This story divides fandom like no other in many ways. Some dismiss it as too silly, implausible and certainly not a classic story, and a very camp pantomime. Other regard it a joyful celebration of all that was great about the series for its 20th Anniversary in 1983, and a glorious reunion of Doctors, companions and Monsters. I belong to the later camp.
Hats off to Terrance Dicks for coping with the near impossible task of constantly changing cast list (the great Bob Holmes had already attempted a "Six Doctors" story but pulled out saying the demands were too great).
Another challenge was what to do with the first and fourth Doctors. William Hartnell sadly had passed away in 1975, and Tom Baker, having originally agreed to take part in the production, then pulled out of the project. The first Doctor was recast as Richard Hurndall, who does, in my opinion bear more than just a passing resemblance to William Hartnell; whilst Tom Baker is represented in the story by the inclusion of a few short clips from the then unseen, unfinished Shada story of 1979.
In this 2 disc release, you get both the original transmission version of 1983, and the longer "Special Edition" cut of 1995, with new special effects, a Dolby 5.1 surround soundtrack and various scene changes. Both versions have been extensively restored by the Doctor Who restoration team, unlike the previous release of 2001, and there is a distinct absence of grain on the picture and particularly vivid colours throughout.
The celebratory feel of the story is really felt in the comprehensive and nostalgic set of extras on this DVD:
- Celebration - a documentary - presented by Colin Baker - recalling the making of, and publicity surrounding, the Five Doctors. It is nice to see the director, Peter Moffat, one last time before his death in 2007, and the anecdotes from Elisabeth Sladen, Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and the writer Terrance Dicks are highly entertaining and often amusing.
- The Ties that Bind Us is a much shorter documentary - narrated by the smooth tones of Paul McGann - looking at the Five Doctors' links to other Doctor Who story, with an excellent montage of clips to illustrate what it is that makes this show so special.
- A wonderful "Easter Egg" commentary by the current Doctor (David Tennant) and producer (Phil Collinson) and writer Helen Raynor. This has to be one of the most hilarious and entertaining commentaries to date, no doubt livened by the presence of champagne during recording, courtesy of 2entertain. Phil Collinson had me in stitches throughout, my only criticism is oddly enough of David Tennant who seems rather displeased with the choice of Richard Hurndall as the first Doctor.
- Clips from the publicity surrounding the series in 1983, from Breakfast Time, Blue Peter and Saturday Superstore.
- A comprehensive photo gallery and trailers/ continuities.
- Two further commentaries:
-Companions Commentary (a rather lacklustre affair compared to the Easter Egg one) with Liz Sladen, Nicholas Courtney, and Mark Strickson and Carol Ann Ford.
- Special Edition Commentary (a hilarious combination of writer Terrance Dicks and the Doctor, Peter Davison).
Probably the most comprehensive set of extras for a Doctor Who DVD release yet. Celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 20th anniversary in style with 3½ Doctors, a tipsy new series crew and more extras than you can wave a punt at!