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Mar 13, 2006

Three is the Magic Number

Er, now it is definitely episode two of ‘The Three Doctors we’re doing this week, isn’t it guys?

The story so far…

The Doctor and Jo have been zapped to another universe - along with some bits of UNIT equipment and a tedious scientist - by a blob of CSO-tinged jelly. Outside, a bunch of expressionistic Mr Blobbys are showing UNIT soldiers up for the useless, non-regulation-haircut nobodies that they are. And the second Doctor has been sent back to help out his successor, though seems more concerned about where he’s left his recorder.

Yes, it’s Doctor Who’s first (of several) excuses to give itself a hearty pat on the back for lasting so long. Long before the days of JN-T and Longleat celebrations, here’s the show’s first ever dalliance in reuniting both past and present leads for no other reason than a bit of cheap publicity. But never mind, Doctor Who was ten years old (well, nine-and-a-bit if we’re being picky) and it was time to get the bunting out. I wonder if they’ll do this sort of thing every ten years…

Still, at least it’s a chance for Patrick Troughton to show what we’d been missing these past three series. And do what he’d subsequently do no less than twice in the eighties: slip effortlessly back into his signature role as though putting on an old pair of winter mitts. He really is the star of the show here - knocking Pertwee’s typically neck-rubbing fop into a cocked hat - and is blessed with by far the episode’s best dialogue (I just love that line about feeding the anti-matter blob useless information like a television set…talk about biting the aesthetic that feeds you).

Shame that everyone else doesn’t seem to be having so much fun. Besides Pertwee, ‘The Three Doctors’ marks a further decline in the Brigadier from believable bombardier to barking buffoon (though the double take he gives when he first sees Troughton and the astonished look as he finally sees the TARDIS interior are notable exceptions). The there’s those UNIT soldiers, who are just so inept it barely seems plausible that any of them got near the boy scouts, let alone a - supposedly - highly efficient paramilitary organisation (Benton is only just persuaded not to chuck a hand grenade point blank at the anti-matter blob at one point). Oh, and don’t forget Dr Tyler - who, as a plot device, had already exhausted his usefulness in part one - and now does little but write ‘E=MC2’ in the sand (in case we, understandably, forgot he was a scientist) and attempts the most embarrassingly pathetic escape attempt in the show’s then history. And that’s including Hartnell and co’s impersonations of ancient skulls in ‘The Firemaker’.

Worst of all though is - for a part two - just how much padding there is in this episode. All the yakking between Troughton and co in the TARDIS (Troughton aside) is pure blubber on what should have been a tense, tightly wound twenty-five minutes. And the aforementioned Dr Tyler’s Clint Eastwood impression is marking time in a story which - certainly in the case of its villain - has barely started yet. Speaking of Omega, why has he fashioned all of anti-matter as though it’s made out of haemorrhoid treatments? And on a similar subject, why has Gallifrey gone through a refit that makes it look like the inside of a lava lamp?

Still, you’ve gotta love a story that suggests that heaven may be a gravel pit (and let’s face it, for some Who fans it is). And are we to assume that someone took Bessie for a spin before the third Doctor and Jo found it, seeing as its tyres are already covered in chalk dust? But that’s a pretty memorable cliff-hanger: this time, the whole of UNIT HQ has been sucked into the black hole; leaving a watching sentry gob-smacked. Twice.

If only the Restoration Team could have made the whole episode twice as memorable…

(‘The Bumper Book of Made-Up Doctor Who Facts’ has this to say about ‘The Trought’s Comeback’, Part One: feeling threatened by his predecessor’s presence on set, Jon Pertwee deliberately hid Troughton’s recorder for two days; necessitating its loss be included in the finished programme)

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