Doctor Who: Three Doctors [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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Made to mark the series' tenth anniversary, Doctor Who: The Three Doctors finds Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor teaming-up with the Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell incarnations to battle a universe-threatening foe. Omega (played by an excellent Stephen Thorne) is the Timelord who gave his race the power necessary for time travel. Long presumed dead he is actually trapped in an anti-matter universe inside a black hole, and is scheming an epic revenge. Set in UNIT HQ, Omega's domain and a chalk pit, Bob Baker and David Martin's yarn is both nonsensical and more wildly ambitious than the BBC effects unit could possibly visualise. This is so much the case that the best moments come with the metaphysically chilling scene in which Omega is unmasked, and in the bickering rivalry between Pertwee and Troughton. Sadly Hartnell was seriously ill with arteriosclerosis, so his brief scenes were all taped in a day and played on a monitor in the TARDIS, the reason given that the First Doctor is trapped in a "time eddy". If hardly a classic this is still a meatier tale than The Two Doctors (1985), which starred Troughton and Colin Baker, and it features ever-dependable support from Katy Manning as Jo Grant and Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier.
On the DVD: Doctor Who: The Three Doctors is presented in the original 4:3 ratio with good mono sound. The introductory 16-mm film footage is very grainy and lined, but later exteriors are good and the interior video-shot material in fine. The commentary by Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney and producer Barry Letts is informative and funny. Extras include excerpts from a highly entertaining 1973 Pebble Mill at One with Patrick Troughton and BBC props designer Bernard Wilkie (20 min) and a 1973 retrospective on the show from Blue Peter featuring Pertwee with the then new Whomobile, all presented by ex-Who companion Peter Purves. There are highlights from a BSkyB Doctor Who weekend from 1990, with brief interviews with Courtney, David Martin, Bob Baker, Pertwee, producer John Nathan Turner and writer Terrance Dicks (10 min). Rather more exciting is the appearances of the warm and witty Pertwee, Manning, and a very late Courtney at the 1993 Panopticon SF convention (29 min). There are also two trailers, info text and a scored photo gallery. --Gary S Dalkin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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It's also very intelligently written - the Bristol Boys were seldom short of ideas - black holes were topical in 1973, meaning astrophysics was being talked about. 'Super luminescent emissions' wasn't too far from the Zeitgeist. It's good that the fairly daft piece of Deus ex Machina that the story hangs on isn't too implausible, and the Time Lord idea was overdue for development.
These are not quite the indifferent gods of War Games, and if not quite the the cynical politicals of Deadly Assassin, they are on their way there - I wouldn't trust Clyde Pollitt's Chancellor as far as the end of the street, never mind to the end of a light beam (he was at the trial in the War Games, and has presumably been promoted). Graham Leaman was previously a Time Lord in Colony in Space, and Barry Letts has confirmed that the two are playing the same characters (lending greater weight to the idea that Bernard Horsfall's character in War Games is Goth).
It's a pity about Bill Hartnell, and I'd like to know what his part might have been had his wife not phoned Barry Letts with the words, 'What do you think you're doing? He's ill, dammit!', but it's good that he's in it, though time had clearly not been kind to the poor man since 1966.
Mr Troughton is clearly having fun, somewhat (I suspect) at Jon Pertwee's expense - after all, Dr Who wasn't Patrick's show anymore, so he could get on with enjoying himself and (I further suspect) flirting with Katy Manning.
Stephen Thorne is on very fine furniture-chewing form as Omega; there is always a temptation for actors in masks to over play their role, and Mr Thorne does, but it works, making Omega all the odder - of course, he's been stuck in a black hole for millennia, his social skills are under-exercised. And *three* Doctors demand a BIG villain. The moment that he takes his mask off revealing nothing beneath is beautifully handled. Amid all the bluster, he's really quite moving.
And, as mentioned above, it's clever; the weather balloon, the picture, the blob, the gel guards, UNIT HQ zooming off into goodness knows where, and Corporal Palmer staring in disbelief - great cliffhanger.
Omega World is, admittedly, a quarry, but Lennie Mayne does his best with it - the weird camera angles are effective - and if Omega's palace lacks the impressive exterior of T. Dicks' novel, well, it's a shame, but there we are.
And it's also a lovely story for UNIT, and especially the Brigadier, who gets all the best comedy moments; there's a distinct sense of the military mind under such assault that it's close to breaking down - it doesn't of course, because Lethbridge-Stewart is such a professional soldier that he can even rationalise the TARDIS as a massive waste of UNIT money. Meanwhile Benton gets all the Jamie stuff to do, because Fraser Hines was stuck in Emmerdale.
The First Doctor finds himself stuck in a time eddy (I've got an olive green bathroom suite from the 1970s that I think must be stuck in one of them) and so for the most part this episode revolves around the verbal sparring of the Second and Third Doctors and their efforts to get a rather bonkers fellow Time Lord called Omega to see sense. Gravity and anti-gravity are clearly quite important to the plot but that's all Greek to me. Oh, and the Brigadier comes along for the ride as well. And he's gorgeous, apparently. As is Jo, obviously. Especially in that skirt.
My 'friend' also tells me that Mr Pertwee spends some time on his hands and knees underneath the TARDIS console. It seems that he also engages in a very dramatic slow-motion 'fight to the death' with a rather ugly little figure who makes Bok from 'The Daemons' look like George Clooney. When one chucks into the mix the quite brilliant three-way condescension displayed by Messrs Pertwee, Troughton and Hartnell, it may be that this particular DVD should be viewed perhaps more as a Special Treat. My 'friend' obviously thinks it is, because I know for a fact that she always pulls her curtains and takes her phone off the hook whenever she watches it. As indeed I would myself, if I had a copy... because I do like Jo. Especially in that skirt.
Its also worth mentioning the picture quality of this DVD, which is very good.
What also makes this DVD worthy of 5 stars is the extras. The Panopticom event, filmed in 1993 with Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning and Nicholas Courtney is a marvellous chance to hear Jon Pertwee (my favourite Doctor) talk about his career in some detail. I found Katy Manning slightly irratating, and sadly Nicholas Courtney only gets a few words in, but the rapport and friendship between the 3 of them was clear to see.
The other noteable extra is an interview with Patrick Troughton from Pebble Mill. Again this is very interesting and watching it for the first time made me realise how good an actor he is, as in person he is nothing like his Doctor Who character.
So overall a very good series, with very good extras makes this an essential purchase from the Jon Pertwee era.
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