Tuesday 18 October 2011

330 The Three Doctors Episode One

EPISODE: The Three Doctors Episode One
TRANSMITTED: 30 December 1972
WRITER: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
DIRECTOR: Lennie Mayne
SCRIPT EDITOR: Terrance Dicks
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Three Doctors
Episode Format: 625 video

For no obvious reason it's been a few years since I last saw the Three Doctors....

At the Minsbridge Wildlife Sanctuary, Warden Arthur Ollis is guarding a crashed experimental balloon. Doctor Tyler arrives to collect his equipment, speaking to Mrs Ollis and waving at her husband as he parks. However there is a crackling and Mr Ollis vanishes before Doctor Tyler reaches him. A concerned Doctor Tyler calls UNIT. He explains to the Brigadier, Doctor & Jo what has happened and that his cosmic ray monitoring device has been producing odd results. He's left to develop the latest results but when he opens the box containing the device he vanishes and a glowing substance emerges. Coming out of the drains it attacks a returning Doctor & Jo, who've been to see the crash site & Mrs Ollis, causing Bessie to vanish. They shelter inside UNIT HQ. The Doctor finds the developed photographic plate from the device which Doctor Tyler had been working on. On it is a distorted picture of the missing Mr Ollis. The Doctor concludes that the thing is hunting him and has taken first Ollis, then Tyler and finally Bessie by mistake. Blobby clawed creatures appear and attack UNIT HQ. The Brigadier orders a withdrawal but Sergeant Benton is trapped in the lab with the Doctor & Jo when the original thing returns. They retreat into the Tardis. Trapped, the Doctor sends an SOS to the Time Lords..... The Time Lords, however, are suffering a massive power drain on their resources. Unable to help him directly they summon the Second Doctor. Our Doctor, the Third, hears a materialisation noise and finds a recorder moments before the Second Doctor appears, whom Sergeant Benton recognises from The Cyberman Invasion. The Third Doctor telepathically explains situation to the Second. They argue, and the Time Lords decide to send the First Doctor to supervise. He becomes trapped in the space time vortex but appears on the monitor screen advising them that the thing is a space time bridge and they should cross it. Tossing a coin to decide who gets to go, the Third doctor leaves the Tardis, pursued by Jo and they vanish.

There's some good stuff in here. It seems like it's a fairly standard Doctor Who story until the moment when the Second Doctor arrives and acts everyone else, his successor included, completely off the screen. There's an energy to him. Then the first pops up, distant, removed but with a better grasp of the situation than either of his successors. Fabulous. I saw this scene many many years ago on Blue Peter (1981 or earlier) and watched it trying to figure out which of the men I could see on screen was the Doctor.... Little did I know! Jo's there and she's having problems working it out as we see by her quoting the Beatles song I am the Walrus, released five years prior to this story but two years after the Beatles appearance in The Chase. The Doctor's got a new lab in this story, replacing the old brick one, last seen in Day of the Daleks, and this seems likely connected to a move for UNIT HQ at some point.. The Unit headquarters we see here appears to be out in the country whereas the older one, seen during the first few Pertwee years might of been in central London. Both of the Unit regulars in this story, Mike Yates being absent, get some fine stuff to do starting with the famous "Liberty Hall" from the Brigadier realising the Doctor's just given a scientist he met five minutes previously the run of the place. Benton's reaction to the inside of the Tardis is fabulous though, refusing to say that it's bigger on the inside because it's obvious and nothing to do with the Doctor surprises him any more. Interestingly the Brigadier who hasn't been shown to go into the Tardis on the screen yet: His sergeant gets there first. There's an odd fluff by Jon Pertwee in this episode: Everyone else refers to Tyler as Doctor Tyler yet he calls him by the more senior academic rank of Professor.

The story put about for several years was that the genesis for the Three Doctors came about when William Hartnell stuck his head round the Doctor Who production office door while looking for work at the BBC. In fact Barry Letts & Terrance Dicks had had many letters over the years wanting a multi Doctor team up so decided to celebrate the program's tenth anniversary by doing so. The anniversary itself was still nearly a year away but this was the start of the show's tenth season so..... They rang Hartnell at home and asked him to take part and he agreed. However his health wasn't good suffering from a condition called arteriosclerosis which limited what he could do. His wife rang Barry Letts, concerned at what her husband had agreed to do and the script was crafted accordingly. In the event Hartnell's appearances are limited to him appearing on the monitor screen where he's sat in a chair and reading his lines off of cue cards but somehow this ends a remote gravitas to his performance. He, Troughton & Pertwee are in the same place just once: for the publicity session and cover photograph for The Radio Times. Barry Letts had learnt from his experience with the Terror of the Autons Radio Times cover, featuring Roger Delgado's Master in the middle which earned the show's star's wrath, and had a quiet word with the photographer placing Pertwee in the centre of the picture.

The majority of the locations used in this story feature in this episode with most found near Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire where filming took place between 7-9 November 1972. The UNIT HQ scenes were filmed at Denham Manor on the 10th November 1972. The same location serves as UNIT HQ over ten years later for the Five Doctors, the 20th anniversary story.

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