June 12, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Doctor Who “The Three Doctors Part 1”

The Third Doctor. "The Three Doctors," Episode One.

OK, I have been waiting for this one for a while now.

The show produced The Three Doctors for the 10th anniversary of Doctor Who, marking a special moment in the history of the show.  And I don’t just mean the Time Lords appear rather useless.  No, it was the first time the Doctor teamed up with different versions of himself.  That established a minor tradition that suggests the Doctor doesn’t actually get along with himself.  What that means, in a nutshell, is that we got the return of First Doctor William Hartnell and Second Doctor Patrick Troughton to assist Third Doctor Jon Pertwee.

And I freakin’ love that.

To be fair, a better title might be The Two and a Half Doctors.  Hartnell was pretty sick when he originally left the show.  Six years later, he was obviously not doing any better.  They shot his scenes separately and consist of him sitting in some scaffolding, berating and advising the other two.  It would end up being his final acting role as he died not long after that.  Still, for this first part he sums up his two successors as “a dandy and a clown”.  That manages to get them both to play nice.

A friend of mine, more knowledgeable on the show than I am, says it’s a bit weird how other Doctors treat the First.  He points out they treat the First Doctor as the oldest and wisest of the bunch when he’s actually the youngest.  Still, the familiar little, “mm?” sound Hartnell made at the end of various lines and the way the other two respect him makes for a fun time even if he only seems to pop in for a minute or two.

And then there’s Troughton’s Second Doctor.  He’s still a disorganized, energetic bundle of energy who doesn’t seem to care for authority figures.  That includes Pertwee’s Third Doctor.  First arriving in the TARDIS, the Second Doctor notices changes in the interior before pronouncing that he doesn’t like them.  He then immediately pulls out his recorder to play, and asks Jo about a Beatles song when the best way that the Third Doctor can come to explaining the whole situation to Jo is to say, “I am he and he is me,” and she concludes with a “Goo goo g’joob”.

Now, it’s not as if I dislike Pertwee’s Doctor.  He’s fine.  But I have my preferences, and the energetic goofball that is the Second Doctor is more to my liking.  The show changed quite a bit between Doctors.  The Third Doctor is more of a noble man of action.  While the show isn’t devoid of humor, the Third Doctor’s humor is more understated.  It’s almost like some kind of drawing room comedy.  The Second Doctor was more blatantly silly, and Doctor Who is, at its core, a pretty silly show.  And given how the Third Doctor dismisses other characters, it sure is nice seeing him get a taste of his own medicine from himself.  About the only thing the two Doctors agree on is the Brigadier.  They both think he tends to foolishly try to just blow every problem up.

That said, the series had originally hoped to also bring back Frazer Hines’ Jamie McCrimmon.  As it is, Hines had a regular gig on a soap opera and wasn’t available to do the guest shot.  The same thing would more or less happen for the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors, only Hines was able to get away for a day for a quick cameo.  Much of the part Jamie would have done instead went to Sergeant Benton, and that isn’t completely inappropriate as Benton did meet the Second Doctor in the black-and-white era and can easily identify him when the two meet.  Plus, Benton seems to be the first person completely nonplussed by how much bigger the TARDIS is on the inside than it is on the outside.

So, what’s the plot?  Well, some antimatter creature attacks UNIT HQ, and it seems to be looking for the Doctor.  And that includes some very silly looking monsters that appear to be rubber blankets with crab claws.  The Third Doctor is desperate enough to ask the Time Lords for help.  They’re stymied as well because whatever it is attacking the Doctor from inside a black hole is their match.  They have just enough energy to send one person to help the Doctor:  himself.  The Second Doctor appears, the two Doctors argue, and the First appears on a viewscreen to tell them both to grow up.  That works.  The first part ends with the Third Doctor and Jo running out of the TARDIS and the whatever that thing is zapping them.  Then they just disappear.

So, yeah, this is working out nicely so far.