Neither part of season 20 or 21, The Five Doctors was originally a Children in Need special, featuring Davison’s Doctor as well as Tom Baker’s (shown through footage recorded for the unaired Shada, as the actor didn’t want to return), Jon Pertwee’s , Patrick Troughton’s and Richard Hurndall, standing in for William Hartnell’s.
Airing on the 23 November, 1983, twenty years to the day since the first episode, it was penned by Terrance Dicks, and sees the Time Lord(s) going up against an enemy of unknown power, who is snatching his previous incarnations from the past, and placing them in The Death Zone (except for Four – he’s stuck in a temporal vortex) and the Gallifreyan council sends the Master (Anthony Ainley) to help the Doctor, Tegan (Janet Fielding) and Turlough (Mark Strickson).
Seeing as it’s a celebration of twenty years of material, there are lots of returning characters and references… Susan (Carole Ann Ford), Jamie (Frazier Hines), Zoe (Wendy Padbury), Liz (Caroline Shaw), Mike Yates (Richard Franklin), the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney), K-9 and Sarah-Jane (Elizabeth Sladen)!
There are Daleks, Cybermen, reversing of the polarity, reminders of presidential duties and lots of witty dialogue as the Doctors interact and complain about redesigns and interiors. This one looks better than most of the series before it, one has to wonder if the Children in Need special had a higher budget than the series.
With all of them in the Zone, they are being maneuvered into position in the game of Rassilon (Richard Matthews), and the Doctor begins to suspect who is really behind it.
This is a great celebration of twenty years of stories, there are tons of nods, moments, and watching the four Doctors interact with one another, though it is brief, is a joy to watch, as they all seem equally impressed and unimpressed with their other regenerations.
Of all the Doctors, Troughton’s seems to be having the most fun, and it’s a lot of fun to see him running around with the Brigadier, but all of them get their moments, and even the brief appearances of other Companions provide some nice nods for long time viewers.
The storytelling is starting to get quicker, there are less, well not dull moments, but less dragged out moments, but the character beats aren’t being sacrificed for them, which is important.
The downside to seeing all these other Doctors and Companions is that it once again illustrates how poor Turlough and Teagan are as Companions, Turlough always seems broody and pouty and Teagan just never seems happy no matter where she is (though she does seem briefly content at the Eye of Orion during the show’s opening).
Still, after twenty years of adventure and time-travelling, it’s great to see that the show wasn’t going to rest on its laurels, and as we know there are so many more adventures to come!
Next week Season 21 gets underway!