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Has little in the way of substance but the nostalgic value makes it watchable
on 3 May 2010
Within the high council on Gallifrey, an unknown renegade in the citadel is snatching the first five incarnations of the Doctor and his former friends and companions from their respective time zones and dumping them in the death zone, a barren wasteland on the Time Lord home planet. The fourth Doctor and his companion Romana however are caught in a time eddy which they can't escape from when the attempt to remove them from their time stream goes awry. The fifth Doctor, sensing that his former selves are being taken away, travels with his current companions, Teegan and Turlough to the Death Zone, hoping to go to the Dark Tower at the heart of the zone where they hope to find some answers as do the remaining three Doctors and their friends. As they make their way to the towers they encounter all sorts of obstacles including a platoon of cybermen, a lone Dalek, a Yeti, a Raston warrior Robot and their old Time lord adversary, the Master.
Originally aired on 23rd November 1983 as a one off, anniversary special to celebrate "Doctor Who's" twentieth anniversary, "The Five Doctor's" was eventually re-released on DVD in the late nineties with twelve minutes of extra footage, digitally enhanced sound and picture quality as well as digitally altered special effects. Tailor made to bring back the previous actors who had played the part of the Doctor in it's then twenty year history, this wasn't entirely possible due to sad death of William Hartnell in 1975 and Tom Baker's refusal to don his hat and scarf as the "iconic" fourth personae. Some what misleading then due to its title and in an attempt to paper over these gaps, actor Richard Hurndall was cast to play the first Doctor while footage from the un-televised, never completed story "Shada" was used to fill in a couple of scenes with Baker's incarnation.
It was left to former script editor Terrance Dick's who had also penned the Target range of the show's novelisations to rise to the challenge of constructing a story that would necessitate the return of the previous Doctors and the classic companions, not an easy task. And while "The Five Doctor's" marks a diverting time waster, it falls short of really being a satisfactory celebration of the world's longest running science fiction series. To start with the storyline is fairly shallow, a contrivance which consists of nothing more than a string of set pieces, woven together and doesn't make entire sense when the villain is finally unmasked and his plot revealed. Dicks ear for dialogue is for the most part, okay although he does deliver a couple of stinkers. "Not, not the mind probe" being the most cheesy and laughable.
Never the less, the nostalgia value is pretty high and it's wonderful to see both the wonderful Patrick Troughten and Jon Pertwee reprising their old roles, playing off one another brilliantly in their later scenes together. Richard Hurndall who bears little resemblance to the late William Hartnell can't quite capture all of the first Doctor's mannerisms but is never the less passable while its sad to see Tom Baker's Doctor reduced to nothing more than a mere cameo, although in fairness it couldn't be helped. Davison meanwhile, while a good actor displays his usual insipidity as the fifth Doctor with Janet Fielding being left to bolster any interest in their initial scenes while Mark Strickson's Turlough manages to be equally as mundane. The rest of the cast effortlessly step back in to their old roles, Elizabeth Sladen is as reliable as ever as fan favourite, Sarah Jane Smith as is Carole Ann Ford as Susan. Nicholas Courtney is excellent as the weary, sardonic Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart who's scenes with Troughten on Gallifrey by far being the most enjoyable, the chemistry between the two never waning for a second. Anthony Ainley who is never the less fine is lumbered with a camp looking Master once again looking more like a pantomime villain rather than a criminal mastermind, a testament to John Nathan Turner's middling period as executive producer. With brief cameos by Fraser Hines, Wendy Padbury, Caroline John and Richard Franklin and a host of classic monsters thrown in for good measure its all something of a guilty pleasure. A vacuous pat on the back which although far from achieving greatness is miles better than than the dire twenty-fifth anniversary special, "Silver Nemesis" which Sylvester McCoy was lumbered with in 1988.
A curiosity rather than a necessity to any Whovians DVD collection, I wouldn't grumble too much if I had never seen "The Five Doctor's" but for the nostalgic value alone and some good performances its worth a watch if you get the chance, just don't expect anything special in this anniversary special.