Screen Time [Doctor Who Day]: The Three Doctors

On this day, the 23rd of November, in 1963, the longest-running and most successful science-fiction television series ever, Doctor Who, first aired on BBC One in the United Kingdom. Since then, the rogue Time Lord has gone through numerous incarnations, travelled throughout the entirety of the past, present, and the future, and is widely celebrated as one of the most iconic and recognisable mainstream cultural icons in the world.

Air Date: 30 December 1972 to 20 January 1973
UK Network: BBC One
Stars: Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troughton, Stephen Thorne, Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney, and William Hartnell

The Background:
In 1963, the Head of Drama at the BBC, Sydney Newman, commissioned a show to fill a gap in the BBC’s schedule that would appeal to both children and adults alike. After writer Cecil Webber created a brief outline for Dr. Who, a collaborative effort saw the concept refined into the debut episode, An Unearthly Child (Hussein, 1963), and Doctor Who captivated audiences with the following episode, which introduced the long-running and iconic antagonists, the Daleks. Doctor Who attracted strong ratings during its first season but, by 1996, star William Hartnell’s health was becoming an increasing concern, so story editor Gerry Davis came up with a genius idea to allow the actor to step away from the role while continuing the show. Davis conjured the idea of “regeneration”, a process all Time Lords would undergo when mortally injured or at the end of their lives and which would allow them to take on a new face and altered persona up to thirteen times. Patrick Troughton took over the role, eventually becoming one of the most beloved incarnations of the Doctor despite a great number of his episodes being lost. Fearing being typecast, and fatigued by the gruelling shooting schedule, Troughton left the role three years later and my first, favourite Doctor, John Pertwee, was brought on for the show’s big debut in full-colour and became one of the character’s most popular incarnations. In 1972, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the series, Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks decided to bring together the three actors responsible for the show’s success in the first of many multi-Doctor crossovers. Sadly, Hartnell’s poor health kept him from participating as heavily as was originally intended, but the four-episode serial drew strong ratings and decent reviews, despite some criticisms of the script and characterisation of the main villain.

The Plot:
Omega (Thorne), the solar engineer responsible for the Time Lords’ ability to travel in time, seeks revenge on the Time Lords after they left for dead in a universe made of antimatter. Desperate for aid, the Time Lords bend their laws to recruit three incarnations of the Doctor (Pertwee, Troughton, and Hartnell) for aid when Omega drains their civilisation’s power and threatens their destruction.

The Review:
I’ve always enjoyed the spectacle of multi-Doctor stories; Doctor Who is one of the few television shows or science-fiction properties where you can easily have an in-built excuse to have previous actors meeting up and going on a little adventure together, and something about seeing the past incarnations of the Doctor interact has always been appealing to me. I think a lot of it stems from the fact that Doctor Who wasn’t on television when I was a kid; they didn’t even air reruns of the show, so watching it was extremely difficult, but I grew up reading the novelisations by Terrance Dicks and had always tried to consume as much of the early days of the show as I could (within reason; a lot of it is unavailable of hasn’t aged too well). The top of my list, alongside the various Dalek adventures, were the multi-Doctor stories, and I’d always had a particular fascination for The Three Doctors (Mayne, 1972 to 1973). This is probably because it was the first of such crossovers but, either way, these types of stories have always been a favourite of mine, even if they’re not always actually that good.

With the Doctor, and Gallifrey, under siege, the Time Lords bring the Second Doctor in to help.

The Three Doctors is a four-part adventure set during John Pertwee’s tenure as the Third Doctor; after being captured and tried by the Time Lords at the conclusion of his second incarnation (and, apparently, as a cost saving measure) the Doctor was forced to regenerate into his third incarnation and left stranded on Earth, where he worked as a scientific advisor alongside the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT) and continually tried, in vain, to repair his disabled time machine, the Time And Relative Dimension In Space (TARDIS). Accordingly, The Three Doctors begins in much the same way as many of the Doctor’s adventures during this time (and beyond): on Earth. While investigating cosmic rays, Doctor Tyler (Rex Robinson) comes across a series of unexplained, faster-than-light signals that leave him, and especially UNIT’s commanding officer, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Courtney), stumped. Intrigued by the signal, which appears to defy all known laws of physics, the Doctor takes Jo Grant (Manning) with him to investigate, unaware that the mysterious signal is causing those that tune into it to be abducted by a flash of light and bringing with it a strange, amorphous blob. This bizarre piece of camera trickery is intent on abducting the Doctor (with the others being taken purely by chance) but, rather than go out searching for the creature, the Doctor insists that they simply stay put and wait for it to find them, which results in a number of UNIT solders being killed when a number of aggressive, seemingly indestructible gelatinous aliens storm the UNIT base. Taking refuge in the TARDIS, but unable to flee, the Doctor begrudgingly sends a call for help to the Time Lords, who find themselves equally under siege from an energy-draining beam emitted from the void of a black hole. Although they cannot spare the energy and manpower (such as it is) to directly assist the Doctor, the Time Lord President (Roy Purcell) violates the First Law of Time by having the Second Doctor materialise in the Third Doctor’s TARDIS to help.

The First Doctor gets his successors on track, and they’re shocked to find Omega behind it all!

Unimpressed with his successor’s redesign of the TARDIS, the two Doctors immediately struggle to get along; both claim to be the real deal, both want to take charge of the situation, and both believe that they are more than up to the task without the other. Even after bringing the Second Doctor up to date with the situation via an awkward telepathic conference, the two Doctors continue to bicker, primarily because the Second Doctor continually gets distracted by his recorder and interfering with the TARDIS. In order to ensure that the two are more effectively able to pool their resources, the President bends time and space ever further by drafting the First Doctor to keep them in order. Though unable to physically materialise due to the Time Lord’s failing power, the First Doctor advises from the TARDIS viewscreen and is unimpressed with both of his replacements, whom he views as “a dandy and a clown”, and their inability to co-operate, but still able to identify the blob as a “time breach” that is intended for crossing through time and space. Much to the shock of Sergeant Benton (John Levene), who stays behind as the Second Doctor’s makeshift assistant, the Third Doctor allows himself to be taken by the time breach, but accidentally takes Jo with him. The two materialise in an antimatter universe full of the objects and people taken by the blob, and the same alien creatures attacking UNIT, where they reunite with Dr. Tyler, who agrees on the impossibility of their situation, all while being completely unaware that they’re being monitored by a mysterious, armoured individual who commands the blob-like creatures. Despite Dr. Tyler’s insistence they should try to escape and his scepticism regarding the antimatter universe, the Third Doctor’s wish to meet their host is granted and he is awestruck to come face-to-face with the legendary Time Lord, Omega. An enigmatic former scientist trapped in a regal armour, Omega is determined to avenge himself on his fellow Time Lords, whom he feels abandoned him to the antimatter universe after discovering the secret of time travel.

Omega overwhelms the Third Doctor but is enraged to find he can never leave his prison.

On the advice of the First Doctor, the Second Doctor disables the TARDIS’s forcefield and allows the entirety of UNIT headquarters to be transported to the antimatter universe, much to the Brigadier’s chagrin, and the Second Doctor and Sgt. Benton are captured and brought to Omega almost immediately. Omega is as angered at the Second Doctor’s attempts to deceive him as he is by the Third Doctor’s insistence that Omega is revered and honoured as a hero, by both himself and the other Time Lords. Omega cannot let go of his hatred and affront at his brethren and, apparently having been driven half-mad by his exile, desires to become a God. With completely mastery over his antimatter universe, Omega is freely able to conjure objects out of thin air and reveals that he survived his dangerous and deadly excursion into the black hole through sheer force of will. However, when the two Doctors stand opposed to Omega’s destructive intentions, the exiled Time Lord engages the Third Doctor in a telepathic battle against the “dark side of [his] mind” in an awkward slow-motion fight sequence that sees even the Doctor’s Venusian aikido overwhelmed. The timely intervention of the Second Doctor spares the Third Doctor’s life and convinces both of Omega’s unconquerable power; as powerful as Omega is, however, he requires the Doctor’s assistance to be free of his antimatter prison since he is forever bound to that world (the moment he tries to will himself to escape, he will ensure his destruction, and he only continues to exist because of his world). Wishing for the Doctor to take his place and allow him to escape, Omega has the two remove his mask, which they will require to keep the antimatter universe intact. However, Omega is enraged to discover that he has become a being of pure will, with no physical form, and is therefore unable to ever be free from his prison.

The two Doctors defeat Omega and the Third Doctor’s exile to Earth is finally lifted as thanks.

Pushed to the edge of his sanity, Omega resolves to destroy everything in a fit of rage, driving the Doctors and their companions back into the TARDIS, where the First Doctor leads another telepathic conference that directs them towards the TARDIS’s forcefield generator, which they hope to use to bargain for their freedom, and with it the very key to defeating Omega. All throughout the serial, the Second Doctor has been banging on about his recorder, having lost it early into the story; it turns out that it fell into the forcefield generator, and as a result was not converted from matter to antimatter. Initially, the Doctors planned to offer to use the forcefield generator to free Omega, but by this point the insane Time Lord has become content to live out his exile alongside his fellow Time Lords and thus spare their universe and friends from his reprisals. Infuriated at the Doctors’ attempts to placate him with “trinkets”, Omega casts the forcefield generator aside, thereby destroying himself and his antimatter universe when the unconverted recorder falls to the floor. The two Doctors are returned to Earth triumphant, though the Third Doctor laments that he/they couldn’t offer Omega any freedom other than death and the Second Doctor bemoans the loss of his recorder. After bidding farewell to the First Doctor, and an amicable parting between the Third and Second Doctors, Third Doctor is elated to find that the Time Lords have restored his knowledge of how to travel through time and space, and provided the TARDIS with a new dematerialisation circuit, thus ending his exile on Earth and restoring his freedom at long last.

The Summary:
When watching early Doctor Who episodes, it’s best to do so without a massively critical mindset. If you go into it expecting groundbreaking special effects and production design then you’re obviously going to be a little disappointed, and The Three Doctors is no different. The weird, blob-like entity that captures the Doctor is pretty laughable now, being a mere trick of light spliced into every scene its in, and is surpassed only by Omega’s odd gel creatures that shamble all over the place looking ridiculous. Omega’s antimatter throne room is pretty impressive though, and certainly far more visually interesting than the Time Lords’ control centre, and I won’t begrudge the serial for being hampered by the budget and technology of the time. Furthermore, I’ve always been impressed and amused by the ingenuity and adaptability of early Doctor Who; back then, with little money and some spray-painted Styrofoam, the showrunners would have the Doctor visit all kinds of strange, alien worlds or creature ridiculous alien lifeforms but, these days, it seems like the Doctor is constantly anchored to Earth. To be fair, the Third Doctor was similarly handicapped, but just one episode of modern Doctor Who probably has more money behind it than the entire first series of the Third Doctor’s adventures so you’d think that the showrunners could have him/her stray away from London every once in a while.

In addition to featuring some classic characters, the serial introduces a bombastic villain.

What makes the serial work, and what has always made Doctor Who work, is the fantastic use of characters, such as the Brigadier, whose stiff-upperlipedness always lends itself to some amusing moments as he would be frequently bamboozled by the Doctor’s technobabble and the increasingly bizarre events happening around him, and finding the return of (from his point of view) the first Doctor only perplexes him further. This serial also marks the first time that the Brigadier enters the TARDIS, which is an interesting statistic, and much of the comedy comes from his frustration with the Second Doctor’s easily distracted nature and inability to understand all of the complex time travel mumbo-jumbo happening around him. In comparison, Sgt. Benton is far more adaptable and willing to take the Second Doctor’s lead, though his trigger-happy nature clashes with the Doctor’s more pacifistic approach to matters. Although she’s not a scientist, Jo is probably one of the Doctor’s more capable assistants from around this time; she makes up for her lack of scientific knowledge with a boundless enthusiasm, does a good job of translating the Doctor’s technobabble, and catches on to the serial’s bizarre events far quicker than the Brigadier. In an interesting twist, the Time Lords find themselves in an unusual position where they have no choice but to break their own laws; though their energy is being drained and their civilisation and very way of life is threatened, the Chancellor (Clyde Pollitt) vehemently objects to the President’s actions, despite there apparently being no other option available to them. Although the Doctor has no love for the Time Lords or their stringent rules, he’s directly opposed to Omega’s plot to eradicate Gallifrey since the Doctor is all about the preservation of life. Those who are only familiar with modern-day Doctor Who may be surprised to see other Time Lords in this serial, particularly a Time Lord antagonist who isn’t the Master (Various), and I would love for the show to bring back some of the other antagonistic Time Lords as it really does help flesh out the universe beyond it always being the Doctor and the Master over and over again. Omega makes for a bombastic and intriguing villain composed entirely of antimatter and fuelled only by rage; he resents being left in exile and is so consumed by his lust for power and vengeance that he refuses to listen to the Third Doctor’s pleads that he (as in Omega) hasn’t been forgotten and brings about his own end simply because his rage and solitude have left him unable to control his emotions.

The squabbling Doctors must learn from their predecessor and work together to defeat Omega.

Of course, like all multi-Doctor stories, the main appeal of The Three Doctors is seeing the Doctor interact with his other incarnations. While it’s disappointing that the First Doctor was unable to take a more active role in the serial, making this more like The Two-and-a-Half Doctors, it’s interesting seeing his characterisation here; although the oldest actor of the three, the First Doctor is technically the youngest and least experienced of the Doctor’s incarnations, something which comes up in subsequent stories, so it’s somewhat amusing that he’s the more mature and rational of the three. While the Second and Third Doctors constantly bicker and get on each other’s nerves, the First Doctor remains impassive and logical, deducing solutions and offering insight that his successors have missed due to their more flamboyant natures. The Second Doctor is annoyed when the Brigadier describes him as the Third Doctor’s “assistant” and the Third Doctor finds the presence of his predecessor an unnecessary and dangerous event, at best, and an insult at worst. It is only when they and their companions are captured by Omega that the two Doctors finally set aside their grievances and agree to work together and, encouraged by Jo, are able to manipulate Omega’s antimatter universe in their favour. It’s great seeing the how different, and yet similar, all three incarnations of the Doctor are; each are extremely intelligent, proud, and stubborn Time Lords with their own aristocratic flair, and the more mischievous nature of the Second Doctor riles up not only his successor but both the Brigadier and Omega as well. While the Third Doctor is much more in control of his emotions, he frequently lets his predecessor’s playful ways get under his skin, and only the wise council of the First Doctor can help keep the three focused on the greater task at hand.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think to The Three Doctors? Are you a fan of multi-Doctor adventures or do you find that they’re confusing and lacklustre affairs? Which of the first three Doctors was your favourite and what did you think to their interactions with each other? Were you disappointed that William Hartnell was unable to properly participate in the adventure, and what did you think to Omega? Would you like to see Omega and other antagonistic Time Lords return to the series or do you prefer the Doctor to be from a near-extinct race? How are you celebrating Doctor Who Day today? Let me know your thoughts on Doctor Who and its first multi-Doctor adventure down in the comments by signing up, or leave a reply on my social media.

Screen Time [Doctor Who Day]: Doctor Who: The Movie

On this day, the 23rd of November, in 1963, the longest-running and most successful science-fiction television series ever, Doctor Who, first aired on BBC One in the United Kingdom. Since then, the rogue Time Lord has gone through numerous incarnations, travelled throughout the entirety of the past, present, and the future, and is widely celebrated as one of the most iconic and recognisable mainstream cultural icons in the world.

Air Date: 12 May 1996
UK Distributor: BBC One
Original Network: CITV
Stars: Paul McGann, Eric Roberts, Daphne Ashbrook, Yee Jee Tso, and Sylvester McCoy

The Background:
In 1963, Sydney Newman, the Head of Drama at the BBC, commissioned the creation of an educational science-fiction show to fill a gap in the BBC’s schedule, something that would appeal to be children and adults alike. Staff writer Cecil Webber created a brief outline for the show, then known as Dr. Who, but it took a collaborative effort for this concept to be shaped into the debut episode, ‘An Unearthly Child’ (Hussein, 1963). Though the assassination of President John F. Kennedy overshadowed this debut, it fared somewhat better when rerun and the series shot to success with the second episode, which introduced the Doctor’s (Various, but played by William Hartnell at the time) long-running enemies, the Daleks. While Doctor Who reached mainstream popularity during Tom Baker’s time in the role, the show was cancelled in 1989 due to waning interest and a series of unpopular regenerations for the title character (who was then played by McCoy) but continued on in print, such as books and magazines.

Doctor Who’s immense popularity had waned by the end of the eighties.

In the mid-nineties, however, producer Philip Segal negotiated a revival of the series, which was originally going to be a complete, American-made and set reboot until writer Matthew Jacobs persuaded the filmmakers to tie it into the existing continuity. Many actors audition for the title role, some of whom would go on to play the Doctor years later, before Paul McGann was cast but, while McGann’s performance was received rather well, the feature-length episode failed to find an audience or impress in the United Kingdom and, especially, in the United States. While the film was largely glossed over when the show was eventually revived in 2005, McGann’s Doctor was actually one of the longest-running incarnations of the character, the first official Doctor I actually saw onscreen, and made a welcome return in the ‘Night of the Doctor’ (Hayes, 2013) special as part of the show’s fiftieth anniversary.

The Plot:
Whilst returning to Gallifrey with the remains of his old nemesis, the Master (Gordon Tipple), the Doctor’s (McCoy) TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space) is damaged and is fatally wounded upon making an emergency landing in San Francisco on the eve of the million. After regenerating into his eighth incarnation (McGann), the Doctor suffers from amnesia while the Master assumes possesses a new body (Robert) and plots to steal the Doctor’s remaining regenerations and destroy the Earth in the process.

The Review:
If you’ve never seen Doctor Who before, Doctor Who: The Movie is quite a daunting first experience in many ways; obviously, these days, with Doctor Who still running on the regular and access to the show being far easier, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would begin their Doctor Who experience with this feature-length pilot but, back in the day, that’s basically what happened for me. As I mentioned above, Doctor Who wasn’t on television when I was a kid so my exposure to the show came from the many novelisations my Dad owned, a number of videogames and audio books, and the two, largely unrelated films starring Peter Cushing. Thankfully, this was enough for me to understand the basic concept of the TARDIS and the relationship between the Doctor and the Master but, considering how long the show had been off television and the fact that the pilot was made for an all-new audience (and generation), Doctor Who: The Movie chooses to spread exposition regarding its concept throughout its runtime, which can be a bit daunting. The film picks up with the Seventh Doctor, “nearing the end of [his] life”, transporting the remains of his old nemesis, the Master, from Skaro and to Gallifrey; however, these opening scenes are narrated by McGann’s Eighth Doctor which is a bit of an odd choice and it almost feels like the film should have opened with the Doctor’s emergency landing on Earth and then incorporated more in-depth flashbacks, narrated by McGann as he relates his story to Doctor Grace Holloway (Ashbrook).

The Doctor meets a sudden end and regenerates into his amnesia-stricken eighth incarnation.

Regardless, the Master’s essence (little more than a slimy, snake-like glob) causes the TARDIS’s central console to malfunction and forces the Doctor to make an emergency landing on Earth, where he is immediately gunned down by a gang of gun-toting thugs who are chasing rebellious youth Chang Lee (Tso). Though a wannabe thug himself (and seeking to steal the Doctor’s belongings), Lee gets the Doctor to an ambulance, and a hospital, but Grace inadvertently kills him when his two hearts throw off their equipment and his alien physiology causes her trouble during her attempts to calm his erratic heartbeat. Thus ends the inauspicious seventh incarnation of the Doctor; there’s not a massive amount for McCoy to do except look horrified, get shot, and lie motionless in the hospital morgue but it’s nice to see him back in the role and to connect the pilot to the continuity of the series. The anaesthesia and being locked in the freezing morgue delays the Doctor’s regeneration into his eight incarnation and, as a result, when he dramatically rises from the dead (a scene cleverly juxtaposed with the creation of the Monster (Karloff) in Frankenstein (Whale, 1931)), he suffers from amnesia and wanders around San Francisco with fragmented memories. These led him to Grace and, having been confused by the Doctor’s physiology, she puts aside his wild demeanour and ravings in order to solve the mystery of her unusual patient.

Charming and enthusiastic, the Eighth Doctor is ruled by passion and empathy.

Grace, a well respected and highly skilled cardiologist, is baffled at having lost her mysterious patient literally right in the middle of a break-up with her long-term boyfriend due to her commitment to her job. Initially, she believes the Eighth Doctor is insane but is captivated by his charisma and mystery; however, he quickly proves his claims of the impending destruction of the Earth and his status as an alien Time Lord when he offers irrefutable proof. A charismatic, impulsive, and energetic incarnation of the Doctor, the Eighth Doctor is excitable, insightful, and very action-orientated, leaping on a police motorcycle and relying far more on his uncanny knowledge of the future to sway others to his whim rather than relying on his gadgets. Passionate, emotional, and effortlessly charming, his joy at the restoration of his memories leads him to unexpectedly kiss Grace, an action she finds very agreeable and encourages more of, leading to an explicit romantic attracting between the two. I remember, at the time, people hated this and it seemed like all anyone could talk about was how the Doctor would never do this so it really rubbed me up the wrong way when subsequent Doctors ran around snogging and falling in love with their companions and all anyone did was praise it.

The Master is obsessed with stealing the Doctor’s remaining regeneration no matter the cost.

Rather than the Daleks or the Cybermen, the Doctor’s antagonist is, of course, the Master; after being executed by the Daleks (sadly never seen onscreen), the Master is reduced to a snake-like creature and possess the body of Bruce, the paramedic who brought the Seventh Doctor to the hospital. Possessing superhuman strength and able to hypnotise others with his snake-like eyes, the Master is also able to spit venom at his victims and carries himself with an ostentatious, flamboyant arrogance. He’s easily able to persuade Lee to assist him in locating the Doctor with promises of gold dust and appealing to his greed, giving him access to the TARDIS and the Eye of Harmony located deep within it. Given that the Master has used up all thirteen of his regenerations and is only able to possess others, he plots to steal the Doctor’s remaining regenerations using the Eye of Harmony, a miniature black hole that powers the TARDIS and enables it to travel through space and time. However, the Eye being open weakens the fabric of reality and threatens to turn the Earth inside out on New Year’s Eve, 1999; the impending destruction of the planet leads to Lee opposing the Master and he, and Grace, pay the price for this insubordination. A remorseless killer, the Master wishes only to take what he wants, manipulate others, and have dominion over the living and it is his obsession with immortality that causes his downfall as the Doctor is able to force him into the Eye of Harmony and even perform a trick generally unheard of in Doctor Who by restoring Grace and Lee through the power of the TARDIS. Indeed, time in Doctor Who: The Movie is far more fluid and malleable than it’s usually presented in the show (“fixed point in time” my ass!), meaning that the Doctor can rewind time to prevent the destruction of the Earth and undo the Master’s actions even while they’re inside the TARDIS and even bring back the dead, which I don’t believe is something ever done in quite the same way in the show normally or else the Doctor would have surely brought back numerous companions in the same way.

The Summary:
I remember being really disappointed that more people didn’t enjoy Doctor Who: The Movie; it wasn’t like Doctor Who was on television at the time and, for me, something is generally better than nothing and, as a reintroduction of the character and concept, I think it works really well. The approach is, however, interesting; while I commend them for tying it into the show’s ongoing continuity and not starting fresh, I can see how new viewers would be a bit put off by the concept as it’s a little overwhelming and it walks a fine line between delivering exposition and keeping things vague (we learn a little about the TARDIS and the Time Lords but only the briefest of explanations about what these concepts mean and the history between the Doctor and the Master).

Thanks to the bigger budget, the TARDIS has never looked better and more elaborate than here.

One thing I really liked about the film was the depiction of the TARDIS; bigger and more elaborate than ever thanks to the bigger budget afforded to the pilot, the TARDIS is an extravagant and heavily decorated environment full of Victorian and Gothic architecture that, even now, the show has failed to fully replicate as Doctor Who generally only focuses on the main control room. The TARDIS is also depicted as having a degree of sentience; the Master comments that the ship “likes” Lee, responding to his touch and allowing him to open doors and even the Eye of Harmony despite the presence of the Master. At the time, like most people, I was mainly aware of the Third (Jon Pertwee) and Fourth (Baker) incarnations of the Doctor so, in many ways, the Eighth Doctor was my Doctor and the Doctor of my generation. I really enjoy McGann in the role; he’s passionate and dynamic, impulsive and full of vigour and sports a fitting Victorian-era outfit. Best of all, his solution to every problem isn’t to use the damn Sonic Screwdriver and is, instead, more geared towards his unique and (as far as I can recall) sadly forgotten ability to see and relate the past, present, and future of others through his distinct insight into their lives. Something else that I believe is only an aspect of this film (or incarnation of the Doctor) is that he is, apparently, half-human; I don’t believe that this has come up before or since and, honestly, it has little bearing on the plot beyond being a shorthand to explain his affinity for the human race and, apparently, his ability pilot the TARDIS.

I’ll always have a soft spot for the Eighth Doctor, who effectively introduced me to Doctor Who.

Honestly, it still bugs me that the Eighth Doctor isn’t a more prominent part of Doctor Who’s continuity; he had numerous adventures in books, comics, and audio dramas and it really feels like Steven Moffatt (a man whose contributions to the show I routinely call into question) missed a trick by not giving him a bigger role in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ (Hurran, 2013). I love John Hurt but the introduction of the “War Doctor” just caused too many problems and seemed like a cop out to me; I would have much preferred to see a series of specials chronicling the Eighth Doctor’s role in the Time War and decision to end the conflict between the Daleks and the Time Lords. I remember, at the time it was released, people seemed to be annoyed at how “American” the pilot was, that it had kind of perverted the quaint and cult nature of the show in some ways, but I think the additional budget did wonders for bringing the concept to life; the TARDIS has never looked better, the classic theme is the best it’s ever been, the effects and action were beyond anything seen in the show up to that point, and everything has a far bigger, grandiose feel to it. The cinematic quality of the production was also evoked when the show returned in 2005 which, again, was met was almost unanimous praise, which really annoyed me at the time as it seemed like everything people complained about in Doctor Who: The Movie was suddenly being praised and the only difference, really, was that one was produced in America and the other was produced in the UK. For me, the film, and the Eighth Doctor, will always have a special place in my heart and I’m glad that his surprise reappearance saw further interest in his portrayal of the character.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you ever seen Doctor Who: The Movie? If so, what did you think to it? If you saw it at the time, whether as a new or long-term fan of the show, what did you think of it? Were you put off by the “American” production of the show and the Doctor’s more passionate exploits? What did you think to McGann as the Doctor and the death of the Seventh Doctor? Would you have preferred to see the Daleks or another of the Doctor’s adversaries as the antagonists and what did you think to this incarnation of the Master? Which incarnation of the Doctor is your favourite? How are you celebrating Doctor Who Day today? Let me know your thoughts on Doctor Who and its feature-length production down in the comments.

10 FTW: Dark Doppelgängers


If there’s one thing any hero can count on it’s that, at some point in their illustrious career, they’re going to have to face off against themselves. Sometimes, like with the classic Demon in a Bottle (Michelinie, et al, 1979) this is a metaphorical battle against their own inner demons and foibles but. More often than not, it’s a literal battle against an evil version of the themselves. Sometimes they’re from another world or a parallel dimension, perhaps they’ve used stolen technology or been cloned from the hero; other times, they are of the same race or seek to replicate the hero’s powers and usurp them. Whatever the case, I’ve always enjoyed a good doppelgänger, generally because they’re just like the hero but dark and edgy or more violent and, being as I grew up in the nineties, I like that kind of stuff. An evil version of a hero can help to elevate the hero by allowing them to overcome their failings and, sometimes, will even edge out of villain territory and become either a full-fledged hero in their own right or a line-towing anti-hero. In either case, today I’m going to run through ten of my favourite dark doppelgängers; evil versions of heroes who are just cool through and through.

10 Dark Link / Shadow Link

First appearing in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (Nintendo EAD, 1987) this shadowy version of the heroic Link gets the number ten spot purely because he isn’t really much more than a glorified henchmen for main series villain, Ganon. In true Peter Pan (Barrie, 1902) fashion, Dark Link often takes the form of a pitch-black shadow or a dark, distorted reflection and is able to perfectly mirror all of Link’s attacks and abilities. In recent years, he’s appeared more as a phantom and been given more definition but he’s generally relegated to being a sub-boss for a game’s dungeon and never the true threat to the land of Hyrule.

9 Wario

Debuting in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Nintendo R&D1, 1992), this bloated, disgusting, twisted version of Mario is everything Nintendo’s cute and cuddly mascot isn’t: he’s rude, crude, mad, bad, and dangerous. Where Mario jumps on blocks and Koopa heads to save a delightful Princess, Wario barges through walls and tosses his enemies at each other to steal, loot, or recover treasure. Wario even has his own version of Luigi, Waluigi (who exists more for the sake of existing, I would argue) but, while he crashed onto the scene in a big way by taking over Mario’s castle, Wario has softened over the years. He’s transitioned from an anti-hero and begrudging ally to simply a master of ceremonies as Nintendo moved him away from being the star of his own series of unique games and more towards party games and mini games.

8 Black Adam

Created by Otto Binder and C. C. Beck, Teth-Adam was originally gifted the magical powers of the wizard Shazam and chosen to be his champion, Mighty Adam. After being bewitched and corrupted, however, Adam was stripped of his powers and withered away to dust but, centuries later, was reborn when his ancestor, Theo Adam kills Billy Batson’s parents to lay claim to Adam’s power. Black Adam possesses all of the same powers as Captain Marvel/Shazam but is also gifted with a pronounced mean streak and tactical genius; he briefly reformed for a time, even joining the Justice Society of America and building a family of his own, but his quick temper and deep-seated contempt for humanity generally always drives him into a murderous rampage that few heroes can hope to oppose.

7 Alec Trevelyan / Janus

Appearing in what is still probably the best James Bond film ever made, GoldenEye (Campbell, 1995), Alec Trevelyan (masterfully portrayed by Sean Bean) was one of MI6’s top 00 agents. However, wanting revenge against the British government for the death of his family and comrades during World War Two, Trevelyan faked his death and formed a criminal organisation named after his new alias, Janus. Trevelyan makes the list because he’s everything James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) was but twisted towards villainy; he and Bond were close friends and partners and his “death” weighed heavily on Bond’s conscious for nine years, making his betrayal even more sickening. In facing Trevelyan, Bond not only faces his biggest regret and mistake but also himself and what he could easily become if the fates were different.

6 Slash

First appearing in ‘Slash, the Evil Turtle from Dimension X’ (Wolf, et al, 1990), Slash was originally an evil violent mirror of the heroic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who often appeared in Turtles videogames and merchandise as a sub-boss for the Turtles to fight. For me, his most iconic look is when he’s sporting a black bandana, some spiked apparel, razor-sharp, jagged blades, and a heavy, armour-plated, spiked shell. Slash’s look and characterisation have changed significantly over the years as he’s gone from a somewhat-eloquent villain, to a rampaging monster, to an ally of the Turtles depending on which version you’re reading or watching.

5 The Master

Originally (and, perhaps, most famously) portrayed by Roger Delgado, the Master was a renegade Time Lord who rebelled against his overbearing masters to freely wander through time and space. While this closely mirrors the story of his childhood friend, the Doctor (Various), the Master was the Doctor’s exact opposite: evil where the Doctor was good, malicious where the Doctor was kind, and wanted nothing more than to extend his lifespan, conquer other races, and destroy (or break) his oldest rival. Though sporting a deadly laser screwdriver and able to hypnotise others, the Master gets the number five spot simply because he’s been overplayed to death in recent years. Time and time again we’ve witnessed the Master at the end of his regeneration cycle, or destroyed forever, only for yet another incarnation to appear and wreck more havoc. He’s even redeemed himself and turned good before, and yet still returns to his wicked ways to plague the Doctor even when his threat should long have ended.

4 Metal Sonic

Speeding onto the scene in Sonic the Hedgehog CD (SEGA, 1993), Metal Sonic stands head-and-shoulders above all over robot copies of Sonic the Hedgehog simply by virtue of his simplistic, bad-ass design. A fan favourite for years, Metal Sonic has made numerous appearances in multiple Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team/Various, 1991 to present) videogames, comic books, and other media. Sporting a sleek, aerodynamic design, chrome plating, and a massive jet engine on his back, Metal Sonic did something no one had done at the time of his debut and not only matched Sonic’s speed, but outmatched it on more than one occasion. While Sonic CD is far from my favourite Sonic title, it’s hard to downplay the iconic race against Metal Sonic in Stardust Speedway or his impact on the franchise.

3 Reverse-Flash

Versions of the Reverse-Flash have plagued DC Comics’ speedsters over the years, most notably Edward Clariss (The Rival), Eobard Thawne (Reverse-Flash), and Hunter Zolomon (Professor Zoom). Sporting a yellow variant of the classic Flash suit and shooting off sparks of red lightning, the Reverse-Flash is generally characterised as using his powers to torture the Flash out of a twisted desire to make him a better hero. Reverse-Flash’s threat is increased by his tendency to travel through time, evading death and plaguing different generations of the Flash; Professor Zoom was even able to manipulate the Speed Force to jump through time and appear to be faster than the Flash. Reverse-Flash has also been the cause of numerous agonies in the lives of multiple Flashes; he’s killed or threatened those closest to him (including Barry Allen’s mother) and delights in bringing the Flash to the brink of his moral code.

2 Judge Death

Hailing from an alternate dimension where life itself is a crime (as crimes are only committed by the living), Judge Death is the dark counterpart to no-nonsense lawman Judge Dredd. First appearing in 1980 and created by John Wagner and Brian Bolland, Judge Death assumes the appearance of the Grim Reaper and uses his demonic powers to kill with a touch. Rocking a metal design (recently evoked by the Batman-Who-Laughs, another contender for this list), Judge Death takes Dredd’s uncompromising enforcement of the law and ramps it up to eleven. Alongside his fellow Dark Judges, he once slaughtered over sixty million citizens of Mega City One and, despite his corporeal form being destroyed or trapped, has returned time and time again to bring judgement upon the living.

1 Venom

Perhaps the most popular (or, at least, mainstream) of all dark doppelgängers is the alien symbiote who, when bonded to Eddie Brock (or others), is known as Venom. Created by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane, Venom began life as a black alien costume that absorbed Spider-Man’s powers and abilities and sought to permanently bond with him. When Spidey rejected it, it turned to Brock and, through their mutual hatred of Spider-Man, Venom was born. Sporting a super simple design (pitch-black with a white spider logo, emotionless white eyes, deadly fangs and claws, and a long, drooling tongue), Venom plagued Spidey for years. Immune to Spidey’s Spider-Sense and sporting all his powers, but double the strength and viciousness, Venom has evolved from a sadistic villain, to an anti-hero, to all-out hero over the years but, thanks to their equally violent offspring, has been the source of much death and woe to Spider-Man since day one.


What dark doppelgänger is your favourite? Were there any I missed off this list, or do you, perhaps, feel the evil copy is a played out trope? Drop a line in the comments and pop back for more lists and articles.