THE THREE DOCTORS

"Just ignore him - he's incorrigibly frivolous."

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Not perfect, but to see all three Doctors, we'll forgive anything.

The first major Who anniversary, and to mark it someone had the bright idea of bringing all the first three Doctors together. And without a doubt, it works a treat. There are things wrong with this adventure, but the byplay between the Doctors isn't one of them. The banter between the Second and Third Doctors is priceless, and despite Bill Hartnell's illness, the First Doctor manages to make a considerable impact even from a video screen. It made us want to go and watch the early episodes all over again.

Jon Pertwee has a bit of a tough row to hoe in this: his straight character is in danger of being eclipsed by the more flamboyant Second Doctor, and accustomed to the limelight, Pertwee looks a little uncomfortable in the scenes, such as the explanation scene, where he has to share. Nevertheless, his acerbic repartee allows him to hold his own ("Let's toss, shall we?" Okay, okay, sorry) against the irrepressibly scene-stealing Pat Troughton. It's a joy to see the Second Doctor again, especially as his role in this in general avoids the irritating characteristics that make us want to slap him upside the head; instead, we get to see the manipulator under the clown. And the First Doctor's waspish cracks make us sigh regretfully for the original script in which he played a much larger part.

Unfortunately, with two and a half Doctors all contending for screen time, something had to go, and the secondary characters apart from Omega are a bit woeful. The Brigadier is especially irritating, as he spends the entire time totally out of character, alternately ignoring the Doctors' explanations despite the evidence and behaving like Colonel Blimp. Benton and Jo don't get a lot to do, although Jo does bring in the tea. Grrrr. (Spare a thought, incidentally, for the unfortunate blue creature that had to die to make Jo's jacket.) Dr Tyler is a poorly characterised mess who seems to have been put in only to contrast with the heroic nobility of the regulars. And in a crowded script the presence of Local Yokel is a bit of a mystery. Still, we get to see the Brigadier's reaction to the TARDIS interior, so it's all worth it.

As for the Three Doctors' villains, Omega's actually not bad at all. Masks are always chilling, and Stephen Thorne does a great job with the voice. And frankly, we think Omega has a point, the poor bastard. The Third Doctor's regret at his fate at the end is a nice and fitting touch. Even the gell guards aren't entirely pointless. Walking heaps of vomit they may be, but they bob along very cutely.

The script, particularly in the early episodes, is delightfully biting - we love the way the Doctor confuses the blob with television. And Lennie Mayne's direction, while not as inspired as in The Curse of Peladon, has his inimitable touch, particularly in the otherwise woeful fight scene.

MORAL: Never volunteer. Who knows where youíll end up.

OUTTAKES

A BREATH OF FRESH AIR

At one point amongst the toing and froing in the lab, a lab window that was shut is suddenly open.

THEY HAD A SALE AT HOMEBASE

The Doctor's clearly got the DIY bug, as the TARDIS roundels are completely different to the saucer-shaped ones that appeared in the previous episode. And there's now a boring TV monitor screen instead of the cool roundel one.

I HOPE THESE THINGS DONíT STAIN

Just after the first telepathy scene, the Third Doctor has a nasty boom shadow on his shoulder.

STONE ME

It's nice to know that even in an antimatter universe there are still quarries.

EXCEPT, OF COURSE, IN COLOUR

The Second Doctor says that it's quite like old times - but for him they aren't old times!

YOOF CULTURE

Despite the First Doctor being the youngest and therefore the least experienced of the three, the Second and Third Doctors defer to him.

ONE, TWO, THREE

We like the effect, used a couple of times, of filming the actors jumping up in the air then editing out all but the landing so it looks as if they've just materialised out of nowhere.

WATCH OUT FOR THE CROSS-BUTTOCK HALF-NELSON

The wrestling scene with Omega is just horrible. First, it's deeply embarrassing. Second, there are a lot of repeated shots in it, which is cheating. And third, why is the Second Doctor fighting Omega by himself when they've just said they'll beat him by combining their wills? Ugh.

I HEARD A RUMOUR

"The High Council must be desperate indeed to break the Laws of Time!" Um, wasn't Omega lost before the Time Lords even got going? How does he know about the Laws of Time? Or the High Council, for that matter? (Thanks to Paul Austin for pointing this out.)

BIG BROTHER

In the scene where the Time Lords are discussing sending the First Doctor through the black hole, they now know the "enemy" they were talking about before is Omega. How did they find out?

CLOSE ENOUGH PART I

The portrayal of a singularity as a column of smoke is a bit sad. And as for the explanation of what it is...

CLOSE ENOUGH PART II

"One minute he was treating...he was taking..."

GET OFF MY FOOT

An otherwise excellent performance by Stephen Thorne slips when Omega, having just discovered he's disappeared completely, takes up yodelling.

I KNOW A SHORTCUT

How do the Doctors, travelling on foot, get back to UNIT headquarters just after the other bunch in Bessie?

SNIFF

There's a very real and touching sense of leave-taking at the end. Nice.

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