The Three Doctors is a classic Doctor Who story, bringing together the first three actors to portray the infamous Time Lord in one serial. It was originally broadcast in 1972 and 1973 as the opener of Season Ten, and is the last time William Hartnell ever played the Doctor. Now, this four-part adventure has been given the Special Edition treatment, in a two-disc set packed with extras.
In The Three Doctors, the planet of the Time Lords is attacked. Desperate to save their home, the Time Lords allow the Doctor (Jon Pertwee), in his third incarnation, to break the First Law and summon his two previous versions. The First Doctor (William Hartnell) is stuck in a time eddy, but is able to communicate via viewscreen. The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) comes at once to aid his fellow.
While the Doctors help UNIT HQ, which is attacked by some sort of odd-looking creatures, the First Doctor realizes that a nearby black hole is a portal to a whole different universe. The Doctors, along with their friends Jo Grant (Katy Manning), Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), Sergeant Benton (John Levene), and newcomer Dr. Tyler (Rex Robinson) go into the black hole, and arrive in an antimatter universe.
In this alternate world lives a powerful Time Lord known as Omega (Stephen Thorne), who created the supernova from which the other Time Lords draw the power for their civilization. When Omega did this, his colleagues assumed he had been killed, but really, he has been trapped in the antimatter universe ever sense. However, instead of simply asking for help now, Omega lets years of bitterness and building insanity rule him, trapping the Doctors.
Thankfully, the Doctors find a solution. It’s not a nice one for Omega, as the only way he can gain the freedom he craves is through death. The Doctors give him that release, and go back to their homes, with the First and Second Doctors returning to the time in which they belong. The Third Doctor is rewarded for his efforts by the Time Lords, who restore his knowledge and the TARDIS.
There isn’t always a happy ending. Omega is too far gone to save. Doctor Who doesn’t shy away from the tough choices, or tone things down when the situation turns grim. This story is about a soul who was wronged, though not through any conscious decision by anyone else. Circumstances prove Omega’s downfall, not betrayal, but once a mind has gone, it’s nearly impossible to get it back. There isn’t a true villain in this tale, but simply, a man who buckles in the face of tragedy.
Any glimpse of the society from which the Doctor comes is welcome. The titular character is generally so mysterious, and information about him is doled out in tiny portions. The Three Doctors, being an adventure with other Time Lords, reveals a lot, which is surely something fans that will gobble up eagerly.
The Three Doctors remains legendary because of the use of all three series stars up til that point. Hartnell was sadly ill when the filming was done, and thus, his turn had to be regulated to pre-recorded bits. It is the last time he ever played the character, making it all the more iconic. What a treat to capture these three men together in one story! Thank goodness it was done before Hartnell’s passing.
Originally released on DVD in 2003, The Three Doctors has never been short on bonus features. The prior version has a commentary by actors Manning and Courtney, along with producer Barry Letts. There are also interviews with Troughton, Pertwee, Courtney, and many others. The PanoptiCon ’93 panel is included, as is a retrospective on the first ten years of Doctor Who and an introduction to Pertwee’s car. Plus, the standard photo gallery.
But the Special Edition has even more! There is a new “Making Of” featuring Manning and Throne, among others. A 14-minute defense of Doctor Who aimed at its haters is fun, though probably not directed at anyone who would buy this DVD. Then again, maybe the purpose is to arm fans with a logical argument, so perhaps it’s fitting.
There is a look at the Who girls in the 1970s, and how the culture influenced their characters. A trailer for this season when it repeated in 1981 is present, as well as a trailer from 1972 for the first part of the serial. There are the PDF materials that Who fans have come to expect. Best of all, picture and sound has been remastered again, making this the clearest version of the story available.
In short, The Three Doctors is worth a re-buy, if one already has the previous release. The better quality of the recording and the additional bonuses assure that. If one doesn’t own the story already, then now is the perfect time to correct that.
Doctor Who: The Three Doctors (Special Edition) is on sale now.