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Doctor Who: The Three Doctors

“So, you’re my replacements, a dandy and a clown.”

I've always had a hard time loving these multi-Doctor stories. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing the Doctors bicker and argue with himself as much as the next guy. But the circumstances that bring the various Doctors together always seem contrived and the stories themselves just never live up to expectations.

'The Three Doctors' was produced to celebrate Doctor Who’s 10th anniversary in 1973. It should have been something truly special, something grand to celebrate the series' first decade on the air. Instead what we get is another workman-like contribution from Bob Baker and Dave Martin, saved only by the precision bickering of Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton.

Doctors 1-3 are brought together by the Time Lords in order to battle the ultimate threat to the universe. Too bad the ultimate threat to the universe turns out to be an old Time Lord throwing a colossal temper tantrum. I honestly don’t understand why so many fans want Omega to make a comeback. He's rubbish. All he does is rant on endlessly about how it’s not fair that he got stuck in a black hole. Oh, grow up.

The real joy in 'The Three Doctors' is getting to see the Doctor’s various incarnations interact with each other for the first time. Due to ill health William Hartnell’s involvement is limited to a few cameos on the video screen, where all he does is show up to offer advice and berate his older selves (which, when you think about it, is kinda like being told off by your 16-year-old self). But it’s wonderful to have Patrick Troughton back and bickering with Pertwee over the pettiest things, like who has the best bow-tie (because, you know, they are cool). The two of them make for a terrific double-act, with Troughton repeatedly upstaging Pertwee and stealing the show. You gotta love the cosmic hobo.

Notes and Quotes

--Typically, while the blokes have a chat, it's left to Jo, being the only woman, to go and get the tea.

--This story marks a major turning point in the series as the Time Lords lift the Doctor's exile. This would've been a bigger deal if Letts and Dicks hadn't virtually ignored it for the last two seasons.

--Although not very effective, even at the best of times, UNIT comes off very badly in this one. The Brig, especially, is made to look like a complete berk, a pompous Colonel Blimp, while his troops come across like a right bunch of numpties. On the bright side, Captain Yates seems to be having the week off.

--Besides looking like result of toxic spill at a bubble wrap factory, Omega's minions are clearly graduates of the Imperial Stormtrooper Academy of Marksmanship.

--The Doctor's UNIT lab has changed again. That room changes appearance more times than he does.

--The Brigadier says UNIT HQ is a top secret establishment, and yet there's a large sign outside informing the world not only of its function, but also the name of the commanding officer.

--You know, that anti-matter universe looks suspiciously like an English quarry.

--Jo's crimes against fashion continue. This time with a blue fur coat, mini skirt and platform boots. Just the sort of sensible footwear needed for a rocky alien planet.

Third Doctor: “Aren’t you going to say it’s bigger on the inside, Sergeant? Everyone else does.”
Sgt. Benton: “Would’ve thought that was obvious.”

Third Doctor: “Jo, it's all quite simple. You see, he is me and I am him.”
Jo: “And we are all together, goo goo g' joob.”
Second Doctor: “Eh?”
Jo: “It’s a song by the Beatles.”
Second Doctor: “Oh really, how does it go?”

Second Doctor: “Well, you've been fiddling with it, haven't you?”
Third Doctor: “It was perfectly all right until you touched it!”

Second Doctor: “That's the problem with anti-matter. You see the effect, but never the cause. It's like being punched on the nose by the Invisible Man.”

Benton: “What are we going to do now?”
Second Doctor: “Keep it confused. Feed it with useless information. I wonder if I have a television set handy.”

Second Doctor: “My dear fellow, you are being a bit dim. Your effectiveness is now doubled.”
Third Doctor: “Halved more like.”
Second Doctor: “Now, now, there's no reason to be ungracious.”

Third Doctor: “Please ignore him, just ignore him. He's incorrigibly frivolous.”

Jo: “Pity. He was so sweet.”
Third Doctor: “Yes, wasn't I?”
Brigadier: “Yes. Well, as far as I'm concerned Doctor, one of you is enough. More than enough.”

Second Doctor: “Ah, I can see you've been doing the TARDIS up a bit. Um. I don't like it! ”

Second Doctor: “If only I could find my recorder, I could play you a little something to pass the time.”
Brigadier: “We should be thankful for small mercies.”

Dr. Tyler: “That was a bit of a waste of time, wasn't it?”
--Yes, yes it was.

The Brigadier: “Wonderful chap. Both of him.”

Two and half out of four songs by the Beatles.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.


  1. Woo hoo! I actually saw this one. And it was exactly as you describe it, Mark. Not completely terrible, but disappointing.

  2. Yeah, the multi-Doctor stories are often a disappointment. The inter-Doctor interaction is amusing, but the sheer strain of fitting them all into the story seems to relegate the plot to a secondary concern. Thankfully, there'll probably never be a modern multi-Doctor story -- at least, not one featuring Chris Eccleston. (Unless he hits really hard times and loses his mind.) I think these things are better left to Comic Relief/CIN specials -- where we can laugh at them poking fun at each other, bathe in the nostalgia, and not have to worry about whether the story stinks or not.

  3. Actually, Paul, that's precisely the point I was about to make; the best multi-Doctor story so far was Time Crash, simply because it didn't have to fit in a complicated story and just basked in its own silliness (come to think of it, the fact that there were two Doctors occupying the same space WAS the story). They're usually fun, and often a good exercise in nostalgia, but the substance is often a bit lacking.

    I know there's been talk of a modern multi-Doctor story for the 50th anniversary, but it seems rather unlikely. That said, if Paul McGann gets to feature, I might well be persuaded to reserve my judgement.

    I also agree about Omega; he's not terribly memorable or interesting - as Time Lord-related villains go, he's towards the bottom of the pile.

  4. David Yates is working on a Doctor Who feature film that won't be tied to the show. Thoughts?


    I'm guessing Potter isn't enough for him.

  5. I've got to say, I'm not all that enthused about the project. The Cushing films were made during the show's formative years. It was nowhere near the show then, that it is now. The McGann film came at a time when the show wasn't on the air, so that was cool; it was either that or nothing. But why make one now when the show's successful -- and with none of the original cast/creative team? This has a whiff of Buffy remake about it. The phrases "radical transformation" and "start from scratch" don't fill me full of confidence, either. Why start from scratch or transform something that already works?

  6. It does have a few issues, but it's so much fun. I especially love Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee bouncing off of each other, this story is worth watching for that alone!

    Benton was great as he was the first (only?) person entering the TARDIS that takes it all in stride.

    My biggest complaint about this one isn't the 'wobbly space jellies' although they are pretty bad, it's them making the Brigadier too much of a buffoon. Yes, he's got a literal, military mind, but he's not stupid, and when he denies things in front of his eyes like this, it really brings the character down (something similar happens to Leela in the Invisible Enemy).

    Omega is a bit too shouty for my tastes, but at least he's another villain that we can have some real sympathy for.

    It's a shame that Hartnell was limited here. He's never been my favorite Doctor, but I'll never deny his importance to the show, and the little he is here is quite good.

    It's an enjoyable romp through it's 10 year history, despite its flaws.


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