls him ‘Doctor’. The Dalek is supposed to realise that ‘it is the Doctor’ when Susan calls him that in the original script of the story.
But during the shooting of ‘The Five Doctors’, Carole Ann Ford refused to call her grandfather ‘Doctor’ since that’s not what she called him in her era of the show. Surprising that Terrance Dicks never took note of this when novelizing the story and kept that scene where she called him ‘Doctor’.
A significant aspect to the novelization is the Fourth Doctor and Romana punting on the Cam scene in Cambridge. This is actually derived from the abandoned TV story ‘Shada’. So this is the first time where Terrance Dicks actually novelized a scene from a ‘Doctor Who’ adventure by Douglas Adams.
Now I know that Terrance Dicks’ novelization of that scene doesn’t match to the one featured in the Gareth Roberts’ novelization of ‘Shada’ in 2012. I’m surprised Gareth Roberts didn’t follow it in Terrance Dicks’ novelization. But the fact it’s there in ‘The Five Doctors’ novelization is very intriguing.
I like how the Fourth Doctor and Romana are restored back to their proper place and time after the crisis with Rassilon has finished. Instead of having the scene of the Doctor and Romana restored featured in the original 1983 version of the TV story, it matches more to the Special Edition version.
The Doctor and Romana are put back on their punt on the Cam from where they were last picked up. The Doctor is even given a line of dialogue after he and Romana are put back which wasn’t in the Special Edition version. It works better compared to the extra scene in the 1993 version of the story.
There’s one disappointment I have about this novelization. The “No! Not the mind probe!” scene with the Castellan is not the same as the TV story. The Castellan doesn’t even say the line as Paul Jerricho says it. He just says “No!” in the novelization. What the heck?!!! Is this some kind of joke?!!!
The most memorable scene in the TV story where the Castellan is terrified about having the mind probe used on him! And it’s all reduced him just saying “No!” (Pause) FAILED!!!!!! (Pause) “Novelization! You FAILED!!!!!!” (feeling absolutely gobsmacked) HOW DO YOU SCREW THIS UP?!!!!!!!!!! 😀
I do like how Rassilon is voiced at the end of the story in the audiobook. Jon Culshaw’s voice for Rassilon is given a treatment similar to the Special Edition version. This is scarier and deeper compared to the original 1983 TV version. It makes him sound less like Jon’s voice in the audiobook.
I like the novelization has Sarah Jane being upset about the Fourth Doctor’s absence in the story. This is when she has a conversation with Tegan about the Fourth Doctor in the Tomb of Rassilon. The original dialogue was in the TV script but it is sadly not featured in any versions of the TV adventure.
The climax of the story did feel rushed with everyone saying goodbye to each other. Even the Third Doctor’s comeback to the Second Doctor insult where he calls him ‘scarecrow’ is removed in the novelization. There isn’t any dialogue with the Doctors talking about their dress sense and manners.
But at least the story ends with the Doctor escaping in the TARDIS with Tegan and Turlough and giving Chancellor Flavia the ‘Deputy President’ powers until he returns. And also it wouldn’t be ‘The Five Doctors’ novelization without the Fifth Doctor saying, “Why not? After all, that’s how it all started!”
‘Doctor Who – The Five Doctors’ has been enjoyable read/listen for me. I’m glad I read/listened to this novelization/audiobook and Jon Culshaw does a terrific narration of the story. I’m disappointed with the Cybermen voices and a few other things, but this was a very good purchase for me as a fan.
By the way, a Dalek and a Cyberman have been watching me read/listen to this novelization/audiobook of ‘The Five Doctors’. I hope I won’t get exterminated or deleted by them. 😀
‘Doctor Who – The Five Doctors’ rating – 8/10
The previous story
For the First Doctor was
For Susan was
For the Second Doctor was
For the Brigadier was
For the Third Doctor was
For Sarah Jane was
For K-9 Mk III was
For the Fourth Doctor was
For Romana was
For the Fifth Doctor was
For Tegan was
For Turlough was
For the Daleks was
The next story
For the First Doctor is
For Susan is
For the Second Doctor is
For the Brigadier is
For the Third Doctor is
For Sarah Jane is
For K-9 Mk III is
For the Fourth Doctor is
For Romana is
For the Fifth Doctor is
For Tegan is
For Turlough is
For the Daleks is
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