CRRRaSh! 282 Doctor Who: The Three Doctors

By Roy Mathur, on 2019-09-14, at 16:33:50 to 17:07:12 BST, for Captain Roy's Rocket Radio Show, Listen

Cast and Production

Third Doctor: Jon Pertwee
Jo Grant: Katy Manning
First Doctor: William Hartnell
Second Doctor: Patrick Troughton
Director: Lennie Mayne
Writer: Bob Baker and Dave Martin
Producer: Barry Letts
4 x 25 minute episodes, first broadcast from December the 30th 1972 to January the 20th 1973 over Christmas and New Year; not on any day of holiday, but as a special event marking the ten year anniversary of the series, as well as the first serial of the tenth season. (I think a seasonal "ho ho ho" is in order).

What Happens

A warden of a nature reserve mysteriously vanishes after finding a radiosonde. A scientist later retrieves the instrument pack and shows the signal emanating from a black hole to the Doctor, Jo, and the Brigadier at UNIT HQ. The Doctor says it's "super lucent" (faster than light).

Gallifrey is in trouble as energy is sucked down into the black hole, so the Time Lords send the Doctor's previous selves back to Earth to help the current Doctor stop the disaster.

An amorphous energy field menaces the Doctor and UNIT are attacked by mobile reddish blob-like aliens. The Doctor allows the energy field to transport the whole of UNIT HQ though the black hole to an antimatter universe. There, they meet Omega the first Time Lord, a solar engineer who provided the Time Lords with their time travel technology. He has been trapped within for thousands of years and grown vengeful. He wants to escape, to take revenge on the time lords, and ultimately, to destroy the universe. However, it is revealed that the alien environment has corroded his physical form and he can no longer exist outside.

Reluctantly, the current Doctor tricks Omega into touching the second Doctor's recorder (the musical instrument). Since it was lost inside the shielded control panel of the TARDIS, it is still made of ordinary matter, not antimatter like everything else in the domain of Omega's will. Thus, when Omega touches it, he and everything he created is destroyed.

When the Doctor returns to Earth, he finds the dematerialisation circuit component in the TARDIS. It is a reward from the Time Lords and means that the TARDIS is now functional. The Doctor says that after a few repairs, he will again be free to travel in time and space.

What I Thought

I love Omega. He is one of my favourite supervillains. He has all the attributes required for the perfect supervillain. He is, in fact, the full ethos, logos, and pathos of supervillainy. He is the very epitome of the mad scientist, whose insane experiments form the basis of the Time Lord's ability to manipulate time. He has a beautifully maniacal laugh, ably demonstrated on numerous occasions by actor Stephen Thorne. His outfit is thoroughly menacing (gotta love that cosplay-perfect mask) and the big reveal of what's underneath is really disturbing. And finally, as all good villains should be, Omega is a tragic figure. You can't help feeling that his long imprisonment was pretty poor reward for a founder of the Time Lords. Well okay, Peter Capaldi getting banged up in Doctor Who: Heaven Sent (2015) for 4.5 billion years was worse. By the way, that is also approximately the age of the Earth, so don't say you never learn any real science on this show. Sometimes it feels like I've been talking about Doctor Who that long.

From the elaborate sets, the effort to bring back Troughton and an ailing Hartnell, the ambitious scale of a narrative that is about end of the universe and the origin of the Time Lords; you can clearly see that the tenth anniversary of the series was supposed to be a special event and a treat for viewers over the Christmas period. There was much less fuss made about the tenth anniversary of New Who. (Can you believe New Who's that old?!) Though there was a special showing of the 2009 Doctor Who: The End of Time at select cinemas in the US on August 7 this year. The news of which, of course, I, as a devoted fan/prisoner/Stockholm syndrome suffering hostage/unwilling unofficial companion of the Doctor eternally trapped in the TARDIS, completely missed. (At least I think I missed it).

I enjoyed the story because I like Omega so much, though it would have been nice to see William Hartnell in the flesh, rather than only on the TARDIS's monitor. Omega's silly shuffling minions also made me laugh, as did Katy Manning holding up a very big umbrella as she sat next to the Doctor driving Bessie through the rain.

Trivia

This is Omega's first appearance. He is one of the founders of the Time Lords on Gallifrey, after their civilisation was split by a schism that led to the formation of the patriarchal Time Lords' science obsessed empire and the exile of the matriarchal Sisters of Karn, whose insular society was based on the development of inner psionic powers. Rassilon and Omega invented time travel, but whereas Rassilon was a leader and the first president, Omega was a scientist; a solar engineer who created the black hole known as the Eye of Harmony that powered time travel.

Why is William Hartnell caged up in some sort of glass prism thingy floating in space? Hartnell was very sick, so they prerecorded his parts and then spliced them in afterwards. This was Hartnell's last appearance as the Doctor and he died in 1975.

In the middle of researching this serial, I rediscovered Katy Manning's glamour pin-ups with a Dalek. She's not the first or last assistant to have done this (Peri, Romana etc.), but it's been such a long time since I saw those photos, I'd forgotten how, er, "bracing" the photos of her draped across and straddling the poor war machine of Skaro were at the time. It seems likely that the first time I saw the pictures might have been in a tabloid, though my memory may be inaccurate as they were first published in a magazine called Girl Illustrated from 1978, which would have made my age just into double digits. Look, I don't want you to think I dwelled on this, I did it for research! The pictures can be found by searching for "naked Dalek", which is both confusing and inaccurate as neither is naked; the Dalek is in its shell and Katy is wearing boots. Ahem. You know what? Yet again, I feel a strong sense of deja vu. This is just the sort of delightfully prurient nonsense that would have beguiled me long ago. Perhaps more investigation is required.

The "space lightning" is described by the Doctor as "super lucent", meaning superluminal. That reminded me how much I love the word "superluminal". Not only because it is wonderful and evocative, but also because it is the title of an excellent 1983 science fiction novel Superluminal by Vonda N. McIntyre* all about FTL travellers and certainly worth a read. Actually, I'm a fan of her work, so anything by this author is worth perusing. I believe Dreamsnake (1978) was the first of her full length novels I read. She also wrote a great tie-in for the movie Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) which I read repeatedly.

*I erroneously refer to the late Vonda N. McIntyre (1948 to 2019) as Vonda K. McIntyre in this episode.