Dr Who had been on for 10 years and had 3 Doctors in its run. William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and John Pertwee. Since it was the 10th anniversary they decided to do something special, a story where all 3 Doctors meet, and all 3 actors were willing to do so, but there was a hiccup. The producers were informed that William Hartnell was more ill than they knew so they had to take special measures to compensate while still allowing him in all his eagerness to appear. What came forth was an epic story that delved into Time Lord history, introduced a truly powerful and epic villain (who bizarrely has never been used in modern Who, but then Moffat clearly didn’t like classic Who and used it badly so probably for the best.)
Since the start of the third Dr’s run he had been stranded on Earth by the Time Lords imposed there at the end of the 2nd Dr’s ‘The War Games’. During this time we saw the introduction of many classic monsters like Silurians, the Autons and the Sea Devils. Met one of the Dr’s most important enemies The Master and saw the return of his greatest enemy the Daleks (their creator had tried to sell them to America and thus were not used since ‘Evil of the Daleks‘). The Dr had been working as part of UNIT with the always brilliant Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, and a small recurring cast, plus his assistant this time Jo Grant.
The tale involves the Dr being hunted by strange anti matter life forms (yes they bring up that those shouldn’t be able to exist in our universe). The Dr, Jo and Sergeant Benton run into the Tardis. The Dr asking Benton if he’s going to comment on its size but Benton pointed out that was rather obvious.
Sending a message to the Time Lords (yes it was that serious) we discover they too are under siege from forces coming out of a black hole. With little choice they take drastic measures, pull earlier versions of the Dr out of their time stream to aid the third. The second Dr comes first (including his recorder) and… they bicker, yeah the Doctors don’t get on well.
Seeing this isn’t working they try to send the first Dr. Now remember I mentioned he was ill… in fact not that long away from death it turns out later, so he’s basically stuck on a bubble on a tv screen where he can read off of cue cards. He does however get some great lines. “so these are my replacements, a dandy and a clown.”
Under advice from the first Dr, the third Dr followed by Jo leaves the Tardis and is transported through to the other side of the black hole, cue end of the first episode.
Ok so check, the Time Lords are under attack by a strange powerful force from a black hole, and it’s so powerful the Time Lords had to break their rules to get the Doctors past reincarnations to help him.
Now you think it can’t get any better? – well other than the Brigadier reacting to the reappearance of the second Dr (probably one of his best scenes) .
What if I told you that the force laying siege to the Time Lords was an ancient figure from Time Lord history, one of the most important figures in their history (no not Rassilon) but Omega: the man who developed the technology that allowed them to become Time Lords! Trapped on the other side of a singularity after the experiment that succeeded in giving them the power source to travel through time and essentially become a god, now angry after countless years feeling abandoned by his kin! Now if you’re thinking wow this sounds like the best villain in Dr Who ever whose name isn’t Davros then you are right (though Sutekh beats him for awesome voice, but we will get to ‘Pyramids of Mars’ later).
So this story has it all, Doctors interacting with one another, introductions to major Time Lord lore, the Brigadier being the Brigadier, an epic villain and even gravel quarries. The story remains strong with great developments and a good progression, at no point did I feel bored but it also did one more thing. As mentioned, this story came after years of the Dr being stranded on earth but as a reward for saving them, the Time Lords restored him the ability to freely travel through time and space. If you liked ‘Day of the Doctor’ (the modern day version of this starring the 10th and 11th Dr with the War Doctor) then this is a must see. If you’re not, then this is a must see, it’s one of the must see Dr Who stories.