By Roy Mathur, on 2024-02-07, at 22:59:15--23:42:32 GMT, for Captain Roy's Rusty Rocket Radio Show
Accompanied by my butler, Herr Fygor Gestalt, I have piloted my VIMANA, short for V.I.M.A.N.A (Vortex Interstellar Machine And Null Actuator), back to 1983 CE to talk about that increasingly pestilential time travelling twit, the Doctor.
Like the Doctor's "twinge of cosmic angst", I've been experiencing a touch of multiversal malaise, hence my late return. Please ignore rumours of my discontinuation, Fygor is hunting down the naysayers as we speak.
Noteable Cast: Fifth Doctor: Peter Davison, Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker, Third Doctor: Jon Pertwee, Second Doctor: Patrick Troughton, First Doctor: Richard Hurndall, Tegan Jovanka: Janet Fielding, Vislor Turlough: Mark Strickson, Susan Foreman: Carole Ann Ford, Sarah Jane Smith: Elisabeth Sladen, Romana: Lalla Ward, Jamie McCrimmon: Frazer Hines, Zoe Heriot: Wendy Padbury, Liz Shaw: Caroline John, Mike Yates: Richard Franklin, K9: John Leeson, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart: Nicholas Courtney, The Master: Anthony Ainley, Lord President Borusa: Philip Latham (The Avengers, UFO, Hammer House of Horror...), Rassilon: Richard Mathews (first Rassilon, Children of the Stones)
Director: Peter Moffatt (Doctor Who: State of Decay, The Visitation, Mawdryn Undead, The Five Doctors, The Twin Dilemma, The Two Doctors)
Writer: Terrance Dicks (Doctor Who 1968 to 2011 script editor, scriptwriter, author. Producer).
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Location: Wales, Buckinghamshire, Middlesex, Cambridge, Ealing Film Studios, BBC Television Centre (1983)
Broadcast: 20th anniversary special, story 129, following the season 20 finale, The King's Demons, covered in 519, 90 minutes, first broadcast 23 world (actual anniversary)/25 November 1983 UK (during Children in Need).
Media: Target novelization by Terence Dicks (1983), VHS/Betamax (1985), VHS (1990), LaserDisc (1994), VHS The Five Doctors The Collector's Edition with The King's Demons (1995), Rok Player for mobile phones (2005), DVD 25th anniversary edition (2008), Blu-ray The Collection Box Set Season 20 in the Doctor Who (2023). Note these media releases are a summary of English language-only releases and are not definitive. Additionally, I seldom mention amazing cover art artists like Chris Achilleos and Andrew Skilleter because, like many aspects of this revisit, I have to draw the line somewhere, otherwise it would take longer than my lifetime to finish. It's already been nine years!
Billy Joel's annoying earworm, Uptown Girl, was number one in the UK, spanning both the world broadcast on the 23rd and the UK on the 25th. Except for The Cure's The Love Cats and Michael Jackson's Thriller, the rest of the top ten for those days were equally dismal in the UK. I'm sorry.
The Doctor is cleaning the TARDIS console as they arrive at the peaceful, beautiful, and pastoral Eye of Orion, to take a rest from their adventures. The Fifth Doctor, however, suddenly experiences pain and says, that he feels, "As if I'd lost something." The symptoms become worse, so he takes them to find his, "...other selves." leading them to Gallifrey's ancient gladiatorial area called the Death Zone.
A spinning black obelisk (Time Scoop) is also kidnapping Doctors from across time and depositing them, sometimes with companions or friends, and some of the Doctor's deadliest enemies, in the Death Zone. Concerned, the Supreme Council despatch the Master on a rescue mission in exchange for a full pardon and access to regenerations. The Master accepts, but it disbelieved by Three (Pertwee).
The Doctors and companions, except for Four stuck in Cambridge, negotiate the perils of the Death Zone, Daleks, Cybermen, a Yeti, a Raston Warrior Robot, the lethal traps of the sinister dark tower, the Master's maniacal machinations, before arriving at the Tomb of Rassilon.
There's some suspicious subterfuge afoot at the Citadel, when the Castellan, suspected of treachery, is killed while escaping. Five discovers President Borusa clad in black, wearing the psi-enhancing Coronet of Rassilon in a secret chamber. His plan is to use the Doctors, who have proven themselves highly resourceful in the past, to find safe passage to the Tomb of Rassilon, where President Borussa will be granted immortality, enabling him to rule Gallifrey for eternity.
At the tomb, the Doctors try to understand a riddle in Old High Gallifreyan carved into a small stele. Borusa enters and Rassilon's projection asks if he is sure he wants immortality. Borusa does, is given the Ring of Rassilon to wear, then dematerialises and is imprisoned in the stone side of Rassilon's tomb. The first Doctor laughs, saying, "...I suddenly realised what the old proverb meant. To lose is to win and he who wins shall lose. It was all part of Rassilon's trap to find out who wanted immortality and put him out of the way."
The Doctors and their companions leave. The Fifth Doctor's departure is interrupted by Chancellor Flavia pronouncing him Lord President. The Doctor says he will join her shortly, then flees with Tegan and Turlough.
The Fifth Doctor says he experienced, "Just a twinge of cosmic angst." Me too, Doctor.
The Time Scoop is really just the spooky mirror vehicle to the Phantom Zone of Superman III, which was released in July and used this effect first.
Intrepid investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith is one of my favourite companions. However Elizabeth Sladen's acting, whether by direction or choice, largely consists of rage and fear and screaming and her constant need of rescue irritated me.
Richard Hurndall looks and sounds nothing like William Hartnell's First Doctor. Further, he is not using the earlier nicer twisty cane (Marco Polo), but a shiny black cane (The Reign of Terror). Apparently, the latter type is more iconic. I disagree and I'm focusing on this seemingly trivial minutiae because I'm leaning on my "standing stick" at this very moment. Ageing; live with it. It's great when he meets Susan Foreman again and confronts Daleks, but why no catching up after the Hartnell speech at the beginning, no less? I laughed when the sexist old git sends thoroughly modern Tegan for "refreshments".
Phantom Liz Shaw goes full Invasion of the Body Snatchers, screaming "Stop him!"
The retired Brigadier is still a surprisingly hard man, knocking the Master out cold.
Jon Pertwee's Three oozes confidence, charisma, and charm. What a man. I miss him.
All the enemies are cyborg or robotic, enough to give our current AI-phobic techillioiaires the willies. I loved the surprisingly violent fight scene between the Cybermen and a Raston Warrior Robot (played intimidatingly well by lithe Keith Hodiak), featuring an exploding head, an amputation, and vile yellow liquid gore spouting from the mouth of a Cyberman; apropos for Death Zone combat. The second Doctor enraging a Yeti with a firework was hilarious.
The Time Lords, the Citadel, the Death Zone, and newer information about the Time Scoop, the treacherous and beautifully wizardy Black Tower that wouldn't have looked out of place in The Lord of the Rings (why can't I have one), the Tomb, the forbidden Black Scrolls ("I thought they were out of print."), the Coronet, the Ring, and the Riddle of Rassilon. Ah, the lore! There's certainly a lot of China's first emperor Qin Shi Huang and any number of Egyptian pharaohs that this legendary Time Lord must have been modelled upon.
The Old High Gallifreyan riddle inscribed on the stele in the tomb looks like a hodge podge of Earth mathematical symbols. An Easter egg?
Starting with the best speech ever made by a Doctor (One's, regarding Susan) and ending on Five telling Tegan that running away from Gallifrey is how he started his adventures is a lovely poetic loop.
This is a grand adventure featuring all the Doctors, some of their companions and friends, their worst enemies to date, a glorious dive into Rassilon lore, a treasure hunt, a fine Scooby Doo reveal, and a thoroughly nasty science fiction horror denouement at the conclusion of the game of Rassilon (no wonder the Doctors are scared of him). What's not to like? One can't help seeing a parallel that resonates with UK audiences of yet another untrustworthy posho. President Borusa might as well be a privileged Cambridge traitor or a bent upper echelon politician lousing things up because, of course, they know better. Nothing changes. There's a French quote, isn't there? (Yes, there is, Roy, you just looked it up. "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.")
Here's more unverifiable trivia care of Wikipedia. This would have been The Six Doctors, had not Robert Holmes left production and Terrance Dicks took over. Some of this unused plot was used in Holmes' later The Two Doctors and Chris Chibnall's The Timeless Children.
Tom Baker's parts are all taken from Shada because he declined the role so soon after leaving it. Many of the actors playing the Doctor, particularly Baker, have been grumpy regarding their time on the show until much later. The man seems almost chipper about it nowadays. Age and wisdom one hopes.
It has been nine years plus since I embarked on this foolhardy adventure, so when I finish this crazed quixotic quest, I'm going on a pub crawl.
Chameleon circuit? Pah! The Vimana comes with reality engineering. So, my Whovians, if you see a worse-for-wear old school rocketship, an elaborate Hindu temple, a suspiciously enormous hat, or a gigantic pair of glasses, parked outside Altair City Spaceport's Rusty Rocket Tavern, you'll know I've finished. If you find me concious inside, buy me another well-deserved Betelgeusian Brain Buster to make sure I don't remain in that state for much longer.