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The Three Doctors (TV story)

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The Three Doctors
Sheer will
Novelised as: The Three Doctors
Doctor: Third Doctor
Companion(s): Jo, the Brig, Benton
Featuring: First Doctor, Second Doctor
Main enemy: Omega, Gell guards
Main setting: Earth, the 1970s
The anti-matter universe
Key crew
Writer: Bob Baker
Dave Martin
Director: Lennie Mayne
Producer: Barry Letts
Release details
Story number: 65
Number of episodes: 4
Season/series: Season 10
Premiere broadcast: 30 December 1972 - 20 January 1973
Premiere network: BBC1
Format: 4x25-minute episodes
Production code: RRR
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Behind the scenes video

The Three Doctors was the groundbreaking first story of the anniversary Season 10 of Doctor Who. The serial marked several milestones for the program. Most notably it was the first multi-Doctor story (establishing the concept of the Doctor being able to meet his past incarnations); but also it marked the return of William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton to the role of the Doctor. The special also saw Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Sergeant Benton enter the the Doctor's TARDIS for the first time and discover it was bigger on the inside.

Though Troughton would eagerly make more reappearances in multi-Doctor stories, this would be the last time Hartnell appeared as the First Doctor, and his only multi-Doctor outing. He had been suffering from arteriosclerosis and his condition was beginning to heavily deteriorate from the terminal sickness. His wife advised against a physically demanding role out of concern for his failing health. For this reason, Hartnell's role in the story was limited to recorded pieces from a chair in Ealing Television Film Studios. He was given cue cards to assist him after a history of misreading his lines constantly because of the effects his disease had on his memory. Nearing the end, William Hartnell succumbed to his illness only two years later.

This tenth anniversary special also ended the three year long story arc of the Third Doctor being exiled to Earth, which had begun in Season 7 in 1970. Following the repeal of his sentence, the Third Doctor would become ostensibly less irritable now that he was no longer bound by the limitations of the exile.

Synopsis Edit

Time itself is in peril! The Time Lords find themselves besieged by a mysterious enemy, the legendary Time Lord, Omega. Omega has been inhabiting the anti-matter universe on the other side of the black hole from which the Time Lords draw their power.

They enlist the Doctor in his first three incarnations to battle this foe, who turns out to be a legend from the Time Lords' remote past.

But vital cosmic energy is draining into a black hole and the Time Lords are under siege. The Doctor is their only hope but, trapped in the TARDIS, he's powerless. The only way out is to break the First Law of Time to let the Doctor help himself - literally...

Plot Edit

Episode one Edit

On Earth, a small orange device is found on a grassy bank. Mr Ollis, the warden of the bird sanctuary, walks over to it and bends down to examine it. A Land Rover arrives at the cottage where Mr Ollis lives. A man steps out and knocks on the door. Mrs Ollis opens the door and the man introduces himself as Doctor Tyler. He asks her about the device and she tells him her husband is looking after it. The device is carrying an unusual energy blob that seems intent on capturing the Third Doctor. Tyler goes over to the area, and he and Mr Ollis site each other. Suddenly, there is a crackling noise from the device, and when Mr Ollis bends down to examine it, he vanishes. The birds fly off in panic. Doctor Tyler gets back in his Land Rover and asks to be put through to UNIT. He heads off to UNIT HQ and when he arrives, he meets with the Brigadier, the Doctor and Jo Grant. Tyler tells the Brigadier what happened and he tells him that he and the Doctor will be happy to help him. When Jo asks him what the box is for, he tells her it is for cosmic ray research. Tyler explains that even though he's not NASA, he still gets the results. Jo asks why the balloons are still being used. Doctor Tyler tells her that inside the device is the most advanced cosmic ray monitoring device between here and Cape Kennedy. Doctor Tyler tells the Brigadier he was going to contact UNIT for help. Doctor Tyler shows the Doctor some results which surprise the Doctor.

The Brigadier asks if there is anything they can do; at the Doctor's request, he hands a stirring rod to the Doctor and he stirs his tea with it. The Brigadier then specifies if there is anything U.N.I.T. can do about the space lighting. The Doctor tells him there is some sort of compressed light that travels faster. When the Doctor asks if the machine is working properly Doctor Tyler tells him it is, but he hasn't developed the latest plate yet. The Doctor tells him to develop it at once and then let him know. The Doctor and Jo go off to look for the balloon and Tyler tells the Brigadier he will be fine. He tells Tyler to make himself at home. When the Brigadier has gone, Doctor Tyler develops his plate but is horrified to see Mr Ollis' face. As Tyler goes to dismantle the box, the crackling sound is heard again and Doctor Tyler mysteriously vanishes, while a strange organism emerges from the sink plughole.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Jo are with Mrs Ollis who is showing them the spot where her husband vanished. She then tells them the box had been there this morning and that someone has already gone to collect it. The Doctor asks her if she has seen her husband since this morning. She says she hasn't. She tells them it's not really likely for him to go wandering off, but she will go and look for him. The Doctor and Jo return to Bessie and Jo asks if it is important and the Doctor tells her it is. Back at UNIT HQ, the Brigadier enters the lab with a full set of reports for Doctor Tyler. But he discovers Tyler has vanished and calls his name. The Brigadier meets Sergeant Benton and asks him to find Doctor Tyler.

Anti matter bessie
Anti-matter encroaches on Bessie.
MemnarcAdded by Memnarc

Outside, the Doctor and Jo are driving back to UNIT in Bessie. But as they get out, the organism appears and the Doctor orders Jo to get well back. They both run and Bessie vanishes in a flash of light. The Doctor and Jo return to the lab and the creature returns to the drain. In the lab, the Brigadier is waiting for Doctor Tyler when Sergeant Benton arrives and tells the Brigadier that Doctor Tyler is missing and that in the garage there was a explosion. The Brigadier asks: '"What explosion?"' and the Doctor comes in and tells him it was actually a flash of light. He tells the Brigadier that the drain needs guarding. Benton goes off to guard it. The Brigadier tells the Doctor that Mrs Ollis called, saying her husband has not returned. He then tells him they have 1500 acres to cover. The Doctor tells him they don't have to look further because he has already found Mr Ollis - the plate that Doctor Tyler was developing. He takes his sonic screwdriver out and gets the strongest reading as the bottom of the sink. The Brigadier hands Doctor Tyler's reports over to the Doctor. He reads them and discovers that someone has been scanning the Earth like a searchlight and picked on them. Jo reminds that the Doctor that Bessie vanished and he tells the Brigadier.He also mentions the creature from the drain that was after them. It had a very strong hunting instinct, and it was hunting the Doctor. When the Brigadier asks why it took Mr Ollis, the Doctor says it was a confused creature. He asks about Doctor Tyler. The Doctor tells him Tyler was in his laboratory and he thought the strange creature was the Doctor and that the creature went inside Bessie while the Doctor and Jo were near her at the time. He says there is a link between the beam and the organism. The beam was how the creature got to UNIT. The Brigadier asks if they can find it and the Doctor tells him that's it up to them.

Outside UNIT, a corporal stands next to a jeep. One of the organism creatures starts advancing towards the corporal. Sergeant Benton arrives and he shoots the creature. However, it is immune to bullets and it fights back. The Doctor notes that the creatures and the organisms are from the same source, first the scout then the reinforcements. Outside, Sergeant Benton realises that force is useless and he contacts the Brigadier. He orders a complete evacuation and afterwards, Benton must report to the lab. As the Brigadier leaves, one of the creatures emerges from a vent behind him. Benton climbs through the window. Suddenly, the creature enters the room, and the three friends rush into the TARDIS. The Doctor switches the TARDIS force field on. As the Doctor tries to take off, he can't. Someone is draining the power form the TARDIS. So the Doctor decides to contact his people, the Time Lords. On the planet of the Time Lords, at the control centre, the President and the Chancellor inquire about someone who needs to help the Doctor. The Time Lords, however, have problems of their own: power drains. They summon enough energy to send the Second and First Doctors to help the Third. After a conference, the Second Doctor switches off the TARDIS force field and the Third goes outside. Jo follows him and before she can stop him, they are both are engulfed in a blinding flash from the plasma creature in the U.N.I.T. laboratory...

Episode two Edit

Friends re-UNITed
Friends reUNITed.
OttselSpy25Added by OttselSpy25

The Second Doctor warns Sergeant Benton not to go outside because the Third Doctor knows what he's doing. After an attempt by the Second Doctor and Benton to subdue the anti-matter creature outside the TARDIS, the Brigadier, Benton and the Second Doctor retreat into the TARDIS. The First Doctor deduces the black hole is a bridge between universes, and the other two Doctors allow the TARDIS to be swallowed up by the energy creature which transports Doctor Tyler, Jo Grant, Sergeant Benton and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart into an anti-matter universe created by the legendary Time Lord Omega, a solar engineer who created the supernova that powers Time Lord civilisation, but was considered killed in the explosion.

UNIT HQ into the black hole
UNIT HQ moves into the black hole.
OttselSpy25Added by OttselSpy25

In actuality, he had been transported to the antimatter universe, where his will and thought turned the formless matter into physicality. Trapped, due to the fact that his will is the only thing maintaining reality, he vowed revenge on the Time Lords who left him stranded. The Second Doctor switches off the TARDIS force field and the whole of UNIT HQ is transported through the black hole and into the universe of Anti Matter...

Episode three Edit

Three Doctors
The Doctors and Benton encounter Omega.
CeryuAdded by Ceryu

Meanwhile, on the planet, the Third Doctor, Jo and Doctor Tyler enter the throne room. Jo asks who brought them here and a loud booming voice declares: "I did!" From the shadows steps the legendary Time Lord, Omega. He has been imprisoned here for many years, and it is clear that the exile he lives in has made him quite insane.

The Second and Third Doctors find the point of singularity within the black hole: the source of Omega's power. Omega and the Third Doctor argue until the Third Doctor is thrown into a black void - the dark side of Omega's mind. Omega's avatar gets the Doctor in a stranglehold and Omega declares: " THOSE WHO OPPOSE THE WILL OF OMEGA SHALL NOT LIVE! DESTROY HIM!"

Episode four Edit

Omega defeats the Third Doctor in the black void of his mind. Back in reality, the Second Doctor helps the Third Doctor to his feet. Omega reveals that he has summoned the Doctors here to take over the mental maintenance of the antimatter universe so he can escape. He tells the Second and Third Doctors that without him, there would be no time travel and he and the other Time Lords will be locked away in their own time.

However, the Doctors discover that years of exposure to the corrosive effects of the black hole's singularity have destroyed Omega's physical body - he is trapped forever. The Second and Third Doctors ask him if he has a physical body. Omega walks over to a mirror and takes off his mask. The Doctors both discover he hasn't got a head or a physical body. The Third Doctor replies: "You exist only because your will says that you exist. And your will is all that is left of you." Omega bows his head in shame and lets out a insane cry. Driven over the edge by this discovery, Omega now demands that the Doctors share his exile.

1 Contact
The First Doctor forms contact with his future selves.
OttselSpy25Added by OttselSpy25

The Second Doctor tells Omega that if he destroyed the Third Doctor, he would destroy his only chance of freedom. Both Doctors escape briefly, and receive another message from the First Doctor, urging them to put their heads together and figure out how to outsmart Omega. After this psychic conference, they agree to remove the force field generator of the TARDIS. As the Second Doctor opens up the TARDIS console base to disconnect the apparatus, he exclaims at the sight of his lost recorder safe and sound. However, the Third Doctor suggests that the recorder is even more important than the generator itself. Realising he intends to sacrifice his musical instrument, the Second Doctor protests until the Third Doctor promises to get him a replacement, even a thousand if it will shut him up.

The Doctors contact Omega and discuss a means to satisfy him. They agree to meet him directly once more. Fearing that this could turn ugly, the Third Doctor tells Jo she must follow his orders without question, even if they betray her compassion. The Doctors then offer Omega a proposition. They will give him his freedom if they send the others back to the positive matter universe. Omega agrees, and the others begin to file out into the transporter Omega creates. Ollis and Dr Tyler depart, followed by a reluctant Benton. Jo, fearing she won't see him again, refuses to leave the company of the Third Doctor until he comforts her with a reminder to trust him. She enters the light beam, then the Brigadier gives the Doctors a salute and joins her. When everyone has departed save them, the Doctors offer Omega the force field generator containing the Second Doctor's recorder, which had fallen in it prior to the transport through the black hole.

When the Third Doctor shouts at Omega to take the generator, Omega is angry at the Third Doctor for commanding him to do it. He knocks the generator over in a rage and the unconverted positive matter recorder falls out of the force field. When the recorder comes into contact with the antimatter universe, it annihilates everything in a flash, returning the Doctors in the TARDIS to the positive matter universe.

3 & Jo
The Doctor feels guilt for tricking Omega.
OttselSpy25Added by OttselSpy25

The group returns to Earth inside UNIT HQ, with everything back where it was. Jo weeps over the apparent loss of her Doctor while the Brigadier mourns the losses of both incarnations he knew. However, the TARDIS reappears in the laboratory and the Doctors emerge, with Jo hugging the Third Doctor earnestly. They explain that because the recorder fell into the force field, it was not turned into antimatter, giving them a chance to escape and cause a reaction that turned the black hole into a supernova, igniting a brand new star for the Time Lords to use as an energy source. When Omega's will collapsed, it made all the objects that had ended up in his world return to their proper places. For the Doctors, it was the TARDIS, and for Ollis, the lakefront with his shotgun, explaining his absence.

With the power now restored to the Time Lords, they are able to send the First and Second Doctors back to their respective time periods. The First Doctor appears on the TARDIS monitor one last time to bid his future incarnations farewell, fearing what they would do without his incarnation's intellect. The Second Doctor then gives a cheerful goodbye to his friends, old and new, and admits he enjoyed meeting his successor, though his future self jokingly hopes they won't meet again. The Second Doctor vanishes into thin air to the amazement of Dr Tyler. The Brigadier and Benton leave the TARDIS to "make a full inventory of the HQ" and see if anything disappeared after these events. Benton questions him about what they would document the cause of the lost items if they found any, but the Brigadier simply tells him to come along, obviously using this as an excuse to get away from the madness he's been through. Dr Tyler also exits the TARDIS, jesting that he cannot write about this in any academic sense if he values his job.

Now that only he and Jo are still inside the TARDIS, the Third Doctor begins to have a moment in private, quietly regretting that he had to send Omega to his demise. Jo sees his remorse and assures him not to feel guilt because he had no other choice but this when Omega put everything in the universe at stake. The Third Doctor, wishing he could have found a way to release Omega of his fate in a humane way, explains that death was the only freedom anyone could offer Omega.

Fortunately, the Doctor is given a reason not to be dispirited over his actions when he hears the familiar hum of TARDIS materialisation technology inside his own TARDIS, and a familiar device appears on top of the time rotor. It is a new dematerialisation circuit for the TARDIS to replace the faulty one keeping him stuck on Earth. He also notices he can remember how the dematerilisation codes for the device and all his blocked memories have come back. The Time Lords have rewarded the Doctor for the feat of heroism he has demonstrated for the whole of his race by gifting him with this new circuit, and restoring his knowledge of how to travel through space and time. The Doctor is happy that his people have forgiven him and granted him his freedom, but Jo sadly states that he'll probably be rushing off now. The Doctor assures her that he won't be leaving just yet, since he needs to construct a new force field generator...

Meanwhile, Ollis arrives home and his wife responsibly asks him where he has been. Ollis tells her she wouldn't believe him if he told her, and skirts the issue by asking if supper is ready.

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

References Edit

Astronomical objects Edit

The Doctor Edit

  • The First Doctor caustically refers to his future selves as "a dandy and a clown".
  • The Second Doctor does not like the way his future self has "re-decorated" 'his' TARDIS. He would later make a similar comment about the redecorated UNIT headquarters. (TV: The Five Doctors) Much later, the Fifth Doctor would make a similar criticism when meeting the Tenth. (TV: Time Crash). His eleventh incarnation would make the same observation of a friend's house. (TV: Closing Time) while the Tenth would make the same remark with the Eleventh Doctor's second console room. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
  • The Second Doctor recognises Benton from their adventure with the Cybermen. (TV: The Invasion) although he assumes him still to be a Corporal, as in that story.
  • The Second Doctor treasures and likes to play his recorder. He apparently thinks little of television.
  • Neither the Third nor the Second Doctor seems to immediately recognise Jo's reference to the song "I Am the Walrus" by The Beatles.
  • The Brigadier at first thinks that one of the Doctor's experiments has changed him back to an early version of himself. He seems more outraged than wonder struck at the interior of the TARDIS, believing the Doctor has built it using UNIT resources. He either disbelieves or does not understand that part of UNIT HQ (including the Doctor's laboratory) has been transported into the anti-matter universe and states in confidence that he thinks they're in Cromer.
  • On Gallifrey, the Time Lords' dialogue makes it clear that there are no incarnations of the Doctor before the First, with specific mentions of "the earliest Doctor" and "the Second Doctor".

Cultural references from the real world Edit

Foods and beverages Edit

  • The Second Doctor offers a Jelly baby to the Brigadier. Several years later, jelly babies became the confection of choice of the Fourth Doctor and continued to be referenced from time to time on the series for many years thereafter.

Species Edit

Temporal theory Edit

  • The First Doctor gets trapped in a time eddy.
  • The First Law of Time expressly forbids any Time Lord to cross his own time stream and meet his former (or, for that matter, future) selves. The High Council of Gallifrey, however, is willing to break the rule if necessary.

Theories and concepts Edit

Time Lords Edit

  • The Doctor's three selves have the power to have a "telepathic conference" amongst themselves, exchanging information at a rapid speed.
  • The Doctor admired Omega in his youth.

United Nations Intelligence Taskforce Edit

  • The Brigadier says UNIT HQ is "a Top Secret establishment".

Story notes Edit

  • This story celebrates the start of the tenth season of Doctor Who on television. Either for this reason or another, some people erroneously identify this as the 10th anniversary special.
  • This was William Hartnell's last appearance as the Doctor and his final ever performance as an actor before his death in 1975. Hartnell was too ill to play a more active role in the story. Instead his scenes were filmed in Ealing Television Film Studios while he read his lines from cue cards. The script was rewritten with the explanation that the First Doctor was stuck in a time eddy due to the power drain caused by Omega.
  • This is the first of three mainstream return appearances by Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor. His next two were in TV: The Five Doctors and TV: The Two Doctors.
  • This is the first appearance of Omega. Originally Omega's name was supposed to be Ohm, the word resulting from turning "WHO" upside-down. "Ohm" was later used as the name of an ancient Gallifreyan god in PROSE: The Infinity Doctors.
  • The original script, entitled Deathworld, had the Time Lords enlisting the three Doctors to battle a Federation of Evil led by Death. The idea of Death as an actual entity was later used in the Virgin New Adventures novels and Big Finish Doctor Who audio stories with Death as an Eternal who purposely arranges for the Seventh Doctor to be shot and die in 1999 San Francisco at the beginning of the television movie.
  • Original plans were for Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot to appear in the story. However, Frazer Hines was unable to take time out from Emmerdale Farm for filming, and the idea of additional companions received objections from Jon Pertwee, who felt too many characters would detract from the story.
  • This story featured a new redesigned TARDIS console room set by Roger Liminton. The one used in the previous story, TV: The Time Monster, warped in storage and had a design which Barry Letts disliked.
  • This story marks the end of the Doctor's exile on Earth. This also marks the beginning of the gradual phasing out of UNIT on the series, as the Doctor spends more and more time away from 20th century Earth.
  • The Second Doctor offers the Brigadier a jelly baby. A few years later, the sweet would be brought back as the Fourth Doctor's favourite sweet.
  • This was one of the stories chosen to be shown as part of BSB's Doctor Who Weekend in September 1990.
  • Footage from this episode would later be used in TV: Death of the Doctor as a flashback of Jo's time with the Doctor. By using this footage, this marks the first and only appearance of Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell in The Sarah Jane Adventures.
  • The story was repeated on BBC2 on consecutive evenings from Monday 23 to Thursday 26 November as part of the repeat season The Five Faces of Doctor Who, in order to tie-in with the programme's eighteenth anniversary. The Radio Times programme listing for the repeat transmission of episode two was accompanied by a black and white head-and-shoulders publicity shot of the Second, Third and First Doctors, with the accompanying caption "Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and William Hartnell - The Three Doctors called in to save the Time Lords and the Universe from doom: 5.35".

Ratings Edit

  • Episode 1 - 9.6 million viewers
  • Episode 2 - 10.8 million viewers
  • Episode 3 - 8.8 million viewers
  • Episode 4 - 11.9 million viewers

Myths Edit

  • William Hartnell's scenes were filmed in the garage of his home against a black backdrop. (His scenes were actually filmed at Ealing Television Film Studios. His garden shed was used as a makeshift photo studio for a set of publicity shots for himself, Troughton and Pertwee together. Several other publicity shots from the same session, as well as the scene of the Doctor in a garden as seen on the Time Lords' monitor, were shot outside in Hartnell's garden)
  • The scene in which the Second Doctor was shown in black and white originated from the (now lost) 1960s serial, The Macra Terror. It was actually a specially filmed shot.

Filming locations Edit

Production errors Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • There are shots that make it quite obvious that there is no interior to the TARDIS prop. Additionally, the doors in the back of the prop are often open enough to let in the distinct light from the window blinds behind it.
  • Just before the Second Doctor's arm appears, a boom mike drifts into the shot directly above John Levene.
  • When the Second and Third Doctor are observing the Brigadier open fire on the anti-matter creature outside on the scanner, the scanner itself still displays the repetitive flash and not an image of outside.
  • When UNIT HQ vanishes, there is grass where the building used to be.
  • When the gel creature is chasing Tyler, it bumps into a wall right before the cut to the next scene.
  • When the Doctor and Jo find Bessie, her tyres are covered with white dust, showing she was driven into the quarry, not transported.
  • Although it is later revealed that Omega has no physical shape, the actor's mouth can be seen on several occasions, notably when he is working out who the Second Doctor is.
  • When the dark side of Omega's mind puts the Third Doctor in the hold that ends their battle, the positioning of his arms relative to Pertwee's changes between shots.
  • When the Doctors flee Omega's lair, they open the door, which is smooth on its outer surface. But outside shots reveal the door to be textured.
  • After Jo and the Brigadier step through the singularity, their footsteps can still be heard after they've faded away.
  • At the start of the scene in episode one in which the Second Doctor first appears in the TARDIS, a passing crew member can be seen reflected in the silvered strip along the side of the central column.

Continuity Edit

Home video and audio releases Edit

DVD releases Edit

This story was released as Doctor Who: The Three Doctors.


NTSC - Warner Video E1925



  • Editing for the DVD release was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.
  • It was also released in the UK in a limited edition boxset, including a miniature Bessie model car.

A special edition of The Three Doctors DVD was in Revisitations 3 boxset in 2011. The special edition contained all the extras present in the 2003 DVD, plus a making-of documentary and a documentary about the less popular period of Doctor Who ("When Doctor Who Was Uncool").

Video releases Edit

This story was released as Doctor Who: The Three Doctors.


  • First Release:
  • UK August 1991
PAL - BBC Video BBCV4650
  • US January 1992
NTSC - CBS/FOX Video 3405
NTSC - Warner Video E1100
  • UK September 2002
PAL - BBC Video BBCV7364

External links Edit

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