Doctor Who – The Five Doctors (25th Anniversary Edition)

DVD-buying Doctor Who fans may well be thinking they’ve entered a time warp of some kind. Yes, this has been on DVD before, but in a very different form. Back in 1999, the BBC was just beginning to test the market, and see if they could successfully sell DVDs. One of the first releases was the 20th anniversary Doctor Who story, The Five Doctors, which was presented in the “special edition” version – a 1990s remix (so to speak) of the 1983 broadcast which included some improved (or at least different) visual effects, some extra scenes that had been cut from the original, and a general rearrangement of odd bits and pieces. In stark contrast to the regular releases we’ve become used to, the extra features were, err, well, there weren’t any. But the booklet had more in it than you get these days, so it wasn’t all bad. Anyway, time has passed, and it’s been reissued in a more suitable format, as the 25th anniversary edition. Yes, it’s the 25th anniversary of the 20th anniversary, or it will be in November, at least.

So, if you already have the 1999 release, why would you want to bother with this one? Well, I’ll tell you[1]. For a start, inside the box you will find not one, but two DVDs. One contains the 1990s “special edition” and one the original, as-broadcast version, allowing you to compare and contrast. Personally, I don’t think the remix (I think I’ll keep calling it that) added that much to the original, but it’s perfectly watchable.

Both versions come with the ubiquitous production subtitles – the ones on the remix talk more about how the new effects and rearrangements were done, while the ones on the original version are the more usual “how it was made” kind of thing. Good stuff in both cases.

The story involves the Doctor’s various selves being pulled out of their time streams and deposited in the Death Zone on Gallifrey. Not a nice place at all, it’s a relic of their past which the Time Lords are not at all proud of. There’s an evil plotter, a nice selection of companions reprising their roles, some lovely monsters, including a rather battered looking Dalek, and five Doctors. Well, more like 4.5 Doctors, really, as Tom Baker declined to take part, and is seen only in some brief clips from the unfinished story Shada. With William Hartnell having died, the First Doctor was played (quite well, actually) by Richard Hurndall. It’s a lot of fun, especially when Doctors Two and Three redo their bickering routine that was so much fun in The Three Doctors, which was the tenth anniversary story. Lots of fun in both versions.

Special features include:

On the original version

  • Celebration: A documentary looking at the 20th anniversary, presented by Colin Baker
  • A super hidden special feature[2]

On the remix

  • The Ties That Bind Us: Nice documentary about links to the show’s past and future in The Five Doctors. Narrated by another future Doctor, Paul McGann
  • Out-takes, bits of studio footage and some special effects fun
  • Assorted TV clips – Doctor Who actors appeared on lots of other shows to promote the anniversary, and there are some good bits here. Some overlap with the documentary on the other disc, but never mind

So, if you don’t have the 1999 release, you’ll be needing this one. And if you do have the 1999 release, you’ll still be needing this one. Right?

[1] I’m nice like that :grin:
[2] Apparently it’s another commentary. Left as an exercise[3] for the reader
[3] Hint: Google is your friend :laugh: