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The Five Doctors

Production Code: 6K

First Transmitted

1 - 25/11/1983 19:20


The Doctor's past incarnations are taken out of time by a forbidden time scoop device. The fourth Doctor becomes trapped in the vortex but the others find themselves, together with a number of their old companions, with the fifth Doctor and his companions in the Death Zone on their home planet Gallifrey.

Here they face a Dalek, a Yeti, a quicksilver Raston Warrior Robot and numerous Cybermen. Also present is the Master, who has been summoned by the High Council of Time Lords to help the Doctor. It turns out that President Borusa is the mysterious operator of the time scoop. He aims to use the Doctors to breach the defences of the Dark Tower - Rassilon's tomb - so that he can enter there and claim immortality.

When he does so, however, he is condemned by Rassilon to eternal existence in the form of a living statue.

Episode Endings

Chancellor Flavia entreats the Doctor to stay on Gallifrey and take up his duties as Lord President. The Doctor gives her full deputy powers until he returns, then leaves with Tegan and Turlough in the TARDIS. Tegan cannot believe that the Doctor prefers to go on the run in a rackety old TARDIS. The Doctor, however, smiles and observes that that is how it all started.


Browning's 'Childe Roland'.

La Belle et le Bète (Borusa's fate).

Dungeons and Dragons.

Superman the Movie (the obelisk).

The Wizard of Oz.

C.S. Lewis.

The Lord of the Rings.

Alice in Wonderland.

Dialogue Triumphs

Crichton : "What the blazes is going on? Who was that strange little man?"

Sergeant : "The Doctor."

Crichton : "Who?"

Fifth Doctor : "Great chunks of my past, detaching themselves like melting icebergs."

The Castellan : "I am innocent. I have never seen that casket before."

Borusa : "Take him to security and discover the truth. Commander, you are authorised to use the mind probe."

The Castellan : "What? No, not the mind probe!"

The Brigadier : [To the Doctors] "Splendid fellows... all of you."

Dialogue Disasters

Castellan : "No! Not the Mind Probe!"

The Doctor : "Great balls of fire!"

Borusa : "Im-m-m-mortality!"


The Death Zone ('the black secret at the heart of your Time Lord paradise') was created in the days before Rassilon when Gallifreyans kidnapped aliens for sport. (Despite their presence in the story, the Cybermen and the Daleks were never used, 'they play too well'.) The second Doctor says that his ancestors had 'tremendous powers, which they misused'.

[There is a suggestion that the Gallifreyans possessed some form of time travel before Rassilon 'created' the Time Lords as a 'time scoop' was used to procure the game's participants Rassilon put a stop to all this (although some rumours state it was he who created the game and was overthrown for his tyranny).

The second Doctor 'bends the laws of time' to attend a reunion with the Brigadier. UNIT is now headed by Colonel Charles Crichton [perhaps the last of the military UNIT leaders: see Time Flight]. Lethbridge Stewart and the Doctor reminisce about the Yeti (The Web of Fear ), Cybermen (The Invasion) and Omega (The Three Doctors).

When Borusa attempts to kidnap the fourth Doctor and Romana, they become trapped in a time eddy. [As a similar problem occurred to the first Doctor in The Three Doctors, this underlines the difficulty (even for Time Lords) in deliberately attempting to cross time streams.]

In the Death Zone we find [an enraged Tibetan?] Yeti ('probably left over from the games'), a Dalek, many Cybermen and a Raston Warrior Robot ('the most perfect killing machine ever devised'). [The Cybermen apparently have ethics, although they don't extend very far ('promises made to aliens have no validity').

The third Doctor recognises the Master, but the first does not ('Believe it or not we were at the academy together') [their semi-friendship began after this period as normally Time Lords can recognise each other despite regenerations]. Susan also does not recognise the Master, although the Tower is familiar to her.

Borusa, who has regenerated again, is at least the fourth Time Lord to play the Game of Rassilon in search of immortality. His prize is to be encased in stone. The Doctor is made Lord President at the climax but chooses to go on the run ('After all, that's how it all started!').

[A Note on the Canonicity of Shada. Borusa attempts to timescoop the Doctor and Romana as the Doctor falls off the punt. He fails, blaming it on a 'time eddy', but actually caused by the strange temporal properties of the Ancient and Worshipful Law of Gallifrey.

The timescoop shows an image of its last target. Towards the end of the story, we are shown what the fourth Doctor is now up to (being rescued from the pursuing sphere by Romana). (The costume change supports this viewpoint.) We see no problem with Shada being canonical.


Season 6(b)

The Origins of the Time Lords


The Eye of Orion.





The Doctor tells the Brigadier about 'the terrible Zodin' (see Attack of the Cybermen).


A clip of William Hartnell as the Doctor, taken from season two's The Dalek Invasion of Earth: Flashpoint, is used as an opening pre-titles sequence.

A new TARDIS control console and interior set make their debut appearance.

Jamie, Zoe, Liz Shaw and Captain Yates as seen in this story are only phantoms who - in scenes highly reminiscent of one in season nineteen's Time-Flight - try to dissuade the second and third Doctors from progressing through the Tower.

The closing title music mixes Delia Derbyshire's sixties arrangement with Peter Howell's eighties one. This special one-off version was also Howell's work.


The story was originally to have featured Omega. (This was never the intention.)


The Time Lords plan to get the Master into the Death Zone by means of a 'power boosted open ended transmat beam' (which seems to dispense black cloaks, too). The third Doctor notes 'I've reversed the polarity of the neutron flow.'


When frozen, the Brigadier moves his head to watch Borusa go.

When he attacks the Brigadier, the Cyberman's jeans are visible.

The Cybermen following the Master must be blind not to see the Doctor.

Sarah gets into trouble rolling down a very gentle slope.

The second Doctor realises Jamie and Zoe are illusions because they recognise him, but they were left with the memories of their first adventure. [He realizes when they recognize the Brigadier.]

Richard Hurndall's pineapple goes everywhere.

If Borusa wants the Doctors to get to the Tower, why put Cybermen in their way?

How can the Time Lords offer the Master a new lifespan? (If they can offer the Master a new life, why is Borusa so worried about his own mortality?)

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Peter Davison

The Doctor - Jon Pertwee

The Doctor - Patrick Troughton

The Doctor - Richard Hurndall

The Doctor - Tom Baker

The Doctor - William Hartnell

Jamie - Frazer Hines

Liz Shaw - Caroline John

Romana - Lalla Ward

Sarah Jane Smith - Elisabeth Sladen

Susan Foreman - Carole Ann Ford

Tegan - Janet Fielding

Turlough - Mark Strickson

Voice of K9 - John Leeson

Zoe - Wendy Padbury

Captain Yates - Richard Franklin

Chancellor Flavia - Dinah Sheridan

Commander - Stuart Blake

Crichton - David Savile

Cyber Leader - David Banks

Cyber Lieutenant - Mark Hardy

Cyber Scout - William Kenton

Dalek Operator - John Scott Martin

Dalek Voice - Roy Skelton

Guard - John Tallents

Lord President Borusa - Philip Latham

Rassilon - Richard Mathews

Raston Robot - Keith Hodiak

Sergeant - Ray Float

Technician - Stephen Meredith

The Brigadier - Nicholas Courtney

The Castellan - Paul Jerricho

The Master - Anthony Ainley


Director - Peter Moffatt

Assistant Floor Manager - Pauline Seager

Costumes - Colin Lavers

Designer - Malcolm Thornton

Film Cameraman - John Baker

Film Editor - M A C Adams

Incidental Music - Peter Howell

Make-Up - Jill Hagger

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Jean Davis

Production Associate - June Collins

Script Editor - Eric Saward

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Don Babbage

Studio Sound - Martin Ridout

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Peter Howell

Visual Effects - John Brace

Writer - Terrance Dicks

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'To lose is to win, and he who wins shall lose.' A fine anniversary tale, although don't analyse the plot too closely as it's largely a collection of set pieces without a great deal of substance. This is Terrance Dicks' loving tribute to a series that he helped to mould and, as such, contains everything that it should. Richard Hurndall does a passable William Hartnell.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

The idea of a celebratory story featuring all the Doctors to date was a good one when used in season ten's The Three Doctors. All good ideas can be taken too far, however, and this is exactly what happened when John Nathan-Turner and Eric Saward decided to commission The Five Doctors. The basic approach adopted by writer Terrance Dicks is the same as in that earlier story, only this time there are two more Doctors to fit in and, at the production team's request, numerous companions and old adversaries as well. The end result is not as bad as it could have been, thanks mainly to the fact that Dicks's simple catch-all script allowed for last minute chopping and changing of characters, depending on which actors happened to be available, while still retaining basically the same plot. Even so, the story fairly groans at the seams with the inclusion of so many 'old favourites'.

Saul Gething, writing in TARDIS Volume 8 Number 4, dated January 1984, felt that it was only partly successful: 'If the Doctors managed to get a chance to "strut their stuff" then I'm afraid I can't say the same about the various companions. In my opinion the talents of the performers who played them were wasted. I mean, what were they called upon to do apart from tripping over the odd rock or maybe at the very most knocking the Master out? Not a lot... Tegan and Turlough would have been sufficient for the purposes of the story... without the rest of them...' Guy Clapperton also felt the story was a little 'Doctor heavy', as he explained in the same issue of TARDIS: 'I couldn't help but wonder whether the Tom Baker footage was really necessary. Baker was conspicuous by his absence but then again that was hardly the fault of the production team. Nice to see Troughton and Pertwee back in action - bits of it were a real joy, such as the second Doctor's comment about Colonel Crichton - "Well, my replacement didn't look too promising either" - and Pertwee's description of Baker - "All teeth and curls?". Richard Hurndall was a perfectly adequate first Doctor in much the same way that Anthony Ainley is a good Master - we can't have the originals so there's no point criticising the newer versions for not being exactly as we remember them. Hurndall gave a good performance and the casual (particularly younger) viewer would be quite convinced that he was watching the first Doctor.'

Clapperton may well have been right in suggesting that the Hurndall version of the first Doctor would pass muster with the casual viewer, although anyone familiar with the William Hartnell version would quickly spot that there is actually little more than a passing similarity between the two (as the opening pre-titles clip of Hartnell only serves to emphasise). His comments about Anthony Ainley's Master, on the other hand, overlook the fact that there was never any need for him to have resembled Roger Delgado's original in the first place; just as the Doctor had acquired a new appearance and personality each time he regenerated, so too could the Master have done. At least, though, the Master is given something worthwhile to do in this story. Particularly memorable are the amusing scenes in which he tries, in vain, to convince one or other of the Doctors that he is for once actually trying to help him. Ainley's performance went down well with L Bradick, again writing in TARDIS Volume 8 Number 4: 'Thank goodness Anthony Ainley was given decent lines, so that he could prove that Time-Flight and The King's Demons were not his fault. In fact, in the scene where he enters the High Council room he reminded me very much of Roger Delgado.'

Aside from the Master, the main villains threatening the Doctors in their mission to reach the Dark Tower are the Cybermen. Andrew Ruddick, another of those expressing their views in TARDIS, disliked the way in which they were depicted: '[John Nathan-Turner] has severely dented the image of the Cybermen. It made me furious. They were portrayed as mindless robots instead of their usual cool calculating selves. A whole squad were left shattered by the [Raston Robot]. Then they fell for an obvious trick, being blasted down on the board in the Tower after the Master had enticed them to cross over. To add insult to injury even the Cyber Leader was caught off guard by the Master and destroyed. It was very sad to see the Cybermen's reputation tarnished.' Ian Kildin, writing in Eye of Horus Issue 5, dated March 1984, had a very different point of view: 'I know it sounds rather sadistic but I loved the way the Raston Robot dispatched the Cyber patrol; this was probably the most graphic scene of mass killing ever in Doctor Who. It was incredibly realistic, [and] the way the lances shot from the Robot's arms was a superb piece of visual effects... I could only feel sorry for the Cybermen; they didn't stand a chance. They were also ruthlessly tricked by the Master; a trick resulting in the annihilation of another group. The time scoop must have brought at least three Cyber Leaders to the Death Zone.' Justin Richards also felt that the Cybermen were a welcome element in the story, as he explained in Shada: A Special, dated December 1983: 'The Cybermen... were at their best... At last we got the impression that there were more than eight or nine of them altogether. The Raston Warrior Robot, which almost looked silly, actually featured tremendously impressively, scything down Cybermen with great panache.'

There is arguably little point in trying to analyse The Five Doctors in great detail as the whole thing was really just an excuse to get everyone together for a celebration. Some of the Doctors and companions undoubtedly fare better than others, however, as Tim Munro commented in DWB No. 80, dated August 1990: 'Pat Troughton stole the show... and probably kept Joe Public watching with his hilarious rudeness to Crichton and his misbehaviour in the tomb. Nicholas Courtney was on top form, trudging through the Death Zone with world-weary trepidation. Elisabeth Sladen effortlessly rose above bland lines to retain her "best companion" crown, and Jon Pertwee's infectious zest diverted attention from his woefully uncharacteristic dialogue. Sadly, Carole Ann Ford was not so lucky. Faced with no written character, she had to improvise from very routine lines. Thus we get no idea whatsoever of how Susan had matured in her life on Earth - it was like a middle-aged woman playing a teenager! Another opportunity wasted.'

Perhaps the biggest problem, given that the story is touted (and titled) as featuring all five Doctors, is that only four of them actually take part in the main action - and one of these is, unavoidably, played by an actor other than the original. 'My only dislike,' wrote David Hamilton, also in Eye of Horus Issue 5, 'was the fact that Tom Baker was not seen as much as... the other Doctors. Surely there was more of the unseen Shada material that could have been used?' Perhaps, but then the plot would have had to have been made even more convoluted to accommodate the scenes from Shada that were available. And it must be borne in mind that, at least during the initial stages of plotting and scripting, Dicks was proceeding on the assumption that Baker would actually be appearing.

The Five Doctors, as the only example of a story produced out of season as a one-off special to celebrate an anniversary, remains something of an anomaly. As a celebration it works, but as a serious entry in the Doctor Who canon it fails to stand up to scrutiny.

< The King's DemonsFifth DoctorWarriors of the Deep >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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