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Nov 26, 2005

Rassilon Lives!

Chunk the fourth. And today a tribute to the number of series of the original Doctor Who series that followed this landmark story of continuity references and ‘kisses to the past’; so here are six things I noticed about ‘The Five Doctors’: Final Chunk.

1. Let’s get something out of the way, shall we - all that extra material shoe-horned in for 1995’s special edition adds absolutely nothing to the story. In fact it rather slows things down as - much as it is lacking in departments like script and plot - ‘The Five Doctors’ (1983 version) rattles along at a pretty decent pace. Making the inclusion of seemingly every discarded scene and longer take somewhat spurious to say the least.

2. Following Doctor Three’s encounter with ‘ghosts from the past’, this time it’s the second Doctor’s turn to have a couple of old acquaintances bamboozle him with some hammy acting. Of course you’ll be aware of the apparent continuity faux pas that having this Doctor know of Jamie and Zoë’s memories being wiped throws up. So instead let’s concentrate on the rather touchingly sad way Troughton plays this scene once the Doctor realises his old friends are mere projections. A lovely piece of acting in a story which could have done with a few more…

3. Name-check time: this episode has something of an orgy of Rassilon-related items; the Harp of Rassilon, the Ring of Rassilon (no jokes, please), the Game of Rassilon and - last but not least - the Voice of Rassilon. Though given his eventual spectral appearance, it’s strange that no mention is made of ‘The Dodgy-looking Handlebar Moustache of Rassilon’.

4. That Cyber-bomb’s finally ready. Shame all that episode-and-a-half of effort came to nothing. Like builders, it seems that cyber-troops are prone to slacking and gross over-estimations about how long jobs are going to take.

5. And so to the story’s climax - with Doctors One, Two and Three arriving together via their respective entrances at Rassilon’s tomb there’s even time for some ‘Three Doctors’-style ribbing amongst the senior Time Lords. While Pertwee gets to say ‘Reverse the polarity of the Neutron flow’ one more time, no-one seems to have noticed that rather obvious space around Rassilon’s sarcophagus (hmm, wonder who that’s for…). ‘To Lose is to win, and he who wins shall lose’ says the Great Man’s prophecy (having evidently never watched much sport in his life) but Doctor One (curiously, seeing as he is the earliest (and therefore ‘youngest’) of the Doctors) makes a mental leap beyond the others; realising that Rassilon’s gift of ‘Immmmortality’ was a curse, not a gift.

6. Leaving little more to say other than that those farewells between the Doctors are really rather charming (though Doctor One’s comment that ‘It’s reassuring to know that my future’s in safe hands’ subsequently looks misguided given the antics at the end of the following season). Troughton and Pertwee get to do their ‘fancy pants/scarecrow’ routine one, last time and the Brigadier launches a thousand potential programme guide titles with the words ‘Splendid fellows…all of you’. Then we’re off with Doctor Five, Tegan and Turlough once more; fleeing a furious Gallifreyan populace in just a rackety old TARDIS. And I for one can’t think of a more perfect way to end what remains a rather enjoyable celebration of a television legend.

After all, that’s how it all started…

(‘The Bumper Book of Made-Up Doctor Who Facts’ has this to say about the final twenty-five minutes of ‘The Five Doctors’: Philip Latham was accidentally left locked in Rassilon’s sarcophagus for four hours while cast and crew went to lunch none the wiser).

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