Timestamp #65: The Three Doctors

Doctor Who: The Three Doctors
(4 episodes, s10e01-e04, 1972-73)

Timestamp 065 The Three Doctors 2

 

Happy 10th anniversary, Doctor Who! Traditionally, you’d get something made of tin, but the Time Lords are feeling benevolent.

A Pandora’s box arrives in the form of a cosmic ray research module, and it’s hungry because it eats Mr Ollis, the warden of the bird sanctuary where the module crash-landed. Doctor Tyler arrives and takes the box to UNIT where the Doctor analyzes the data, and the Doctor trolls the Brigadier with a silicon rod to stir his tea. As the Doctor and Jo investigate the crash site, the module consumes Doctor Tyler, and a psychedelic cloud leaks out, menaces our heroes, and eats Bessie.

Someone needs a copy of Care and Feeding of Psychedelic Clouds for Dummies.

As if that’s not enough, several cyclopean crab creatures apparate and storm UNIT HQ. The Brigadier leaves Sgt Benton in charge of the lab and leaves to assess the situation, prompting the cloud to arrive and force the Doctor, Jo, and Benton to take refuge in the TARDIS. The TARDIS won’t dematerialize, so the Doctor plays his last resort card and calls the Time Lords.

The TARDIS has been redecorated again, and while I liked the wash basin roundels more, this is still a step up from the wallpaper that dominated the Troughton era. While I was observing that, Sgt Benton was having his “bigger on the inside” moment, which made me laugh.

The Time Lords determine that the attack is stemming from a black hole which bridges into a universe of anti-matter, but they can’t help because the same gateway is siphoning all of their power reserves. Despite the First Law of Time, which forbids the Doctor from doubling back on his own timeline (wait, what?), the Time Lords break the rules and send the Second Doctor to help the Third.

Oh, the irony.

The Second Doctor arrives, heralded by his trademark recorder, and followed by his dislike of the new décor. Sgt Benton is overjoyed, since the last time this saw this Doctor was during the Cyberman invasion. The two Doctors link together telepathically, but can’t get anything accomplished because the “dandy” and the “clown” can’t stop bickering, so the Time Lords call up the First Doctor to set them straight. He can’t come all the way in because of a plot-convenient time eddy that the council cannot overpower, but he passes the word that the black hole is a time breach and that they must cross it.

The Time Lords, by the way, call the First Doctor the “earliest Doctor”: Hartnell’s character was definitively the original.

The Third Doctor decides on a bad plan and rushes out of the TARDIS. Jo follows, and both are consumed. The Second Doctor sees that the cloud has been temporarily satiated, so he and Benton leave the TARDIS to investigate. The Brigadier meets the Second Doctor again, and he jumps to the conclusion that the Third Doctor has regenerated… er, degenerated… er, changed back into the Second Doctor. Bickering and hilarity ensue.

The Second Doctor deduce that the cloud is made of antimatter, and that it was sent by someone powerful since it hasn’t caused a matter-antimatter annihilation. He suggests confusing it with useless information, such as with a television. That’s right, Doctor Who went meta before meta was a thing. While the Second Doctor works that problem, the Third Doctor and Jo wake up on a barren world with the one-eyed crabs, pieces of the laboratory, and Bessie, and they use the car to track a set of footprints to their source.

Back on Earth, the Brigadier wants the Second Doctor to address the Security Council, calling him the Third Doctor’s assistant to sideline the whole regeneration question, much to the Second’s chagrin. The cloud gets the hunger pains again, and the Second Doctor, the Brigadier, and Benton take refuge in the TARDIS. The Brigadier’s “bigger on the inside” moment trumps Benton’s as he accuses the Doctor of building the contraption from UNIT materials and funds. As the Third Doctor and Jo find Doctor Tyler and are subdued by the crab monsters, the Second Doctor works with the First Doctor who suggests letting the cloud attack the TARDIS. When it does, the entire headquarters building is transported into the black hole, which leaves the Brigadier nearly apoplectic. He goes off to call in this new development as the Second Doctor and Benton find Mr. Ollis, and then get captured by the crabs.

We also note that the TARDIS is just a prop thanks to a camera angle that peers all the way inside.

And then we meet the architect of this whole thing: The legendary long lost Time Lord named Omega. He was the solar engineer who created the supernova that powers Time Lord civilization, but was supposedly killed in the resulting explosion. In reality, he was transported to the antimatter universe, where his will and thought turned the formless matter into physical form. It’s also his cage, since his will is the only thing maintaining reality, and he vowed revenge on the Time Lords who left him stranded. Omega deduces that the Second Doctor and the Third Doctor are the same Time Lord, and boy is he angry. He places them in a cell pending execution, and they continue bickering before the companions put them in their place. I loved that!

Omega has control of the singularity, which grants him immense power, and Jo considers that the Doctor must also have some potential in this universe. The two Doctor will a door into existence, they all escape the cell, the companions get lost and escape the palace, and the Doctors get discovered by Omega in the singularity chamber, where Omega challenges the Third Doctor to a mental Thunderdome. The Third Doctor is defeated, but the Second reasons with Omega using the imprisoned Time Lord’s freedom as leverage.

The Time Lords send the First Doctor into the black hole, reasoning that together they are powerful enough to defeat Omega. The Second Doctor laments his lost recorder (foreshadowing!), but deliberately angers Omega to challenge the villain’s self control. The two Doctors reason that if Omega can transport matter to Earth on the light stream, he could transmit himself as well, but Omega reveals that he is a prisoner of his own design. If tries to leave, he loses control over the construct, and if he stops controlling the construct, he cannot leave. He brought the Doctor(s) to become the new caretakers. As he prepares to leave, however, he discovers that he no longer exists in a form that can survive outside of the antimatter construct. Omega is powered only by his will to live, and that only works on this side of the mirror. He goes all Kylo Ren on everything since he does not want to live like that, and the Doctor run back to the TARDIS just in time to let all of the companions seek shelter.

The First Doctor is unable to fully appear in the antimatter universe since the Time Lords’ power is so badly compromised, but he links with his successors and formulate a plan. They ask Omega to bring the TARDIS to him, and then ask the companions to trust them implicitly. They promise to set Omega free only if he sends the companions home, and Omega counters that he cannot be freed, but will keep the Doctors as his companions. Each of the Doctors’ companions step into the light stream and go home.

As much as I tear into the Brigadier’s character, he did have a very touching moment as he saluted the Doctors. He truly believes it to be the last time that he shall see them.

The Doctors offer Omega the TARDIS’s force field generator as a means to escape, but he physically rejects it, and the Second Doctor’s recorder (which has been on the TARDIS inside the generator the entire time and not modified to exist in both universes) annihilates with the anti-matter in a supernova, breaking the bridge and returning everyone to their rightful places. Poetically, the act also restores power to the Time Lords, making it the second time that Omega has exchanged his life for their civilization.

In exchange for his help, the Time Lords forgive the Doctor of his crimes: After fifteen serials in exile, they return his knowledge of time travel and provide him with a new dematerialization circuit. Jo is elated, since the Doctor decides that he can’t leave Earth yet since he needs a new force field generator.

Thank the Maker, we get time travel again!

Overall, this was a great story, and it was fantastic to see Troughton back in action. His madcap style is a great contrast to Pertwee’s pompous prim and proper. It was also good to see how well the companions and Doctors all interacted, although it would have been nice to bring in some of the First and Second Doctor’s companions as well. Time and budget are always constraints, and it might have also muddied the plot a little.

One place where I’m torn is with Hartnell’s final performance. It was so good to see him in character again, but he was obviously very ill and not fully back to where he left the character thirty-six serials ago. Sadly, he died two years after this performance, his last as the Doctor and his final acting performance overall.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

Timestamp: First Doctor Summary

Doctor Who: First Doctor Summary

Timestamp First Doctor

 

Starting with the last two serials for William Hartnell, they were pretty strong. It was obvious that he was starting to falter in the role, but the stories and supporting cast were strong enough to keep the show rolling.

As for the First Doctor, I enjoyed his stories a lot more than I thought I would. Many places in fandom categorize Hartnell’s Doctor as a curmudgeonly grandfather who wants to do things his way, and his way alone. His character has a lot more depth than that simple stereotype, and while he is a grumpy man, he also has a stunning capacity to love and care for those who he respects. Behind that gruff nomadic scientist is a sympathetic character with a childlike curiosity about the entirety of time and space.

I also had some trepidation about watching the older episodes, especially since so many are reconstructions, but the skills in acting and production shone through beyond the grainy images and telesnaps. I had watched The Aztecs long before starting the Timestamps project, and was thoroughly disappointed. To be honest, I needed the background of the preceding serials, and this time I had it.

The First Doctor’s adventures are truly worth the investment to watch them. And that’s why it’s so hard to say goodbye. Even after two serials of hardship in the fourth series due to the actor’s declining health, his farewell was quite up front and sincere. In those final two words, “stay warm,” Hartnell emoted his heartbreak and his gratitude for such a wonderful experience.

I’m glad I took the time to truly appreciate it.

 

The Smugglers – 3
The Tenth Planet – 4

Series Four (First Doctor) Average Rating: 3.5

 

Series 1 – 3.5
Series 2 – 3.7
Series 3 – 3.1
Series 4 – 3.5

First Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 3.41

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #29: The Tenth Planet

Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet
(4 episodes, s04e05-e08, 1966)

Timestamp 029 The Tenth Planet

This serial had a slow lead up to an otherwise enjoyable story. It’s the introduction of the Cybermen! Wow, they have come a long way in costume and character design. The Cybermen were a bit hard to understand, and were certainly more individual than the later versions.

It was good to get the backstory on such a popular villain, and the story keeps rolling with excellent tension surrounding the stranded astronauts and assault in isolation. Cutler was the trope of the blood-thirsty military officer, which felt a little bonk-bonk on the head with the message. That in mind, I get Cutler having no problem killing the Cybermen, but what didn’t follow was Ben enabling Cutler to kill them. Ben was terribly upset about killing in self-defense mere moments earlier, but then hands Cutler the gun without hesitation.

The Doctor spontaneously collapses and remains out of commission for an episode of the serial. This leaves the companions to carry the story, both in and out of the serial. Hartnell was obviously having a hard time with this one, and luckily the companion actors and characters are both strong enough to keep the gears turning.

Remember the rules, though: It’s a regeneration episode, so it get an automatic +1 on the score. They’re always hard episodes to do.

Watching the First Doctor say goodbye was heart-breaking. The companions think he’s either worn out or going daft, but it felt a lot more like he was completely lucid in his final moments. Just in case this regeneration thing doesn’t work, “stay warm.”


Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

UP NEXT – First Doctor Summary

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #28: The Smugglers

Doctor Who: The Smugglers
(4 episodes, s04e01-e04, 1966)

Timestamp 028 The Smugglers

It’s another new opening credits sequence on a nice cat-and-mouse game mixed with pirates and a mystery.

The Doctor seems surprised to see Ben and Polly, which puts a slight spin on my theory from The War Machines. That said, I don’t think he’s entirely upset about their arrival, as he gets over the anger quickly.

Polly is very bubbly and perky, and I like that Ben respectfully pokes at her by continuing to call her “Duchess” and “Ducks”. Their dynamic gets even more mixing as Polly gets mistaken for a boy during this story. It throws her further off her game while providing her a degree of power that she wouldn’t have as a woman in the era.

The reference to the Doctor as “Sawbones” (a slang term for a surgeon) is amusing, as is the play off of superstitions to break out of captivity. I can’t help but feel sorry for Tom and Jamaica for being so easily manipulated.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp: Third Series Summary

Doctor Who: Third Series Summary

Timestamp Logo First

 

I really enjoyed the third series, though it was not as strong as the first two. The Daleks got a wonderful serial that went on a bit long, and it finished strong with three good stories that I felt started to bring the show into a good stride. There are some less exciting adventures, like The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve and The Celestial Toymaker, which brought the score down a bit, but overall I’m still enjoying the First Doctor a lot more than I thought I would.

It will be sad to seem him go with only two serials to go. Before I start into Series Four, however, I plan to visit the Peter Cushing big screen interpretation one last time with the remake of Series Two’s The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

 

Galaxy 4 – 3
Mission to the Unknown  – 4
The Myth Makers – 3
The Daleks’ Master Plan – 4
The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve – 2
The Ark – 4
The Celestial Toymaker – 1
The Gunfighters – 3
The Savages – 4
The War Machines – 3

Series Three Average Rating: 3.1/5

 

UP NEXT – Special #2: Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #27: The War Machines

Doctor Who: The War Machines
(4 episodes, s03e42-e45, 1966)

Timestamp 027 The War Machines

Between this and The Gunfighters, there have been some new style choices for the opening titles. It feels like the producers are trying to find a fresh voice for the show. What really felt fresh with this serial was the return to the 20th century. The “out of order” sign was a clever touch, but the TARDIS is looking rather shoddy.

The story is a standard tech-run-amuck tale, with a globally-networked central intelligence computer named WOTAN that knows a lot about everything. I don’t recall that they explained how WOTAN knew so much about things beyond the 1960s or the planet Earth, and that was a little disappointing because it didn’t make a lot of sense.

It also didn’t know everything, as it referred to the titular Time Lord as “Doctor Who” instead of as “The Doctor.”

WOTAN goes full Skynet, building machines to destroy the human race. This was a dark serial, with a ruthless intelligence that kills in a binary fashion. WOTAN is very “you’re either with me, or you’re my enemy,” and is very fast with getting the parts ordered, shipped, and assembled for the war machines.

Another nit to pick is how a machine prevents mechanical and chemical reactions from occurring in a firearm. There was no explanation, which makes this a convenient cheat and hurts the writing. This is exemplified by the order, “Tell the men to hold their fire,” followed by a threat to continue firing if the machine doesn’t stand down. Sir Charles seemed a bit daft as a result of this shoddy writing as there is no gunfire: The guns and grenades aren’t working, remember? Click, click, click does not equal bang, bang, bang.

That said, I did like the resolution to the story in turning one of the war machines against WOTAN. It was good that intellect and cunning won over brute force.

I like Ben and Polly, which are obviously another swing at adding a fresh face to the show. They work well together, and are much stronger in carrying the story than many of the previous companions. It was also a clever ruse by the Doctor to determine if Polly and Ben want to travel with him: Drop the key and wait for them to bring it to him. I can see how it may not have been a ruse by the Doctor, but he’s not usually so lax about his TARDIS keys.

Finally, I have to address Dodo. She was far more conservative in this adventure, and I did like having WOTAN turn her against the Doctor in an effort to assimilate him. But, her departure was quite disappointing. I really enjoyed her presence in the TARDIS, and she has been one of my favorite companions so far. She deserved far better than to be written off in a line of dialogue. That really soured an otherwise enjoyable episode, as there wasn’t even a chance to say goodbye for the Doctor or the viewer.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

UP NEXT – Third Series Summary

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

 

Timestamp #26: The Savages

Doctor Who: The Savages
(4 episodes, s03e38-e41, 1966)

Timestamp 026 The Savages

This serial kicks off with the Doctor pulling out his scientific tools again, and it’s good to see the him getting back to the exploits that we started Hartnell’s run with. What’s even more impressive is this story about class warfare and morality in the pursuit of utopia.

At first, I thought that the “savages” were supposed to be the cave-dwellers, but in truth the true savages are the technologically advanced upper class who power their entire lives with the life force of the lower class. It’s an allegory on progress, which depends on a certain amount of exploitation but requires a social conscience to prevent over-exploitation and unethical behavior. The story reminds me of countless Star Trek episodes, including the Next Generation pilot “Encounter at Farpoint“.

The cave dwellers and the light gun/mirror trick remind me Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It also plays into the continued deus ex machina of the Doctor and his travels.

Concerning both of those points, it was an great science fiction concept to place the Doctor in the vitality extractor. Would it extract only this incarnation’s life-force, or all twelve of his lives? It was also interesting that a life-energy transference would also bleed over some personality. The Doctor also never gets his energy back. Has this weakened him enough to prompt his regeneration in the near future?

Finally, Steven wasn’t my favorite companion, but this is a perfect ending for his voyage with the Doctor. His strong personality and morals will serve him well in negotiating a new civilization for both groups of savages.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The War Machines

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.