Thu, 28 February 2008
The Five Doctors was a special feature-length episode of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, produced in celebration of the programme's twentieth anniversary. It aired in the United Kingdom on November 25, 1983, although it had its world premiere in the United States, on the Chicago PBS station WTTW-TV and various other PBS affiliates on November 23, the anniversary date.
Someone is plucking all the incarnations of the Doctor out of time, and placing them in the Death Zone on Gallifrey
where they will meet old friends and enemies and play out the deadly
Game of Rassilon, for the ultimate prize. But to lose is to win, and he
who wins shall lose...
The Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough
are taking a break on the Eye of Orion, one of the most tranquil spots
in the universe, when the Fifth Doctor suddenly collapses. Tegan and
Turlough bring the Fifth Doctor back into the TARDIS,
where they discover to their distress that he is literally fading away.
The Fifth Doctor manages to set the TARDIS controls for a destination
and the ship dematerializes.
In a hidden chamber, a dark figure is manipulating the controls of a time scoop and kidnapping the Doctor's previous incarnations out of the time stream along with some of his former companions. The First Doctor is taken while he is walking in a rose garden, the Second Doctor and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart from a UNIT reunion and the Third Doctor while he is out driving his roadster, Bessie. Also taken out of time are Sarah Jane Smith and the Doctor's granddaughter Susan Foreman. The Fourth Doctor and Romana are taken while punting along the River Cam,
but whoever is doing this is frustrated as the two are trapped in the
time vortex by a time eddy and unable to rematerialize. All of them,
save the Fourth Doctor and Romana, are deposited on a desolate, rocky
landscape — the Death Zone on Gallifrey.
Meanwhile, in the Capitol on Gallifrey, the High Council of Time Lords, headed by Lord President Borusa and consisting of Chancellor Flavia and the Castellan, watches in concern. The Eye of Harmony
is being drained by whoever is taking the Doctor out of time,
endangering all of Gallifrey. Despite Borusa's misgivings, the High
Council has unanimously voted to call in the Master
to assist by going into the Death Zone to help the Doctors. Offered a
pardon and a new cycle of regenerations, the Master accepts, and is
given a copy of the Seal of the High Council by the Castellan to prove
his bona fides, and a matter transmitter (transmat) recall device. He
is then teleported via transmat to the Death Zone.
In the Zone, the Doctors face various dangers. The First Doctor and Susan are pursued by a Dalek
through a hall of mirrors, finally escaping when they push the Dalek
into a dead end, where the discharge of its energy weapon ricochets
back and destroys it. The Second Doctor and the Brigadier escape from a
squad of Cybermen,
and the Third Doctor rescues Sarah from her fall down an embankment.
Sarah is mildly confused, as she had seen the Third Doctor regenerate
into the Fourth (Planet of the Spiders),
but is glad to see the Doctor she once knew. The Second and Third
Doctors explain to their companions that in Gallifrey's past, known as
the Dark Time, the Time Lords misused their powers. A device called the
Time Scoop was used to pluck beings out of their times and place them
in the Death Zone, where they would fight each other in a sort of
gladiatorial game. The Doctors' goal now is to reach the Dark Tower,
where the Time Lord founder Rassilon is entombed, although there is some doubt as to whether Rassilon is actually dead.
The Master meets and tries unsuccessfully to convince the Third
Doctor that he is there to help. He is then forced to flee when
thunderbolts fall from the sky. The Third Doctor only sees this as
confirmation that this is all a plot of the Master's. The First Doctor
and Susan find the TARDIS and the presence of the First Doctor seems to
stabilize the Fifth for the moment. Together, they scan the tower and
find three entrances — one at the apex of the tower, the main gate at
the base, and one underground, but a force field prevents the TARDIS's
entry. The Fifth Doctor takes Tegan and Susan to go to the main gate,
but encounters the Master, who has no better luck convincing the Fifth
Doctor than he did the Third. At that moment, the two are surrounded by
Cybermen, and when they try to run away, the Master is knocked out by a
cybergun blast. The Fifth Doctor finds the Master's recall device on
his unconscious body, and transmats himself to the Capitol. The Master,
confronted by the Cybermen, offers himself as a guide to the Tower.
In the Capitol, the Doctor is informed of the situation by the High
Council. The Doctor realizes not only that he has done the Master an
injustice, but also that they were found too easily by the Cybermen. He
opens the recall device and finds a homing beacon inside. The
Castellan, who gave the Master the device, is arrested and his quarters
ordered to be searched. There is found a box containing the Black
Scrolls of Rassilon — forbidden knowledge from the Dark Time. Borusa
destroys the scrolls before anyone can examine them and orders the
Castellan taken to the mind probe for interrogation. However, as the
Castellan is escorted outside, there is a shot. The Doctor rushes out
to find the Castellan dead, and the Captain of the guard reporting that
he was shot while trying to escape. The Doctor voices his concerns to
Chancellor Flavia: the Castellan was stubborn, but not a traitor. There
is more to this than meets the eye.
The Second Doctor and the Brigadier are exploring a series of caves when they encounter a Yeti left over from the games. Taking refuge in an alcove, the Doctor tries to chase the Yeti off with a firework,
succeeding only in maddening it, and causing it to collapse the
entrance to the alcove. However, the Doctor detects a breeze from
further back and discovers the underground entrance to the Tower.
On the surface, the Third Doctor and Sarah come across a Raston Warrior Robot,
according to the Doctor the most perfect killing machine ever devised.
Able to move with blinding speed and fire bolts of metal at its
targets, it detects its victims by motion. The Doctor and Sarah are
unable to move without attracting the robot's attention, but luck is on
their side when a squad of Cybermen come over the ridge and are rapidly
eliminated by the robot. Taking advantage of the distraction, the
Doctor and Sarah run past the robot's position, taking some rope and
spare bolts from the robot's cave. Reaching a cliff face just above the
Tower, the Doctor uses the rope and bolts to form a grappling hook, and
he and Sarah abseil across to the top of the Tower.
Tegan and Susan have told the First Doctor what happened to the
Fifth Doctor. The First Doctor decides to head for the main gate
himself, with Tegan insisting on accompanying him. Opening the main
gate through the means of a keypad hidden under a bell, they find a
chessboard floor pattern blocking their way. The First Doctor
determines that the chessboard is a trap — electrical bolts will
destroy anyone attempting to cross unless they find the safe path. The
Master appears at this point, warning them that the Cybermen are close
behind. While the Doctor and Tegan hide, the Master lures the Cybermen
onto the chessboard where they are killed. The Master tells the Doctor,
"It's as easy as pie", then blithely steps across the board and moves
into the Tower. The Doctor realizes that the Master means the Greek
and that the safe path is calculated by means of the mathematical
constant. He and Tegan make their way across the trap. In the Zone, the
TARDIS is being surrounded by Cybermen who start to assemble a bomb to
blow it up. Inside, Turlough and Susan watch helplessly.
The Second and Third Doctors encounter more obstacles while moving
separately through the Tower, with the mind of Rassilon exuding an
intensifying feeling of fear. They also encounter what appear to be
their previous companions: the Third meeting Captain Mike Yates and Liz Shaw; the Second meeting Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot.
The Doctors soon realize that the 'companions' are just phantoms
designed to impede their progress through the Tower, and the spectres
vanish with a scream. Finally, all three Doctors reach the tomb where
Rassilon's casket lies. While the Brigadier, Sarah, and Tegan get
re-acquainted, the three Doctors try to translate an inscription
written in Ancient Gallifreyan on a pedestal near a control panel.
The Fifth Doctor finds that Borusa has vanished from the Council
chamber, but the guards insist that the President could not have gotten
by them at the only entrance. The transmat is out of power, so the
Doctor deduces that there must be a secret door. He finds it hidden
behind a painting of Rassilon playing the harp. The key to opening the
door is a series of notes played on the actual harp standing before the
painting — notes indicated by the sheet music in the painting itself.
The Doctor enters the secret chamber, finding the dark figure that had
taken his other selves out of time: Borusa. The Lord President is not
satisfied with ruling Gallifrey for his lifetimes — he wants to be
President Eternal. Borusa has determined that Rassilon discovered the
secret of immortality, and he means to claim it, sending the Doctors
into the Zone to clear the way for him. Using the Coronet of Rassilon,
Borusa overwhelms the Fifth Doctor's will, thus forcing the latter to
obey his commands.
In the tomb, the Doctors have deciphered the inscription: Rassilon
had discovered immortality and will share it with whomever overcomes
the obstacles to the tomb and takes the ring from his body. However,
one line troubles the First Doctor: "To lose is to win and he who wins
shall lose." The Master steps out of the shadows to claim immortality
for himself, yet is jumped from behind by the Brigadier and tied up by
Sarah and Tegan. The Third Doctor fixes the control panel by reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, allowing the TARDIS to transport itself to the tomb (just seconds before the Cybermen's bomb detonates).
The Second Doctor contacts the Capitol and the Fifth Doctor answers,
still under Borusa's control. He tells his other selves to await their
arrival. He and Borusa transmat over to the tomb. Borusa paralyzes the
Doctors' companions with a command and tries to control the minds of
the Doctors as well, but fails as all four Doctors combine their wills
against him. However, a booming voice echoes through the chamber — the
voice of Rassilon, demanding to know who disturbs him. Borusa steps
forward to claim immortality and while the other Doctors protest, the
First Doctor holds the others back and says to the projection of
Rassilon that Borusa deserves the prize. Borusa takes the ring from the
body and puts it on. He finds himself paralyzed, then transformed into
one of several stone faces carved into the side of the casket. Rassilon
sends the Master back to his own time, then frees the Fourth Doctor
from the time vortex and returns to eternal rest. The First Doctor
smugly tells the Fifth that he finally understood the proverb. The
'prize' was yet another trap — a means for Rassilon to eliminate
whoever sought immortality.
The Doctors and the companions say their good-byes to each other and
re-enter the TARDIS save for the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough. As
those three watch, the others are transported back to their proper
times. Chancellor Flavia arrives with guards and tells the Doctor that
with Borusa's disappearance, the Council has appointed the Doctor as
President. The Doctor appears reluctant, but Flavia tells him he cannot
refuse an order of the Council or it will attract the severest
penalties. The Doctor orders Flavia back to the Capitol, saying that he
will travel there in his TARDIS and that she has full powers until his
return. Once in the TARDIS, though, he reveals to Tegan and Turlough
that he has no intention of returning. Tegan asks if the Doctor really
intends to go on the run from his own people in a rickety old TARDIS.
The Doctor replies, smiling, "Why not? After all, that's how it all
- The role of the First Doctor was played by Richard Hurndall, as
William Hartnell, who originally played the role, died in 1975. William
Hartnell does make an appearance, however, in a pre-titles sequence
taken from the end of The Dalek Invasion of Earth.
- Tom Baker declined to reprise his role as the Fourth Doctor,
as he did not want to reappear in the series so recently after his
departure (a decision he would later say that he regretted); so his
appearance in the story was pieced together from footage filmed for the
unaired serial Shada.
- The scene with Jamie and Zoe was originally written with Zoe and Victoria Waterfield
in mind. The Doctor would have realised the truth when Victoria called
Lethbridge-Stewart "Brigadier", since Victoria had only met the
Brigadier when he was a Colonel in The Web of Fear. However, Deborah Watling
was unable to make the filming dates. Frazer Hines was able to free
himself up for a day's shooting, so Jamie was written in instead.
- In the original drafts of the script, the Doctor/companion
combinations were very different. Before Tom Baker decided not to
appear, the Fourth Doctor would have been paired with Sarah, the Third
Doctor with the Brigadier and the Second Doctor with Jamie.
When Baker declined to appear and Frazer Hines was unable to meet the
production dates due to other commitments, the scripts had to be
altered. However, Hines was able to step in later for a cameo
appearance, as noted above.
- John Levene was asked to appear as Sergeant Benton
but objected to the way in which the character interacted with the
Second Doctor and declined to participate. The scene was filmed with an
unnamed sergeant in place of Benton.
- This is only the second time in the series' history that there was a pre-credits sequence. Castrovalva (1982) was the first such story. Subsequently, Time and the Rani (1987) and Remembrance of the Daleks
(1988) also featured pre-credits teasers. The pre-credits sequence
became a regular occurrence starting with the 2005 series episode The End of the World.
- This serial also featured the debut of the new TARDIS console and
room, the first redesign since 1977. This console would remain until
the end of series production in 1989.
- This serial ended fan speculation as to whether or not Patrick Troughton
and Jon Pertwee's Doctors were regenerations or merely "changes of
appearance". It also explicitly indicated in dialogue that the Davison
incarnation of the Doctor was in fact the fifth, officially
contradicting the Morbius Doctors speculation that had circulated since the The Brain of Morbius serial that there had been additional incarnations of the Doctor prior to Hartnell.
- When asked by the Third Doctor as to whether he has regenerated
again, the Master says, "Not exactly", referencing his stealing of
Tremas's body as seen in the Fourth Doctor story The Keeper of Traken (1981).
- This is the first time it is suggested that a new cycle of
regenerations can be bestowed on a person (in this case the Master),
implying that it could be possible to circumvent the
twelve-regeneration limit established in The Deadly Assassin.
However, the Master is occupying a non-Time Lord body, so whether this
can be applied to a Time Lord who has already reached his thirteenth
incarnation is unclear. Years later, however, the episode "Utopia" shows the Master regenerating and in the following episode "The Sound of Drums" indicates that he had been "resurrected" (the Master's own word, left unexplained) by the Time Lords to fight in the Time War, suggesting a new regeneration cycle was indeed bestowed upon him.
- Three incarnations of Borusa previously appeared in The Deadly Assassin, The Invasion of Time and Arc of Infinity.
- Dinah Sheridan makes a guest appearance as Flavia. The character
has subsequently been mentioned in spin-off fiction as becoming
President of the High Council and then subsequently removed from office
due to a scandal (as detailed in the New Adventures novel, Happy Endings). In the new series, a musical cue composed by Murray Gold
with ethereal sounding vocals is jokingly referred to as "Flavia's
Theme" by the production team, who say it is Flavia's voice singing out
from the time vortex.
- One of the jewels from the Coronet of Rassilion would later play an important part in the Big Finish Productions Bernice Summerfield adventure The Crystal of Cantus.
- No explanation is given for companion Kamelion's absence from this story.
- The First Doctor does not quite recognise the Master ("Do I know
you?"), and has to be reminded of their time at the Academy together.
The Third Doctor does recognise him, however, though it seems not as
easily as usual.
- The Mind Probe would later be used as a plot device in the Torchwood episode Sleeper.
- This story takes place after The Dalek Invasion of Earth
from the point of view of the First Doctor and Susan, given Susan's
mature appearance and the implication that they have been separated for
- Although it is never made clear exactly where this story takes
place within the Second and Third Doctors' chronology, it is made clear
that it takes place after the events of The Three Doctors. The Second Doctor mentions Omega
while reminiscing with the Brigadier, and also makes a comment about
his own replacement being "unpromising" when he is in UNIT headquarters
and meets Lethbridge-Stewart's successor. The Third Doctor also refers
to “that fellow in the check trousers and black frock-coat? when he
meets the illusions of Mike Yates and Liz Shaw. The familiar and
mock-antagonistic way that the Second and Third Doctors interact also
suggests that The Five Doctors takes place after the events of The Three Doctors
for them both. Since the First Doctor refers to the Second as "the
little fellow", it is reasonable to assume that the story takes place
later in his chronology as well.
- The Second Doctor's method of determining that Jamie and Zoe are phantoms, which references the events of The War Games,
is, seemingly, a continuity error, (subsequently rendering the Second
Doctor's earlier meeting with the Brigadier in this story a continuity
error). The memories of Jamie and Zoe's travels with the Doctor, as
opposed to their respective initial adventures with him in their own
home eras (The Highlanders and The Wheel in Space) were wiped in The War Games
when they were returned to their own times at a moment just after they
had left in the TARDIS. There are various fan explanations for this and
it is noted that it is the Brigadier only that they should not have
recognised as neither of them would remember meeting him in The Web of Fear and The Invasion respectively. (see Season 6B)
- This story takes place some time between The Time Warrior and Planet of the Spiders from the Third Doctor's point of view, as he recognises Sarah Jane, for whom events take place after K-9 and Company.
- The Third Doctor reacts to Sarah's mimed description of the Fourth
Doctor by saying, "Teeth and curls?" and telling her the change has not
happened yet for him. Although the Third Doctor may just be
interpreting her gestures, his accuracy has led some fans to believe
that it implies a previous unseen encounter with the Fourth Doctor.
According to Terrance Dicks on the DVD
commentary, the line was supposed to be Sarah's, but Pertwee negotiated
with Elisabeth Sladen for him to say it instead, leading to the
problem. In the short story The Touch of the Nurazh by Stephen Hatcher from the anthology Short Trips: Monsters,
an injury makes the Third Doctor begin to regenerate into the Fourth
but the process is reversed. This is witnessed by Jo Grant, and the
theory is that she subsequently describes the Fourth Doctor's
appearance to the Third.
- This story occurs after Mawdryn Undead from the Brigadier's point of view, given that he recognises Tegan and later the Fifth Doctor.
- At the start of the episode, Sarah Jane Smith is shown with K-9, a direct reference to the spin-off pilot of two years earlier, K-9 and Company. The two characters later returned in the Tenth Doctor story School Reunion.
- The working title for this story was The Six Doctors. It would have been written by former script editor Robert Holmes and would have featured the Cybermen and their kidnapping of the five incarnations of the Doctor; in their attempt to extract Time Lord DNA to turn themselves into "Cyberlords", the twist being that the First Doctor and Susan would actually be android
impostors (the former being the "Sixth Doctor" of the title) and the
Second Doctor would have saved the day. However, Holmes dropped out at
an early stage and another former script editor, Terrance Dicks, was
brought in instead. Some elements of this plotline would be reused in
Holmes's own The Two Doctors.
- The original script featured an appearance by the Autons, last seen in Terror of the Autons.
After being dropped into the Death Zone, Sarah would have been attacked
by a group of them before being rescued by the Third Doctor. However,
due to budgetary restrictions, the scene was dropped and replaced in
the finished version.
- Just before she meets the Third Doctor, Sarah falls a few feet down
what fans have generally considered a rather unconvincing slope. In the
novelisation, Sarah actually steps off a cliff. This was what was
originally intended in the script, but for budgetary reasons the
sequence was changed.
- Nathan-Turner's first choice of director for the story was Waris Hussein, who had directed the first ever Doctor Who serial, An Unearthly Child, in 1963. However, Hussein was in America at the time and was unable to accept the offer. Nathan-Turner then asked another veteran director, Douglas Camfield, to direct but he also declined. It has been suggested that Camfield was offended to be second choice or that he was angered that Nathan-Turner had not asked him back to Doctor Who before, but there is no known evidence to support this suggestion. Camfield was also very ill with heart disease, and this may have had an impact on his decision not to direct the production. He died of a heart attack early in 1984.
- The programme is officially a co-production with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation,
although the production team were not aware of this during production
and the agreement in effect amounted to little more than a
pre-production purchase pact.
- The story was prepared in two formats: the ninety-minute version
and a four-part version, the latter designed for international
distribution or repeat broadcasting in the ordinary series run. The
episode breaks were, respectively: Sarah falling down the slope, the
Cybermen placing their bomb outside the TARDIS while Susan and Turlough
watch; and the Master appearing behind the First Doctor and Tegan while in the Dark Tower.
- In the various publicity photos of the five Doctors from this story, a waxwork model of Tom Baker from a 1980 Doctor Who Exhibition in Madame Tussaud's
was used. According to producer John Nathan-Turner, Baker had agreed to
do the photocall for the 20th anniversary but, suspecting that he might
not turn up, Nathan-Turner organised for the waxwork to be on location.
- This is the only programme from the classic series of Doctor Who
for which all recorded and filmed material, including alternate and
unused takes, fluffed scenes and so forth, still exists in
broadcast-quality format. This allowed for the creation of the 1995
version of the story.
- The end credits featured a specially mixed version of the theme music, which began with Delia Derbyshire's original 1960s arrangement and then segued into the Peter Howell
arrangement being used by the series at the time. This arrangement was
only used on this one occasion and was the last time that the
Derbyshire version was heard during the show's original run. A unique
arrangement of the opening credits music was also used, which ended in
a brief coda phrase that was never used in any other serial.
A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in November 1983; it was the only Target novelisation to be published before its story was transmitted.
Broadcast, VHS and DVD releases
- The Five Doctors was first broadcast in the United States
on the actual date of the programme's 20th anniversary. The broadcast
in the United Kingdom was delayed two days so it could coincide with
the BBC's Children in Need charity night. There were a few scenes in the BBC broadcast that had not been shown in the US airing.
- The story was first released VHS and Betamax in September of 1985. This version was also released on Laserdisc in 1994.
- It was rereleased on VHS in 1990 without 2 minutes of edits present
in the earlier tapes and discs. To date, this is the only release of
the story as originally broadcast.
- A Special Edition of the episode, with updated special
effects, surround-sound compatibility and an alternate editing of the
raw material was released on VHS in 1995 in a box set with the video of
The King's Demons
and a limited edition postcard album. Since about 2000, this version
has been turning up frequently in the syndication package instead of
- This was the first Doctor Who serial to be released on DVD, on November 1, 1999.
Some of the special effects were further enhanced and the voice of
Rassilon was noticeably different. The Region 1 version has a
commentary track by Peter Davison and writer Terrance Dicks.
- On 22 August 2005 it was announced that The Five Doctors would be the first Doctor Who story to be made available to download to mobile phones, in a deal between BBC Worldwide and the technology firm Rok Player.
- This story will be rereleased on a 2 disc 25th Anniversary special edition DVD on 3rd March 2008.
- ^ Briggs, Nick, "Last Orders", Doctor Who Magazine, #229, 30th August 1995, Marvel Comics UK Ltd., p.36, quote of Nicholas Courtney (who did not specify a companion for Troughton)
- ^ Lyons, Steve and Chris Howarth, "The Good Soldier" (interview with John Levene) Doctor Who Magazine, #230, 27 September 1995, Marvel Comics UK Ltd., p.44
- ^ Walker, Stephen James; David J. Howe (2006). Talkback: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Doctor Who Interview Book: Volume One: The Sixties. England: Telos Publishing Ltd., p. 30. ISBN 1-84583-006-7.
- ^ Rawson-Jones, Ben. "Cult Spy: 'Doctor Who' in Need?", Digital Spy, 2007-11-18. Retrieved on 2007-11-18.
Direct download: five_doctors_done.mp3
-- posted at: 5:01am UTC