WHO 50: 1983:
The Five Doctors.

TV The following was originally posted, on the 31st July 2001 when this blog was still cooking and I was trying to decide what it should be about.  I still can't decide.  But there it is, the fourth post.  Find it again below with some of the links updated for your convenience.

When the long-running science fiction series 'Doctor Who' reached its Twentieth Anniversary in 1983, there must have been only one idea at the forefront of the minds of then producer John Nathan-Turner and cohorts Eric Saward (script editor) and Terrance Dicks (writer). A story which would bring together all of the previous Doctors with the latest, and the more popular companions and monsters in a epic story. Seems like a perfectly reasonable idea. Little did they know what they had themselves in for. Which in a way makes 'The Five Doctors' quite idiosyncratic viewing - the main interest being the ingenuity of Dicks as he overcomes the obstacles which would be in the way of bringing a coherent story to the screen. For a start not all of the Doctors would be available. The first, William Hartnell, passed away some years before, and Tom Baker decided not to appear (a fit of hubris he would regret in later years). In the show then, Hartnell is replaced by Richard Hurndall, an apparent lookalike so wildly unlike Bill as to be a distraction. Baker's absense is explained through unseen footage from the unfinished adventure 'Shada' and a malfunction in the main baddies computer. There seem to be few monsters other than Cybermen, a Yeti and a Dalek. That's because all of the rights to these monsters have fallen to their creators and clearance to use must have been a nightmare. And then there are the companions. Believe it or not most don't appear because of other work commitments. So you're left with the then current companions, The Brigadier, fan favourite Sarah-Jane Smith, and Susan, The Doctor's ersatz granddaughter. When some other companions did become available at the last minute they were swiftly written in as 'illusions'. And the thing would appear as the centrepiece of the very first Children in Need appeal and so had to intelligible to a wider audience than usual. So it should a complete mess. And it is. But what a glorious mess. There is some nostalgia in seeing 'your Doctor' at work again even in a brief few scenes. And The Master is in top form. And without the need for a cliffhanger every twenty-five minutes the story has an extra pace - perfect for the post-Matrix generation...maybe...pick up the DVD if you can, for Peter Howell's haunting music - which strangely may be the highlight...

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