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Mar 12, 2006

O Meagre Tale

Firstly an apology. The following is a review of The Three Doctors, episode 3. I hold my hands up and lower my head - I misread the schedule and I'll be damned if I'm sitting through another episode of this anniversary story. To be fair, this is also a little more eventful than part 2 anyway.

I’m writing this entry to the accompaniment of Magic Carpet Ride on the iPod. It’s in shuffle mode so I hadn’t requested it so to speak, it’s just one of about 8000 tunes buried beneath the shiny white surface. That said, it seems so appropriate – “you don’t know what we can find” seems to be the overall approach to episode three of The Three Doctors. And let’s face it, there are enough corridors to explore and lots of sickening glitter (as opposed to shiny gems) embedded in the walls to dazzle and excite us, but the whole thing seems so disconnected that anything could happen. Before you cry party pooper I’m all aware of the anniversary feel to the story, but it just seems overdone and messy. I don’t know why the set designer didn’t just go the whole hog and put up balloons and birthday banners throughout Omega’s labyrinth. Although the gel guards may as well be walking sherry trifles. Subtlety is certainly not the watch word of the day.

Docs05_1_1The more I watch the third Doctor, the more I become irritated with his sanctimonious clap-trap and he’s certainly on fine fettle here. Seeing the second Doctor next to him only serves to show how annoying Pertwee’s Doctor was becoming and his determination to remain serious while the rest of the cast were having a wail of a time with a silly script just exacerbates the self-righteousness of his Doctor. The key scenes with Omega are actually difficult to watch, thanks to a combination of the Pertwee’s grimness and Stephen Thorne’s goes-upto-eleven performance. Talk about arch villainy – maybe it’s the fault of the direction to maintain that celebratory mood, but when does celebration have to equate pantomime? The story makes such a play at being part of the overall series, rather than a one off special that I don’t know why that felt that everyone should just give up. The story is one step away from having a ‘boo-hiss’ or a ‘he’s behind you’ audio track.

Docs02_1Omega is potentially a really interesting character and had he been a character up against Eccleston’s Doctor, then I’ve no doubt we’d have had the type of moral high ground debates witnessed with the Daleks. I actually prefer Omega in Arc of Infinity and I know that’s tantamount to blasphemy in some Who quarters. The Omega of this story is boorish and loud and while he may be twisted with hate, I don’t know why he has to become the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk. I wanted to use the Oz analogy but I remembered that the Discontinuity Guide noticed that too, bless ‘em.

As if on the tenth anniversary the producers wanted to remind the audience that the show had been devised for children, they decide to aim the script squarely at four year olds, with dialogue that swings from banal to ludicrous, particularly in scenes involving Jo and Dr. Tyler. Anyway, I must stop all this negativity and focus on the good things. The second Doctor of course is a delight to watch as is Sgt. Benton and his incredulous glances around the TARDIS are priceless. Ollis is funny too, but for all the wrong reasons – I couldn’t help but think of Uncle Albert meets old man Steptoe, meets Rowley Birkin.

Docs09_1In fact The Three Doctors is a tribute to other comedy giants too – you have the Three Stooges in the Doctor(s) and Benton does a wonderful Norman Wisdom upon entering the chamber with the Doctor. We then get the contact scene, whereupon Troughton and Pertwee morph into Margaret Rutherford – obviously only Miss Marple can take on the might of Omega.

Ah, and just like this episode I almost forgot, William Hartnell. Poor Hartnell, I do appreciate he was very ill but trapped on that screen, he looked less like his former self than Richard Hurdnall did. It wasn’t a fitting swansong and given that this was a birthday party for the Doctor, the sight of an obviously unwell Hartnell, was the same as toasting Great Aunt Agatha’s 100th birthday as she keels over in the cake. A grim reminder that childhood heroes grow old and wither.

On a final, more cheery note, it was nice to see Doctor Who tapping into the nation's love of wrestling with that whacked out clif-hanger. Had me on the edge of my ring, it really did.

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