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Four-and-a-bit Doctors battle Cybers, a chap in silver spandex and a Time Lord conspiracy in the 20th Anniversary Special

When a malevolent force uses the Time Scoop to abduct four and a half Doctors and an array of companions, and plonk them in The Death Zone, Time Lord President Borusa sees no choice but to employ the services of The Master to Snake Plisken to the rescue.

Sounds straightforward enough. Plenty of other beasties roam the arid wasteland of The Death Zone, too, though, and when the Shada tape gets stuck in the VCR, Doc, Doc and Doc reunite with old friends and themselves to outwit them all.

Can they get to the bottom of the mystery before it’s too late? Will they be bested by an acrobat in silver PJs? And how many Cybermen screaming in torment can you reasonably decapitate on screen before it ceases to be a family show? It’s the 20th Anniversary Special, so anything could happen!

Here's what we think of C130 The Five Doctors

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

4.2

Drew | @drewbackwhen

3.6

Jim | @jimmythewho

3.0

Here's what we think of C130 The Five Doctors

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

4.2

Drew | @drewbackwhen

3.6

Jim | @jimmythewho

3.0

Here's what you think 11 Responses to “C130 The Five Doctors”
  1. GP Haynes

    Hey Guys,

    Long-time listener from Australia, first time reviewer.

    Firstly thanks for an awesome podcast. I can’t tell you how much I laughed over the last few years at work or driving when listening to you! Keep it up….

    On to the review:

    Well the 20th Anniversary is on the whole a great serial.

    The production is top notch, and it was so lovely to see past companions and Doctors together again on screen, none more so than Troughton, Pertwee and the Brigadier.

    The Master is on good form, and the Gallifrey scenes relatively interesting.

    The replacement actor for Hartnell also did a fantastic job.

    The ( actually good ) Dalek involvement was kept to a minimum, and Pertwee finally gets to face off against the Cybermen, we even see Bessie before it’s Zapped by a laser!

    The highlight was probably the sentry robot slaughtering all the Cybermen, great special effects.

    The downsides are the somewhat weak plot, and the glaring omission of Baker, who by all accounts felt it was too soon to be in Doctor Who again and he apparently regretted this decision later.

    I also felt there was just a little too much needless talking between the actors as they made their way toward the tower.

    No, not the mind-blowing serial I recall as a 12 year old boy watching on TV, but still enjoyable and one of Davison’s best.

    Rating: 4.6 ( Not the 5 ) Doctors actually!

  2. Dan from Devon

    Hello you lovely people.
    On original broadcast, this Uncle Terry-penned mashup of all things Who was so exciting, it melted my six-year-old brain. On sober grown-up watching, it’s an ungainly lump of wasted cameos, rackety old plots and terrifying gently-sloping grass verges. But it’s the bloody Five Doctors, so any criticism is plainly futile.
    Hurndall does a great (yes, great – why do so many people crap on his performance?) first Doctor, Troughton is inevitably magnificent, Pertwee is paired with Sarah Jane who was always the best companion for him, and Davison has grown out of his season 19 petulance and is both likeable and capable. Ainley is on top form too, for once being given a storyline that doesn’t make him look like a total dingleberry. Boo to Tom for not showing up, but the Shada scene is as charming here as it was in its original script.
    My faves from the story include: the badass Raston robot (can anyone explain why NuWho writers haven’t made it a returning monster?) Peter Howell’s brilliant, haunting score, and Nicholas Courtney effortlessly being the coolest guy on screen.
    My rating: 4.0 doctors out of five

  3. Steven from Canada | @SAndreyechen

    Now I know what you might be thinking: “here comes Steven From Canada, our Resident Hartnell Simp ready to writing a diatribe about the 5 Doctors sucks, how Richard Hurndall is a disgrace and how the show was better in Black and White” well you’re going to be quite disappointed… I actually really enjoyed it!
    The story is a fun romp that celebrates the first 20 years of the show, bringing back fan favourite characters and diving into time lord mythos.
    My main issue is with companions:
    👏 Jamie 👏 and 👏 2 👏 are 👏 a 👏 perfect 👏 pair 👏 do 👏 not 👏 mess 👏 with 👏 it! 👏
    Well at least our resident substitute is available. The Brigadier and second Doctor reunion is fun but not ideal.
    I liked that some of the other companions were at least present. Seeing Zoe again was a joy, and Mike and Liz returning was great. Would have liked to see the first doctor interact with some other companions rather than play hopscotch with Teagan.
    The rest of the story is pretty good, though it’s not without some minor criticism.
    I think I’d care a bit more about the time lord drama if they didn’t keep changing the actors every story they show up in. I can’t tell any of them apart.
    It was nice to see a Dalek again, just wished it wasn’t in such terrible condition.
    The cyber men, much like limited edition Oreos, were double stuffed. Jokes aside I actually prefer the cyber men to not look identical, they’re cyborgs not robots, they should be more diverse.
    Overall this is an enjoyable story, but much like “the Three Doctors” it’s let down by its potential.
    This story earns 3.9 Thicc ass galifreyian warrior robots out of 5.

  4. Kieren Evans | @kjevans2

    Hi folks

    So we are finally here, the 20th anniversary special. Is it up to it? Well, I’m going to give two rankings for this one, as a story and as a special. Also we have the issue of original or special edition version (the version I watch more).* Hmm, ok might be four rankings then.

    So someone is timescooping the previous doctors and placing them in The Death Zone on Gallifrey. Five Doctors? Well, four as Tom didn’t want to appear and thus represented by footage from Shada and a corrupted timescope. So four? Well, yeah, Hartnell had died by this point so other than that clip at the start, it’s Richard Hurndall doing his take on the first doctor. I actually like it in a weird way, I prefer it to David Bradley’s version in Twice Upon A Time (but more about that one another time). Sadly, Richard died not long after this in April ‘84.

    Terrence Dicks had a job writing this one. Originally, Robert Holmes was doing it but left and then Dicks had to deal with Tom not coming back. Saward insisted on the lots of cybermen, something Dicks didn’t like, but he did come up with the Raston Warrior Robot, probably the best one off monster. The scene of it massacring the cybermen was actually directed by JNT himself. I feel Troughton and Pertwee get the most to shine with, but there is quite a bit of padding even in the original version.

    Special 4.5/5, story 3.9/5 then take off 0.3 for both if you are watching the original version.

    *If it’s a black triangle for the timescoop, it’s the original. The special edition has a swirling vortex.

    Cheers

    Kieren

  5. Ed Corbet

    It sounds like there were lots of changes to who would be appearing in this serial so the companion roles are quite generic; while this is generally okay, it really hurts Susan. I found their reunion a bit disappointing, she didn’t recognise Five (you’d think she’d recognise Doc in whatever regeneration (unless she’s not a Time-Lord)) but regardless, surely One doesn’t think he needs to introduce Five to his own Granddaughter. I’m not marking it down for it, as I know what this serial is, but School-reunion shows us what this could have been.

    The Daleks and Cybermen play the game too well? What, the Dalek that killed itself and the Cybermen that got pwned by a Robo-Ballet-Dancer?

    I enjoy the Doctors not getting on, but I don’t like the way they portray One as the wise one simply because he is physically the oldest; he is still younger than all of them; Five should be addressing him as ‘young man’, not the other way around.

    If you were looking at this for the first time now, I could understand if you thought this was a quite thin serial, but in the context of the time, this serial is exactly what it’s supposed to be; a Doctor Who’s greatest hits. I saw this as a child and because of the novels, I knew who Pat and Jon were, but had never seen them; I still remember how genuinely delighted I was to see them for the first time.

    2.3

  6. Peter Zunitch

    How does one fairly rate something like this? On one hand it contains everything a fan could ever want. It features everyone’s favorite doctor to date (mostly). Each has their own companion, their own trials to overcome and their own standout moment. They interact beautifully with one another. It’s got the top three most popular baddies, a yeti, an amazing new robot assassin, and timelord lore. The music, and production quality are quite high. Honestly what an amazing feat for an anniversary special. Added bonus, the DVD version remakes many of the effects and features a few editorial changes that address some of my long standing pet peeves with the original release.
    On the other hand, with so much to feature, there’s little time for anything substantial. Because there’s so much of everyone, there’s nothing noteworthy from anyone. Every peril is contrived and/or obvious. I’d also like to stress my personal distaste for making Borousa the villain. It counters the idea that good timelords remain at heart a good timelord, implying the Doctor could regenerate evil one day. Also I’m sure the chancellery guard would use stun on their superior who is merely trying to run away. Some of the writing just doesn’t appeal.
    I love and appreciate this unique marvel story. I also find it trivial and forced. Honestly though given its significance, is it fair to put this on the same scale as regular stories? Rating: Substitute 1, 2, 3, tiny bit of 4 and 5 stars.. or (3.0)

  7. Tanz Sixfingers | @tanz6fingers & @tanzsixfingers (insta)

    Hello Leon and Jim!

    I loved seeing the past Doctors come back, but I wished they had interacted more with each other.

    The Seal of the High Council that the Third Doctor takes from the Master is the one that is used in “The Time of the Doctor” to contact Gallifrey through the Crack. This is Steven Moffat at his best, playing the Long Game. It’s almost as good as The John Hurt Moment.

    From the Second Doctor explaining to the Brigadier that the Time Lords erased Jamie’s memory (in the War Games) this shows that he is from Season 6B. Terrence Dicks wrote this story, and the War Games, (and a couple novels) and he justified the 6B timeline.

    The tick sheet:

    • The First and Second Doctors met the Master, meaning that the first eight incarnations (will) have. More importantly, Anthony Ainley shared screen time with all the Classic series Doctors.
    • Similarly, the Third Doctor faced the cybermen, meaning that all the Classic series Doctors have.
    • Sarah Jane meets Doctors One, Two, and Five, (she travelled with Three and Four), and met Ten and Eleven (in SJA). Companionwise, she has met the most incarnations of the Doctor on screen.

    Additional

    • This is the beginning of the Master’s obsession to use Cybermen as his personal army.
    • The Doctor didn’t know of the Daleks or cybermen until he encountered them in his travels; why then would he know they were banned from the Game of Rassilon? (Wibbly-wobbly Timey-wimey?)

    Rating 4.1 out of 5

  8. Paul Waring | @pwaring

    If the Doctor is one of your favourite TV characters, a show that features no less than FIVE of them is always going to go down well.

    I like seeing some of the usual Doctor and companion pairings being shuffled up – Tegan with the First Doctor is particularly amusing. The jostling between the Second and Third Doctors (a carry over from The Three Doctors) is brilliant too. But nothing beats the Second Doctor and the Brigadier, who still have fantastic chemistry and some of the best dialogue (“Have I ever led you astray?” “On many occasions” “Well, this will be the exception”).

    We also get to see the only time the Third Doctor encounters the Cybermen (all other incarnations get at least one full story with them). And no one can forget one of the most badly/hilariously delivered lines in Doctor Who: “Not the Mind Probe!” There is no mention of Kamelion though, despite him having joined the TARDIS team in the previous story.

    Finally, there’s a concept which will be an important part of New Who, namely that a Time Lord can obtain a new cycle of regenerations (assuming of course that the High Council aren’t lying to get the Master’s co-operation).

    Overall, this story is full of tropes, cliches and catchphrases, and therefore one for the dedicated fan… like me! It’s great fun and I re-watch it regularly. 4.25/5

  9. Andy Parkinson | @caffreys71

    Hi Chaps!

    Here’s my review of The Five Doctors

    An unknown force is abducting the Doctor’s past selves and companions using spooky spinning time trapezoids and depositing them into the Death Zone!

    The Timelords seem unable to help, but they know a man who can – The Master! Who are these clowns? Sure, let’s use a murderous megalomaniac who has tried to do in The Doctor more times than anyone can remember. Let’s see how that works out eh? (facepalm)

    Likes:

    • The cold open with the clip of the First Doctor
    • The second Doctor/Brigadier barbed interactions are brilliant
    • The Raston Warrior Robot. Looks great and is genuinely menacing.
    • Richard Hurndall does a good job as the First Doctor
    • Lots of lovely little cameos from past characters
    • Anthony Ainley is great as The Master

    Beefs

    • The horrendously bad ‘fall’ that Sarah Jane takes she basically falls in to a small ditch!– it stinks the entire Death Zone out with its unbelievability. It makes Sarah Jane look awful, and she doesn’t deserve that. It’s poor direction.
    • Gallifrey looks like they went to Space Ikea and got stuck in the 80’s retro area. Seriously where is the grandeur from Deadly Assassin/Invasion of Time?
    • Could 1st Doctor and Susan seriously not see the TARDIS from that rock they were sitting on?

    Anniversary stories are always tricky having to cram in multi-doctors and companions old and new and have a believable story, but thanks to a good story from Terence Dicks, pretty good direction from Peter Moffat and some good locations in the Death Zone this story comes out pretty well. It’s a shame that Tom Baker declined to appear although I have a feeling he would have stolen the limelight from the others much more. As it is, all the Doctors shine with Patrick Troughton in particular stealing every scene he’s in. The way Borusa gets his comeuppance is also a good conclusion to the story.

    A solid story that befits the 20th anniversary

    I award this 4.5 Sarah Jane’s Plastic Purple Mac’s out of 5

    Andy Parkinson
    @caffreys71

    • Hey Andy, I’m afraid we’d already recorded this ep when your mini review arrived. Sorry, that’s my bad, as I didn’t update the website with our recording dates. Fantastic mini, though, as flippin’ always! Agreed on absolutely every account!

  10. Peter Zunitch

    Hey co-WBW fans,
    I’m not justifying anything, but film school me wanted to include a fun fact. For some reason It’s actually very hard to represent inclines through a camera. Anyone who’s tried it will tell you that a steep hill in real life looks like a gently flowing meadow through the lens. You really need the cliffs of insanity, forced perspective, and maybe a Dutch angle (no jokes Leon) to make anything look like a somewhat un-climable hill.

    So the hill they filmed on was probably, in reality quite steep. You can see it in the shot where Pertwee pulls her back up to the road. The hill Sara fell down though, was obviously not. Definitely a camera and staging issue. I wonder why they didn’t rotate the image slightly in post and speed up her falling slightly?

    Anyway, again. I just thought it was a fun fact to pass along, not really relevant to anything.

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