Doctor Who (1963)

Season 20 Episode 23

The Five Doctors

Aired Saturday 5:15 PM Nov 25, 1983 on BBC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

The Five Doctors
Gallifrey, planet of the Time Lords. The Death Zone, where the ancient Gallifreyans once staged gladiatorial games between alien races from throughout the universe, has been reactivated. No less than three of the Doctor's former incarnations and several of his companions are brought here. But why? And who is the Player in the Game of Rassilon?moreless

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  • celebrating 20 years of a classic show with an overstuffed hodgepodge

    Unlike The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors has it's work cut out for it. We have 5 different incarnations & their companions to include along with old villains & the Time Lords. Not much room for a coherent story. Terrance Dicks had his work cut out for him especially since he wasn't sure which actors could participate. So many companions have little to do. This is really the 3 Doctors as hartnell is passed away by now & Tom Baker refused to be in it. Richard Hurdnall does a good job mimicking Hartnell, nice to finally see some of Shada to give the Baker Doctor something of an appearence. Troughton & Pertwee seem to be getting old as are some of the companions. I'm glad K9 just had a cameo, this proves K9 & Company is part of DW continuity. The Cybermen are over used thanks to Eric Saward and they get massacred several times. The Raston Warrior Robot was the best part, simple but effective. Pertwee's "action" scenes don't cut it. He saves sarah from a gentle slope that's supposed to be a cliff. The Gallifrey scenes are too sparce from previous stories set there. With only 2 suspects, of course Borusa is the traitor. I can understand why he needs the Doctor to get to the tomb but why all of them & why send in enemies too? Why is the 5th Doctor fading out in the beginning & why does it stop later? Overall, fun if you are a fan. Fun for the nostalgia. But so-so compared to the best of the shows stories.moreless
  • Diminished Written by Terrence Dicks Directed by Peter Moffatt

    The Fifth Doctor (to Tegan/Turlough): "I am being diminished, whittled away piece by piece. A man is a sum of his memories you know, a Time Lord even more".

    Okay you happen to be one of those rare shows that manage to hit your twentieth anniversary and you desperately want to celebrate in a manner that's suitably epic and memorable for viewers alike. Back in "The Three Doctors", the first three version of The Doctor did battle with Omega in a bid to stop him from escaping his prison.

    Here things open up with previous versions of The Doctor being stolen from time with only the Fourth Doctor and Romana Mark 2 caught in some form of a time eddy. Well four out of five isn't too bad I suppose. So our teams then consist of the First Doctor and Susan, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier, the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane and the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough. With multiple Doctors and Companions trapped in the Death Zone on Gallifrey, you need a lot of villains so a lone Dalek, Rasillon's booby traps (including a robot), a Yeti, an army of Cybermen and The Master sent by the Time Lord Council to help The Doctor should do the trick. Hey The Doctor is in danger of being killed for a reason and even The Master's help might be useful, even if The Doctor is willing to sacrifice him to Cybermen.

    Things I liked were all the Doctors talking towards the end and the Fifth Doctor realising he was different back then as well as the usual competitive streak between The Second and Third Doctors. Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton are excellent in that regard. The fancy pants/scarecrow thing was a nice nod too.

    There are some good team ups here and two things I really liked a lot were the First Doctor and Tegan and Turlough and Susan. The First Doctor pushed Tegan with the Pi and I couldn't help but notice that Turlough was staring at Susan's rack. I like Turlough. This was one of the few stories I've seen him in and he was kinda great here. He did show some loyalty/concern for the Fifth Doctor. Tegan was a lot less whiny than usual too. That's something I will always appreciate as a viewer.

    The Master was at his best here too. Give Anthony Ainley a coherent plot and his Master can work as well as Delgado's did. I felt bad when the Fifth Doctor abandoned him to the Cybermen. The Cybermen were suitably nasty in this episode too. I loved The Master using one of Rassilon's traps to get rid of them. That ballet dancing robot of Rasillon's was just damn cool. The way it just casually wiped out the Cybermen (who were really nothing more than foot soldiers here) was just neat.

    Also cool was The First Doctor getting the Dalek to get itself to explore. Why did we get only one Dalek and tonnes of Cybermen? That was a bit confusing. The Second Doctor and the Brigadier were also good together again as well. The Doctor might attract trouble but I think The Brigadier thrives on it despite his protests.

    I have to admit that I saw President Borusa bring the traitor coming a mile off. His immortality at Rassilon's hand looked nasty. All that convoluted trouble with The Doctor and his plethora of companions, plus the baddies he added into the game and he gets defeated. For someone so smart, Borusa should've realised that immortality comes with a price. His entombment is quite nasty. The Master should count himself lucky he was defeated here. If he had succeeded in his quest for immortality, Rasillon would have another fool for his collection.

    Something I do find rather hilarious is the reaction of the Fifth Doctor's decision to run away from Flavia after she tried to make him President. No wonder he chooses to abandons his people. They can't even catch a traitor in their own midst and this is the second time this season that Gallifrey trouble has been down to someone in that wretched council. However there were some things that bothered me. Sarah Jane is one of my favourite companions and she kinda annoyed me a great deal here. The thing with the hillock and Susan twisting her ankle were so badly overplayed. I mean the hell? There's passive and then there's pathetic and both of their accidents of sorts reeked of the latter. Susan in particular overreacted on the hillock incident in my opinion.

    I also hated that the only appearances from Mike Yates, Liz Shaw, Jamie McCrimmon and Zoë Herriot were reduced to just being illusions. Given that it's been 14 years since we've seen Jamie and Zoë, 13 years since we've seen Liz and 9 years since Mike Yates last helped out, would it have killed for them maybe to have been captives of Borusa's instead of illusions? It would've also helped with the danger element if Borusa actually had companion in his grasp with whom he could threaten all the Doctors with. Mike was always adept at getting himself captured and I really wanted to know what happened to him after "Planet Of The Spiders". Plus K9 had sod all to do. He could've been used for something productive other than trying (and failing) to warn Sarah Jane of danger. I also got bored watching the Fourth and Romana just talking about nothing of great importance for some reason. That would be down to Tom Baker's no show and the scene going on a bit too long. Also in "The Five Doctors"

    Opening the episode with a clip of William Hartnell was a sweet touch. Richard Hurndall did a superb job in playing the First Doctor.

    Second Doctor: "And, er…and who is this?"

    The Brigadier: "That's my replacement, Colonel Crichton".

    Second Doctor: "Ah. Mine was pretty unpromising too".

    Robert Holmes was supposed to originally write this and Waris Husein was originally supposed to direct it but both of them pulled out.

    Tegan (to Turlough): "Do something - help him!"

    Fifth Doctor: "Oh no, no, don't look so worried - I'll have it all worked out soon. Everything's all right. Everything's quite all right".

    Romana: "Oh, I do love the autumn. All the leaves, colours".

    Fourth Doctor: "Yes. Well, at least with something as simple as a punt nothing can go wrong. No co-ordinates, no dimensional stabilizers, nothing. Just the water, the punt, a strong pair of hands and a pole".

    The scene between the Fourth Doctor and Romana Mark 2 came from the unaired serial "Shada". Perhaps a future DVD release for that serial will surface.

    Tegan: "Two hearts".

    Turlough: "Well, his body seems all right. He just seems to be fading away. Why did he have to set the TARDIS moving? We were safe before he did that".

    Tegan: "Look!"

    Castellan: "We believe the attempt to lift him from his time stream was unsuccessful. There he must stay until we can find and free his other selves".

    The Master: "And if you cannot? The cosmos without the Doctor scarcely bares thinking about. What makes you think his other selves are in the Zone?"

    This was the first serial released on DVD back in 1999 and is getting re-released in March 2008, almost 25 years after it first aired.

    Tegan: "Who are you?"

    First Doctor: "More to the point, what are you young people doing inside my TARDIS?"

    The Master: "As you see, I'm armed. I could easily kill you if I wanted to"

    Fifth Doctor: "And not humiliate me first? Ooh, that isn't your style at all".

    Kamelion is missing from this story which is weird given that he was made a companion in the previous serial. It's also really inconsistent too for any show.

    Third Doctor: "Quick! Over there! Their armourments are built in - and sensors detect movement, any movement".

    Sarah-Jane: "Anything else I shouldn't know?"

    Third Doctor: "Yes. They move like lightning".

    Susan: "It's a bomb".

    Turlough: "Big, isn't it?"

    Original people who were also supposed to resurface were Commander Maxil from "Arc Of Infinity", Harry Sullivan, Victoria Wakefield and Sergeant Benton. Plus Jamie McCrimmon was supposed to have a much bigger role.

    The Master: "Try it Doctor, it's as easy as Pi".

    First Doctor: "What an extraordinary fellow. As easy as pie? As easy as pie?"

    Tegan: "That's what he said".

    Mike Yates: "Doctor? Doctor, this way".

    Third Doctor: "Mike? Mike Yates? How did you get here?"

    Mike Yates: "Same way as you. Liz Shaw is here, too".

    The illusion of Mike Yates had him in his UNIT gear. It's unlikely that after "Planet Of The Spiders" he would've rejoined them. The Brigadier after all didn't mention what happened to him in "Mawdryn Undead".

    Jamie: "No! Brigadier...!"

    Second Doctor: "You're not real. When you were returned to your own people, the Time Lords erased your memory of the period you spent with me. So, how do you know who we are? Answer!"

    The Master: "The decision is scarcely yours. Killing you once was never enough for me, Doctor. gratifying to do it three times over!"

    The Brigadier (before punching him): "Nice to see you again".

    I kind of wished we had seen Sergeant Benton, Jo Grant, Nyssa and Adric almost to complete the collection of sorts and maybe Davros/Omega but perhaps that might have been overkill.

    Rassilon: "You seek immortality?"

    Borusa: "I do".

    Rassilon: "Be sure, be very sure. Even now, it is not too late to turn back".

    Borusa: "I am sure".

    Turlough: "Won't the Time Lords be very angry?"

    Fifth Doctor: "Furious!"

    Tegan: "You mean you're deliberately choosing to go on the run from your own people in a rackety old TARDIS?"

    Fifth Doctor: "Why not? After all, that's how it all started".

    This aired the 25th of November 1983 in the UK. Two days after the US viewing and two days after "An Unearthly Child" premiered 20 years prior.

    Okay, now that I have seen this in full I'll admit to thinking "The Five Doctors" is pretty good. "The Three Doctors" might have had a stronger plot but there's much to be enjoyed here. Seeing old companions is definitely a nice reminder to some of the show's stronger storylines and having all our Doctors (minus the Fourth) team up is a good thing. It's just why couldn't we have had other stories as good as this during this era of the show? You know besides "Earthshock" and "The Caves Of Androzani".moreless
Keith Hodiak

Keith Hodiak

Raston Robot

Guest Star

William Kenton

William Kenton

Cyber Scout

Guest Star

John Tallents

John Tallents


Guest Star

Stuart Blake

Stuart Blake


Recurring Role

John Scott Martin

John Scott Martin

Dalek Operator

Recurring Role

Roy Skelton

Roy Skelton

Dalek Voice

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (17)

    • A four-part version of this story was shown from 14 to 17 August 1984 at 6.15 p.m. on BBC One.

    • When he meets Colonel Crichton, the second Doctor claims his replacement was a disappointment. This refers to the contentious relationship the two incarnations had in The Three Doctors.

    • Plot Hole: Borusa commands the companions to stay still. They do — except for the Brigadier, who turns his head to watch Borusa as he moves across the room.

    • Plot Hole: When the Cybermen arrived in the entrance hall, they look right at the Doctor and Tegan but apparently ignore them.

    • Revealing Mistake: After the Raston Warrior Robot has destroyed all the Cybermen, it disappears. When it does so, several of the dead Cybermen shift their position.

    • When the Master is transmatted into the Death Zone he is wearing only his black suit with the embroidered collar. When next seen in the Death Zone he is now wearing a cloak over his clothes. Where did he get it?

    • What appears to be a goof was most likely the result of Jon Pertwee stealing another character's line. Sarah Jane was supposed to have told the Third Doctor he changed into all "teeth and curls." According to the DVD running commentary, Terrance Dicks claims that Pertwee liked the line so much he pilfered it for his own. The line appears to makes no sense when the Third Doctor says it, though, as it suggests foreknowledge of his future incarnation.

    • When the homing beacon is revealed in the TransMat recall device given to the Master, the Castellan claims he's being framed by the Doctor for revenge. Why exactly? This could be a reference to events in Arc of Infinity, where the Castellan is played by the same actor.

    • On the DVD release's commentary, writer Terrance Dicks claims that he wrote the First Doctor's "solution" to the checkerboard puzzle, pretty much, off the top of his head., and that he has been asked to explain it, even though he wrote it purposefully with no answer. (The novelization even makes an aside that the Doctor never bothered to explain what the solution was.) At first glance, it seems impossible that he could have used the mathematical formula for Pi, the circumferance of a circle divided by its diameter in Euclidean geometry, to solve a problem based on a square. However, Pi can also be a constant expressed in relativity, something the Doctor should know a lot about. In that way, it can also be defined using an infinite series such as Pi/4 = 1 - 1/3 + 1/5 - 1/7 + 1/9 - ... In general relativity, space and spacetime are expressed as non-Euclidean geometries. In a non-Euclidean geometry, circumference divided by diameter can be more or less than Pi. Non-Euclidean geometries are used in physics, so the ratio is very nearly Pi over small distances i.e. any finite value divided by infinity is so small it might as well be 0, so it is called 0. Thus, over small distances, there are relatively unnoticeable differences in the measurements for Pi. The Doctor could well have been working in a non-Euclidean geometry for the puzzle's solution, but, Pi would still be roughly the same value, as he states, 3.14159265. Dicks just stumbled into this by blind luck, most likely, and it still doesn't explain what the puzzle solution is, though.

    • Borusa and the Fifth Doctor beam to the tomb of Rassilon via the transmat terminal, which begs the question of why he transported the Doctors and their companions to the Death Zone to contend with his worst enemies in the first place. The Doctor states that they deactivated the defences around the Tomb, allowing Borusa in. In the extended edition, Borusa, sounding somewhat mad, adds that it was a game within a game — played out for his amusement.

    • In the original script, the Doctor looked around the room to find the secret switch that is always hidden in such rooms to open the door. But Script Editor Eric Saward thought that wasn't clever enough and introduced the idea of the musical lock, with the key to the puzzle contained in a painting in the room. Such devices are a favourite of Borusa's: saying "There's nothing more useless than a lock with a voice print" twice opens a voice-activated lock in The Invasion of Time.

    • During the scene inside the TARDIS where the Fifth Doctor tells the First Doctor that he plans to enter the main door of the Tower, the younger Doctor seems quite adamant that Tegan stay with him, for her safety. Yet, he doesn't seem to mind that his own granddaughter is going to jaunt off into danger with Turlough and the Fifth Doctor. It seems he would more likely to want Susan to stay behind with him.

    • Why did the Warrior Raston Robot have ropes conveniently stored with its extra arrows and ammunition? Not only ropes, but hand-looped nooses to hold on to for sliding across the ropes with!

    • The Master tells the Cybermen that the safe path across the chessboard in the Dark Tower changes with every journey taken across it. If that is so, how does one figure out what the safe path is? After the trap has been triggered by the advancing Cybermen, there is nothing to indicate any change in the board, save for Cyber-bodies. When the Master first crosses the board, he simply walks straight across it. Then, when the First Doctor figures out the Pi reference, he, too, manages to cross over the trap by just walking straight across it!

    • The Master has to dodge all sorts of energy beams from the sky above the Death Zone. The last of the energy beams is superimposed late, and we see a small explosion on the ground before visual effects draw in the energy beam. This error has been corrected in the DVD version of the episode.

    • What is the scale on the TARDIS computer scanner? Turlough and the First Doctor observe the scanner and find traces of the Second and Third Doctors very close together. But the Second Doctor, backed by the Brigadier, and the Third Doctor, towing Sarah Jane, approach the Dark Tower from different angles and head for different doors.

    • The Second Doctor deduces that Jamie and Zoe must be phantoms because their memories were wiped by the timelords when they left him. However, they were both left with memories of their first adventure with the Doctor. In any event, this is inconsistent with an apparently older Second Doctor travelling with Jamie and Victoria in The Two Doctors.

  • QUOTES (20)

    • Fifth Doctor: I am definitely not the man I was. Thank goodness…

    • Sarah Jane[ to the Fifth Doctor ]: Goodbye. It was really nice meeting you.
      Third Doctor: Thank you, Sarah Jane. It's nice meeting you, too.

    • Brigadier: Goodbye, Doctor.
      Fifth Doctor: Goodbye.
      Brigadier: …Doctors.
      Third Doctor: Goodbye, Brigadier.
      Brigadier: Splendid fellows. All of you.

    • Second Doctor: Goodbye… fancypants!
      Third Doctor: Scarecrow!

    • First Doctor [ to the Fifth Doctor ]: Goodbye, my boy. You did quite well, quite well. It's reassuring to know my future is in good hands.

    • Second Doctor: So, you're the latest model, hmmm?
      Fifth Doctor: Yes, and the most agreeable.
      Second Doctor: Oh, certainly the most impudent.
      Third Doctor: And our dress sense hasn't improved much, has it?
      First Doctor: Neither have our manners.

    • The Master [ holding the first three Doctors at gunpoint ]: Killing you once was never enough for me, Doctor. Oh, how gratifying to do it three times over!

    • Second Doctor: Have faith, Brigadier. Have I ever led you astray?
      Brigadier: On many occassions.
      Second Doctor: Yes, well, this will be the exception.

    • Tegan: What do you want?
      The Master: To help.
      Tegan: That's the funniest thing I've heard all day.

    • Sarah Jane: Do you think this is wise, Doctor? I mean, whatever's in that tower, it's got enormous powers. What can we do against it?
      Third Doctor: What I've always done, Sarah Jane: improvise.

    • Sergeant: I'm sorry, sir. You're not allowed in there.
      Second Doctor: Not allowed? Me? I'm allowed everywhere!

    • Brigadier: I can't tell you how much I was looking forward to this reunion. The chance to re-meet old friends.
      Crichton: There was one chap we tried to get hold of… what was his name? Used to be your scientific advisor?
      Brigadier: Oh, the Doctor?
      Crichton: Yes, that's right.
      Brigadier: Wonderful chap. All of them.
      Crichton: Them?

    • Fifth Doctor: The TARDIS is more then just a machine, Tegan. It's like a person. It needs coaxing, persuading, encouraging.
      Tegan: You mean it's just as unreliable.

    • The Third Doctor: To lose is to win, and he who wins shall lose.

    • The Second Doctor (Sings): Who to Rassilon's Tower would go
      Must choose above, between, below.
      The Brigadier: Are you in pain, Doctor?
      The Second Doctor: Age has not mellowed you, has it, Brigadier? I was, in fact, recalling an old nursery rhyme about the Dark Tower.
      The Brigadier: Does it help?
      The Second Doctor: Considerably more than you.

    • Tegan: You mean you're deliberately choosing to go on the run from your own people in a rackety old TARDIS?
      The Fifth Doctor: Why not? After all, that's how it all started!

    • The Master: A cosmos without the Doctor scarcely bears thinking about.

    • The Master: I could easily kill you if I wanted to.
      The Fifth Doctor: And not humiliate me first? Oh, that isn't your style at all!

    • The Fifth Doctor: Like Alice, I try to believe three impossible things before breakfast.

    • The Castellan: No! Not the mind probe!

  • NOTES (19)

    • Novelisation: Doctor Who - The Five Doctors by Terrance Dicks (ISBN 0 426 19510 8) first published by W H Allen in 1983.

    • Borusa is eventually freed from Rassilon's trap in the Doctor Who spin-off novels Blood Harvest and The Eight Doctors.

    • The scene where the Fourth Doctor and Romana are punting in a boat down a river before the Time Scoop kidnaps them is an excerpt from a scene in the unfinished and unaired Shada. In the original footage, when the Doctor loses the punt and overbalances on the boat he falls into the water, but this scene is altered to show the Time Scoop effect instead.

    • A brand-new TARDIS control console and interior set is created for this episode. It is last seen in Battlefield, Part One.

    • Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and K9 (voiced by John Leeson) appear next in the 2006 episode, School Reunion.

    • William Hartnell's appearance in this story is a clip from the ending of the final episode of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, where he is, ironically, saying goodbye to Susan. In a way, he does keep his promise, meeting up with her in the Death Zone.

    • Note the use of two classic Jon Pertwee clichés in this episode. First, the utterance of the deadly phrase, "No! Not the mind probe!" Then in Rassilon's tomb, the Third Doctor manages to unlock the tower's defences with a classic trick: reversing the polarity of the neutron flow.

    • Note the scene when Susan trips and sprains her ankle. On the DVD running commentary, writer Dicks says he included it for no other reason except entirely as an homage to Terry Nation, who almost always had his heroines sprain their ankles in scripts for the series. Susan sprained hers in the first episode of The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

    • DVD: Doctor Who: The Five Doctors Special Edition (BBCDVD 1006) released in November 1999. Released in U.S.A./Canada (Warner Home Video E1596) in September 2001. Doctor Who: The Five Doctors 25th Anniversary Edition(BBCDVD 1355), including both the special edition and the original broadcast edition, was released in October 2005. Released in U.S.A./Canada (Warner Home Video E2666) in September 2006.

      Video: Doctor Who: The Five Doctors (BBCV 4311) released in September 1985. Released in U.S.A./Canada (CBS/FOX Video 3717) in March 1989. Re-released (BBCV 4387) in July 1990. A re-edited special edition (BBCV 5734), with extra and extended scenes, updated special effects and a new score, included (along with The King's Demons) in Doctor Who: The Five Doctors Special Edition/The King's Demons (BBCV 5737) released in November 1995. Released in U.S.A./Canada (Warner Home Video E1113) in February 1997.

    • This is the only story in which the Third Doctor encounters the Cybermen, although they appear in cameo in The Mind of Evil and Carnival of Monsters.

    • The Time Lords offer the Master (now inhabiting the body of a Traken) a full regeneration cycle.

    • With Tom Baker unwilling to reprise his role as the Doctor, publicity shots of the five Doctors for this episode feature a wax model of the fourth Doctor!

    • At one point Colin Baker was to reprise his role as Commander Maxil from Arc of Infinity, but he declined. Given that Peter Davidson announced his intention to leave the series shortly after this episode was recorded, it seems likely that, if Baker had appeared, another actor would have been cast as the Sixth Doctor.

    • Continuity is maintained with the 1981 spin-off K9 and Company.

    • Rumours circulate of earlier drafts of the script featuring appearances by Autons, the different Doctors taking different paths through the Death Zone, and even one version where the villain turns out to be the first Doctor! The latter rumour was a script entitled 'The Six Doctors' in which the first Doctor would be revealed to be an android.

    • Richard Hurndall appears as the First Doctor in place of William Hartnell, who died in 1975. He advised later that the producer's had seen him in the Assassin episode of the BBC space opera Blake's 7, and thought that he looked like Hartnell's Doctor.

    • Tom Baker appears only in footage from the abandoned Shada due to his unwillingness to return to a show he still felt overpossessive about.

    • The series' most celebrated writer, Robert Holmes, was originally invited to pen this twentieth anniversary story. He declined, seeing it as a logistical nightmare, and Holmes' predecessor as story editor, Terrance Dicks, took up the challenge.

    • A 90-minute special.