The Five Doctors, Part 2

Trapped in the Death Zone on Gallifrey, two out of four Doctors are hiking toward Rassilon’s Tower with a companion.

The other two? They’re having a tea party inside the Tardis, although I don’t see any actual tea. Tegan and Turlough are enjoying what look like green cocktails. Susan’s apparently got some lemon meringue pie. There’s also a lavish fruit bowl.

Tardis Tea Party

It’s just a little scene, but whenever I watch episodes where Doctors and their future and/or previous companions meet up, I wish that everybody would hang around for a little while after the adventure is over and have a reunion party in the Tardis. This is the only time anything like that happens.

By the time we join them, Susan has had time to catch up with her Grandfathers (as far as I can tell, Dr 1 and Susan didn’t mention the Dalek). The two Doctors are now discussing their plans.

Another interesting thing about the scenes between Drs 1 and 5. Dr 1 has always been something of a cantankerous old Time Lord and doesn’t seem to like very many people. In The Three Doctors, he called Drs 2 and 3 “the clown and the dandy” and goodness knows what he would have made of Dr 4. But he likes this future self, calls him “my boy,” and isn’t at all tetchy during their conversations. He does have some run-ins with Tegan, however, as subsequent scenes will demonstrate.

Dr 5 brings up a primitive computer graphic image of Rassilon’s Tower on a screen on the Tardis’s control panel. There are three ways to get into the tower: Above, Between, or Below, as Dr 2 will sing later from an old Gallifreyan nursery rhyme.

The initial plan is that Dr 5 and the two women will walk over to the Dark Tower, pick an entrance, and go inside to shut off the forcefield generator and release the Tardis.  Above, between, or belowDr 1 then intends to bring the Tardis over to them in the tower so they can get out of here. I don’t think they’re aware yet that Drs 2 and 3 are wandering around nearby, but Dr 1 will pick them up on the Tardis sensors shortly.

The trio sets out, but they don’t get far before Dr 5 meets the Master and stops for a chat. He doesn’t believe the Master is there to help any more than Dr 3 did and Tegan, keeping a safe distance with Susan, doesn’t have any reason to trust the Master either (remembering how he shrunk her Auntie and pushed Dr 4 off a radio telescope, which is how she ended up here in the first place).

None of them notice the Cybermen coming down the hillside, until the squad has almost marched on top of the Doctor and Master. When they try to run, the Master gets zapped and knocked out. Dr 5 takes the transporter beacon, which the Master showed him during their conversation, uses it, and finds himself in the Time Lords’ Inner Council chamber.

When the Master comes to, he’s surrounded. He quickly makes friends with the Cybermen by pretending that he’s there to help them. Unlike the Doctors, the Cybermen believe him. Cyber-Suckers!

Continue reading “The Five Doctors, Part 2”

The Five Doctors, Part 1

Actually, it’s only four Doctors, and one of them is a substitute for the late William Hartnell, who had passed on several years before Doctor Who‘s 20th anniversary, when this 90-minute special episode was made.

Four Doctors

Not only does this story involve getting all the Doctors together; the show’s creators seem bent on getting anybody who was involved in it during its run to date and was available to appear in it somewhere. There’s a lot activity being juggled between different groups of characters. I’m going to break my review up into sections.

But first, a short history of me and Doctor Who. In the early 1970s, our local PBS station began to air all the episodes of a given story on Sunday mornings. My little brother watched them, and was a much more keen viewer than I was.

The first episode I ever saw was of Jon Pertwee’s Doctor. I haven’t been able to identify which story that was; I believe the Doctor’s companion was Liz Shaw, and what I would later know to be UNIT was fighting off an alien invasion. Aside from that, I don’t recall much except that it was the first time I’d ever heard a British telephone ring. While I rather liked the Doctor’s sense of style, I didn’t take much interest in the story and only saw bits and pieces of subsequent stories until The Three Doctors.  I started watching regularly during Tom Baker’s era and through Peter Davison’s, and those are the stories I still have the greatest affection for. (It helps that I’ve had a crush on Peter Davison since I was 17… going on 40 years now.)

This 20th anniversary show is one I remember watching when it first aired in 1983. We usually saw episodes of Doctor Who a year or two after they were shown in Britain, but this one actually aired in some parts of the US before its UK debut.

Since The Three Doctors, I’d been interested in the idea of Doctors meeting Doctors, the contrast of personalities even though they were the same person. It’s an idea I’m still partial to.

First Doctor's farewellTo include something of William Hartnell, the show begins with a clip of the First Doctor’s farewell speech to his granddaughter Susan, in which he promises that he’ll come back and they will see each other again.

The story proper opens with the current Doctor (Peter Davison, or Dr 5) and his two companions Turlough and Tegan* having a bit of a holiday in northern Wales, not far from Portmeirion. Dr 5 calls it the Eye of Orion and  says it’s the most tranquil place in the universe.

This tranquility is not to last long. It wouldn’t be much of a show if it did.

Continue reading “The Five Doctors, Part 1”

The Three Doctors, Part 4

At the end of Part 3, Doctors 2 and 3 willed their way out of their cell in Omega’s glittering cave hideaway and snuck back into the chamber where he harnesses the power of a singularity, in hopes of destroying it.

Omega catches them at it and subjects Dr 3 to the power of the Dark Side and a wrestling match with another creature of his making.

After a few flips, the creature gets Dr 3 into a strangle hold; it looks like he’s about to lose, and Omega gloats until Dr 2 warns him: “Destroy him and you destroy your only chance to live.”

Omega relents, and suddenly Dr 3 is back in the singularity chamber with Dr 2 and Omega, lying on the floor and gasping for breath. Dr 2 helps him up, but it’s Omega he thanks.

Driving BessieMeanwhile, the group of Doctors’ companions and friends also escaped from Omega’s cave base are running across the desolate landscape with  Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Mr. Ollis the groundskeeper until they find Bessie where Dr 3 left her parked. They all pile in and the Brigadier announces that they’re going to UNIT HQ. “It’s nearer than you think.”

Continue reading “The Three Doctors, Part 4”

The Three Doctors, Part 3

UNIT HQ in the black holeAt the end of the previous episode, Dr 2 lowered the Tardis’s protective forcefield. Not only were he, Sergeant Benton, and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart aboard the Tardis zapped, but the entire UNIT HQ was pulled through that black hole into the antimatter universe.

Already in that antimatter universe on a rather desolate planet, Dr 3, Jo, and Dr. Tyler are taken to a sort of throne room, where they and we finally meet the person who’s responsible for all this–that splendidly voiced person in cape and impressive mask whom we just glimpsed in Part 2 (played by Stephen Thorne). He introduces himself as Omega. (“Omegger,” if you speak in a posh British accent, as he and Dr 3 do.)

Dr 3 knows who he is, but thought he’d been destroyed eons ago.

Jo and Dr. Tyler are then taken to a cell in the glittery bauble cave with doors that vanish and reappear as needed; when the door reappears to shut them in, Jo does that thing that I know from Janet Fielding’s (Tegan’s) commentaries on Dr 5 episodes drives her crazy–where they point at an action and exclaim “Look!” before it actually happens, and then it happens.

Once the humans are gone, Dr 3 and Omega have a conversation that fills us in on Omega’s backstory:

Many thousands of years ago, Omega was a brilliant stellar engineer on Gallifrey.  This desolate world was a star, and part of his job was to detonate it and create a supernova to provide the enormous power needed for his people’s nascent time-and-space travel abilities. It was a dangerous mission, but he considered it an honor as well as his duty.  Mission successfully accomplished, but the Time Lords have always assumed that he was killed in the explosion; instead, he’d been thrown into this black hole of antimatter and he considers himself abandoned by them.

Omega

“They became Time Lords,” he grumbles to Dr 2, “and I was forgotten.”

“Not forgotten,” Dr3 tries to assure him. “I’ve always looked on you as our greatest hero.”

“I should have been a god!” Omega responds, which tells you all you need to know about his mental state after being stuck here alone for so long. What he wants now is vengeance. Continue reading “The Three Doctors, Part 3”

The Three Doctors, Part 2

At the end of Part 1, Dr 3 and his companion Jo were zapped by the multicolored blob-thing in UNIT HQ’s lab and disappeared. It’ll be some time before we find out what’s happened to them, The Doctor and Jobut during the activity that follows at UNIT, we’re given a very brief scene of them reappearing via that beam emitting from the so-called black hole and ending up unconscious in a quarry.

Back in the UNIT lab, after theorizing that Dr 3 and Jo have been transported somewhere, Dr 2 observes that the blobby thing has “gone off the boil” and he and Sgt. Benton venture out of the Tardis.

While Dr 2 is testing blobby’s limits, the Brigadier comes in. Being somewhat preoccupied by the blob-thing inside the HQ and the attack by the glittering shrouded creatures outside, it takes him a moment to register that the Doctor is now his old pre-regeneration friend again. He asks about some of their adventures together: the Yeti, the Cybermen attack, and  the Autons story which was Patrick Troughton’s last before he transformed into “that tall, thin fellow.” But this last hasn’t happened yet for Dr 2 at the point when he was taken out of the time-stream,  and he tries to explain this to the Brigadier and avoid spoilers on what’s coming up for him. He refers to himself as a “Temporal anomaly.” Not that the Brigadier really understands this, but he’s got enough to deal with at the moment and just goes along with it.

“You’ve been mucking around with that infernal machine of yours,” the Brigadier concludes, and tells Benton, “As long as he’s done the job, he can wear what face he likes.” He suggests that Dr 2 consult those “all powerful” Time Lords.

“Not so ‘all powerful’ just now,” Dr 2 replies. “That’s why it’s been left up to me and me and me.”
Continue reading “The Three Doctors, Part 2”

The Three Doctors, Part 1

In 1973, Doctor Who had been a successful BBC program for nearly ten years; the show’s producers were looking for ways to celebrate and make its 10th anniversary a particularly special occasion. Producer Barry Letts, in his commentary on this DVD, says that one of the requests he’d heard most often from fans was an episode in which the three actors who had played the Doctor all appeared together. Everybody involved was game for it, but it took a bit of work behind the scenes to accomplish.

The first of the four episodes of this anniversary story starts at a wildlife sanctuary. Ducks, swans, and other birds are swimming along on a lake, and something that looks like a weather balloon, or Rover caught in a very large plastic bag, appears to be snagged just at the water’s edge.

Weather balloonAn old man in wellies and carrying a rifle–he’s the grounds-keeper–approaches to examine the box, which resembles a car battery, that’s attached to this rigging and anchoring it.

Soon after, a professorial-looking gentleman in tweed drives up to the sanctuary and is greeted by an elderly woman in a cardigan. She addresses him as “Dr. Tyler.” She’s phoned him about the box her husband found, and directs him down to the lake where hubby, Mr. Ollis, is waiting. He hasn’t touched it, she says, and asks if it’s got chemicals in it that might be a danger to the ducks. Dr. Tyler reassures her on that point and continues driving down to the lakeside.

Mr. Ollis has in fact touched the box, which starts making staticky noises. Then zap!–he disappears. The birds on the lake fly off in alarm.

By the time Dr. Tyler gets out there, he finds the box alone. There’s no sign of the groundskeeper, whom he had glimpsed at a distance just a minute before. He phones UNIT HQ.

Continue reading “The Three Doctors, Part 1”

Dr. Who: Shada, Part 3

At the end of Part 2, Cambridge University science student Claire Keighley accidentally brought Professor Chronitis back from the dead by discovering and activating the controls for the Tardis that is his room at St. Cedd’s College.

Once he’s explained that much to her–not that she understands Chronotis alive againeverything he’s saying about their present state of timelessness, he tells her:

“We must find Skagra. He has the book.”

Fortunately, Claire does know about the book, so this part isn’t completely bewildering to her. Chronotis continues to explain the situation:

Shada is the Time Lord’s prison planet, but they are conditioned to forget about it–which was why the Doctor couldn’t remember its name when he was talking about Salyavin earlier, but he knew what the name meant when he heard the professor’s dying words.

The book is the literally the key to Shada. It’s what you use to access it.

If Skagra is working with mind transference, says the professor, then he can only be going to Shada for one reason. The prisoner he wants is that Salyavin we’ve already heard about. He must be stopped.

Chronotis then boosts Claire’s intellect by entering her mind and “rearranging things,” as she later describes it, so she knows enough to help him get out of this timeless state and go after Skagra.

Over on his magnificent cartoon command ship, Skagra is explaining this to Romana. As they’re talking, he realizes that the Gallifreyan code the book is written in would have to have reference to Time, and he goes looking back through the Doctor’s memories for his last mention of Time.

Command ship

At last, he breaks the code. Time runs backwards for the book, and the Tardis is of use in unwinding it. Continue reading “Dr. Who: Shada, Part 3”

Dr. Who: Shada, Part 2

At the end of Part 1, the Doctor was attempting to crawl under a chain-link fence to try to escape a floating silver sphere intent on sucking all the information out of his brain.

Doctor rescuedFortunately, he’s rescued by Romana, who shows up in the Tardis just in time. The Doctor scrambles up off the ground and into the Tardis (catching the end of his scarf in the door) before the sphere reaches him.

This was the other scene reused in The Five Doctors, with the floating sphere effect taken out. I always wondered why the Doctor was lying down in an alleyway.

Cambridge physics student Chris Parsons has undergone some experiences in the last few hours that have totally changed his understanding of the universe. First, that strange book he borrowed from Professor Chronotis  appeared be of extraterrestrial origin. Then, he had a look around inside the Tardis, met K9, and has learned that the now-dead professor was alien and isn’t the only person from another planet hanging around Earth. He’s in for a few more surprises before the day is out.

While Romana pops out to get the Doctor, Chris remains sitting with the dead professor, who vanishes before his eyes. When the Tardis comes back, he explains what happened; the Doctor says that Chronotis must have been on his last regeneration.

Chris and Romana tell the Doctor about Chronotis’s last words: Beware the sphere. Beware Skagra. Beware Shada. The secret is in the …

The Doctor knows what Shada means and vows to get Skagra, who has just killed a very old and dear friend. Tom Baker’s Doctor tends to be flippant about whatever happens to him, especially during the latter years of his run, but for once he seems actually angry and bent on vengeance.

They all get into the Tardis to find Skagra.

Continue reading “Dr. Who: Shada, Part 2”

Dr. Who: Shada, Part 1

Not so much a lost episode of Doctor Who, as an unfinished one. Near the end of Tom Baker’s sixth series as the Doctor, all BBC productions were pretty much shut down due to a technicians’ strike. Work on this episode had gotten only as far as filming the exterior scenes in and around Cambridge, and a day or two of videotaping on sets in the studio before everything stopped.

By the time the strike had ended, too much time had passed to resume it and the episode was scrapped. For years, all of it that could be seen by the viewing public were a couple of filmed fragments recycled and repurposed for The Five Doctors (which I intend to review some time soon). That was all I’d ever seen of it.

Written by Douglas Adams and part of what was considered one of the best eras of Doctor Who, it quickly passed quickly into the legendary realm of lost TV treasures.

Invisible spaceship

Other recreations have been attempted over the years, but at last in 2017, someone took the trouble to piece the filmed segments together, and fill in the sections that were never done with animation. The surviving actors returned to do voice-work for their characters, and there’s a nice surprise at the very end that they certainly wouldn’t have been able to do in 1978.

Continue reading “Dr. Who: Shada, Part 1”

K9 & Company

Sarah Jane, K9, and Brendan

The Sarah Jane Adventures were not Elisabeth Sladen’s and John Leeson’s first mutual spinoff from Doctor Who. In 1981, a single episode of K9 & Company aired on the BBC at Christmastime, featuring two of the Doctor’s most popular companions.

The show received respectably high ratings, drawing an audience of over 8 million. John Nathan Turner, the producer for Doctor Who at that time, had hopes that this would lead to a whole new series–but, sadly, nothing further came of it.

The single episode is given its own disc on the recently released BluRay set for Tom Baker’s final series as the Doctor, along with a set of related features.

A Girl’s Best Friend

The opening credits show us Sarah Jane and K9. She sits atop a stone wall in the countryside, reading a newspaper. She sips champagne at an open-air table outside a restaurant. She jogs. She drives around the country roads. He scoots along in his usual fashion. All accompanied by the theme song, an electronic, upbeat melody with the following simple lyrics (sung by John Leeson in his K9 voice–something he apparently still enjoys doing):

K9! K9! [music: blip, blip, bloop, bloop]
K9! K9! [music: blip, blip, bloop, bloop]
K9! K9! [music: blip, blip, bloop, bloop]
K9! K9! 

Good luck with getting that out of your head after you’ve heard it a couple of times.

Continue reading “K9 & Company”