The Five Doctors, Part 3

One way or another, three of the four Doctors trapped in the Death Zone on Gallifrey have made it into the Tower. Dr 3 and Sarah Jane are heading down from the top, while Dr 2 with the Brigadier, and Dr 1 and Tegan go upstairs. The chamber containing the tomb of that legendary Time Lord Rassilon must be somewhere between.

The Tower

As they go along with their respective Doctors, Sarah Jane and Tegan each express a dreadful feeling of foreboding, as if they’re walking into disaster. Dr 3  tells Sarah that he feels it too; it’s the Mind of Rassilon reaching out to them as they get nearer to his tomb.

To demonstrate Rassilon’s powers, even though he’s been dead for quite some time, the Doctors run into a few minor obstacles. This is also the show’s opportunity to get in a few more old companions who were available.

Dr 3 runs into Liz Shaw and Mike Yeats, formerly of UNIT.  In answer to his question, they assure him that “the little fellow with the checked trousers” as well as his other selves are just ahead, waiting for him. They need his help. He believes them at first, but when he tries to go back to get Sarah Jane, whom he left sitting on the last stairway down, before going on with Mike and Liz, they try to stop him. Dr 3 then realizes that they’re only illusions and runs back down the corridor the way he came.

Fake Liz screams “stooopp hiiim” in a creepy echoing voice before both she and Fake Mike disappear.

Dr 3 now has his doubts about Sarah Jane too for a moment, but aside from being a bit more cranky than usual since she rolled down that ridiculously undangerous hill, she’s been perfectly normal. They head down another corridor.

When Tegan expresses her feelings of dread and danger, Dr 1 pooh-poohs it and tells her he doesn’t feel any such thing. It’s all illusion. Just ignore it. And he marches on, unperturbed. Tegan shudders but follows.

Unnoticed by them, the Master is sneaking up the stairs behind them.

Farther down, since they’ve had to climb all the way from the basement, Dr 2 and the Brigadier are also coming up when they hear someone scream. They rush to investigate and find Zoe* and Jamie.

Jamie warns the Doctor that he and Zoe are trapped by a forcefield; if the Doctor doesn’t turn back, it will destroy them. Both plead desperately , but after some conversation, this Doctor too realizes that he’s speaking to illusions. The real Jamie and Zoe had their memories of their adventures with him erased at the end of War Games before they were sent home.

Jamie and Zoey Mike Yeats and Liz Shaw

When he confronts the pair about this, they also scream creepily and disappear. Dr 2 and the Brigadier go on.

Meanwhile, over at the Time Lords’ headquarters, Dr 5 is convinced that there’s still a traitor among the High Council who’s responsible for time-scooping his previously selves as well as setting up the Castellan to take the blame. He speaks privately to Councilor Flavia; she agrees to question the commander who shot the Castellan, while Dr 5 speaks to Borusa. But Borusa isn’t in the Inner Council Chamber when the Doctor returns there. The guards stationed outside say that he didn’t come out. So where is he?

Dr 5 examines the walls of the chamber for hidden panels and checks the transporter device that the Inner Council used to send the Master to the Death Zone.

Eventually, he notices the harp that sits in a corner beneath a large portrait of Rassilon playing the same instrument. When he plucks a string, Dr 5 hears a clicking sound from the wall behind the painting in response. There’s a hidden panel that’s locked by a musical code. But what notes must he play to open it?

Rassilon's Tomb

Dr 1 and Tegan are the first to reach Rassilon’s Tomb, which is in a magnificent vaulted room. Rassilon’s body lies out in the open, perfectly preserved in spite of being dead for eons, on top of a raised platform surrounded by raspberry colored marble pillars. The base of the platform is decorated with bas relief figureheads of Time Lords wearing those huge distinctive collars. One panel is blank.

Dr 1 doesn’t give this a glance. He’s more interested in a stubby little obelisk with Greek letters carved on it. He’s studying the inscription when the party we’ve been waiting for finally gets started. Dr 3 and Sarah Jane arrive. At last, some Doctor-Doctor-Doctor action! 

Of course, Drs 1 and 3 know each other from The Three Doctors. Perhaps because his future self isn’t quarreling with his other future self this time, Dr 1 is more friendly, greets Dr 3 as “my dear fellow,” and invites him to come and have a look at the obelisk.

Tegan and Sarah Jane introduce themselves.

“What’s happened to the little fellow?” Dr 1 wonders, just as Dr 2 comes in and joins the other two, shoving his way between them.

I have a confession to make: I’ve never seen a full episode featuring Patrick Troughton’s Doctor, only clips from War Games and a few other surviving episodes. My impression of his character is formed mainly through what I see of him in this story and The Three Doctors–a pixie-ish man who pretends to be a fool or coward when it suits him to put others off-guard, and who delights in winding up more dignified or pompous characters, whether the Brigadier, his other selves, or a mad villain like Omega. This is what makes his interactions with the other Doctors, especially Dr 3, so entertaining for me. It doesn’t go on as long as it does in The Three Doctors, but the few minutes shown here are my favorite part of this story.

Doctors Companions

The Brigadier is in the happy position of knowing everybody else in the room. He didn’t actually meet the 1st Dr the last time they all got together, but he did  see him on the Tardis viewscreen, so he has some idea who the old gentleman with the two Doctors he knows well is.

While the Doctors concentrate on translating the inscription, the Brigadier joins the ladies. In a nice little moment, they immediately find common ground commiserating about the irksome aspects of being a Doctor’s companion:

The Brigadier: “Typical. Absolutely typical.”

Sarah Jane: “Oh, I know. Drag you through time and space without so much as a by-your-leave, then leave you out when things get interesting.”

Tegan: “My version isn’t any better.”

Sarah Jane: “Which one’s yours?”

We don’t hear Tegan’s response that Dr 1 isn’t actually hers, and she’s got another Doctor around somewhere.

The Doctors have translated the text. Dr 1 insists that it doesn’t have anything to do with why they’re here or what they need to do to get back into their respective times, but the companions are curious anyway and want to know what it says.

Dr 2 explains that it’s Old High Gallifreyan (which coincidentally and remarkably looks just like Greek), the ancient language of the Time Lords. “Not many people understand it these days.”

All together now, Doctors: “Fortunately, I do.”

The inscription is basically a Welcome to Rassilon’s Tomb for those brave and determined people who have faced so many dangers and made it here to claim their reward. Then there’s a cryptic warning: To lose is to win and he who wins shall lose.

Drs 2 and 3 puzzle over this, but Dr 1 seems to know what it means. He tells the companions that whoever makes it to the tomb and takes the ring from the hand of Rassilon will get the reward he seeks: Immortality.

The Master shows up just then. By this time, he’s sick and tired of being helpful to ungrateful and suspicious Doctors and pissed off enough to decide what the Hell, let’s just go with being evil. He’s been eavesdropping just outside the tomb doorway. Immortality sounds as good to him as the regenerations Borusa promised, and all he has to do to achieve it is steal a ring off a corpse. Plus, he’ll have the fun of killing the Doctor three times over.

Not that he gets the chance. While he’s still gloating to the Doctors about killing them all, the Brigadier comes up behind him and gives him a good old fashioned Biff! Pow! sock in the jaw and lays him out flat.

While all this is going on at the Tower, Dr 5 is still in the Inner Council Chamber, doing his Harpo impression to no avail–when he realizes that the musical code he seeks is on the sheet music shown in Rassilon’s portrait. In addition to Old High Gallifreyan, the Doctor can also read ancient musical notation.

He plays Rassilon’s tune and, after a few clicks, the wall the portrait is on slides to one side.


Behind the wall is a hidden room… What a surprise: It’s that control room for the time scoop we saw back at the beginning. The little figures are there, arranged around the model of the Death Zone. Figures for Susan and the Master have been added.

Borusa is there too. Not in action-figure form, but the man himself behind it all. He changes from white gloves to black when he’s up to no good.


*It was only recently that I realized that Wendy Padbury, who plays Zoe, was also the doomed Cathy Vespers in Blood on Satan’s Claw


Author: Kathryn L Ramage

Kathryn L. Ramage has a B.A. and M.A. in English lit and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She lives in Maryland with three calico cats named after the Brontë sisters. In addition to being the author of numerous short stories, reviews, essays, and period mystery novellas, she is also the author of a series of fantasy novels set in a dukedom called the Northlands on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere during the medieval period.