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Review #2580: Classic Doctor Who: “The Three Doctors”

Posted on the 06 July 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Written by Bob Baker and Dav Martin
Directed by Lennie Mayne

Coming into the tenth anniversary special, I was well and truly warned that it was over the top. It’s great when a story lives up to reputation.

Review #2580: Classic Doctor Who: “The Three Doctors”

First, the good things. This is probably the first time I had a good feel for the Second Doctor, even though I had seen the handful of existing serials for his era. I’m still not the biggest Patrick Troughton fan in the world, but I have to agree with the oft-made observation that Troughton outdoes Pertwee in this instance. It’s just a damn shame that William Hartnell was too ill to participate in more than a few video clips, because he could have balanced it all out even more. (Though his “a dandy and a clown” comment was spot on!)

I loved the idea of Omega as one of the main creators of the Time Lord race/society, and how his exile was some kind of bizarre “Doctor Who” version of “The Tempest”. Omega was completely over the top in nearly every scene, but the circumstances seemed to make it far more understandable. Omega’s insanity was built into the story, as well as the tragedy of his sacrifice. The idea that he would want to find someone to replace him to escape his millennia-long fate is a good basis for the story.

Then there’s the bad. Because this was an event (one of the first true “Doctor Who” holiday events, no less), there was the tortured explanation for why the three Doctors were being brought together. The conceit is that the threat of Omega is so massive that only the Doctor in triplicate could possibly save the day. Unfortunately, the threat is far less than many of the regular serials, so it’s just not that convincing. (Never mind that the Time Lords are reduced to boring bureaucrats in the process.)

Another problem is how Omega chooses to attack the Doctor. The amorphous creature is nice as a concept, but the execution is completely silly, especially seen through the filter of modern sensibilities. But at least it works within the story: it exists to transport objects and beings into the antimatter universe within the black hole singularity where Omega resides. The gel creatures are a completely different story, and seem to exist just to give UNIT something to fight against while the Doctors carry on with some comedic beats about the differences between his three incarnations.

Which leads me to UNIT itself, which has completed the long and unfortunate process of turning into a farce by the end of this serial. Gone utterly is the competent, nuanced organization of the seventh season. Particularly silly is the depiction of the Brigadier, now reduced to an utter idiot, to the point where previously dim UNIT characters are able to work out more about a situation than he can. It’s going to be very hard to see this continue through the remainder of the Third Doctor era.

To cap off the event, this marks the end of the Doctor’s exile on Earth, as the Time Lords reward the Doctor with forgiveness, now that he’s saved them. Of course, that is something of a minor consideration, since the Time Lords were using the Third Doctor as an agent of sorts whenever they do desired. For my own part, I think continuing with that plot device could have been a lot more interesting, but I suspect the writers were just tired of dealing with the Doctor-in-exile constraints.

As a start to the tenth season, this is a bit of an odd duck. I almost can’t see it as the true beginning of the season, because it was more of a standalone event. Yet it clearly starts a new period in the story of the Third Doctor, so it makes sense as a season opener. In terms of setting a tone for the new season, however, I can’t speak to that until I see more with “Carnival of Monsters”.

Writing: 1/2
Acting: 2/2
Direction: 1/2
Style: 1/4

Final Rating: 5/10

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