...with a look at The Five Doctors, a Davison-era story from scripter Terrance Dicks, originally transmitted November 1983 (interestingly, it was actually broadcast in the U.S. a few days before appearing in the U.K.) As the title implies, this adventure wraps five incarnations of the Doctor (Peter Davison, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, and Tom Baker) into the same romp, with Richard Hurndall stepping in for the deceased William Hartnell.
Baker and Lalla Ward, who played companion Romana to Baker’s Fourth Doctor (the two were married in real life for a short time as well) declined to return for this story, which was developed to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the show. Their appearance here...
....is actually cribbed from footage of an unbroadcast/never completed (Douglas Adams scripted) episode called Shada.
Dame Diana Rigg and her daughter Rachael Stirling will appear in the upcoming Season/Series of DOCTOR WHO.
Character details remain under wraps, but the episode penned by Mark Gatiss will see Dame Diana and Rachael recreate their off-screen relationship on-screen, as they play a mother and daughter with a dark secret.
...says THIS piece over at BBC. BBC indicates the duo's episode will be scripted by Mark Gatiss, who previously wrote DW Season/Series 5 and/or 6 episodes like Victory of the Daleks and Night Terrors, and is an Executive Producer/Writer alongside DW overboss Steven Moffat on the amazingly excellent SHERLOCK (on which he also appears as Sherlock's brother Mycroft).
Rigg is, perhaps, most famous for portraying the ass-kicking Emma Peel in the legendary AVENGERS television series...
Stirling's extensive acting career has recently escalated to include high-profile fare like SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN and the slightly-dull-but-generally-quite-good SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN.
No word on when DOCTOR WHO Season/Series 7 will debut, but indications...both official and otherwise...suggest it'll be rather soon. Asylum of the Daleks, the first episode of said new Season/Series, will premiere at BFI on August 14.
The Five Doctors
“It’s fading. It’s all fading. Great chunks of my past, detaching themselves like melting icebergs...” the Doctor, The Fiver Doctors Part One
A mysterious figure is collecting incarnations of the Doctor from across time, diminishing the current Doctor’s essence. The crisis sets into motion an adventure which returns past characters Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), K-9, Romana (Lalla Ward), Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford), Daleks, Cybermen, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), along with illusory versions of Mike Yates (Richard Franklin), Liz Shaw (Caroline John), Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) and Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury).
Meanwhile, back on the Doctor’s homeworld of Gallifrey, trouble is afoot which threatens the whole of their civilization - said trouble appears related to whomever is bagging the various/previous Doctors. A chilly but desperate High Council compels the the Doctor’s arch enemy the Master (Anthony Ainley) to travel into the Death Zone on Gallifrey...the probable center of these crises...in a last ditch, and potentially insane, effort to save the day...
I really wish I could’ve been in the room the moment writer Terrance Dicks formalized plans to script The Five Doctors...when the realization of the unwieldy task at hand fully penetrated his consciousness for the first time.
The Tower of Sauron in Mordor...I mean, The Tomb of Rassilon on Gallifrey.
Perhaps he was as cool, confident, and matter of fact - as he invariably appears to be during the numerous interviews in which I’ve seen him over the years. But even if so, some itty, bitty part of him must’ve been quietly wondering: “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” The Five Doctors, is after all, a bizarre amalgam of DOCTOR WHO’s greatest hits, for want of a better description. It features a wide array of character past and present (Doctors, companions, aliens, villains, the works) all marching dutifully down memory lane in an adventure which, in many regards, evokes a number of WHO elements from the years preceding it while also feeling utterly reconciled with the Davison-era in which it was produced and presented. This is in no way an easy challenge to meet, but well-met it is. While the relative absence of Baker and Ward feel like an open wound which can never be fully ignored, The Five Doctors...on the whole...is a remarkably fully realized and self-contained little ditty that would put an affectionate smile on the face of even casual WHO fans.
In The Five Doctors, WHOverse characters are gathered as maquettes - a move inadvertently portending (or pointedly symbolizing?) the rise of DOCTOR WHO merchandising
Which is a testament to The Five Doctors’ overall effortlessness. And effortlessness, as we discussed in our City of Death piece last week, is a major ingredient in the magic and timelessness of a story. Yes, watching all of these characters and their baggage collide in a timespan of roughly 100 minutes is weird and anachronistic and funky - but there’s also something disarmingly natural about the process. There’s never a moment of competitive awkwardness many audience members felt during the meeting of Kirk and Picard in STAR TREK GENERATIONS, for example. Here, the presence of multiple Doctors in the same timeframe...including the integration of one played by an incoming actor...feels utterly natural. Dicks, and director Peter Moffatt, run a very tight show this time around. Relatively free of lag, The Five Doctors comes out of the gate with a commendable push forward - a shove which never subsides until the story’s closing moments. TFD seems determined to do what it wants to do, and say what it wants to say, breezily and efficiently - and does so with considerable alacrity.
In one of the story's more impressive moments of scale, the First Doctor (Richard Hurndall) enters the Tomb of Rassilon.
As alluded above, in TFD, WHOmakers were faced with the unenviable position of re-casting Hartnell’s iconic progenitor character - whose role was apparently embiggened once Baker bowed out. Salvation came in the guise of Richard Hurndall - who kinda/sorta looks like Hartnell ,and kinda/sorta sounds like him - if you squint a little and don’t listen too intently. There’s a natural, elusive, difficult-to-quantify gravitas some actors possess. An ability to project off of a stage - or through a screen - without necessarily trying to do so. Hartnell had it - Hundall does not, here at least. This said, he’s interesting enough and solid enough...managing to convey the essence of the First Doctor strongly, and without any of Hartnell’s characteristic line flubs. Hurndall is never a dead ringer for Hartnell, but nor does he necessarily try to be (or need to be). In The Five Doctors, he’s playing more of an archetype than anything else...holding his own quite nicely against numerous strong and well-established characters and personalities. He gets the job done under circumstances which were undoubtedly thankless and challenging at best - which is an admirable tip of the hat to any actor.
In on of TFD’s more memorable sequences involves the decimation of a Cyberman gang by a sinewy silver Raston Warrior Robot - a routing featuring ample impalings, a Cyberman barfing deathily, and even a sparking beheading for good measure.
While the narrative itself if breezy and relatively lagless, I’m not altogether convinced its primary machinations make a great deal of sense. The master plan (no pun intended, although The Master Plan might be a fun title for some future Master story - if the show hasn't used the phrase in this context yet) is hugely compelling. There’s something all-at-once fascinating, provocative, and selfish about members of the Doctor’s race seeking immortality - when their ability to regenerate already allows them to effectively outlive many lifeforms in the universe. Such hubris...and audacity...is almost sickening, and emerges as both a potent and vital illustration of the Gallifreyan corruptness from which the Doctor is constantly attempting to distance himself.
However, it’s difficult not to sense that..perhaps...the overall scheme afoot (which I’m too lazy to go into here, and don’t want to spoil unduly) feels a tad over-produced, clumsy, and filled with too many potential variables. For shenanigans hatched by allegedly brilliant personages, it feels a tad willy-nilly and inelegant. In the end, this criticism is both open to debate, and admittedly nitpicky, as the whole of The Five Doctors stands remarkably strong, despite such dodgy blemishes.
The Five Doctors is available HERE in the U.S. and HERE in the U.K. For a piece which, at its core, is a grandiose gimmick - it’s a fun romp with a lot of heart. Check it out.
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And, above all...
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