The Three Doctors

Doctor Who: The Three Doctors (1972) [DVD]

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With the multi-Doctor 50th anniversary celebrations of last weekend still reverberating in our heads, it seemed appropriate to extend the festivities with a little nostalgia by looking back to the very first time that multiple Doctors shared the screen together – all the way back in 1972.

You’d expect “The Three Doctors” to have been an anniversary special as well, but in fact the BBC wasn’t so big on such things back then and the serial appeared almost a full year before the official tenth anniversary of Doctor Who as something of a Christmas/New Year special instead. Someone simply had the idea to bring together the three actors who had played the Time Lord into one story, and off it went. But it set a precedent for these sorts of occasions that inspired the 20th anniversary “The Five Doctors” special and which meant that by the time we got to the 50th, a single-Doctor approach to a big anniversary was just not on – although with showrunner Steven Moffat being the man he is, the formula had to be ‘tweaked’ for “The Day of the Doctor” by including a brand new former Doctor we didn’t even know we’d missed!

Even so, whichever way you look at it “The Three Doctors” is an important precedent in the life of Doctor Who. It is the first time that the show directly acknowledged its own past as a TV show and set up the Doctor’s different incarnations as distinct people with their own personalities as a usable plot idea, rather than as just some handwaving by the production team to get around a casting change. (You wouldn’t expect to see all the actors who have played a soap role like Ben Mitchell in EastEnders all show up in an episode for a reunion, now would you?) The episode also includes the Time Lords and only the second glimpse of their (unnamed) home world after “The War Games”, and starts to establish some key elements of the show’s mythos such as how they draw the source of power for time travel from a collapsing black hole. Read the rest of this entry »