The one with ten years of history – The Three Doctors reviewed

In a radical departure (and who knows it might even be a one-off) I am blogging about a Doctor Who story as I watch it. For this experiment I have selected another anniversary story The Three Doctors, having already reviewed The Renaissance of the Daleks here.

Before I start watching I will note the few things I remember (I watched this at the time in 1973 and maybe once since but at least 20-25 years ago (maybe more!).

This is a bit informal in style, brace yourself!

What do I remember?

Well obviously three Doctors and Jo Grant who I hope does more than the Day of the Daleks (see here). UNIT, Omega, Time Lords a black hole and lots of sarcasm / narrow escape or two with a happy ending. I think the relationship between the incarnations doesn’t move much beyond a level of disdain. Beyond that was this the one where the Doctor got his TARDIS skills back? Let’s watch…

Episode 1

So, secluded riverside spot and a silver balloon attached to a probe (or so it seems). All very idyllic English landscape. Trouble any second no doubt! Yep; there’s a noise and a dodgy effect and no more gamekeeper. Switch to UNIT and Jo in a mini-dress and the Brig. All jolly good. I’m liking the Professor – very old school Quatermass type cove.  Now a look at the 1970s with the huge photographic film developer. ‘Liberty Hall’ well done Brig, two repeats of the catch phrase! More 70s effects with glowing coloured light effect. Back at the lake the sonic comes out as a Geiger Counter. Now Bessie with twee 70s keyboard accompaniment, but wait it’s the light and it’s after Jo – time for big scary eyes! Oh no! Bye, bye Bessie! Lots of serious dialogue and looks. Oh – rubbish plastic bubble wrap monsters. Don’t shoot! Told you – one purple eye and a ray-gun claw! They’re popping up everywhere. It’s base under siege! Please don’t make use watch too much of these dodgy effects. More smoke and shadows would have been better. Meanwhile the light is coming! Now the wall goes so it’s to the TARDIS.

[pullquote]Let’s break the First Law of Time[/pullquote]

‘Force Field on’ so we did have a force-field in the past despite my not remembering. Time for an SOS. Quick to the dodgy screen and now to Gallifrey! Nice outfits and now a dodgy black hole (not even spherical). Dodgy science and big hair and now the universe of anti-matter! Despite time travel, nobody can help except himself. Let’s break the First Law of Time!

It’s a recorder and… yes Troughton appears! How good is that! And yes Benton recognises the Second Doctor! Time for an argument. Come on Jo follow the plot! How direct is Troughton! That’s why he’s my favourite Doctor though Pertwee is fine so far. Telepathy time. Now an argument so let’s send in the first doctor! A Dandy and a Clown – what a line! Oh Hartnell, how I wish I could remember watching you at the time.

Woosh! There goes Three and Jo and now the credits. How great to see the three credits but how short that felt. Quick cup of tea then some more me-thinks!

Episode 2

So here I am fortified by  a cup of tea and I have decided anachronistically to eat jelly babies as I watch this episode!

Troughton’s air of control continues unabated; and here’s the Brig to meet the second Doctor again! How wonderful is this! Meanwhile Jo and the third Doctor have landed in a quarry. Now the Brig is ranting about infernal machines and the Doctor wearing what face he likes. Cut to Gallifrey and lots of flashing lights and dodgy effects. Oh, and we have violated the First Law of Time in case you weren’t paying attention (or needed a reprise from last week – remember back in 1973 the idea of having your own copy of the show was un-thought of! Back to the quarry!

[pullquote]More big scared eyes from Jo[/pullquote]

More big scared eyes from Jo; up above a dodgy bubble claw alien and back to UNIT. Now the quarry with a tape machine (which will proxy for a computer no doubt) and a water cooler (yes Jo, I just typed that!). Great news and smiles here is Bessie – that’ll make travelling around easier. The missing gamekeeper from the beginning appears with a gun; back at UNIT a contraption has been assembled as the Brig appears. So the second Doctor is just the assistant! Leave Benton with the control and off to talk to Geneva. Chewing gum wrapper triggers something so on goes the machine. Full power (sparks) and some wobbly effects. To the TARDIS and this is the first time the Brig has been inside! Our come the jelly babies (time for one I think).

In the quarry a drop of E=mc(squared) leads the Professor to deduce he has travelled faster than light. re-union with Jo and the Doctor and boy does the quarry look dull. Now to a viewer and we get to see Omega (or at least his hand [sic!]).  Lots of monsters start shooting and we switch back to UNIT and the Brig is shouting as the second Doctor figures out his mistake with the machine.

To the enemy base with resin-bubble effect walls – I wonder how the rest of this sits with Lungbarrow?

Overall Hartnell is very minimal (illness permitting) and Troughton and Pertwee provide a good pincer movement on the solution. I have to say some acting and dodgy effects aside I am enjoying this more than I thought I might. Jo even has some real non-screaming dialogue which is a step up. On Earth the Brig is pacing no doubt as he is a man of action but one thump and the radio works so he can speak to his men. Mystic Hartnell then appears to sort things out with some direction (‘Turn of the force field’). Given his respect for the first Doctor off goes the force-field, away go all the monsters and bang come the credits.

Definitely enjoying this, though time for a break.

Episode 3

UNIT HQ vanished and back in the anti-matter palace… it’s Omega in his fancy dress not-quite Time Lord outfit! Jo and the Professor are taken off stage with some dodgy special effects. Meanwhile, here comes some back-story from Omega. Notably the Doctor has no direct memory of Omega, not contradicting Lungbarrowbut not adding to it either. A bit of mental power and pseudo-science explanation of the transformation to anti-matter and the set-up. Some assured bargaining from the third Doctor gives way to something resembling fear when an alarm is sounded.

The second Doctor, Brig and Benton make more use of the scanner followed by an outside shot showing a view into the TARDIS with two sets of doors rather then the CGI magic we get nowadays. Yes Brigadier, that is a quarry not England. The Brig is played too matter of fact, worrying about where on Earth the UNIT base is and unable to understand the bigger picture. Given how much he has seen this strikes me as a pity and we are then treated to the soft underbelly of the second doctor as he is herded by the bubble-claw creature. The Brig has meanwhile found the gamekeeper and is happy having a fellow man of action at his disposal.

Omega and the third Doctor debate Omega’s plan as the second Doctor arrives. Omega doesn’t recognise the second Doctor as a Time Lord immediately, then realises that he is facing two incarnations of the Doctor! A storm rages in a true Gothic style and back in the quarry the Brig plans a two-man assault.

[pullquote]singularities and black holes[/pullquote]

The Doctors argue and need Jo and Benton to patch things up. State of the art popular-science spills out with singularities and black holes to fill time, and then explain Omega’s role in setting up time travel (to the continued scepticism of the Professor). Jo then steps in to give a plan to the Doctors in the form of joining their minds to influence the anti-matter universe. One door later and out they all run. We then get ‘classic’ Scooby-Doo style corridor running and I begin to wonder if this episode is becoming mostly filler. Then the Doctors enter the singularity chamber and Omega gets angry treating us to ‘the dark side of’ his mind. This is mostly a mime / dance artist with some flickering camera work. Jo finds the way out and the humans escape in company of the Brigadiers ‘rescue’ team giving us more running, gun shots and naff bubble-claw monsters.

A mental battle continues in slow-motion with the third doctor fighting the aforementioned dancer as the first Doctor is contacted by the Time Lords for a last ditch mission! Pertwee continues his ballet with the ‘dark side’ and Omega gets more angry.

The episode ends but I hope for something stronger next.

Episode 4

The ballet continues as Omega rants and the second Doctor rescues the third by pleading for him. The second Doctor now plays the fool as he can so well and the storm continues to rage with Omega’s diminishing self-control. Omega shows his power source and lets us know that this is not enough. We now find Omega can not leave unless a Time Lord is present to keep his universe working. We now see the plot and it is the classic tale of Hercules and Atlas unfolding (well sort of). We now rush onto the removal of the mask!

Some over the top acting and the mask is restored. The Doctors explain the truth to Omega who takes off his own mask to reveal nothing then screams in pain and anguish. Omega decides to destroy all things and we are treated to wobbling camera shots and wavy effects. I wonder how they will fill the episode.

More quarry, bubble-claws and arguing ends with all humans back by the TARDIS re-grouping. n come the Doctors and it’s back to the TARDIS. More shooting and force-field mixed with threats from Omega as we switch to the fading Time Lords. The first Doctor beams in by screen and the three Doctors merge minds (more flickering) and nods of agreement. The recorder appears and the first Doctor reports back. Can the second and third make a gizmo to save the day?!

[pullquote]wonderful chap, both of them[/pullquote]

Minutes later here comes the trickery as Omega is persuaded to let the TARDIS make a short hop. Bargaining continues and the Doctors have the chance to stay in exile to save the universe. Tricky words and Omega releases the humans via the column of smoke (but no mirrors). Predictable nobility from Benton and Jo apart we now end up with just the Time Lords left. Out comes the Blue Peter toy (Omega correctly slates is appearance) and we get some mental nonsense and shouting but in his anger Omega hits the force field allowing the recorder (still matter) to hit the deck. The anti-matter universe unfolds and Gallifrey is returned to full power (thanks again to Omega). We get the famous line ‘wonderful chap, both of them’ from the Brigadier as everything is put back to how it had been, a quick explanation. A naff bit of science but we’ll forgive.

Farewells to the first and second Doctors and the Brig smiles knowing everything is as it should be.

Nicely Jo helps the third Doctor express his regrets over Omega and the Time Lords produce a dematerialisation circuit and the Doctor gets his knowledge back. Jo worries the Doctor will run off but not so fast. Of course we switch to the gamekeeper being berated by his wife for being late and missing the soldiers. The story ends with him asking if supper is ready (Genesis in-joke?)


I liked it. I would have liked three episodes and fewer poor effects but at the time I am sure this was all part of the character. We get back-story and  a chance to appreciate the first ten years. I wonder what the fiftieth will bring?

2 Comments Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.