Doctor Who #335: The Three Doctors Part 4

"Come on, Doc. I mean, with two of you there should be twice as many ideas. Well surely you can think up something to nobble this Omega bloke?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.20 1973.

IN THIS ONE... Omega is tricked into destroying his domain and everyone goes home.

REVIEW: Each of the three Doctors are represented by tropes in the anniversary story's finale. The 3rd Doctor is in his own era, surrounding by UNIT, indulging in a little bit of hand-to-hand, etc., so that one's pretty clear. The 2nd Doctor clowns it up to make Omega lose his cool and prove he's a complete nutter (his wailing is almost disturbing), reminding me quite a lot of a similar moment in Tomb of the Cybermen. Of course, the plot of the episode is revealed to pretty much be a rehash of The Mind Robber, with Omega as the god of a pocket universe who longs to be free and requires the Doctor to take his place and burden lest his world collapse. Unfortunately, it looks like what the writers have taken from the 1st Doctor's era is those interminable goodbyes at the end of Terry Nation stories. The story ends pretty early, in fact, and is padded out with the slowwwwwww return of everyone to the positive universe, followed by farewells for every Tom, Dick and Tyler in the bunch. Fine, you want to say goodbye to the former Doctors, but it goes on a lot longer than that. Maybe it's meant to lull you to sleep so you won't ask just how UNIT HQ was returned to Earth under those circumstances.

While I'm generally happy with Jo and the Doctors - even Hartnell doesn't seem as stiff as he did in the first episode - that's not quite so true of some of the other characters. I don't know who I want to shoot more, the Brigadier or Dr. Tyler. No wait, I know. Tyler it is. I don't think there'll be such a ridiculously perky idiot on the program until H.G. Wells' character assassination in Timelash. Omega, for his part, is a right drama queen, ranting so loud, I wish he really WAS missing his head (the effect is ruined because we see his chin through the mouth on a number of occasions). The metaphor is correct though. He's an empty suit. A villain throwing a hissy fit and despite the apparent threat to the universe, hardly worth our attention. It's like when your kid is throwing a tantrum and you decide the best course of action is to ignore it.

And again, the writing, direction and design kind of fail the story in various ways. There's just no way to show the UNIT HQ in the quarry, so you never quite believe it even with that CSO door. The Doctors manage to get there on foot seconds after the Brig and company, who took off earlier, IN A CAR. And the recorder in the force field generator is ludicrous on a number of levels - it looks silly, there's no explaining how it got there, or even how the Doctors could count on Omega slapping it away and destroying his universe. And I don't buy the Doctor's regret at having had to destroy Omega, not after his rather trigger-happy attitude in the previous season. And for all its faults, the episode is "important" in continuity, because the Time Lords give the Doctor his freedom back. It's a good start to the season in that sense, officially opening the Whoniverse up again. We haven't seen the last of UNIT, but they're definitely being phased out.

VERSIONS: There is, of course, a Target novelization, but I am unaware of any differences it might have with the televised program.

- A real mess, padded almost beyond redemption in the last act. All that saves it is 1) the now more relaxed interaction between the Doctors, and 2) its importance in Doctor Who continuity.

- It's a cool idea to have all three Doctors share the screen, and an attempt is made to build on Time Lord history, but unfortunately, they didn't have much of a story to go with it. Worse than the story are the characterization of a few key characters (including the Brig) and some truly terrible design ideas. This should have been so much more, but I'm instead a little embarrassed by it.


Mitchell Craig said...

It doesn't get much better in "The Five Doctors", but that is another story for another day.

Siskoid said...

Not sure I have the same love for that story, but we've got a ways to go before I re-evaluate it.

LiamKav said...

I imagine The Three Doctors was easier to write, since presumably they knew that they were definitely going to have Pertwee and Troughton and probably knew that Hartnell couldn't do much. The Five Doctors, by comparison, was written to be flexible because they had no idea who they'd be able to get. In hindsight, it's amazing it worked out as well as it did. (And it's more a party piece than this episode too, so I grade it a little differently.)

Anonymous said...

Agree with many of your thoughts, including the sad mis-characterization of the Brigadier (although to be fair, he's never been so out of his element as he is here).

Every piece of Hartnell we get is a gem, just because, and every time I watch this story I yearn for him to make an appearance in the flesh and truly interact with the others (as it is rumored he was supposed to do at the end, but his health was just too poor).

I'm going to go for a no-prize and say the Doctors caught up to the rest of the gang despite being on foot because the entire world they are on is a creation of Omega's will and they have provent to be able to affect it with their own Time Lord willpower in some ways. They willed themselves a shortcut.


Siskoid said...

I'll buy that solution! Good work Jason!


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