The Five Doctors

129[1] The Five Doctors
Doctor Who television special

The Doctors inside the Tomb of Rassilon
Directed by Peter Moffatt
John Nathan-Turner (uncredited)
Richard Martin (The Dalek Invasion of Earth segment; uncredited)
Pennant Roberts (Shada segments; uncredited)
Written by Terrance Dicks
Terry Nation (The Dalek Invasion of Earth segment; uncredited)
Douglas Adams (Shada segments; uncredited)
Script editor Eric Saward
Produced by John Nathan-Turner
Incidental music composer Peter Howell
Production code 6K
Series Special (1983)
Length 90 minutes
Originally broadcast 23 November 1983 (first global)
25 November 1983 (first UK)
← Preceded by Followed by →
The King's Demons Warriors of the Deep

The Five Doctors is a special feature-length episode of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, produced in celebration of the programme's 20th anniversary. It had its world premiere in the United States, on the Chicago PBS station WTTW and various other PBS member stations on 23 November 1983,[2] the anniversary date. It was transmitted in the United Kingdom two days later.

The episode aired after the conclusion of the 20th season to celebrate the 20th anniversary. Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee reprised their roles as the Second and Third Doctors respectively. Richard Hurndall portrayed the First Doctor, as the character's original actor, William Hartnell, had died since his last appearance on the show ten years previously. Since Tom Baker decided not to appear in this special, footage from the unfinished serial Shada was used to portray the Fourth Doctor.


A mysterious figure begins to use a Time Scoop to bring the previous incarnations of the Doctor, some of his former companions (Susan Foreman, Sarah Jane Smith, and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) and archenemies (including the Daleks and Cybermen) into the Death Zone on Gallifrey. Though the figure is able to bring the First, Second, and Third Doctor into the zone, the Fourth Doctor along with Romana becomes stuck in the time vortex. The Fifth Doctor, while relaxing on the Eye of Orion with Tegan and Turlough, suddenly feels pains as his former selves are taken from their time streams, and returns everyone to the TARDIS. The various Doctors, recognising the Death Zone, direct their companions towards the large tower near its center, avoiding the various foes and monsters that have also been forced to take part in the deadly Games.

On Gallifrey, the High Council of Time Lords, headed by Lord President Borusa and consisting of Chancellor Flavia and the Castellan, learn of the reactivation of the Death Zone, the abduction of the Doctor's former selves from the time line, and the drain of power from the Eye of Harmony resulting from those. They reluctantly agree to call the Master to assist the Doctors in the Death Zone, offering him a pardon and a new set of regenerations should he cooperate. The Master agrees, and accepts a copy of the Seal of the High Council to prove to the Doctors that he is working for them, and a transmat device that he can use to escape the Death Zone. In the Death Zone, the Master first encounters the Third Doctor, who accuses him of faking the Seal, and then the Fifth Doctor; when they are attacked by Cybermen, the Master is knocked out. The Fifth Doctor discovers the transmat device and uses it to return to the Capitol, where he is informed of the situation by the Council. The Doctor, suspecting foul play, discovers that the transmat device included a homing beacon that would lure the Cybermen to it, and the Castellan is arrested on charges of being a traitor. A search of the Castellan's chambers reveals the Black Scrolls of Rassilon, purportedly containing forbidden Time Lord knowledge. Borusa burns the scrolls and orders the Castellan to be mind probed for interrogation, but the Castellan escapes and is shot down by a Citadel guard. Borusa considers the matter closed, but the Doctor confides in Flavia his doubts. When the two try to find Borusa in the Council room, they find him missing. The Doctor discovers a secret room, where he finds Borusa at the controls of the Time Scoop. Borusa desires to be President Eternal of Gallifrey and is intent on seeking immortality from the Tomb of Rassilon, which is hidden in the tower in the Death Zone. He had brought the Doctor and his former selves to the tower in order to clear the various hazards and traps within. Borusa uses the Coronet of Rassilon to overpower the Doctor's will, taking momentary control of him.

Meanwhile, in the Death Zone, the other three incarnations of the Doctor have entered the tower through separate points, passed the various traps, and have converged in the Tomb, and reacquaint themselves with the various companions. They decipher a message in ancient Gallifreyan whilst inside Rassilon's Tomb, describing that anyone who wants immortality is free to take it by wearing Rassilon's ring, but warns that "to lose is to win and he who wins shall lose". The Master appears and tries to take the ring, but the Doctors' companions overpower him. The Doctors are then able to disable the field preventing the TARDIS from materialising in the tower, and it shortly arrives. They contact the Citadel, where the controlled Fifth Doctor instructs them to wait. Borusa and the Fifth Doctor transmat into the tomb, Borusa subjecting the Doctors' companions to a force field to prevent them from interfering. The other Doctors try to fight against the power of Borusa's mind with the Coronet, but they are interrupted by the voice of Rassilon. Borusa asserts to Rassilon that he is here for immortality, and while the other Doctors attempt to stop him, the First Doctor tells them to hold off. Borusa dons the ring, but soon screams out in pain as he is transformed into living rock as part of Rassilon's Tomb, the fate described by the riddle, which the First Doctor had figured out. Rassilon's spirit returns the Master to his own time, and frees the Fourth Doctor from the Time Vortex; the other Doctors quickly refuse Rassilon's offer of immortality for them. The Doctors depart, leaving the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough alone. However, they are soon joined by Flavia and Citadel guards; Flavia insists that with Borusa's disappearance, the Council appoint the Doctor as President, an offer he cannot refuse by Gallifreyan law. Hesitant to take power, the Doctor orders Flavia back to the Citadel, where she will have power until he returns in his TARDIS, and quickly departs. The Doctor notes to his companions that Flavia will remain in power for a long time, as he has no intention of returning to Gallifrey any time soon. When Tegan asks if he is really going to run from his people he states, "Why not? After all...that's how it all started!".


This is only the second time in the classic series' history that there was a pre-credits sequence. Castrovalva (1982) was the first such story. Subsequently, Time and the Rani (1987) and Remembrance of the Daleks (1988) also featured pre-credits teasers. The pre-credits sequence became a regular occurrence starting with the 2005 series episode "The End of the World".

When asked by the Third Doctor as to whether he has regenerated again, the Master says, "Not exactly", referencing his stealing of Tremas' body, as seen in the Fourth Doctor story The Keeper of Traken (1981). The First Doctor does not quite recognise the Master, and has to be reminded of their time at the Academy together. The Third Doctor does recognise him, however, though it seems not as easily as usual. The Second Doctor also appears to recognise the Master without hesitation, as does the Brigadier. Three incarnations of Borusa previously appeared in The Deadly Assassin, The Invasion of Time and Arc of Infinity.

One of the defences in the Tower of Rassilon is a red and white checked electrified floor pattern, similar to one appearing in the Exxilon city in Death to the Daleks, the only difference being the shapes of the coloured patches. In that serial, the Third Doctor used a coin to test the floor with Belal as an onlooker, just as in this story the First Doctor used several coins to test the floor with Tegan as an onlooker.

Dinah Sheridan makes a guest appearance as Flavia. The character has subsequently been mentioned in spin-off fiction as becoming President of the High Council and then subsequently removed from office due to a scandal (as detailed in the New Adventures novel, Happy Endings). In the new series, a musical cue composed by Murray Gold with ethereal sounding vocals is jokingly referred to as "Flavia's Theme" by the production team, who say it is Flavia's voice singing out from the time vortex.

One of the jewels from the Coronet of Rassilon would later play an important part in the Big Finish Productions Bernice Summerfield adventure The Crystal of Cantus. The Fifth Doctor's sequence in the novel The Eight Doctors – featuring the Eighth Doctor going through his own past to meet and assist his other selves – takes place after this episode, the Fifth Doctor travelling to the Eye of Orion to continue their earlier holiday only to be attacked by a renegade Time Lord from the Eighth Doctor's era using the Timescoop, forcing the two Doctors to defeat a Raston Warrior Robot and a Sontaran squadron. The Big Finish audio The Five Companions takes place during this adventure. After the Fifth Doctor takes the transmat device from the Master, he is drawn off course to a pocket dimension where more friends and enemies have been scooped, but not used in the Death Zone. The Doctor contacts the Time Lords to remedy the situation, at which point he continues his journey to the Time Lord Capital.

Footage of the Second and Third Doctors taken from The Five Doctors was subsequently used in the 2013 episode "The Name of the Doctor".[3]

The seal of the High Council which the Third Doctor confiscates from the Master returns in "The Time of the Doctor".[4]


The working title for this story was The Six Doctors.[5] It would have been written by former script editor Robert Holmes and would have featured the Cybermen and their kidnapping of the five incarnations of the Doctor; in their attempt to extract Time Lord DNA to turn themselves into "Cyberlords", the twist being that the First Doctor and Susan would actually be android impostors[6] (the former being the "Sixth Doctor" of the title) and the Second Doctor would have saved the day. However, Holmes dropped out at an early stage and another former script editor, Terrance Dicks, was brought in instead. Some elements of this plotline would be reused in Holmes' own The Two Doctors.

The programme is officially a co-production with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, although the production team were not aware of this during production and the agreement in effect amounted to little more than a pre-production purchase pact. Nathan-Turner's first choice of director for the story was Waris Hussein, who had directed the first ever Doctor Who serial, An Unearthly Child, in 1963. However, Hussein was in America at the time and was unable to accept the offer.[7] Nathan-Turner then asked another veteran director, Douglas Camfield, to direct but he also declined.[8] Camfield was also very ill with heart disease, and this may have affected his decision not to direct the production. He died of a heart attack early in 1984.

The original script featured an appearance by the Autons, last seen in Terror of the Autons. After being dropped into the Death Zone, Sarah would have been attacked by a group of them before being rescued by the Third Doctor. However, due to budgetary restrictions, the scene was dropped and replaced in the finished version. Just before she meets the Third Doctor, Sarah falls a few feet down what fans have generally considered a rather unconvincing slope. In the novelisation, Sarah actually steps off a cliff. This was what was originally intended in the script, but for budgetary reasons the sequence was changed.

Location filming took place at Cwm Bychan, Llanbedr.[9] The Yeti costume used in the serial was last used in The Web of Fear in 1968. It had decayed badly in storage, requiring dim lighting and selective camera angles during filming.[10]

The story was prepared in two formats: the ninety-minute version and a four-part version, the latter designed for international distribution or repeat broadcasting in the ordinary series run. The episode breaks were, respectively: Sarah falling down the slope; the Cybermen placing their bomb outside the TARDIS while Susan and Turlough watch; and the Master appearing behind the First Doctor and Tegan while in the Dark Tower. This is the only programme from the classic series of Doctor Who for which all recorded and filmed material, including alternate and unused takes, fluffed scenes and so forth, still exists in broadcast-quality format. This allowed for the creation of the 1995 version of the story. The Five Doctors was recorded in four-channel stereo, but broadcast in mono. The later DVD releases had a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

In the various publicity photos of the five Doctors from this story, a waxwork model of Tom Baker from a 1980 Doctor Who Exhibition in Madame Tussauds was used. According to producer John Nathan-Turner, Baker had agreed to do the photocall for the 20th anniversary but, suspecting that he might not turn up, Nathan-Turner arranged for the waxwork to be on location.[11]

The end credits featured a specially mixed version of the theme music, which began with Delia Derbyshire's original 1960s arrangement and then segued into the Peter Howell arrangement being used by the series at the time (the former being played at a slightly higher speed to match the tempo of the latter). This arrangement was only used on this one occasion and was the last time that the Derbyshire version was heard during the show's original run. A unique arrangement of the opening credits music was also used, which ended in a brief coda phrase that was never used in any other serial.

Cast notes

The First Doctor was played by Richard Hurndall, replacing William Hartnell who died in 1975. Hartnell does make an appearance, however, in a pre-titles clip taken from the end of The Dalek Invasion of Earth. After initially agreeing to take part, Tom Baker declined to return so soon after his departure from the series two years before, saying in 2014, "I didn’t want to play 20 per cent of the part. I didn’t fancy being a feed for other Doctors – in fact, it filled me with horror."[12] His appearance was pieced together from unused footage from the unaired serial Shada.

In early drafts of the script, some of the Doctor and companion combinations were different. Originally, the Fourth Doctor would have been paired with Sarah Jane, the Third Doctor with the Brigadier and the Second Doctor with Jamie.[13] When Frazer Hines proved unavailable for more than a cameo appearance the script had to be altered, pairing the Second Doctor with Victoria Waterfield. This was revised again when Deborah Watling became unavailable and Tom Baker decided not to appear, resulting in the pairings as they were screened. Instead of meeting phantoms of Jamie and Zoe, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier were originally scripted to meet Zoe and Victoria. The Doctor would have realised the truth about them when Victoria called Lethbridge-Stewart "Brigadier", when she only knew him as a Colonel (in The Web of Fear). Deborah Watling was unable to make the recording dates but Frazer Hines was able to free himself up for a day's shooting, so Jamie was written in instead.

John Levene was invited back as Sergeant Benton but objected to the script requiring Benton to not recognise the Second Doctor. Levene felt this was unfaithful to his character, who he felt would not forget the Second Doctor, and he declined to participate. The scene was filmed with a character introduced as Colonel Crichton in his place.[14]

In April 2013, Carole Ann Ford revealed the producers had initially insisted that Susan not refer to the Doctor as her grandfather: "You will not believe why. They said, 'We don't really want people to perceive him as having had sex with someone, to father a child.' I just screamed with hysterical laughter and said, 'In that case, I'm not doing it.'" The script was changed to include mentions of the characters' relationship.[15]

Broadcast and reception

Serial details by episode
EpisodeBroadcast dateRun timeViewers
(in millions)
"The Five Doctors" 25 November 1983 (1983-11-25) 90:23 7.7

The Five Doctors was first broadcast in the United States on the actual date of the programme's 20th anniversary. The broadcast in the United Kingdom was delayed two days so it could coincide with the BBC's Children in Need charity night, with an outro in character by Peter Davison. There were a few segments in the BBC broadcast that had not been shown in the US airing

A four-part-serial version of the story was shown on BBC One, nightly between 14 August and 17 August 1984 at 6:15 p.m., achieving viewing figures of 4.7, 4.5, 3.7 and 4.8 million respectively.[19]

Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping wrote of the special in The Discontinuity Guide (1995), "A fine anniversary tale, although don't analyse the plot too closely as it's largely a collection of set pieces without a great deal of substance. This is Terrance Dicks' loving tribute to a series that he helped to mould and, as such, contains everything that it should."[20] In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker stated that The Five Doctors "is not as bad as it could have been ...[but] the story fairly groans at the seams with the inclusion of so many 'old favourites'." Still, they felt that it worked as a one-off fun celebration, although it was disappointed that not all five Doctors participated, and one of the four who did was not played by the original actor.[21] In 2012, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times found the serial fun and with a lot of love, though he noted Pertwee and Sarah Jane fared less well than some of the others. He also called it "Anthony Ainley's most effective outing" and praised the efficient scripting and other aspects of production aside from Moffatt's "sedate" direction.[22] DVD Talk's Stuart Galbraith gave the story four out of five stars, finding Hurndall's performance as the First Doctor "the show's biggest, most delightful surprise".[23] Writing for io9, Alasdair Wilkins said that the special was "far from perfect" and "a big, silly adventure", but worked "much better if you can selectively switch your brain off".[24] Digital Spy's Morgan Jeffery gave the story three out of five stars, writing, "Not the show's finest hour then, but fun if enjoyed in the right frame of mind."[25]

Commercial releases

In print

The Five Doctors
Author Terrance Dicks
Cover artist Andrew Skilleter
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
24 November 1983
ISBN 0-426-19510-8

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in November 1983; it was the only Target novelisation to be published before its story was aired. The novelisation features numerous deleted scenes that subsequently turned up on the Special Edition of this story.

Home media

Original UK DVD release front cover

The Five Doctors was first released on VHS and Betamax in September 1985, accidentally using the slightly shorter version sold to the USA. In 1990, the story was re-released, on VHS only, using the original UK broadcast edit. This version was also released on US Laserdisc in 1994.

A Special Edition of the episode, with updated special effects, surround-sound compatibility and an alternate editing of the raw material was released on VHS in 1995 in a box set with the video of The King's Demons and a limited edition postcard album. This version also features a special BBC video ident, showing said ident being whisked away by the Time Scoop. The Special Edition was the first Doctor Who story to be released on DVD, on 1 November 1999. The Region 1 version has a commentary track by Peter Davison and writer Terrance Dicks. This would later be carried over to the 2008 Re-release in Region 2.

On 22 August 2005 it was announced that The Five Doctors would be the first Doctor Who story to be made available to download to mobile phones, in a deal between BBC Worldwide and the technology firm Rok Player. The story was re-released as a 25th anniversary edition DVD on 3 March 2008. This release contains both the original broadcast version and the special edition. The special was a free gift of issue 4 of Doctor Who DVD Files.

On 28 August 2015, The Five Doctors will be released in Germany – with the German title Die Fünf Doktoren.[26]

Special Edition differences

UK DVD front cover

There are many differences between the original version of the episode and the special edition version. They are:[27]

See also


  1. From the Doctor Who Magazine series overview, in issue 407 (pp26-29). The Discontinuity Guide, which counts the unbroadcast serial Shada, lists this as story number 130. Region 1 DVD releases follow The Discontinuity Guide numbering system.
  2. "Doctor Who on Channel 11". Chicago epguides. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  3. "The Name of the Doctor Past References – The Doctor Who Site News". Retrieved 2013-10-09.
  7. Walker, Stephen James; David J. Howe (2006). Talkback: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Doctor Who Interview Book: Volume One: The Sixties. England: Telos Publishing Ltd. p. 30. ISBN 1-84583-006-7.
  9. "Walesarts, Cwm Bychan, Llanbedr". BBC. Retrieved 30 May 2010.
  10. The Five Doctors director's commentary, 1995
  11. Rawson-Jones, Ben (18 November 2007). "Cult Spy: 'Doctor Who' in Need?". Digital Spy. Retrieved 18 November 2007.
  12. Jones, Paul (14 April 2014). "Doctor Who's Tom Baker: I'd appear in the show again". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  13. Briggs, Nick, "Last Orders", Doctor Who Magazine, #229, 30 August 1995, Marvel Comics UK Ltd., p.36, quote of Nicholas Courtney (who did not specify a companion for Troughton).
  14. Lyons, Steve and Chris Howarth, "The Good Soldier" Doctor Who Magazine, #230, 27 September 1995, Marvel Comics UK Ltd., p.44 (interview with John Levene).
  15. Moreton, Cole (7 April 2013). "'Doctor Who? It destroyed my acting career'". Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  16. Shaun Lyon; et al. (31 March 2007). "The Five Doctors". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 3 May 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
  17. "The Five Doctors". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
  18. Sullivan, Shannon (7 August 2007). "The Five Doctors". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
  20. Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "The Five Doctors". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5.
  21. Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7.
  22. Mulkern, Patrick (22 February 2012). "Doctor Who: The Five Doctors". Radio Times. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
  23. Galbraith, Stuart (31 August 2008). "Doctor Who — The Five Doctors: 25th Anniversary Edition". DVD Talk. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
  24. Wilkins, Alasdiar (23 November 2013). "The Complete Guide to Every Single Doctor Who Anniversary Special Ever". io9. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
  25. Jeffery, Morgan (23 November 2012). "'Doctor Who's Best and Worst Multi-Doctor Stories: Friday Fiver". Digital Spy. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
  26. "Doctor Who - die Fünf Doktoren [3 DVDs]".
  27. Owen, Dave, "Shelf Life," Doctor Who Magazine, #232, 22 November 1995, Marvel Comics UK, Ltd., p. 36.


Target novelisation

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/29/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.