Doctor Who #333: The Three Doctors Part 2

"At the moment they're far from being all-powerful. That's why it's been left up to me and me and me."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.6 1973.

IN THIS ONE... The Third Doctor and Jo are whisked to the anti-matter universe, while the Second and UNIT try to figure things out.

REVIEW: Though this story continues The Time Monster's desire too build the Doctor Who mythos, it's also just as frustrating by throwing so much at the audience and not being able to deliver on half of it without it seeming either silly or tatty. For example, while the anti-matter monster is a well-used effect, there's a prolonged sequence in which the eyelines are completely off, with Benton looking and pointing his weapon at the wrong corner of the studio. Despite Jo's dialog about the anti-matter universe being strange, it's just another quarry with well-worn roadways, just like the planet they visited in Colony in Space. One dutch angle about once, and a half-hearted attempt to make the landscape more surreal with displaced furniture does not make it strange enough. The Gel-Guards are still as silly, but I do like their moving central eye and dynamic attack on the pit, but using the same material they're made from to build the hidden enemy's base makes it look glitzy and stupid. And then there's the crazy visual of UNIT HQ flying into the black hole, probably not meant to be taken literally, which leaves an empty field, no hole for foundations, and a well-kept lawn. The episode just can't keep up with the effects demands of the script.

Yet it seems like an important episode. We learn a lot more about temporal theory AND how the Time Lords operate. Or do we? Seems like they ask more questions than they answer. Based on the dialog, it would seem the Time Lords have a finite amount of energy to run their time travel business (so the TARDISes are not energy-independent, or is there more to their apparatus?). The black hole is apparently draining energy that endangers their capacity to time travel, which seems a greater concern to them than any threat to the universe itself. And how does their hierarchy work anyway? A Chancellor seems above a President, and yet the President can overturn the Chancellor's orders. Is one a political leader, and the other in complete control of the society's time travel business? For things we're being told for the first time, it's not all that clear, and it's hard to invoke the "aw, it's ok, all we care about is the Doctors meeting anyway" when the Doctors don't actually interact in this episode (the 1st is still reading cue cards in another studio, barely counts as interaction). The episode also marks the first time a Doctor has patched a com device into the TARDIS, something that becomes quite common in the new series. And for trivia fans, though we've seen one Doctor or another hold a bag of sweets, the 2nd Doctor here offers the first ever jelly baby on the series. (Jelly being a theme of this story, it seems.)

Oh, another first: The Brigadier walks into the TARDIS for the first time, but you know what? I wish he hadn't. The Brig is INSUFFERABLE in this story. Unlike Benton, who takes everything in his stride, the Brig refuses to believe ANY science-fiction explanation he's told. He doesn't believe in anti-matter, or that there's more than one version of the Doctor co-existing, or that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside. Even though he stopped being a believer after Season 7 (which I agree makes no sense given his Troughton appearances and his speech in Spearhead from Space), he still softened his attitude towards the Doctor's apparent flights of fancy with some humor. Not anymore. He's positively irritating and an impediment both to the story (never goes with anything) and to my enjoyment of what should be a family reunion (because he's so pissy at the Doctor). I blame the writers, of course, because Dr. Tyler is just the same! A stock character who has zero emotional reaction to being beamed to another planet, yet refuses to believe any of the Doctor's explanations or follow any of his recommendations (where does he think he can run to when he escapes the villain's base?).

THEORIES: The 2nd Doctor has an intriguing line about being a temporal anomaly. Should we take it then that Doctors summoned up by the Time Lords through this process are merely temporal "duplicates" to be swallowed up by time after the mission is over? It seems like the 2nd Doctor is at peace both learning details of his future, and never mentions the possibility of destroying the time line if he were somehow killed. Is he just an echo of the real 2nd Doctor, still adventuring with Jamie and Zoe somewhen? Is this how the Time Lords overcome the problem of memories later Doctors in these stories don't nor shouldn't have? (Or companions for that matter. Sarah Jane doesn't remember The Five Doctors in School Reunion. Was she brain-wiped after 5Docs, or was she actually a duplicate alive only in that story?) When time is "fixed", do they duplicates just disappear? Speaking of The Five Doctors, the 2nd Doctor remembers meeting the 3rd before in that story. Does that mean I'm wrong? Or that a duplicate's memories are kept on file in the Matrix?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - I thought the various firsts and revelations would get its score higher, but the latter are more frustrating than they are enlightening, the writing is aggressively annoying, and the production unable to cope with the script's demands.


Mitchell Craig said...

Quarries in Doctor Who are the equivalent of Vasquez Rocks in Star Trek.

Siskoid said...

At least Vasquez Rocks have an unearthly quality.

And they don't show up QUITE as often. Almost, but not quite.

CiB said...

Yesterday, you mentioned that the various incarnations of the Doctor don't like each other. However, there were slight implications that didn't really apply to the First Doctor (that is, the other ones like him). Here, I'd say we get quite interesting confirmation of that- when the Second Doctor (at the end of the episode) takes down the TARDIS defences and gets taken to the anti matter universe. Not only did he do that seemingly just because the First Doctor told him to, his explanation is that he trusts the First Doctors judgment completly.

In this story, the Doctor who seems to know more about whats going on and how to deal with it is the one whose not there. Later in the Five Doctors, it's the First Doctor again who figures out whats going on and how to win the day. So, given that in theory later incanrations of the doctor should remember what the First Doctor knew, etc, why do they often seem to be less intelligent than him? Side effect of regeneration perhaps?

Siskoid said...

Good question. It is strange that they should defer to the youngest of them. You'll note that regeneration changes body and personality, but also aptitudes. The 2nd Doctor is a better engineer than the 3rd Doctor, for example, though Doc3 may be better at theoretical science. They don't all have musical talent, etc.

If I were to explain this story, I'd say Doc1 is better at temporal mechanics than Doc2 (and so, FIGURES OUT what must be done, it's not an inherent knowledge stored in memory). Doc3 might have been able to do the same, but his temporal know-how has been blocked by the Time Lords to keep him in exile. In any case, they remember being good at something, and defer to their better selves in those regards. Need a pun? Ask Doc6, and so on.

JeffJedi said...

Since the Doctor has said who he is changes personality wise, it's almost like they are not the same person.

Therefor to a later doctor it's almost like the First Doctor is a father figure. The Doctor's life stages are different. They have different likes and dislikes.

The First Doctor to them would be the man who came before them, a pioneer who had been doing what they do now for a long time.

Jeff R. said...

I always thought that there was an explicit mindwipe in the Five Doctors, since Time Lord secrets were involved.

But I also have a vague memory of Sarah Jane mentioning having met more than two doctors before, in School Reuniion. Which could be wrong.

At any rate, I think that there's a vague theory of cross-time encounters and memory lurking somewhere in Time Crash, in which all memory of such an event is suppressed but not actually lost, and regained shortly after the futuremost version ends the encounter. (So 3 didn't remember this story before it started, but afterwards, remembered it from all three viewpoints.)

Siskoid said...

My own memory of School Reunion has her talking about that time in Aberdeen as the last time she saw him.

Your vague theory is probably the correct one. À la Looper.

LiamKav said...

I wonder if they have more respect for the First Doctor since he is, essentially, all their childhood. We only see him when he appears physically old, but presumably whenever later Doctors think of their childhood, it's the First Doctor's childhood. They're not just thinking of the grumpy old man, but of being a small boy, playing with the Master before he went evil, meeting that monk on the mountain...

(There is a comment by Doc10 that he prefers the Fifth Doctor to the First. "When I first started I acted old, as you do when you are young..." It's also interesting that despite the sixth Doctor's initial comment about the fifth being "not him", he seems to warm up to him as in one of the audio plays he describes being the fifth Doctor as like being on a "wonderful holiday.")


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