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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great romp, 2 Mar. 2008
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This review is from: Doctor Who - The Five Doctors (25th Anniversary Edition) [1983] [DVD] (DVD)
25 years have passed since this milestone in British TV sci-fi. The actual 'five' weren't all there, but does it matter?

Extras first; this DVD contains two versions of the episode; a special edition containing some new SFX (nothing too mind-blowing) and is a slightly longer cut, and the original version as broadcast in 1983. There are various commentaries (I haven't listened to them all yet) including one by the companions, Peter Davison with Terrance Dicks, and a not-too-well-hidden Easter Egg in the form of a commentary by Phil Collinson, David Tennant and Helen Raynor from the current Doctor Who team. There's also a documentary on the Doctor Who continuity narrated by Paul McGann, another on the making of `The Five Doctors' presented by Colin Baker, as well as features from Nationwide, Saturday Superstore, the Longleat exhibition and studio out-takes. In short, there's plenty of stuff over the two discs to keep most Who fans amused for many moons.

Basically, the episode is an excuse for a Who's-Who of Doctor Who - barring Tom Baker (shown only in clips from the unreleased `Shada') and the deceased William Hartnell. For the remainder, it's time to get back into character. The story concerns the 5th Doctor returning to Gallifrey in order to become `whole', as his previous selves have been scooped up from their respective time streams and placed in the Death Zone as part of some nefarious plot. As far as bad guys go, the usual suspects are in place (mostly); there's a lone Dalek, a lone Yeti, the Master and a whole bunch of Cybermen.

The real appeal of an episode like this lies not with the power of the story, but with seeing the various Doctors do their stuff one more time. As a budding writer myself, I can only imagine the problems that lay before Terrance Dicks when trying to juggle the almost insane amount of leading and supporting characters in a episode like this. To his credit, he manages it well - especially considering that he managed to keep the 5th Doctor at the story's centre. But overall, this is not as strong a story as 1973's `The Three Doctors'; firstly, as the Doctors are mostly divided in their quest the opportunity to actually see how they get on together goes amiss. One of the things that made 'The Three Doctors' so great to watch was Troughton and Pertwee bouncing digs off each other. Secondly, the overall sense of threat doesn't seem as great in 'The Five Doctors'; worth comparing to Omega threatening the whole of existence.

While I admire Dicks' writing skills, I feel he missed an opportunity in terms of serious emotional connection between the Doctors and the various companions. True, there is genuine joy when the Brigadier meets the 2nd Doctor again, and relief when Sarah-Jane is rescued (down a pathetic hill!) by the 3rd Doctor, but the differences in emphasis between the writers of the classic series and the writers of the current series become evident. The 5th Doctor shows almost no emotion when faced with the Brigadier and Sarah-Jane again; just compare that for a moment to the events of 'School Reunion' and all the joy, competetiveness, sorrow and memories that ensued. This is bad enough, but then neither he and the 2nd and 3rd Doctors even bat an eyelid at their own grand-daughter, Susan, who they would not have seen for an eternity. I can't help feeling that huge opportunities went amiss here. In a show which is basically an excuse for a get-together, the sense of reunion in the script was a bit lacking. This is something that the current writers would have probably exploited to the max.

Saying that, it was still good to see the old faces back in action. Richard Hurndall actually does more than just mimic William Hartnell; he captures the 1st Doctor's essence excellently (I pour scorn on David Tennant's commentary that he was `just a bloke in a wig' - a little unfair I think). Patrick Troughton, as always, is charm personified (and is arguably the star of this story), but my first and favourite Doctor was Jon Pertwee, and for me it's always a thrill to see him in action - plus he gets to use that famous line one more time! Also a nod to the always-excellent Anthony Ainley as the Master - terrific.

So, was it really `The Five Doctors' or `Doctor Who 3.5'? Whichever way it's viewed, this special commemorative episode is still a fine romp through the history of the most infamous Time Lord of them all.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Mar 2008 13:14:11 GMT
A. Morrison says:
While the current Doctor Who writers may have dealt better with the emotional side of things I don't think they would have managed to get the plotting as good. RTD especially seems to have considerable problems with plot structuring - a thing that Terrance Dicks is a master at.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Apr 2008 12:56:18 BDT
Mick E says:
A fair comment, but I certainly wasn't negatively criticising Terrance Dicks structuring of the story. He was the script editor during my most fondly remembered period of Doctor Who (the Pertwee years). The thing is, Russell Davies isn't the only writer in the current series. People like Paul Cornell and Steven Moffatt have shown that an entertaining balance can be created with solid plot structure and emotional development. I do take your point about Davies and plot structuring though.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Apr 2009 12:36:52 BDT
Mr. D. Swan says:
RTD although not the only writer does heavily rewrite ALL but Moffets work, RTD isn't really interested in story, he's interested in emotion and character interaction, strangely John Nathan Turner was weak on story too.

Posted on 21 May 2009 16:00:10 BDT
What a brilliant review of one of my favourite Dr Who stories ever!
Your spot on regarding the emotional connections between the
Doctor and his companions.
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