General Information

The Five Doctors is the 11th episode of season 20 of the Doctor Who television show. It was a special episode, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the program. It was first broadcast in the United States on November 23, 1983, twenty years to the day after the very first episode of Doctor Who -- An Unearthly Child -- was aired. The Five Doctors wasn't aired in the United Kingdom until August 14th, 1984, marking the first time in the program's history that it aired in the United States prior to airing in the United Kingdom. The episode is now available for purchase on both video and DVD (the DVD contains an enjoyable audio commentary track by Peter Davison and Terrance Dicks). It has also been novelized by Terrance Dicks.

Although the story features the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Doctors, the original actors were not used in all cases. The 1st Doctor (originally played by William Hartnell, who had died in 1975) was played by Richard Hurndall. A short clip from the episode The Dalek Invasion of Earth (a 1964 episode featuring William Hartnell) was played before the theme song of The Five Doctors. The clip was taken from the 1st Doctor's farewell speech to his daughter Susan.

The 4th Doctor was originally played by Tom Baker, but he felt that it was too soon for him to make an appearance in the series (he had only retired from the show 2 years prior). As a consequence, a previously filmed clip of Tom Baker and Lalla Ward (who played Romana) from the episode Shada (which was scheduled to air in 1980 but did not, due to a BBC strike) was used in The Five Doctors.

This episode is the second of three episodes in which multiple Doctors have been united. The other two are The Three Doctors (1972-73, featuring the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Doctors) and The Two Doctors (1985, featuring the 2nd and the 6th Doctors). Because The Five Doctors is an anniversary episode, much of the plot centers around encounters with monsters from previous episodes.

The Story

The 5th Doctor and his companions, Tegan Jovanka and Turlough, begin the episode vacationing at the Eye of Orion (which looks remarkably like the English countryside). After some prattle about the beauty of the place and rainstorms, their vacation is interrupted.

Each of the first four Doctors, along with some of their companions, are being mysteriously captured out of their time streams by some sort of flying vortex. K-9 makes a brief appearance before the abduction of Sarah Jane Smith, warning her of impending danger -- a warning that she ignores. As each previous Doctor is captured, the 5th Doctor feels a twinge of pain. Tegan and Turlough are understandably concerned, because they don't understand what is happening, and the Doctor isn't explaining very well:

"A man is the sum of his memories; a Time Lord even more so."
- 5th Doctor

Eventually it becomes clear that someone is trying to summon all of these Doctors to a place called the Death Zone, on Gallifrey. They are all brought there except for the 4th Doctor and Romana, who get caught in some sort of time loop. In addition to the Doctors, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Sarah Jane Smith, and the Doctor's daughter Susan are all summoned to the Death Zone. And the 3rd Doctor manages to have Bessie, his yellow roadster abducted along with him. Tegan and Turlough are with the 5th Doctor in the TARDIS when it ends up in the Death Zone.

The Death Zone, where they have been brought, is evidently a dark secret in the history of Gallifrey and the Time Lords. In the past it was used as an arena in which various races were pitted against each other in combat, for the amusement of the Time Lords. The vortex that had been capturing them is called the time scoop, and it had not been used in ages.

The current Time Lord High Council is alarmed that the Death Zone has become active again. The Eye of Harmony, the black hole that is the source of the Time Lords' power, is being drained by the use of the Death Zone and the time scoop. Although Lord President Borusa is strongly opposed to it, Chancellor Flavia and the rest of the High Council summon the Master to help them. In desperation they bribe him with the offer of a full pardon for his crimes and a new set of regenerations if he will enter the Death Zone and attempt to help the Doctors. He reluctantly consents. He is given the seal of the High Council, which is intended to prove to the Doctors that he was sent by the High Council. He is also given a device that allows the user to teleport back out of the Death Zone. Having received these items, he is teleported into the Death Zone using a transmat machine.

While the Council is debating with the Master, the 1st Doctor and Susan find one another, and manage to outwit and kill a Dalek (that has also been summoned into the Death Zone). After dealing with the Dalek, they stumble across the 5h Doctor's TARDIS. They wander in and are confronted with Tegan, Turlough, and the 5th Doctor.

Elsewhere, the 3rd Doctor happens across Sarah Jane while driving Bessie around the Death Zone. They get in the car and continue driving. They decide to head to a large tower in the center of the Zone, which the Doctor identifies as the Tomb of Rassilon. Meanwhile the 2nd Doctor and the Brigadier, who were abducted together, decide to make for the Tomb also. The Tomb is alternately referred to as the Tomb of Rassilon, the Tower of Rassilon, and the Dark Tower.

The Master eventually locates the 3rd Doctor, who is still driving around in Bessie with Sarah Jane. The 3rd Doctor immediately suspects the Master of being behind the entire thing, and refuses to believe the Master's claims of innocence. The Doctor believes the seal of the High Council to be a forgery or stolen, and takes it from the Master. While they are arguing about these matters, a laser is fired from the sky, and the Doctor drives off in a hurry while the Master runs for it. Bessie is eventually hit by a laser and they have to continue on foot. Inexplicably, the laser does not fire on them after they leave Bessie.

Meanwhile, the 2nd Doctor and the Brigadier encounter a group of cybermen, but manage to escape from them.

Back in the TARDIS, the 5th and 1st Doctors are arguing about how to proceed. Eventually the 5th Doctor decides to head to the Tomb with Tegan and Susan, while the 1st Doctor remains in the TARDIS. Before going very far, they run into the Master. Like the 3rd Doctor, the 5th Doctor has a hard time believing the Master's story. While they're talking, they are attacked by a group of cybermen. Tegan and Susan run back to the TARDIS. The Master is knocked to the ground, and the Doctor grabs the transmat device given to the Master. He pushes the button on it and disappears.

On the way back to the TARDIS, Susan sprains her ankle. She and Tegan make it back to the TARDIS safely, where it is decided that the 1st Doctor and Tegan will head for the Tomb. Turlough and Susan remain in the TARDIS to hold down the fort.

The Master is captured by the cybermen, and agrees to help them in return for his life. He tells them he will lead them to the Tomb, and he explains that they are being used by the Time Lords in some sort of a game. They decide to keep him alive and dispose of him later, when he has served his purpose.

Much to the 5th Doctor's surprise, he materializes in the chamber of the High Council, indicating that the Master had been telling the truth. Suspicious of how easily the cybermen had found them, he examines the transmat device that he took from the Master. Inside of it he found a homing beacon. The Castellan, who is the member of the High Council who had given the transmat device to the Master, is immediately under suspicion. His quarters are searched and the Black Scrolls of Rassilon are discovered. These scrolls are so evil that they burst into flames when exposed to the light. Although the Castellan claims that he is innocent, President Borusa orders that the mind probe be used to discover the truth. Judging from the Castellan's reaction ("No! Not the mind probe!") this is not a pleasant fate. The Castellan is shot by guards while trying to flee. The Doctor is very suspicious of this, because he had believed the Castellan to be a basically honest man.

Back in the Death Zone, it turns out that the Tomb has three entrances. From above, the front door, and from below. The 2nd Doctor and the Brigadier elect to use the entrance from below, which entails entering a cave. While going through the cave they encounter a yeti, which temporarily traps them in a crevice until they discover a door leading into the Tomb.

The 3rd Doctor and Sarah have elected to enter from above, but they're in a bit of a jam. They are being chased by a group of cybermen. There is a passageway they need to enter, but it is guarded by a Raston Warrior Robot. This being moves faster than the eye can see, and likes to impale people with a seemingly endless supply of silver spears that it has at its disposal. The Doctor and Sarah hide when some cybermen approach. While the Raston Warrior is making short work of the cybermen, the Doctor and Sarah sneak past. They eventually end up on a promontory that is a little higher than the Tomb. The Doctor uses a rope he took from the Raston Warrior's supplies and lassos a spire on top of the Tomb. He and Sarah slide down this rope onto a parapet of the Tomb.

The 1st Doctor and Tegan, of course, choose to use the front door entrance to the Tomb. Before making it very far into the Tomb, they encounter a room that is filled with a checkered floor. The Doctor is suspicious and throws objects across the floor, and discovers that it is a trap. Before he can make much more progress, he and Tegan hear someone approaching. They hide just in time to see the Master and his merry troupe of cybermen enter the room. The Master skips across the checkered floor casually, skips back, and then crosses one final time. Convinced, the cybermen begin to cross the floor, where they are destroyed by the trap (except for the leader who the Master kills using the weapon from one of the fallen cybermen). The Doctor and Tegan emerge from hiding, and before proceeding into the Tomb the Master gives an oblique hint that allows the Doctor to solve the puzzle of the checkered floor and cross safely with Tegan.

Trouble back at the ranch -- in the TARDIS, Tegan and Susan become aware that a group of cybermen is trying to blow up the TARDIS. They begin setting up explosives. It isn't clear why this worries them, because it has been established in other episodes that the TARDIS is pretty near impossible to damage. Susan herself is a Time Lord, or at least the daughter of one, so you'd think she would be aware of this. But in any event, they become terribly worried.

As the various groups delve deeper into the Tomb and get neared to the body of Rassilon himself, the mind of Rassilon begins to prey on them. The Doctors (and presumably the Master) feel it but are able to overcome it. The companions have a harder time, but manage to work through it with the help of the Doctors. Some apparitions also try to convince the groups to turn back. Liz Shaw and Mike Yates appear to the 3rd Doctor, and try to convince him to turn back. He soon realizes they are phantoms and continues on. Jaime and Zoe appear to the 2nd Doctor, but he remembers that their memories were wiped after they left him (in the 1969 episode The War Games), and thus they shouldn't remember him now. Having overcome the phantoms and the dread, the three Doctors converge at the resting place of Rassilon. They immediately start examining the place and attempting to decipher some old writing they find.

Meanwhile, the 5th Doctor discovers a secret room behind the chamber of the High Council. In this room he finds President Borusa and the controls for the time scoop. It is evident that Borusa is behind the entire thing. Before the Doctor can act, Borusa takes control of the 5th Doctor's mind, using the Coronet of Rassilon (yes, everything on Gallifrey is named after Rassilon). Borusa's plan was to use the Doctors to gain access to the Tomb of Rassilon, where legend has it one can claim the prize of immortality. He prepares to transmat into the Tomb with the 5th Doctor in tow.

Back in the Tomb, the Master confronts the Doctors. Although he has a weapon, the Brigadier manages to surprise him and subdue him. Using some controls, the Doctors manage to summon the TARDIS into the Tomb, just as the cybermen detonate their explosives. Susan and Turlough emerge from the TARDIS. At this point the 5th Doctor and Borusa arrive. Borusa promptly uses his mind control powers to render everyone motionless. The Doctors manage to combine their willpower to break free of Borusa's power, but not in time. The mind of Rassilon awakens and offers to give the prize of immortality to Borusa. Borusa removes a ring from the corpse of Rassilon's finger and places it on his own. He discovers too late that the price of immortality it too great. He is forever imprisoned with Rassilon, in the Tomb. He stares out from a bust carved on the side of Rassilon's resting place.

Before returning to his rest, Rassilon sends the Master back to his original time stream, and he frees the 4th Doctor and Romana. Everyone says their goodbyes and leaves, with their respective companions. This is accomplished by entering the TARDIS one group at a time, at which point it dematerializes, but the TARDIS is still left behind for the next group. Before the final group -- the 5th Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough -- can leave, they are confronted by Chancellor Flavia on behalf of the High Council. Flavia wants the Doctor to return and become President of the High Council. The Doctor says he will take the TARDIS back to the High Council chambers, and quickly ushers his companions into the TARDIS and dematerializes, before Flavia can protest. Tegan and Turlough think the Doctor is going to return to serve as President, but he assures them that he is not. He tells them he will be on the run from his own people in a beat-up old TARDIS...

"After all, isn't that how it all started?"
- 5th Doctor





  • Repeated viewings of the episode
  • Some helpful information by Master Villain -- thanks!

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