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An event of such cataclysmic proportions threatens all life in the universe when a Black Hole opens a rift between the worlds of matter and anti-matter. The Time Lords, overseers of all time and space, are left helpless after a massive power drain. Energy transmissions from the Black Hole seem to be directed toward the Doctor (Jon Pertwee), a renegade Time Lord who has been exiled to Earth in the mid 20th century.
Unable to avert imminent disaster, the Time Lords are forced to break the laws of time, and manage to find enough energy reserves to call the second incarnation of the Doctor (Patrick Troughton), to assist himself. When it becomes evident that these two Doctors don't quite see eye to eye, his first incarnation is sent to sort them out.
Things get worse, however, when the 2nd and 3rd Doctors along with a small group of their friends are themselves transported into the Black Hole. Soon the Doctors discover the cause of the trouble when they encounter a shadowy figure from the Time Lord's past.
DOCTOR WHO is the longest running science-fiction series in the world (Yes, older than Star Trek!) It ran from 1963 to 1989, with a TV movie co-produced by the BBC and Fox in 1996 starring Withnail & I's Paul McGann.
So successful was DOCTOR WHO in the 60's that Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenburg produced two films based on the first two Dalek serials, starring Peter Cushing as Dr. Who. Although the ‘official’ series was cancelled in 1989, DOCTOR WHO has never really gone away. There are independent audio and video spin-off productions, and a successful series of new novels featuring past and present Doctors being produced to this day.
To mark the show's tenth anniversary, the production team came up with the idea of uniting the three actors who had played the role of the Doctor up to that point. However, due to ill health, William Hartnell's role was drastically lessened. He was originally to have taken a much more active role in the proceedings but in the end appeared only in a cameo on the TARDIS scanner screen.
Troughton steals the show, fitting back perfectly into the role he had only vacated three years earlier. He obviously relishes being back, and for the most part carries the story. To be honest, were it not for the fact that the previous Doctors turn up in this story, it would be a pretty dull one.
The plot is sound and helps flesh-out a little of the history of the Time Lords, but it does look shoddy in places. The Gel Guards being a case in point. At one point a UNIT soldier exclaims, "Holy Moses! What’s that?" A similar question will no doubt cross your mind should you see them.
These minor quibbles about special effects aside, part of DOCTOR WHO’s retro appeal is the limitations its small budget gave it. It is often mocked for its ‘wobbly sets’ et al but its stories were always well structured and the cast always helped to convince with their performances.
The interaction between the three Doctors is superb. Pertwee and Troughton a wonderful double-act. Their intolerance of one and other is genius and their conversations the highlight of the serial. We had to wait another ten years before we could see these two actors work together again as the 2nd and 3rd Doctors.
Bob Baker and Dave Martin had written Jon Pertwee DOCTOR WHO stories; The Claws of Axos and The Mutants before penning The Three Doctors. They went on to author five adventures for Tom Baker’s Doctor; The Sontaran Experiment, The Hand of Fear, The Invisible Enemy, Underworld and The Armageddon Factor.
The Three Doctors paved the way for future anniversary teamings. The Five Doctors followed in 1983, although Tom Baker appears only in footage from the ill-fated Douglas Adams story SHADA, and the first Doctor was portrayed by Richard Hurndall (William Hartnell having died in the mid-seventies). The Two Doctors teamed Patrick Troughton with the 6th Doctor, Colin Baker. The 35th anniversary was marked by the novel ‘The 8 Doctors’, penned by prolific Doctor Who writer and production team member, Terrance Dicks.
The then incumbent of the role, Jon Pertwee, starred in a number of films in his lifetime. Including; A Yankee in Ermin, three of the Carry On's; Carry On Cowboy, Carry On Cleo & the ill-advised Carry On Columbus. He also turned up in the horror anthology The House That Dripped Blood. His other great television role was as the child-like mischievous scarecrow, Worzel Gummidge. He died in 1996 at the age of 76. He is the father of actor Sean Pertwee.
The second Doctor, Patrick Troughton leant his talents to such films as Jason and the Argonauts, Scars Of Dracula, The Gorgon, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and The Omen. Appeared on television in numerous series including; The Avengers, The Persuaders, the very first episode of Inspector Morse and the glorious BBC Christmas production The Box of Delights. He died in 1987 at the age of 67, while attending a Convention in America. He is the father of actors David and Michael Troughton.
William Hartnell, the original Doctor, starred in such great British classics of cinema as Brighton Rock alongside Richard Attenborough, Hell Drivers with Stanley Baker and Patrick McGoohan, This Sporting Life with Richard Harris and the first 'Carry On' film, Carry On Sergeant. Starred in the sitcom The Army Game, with Bernard Bresslaw, before becoming the world-famous time travelling Doctor. He died in 1975 at the age of 67.
Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart) can be seen in a number of other cult television series including; Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased). This episode also featured Roger Delgado, the first actor who played the Doctor’s arch nemesis, The Master. Courtney made a cameo appearance in a Christmas episode of Only Fools and Horses in 1988 and turns up in films such as the peculiar Michael Caine and Roger Moore comedy vehicle Bulls Eye (1991).
Stephen Thorne, who plays Omega had previously appeared in the series as Azal, in The Daemons (1971) and had roles in Frontier In Space (1973) and The Hand of Fear (1976).
Katie Manning (Jo Grant) starred in the Leslie Phillips and Brian Rix bawdy sex comedy, Don’t Just Lie There, Say Something (1973). She infamously posed nude for a magazine with a Dalek.
Richard Franklin (Mike Yates) continues to perform at the Edinborough Fringe Festival.
Ian Levene (Sergeant Benton) reprised his role for one of the earliest commercial DOCTOR WHO spin-off video productions War Time.
This was DOCTOR WHO’s first out-and-out nostalgic look back at its past. Bringing together the Doctor's was an idea that was obvious really for a series all about travelling through time and space. This first teaming of different incarnations of the Doctor is something of an on-off affair. Could have been better, but as it stands, is a wonderful retrospective adventure.
If you want to escape your humdrum life and enjoy a little adventure, why not watch THE THREE DOCTORS? There’s no time like the present!
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