Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Five Doctors - "It's reassuring to know that my future is in safe hands."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Five Doctors - Details

1983 20th Anniversary Special (Overall Series Story #130*) | Previous - Next | Index

If it's all the same to you, I'd like to have my cake and eat it too with this story. On a lot of levels, it's really not very successful. The motive of the main villain for instance, makes no sense. He wants immortality, so cooks up an elaborate, self-defeating plot to obtain it -- one worthy of the Master himself -- but effectively reveals he can grant immortality to the Master in order to buy his services. Whuuuuuhhh?? In terms of canon, it makes no sense for Two to recognize that Jamie and Zoe aren't real because they recognize the Brigadier, but for him to know they would be wiped of their memories of their travels together since he went directly from that happening into his regeneration. (Let's not get into all that Season 6b theorizing, I know it's generally considered canonical, and it would explain at least this part of "The Five Doctors," but I'm sticking to televised material here. Because. That's why.)

The n of Rassilon
Why don't Susan and her grandfather talk about her life since they last met even a little? Doesn't the Brigadier seem young for retirement? You can check the various guides and write-ups of this story for probably dozens of other reason it just doesn't make sense. But it's a special that was made to celebrate the 20th anniversary and bring a bunch of old friends back together, mix in a bunch of baddies, and end with everybody happily sent back as if it never happened. Well, except for Borusa.

It's in that spirit, as a special that's constructed to be fan service that I think we best enjoy it, and I'm willing to go along for that ride. Who but the most cold-hearted could not enjoy seeing Sarah Jane again? Hmm?  (And why didn't Hurdall do the First's trademark "Hmm?" Really seems inexcusable.) The characters may not be exactly true to form, but they're at least as close as the waxworks Tom Baker used in the publicity photos is to an actual picture of Tom Baker to pass. For fan who hasn't obsessively watched and re-watched every story, this is a great way to let them see the history of the show to that point, and for that dedicated fan, it's a chance to see those old friends again, even if only for a moment, as in the case of Caroline John, Frazier Hines, and the other cameos.

Could this have been better? Certainly. Is it problematic for canon? Definitely? But does it celebrate the series, and let us celebrate it if we don't ask it to be something it's not? Yes, I think it does. Watching it with my son this morning, I loved that he enjoyed it even more than I loved that I still enjoy it. I can't deny criticism of it is fair and warranted, but I'm having my cake and it tastes sweet.

* #130, if you count Shada. Some sources count this as Story #129. It's also sometimes referenced as the last story of the 20th season, though it aired after 20 ended and before 21 began.

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