Review By Paul Mount, 4 out of 5
As this remarkable 40th Anniversary year of DOCTOR WHO draws to a close, what better way to round off the celebrations than with a trip back in time thirty years, to a more innocent era when DOCTOR WHO rarely acknowledged its own history and when the idea of wheeling out a few old faces from the past was a really good idea and not just a tired gimmick relied upon by a desperate production team? ‘The Three Doctors’, released just in time for Christmas, is DOCTOR WHO-as-Panto with garish, colourful sets, larger-than-life performances, bad costumes and a real live ‘He’s-behind-you!’ bad guy. It’s all utter nonsense but it’s hard not to love it like an old friend because it’s such a timely reminder of how much fun DOCTOR WHO used to be.
The Time Lords are in trouble. A mysterious space force is draining their energy through a nearby black hole. The only man who can help is the Doctor (Pertwee) but he’s been exiled to Earth and his TARDIS doesn’t work. Some bright spark on the High Council decides to lift the Doctor’s previous incarnations (that’s Troughton and Hartnell, to you) out of their time-streams to give him a helping hand. This unholy triumvirate (with the first Doc stuck on a screen in the TARDIS) finally find themselves in the anti-matter world of Omega (Thorne), a forgotten legendary figure from Time Lord history. Much scenery-chewing and tramping about in quarries ensueszp>
‘The Three Doctors’ is worlds away from the harder SF fare of, for example, Pertwee’s first season or even the lighter but pacy adventures of his second and third. By now Pertwee, a little bit greyer but as glittery as ever, is happily esconced in his starring role, surrounded by his ‘UNIT family’ and the return of his predecessors, the scene-stealing Troughton particularly, has clearly got his dander up. Troughton himself slips effortlessly back into the role he only gave up four years earlier and sadly Hartnell, too ill to participate fully in the story, is scarcely recognisable as the pioneering old grump from the show’s black-and-white years. The supporting cast are just there to make up the numbers and they seem to know it, relishing in the opportunity to watch these old masters at work. Courtney’s Brigadier completes his slow transformation into the ‘idiot soldier’, and Katy Manning’s Jo Grant is as high-pitched and irritating now as she was thirty years ago. Bless her. ‘The Three Doctors’ is hardly essential DOCTOR WHO but it’s still loads of fun and a nice reminder (as if we needed it) of how bright and breezy the show could be even when it was on auto-pilot. If you can’t make it to your local Panto, grab yourself a copy of ‘The Three Doctors’ and disengage your brain for a couple of hours. Marvellous.
THE DISC: HmmmmUthe transfer doesn’t seem to be one of the Restoration Team’s best with plenty of grain and fuzzy colours. The disc excels, yet again, with its extras. Like this year’s ‘Talons of Weng-Chiang‘ the extras serve to put the show into a contemporary context, reflecting its popularity and ubiquity back in the glory days. So we have lovely clips from BLUE PETER and PEBBLE MILL (featuring a distinctly uncomfortable Patrick Troughton in a rare TV interview setting), a thirty-minute 1993 Convention panel featuring Pertwee, Courtney and a somewhat hyperactive Katy Manning, some bits and pieces from a cheesy 1990s BSB DOCTOR WHO weekend, photo gallery and a chatty commentary from producer Barry Letts and Manning and Courtney. Overall a marked improvement on recent dreary releases from the show’s dying days.