One fat geek's SUCCESSFUL attempt to regenerate into a not-so-fat geek by watching the entirety of Doctor Who while walking on a treadmill

The Five (But Really Only Four) Doctors

Jan 11 2018
The Five (But Really Only Four) Doctors

Good lord, what a long day. For the past eleven months I have been watching two 25-minute episodes per day, but this morning's viewing was the twentieth anniversary special that is effectively a movie with no breaking point. That meant that I spent a full 102 minutes on the treadmill, walking further than I ever have in a single day. Then I had a full day of work, and then a big birthday party. Aside from being Alexander Hamilton's birthday, today is my wife's birthday (and also my boss' birthday, and also a friend's birthday), plus my own birthday is on Monday. So we had a whole big thing planned for tonight. Unfortunately my wife has the flu and couldn't go out, but we filmed everyone singing to her. After that I had to go back to work to do a software release, and so now here I am at nearly midnight just finally writing this post.

So let's talk about the big twentieth anniversary special.

The Five Doctors

(TARDIS Data Core recap)

I have watched this story several times before, but never has it meant quite so much to me. There are just so many lovely little details throughout the entire thing, little love letters to the fans of each particular era of the show. Terrance Dicks did a masterful job of honoring the entire history of the show and bringing back a remarkable number of characters without ever getting bogged down.

The story itself is pretty straightforward: something or someone is scooping up all of the different incarnations of the Doctor, along with several of his notable companions, and dumping them into Gallifrey's Death Zone. What with William Hartnell being notably deceased at the time, the role of the First Doctor is recast with lookalike Richard Hurdnall now playing the second First Doctor (a role which was recently reprised by David Bradley as the third First Doctor). What with being grumpy at the time, the role of the Fourth Doctor is recast with previously-unreleased footage from the never-completed Shada, and that particular incarnation becomes stuck in the time vortex for the entirety of the story. Both Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee were still around and eager to participate, though, so both the Second and Third Doctors appear as themselves in the story. And, of course, Peter Davison is there doing the heavy lifting (sometimes literally) as the Fifth Doctor.

As for companions, I have to admit I teared up a little bit at the reappearance of Susan Foreman, returning for the first time since The Dalek Invasion of Earth. It wasn't quite as nostalgic to see the Brigadier again, only because I had just seen him the week before in Mawdryn Undead. But you want to really talk about tearing up? That would be with the return of Sarah Jane Smith. It was just so nice to see her again and in top form. There are also swell cameos by K9 Mark III, Liz Shaw and Mike Yates, and best of all (and I admit I squealed with joy) Jamie and Zoe. Oh how I have missed them all.

The remarkable thing about this story is that, although it is filled to bursting with nostalgia, it still maintains a properly good story. Ultimately it is the President of Gallifrey who is behind the shenanigans, chasing immortality. Also ultimately, of course, the Doctor(s) do a Very Clever Thing and the bad guy is defeated and everyone is returned to their proper time and place. Along the way there are appearances by all of the great villains - the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Yeti, and of course a major role for the Master. 

Most notably, this continues to be the longest single episode in the entire fifty-plus year history of the show. The tv movie for the Eighth Doctor's single outing comes close, but not quite. So this morning will be the longest I ever slog it out on the Time Treadmill, for the remainder of this project.

As anniversary celebrations go, I would still give the edge to The Three Doctors as being a better story overall, but dang it if this one doesn't come close. Usually while I am watching the episodes I am also extremely conscious of where exactly I am in the treadmill's progress meter. But even though this morning's walk was so much longer, I barely noticed the time fly by. Truly the only thing I could have asked for with this story was for Tom Baker to not be so grumpy, and to come back and participate properly. Even he regrets that decision, although I can understand where he was coming from at the time.

Oh, I guess there is one other thing I could have asked for. Would it have been too much to bring back my goddess, Barbara Wright? She was still alive. Actress Jacqueline Hill had even appeared three years earlier as a different character in Meglos. Just a few more minutes spent on screen with her would have been lovely. Ah, well.


I love my wife dearly. But if I had a working time machine? I would jump right back to 1963 and take my best shot at woo-ing this goddess.

So that's it, tomorrow I begin the 21st season of Doctor Who. Unfortunately, after such a great story today, tomorrow's is going to be... not so good.

STATS:

Doctor(s): First (well, the second First), Second, Third, Fourth (kind of), Fifth
Companion(s): Tegan, Turlough, Susan Foreman, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Sarah Jane Smith, K9, Liz Shaw, Mike Yates, Jamie, Zoe, Romana
Episode(s): The Five Doctors
Steps Walked: 12,390 today, 2,119,779 total
Distance Walked: 6.14 miles today, 1,084.79 miles total
Weight: 246.46 lbs (five day moving average), net change -60.84 lbs


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