Friday 21 October 2011

333 The Three Doctors Episode Four

EPISODE: The Three Doctors Episode Four
TRANSMITTED: 20 January 1973
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

The Second Doctor interrupts the conflict saving the Third as the humans escape to UNIT HQ. Omega wishes to be free but can't escape because the singularity needs to be controlled. For him to leave someone must take his place: The Doctor. The Doctors remove Omega's protective gear but find that there's nothing underneath because the singularity has eaten his body away. Just his will remains. Enraged at this discovery he begins to destroy his world allowing the Doctors to flee and shelter with the humans in the Tardis. On the Time Lord planet conditions have become critical. The First Doctor appears on the monitor screen and confers with his other selves coming up with a plan to use the Tardis' force field generator. Trying to remove it they discover the Second Doctor's recorder lodged in the force field generator. They contact Omega with an offer of freedom for him. They use the Tardis to travel to Omega's palace where they bargain with him to return the humans to Earth. One by one they pass through the singularity and are returned home. They offer Omega the force field generator. He knocks it aside in anger releasing the still positive matter recorder from within. The explosion creates a new source of energy for the Time Lords to use. The Tardis appears in UNIT HQ which had been returned to Earth with it's occupants once Omega's will was released. The First Doctor speaks with his other selves then first he and then the second Doctor vanish. As the Doctor mourns for Omega a materialisation noise is heard and a new dematerialisation circuit arrives on the time rotor and he finds his knowledge of time travel restored: The Time Lords, in gratitude for what he has done have ended his sentence allowing him to roam time & the universe again. Mr Ollis arrives home, with his wife demanding to know where he's been. He tells her that she wouldn't believe him and asks if his supper's ready.

We complain often enough about television programs pulling story solutions out of thin air: here the solution has been sign posted throughout and it involves the second Doctor's recorder which fell into the force field generator and was thus protected from anti matter conversion. We'll ignore that the Doctor turned the force field off for the Tardis to get converted. The science of the matter & anti-matter colliding producing an explosion is sound (ish) but we're onto wobblier ground with everything being returned home, reconverted back to positive matter and the Doctors being stuck back into the Tardis! Doctor Tyler drew our attention to some time wasting padding in the previous episode and there's more provided here as five characters are slowly one by one transported back to this world. I'm pretty certain this episode sets a record for "most number of people in the Tardis" at SEVEN with the Second & Third Doctors, Jo Grant, Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, Sergeant Benton, Doctor Tyler & Mister Ollis. This is Sergeant Benton's only visit to the inside of the Tardis but the Brigadier will get another visit some years later.

This episode marks a turning point for the series. Both Barry Letts (Producer) and Terrance Dicks (Script Editor) had been not 100% comfortable with the "Doctor exiled to Earth" idea and had been stretching it for some time. Now the Doctor gets his freedom back and can roam the Galaxy more freely. Unit will return, usually at the start and end of a season of stories for a few years yet. Sadly this episode also marks the last acting role for William Hartnell. As we've seen he wasn't at all well during the making of this story and he died just over two years later on 23rd April 1975 aged 67.

Three Doctors has never been a go to story for me but I loved seeing it this time round. As you probably know I have a few blog entries saved up so sometimes I watch more than on episode in a day. I watched all four episodes on the same day, and found that it rolls along nicely especially compared to the later half of the previous season. The first 2 episodes are especially fabulous as Troughton towers over everything. Apparently he and Pertwee's working methods differed slightly, while Pertwee was a word perfect man Troughton tended to improvise somewhat round the script. However a friendship grew between the two and tales of their later convention exploits, including a water pistol battle, are numerous. They would reunite on screen ten years later during the Five Doctors.

The Three Doctors is the second Pertwee story I saw when it was repeated as the fourth story in the Five Doctors season in 1981. Confusingly it was shown *after* the Carnival of Monsters, which was the show broadcast after this one and makes reference to the Time Lords returning the Doctor's freedom to travel through time & space. So although I'd already seen the Third Doctor & Jo, this was my first encounter with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Sergeant Benton, UNIT and the Time-Lords.

I've heard it suggested that the reason the story was shown after Carnival of Monsters was that the day the first episode was shown was the show's 18th Birthday.... I'm not sure I believe this but it got me thinking..... wouldn't An Unearthly Child have fitted better showing the first episode of that on 23 November? The season would then have run thus:

An Unearthly Child 23 November - 26 November
The Krotons 30 November - 03 December
The Three Doctors 07 December - 10 December
Carnival of Monsters 14 December - 17 December
Logopolis 21 December - 24 December

The last episode of the season, the fourth part of Logopolis, would then have aired on Christmas Eve a little ahead of the firth Doctor's d├ębut proper on 4th January 1982. Oddly enough there was a Doctor Who repeat, of sorts, on Christmas Eve that year: K-9 & Company got it's one and only repeat screening.

The Three Doctors was novelised by Terrance Dicks in 1975. It's first cover bears a distinct resemblance to the cover of Fantastic Four #49, published in April 1966. Especially note the fingers and the energy beams coming from them. Coincidentally The Three Doctors is one of the earliest Target novels to be rejacketed with a new cover!

The Three Doctors was released on video on 5th August 1991 alongside Masque of Mandragora..... but I had a copy 2 days previous courtesy of a dealer at a central London comic mart. It was re-released in September 2002 as part of the Time Lord collection boxset for WHSmiths along with a vastly improved War Games and The Deadly Assassin.

The DVD of this story was released on 24th November 2003, the closest Monday (DVD releases always come out on a Monday in the UK) to the program's 40th anniversary. There were two versions of the packaging for this DVD: the normal version and a version with a model of Bessie packed in. This DVD has a major fault with a repeated scene which has never been fixed with a repressing. Having looked at The Restoration Team's chronological list of Doctor Who DVDs The Three Doctor's is one of the earliest DVDs that I still currently own the original of. Vengeance on Varos & The Aztecs were released before The Three Doctors but while Varos is scheduled for a special edition, ostensibly to fix a subtitle fault, the Aztecs does seem to be "earliest released DVD that people are still happy with"!. However, like Varos, The Three Doctors is due to receive a special edition that fixes this fault that will be packed in Revisitations 3 along with a newly Vidfired Tomb of the Cybermen and an improved Robots of Death.


  1. You cost me £4.99 Phil. I felt the need to watch this and as the redone DVD isn't coming out for a while so I had to get it via itunes.

    easily the best of the multi-doctor stories on TV, as there's actually a story at the heart of it that stands up to examination.

  2. Over the years it's had a bit of a slagging off but actually it's not too bad at all....