Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Serial 65: The Three Doctors

Doctor: William Hartnell (1st Doctor), Patrick Troughton (2nd Doctor), Jon Pertwee (3rd Doctor)
Companion: Jo Grant

Written by: Bob Baker and Dave Martin
Directed by: Lennie Mayne

Background and Significance: In 1973, Doctor Who turned ten years old. There was probably much rejoicing that this little, low budget, sci-fi TV show had hit ten years (and really, what has hit ten years in this day and age? Not only that, ten years of sci-fi. Stargate is the only think I can think of) and, as such, the producers decided to throw a little Doctor Who party in the season's premiere episode by doing something they had never done before:

A Multiple Doctor Team-up.

And oh how joyously glorious that sounds... and oh how joyously glorious it turned out to be, and let's be real. It could have been terrible. How many times has the word "crossover" been met with insane disappointment? Yeah. Not here.

The idea is to take Jon Pertwee and team him up with Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell and have them have an epic adventure of day-saving that requires all three to work together in order to bring down the forces of evil.

But there was a problem.

Towards the end of his run (which ended seven years previously), William Hartnell had fallen into bad health. While it was [really] always an issue (it was because of his health that the producers needed to bring in Troughton), the seven years away hadn't given Hartnell any improvements on his condition, and he was quite the worse for wear.

Originally, the plan was to have all three Doctors share screen time equally, but when it became apparent that Hartnell would not be able to contribute the time or energy required to give the performance the story had in mind, the producers wrote around him, essentially writing him out of the show.

It would be Hartnell's final acting performance.

The story then fell almost entirely upon Jon Pertwee and the newly-returned Patrick Troughton, who upped his performance and slipped back into the role as fantastically as he ever had, and Jon Pertwee came in with a wonderful performance that matched Troughton's in Pertwee's own style.

The Three Doctors is a legendary four episode fangasm with an awesome story that is big, fun, exciting, and incredibly memorable beyond the the fact that it is a Doctor team up. It is a fantastic Doctor Who story, and if you want to check it out before I review it here, I can't say I'd blame you. You'd be in for quite a treat.

So let's get to it.

Commentary!: We start with some dude named Ollis who's some sort of game hunter fisher guy (or something) who reports a strange orange box, leading some dude named Dr. Tyler (spoilers! He's not one of the Three Doctors) coming to investigate. Unfortunately, Ollis is abducted by a flash of white light and disappears, leading Dr. Tyler to much confusion.

We go to UNIT, where The Doctor is dressed most extravagantly [again], and let's take a look, shall we?

What we have here is a nice, deep red smoking jacket and a wonderfully delightful (but typical) ruffled pirate shirt. Not a bad look, and the bowtie just reinforces The First Doctor's comments to him later on in the story (but more on that when we get there).

Yeah... Anyways, The Doctor and Jo go out to investigate the disappearance of Mr. Ollis, leaving Dr. Tyler and the Brigadier behind. Dr. Tyler gets abducted by the strange white light and he disappears too, so then this... stuff comes out of the orange box and starts slinking out towards... something or another and out of sight.

The Doctor and Jo return from their investigation in "Bessie" (which Jon Pertwee brought in because he was zany and liked antique roadsters I guess... Seriously, though. Look at this thing and tell me you wouldn't want it.) only to see this weird looking stuff come out of the grate and, with a flash of light, Bessie disappears.

So The Doctor buckles down and starts to enter crisis mode. They're being attack by a.... what's it called, Doctor?.... Oh you call it an "Organism Thing"? Wow... that's.... Yeah, there's just no words for that. Wonderfully specific, deliciously insightful.

So The Organism Thing is coming for them, and they realize it's coming after The Doctor. Unfortunately, it's back! And it brought a bunch of silly looking, mumble-grumble-talking jelly-friends, who show up with explosive claws and attack UNIT HQ, leading to a fight between UNIT soldiers and the.... Jelly Friend Organism Things.

But the real Organism Thing goes after The Doctor, chasing him, Jo, and Sgt. Benton into the safety of The TARDIS.

We cut to another place, one with robes and lots of expositiony techno-babble-talk. It's the Time Lords. They're talking about energy drains and energy energy energy (my guess is they're bailing out other planets' energy issues) and they're stretched thin and running out of energy or something... I don't know. Let's be real, it's just stakes. They're in stress time and one of them have to fill out some paperwork.

Also, they look silly.

Anyways, they can't spare anyone. But they see that The Doctor is a focus point of the attack and needs their help, so the lead Time Lord decides to break the First Law of Time and bring in The Doctor's former self to come help out. They argue, and say it's going to require a mass amount of energy...

And before we go on, let's talk about this waste of energy. Yeah, sure it is. I'm sure it takes a TON of energy to time skip the one person to the another and keep him there. This "It costs too much energy to keep him there" nonsense is just some really bad planning on the Time Lords' part. It probably doesn't take that much energy. The real problem is the Time Lords don't want to admit that they don't budget their chronowatts and plan for unforeseen circumstances. The Secretary of the Time Lord Treasury should be fired or forced to take a class in chronowattical-fiscal conservatism... Not saying that they're not being drained by this energy drain from a black hole (ONE black hole that has been otherwise called "Time Lord housing market"), but really, we should be a little realistic about the fact that The Time Lords should be a bit more frugal about their chronowatts.

MOVING ON! They decide to bring in The Second Doctor and have him help out The Third Doctor, and then this happens... and it is just so frakking delightful. Also, the telepathic conferences rule and Hartnell gets really insulting and not PC..... Again.

Also, as a sidebar, this youtube you're about to see is six minutes long. I *desperately* tried to cut it down to four, but I would have had to sacrifice too much good material, so I'm leaving it as is.

I love how they decide to bring in the First Doctor and spend even MORE energy to maybe get them out of the problem (see this is what I'm talking about! No planning ahead for the future, throwing chronowatts at the problem and hoping it'll go away...) and they throw chronowatts at it... and what happens?

He gets stuck in a Time Eddy and can't get out.

This is what we call bad planning on the part of the Time Lords. Bad budgeting and no alternative strategies to get them out of jams. Ergo, The First Doctor gets stuck in the time eddy for THE REST OF THE SERIAL AND CAN'T GET OUT. What a waste.

Anyways, that's basically the last six minutes of episode one.

So what comes next is an episode of the Second Doctor having an adventure on Earth and the Third Doctor having an adventure where the Organism Thing sent him and Jo.

The Second Doctor attempts to subdue the Organism Thing using some science and excitement. The Brigadier shows up and gets really confused at the whole thing (also saying some really interesting things about regeneration like "Who cares what Doctor he is so long as he works for UNIT?" and "He's my Doctor" (which is awesome! The Brigadier has a favourite Doctor!)), but before too much can happen, the Organism Thing attacks again and Troughton, Benton, and the Brigadier run back into the TARDIS. The First Doctor shows up again (still eddied) and gives some more advice, convincing The Second Doctor to allow the TARDIS to be captured by the organism thing and the entire of UNIT HQ gets thrown into the energy stealing black hole...

Meanwhile, having landed inside the black hole, The Doctor and Jo go exploring in this vast generic wasteland of a place.

They see all the things that got zapped by the flash of light, including bits of UNIT and Bessie. They meet Dr. Tyler (who, by the way, doesn't know mathematics apparently. He starts by saying "If E=MC2" and then comes to some crazy theories about a bunch of crazy stuff... I don't know if I even believe he's that good a doctor now... Just saying. I dunno. I wouldn't trust him with my math/physics/random math tasks... But yeah, they meet him...) and talk about being in an anti-matter place or something...

Then they're attacked by Jelly Boil Organism Things and taken hostages. There are much explosions.

They're taken to a place Jo calls "Aladdin's Palace" and The Doctor does some unnecessary magic involving a disappearing pencil and some funny flowers. Dr. Tyler (who believes in the powers of math and not The Doctor's magic tricks... amateur) decides to run off and try to escape, but he's freaked out by the power of jelly and runs back to the Doctor. Also, that was a crazy waste of time.

Also, if I can point out something ridiculously silly for a moment. Look at Jo's clothing. What on God's green earth is that? It's like... Blue-tacular, but she also has blue fur. Now, most people would say "It's dyed" but let's be real and honest here. This is Doctor Who. There are blue creatures somewhere. I think Jo killed something, had it skinned, and tuned it into a coat. Look at it. It's a blue crazy furry coat thing. Crazy nonsense. I can't look at it and not think about the cute little blue furry creature she killed so that she might be unnecessarily warm. It makes me want to toss a vat of green alien blood all over her screaming "DWETA!: Doctor Whovians for the Ethical Treatment of Aliens!"

Disclaimer: DWETA coverage does not extend to Daleks. Thank you.

Anyways, The Doctor, Jo, and Dr. Tyler are brought before the evil bad guy, this chap named "Omega".

It's pronounced "OH-mih'gah"

And he's a nefarious sort of fellow. Menacing in cape and helmet thing, with a name that shows that Time Lords can't pronounce Greek Letters (They say "AYL-fah" and "DEEL-tah" and "M'YU"). He talks of vengeance and some exposition.... The Doctor and him talk about his legend and how he's the Time Lord who made Time Travel possible, essentially making him the Flux Capacitor of Doctor Who.

But his flux capacitorness came at the sacrifice of his freedom and now he's stuck here in this anti-matterish place, despite his legendary status. On the bright side, he can use his mind to will things and stuff and he is lord of this realm. But he needs a fellow Time Lord to "help a brotha out" (his words, not mine), and he chose The Doctor as they both have grievances against The Time Lords.

Ahhhhhh. So he's in for revenge... Yes.... That is classic and good. Yay Time Lords.

So the Second Doctor arrives on the planet and is kidnapped along with Sgt. Benton (but not The Brigadier. He hangs out with Mr. Ollis (from the beginning)) and brought before Omega. The Second and Third Doctors have an exchange of words with Omega (who quickly figures out that they're the same Time Lord) and he says stuff about being angry cuz they won't help him and how he's going to imprison them.

So he imprisons them in a doorless room, leading the Doctors to bicker. Fortunately, Jo (yay Companions!) is too smart for Omega, theorizing that if this world is held together through a Time Lord's will, then The Doctors should be able to conjure up a single door with the force of their wills... Meaning the Doctors have to do another "psychic conference."

Also, the psychic conferences rule.

So the Doctors head out to go fight Omega and Dr. Tyler is right behind (we'll call him "The Forgotten Doctor".... or possibly "The Irrelevant Doctor" I can't tell which...) and so are Jo and Sgt. Benton.

Unfortunately for them, they lose track of The Doctors and get lost.

Meanwhile, The Time Lords elect to throw The First Doctor into the black hole and waste the rest of their energy in order to help him join the fray. So that's cool or something. Hope it doesn't go badly.

The Second and Third Doctors find "The Singularity Chamber", the point sitting right on top of the singularity of the black hole. It's big, powerful, sweeping, and epic... And it looks like this.

I guess not so much, then...

Unluckily for them, before they can decide what to do with it, Omega shows up again and yells at them with his forceful voice and then decides to have this happen. Also, it's really weird and I don't understand what it is, but apparently Omega has some deep dark part of his mind.

Yeah... That was weird...

Anyways, Jo, Benton, and Dr. Tyler all escape as The Brigadier and Mr. Ollis break in and they all hop into Bessie and road trip back to UNIT HQ.

Meanwhile, Omega reveals that his will is the only thing keeping this anti-matter place intact and he can't escape it without having it all crash down, and if it crashes down he can't escape (or something. He's really in a no-win scenario), but he has a plan. NOW he wants The Doctors to take his place so that he can escape. He also gets a little excited and says that they need to wear helmets like his because the place corrodes people and/or something.

So, as a primer to all this (and because Pertwee doesn't want to fight the creepy mind demon again) The Doctors need to remove Omega's helmet which they do (there is the squeaking of styrofoam) and recoil in horror. Why?

Omega doesn't live here anymore.

He throws a huge temper tantrum and screams and throws his fists and stomps like an adolescent teenager, threatening to unmake his entire creation (child...). The Doctors make a run for it, racing back to UNIT HQ.

The companions arrive at UNIT HQ and start bickering about what to do, but The Brigadier tells them to shut up... And then the Doctors show up right after them... meaning the Doctors ran REALLY REALLY fast, almost as fast as Bessie.

So the Doctors and the companions run into the TARDIS. They decide a bit about what to do next, and then The First Doctor shows up, still only capable of taking nothing but an advisory role in the proceedings (meaning the Time Lords are *still* wasting a ton of energy). So they have a three way psychic conference and decide what to do about confronting Omega once and for all.

They TARDIS to the singularity chamber and Omega starts complaining that if he can't leave, he will keep them here forever, just for company. Because he is lonely. Sad face. =(

They agree to do such things because they don't really have any other options (and if not-existing-anymore, all-powerful Time Lord starts whining and yelling and making childish demands and shouting with dramatic force, you really don't have any options, do you?) but they make a case to let the others go. Omega agrees, and everyone WALKS OVER THE SINGULARITY TO ESCAPE.

Does this sound unsafe to anyone else?

So now that everyone is to safety, The Doctors bring out a gift for Omega, his freedom: The Second Doctor's recorder (teehee) and a small portable forcefield generator. Omega (wanting a bigger birthday present) gets REALLY angry and throws it aside (like an ungrateful child. What a jerk), causing the forcefield to break and The Doctors to run. There's a flash of light and---

Everyone winds up back at home. The Companions land in the restored UNIT HQ, The TARDIS re-materializes, and The Doctors step out. The Time Lords get their energy back (were but it only that easy. Bet they still don't learn how to budget) They make a really complicated closing exposition about the recorder being matter and it was going to clash with the anti-matter and then there was an explosion and they all got kicked back to reality (or something. I don't know... it's kinda strange and not so important).

Then there's a final encounter with the First Doctor and some farewells:

Also, I hate to point it out like this, but The First Doctor did very little in all of this. He was guy who deus ex machinaed some solutions... But that's it! Sigh.... Poor Hartnell... But we'll get to that in a minute...

And there's always an insane amount of farewells in this show. It's almost like everyone has to say goodbye to everyone else...

So everyone is farewelled and all is good. The Time Lords (as a reward) give The Doctor a new crucial TARDIS circuit and "restore his knowledge of dematerialization codes", thereby making this episode the start of The Doctor's breaking away from UNIT and their influence, leaving him to explore the cosmos again.

Oh, and then the final scene ends with a really bizarre bit of wrapping up where Mr. Ollis returns home and his wife complains at him and stuff and then he says "Bring me my supper."

And that's how it ends. Kinda weird.

What about The Doctor...s?: Golly gee, there's a lot to talk about here... Let's go Doctor by Doctor...

Hartnell's Doctor will always be remembered in this for his inability to do anything. It's sad, but it's true. Every time he shows up, though, it is entertaining, and his "Dandy and a Clown" line is one of my favorites in the entire serial. Really, though. He's a glorified Deus Ex Machina, always forced to just be advisor guy who gives ideas... But there's this great reverence the other Doctors give him that is just... amazing. One of my other favorite lines in the entire serial is when Hartnell convinces Troughton to go send the TARDIS into the black hole and Benton asks "Who is that?" and Troughton's Doctor says something along the lines of "I've always had a great respect for his advice" and it's just a great moment of characterization for both Hartnell and Troughton.

Troughton... Well... What can I say about Troughton? He's... amazing. And he excels here. He comes in and has a tremendous amount of energy and power and a spectacular amount of great moments. His performance is him slipping back into the role as if he was just plucked out of the timestream. His energy is unmatched by anyone, and him bouncing off of Pertwee is so... natural. It really just cements him as one of my favorite Doctors I've seen to date, because he's just.... so good.

And for Pertwee.... I like Pertwee more here, and he plays off Troughton really well. But you really start to see how they're both playing the same character but completely differently. If anything, it only showed me how much I prefer other Doctors to Pertwee while at the same time making me enjoy and respect his interpretation more. He's really solid as a Doctor, and again I'm left with wanting to see more of him. His take as the stoic scientist is... it's very unique, and one that I still don't think plays out to any of the others, which is good. Makes him memorable. It's just not a take I enjoy as much as some others.

As for them bouncing off of each other? It's so much fun. Like... you expect it, but this blew me away. Watching the Doctor bounce off himself is so fun and fantastic. The banter and the arguing (you can see it in the youtubes) is nonstop and super fun and always glorious. I really loved this serial. It's designed to be a celebration of the Doctor, and it succeeds. A lot.

Next Time!: Tom Baker! Sarah Jane! Daleks! Davros! Skaro! Nazi overtones! Alien slurs! and Claustrophobic Corridors! "The Genesis of the Daleks!" Coming next Tuesday!

1 comment:

  1. An amazingly fun and exciting story! Well written for the most part (some of the science doesn't really make sense, but hey, it's Doctor Who, not Star Trek!) Troughton steals almost every scene he's in, but that's just Troughton. I love that he slipped in the line about redocorating the TARDIS, it's my second favorite line behind "a dandy and a clown." It's such a shame, and makes me really sad, that Hartnell was too sick to participate more. I wish they could have had a least one scene all together, but such is life.