Doctor Who-The Three Doctors (1973)

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Released 11-Nov-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Gallery-Montage - 40th Anniversary Celebration
Featurette-Pebble Mill At One, Includes Patrick Troughton Interview
Featurette-Blue Peter - Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary Of Doctor Who
Featurette-BSB Highlights - Doctor Who Weekend
Featurette-Panopticon1993 -Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning at a convention
Trailer-BBC2 Trailer - The Five Faces Of Doctor Who
Audio Commentary-Katy Manning&NicholasCourtney (Actors)Barry Letts(Producer)
Informational Subtitles
Gallery-Photo
Trailer-BBC 1 Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1973
Running Time 178
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Lenny Mayne
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Jon Pertwee
Patrick Troughton
William Hartnell
Katy Manning
Nicholas Courtney
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Ron Grainer
Dudley Simpson


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
English Information
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    So who really needs an introduction to the very long running BBC television series Dr Who, which ran from 1963 to 1996? Many regard this series with a mix of thoughts: good scientific basis, poor scientific approaches, great acting, hammy acting, cheesy effects (I don't think anyone disagreed with that!), but most of all, it had a certain charm to it, which to me reached its peak in the Jon Pertwee and early Tom Baker eras, which I consider the best of the entire series.

    The earliest series, which we can see on television currently thanks to the ABC celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Dr Who, was generally tainted by very set-like sets, low budgets, stilted dialogue, and most importantly was often stodgy and very poorly paced. However, by the time Jon Pertwee took on the title role in 1970, in "Spearhead from Space", the stories, locations, sets, and pacing were far more sophisticated (note that I didn't include the effects, which had improved, but were still lagging far behind contemporary British shows such as UFO).

    The episodes became really quite exciting, even scary when we were younger, and nearly always culminated with a 'cliff hanger' ending, which was particularly terrible on a Thursday evening episode as it meant having to survive 3 days before finding out what happened!

    Anyway, before I stray too far into fond memories...onto the DVD being reviewed here, the 40th Anniversary release of The Three Doctors. This particular storyline, comprising 4 episodes, first screened in the UK from 30th December 1972 - 20th January 1973, and was released to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the show (albeit a few days early). Whilst I don't consider this amongst the best from the Pertwee era ('special episodes' rarely are), it did bring together the first three actors to play the role (William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee), as well as The Brigadier (played by Nicholas Courtney), and perhaps more importantly featured (in my opinion) the prettiest and 'sexiest' companion of all time, Jo Grant (played by Katy Manning).

    So who's Who's arch enemy in this particular storyline? Omega, a character from the Doctors' past, played in a fine theatrically dramatic way by Stephen Thorne. He also has his menacing 'henchmen', the Gell Guards, who look more than a little like giant walking raspberries, and sometimes walk like Teletubbies. Err...not terribly menacing.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Well this is a TV show from 1972/3 so there needs to be consideration given to its age. However, the packaging does proclaim that the picture and sound has been 'digitally remastered'. So how does it look?

    The episodes are presented in their original screen ratio of 1.33:1 and are obviously full-frame and not 16x9 enhanced.

    There is a noticeable difference in quality between the outdoor scenes, presumably filmed on film, and the on-set footage. The latter looks far sharper and fresher, but with that slight bluish tinge that was common in British TV shows of the era. The constant switching between outdoor and indoor shots, especially in the first 2 episodes, emphasises the difference in quality.

    From the outset, in the outdoor scenes there are clear parallel vertical lines running the full height of the frame, for example at 2:00. These last, or even increase in number, throughout much of the outdoor shots in the early episodes. I believe these are scratches in the film source material, and nothing to do with the transfer, though it would have been nice if they had been cleaned up.

    There is also considerable grain evident in the outdoor scenes, as well as a few positive film artefacts scattered occasionally throughout these scenes, though these artefacts are small and never intrusive.

    The outdoor scenes fare reasonably in terms of colour, but are mostly very soft in appearance, giving away the age of the show.

    There is the tiniest bit of aliasing during close-ups on some of the reflective objects in the indoor scenes, but never to a level that is distracting. Edge enhancement appears to have been applied, again noticeable in the indoor footage.

    Subtitles were provided for the show and were reasonably accurate. There was also a subtitle stream of trivia information (see Extras), as well as subtitles for the commentary track.

    This is a dual layered disc but I couldn't spot the layer change and presume it was placed between episodes, or between the extras.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio on this release has definitely been digitally enhanced as it really sounds fresh and clear at all times.

    There are 2 audio tracks; the original soundtrack, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, as well as the commentary track, presented in the same format.

    Dialogue is clear and undistorted at all times. There appears to be no issue with lip sync.

    The title theme, by Ron Grainer, was wonderful to hear, even multiple times! The incidental music, by Dudley Simpson, combined electronic sound effects and was eerie and helped add to the tension and scariness of the episodes.

    This being a mono soundtrack, the front and rear surrounds had a rest.

    There was occasionally surprisingly deep bass, such as at 6:54 and 74:08 in which the subwoofer was called into play (depending on the system's bass management strategy). I suspect this was enhanced in the recent remastering, as I can't imagine such high fidelity in the TV recording medium in the early 1970s.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There is a fantastic collection of extras on this single-disc release, many of which are supremely valuable and almost worth the purchase price themselves.

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    The main and secondary menus feature short clips from the episodes, including the soundtrack itself.

Commentary Track

    This commentary track brings together Katy Manning (who played Jo Grant), Nicholas Courtney (The Brigadier), and Barry Letts, the producer of The Three Doctors and many other storylines in the series. There is a fantastic rapport between the three, which leads to a fascinating commentary that manages to provide rich background information on the crew and the filming, interspersed with amusing anecdotes. Much of the commentary is not scene-specific, but in this case, who cares? It's clear that they're all having a ball doing this and I really enjoyed listening to it. I've heard similar tracks on other recent 'Who' releases and enjoyed them equally as much.

Subtitle Trivia Track

    A continuous supply of great detailed background information that often, but not always, manages to be somewhat scene-specific. There has obviously been considerable research done for this track and much of this information will be new even to very seasoned fans of the series. It even includes some technical information on how some special effects shots were done. At the end there's a text tribute to the three actors who played the Doctor in this particular storyline, all of whom have sadly passed away:

    William Hartnell, who died in 1975

    Patrick Troughton, who died in 1987, and

    Jon Pertwee, who died in 1996

Featurette - Panopticon 93 (29:00)

    Presented in 1.33:1 full frame and in Dolby Digital mono. There are English subtitles.

    This is basically an on-stage interview with Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning and Nicholas Courtney at a UK Dr Who fan convention in 1993. Pertwee is simply marvellous on stage and exhibits a true comedic sense of fun, which is how I fondly remember him from his roles in Dr Who and Worzel Gummidge. He is just wonderful to watch and listen to, and it is poignant to note that this footage was captured just 3 years before his death.

    About halfway through the interview, he is joined onstage by Katy Manning who still looks stunning in a black miniskirt! She talks about her wonderful years on the show alongside Pertwee. She, too, is clearly enjoying herself and recounts plenty of amusing anecdotes from her time on Dr Who.

    A few minutes from the end, they're both joined by Nicholas Courtney and things only improve even further, despite the slight distortion in Courtney's microphone.

    I loved this particular extra as there was such a tangible rapport and affection between the 3 actors, and they clearly enjoyed being in front of their fans. I felt this extra alone was easily worth buying the disc for.

Featurette - 40th Anniversary Celebration (3:01)

    Presented in 1.33:1 full frame and Dolby Digital surround. Basically this is a collection of footage from all seasons of Dr Who set to a dance remix version of the classic 'full length' title theme music. There are lots of glimpses of all the Doctors, some companions, Daleks, Cybermen and other nasties.

Featurette - Pebble Mill at One (20:45)

    Presented in 1.33:1 full frame and Dolby Digital mono. This extra comprises footage of interviews which appear to have been done for a TV show in the late 70s or early 80s. The first interview is with special effects supervisor Bernard Wilkie, who talks about the many costumes used for monsters in the Dr Who series. Of course there is discussion about the Daleks and Cybermen, though not as much as I would have expected. I'm sure they've been covered elsewhere to death. There is also an outdoor 'fashion parade' of many monsters from the series, including the Gell Guards, Daleks, and Cybermen.

    The second interview is with Patrick Troughton who of course was the second actor to play the role of the Doctor. He talks about his time on the show and still shows the impishness that he displayed in the role!

    The last interview is again with Bernard Wilkie, this time focusing on the special effects props used in various shows. Interestingly, a couple of staged effects don't quite work out. Ah, the joys of live television...

Featurette- Blue Peter  (13:40)

    Presented in the original ratio of 1.33:1 full frame and with a mono soundtrack. This 1973 episode of the long-running UK children's TV show focused on the 10th Anniversary of Dr Who. Jon Pertwee drives onto the stage in the Whomobile and talks about the technical aspects of the vehicle (an actual registered working motor vehicle).

    There is then a look back at the first 10 years of the series showing plenty of scenes from various episodes.

Featurette - BSB Highlights  (10:16)

    Excerpts from a special 1990 screening of the Three Doctors episodes as part of a Dr Who television weekend. The first interview is with Terrance Dicks (script editor) and Nicholas Courtney discussing the episodes. This is followed by an interview with series writers Bob Baker and David Martin on the genesis of K9 (the robot dog), which I consider the start of the downhill slide for the whole series. They also cover the difficulties of writing the Three Doctors script. This featurette is capped off with an interview with Jon Pertwee.

Trailer - Five Faces of Dr Who (4:13)

    A BBC trailer for a special screening of various Dr Who episodes: Logopolis (featuring Tom Baker), Carnival of Monsters (with Jon Pertwee), The Krotons (with Patrick Troughton), and the very first series, An Unearthly Child (William Hartnell). Perhaps the title is a bit of a misnomer as I could only count 4 different 'faces' of Dr Who here.

Trailer - The Three Doctors (0:50)

    The audio from the original 1972 trailer for the Three Doctors mixed with more recently remastered video from the same episode. Presumably the original trailer footage was lost or unrecoverable. I wonder if the scene they chose was deliberately to highlight Katy Manning's accidental revelation of perhaps more than she intended!

Picture Gallery (3:56)

    Presented in 1.33:1 full frame and mono audio.

      A lovely collection of publicity and on-set still photos in both colour and black and white. These are all from the actual filming of the The Three Doctors so make a nice and relevant collection. The presentation is let down a little by the use of chintzy 70s 'computer sounds' combined with atmospheric background noise. I would have preferred perhaps a gentle mix of the title theme music, or even just silence.

    The photos automatically advance at approximately 5 second intervals.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     It appears that this DVD has only been released in the UK and Australia at this stage. The US release appears to be scheduled for March 2004 but I doubt it would be any better than the R4 release we have been provided with.

    There may be one extra missing (TARDIS-cam no.5 - a CGI sequence featuring the TARDIS traversing a pod of space whales) on our R4 release compared to the UK release, but I'm unable to confirm this. Perhaps some reader might shed light on whether this is an Easter Egg on the disc?

Summary

    Occasionally laughable acting by some of the support cast, amusing effects (especially the Raspberries, sorry Gell Guards), and examples of really bad dialogue such as at 16:50 cannot dent the undeniable charm of these episodes. I'd forgotten how serious and 'angry' Jon Pertwee could be in his role as the Doctor. Perhaps The Three Doctors lacked a little of the subtle humour that pervaded much of the entire Dr Who series, especially in the late 60s and 70s. I always found particular enjoyment in the Pertwee era, as well as in many of the early Tom Baker stories. The presence of the impish Patrick Troughton as the second incarnation of the Doctor helped add some levity to proceedings in The Three Doctors.

    This particular story was released for the 10th anniversary of the show and consequently was meant to feature all three actors who had played the role to date. Sadly, however, William Hartnell was gravely ill and apparently could barely speak and couldn't actually stand unassisted, and so his scenes were re-written to include him only via 'monitor' screens. Hence his contribution in this episode barely registers. This was to be his final acting appearance, and he eventually died in 1975.

    The video quality on this release is good, considering the age of the source material. Only the outdoor scenes exhibit extensive grain and a soft image, but the indoor footage looks far, far better. Extensive remastering must have been done to the original material.

    Thankfully the audio has been left in the original mono format without any artificial piping of effects or music into surrounds. However, the soundtrack has obviously been carefully remastered resulting in a clear, fairly dynamic end product.

    There is an amazing quantity of great and valuable extras on this single disc DVD, including a commentary track, a subtitle trivia track, trailers, convention footage and a photo gallery.

    Overall this is a great DVD presentation with a story that was significant on its initial release, and is justifiably released during Dr Who's 40th Anniversary year. Yes, the story could have been better if it had featured say Cybermen or Daleks, or perhaps focused less on the 'novelty' aspect of having the three Doctors. I guess one can't have everything, and it did have Katy Manning (did I mention that earlier?).

    The entire package has been obviously lovingly and painstakingly put together to make this a must-have for any fan of the series. I've already grown more attached to this DVD than any other I've viewed and can imagine it being a much viewed part of my collection. I've rated this highly, not so much because of the technical quality, but because of the myriad extras. I believe there is a more expensive version also available, which is boxed, and contains a model of Bessie, the Doctor's vintage car.

    By the way, fans will be pleased to know (if they didn't already) that the BBC is producing a new live-action series in 2004.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Satish Rajah (don't read my bio!)
Thursday, November 20, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-344 Multi-Region, using Component output
DisplaySony KV-XA34M31 80cm. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2801
SpeakersMain: Mission 753; Centre: Mission m7c2; rear: Mission 77DS; Sub: JBL PB10

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Comments (Add)
Bessie is available too -
Comments on The Three Doctors -
40th Anniversary release of The Three Doctors -
Katy Manning in Melbourne 23/11/03 -
Pebble Mill at One -
missing feature space whales -