Anniversaries, or more specifically significant anniversaries, have a long and checkered history in the history of Doctor Who. Technically the 57th Anniversary (or as the THT Brain Wizards like to think of it the Heinz-iversary) isn’t especially notable, but then again this is a site dedicated to Doctor Who History so….
The first significant Anniversary of note, and why not as Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks eventually figured out, was the tenth, and quite frankly the reason for this post and the new caps which adorn it. But there are two obvious problems with The Three Doctors, which otherwise, is fairy-tale like charmer of a story. The first and most obvious is the limited participation of William Hartnell, whose failing health limited him mostly to publicity shots and chiming in from the sidelines once or so an episode. It’s a shame really, but fortunately Dicks was such an adept script-editor he was able to turn this limitation into a positive enabling a focus in the amusing friction between the Troughton and Pertwee Doctors. It also benefited John Levene’s Sgt. Benton. There’s an awful lot of Benton going on in The Three Doctors. The second problem, and we admit it’s a pedantic one, is that while it’s all well and good to have The Three Doctors kick off Season 10, the actual air dates run from December 1972 to January 1973, much closer to the 9th Anniversary than the 10th. Told you it was pedantic.
Because multi-Doctor stories lend themselves to anniversaries, in the case of The Two Doctors at least it does what it says on the tin. It’s just not an anniversary story (or a very good story for that matter).
The Five Doctors, almost, had the timing right, but Tom Baker had well and truly left and as such, despite the ministrations balancing the needs of so many moving parts by Terrance Dicks yet again, isn’t quite all that it could be. But the fact that The Five Doctors works at all despite the heavier burden of nostalgia and sentiment which was bound to happen during the JN-T era is core to it’s charm. We as fans could clearly see the scaffolding under girding the plot, and yet the presence and goodwill of everyone really shown through.
The other flaw in The Five Doctors? November 23rd, 1983 was a Wednesday. The BBC held it until Friday the 25th, which is why we held this post until the 25th, just for consistency mind you. The crueler irony is that here in the states, if you were lucky, got to see The Five Doctors on the true Anniversary day of the 23rd.
That didn’t sit right with us either.