BOB BAKER &
THE BLACK HOLE
'REVISITATIONS 3' DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD3003) RELEASED IN FEBRUARY 2012.
The Time Lords are in crisis.
A powerful force is draining their energy into a mysterious Black Hole -
and they must recruit the Doctor to save them. But one Doctor isn’t enough
for this mission...
ALL THREE OF THE DOCTOR'S INCARNATIONS, AIDED BY JO GRANT AND UNIT, MUST FACE THE WRATH OF OMEGA - A FALLEN TIME LORD TRAPPED FOR MILLENNIA IN A UNIVERSE OF ANTI-MATTER. DRIVEN MAD BY HIS EXILE, OMEGA NOW HAS JUST ONE THING ON HIS MIND - REVENGE...
The Three Doctors
30TH DECEMBER 1972 - 20TH JANUARY 1973
It was Doctor Who’s fans that originally suggested bringing back both William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton for an adventure alongside incumbent Time Lord Jon Pertwee. The production team initially dismissed the idea out of hand, only to find themselves mulling over its merits again as the series’ tenth anniversary loomed large and realising that The Three Doctors might actually work. And, despite the apparently insurmountable obstacles that threatened to derail the project, The Three Doctors did far more than just work – it proved to be such a success that it would serve as a template for many future celebratory stories.
“So you’re my replacements — a dandy and a clown!”
The Three Doctors would live and die by its gimmick, and so when it became clear that William Hartnell’s infirmity would preclude an active role for him, script editor Terrance Dicks was called upon to carry out some hasty and significant rewrites of Bob Baker and Dave Martin’s script. Dicks’ solution was inspired, allowing the retired actor to interact with his “replacements” by way of a number of pre-recorded inserts, which where all shot in a single day with the assistance of cue cards. The resultant performance was regrettably as vaporous as it was caustic, but it was marked by a few dazzling moments of barbed lucidity. The first Doctor’s seminal line “So you’re my replacements — a dandy and a clown!” would unwittingly set the tone not just for this serial, but for all of the many multi-Doctor romps that would follow.
Happily Hartnell’s limited role is papered over wonderfully by the antagonistic second and third Doctors, whose on screen banter left viewers hungering for more. Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee’s interpretations of the Doctor couldn’t be any farther apart, really, and so Baker and Martin’s script takes great delight in highlighting these differences to comic – and, eventually, dramatic – effect. Their script is equally kind to UNIT, however, gifting the paramilitary taskforce great swathes of action. The Three Doctors is a particularly successful outing for John Levene’s Benton, who inherited much of the material originally planned for Frazer Hines’ Jamie, as well as Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier, who would unwittingly find immortality through his deadpan delivery of the line: “Oh nonsense, Doctor. It’s probably Norfolk or somewhere… I’m pretty sure that’s Cromer.”
The Bristol Boys’ storyline is also original and engaging; more so, I’d argue, than many of the subsequent multi-Doctor capers. Not only does it introduce us to the daunting Time Lord Omega (who would return for the series’ twentieth anniversary as the main protagonist in Arc of Infinity, and then again for its fortieth as the eponymous focus of the superlative Big Finish audio drama, Omega), but it also explores some fascinating – if woefully implausible – scientific conceits, and unwittingly sews the seeds of Gallifreyan mythology.
Above: Katy Manning, Jon Pertwee and Nicholas Courtney on stage at Panopticon
The Revisitations 3 box set’s special edition DVD may be missing the quaint little die cast model of Bessie that accompanied many copies of the original 2003 release, but it does boast all of its bonus material. The commentary is a vibrant one, as Katy Manning and the late Barry Letts and Nicholas Courtney look back on this serial with great humour and remarkable fondness. Two trailers are also included on the first disc – one for the programme’s original 1972 transmission (it’s beyond atrocious) and one for the Five Faces of Doctor Who 1981 repeat season. The interviews relevant to The Three Doctors from BSB’s 1990 Doctor Who Weekend are all also included, as is a clip from Blue Peter celebrating ten years of Doctor Who, hosted by former companion Peter Purves and featuring Jon Pertwee in his Whomobile. Best of all though is the uproarious footage from Pebble Mill at One – first off, they usher out a special effects expert who can’t get any of his effects to work, and then they introduce Patrick Troughton, who gets into an argument with the woman interviewing him, accusing her of misquoting him and making up lies! And on top of all this, just under half an hour’s worth of footage featuring Pertwee, Manning and Courtney is included from the 1993 Panopticon convention. It’s entertaining stuff, and particularly notable for allowing the late Jon Pertwee to share his memories of the show with future generations.
Above: The Revisitations 3 DVD box set wishes Happy Birthday to Who
To the gaudy sound of Altered Images, the new bonus disc’s flagship feature says a twenty-four minute Happy Birthday to Who. Boasting what was, at the time, quite an abundant selection of special features, 2003’s Three Doctors DVD was only really lacking a ‘making of’ feature – an omission that this programme seeks to redress. Both Letts and Dicks are on hand to share their memories of reversing the “bad decisions” of the preceding production team, acquiescing to the fans’ requests to unite the three Doctors on screen and all the logistical problems that would follow, given Hartnell’s advanced arterio-scerosis and Troughton and Pertwee’s reported real-life rivalry.
With The Three Doctors itself now given due service, it comes as little surprise that the remainder of the revisitation’s features are broad in nature. The first, Was Doctor Who Rubbish?, gives prominent fans Karen Davies, Thomas Guerrier, Katreena Dare and Joseph Lidster the opportunity to defend the series against cheap journalists’ often ill-considered jibes and, in doing so, dispel many of the myths that continue to put followers of the revised series off its forerunner. Despite only being allowed fourteen minutes, the contributors do a decisive job of putting the usual criticisms to bed – allegations of wobbly sets, poor effects, ubiquitous quarries, bubblewrap monsters, hammy acting and emotional detachment are all effectively put down. For every Myrka there’s a stairs-climbing Dalek or Gallifreyan Time Station; for every quarry there’s an English castle; for every “Dodo’s just left a note” there’s The War Games’ affecting finale, or Sarah Jane’s heartbreaking goodbye. Of course, the only trouble with this feature is that the only people who will ever see it are already fans of the classic series, who will just sit there, as I did, nodding sternly in approval. This really needs to be on television alongside an episode of the new series so that its viewers get the chance to appreciate “the huge brilliance of the rest of it.”
Above: Karen Davies defends bubblewrap monsters in Was Doctor Who Rubbish?
The new bonus disc is rounded off with the 1970s’ instalment of Girls! Girls! Girls! With erstwhile companions Caroline John (Liz Shaw), Katy Manning (Jo Grant / Iris Wildthyme) and Louise Jameson (Leela) on hand to discuss the morality of appending bikini pics to their curricula vitae and such like, these twenty minutes threaten to encroach upon Loose Women’s territory, but thankfully they are saved thanks to some interesting anecdotes about their similar Who experiences.
All told, my only grouse about The Three Doctors would have to be that it was broadcast only a couple of months after the programme’s ninth anniversary, rather than on its tenth. However, even this ultimately worked to its advantage as it allowed William Hartnell to make one final bequest to his legacy – one that I think will be treasured for decades to come.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006, 2012
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