March 17, 2013

Doctor Who: The Three Doctors

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who.  Other big anniversaries have had multiple-Doctor stories, so there is much anticipation among Whovians that this will occur in this year's 50th anniversary special.  Multiple-Doctor stories are episodes in which more than one Doctor appear.  "The Three Doctors," for the tenth anniversary, had the first, second, and third Doctors, and "The Five Doctors," for the twentieth anniversary, had the first five Doctors.  There was one other multiple-Doctor episode, "The Two Doctors," which had the second Doctor and the sixth Doctor, but it was not an anniversary special.  It was during the 22nd season.  (Okay, technically, there were two more, but they were short bits done for charity, not episodes of the show.)  I love when the Doctors encounter each other.  They're all arrogant know-it-alls, and they each think that they are the best regeneration of their shared life.  It's fantastic!  Multiple-Doctor stories generally involve Gallifrey and other Time Lords, too.  It will be interesting to see how the current series of Doctor Who will handle this, as it is usually the Time Lords orchestrating the situation that brings different incarnations of the Doctor together.  Gallifrey and the Time Lords have been destroyed in the rebooted version of Doctor Who.

2nd Doctor on the left, 3rd Doctor on the right
"The Three Doctors" is an episode of Doctor Who from the Jon Pertwee era.  It was the first story of the tenth season of the show.  It mostly involves the second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and the third Doctor (Jon Pertwee).  William Hartnell, the first Doctor, was quite ill at this point, so he appeared very little.  This was his final role as an actor.

I think "The Three Doctors" is a good episode for those who aren't familiar with classic Who.  Not only are there three different Doctors, but there is also a big UNIT presence in this episode.  The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (what it stands for in classic Who) is a major part of Pertwee's adventures.  For most of his time as the Doctor, the third Doctor was stranded on Earth by the Time Lords, so he acted as a scientific advisor for UNIT.  Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, the head of UNIT, is great in this episode.  Nicholas Courtney, the actor who played the Brigadier, used to ad-lib lines to inject more humor into the role.  There is a debate over whether the Brigadier counts as a "companion" to the Doctor.  I don't think he is.  He isn't a sidekick to the Doctor.  He is the Doctor's boss, as much as anyone can be the Doctor's boss.  He doesn't usually travel in the TARDIS with the Doctor, although he does in this episode.  The Brigadier is a great character and one of my favorites from classic Who.  When the Brigadier steps into the TARDIS, he doesn't have the normal reaction of shock that it is bigger on the inside.  He looks around and makes a crack about how this is how the Doctor is spending so much of UNIT's money.

left to right: the 2nd Doctor, the Brigadier, Jo Grant
So, what happens in "The Three Doctors?"  An energy beam is being sent from a black hole to Earth.  An energy blob appears (well, that's what it looks like) and starts making things disappear.  It is determined that it is after the Doctor.  The Doctor, his assistant Jo, and Sergeant Benton of UNIT retreat into the TARDIS.  The Doctor sends a distress call to the Time Lords.  It turns out that Gallifrey is also under attack from something in this black hole.  All of their power is being drained away.  They can't help him, but they decide to send one of his former selves so that he can help himself.  (This is after an argument over violating the first law of time, wherein a Time Lord cannot cross his own timestream and meet himself.)  The second Doctor appears in the TARDIS.  He and the third Doctor immediately start to bicker.  The Time Lords are watching and basically say, "OH, GREAT."  They send in the first Doctor to force them to work together.  The Doctors come to the conclusion that there is an antimatter universe inside the black hole and let the energy blob transport them there.  Who or what is sustaining the antimatter universe?  An ancient Time Lord!  A renegade Time Lord?  Always a good time.  It is Omega, and Omega is angry.

"The Three Doctors" is an outstanding episode of Doctor Who.  Sure, it has some questionable special effects and weird looking monsters, but that's just classic Who.  I didn't even mention the creatures that look like red bubble wrap.  "The Three Doctors" is not just funny and entertaining.  It also clues the viewer in on some of the history of the Time Lords and their ability to travel in time.  To me, this is a must-see episode of classic Who.


  1. JL: It also clues the viewer in on some of the history of the Time Lords and their ability to travel in time.

    You're right. I had watched every other episode of Doctor Who prior to this one, but I had never suspected up until now that these "Time Lords" had the ability to "travel in time".

    1. Ha ha, funny man. I meant that it somewhat explains their ability to travel through time. But you knew that :)


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