The Five Doctors was a programme put together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Doctor Who and was broadcast on November 26th, 1983. It featured all five of the Doctors that were in the show up until this point, although some more than others. The original Doctor, William Hartnell, had passed away so was replaced by Richard Hurndall; and the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, barely featured in this programme because he didn’t want to be involved so soon after leaving, which is a shame because he was the first Doctor I ever saw and, in the tradition of James Bond, the first actor you see in the role is the one you associate the most with the character.
I was never the biggest Doctor Who fan around but rather enjoyed a number of the adventures experienced by Tom Baker and Peter Davison. I never quite warmed to the offbeat performance from Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy‘s appearance just reminded me of his time in the early 80’s children’s programme Vision On. Paul McGann is the latest actor to take on the part, but to date has only featured in one feature-length story made in 1995.
Back to the plot though and whilst in his fifth incarnation (Peter Davison), he and his current companions Turlough (Mark Strickson) and Tegan (Janet Fielding) are whisked away to the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey and trapped in time in the Death Zone by a mischievous Time Lord traitor who will put them all up against the Yeti, The Cybermen and the Daleks. Not being content with one generation, he’s done the same to all the other Doctors and some of their companions including Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart (Nicholas Courtney).
The High Council thus attempt to fight fire with fire and will grant a full pardon to The Master (a part hammed-up nicely by Anthony Ainley)if he will go in and save the day. Will he do as he’s asked, or will he overplay his hand as always?
This version of the programme is an extended version of that originally broadcast, with unseen sequences and new visual effects. When first released on video in 1995 its other main advance was that it came complete with a Dolby Surround soundtrack. Now on DVD, the sound has been remixed to give a full Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack which enhances many of the film’s surround effects.
The remastered picture, presented in its original 4:3 fullscreen ratio, looks perfect and is free of noticeable artifacts and any of the usual flecks you’d expect to see in an old print which hadn’t been treated. The average bitrate is an excellent 9.80Mb/s.
As for the music over the end credits, something seemed decidely odd, so I asked the question in uk.media.home-cinema, why does the soundtrack seem very muted until partway through when it suddenly comes into life ? It didn’t sound like a smooth transition as if it’s intentional, but more like someone forgot to turn the surround output on at the right time 🙁
All became clear when Steve Roberts, from of the Doctor Who Restoration Team, answered my query. He told me to watch the final scene again –
- “it ends with Tegan saying something about “So, you’re going on the run from your own people, in a rickety old TARDIS?”, to which the Doctor replies “Why not? After all, that’s how it all started.”
The music then comes up in glorious mono like in the old days (split to two tracks, I believe) and halfway through it mixes through into 5.1.
It was actually more obviously deliberate on the 1995 VHS release of the story, as the credits ran a different length and the music cue was timed to happen when the composer credit came up on screen. Impossible to do it on this version though…”
Steve’s site can be visited here. Please tell him you found his site via my Doctor Who review.
Note that the only things the sound and vision experts can’t salvage are the BBC Model B computer graphics from the era which recreate the Tower of Rassilon and the sound of an intercom early on which is merely the sound of the same computer being switched on!
- Isolated music tracks: From the main menu you can select one of eight music tracks, be it the opening or closing theme, plus other incidental music throughout the feature.
Booklet: The plush booklet not only provides info about the five Doctors (or six if you count Hartnell’s stand-in), but also all the other characters from past and the then-present who are drawn back into the series.
The menu has to be one of the best DVD menus I’ve seen all year. All the options are presented in a mock-up of the TARDIS console, circa the Fifth Doctor’s era. There are 24 chapters spread throughout the 101-minute feature covering all the major scenes. All the dialogue is in English and has subtitles in English (for the deaf and hard of hearing), French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Dutch.
As you select a particular option (eg. language selection, music tracks, scene selection), surround sound heaven starts early as the view above the console pulls back, circles around and stops at the chosen place. It has to be seen to be believed because it’s brilliantly well done and fits in perfectly with the theme.
Also, note that when you boot up the disc you are treated to the Dolby Digital Helicopter demo.
To the die-hard Doctor Who fan with a DVD player, you need no more convincing. You will already be parted from your twenty nicker. For those of us, like myself, who don’t eat, sleep and breathe Doctor Who but who have even a passing interest in the show, it’s not only worth a look for the content of the episode but also for an example of a very well-presented disc.
If we were living in a perfect world, this disc would also contain an audio commentary track from the director and the restoration team plus copious production notes on all the cast and crew involved. However, what’s available on this disc is certainly worth the asking price.
The other titles now available are Monty Python: Best of Vol.1, The Black Adder Series 1, Noddy In Toyland, Persuasion and coming in January 2000, The Planets.
Scheduled for Spring next year are : Monty Python: Best of Vol.2, Gormenghast, Walking with Dinosaurs and, of course, Black Adder II.
As for which DVDs I’d like to see from the BBC in future. They include : Red Dwarf (in their original versions, not the remastered form), The Young Ones, Filthy Rich and Catflap, Fawlty Towers and, depending on whether I could bribe the new DG with enough cash, Eldorado…
Running time: 101 minutes
Region(s): 2, 4 (UK PAL)
Released: November 1st 1999
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: 6 languages available
Format: Fullscreen: 4:3
Disc Format: DVD9
Director: Peter Moffatt
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Screenplay: Terrance Dicks
Music: Peter Howell
The Fifth Doctor: Peter Davison
The Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker
The Third Doctor: Jon Pertwee
The Second Doctor: Patrick Troughton
The First Doctor (replacement): Richard Hurndall
The First Doctor (original): William Hartnell
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.