Last week we celebrated Doctor Who’s “tenth anniversary” which is a perfect time to check out The Three Doctors, the serial produced for the real tenth anniversary, in 1973. This was the first multi-Doctor story which set a precedent for anniversary stories that “Day of the Doctor” continued in 2013.
The plot opens with some science technobabble, but it boils down to an alien invasion and an energy problem. On Earth, a mysterious energy blob is intent on capturing the Doctor, eating anything in its path. A game warden, a scientist and Bessie, the Doctor’s yellow car, are collateral damage and disappear. Soon after beginning his investigation into this mysterious blob, the Doctor finds himself trapped in his TARDIS with Jo Grant and Sergeant Benton. The Time Lords realize he needs help but are unable to provide any themselves since they’ve discovered a mysterious power drain. Instead they grab the Second Doctor from his timeline and insert him into the Third Doctor’s. This is when the fun begins.
There’s nothing like having multiple Doctors side by side to (re)discover their personalities. At first the Second and Third Doctor do not get along and bicker rather than try to solve the problem of the mystery energy blob guarding the TARDIS. The Second Doctor doesn’t like what the Third Doctor has done to the console room. His “I don’t like it” line has been repeated by different Doctors in various episodes, most recently by Eleven in “Closing Time” and by Ten in “Day of the Doctor.”
It’s not until the Time Lords bring the First Doctor into the TARDIS that the Second and Third start to work together. Unfortunately at the time of filming, William Hartnell’s health had deteriorated so he was unable to be on set. Instead, the First Doctor only appears occasionally on the TARDIS monitor to advise and talk some sense into his later selves. Within the story, they mention a few times how the First Doctor is trapped in a time eddy and only able to consult rather than act. Despite his limited role, he still makes his presence known, calling his replacements a “dandy and a clown” when he first appears.
Once the two Doctors start working together they discover that Omega, a Time Lord revered for the discovery of time travel, is behind the power drain and the energy blob. He has spent millennium alone in an antimatter universe, believing he was forgotten when in reality the Time Lords just assumed he was lost. Now he wants to be free, and he doesn’t care if he destroys our universe along the way. It takes all three Doctors putting their heads together (literally, in a telepathic conference) but they manage to defeat Omega and restore energy to the Time Lords.
I definitely enjoyed this story. I’ve only been watching Classic Who since January, but I think this is my favorite serial so far. The Second Doctor was my favorite, because he had several lines that made me laugh out loud. But we also see his manipulative side, since it is his idea to test Omega’s anger and eventually push him over the edge. Most of the technobabble went over my head, but once the story found its footing near the end of the first episode, I could just watch the Doctors banter and bicker with each other and enjoy the ride. I think even a fan who has only seen NuWho would still like this serial, so it’s definitely worth checking out.