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Doctor Who Anniversary Specials

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Published April 3rd 2013
2013 is an exciting year for Doctor Who. The second half of season seven (or 33 if you're counting from 1963) has started and the BBC have confirmed that they are producing a 50th anniversary special, which will feature the incumbent Doctor (Matt Smith), his tenth incarnation (David Tennant) and fan favourite Rose Tyler (Billie Piper).

There have been several, yet rare, occasions where the Doctor has had to deal with a crisis as well as his other selves. The following on-screen adventures are worth seeing for the nostalgia and to appreciate how far this science fiction saga has come.

The Three Doctors (1972, 1973)

The third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) endures exile on Earth, a punishment decreed by his people: the Time Lords of Gallifrey, for breaking their non-interference law when his second self stopped the war games where warriors from different time zones were pitted against each other for the amusement of a nefarious warlord and his endeavours to create the ultimate army.

To prevent him from gallivanting across the universe, the Doctor's 'borrowed' TARDIS (time machine) is disabled by the Time Lords and the secrets of time travel are extracted from his memories. Even living under these conditions is difficult for our hero to stay out of trouble. The Doctor finds himself working as a scientific advisor for the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT).

Sure enough, UNIT HQ faces an alien threat so powerful that the Doctor calls upon his people once again for aid. The Time Lords, also under siege, decide to disregard their laws by pulling the two past incarnations of the Doctor (William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton) from their time-streams to help fight a rogue Time Lord, Omega, who is bridging the worlds of matter and anti-matter.

Special features include:

'40th Anniversary Celebration': a montage of clips and a remixed theme spanning the decades
Pebble Mill At one': an interview with Patrick Troughton
Blue Peter': a snippet of a children's show from the 70s
BSB Highlights': short documentary from 1990

PanoptiCon '93': a live panel with Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning and Nicholas Courtney
Feature commentary

The Five Doctors (1983)

Another ten years pass and so a 20th anniversary special was commissioned. The formula is the same as the last only there are more companions, Doctors and villains to share the screen.
The fifth Doctor (Peter Davison), his past selves and associates are all whisked away via a time scoop to the Death Zone on Gallifrey to play Rassilon's game. Who is responsible for endangering the Doctor's very existence?

The Doctors and his friends come across a Dalek, Cybermen, Yeti and the Master (among other exciting baddies) before meeting each other at the tower, Rassilon's tomb for the final confrontation with the real villain.

Unfortunately, the fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) did not his reprise his role and so he is seen to be trapped between dimensions (stock footage was also used from the unfinished episode, Shada). Richard Hurndall takes the late William Hartnell's place as the original Doctor and it is hilarious to see the different personalities bicker among themselves, especially the school-yard rivalry between the 'scarecrow' (Jon Pertwee) and the 'clown' (Patrick Troughton).

The Five Doctors is so epic in ambition that the story is riddled with plot holes, which most people happily ignore because this is, after all, the show's Birthday party.

The 25th Anniversary Edition comes with two DVDs, one has the episodes as they were originally transmitted in 1983 while the other contains a feature-length cut with revised visual effects and bonus scenes.

Special features include:

'Celebration': a retrospective of The Five Doctors
'The Ties That Bind US': a documentary about the show's past, present and future
'Five Doctors, One Studio': bootleg video of the participating Doctors all on set
'Out-Takes': a series of bloopers, good for a laugh
'Publicity Clips': a range of segments from the TV shows in the 80s
'(Not So) Special Effects': insight into the visual FX crew and state-of-the-art technology
Feature commentary

The Two Doctors (1985)

This multi-Doctor story is very different from the ludicrous villain-companion overload the other two specials relied on. The Two Doctors is a more traditional Doctor Who narrative where the loud and most alien of his personalities (Colin Baker) bumps into his second incarnation (Patrick Troughton).

The second Doctor and his companion Jamie (Frazer Hines) investigate a space station that is conducting time-travel experiments. Mid-conversation with the head scientist, the facility is attacked by Sontarans. Meanwhile the sixth Doctor and Peri (Nicola Bryant) coincidentally visit the same space station only to find it has been sacked and shows signs of recent conflict. To heighten tension, Peri finds a crazed Jamie who claims that his Doctor is dead.

We meet a new alien race, the Androgum. Shockeye's obsession with food as he settles in Spain is amusing and sometimes scary whereas the technologically augmented Chessene (Jacqueline Pearce) awaits Sontaran reinforcements and bides her time to action her own agenda. Will the Doctors prevail?

The score is haunting and appropriate while the tone of the story makes for excellent tension.

Special features include:

'A Fix with Sontarans'
'Behind the Sofa: Robert Holmes and Doctor Who': a documentary about the writer
'Beneath the Lights': a short look at studio recording for The Two Doctors
'Beneath the Sun': featurette about on-location filming in Spain
'Adventures in Time and Spain': Production manager Gary Downie talks about the making of The Two Doctors.
'Wavelength': behind the scenes
Feature commentary
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Why? Classic Doctor Who
Your Comment
Love Dr Who, totally pumped for the 50th anniversary! I really hope the two Doctors meet, two fav doctors on screen at once! It's a dream come true!
by Serena (score: 1|60) 2994 days ago
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