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29 June 2014 @ 06:50 pm
The Randomizer: The Three Doctors  
The Three Doctors (Doctor Who's 10th anniversary story) is the show's first foray into something that is explicitly fan-pleasing and, in many ways, interesting primarily for that fact alone.

Actually, what particularly struck me, was the extent to which The Five Doctors 20th anniversary special later follows much the same template. It has similar running around (or driving Bessie around) in a quarry with explosions and an attempt to reach the tower in the centre where a mythological, not as deceased as believed, Time Lord awaits. While it is tempting to suggest that all Doctor Who of the period involves running around in a quarry, there are, in fact, plenty of other locations in evidence. The comparison with The Five Doctors is tempting anyway. Although, under John Nathan-Turner, the show had already begun to experiment with deliberately fan-pleasing returns of monsters and characters, The Five Doctors is the next celebratory multi-Doctor story.

I find it hard to work out which I prefer. The plot of The Five Doctors is fairly perfunctory mostly involving all the Doctors and companions travelling to the dark tower and then quickly solving the problem, while The Three Doctors has more going on, a somewhat sympathetic antagonist (although I think the script thinks Omega is more sympathetic than he actually comes across - his tale is tragic but he spends an awful lot of time throwing tantrums and threatening the universe), and a genuine choice for the Doctor (albeit one that conveniently goes away once he makes it). On the other hand, The Three Doctors is pretty slow in places, particularly in the first episode.

It is also a truly appalling story for the Brigadier who is mind-bogglingly stupid throughout. It gives us a funny line about Cromer, but it is difficult to believe that he wouldn't accept the Doctor's explanation for what is going on - particularly as his own explanations are equally non-sensical. On the whole it is a better story for Jo, not as good as Frontier in Space was, but she is mostly sensible and resourceful. Meanwhile Benton shines out as a beacon of intelligence and good sense. You have to worry a little about a story in which Benton comes across as the most intelligent of the UNIT regulars.

The Gel guards (so-called in the novelisation, though I don't recall them ever being named on screen) are also disappointing. They look pretty good until they actually move, at which point they look like an actor waddling along in a floor length dress. In fact, in several places, The Three Doctors look a little like a story that has run out of money - though without being an expert in early 1970s BBC production values it is difficult to be certain and the script implies a certain minimalism in the settings at Omega's singularity.

I think, on the whole, I prefer the later story, which is more aware that all it needs to do is keep moving and hitting the nostalgia buttons.

While The Three Doctors is interesting as the first consciously celebratory story. I think there are better stories of its era, and better anniversary stories in the show's run. All in all, I think it is more interesting for its place in the history of the show, than entertaining as a story in its own right.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/119852.html.
philmophlegm: cyberleaderphilmophlegm on June 29th, 2014 06:58 pm (UTC)
"...his tale is tragic but he spends an awful lot of time throwing tantrums and threatening the universe"

Yes. Unlike (seemingly) most people, I think Arc of Infinity is the better of the two Omega stories, precisely for this reason. I love the scenes of Omega in Amsterdam in the latter, enjoying the real universe, albeit fleetingly.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 29th, 2014 07:04 pm (UTC)
Arc of Infinity suffers from many of the problems of 1980s Dr Who, but is, on the whole, better than average for its era. In comparison I'm not sure The Three Doctors is one of the better examples of a Pertwee story.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on June 29th, 2014 07:20 pm (UTC)
This is a story that leaves me a little cold. It's not exactly a nostalgia-fest, as Hartnell is barely present and clearly very ill, while Troughton plays a parody or folk-memory of the second Doctor, rather than the actual, complex, character. In a sense, Nicholas Courtney is doing the same. Omega is potentially interesting, but as you say spends most of his time ranting. And there doesn't really seem to be enough plot for four episodes.

But then I dislike nostalgia-fests, particularly in Doctor Who.

(I do think Arc is much worse, though!)
louisedennislouisedennis on June 30th, 2014 03:32 pm (UTC)
I don't think it was so obvious, without the background information that Hartnell was ill. Tame layman didn't know - though he did think it odd Hartnell was only present on screen. One of the weaknesses of the story is the fact that the Hartnell Doctor frequently seems to know things the other characters don't - possibly because of a mental link with his later incarnations but that's not entirely obvious.

Troughton's Doctor is very much second fiddle to Pertwee when they are together. I think that is an element discarded from the later multi-doctor stories, but I got the impression here that there was a concern to keep the focus on the current Doctor as the hero.

I'll be interested to see what I make of Arc when it comes around. On the whole I wasn't very impressed by this while my memory of Arc is that it is largely inoffensive with some nice bits.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on June 30th, 2014 07:55 pm (UTC)
I hated, hated, hated Arc for a long time. It made my brain shrivel up with boredom!

For what it is worth, I watched it again a couple of weeks ago. I had succumbed to completism and bought the Arc/Time-Flight DVD box set. When re-watching stories as I bought them on DVD I often found myself enjoying them more than previously. And Arc was indeed somewhat better than I remembered, but I still found a lot of it dull and silly, except for the stuff in Amsterdam with Davison as Omega. They should have got to that a lot earlier.

Time-Flight was quite enjoyable, though, so it's clearly swings and roundabouts...
bookwormsarah: Colin Sell Fanbookwormsarah on October 14th, 2015 04:43 pm (UTC)
Is this the episode where the Brigadier gets to raise horrified eyebrows at the fact there are two Doctors in the room at once? I remember liking that bit.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on October 15th, 2015 12:20 pm (UTC)
It's not a great Brigadier story - he's made to be very stupid, but Courtney's long-suffering air always works really well as a foil to the Doctors.