Sunday, April 9, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who The Five Doctors

Last week I did a Sunday special on the 10th Anniversary show "The Three Doctors." This week I am covering the 20th Anniversary special, "The Five Doctors."

The Five Doctors got it's Global premier on November 23, 1983, exactly 20 years after the first episode appeared.

Like the previous anniversary special this one involved the Doctor getting caught up in the machinations of an evil and powerful Time Lord. This time though, the Doctor was pulled in, and in doing so he felt pieces of himself "breaking away like an iceberg."

Of course, there was a problem. Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor and still the actor with the longest tenure as the Doctor, did not want to return so soon after leaving the role. A choice he much later came to meet with some regret. So his incarnation was stuck in a "time eddy" which honestly worked out ok. They had some footage they had from a canceled show (Shada) and used that to fill in the blanks.

Sadly William Hartnell the original First Doctor had died in 1975 so Richard Hurndall was brought in to play the character. He sadly would die the year after this. I am not sure of the details, but I am wondering if the First Doctor would have been stuck. But the script, as these thing do, went through a lot of rewrites so who knows what could have been.  Tom Baker did get a chance to come back later. William Hartnell is at least featured in a clip before the show begins.  There is a nice story about how Bill Hartnell's wife Heather was invited to the set and she told the then current Doctor, Peter Davidson, how much he reminded her of Bill and how he would have loved to have seen him in this role. 

So we get a lot of favorite companions back, a lot of favorite enemies, and more workings into the happenings on Gallifrey.

A couple of standouts. Susan, the Doctor's Grandaughter is back and she recognizes right away they are on Gallifrey. So meaning she is also a Time Lord and allows her early character to retroactively say the planet's name first.   Fan favorite Sarah Jane is back, including her K-9 from "K-9 and Co." She interacts with the Third Doctor again.  She tries to explain to him that she saw him regenerate into the Fourth Doctor and says "you became..." but he interrupts with "all teeth and curls?" Meaning Tom Baker.  The lines were supposed to be Elizabeth Sladden's (Sarah Jane) but Jon Pertwee thought it was funnier coming from him. It was. 

The Five Doctors

There are a lot of DVD versions of this out. I have the Special Edition which swaps out some of the 1983 special effects for "updated" ones that are nearly universally hated. I have not seen the 25th anniversary version (the 45th for Doctor Who) but I wonder if they are restored?  I watched it recently on PlutoTV and it was the original 1983 broadcast version, so that was nice.

The story is a bit contrived, but no more so than any other Doctor Who story and it was a lot of fun really.  Still one of my favorites.

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.


Dave Roller said...

I am not sure if I have ever seen all of this in one sitting. I think they have it on d.v.d. at my library. It looks like it's worth the effort.

PT Dilloway said...

Did they do a Fifteen Doctors for the 60th Anniversary this year? I think this is one they did a Rifftrax Live show on but it's not available to buy so I never saw it.

John Holton said...

I really enjoyed this episode, in large part because Tom Baker wasn't in it, aside from the scenes from "Shada." He was wise to know that his term as The Doctor had ended too close to the broadcast date, and as it was this might have had too many Doctors. More time for the others and their companions.

Andrew James said...

I remember the original broadcast of this story, it was broadcast as part of the BBC's Children in Need evening (an annual charity fund raiser event) and was split into two parts.
The other thing I can remember was that the novelisation for this was released before the it aired on TV and I had read the novelisation before watching the episode