Three Has Company


Review of The Three Doctors: SE (#65)

DVD Release Date:  13 Mar 12
Original Air Date:  30 Dec 1972 - 20 Jan 1973
Doctor/Companion:  Three, Jo Grant, the Brigadier
Stars:  Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney
Preceding StoryThe Time Monster (Three, Jo, the Brigadier)
Succeeding Story:  Carnival of Monsters (Three, Jo)

Whoever first decided the crazy idea of having all three Doctors in one story wasn't so crazy after all (I guess that's either producer Barry Letts or script editor Terrance Dicks, then) deserves an award, in my opinion. This first multi-Doctor story was precursor to many others, both on- and off-screen and I, for one, love that.

The story serves multiple purposes, too. Not only did it provide the fan service of bringing back the previous Doctors, but by the end Three had also regained his ability to leave Earth (which made subsequent story arcs easier, after so many invasion-of-Earth stories already in the can). And those social-interaction pieces of the story, at least, are plausible.

The science, on the other hand... ~sigh~ An antimatter universe? Through a black hole? No. Just... no. I think that - more than any other Doctor Who story - the "science" here is painfully awful. Most of the time, I can gloss over it, suspend my disbelief and say, "yeah, that sounds almost plausible," and roll with it. This bit, though, is egregious enough that it regularly jars me out of that mental story-space. I can get past it enough to enjoy the story, but I kind of have to work at it. I think Letts said it best when he pointed out in the commentary (see below) that "this is really science fantasy, rather than science fiction. It bears no relation really to what ... scientists think goes on in the middle of a black hole." Makes for a pretty good story, though. So let's move on to those good bits.


Ignore the Dinosaurs Behind the Curtain


Review of Invasion of the Dinosaurs (#71)
DVD Release Date:  10 Jan 12
Original Air Date:  12 Jan - 16 Feb 1974
Doctor/Companion:  Three, Sarah Jane Smith, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
Stars:  Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen, Nicholas Courtney
Preceding StoryThe Time Warrior (Three, Sarah Jane)
Succeeding Story:  Death to the Daleks (Three, Sarah Jane)

What can one really say about low-budget mid-70's television dinosaurs? Certainly nothing flattering. I mean, I give them credit for trying - the script did rather present them with an impossible task, after all. Dinosaurs in Central London? Not something you can just "work around" and keep the story at all intact. That doesn't disguise the fact that they're rubber rubbish.

So if we are to take this story anything close to seriously, we need to get one thing straight right off the bat: the effects are heinously poor, but you have to pretend they're good. Break out some mental steel cable to keep your disbelief willingly suspended if necessary, but make it work. Because behind those shoddy Cretaceous monstrosities is a pretty good science fiction plot.

The Doctor and Sarah Jane are just returning from her first, unintentional adventure with him. When they land, they find London deserted. Eventually, they learn a veritable plague of dinosaurs has descended on the city and prompted a mass evacuation. From there, intrigues abound and chronobabble flows freely while, as they say, the plot thickens.


Authoritative and Genteel


Review of the Third Doctor's era

1970 - 1974
Spearhead from Space
Doctor Who and the Silurians
The Ambassadors of Death
Terror of the Autons
The Mind of Evil
The Claws of Axos
Colony in Space
The Dæmons
Day of the Daleks
The Curse of Peladon
The Sea Devils
The Mutants
The Time Monster
The Three Doctors
Carnival of Monsters
Frontier in Space
Planet of the Daleks
The Green Death
The Time Warrior
Invasion of the Dinosaurs
Death to the Daleks
The Monster of Peladon
Planet of the Spiders

The switch to Three brought in some big changes. Most noticeably, the episodes were now in color! However, there was also a distinct change in the personality of Three when compared to One and Two. First off, he was the first example of the Doctor as Action Hero. With his Venusian aikido (or Venusian karate, depending on the story), he was not averse to getting into hand-to-hand combat. He was also a fairly good with a blade, prompting one adversary to comment that he'd never seen "a finer swordsman."

Another change was that for a significant portion of his tenure, Three was stuck on Earth - exiled here by the Time Lords, with his knowledge of the relevant technology blocked. Thus began his real, long-term relationship with UNIT. Usually he only helped because he decided the problem the Brigadier brought to him was interesting, but of course we never saw the instances that didn't result in an adventure. And somehow, Earth always seemed to be under threat of invasion from someone.


Still Raze-y After All These Years


Review of Colony in Space (#58)
DVD Release Date:  08 Nov 11
Original Air Date:  10 Apr - 15 May 1971
Doctor/Companion:  Three, Jo Grant
Stars:  Jon Pertwee, Katie Manning
Preceding StoryThe Claws of Axos (Three, Jo)
Succeeding Story:  The Dæmons (Three, Jo)

When the Doctor forcibly regenerated into Three, he was exiled to 20th Century Earth. While that made for some less expensive down-to-earth filming for about a series and a half, eventually he needed to get back out into the broadness of time and space to keep the show fresh and interesting. Thus begins the Time Lords' co-option of the Doctor's services for their own purposes.

Off the Doctor and Jo go, quite unwittingly, to just one more dystopian Earth-colony of the future where a mining company is prepared to raze the planet for its mineral wealth. Notably, despite having already had three adventures with Three, this is both the first time Jo has set foot inside the TARDIS and, resultantly, the first time she's traveled with him away from her own planet or time. Unlike some Companions, she's less than thrilled at first, though just like all of them, she's thrown right into Yet Another Fine Mess.

This story is from Season 8 – the one in which every single story involved the Master – so the only surprise is that, barring passing mention by the Time Lords in episode 1, he doesn't show up until episode 4 (of 6). When he does, though, it's Delgado's typical schmoov operator, complete with updated TARDIS defenses (and filing cabinets! what Time Lord would be without them?) and classic quotes (like "tried and true methods are best," and "but of course that's typical of the High Council of the Time Lords - know everything; do nothing").


Like Night and Day


Review of Day of the Daleks (#60)
DVD Release Date:  13 Sep 11
Original Air Date:  01 - 22 Jan 1972
Doctor/Companion:  Three, Jo Grant
Stars:  Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning
Preceding StoryThe Dæmons (Three, Jo)
Succeeding Story:  The Curse of Peladon (Three, Jo)

To start Three's third season, the production team was looking for some sort of hook to draw in viewers. The resulting story became the first of Three's encounters with the Daleks, who returned after a nearly five-year absence (about half the show's run, at that point). The viewing public loved it (more than 10 million people watched), and yet it’s often had a bad rap since for its less-than-stellar execution. Enter the DVD era.

If ever there was an embodiment of a fan’s obsessive love for this show, it's the Special Edition of Day of the Daleks. Aside from a plethora of good extras, there's an entirely separate version of the story to watch, with updated effects and even new footage spliced seamlessly into the original material (SE). Unless you're the type of person who really enjoys the ambience and historical context of bad production values, I really recommend starting with the SE (disk 2). However, if you don't watch any of the original (disk 1), you'll never appreciate just how much it has been improved (I recommend episodes 2 and 4 for comparison, or just episode 4, if you want to whittle it down to the bare minimum).

The differences are striking. The original Dalek voices in particular are almost painful to listen to, and the final battle comes across as quite weak. However, once new voices were substituted (they're now done by Nick Briggs, the voice of the Daleks since post-Hiatus production began), light bolt effects were added to the ray gun battles, and a bit of post-production magic was performed on the battle scenes, the story comes across quite well, even by more modern standards. What particularly impressed me was the fact that these "upgrades" were all done with techniques and equipment available in the early '70s, to keep everything true to what might have been done at the time, had there been more money available.



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