Doctor Doctor Who Guide

I'm a relative newcomer to the world of Doctor Who, and unlike many people who saw "The Five Doctors" when it first came around, the episodes that came before it were in my recent memory for the most part. I knew what to expect from Doctors 1-4, and I was in the midst of really enjoying the Peter Davison era. 

The night I watched the episode with a friend, we had just seen "The King's Demons" and I was impressed as always by Anthony Ainley's Master and that delightfully evil badness of his. The Black Guardian Trilogy was also recent on the mind, and it reminded me of what the Doctor Who writing staff at this time was capable of. 

...which is why, when viewed as a high-concept Doctor Who episode, "The Five Doctors" would fail. But, as an anniversary special, it does cram as much into it as possible for your viewing pleasure. 

And yes, there are high moments, as "The Five Doctors" really is a story all about moments. Do we really care about our bad guy's scheme? (Name withheld to protect the unspoiled) Do we know that Sarah fell in a small ditch, not a steep canyon? Don't you think those Cybermen are a little slow? Of course we know all of those things, but that's not what makes "The Five Doctors" fun. 

The fun stuff is Patrick Troughton, repeating his line of "I don't like it" when he sees changes made to another former stomping ground of his. It's great to see the Second Doctor again, as it is to see the Brigadier, but even more, I would have loved to have seen Jamie tagging along. The fun stuff includes The Master's big grin as the Time Lords come to him for help. It's fun to see Tegan teaming up with the faux First Doctor, or seeing the Three Doctors team up for their Care Bear Stare or whatever it is that finally breaks Fifth Doctor out of his spell. High concept? No. Fun? Definitely. 

It was sad that William Hartnell didn't live long enough to participate. Richard Hurndall kind of looked the part, but I thought he was lacking some of the best mannerisms of the Hartnell Doctor. I was a bit disappointed with that, but at least we had a First Doctor in it! 

Tom Baker's absence was sorely felt, and one can only imagine how much better the episode would be if he had been there. To many he is The Doctor, and his being there might have afforded Peter Davison more time to interact with the others. 

There also were the remaining questions: If the bad guy wanted the Doctor to get to the tomb of Rassilon, then why did he put the Doctors through so much trouble to get there? Why were the Cybermen, a Dalek, etc. scooped up, and more importantly, what was the purpose in bringing Sarah and Susan there? (The Brig I understand, as he was with Second Doctor at the time) And on that note, why doesn't anyone ask Susan what she's been up to? She's obviously not a teenager anymore, yet no one seems that surprised to see her. Then there were the ghosts that, while it was great to see the cameo appearances, I'd like to think there may have been a better way to incorporate them into the story. 

The other thing that didn't go over too well with me for "The Five Doctors," and then I'll get off my soapbox, is that two of my favorite characters of the series didn't seem to be served very well. I'm referring of course to the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith. "Great balls of fire?!?" Right. But more than that, the Third Doctor didn't get much good stuff to do, besides saying "I'll explain later" a lot, and, of course, repeating his "reverse the polarity" line which would have been funny if Peter Davison hadn't said it himself two or three episodes earlier. 

And then there's Sarah. Sarah Jane Smith in the Tom Baker episodes seemed to be having a lot of fun. This Sarah, in "The Five Doctors," was written more like a Jo Grant. Again, a great actress (Lis Sladen) not used to her full potential. 

Still.... if viewed in the way it was intended (as an anniversary story meant just to be fun), "The Five Doctors" is great. But when you consider the potential of a story where you have several Doctors, you'd think that you could do a story with a concept as great as some of the episodes surrounding it in the Davison era.

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