Mark Watches Classic ‘Doctor Who’: The Three Doctors

In the Doctor Who serial “The Three Doctors,” an impossible force attacks Gallifrey, forcing the Time Lords to disobey one of the most important Laws of Time by having the Doctor’s timeline visit itself. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch a classic episode of Doctor Who.

I’m curious about the environment I’ve lived in and how that affects my consumption of media. A strange thought passed through my head while watching “The Three Doctors”: Why is it that everyone in older television shows and moves speaks so slowly?

I’m fascinated by the idea and the more I visit cinema and television that I never watched growing up, the more I realize how much faster our forms of media are. From rapid-fire, witty dialogue to explosive plots (literally, I mean), I suppose we’re all used to things that are louder and abrasive.

Last week, on the recommendation from a friend, I started watch AMC’s Rubicon. I was warned that even starting the show was a commitment; there were few things like it that ever aired on television. Saying it was “slow” was an understatement; in fact, the first act of violence/action doesn’t happen until hour seven or eight in the show’s run. Additionally, it’s one of the quietest shows I’ve ever watched, as there are countless scenes without a drop of background music or anything but muted conversation.

(PS: It is REALLY FUCKING GOOD and is worth every second of your attention.)

It brought me back to Doctor Who. While watching “The Three Doctors,” it was more obvious than ever how even this show has changed. When you compare Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant with the first three Doctors present in this serial, the Doctor himself has gotten louder, wittier, and…well, faster.

I’d actually really love if people could give some insight into this, especially you film/history nerds. How did this happen? Why did this happen? Do you prefer one over the other? (For the record, I prefer slower/quieter, for the most part.)

So, “The Three Doctors.” This is a really fun serial with awful special effects, some ridiculous dialogue, and the most monologue-y villain ever committed to film. It’s full of problems and, like most Doctor Who, I really didn’t care. It actually became fun to yell shit at my Netflix, MST3K-style, which included me narrating my own actions to my roommate as if I was Omega.

I am happy that so many of you recommended this episode because, above all else, it gave me a healthy chunk of backstory on the Time Lords, answering a whole handful of questions that were swimming around in my brain. Since I came into this show in the new series, the existence of other Time Lords is simply an impossibility for me. I just don’t even consider it. I think it provides more opportunities for the Doctor to solve conflicts he is faced with, so in a way, it makes me appreciate what the current writing staff has to deal with. They don’t have a planet of time-traveling people to help the main character out. Well, plus it accents the feeling of loneliness throughout the episodes, but that’s an entirely separate point.

Like “The Impossible Planet,” this serial spends a great deal of time talking about black holes and the ramifications of their physical properties. In a similar way, something exists that shouldn’t. In this case, it’s a universe made up entirely of antimatter. Oh. And it was created out of sheer willpower. Oh, and it was created by the engineer who gave the Time Lords the supernova that birthed their time-traveling power.


I liked the story a lot, which gave us the origin of the Time Lords and dealt with the difficult idea that the Time Lords exploited someone else’s work for their own benefit, even if it wasn’t intentional. Having the three Doctors interact with each other was both fascinating and hilarious. The constant bickering between Two and Three seemed appropriate, as it helped accent the subtle differences between the two regenerated bodies of the same person.

The Doctor’s companion, Jo, didn’t seem as active as I’m used to. In fact, he became a running joke of mine to point out how many times the Third Doctor told Jo to do exactly what he said. Kind of bossy, right? The UNIT soldiers were great because even though I was just introduced to them, it wasn’t hard to pick up their characteristics and behavior.

In the end, though, a lot of the side characters were pretty forgettable, but that’s now because of Bob Baker and Dave Martin, who wrote the episode, didn’t write them well. This episode put the Doctors front and center, and they drove the action and the dialogue.

Shall we?


  • The “aliens” in “The Three Doctors” looked like compost heaps. Aside from their claws, they were the least threatening villains imaginable. They were so slow! Just run around a corner and you’re safe.
  • Oh my god, Omega. Seriously, his voice was SO FUNNY. I know I shouldn’t find it so hilarious, but he ACCENTED. EVERY. WORD. AS. IF. IT. WAS. IN. ALL. CAPS. YOU WILL. LISTEN. TO. ME. AND DO. AS. I. SAY. I’m going to talk like him all day.
  • “So you’re my replacements–a dandy and a clown!”
  • There’s a moment in the third part where you can see behind Omega’s mask and there’s a human mouth moving. So when they removed the mask and nothing was there, I yelled, “YOU FUCKED UP.” And then I felt immature and I should punch myself in the face.
  • I giggled when the Brigadier referred to the Cyberment and the Autons. I KNOW WHAT THOSE ARE NOW.
  • Never has a recorder been so funny and so pivotal to the plot.
  • This episode is particularly heavy on physics. In 1972/1973. And over eleven million people watched the fourth part. SERIOUSLY. All of you on the other side of that big pond impress me.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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230 Responses to Mark Watches Classic ‘Doctor Who’: The Three Doctors

  1. who_cares86 says:

    Yeah pacing is a strange thing. It's definitely on the slow side on classic doctor who, often too slow, making certain stories or episodes boring to modern audiences but that's just the way things worked back then. Interestingly in 1977 when star wars first came out it was considered to be very fast paced movie. Nowadays it's a tad on the slow side. The thing about Doctor Who is that it ran from 1963 to 1989 and you can definitely spot an increase in pace as you go through the 80's by the time you reach the Sylvester McCoy era the pacing has definitely gone up a few notches, although that wasn't entirely by choice.

    • Shiyiya says:

      Yeah. The second Three serial I watched, with the Silurians, I gave up partway through because it was three and a half hours and nothing was happening and I was SO BORED.

      • who_cares86 says:

        Even though that story is considered somewhat of a classic but yeah in Pertwee's first season they insisted on making 7 parters to safe on the budget. Needless to say the stories got stretched out a little too much. Although cleverly with Inferno they decided to shift the story into a parallel world in order to get those extra episodes which worked extremely well. In fact that whole season was a huge creative success. Pacing problem aren't necessarily always down to the length of the story, plenty of four parters are boring as hell.

      • samarkand_ says:

        I felt that way about The Green Death. OMGGGGGG JUST GET TO THE POINT.

      • maccyAkaMatthew says:

        You see I love the Silurians, because stuff is happening if you stick with it. There's lots of good character stuff slowly simmering away. In fact I'd apply that to season seven (Pertwee's first) in general.

        The problem, as I've alluded to in the epic post I've just made, is when they're obviously padding to fill time (capture/escape/recapture being the classic format for that).

        By the fourth Doctor they've generally tightened things up. There are some six-parters but, on the whole, they justify their length.

        But I agree with who_cares86, if they've hit a dull idea or messed up the execution then four parts is too long. Luckily, for me, this only happens on a handful of occasions.

        • Shiyiya says:

          I watched through most of it, but I think it's probably better if you're seeing the pieces a week apart as they aired instead of all in a lump.

          • nyssaoftraken74 says:

            Which is a fair point, because that is how they were originally intended to be viewed. Even just a day apart can help with these. Making it an event, always watching it at, say, 7pm, as if that's the only time it's on and if you're late, you miss it. In the 23.5 hours in bewteen, you've lived your life and then you sit down and wonder, `now where were we?` And you get a handy little recap at the beginning

            Also, regarding 6 parters, I think later production teams realised they work better if treated a 4+2 (or 2+4) with the second section doing something different to the first.

            Fast forward to 2005+ and the best 2 parters tend to be the ones where part 2 takes the story in a new direction rather than doing more of what worked in part 1.

  2. Shiyiya says:

    Is there going to be a suggestions thread for the next old Who ep you watch?

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      Yes!!! Promise this time.

      • jackiep says:

        I think that an earlier suggestion was right. Given that the Christmas Specials were made for broadcast months after the often angsty season finale, watching a chunk of Classic Who BEFORE the Chstimas Special might be better. I feel that you'd have enjoyed The Runaway Bride far more if you'd watched it after this.

        In the boxed sets, the Christmas Specials are usually released as the first disk of the following season, so they're probably best seen as the first of the new season rather than the last of the previous.

      • pica_scribit says:

        Why not just keep using the same thread, and watching the other high vote getters instead of having people re-post and re-vote their favourites each time?

        • rys says:

          Though people might suggest different eps based on what Mark has now seen. I recommended Genesis of the Daleks to begin with but now I think I would say one where you see more of the Time Lords.

  3. Tauriel says:

    I have yet to see The Three Doctors, but I’ve seen a few serials with Three and I must say I absolutely LOVE the Brigadier. He has such a classy name. Lethbridge-Stewart, Lethbridge-Stewart, Lethbridge-Stewart. 🙂

    • Jen says:

      I've just started watching the Three Doctors (my first Three serial) and I love the Brigadier! I love his expressions and manner of speaking. I'll definitely have to watch more serials with UNIT. 😀

      • maccyAkaMatthew says:

        The complete history of Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart:

        2nd Doctor:
        The Web of Fear
        The Invasion

        3rd Doctor
        Spearhead from Space
        The Silurians
        The Ambassadors of Death
        Terror of the Autons
        The Mind of Evil
        The Claws of Axos
        The Daemons
        Day of the Daleks
        The Time Monster
        The Three Doctors
        The Green Death
        The Time Warrior
        Invasion of the Dinosaurs
        Planet of the Spiders

        4th Doctor
        Terror of the Zygons

        5th Doctor
        Mawdryn Undead
        The Five Doctors

        7th Doctor

        The Sarah Jane Adventures
        Enemy of the Bane

        • Jen says:

          You are ridiculously helpful! I love it. It's amazing how many doctors he worked with, though I wish there were more serials with him and Two. They have a seriously funny dynamic.

          • PeterRabid says:

            Also, if you're interested in the Big Finish Audio dramas he appears in "The Spectre of Lanyon Moor" with the Sixth Doctor and "Minuet in Hell" and "Zagreus" with the Eighth Doctor.

          • nyssaoftraken74 says:

            >It's amazing how many doctors he worked with

            Well, Nicholas Courtney also worked with William Hartnell, playing a character called Bret Vyon in the (sadly mostly missing) Daleks' Master Plan. He's also played the Brig opposite Colin and Paul on the Big Finish Audios, The Spectre of Lanyon Moor and Minuet in Hell, respectively.

            (Oh, and dare I mention he was also in Dimensions in Time?)

    • Elliott Mason says:

      I aDOOOOOOOOOre the Brig. Incidentally, his first name is Alistair: how perfect is that? He carries around his own little bubble of disbelief that anything unusual could EVER be going on (and it's on full comic display in The Three Doctors).

      One thing that torqued me off as I began to watch New!Who was the total lack of UNIT — did they get disbanded in budgetary cutbacks? Did Thatcher decide it was all flaptwaddle and withdraw the UK from it? &c. There's Torchwood, but that's not quite the same thing … and as the Torchwood references start flying fast and furious, you start realise they're doing a lot of the job that UNIT used to do, in Old!Who.

      Anyway. BRIG BRIG BRIG! He's such a total straightfaced parody of A Type — clearly, he was modeled on all the old BBC WWII movies that also led the Pythons to invent the "Sergeant-Major Marching Up And Down The Square!" sketch and other similar.

      • maccyAkaMatthew says:

        UNIT are in Aliens of London although they all end up dead. Then they're under the Tower of London in The Christmas Invasion (they're not named because the UN got a bit shirty about the UNIT website* that the BBC made for Aliens of London but it's on all the doors). We haven't seen them between then and The Runaway Bride, but I'd say they're still around. I'd be tempted to keep an eye on Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures as well, if I were watching them.

        Historically, though, UNIT were phased out of the series from 1975-76, ignored after that until a brief mention in 1982. Then a retired Brig gets a guest role (without UNIT) in 1983 before popping up in The Five Doctors later that year. After that, there's no UNIT until the final season, in 1989.

        And, of course, they're not in old Who at all until their first appearance, in The Invasion in November 1968.

        (password is "buffalo" or else it's "bison")

      • Tauriel says:

        Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. 😉 How can you NOT love someone with that kind of a name? 😀

    • nyssaoftraken74 says:

      The Brigadier gets all the best lines!

      Three Doctors…I didn't know when I was well off!

      Nonsense, that's a beach out there. Norfolk or somewhere like that. Probably Cromer!

      *Stepping inside the TARDIS* So this is what you've been doing with UNIT funds!

      As long as he does the job, he can wear what face he likes.

      Splendid chap…both of them.

  4. LizBee says:

    It's true, watching Classic Doctor Who (or, indeed, any TV from another era) needs a big shift of expectations re: pacing and dialogue. I'm currently watching '90s Star Trek, and even those shows seem pretty dated.

    Jo is one of my favourite companions, but her usefulness tends to vary a lot depending on who's writing. At her best, she's kooky and clever, with skills and perspective the Doctor needs. At worst, with writers who don't really care, she's a ditz. But she once saved the universe while the Doctor dithered, so I love her.

    • who_cares86 says:

      Depends which 90's trek. Deep Space Nine holds up pretty well, I think. Next Gen hasn't aged well and Voyager is definitely starting to show it's age now.

    • maccyAkaMatthew says:

      I've always liked Jo as well. The Doctor is very authoritarian with her, and sometimes quite patronising, but the obvious fondness they share and times when Jo gives as good as she gets balance that out for me.

      I can even retcon lines like "I know I'm extremely dim" to be tongue-in-cheek if I squint hard enough.

      • nyssaoftraken74 says:

        And her line about, "I've made my choice, Doctor, and I'm sticking with you," is the same sentiment as Rose.

    • sabra_n says:

      Yeah, if you listen to interviews of television writers who have been in the business for a while, they talk about how everything is more…sort of compressed. There are more scenes per episode and each scene is shorter and faster.

      *waves hi to lizbee* Fancy seeing you here. 🙂

  5. illusclaire says:

    Edutainment: Britain has it!

  6. psycicflower says:

    I love the bickering between Two and Three and then One just being above them both.
    <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

    I do have a soft spot for Three because he’s the first Classic Doctor I watched a few episodes of, the first few of series 8 for those who know, so I was happy that I knew who Jo, the Brig, Benton and Bessie were. I've seen the first One story but I've never seen any of Two before. I love them all though.

    Oh Omega. I love him. At one point when he came out shouting 'WHAAAAAAT' I laughed out loud. You also have to love that impressive get up, He really knows how to work a cape. On a similar note I also love Time Lord clothes. I think I just like a good cloak.

    I think the thing about Classic Who is that you do have to take into account when it was made and the type of budget it had to work with. I mean it's the shaky sets and bad special effects that are part of the nostalgia of the show. For me growing up between series it was that as much as the associations with hiding behind the sofa that summed up Doctor Who.

    Everytime the theme tune came on between parts, I just thought of that Craig Ferguson ‘lost’ opening. 'Intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.'

    I’d really love a modern multi Doctor story. I mean we have at least four potential Doctors whose appearance hasn’t really changed in Eight, Nine, Ten and Eleven so you wouldn't have to worry about explaining aging.

    • Shiyiya says:

      They don't seem to care about explaining aging – I mean, look at Time Crash. Though I bet McGann would be thrilled to be in a proper serial.

      Also, New Who should bring back Bessie. Bessie is awesome.

      • psycicflower says:

        I think in Time Crash they stuck in a techno babble line to explain why Five looked older so I guess they could just as easily do that again. BTW For Mark or those watching along don't watch Time Crash until after series 3 because it's spoilery.

        I love Bessie but I suppose since the Doctor isn't really based in one place anymore it's not practical. I'd like to think she's somewhere in the TARDIS though.

        • Shiyiya says:

          She turned up briefly during Seven's run, they could do that again! (And apparently she's in some Eight audio dramas.) Though UNIT is so different now, all black ops instead of the blustering disbelieving Brigadier.

      • PeterRabid says:

        Even though McGann is a decade and a half older, that could easily be because the Eighth Doc has been running around for goodness knows how long. He could've been a crotchety old man when he regenerated. Fingers crossed for the 50th anniversary in 2013!

        • swimmingtrunks says:

          And depending on who was actually in the Time War, Eight or Nine, I imagine going through that would put at LEAST a few years on you. Seriously though, if no one else, can we please give McGann an appearance in the series proper?

          • PeterRabid says:

            My fangirlish dream would be "The Four Doctors" with Docs Eight through Eleven, but mostly I just really want McGann to get his fair share of screentime.

          • Hotaru-hime says:

            I imagine Eight turned into Nine during the Time War.

            • Elliott Mason says:

              The way I read his behavior in the very first New!Who ep, I think he'd just regenerated. He spends some time looking in mirrors in Jackie's apartment, messing with his teeth and so on.

              Which means that Eight got most of the Time War, if not all of it … avoiding the fanwank of all pre-Time-War Doctors now being inaccessible, because of the WE DO NOT SPEAK OF IT whateverness that divides that world from this, now.

    • Jen says:

      I love that lost opening and the whole episode is pretty fantastic. Craig Ferguson in general is pretty fantastic, come to think of it.

      I agree that a modern multi Doctor story would be amazing. The 50th anniversary is coming up so maybe they'll plan one for that series.

    • pill says:

      is that…matt smith in a dress at the end?

    • Amanda says:

      I would watch that, and I am pretty sure it would be AWESOME

  7. elusivebreath says:

    Oh crap, I forgot you were watching this one and I went and watched the first episode of Series Three last night. Guess I know what I'm doing tonight, lol.

  8. kaybee42 says:

    Ohhhhhhh this episode! I love Classic Who SO much! And OMEGA! Lovelovelove 😛

  9. kytten says:

    Dr Who is such a uniquely BBC British thing in a lot of ways. You may or may not know that we pay a license fee to have a tv in this country, and that fee funds the BBC. It used to be felt- and still is, to an extent- that something as frivolous as pure entertainment isn't worth a license fee, so entertainment has to have something else behind it. Education, a message…

    It's not as prevalent now, but it still exists, and it's one of the reasons the BBC is very good at doing shows that have multiple elements to it. With comeptition from other channels, which sell advertising to create their budgets some feel the BBC has gone slightly downhill in the entertainement it offers, simply to compete with them.

    • kytten says:

      Oh, an on our rewatch of classic who we started with this, as we made a decision not to watch incomplete serials but still wanted to see 1 and 2. We then watched all of 3 and 4, and are currently on 5.

    • jackiep says:

      One of the original aims of Doctor Who was educational, so the idea was that they'd have a science teacher who'd explain away at the science in the future bits and a history teacher who'd help to fill in on the history stuff, with them moving between future and past in more-or-less alternate adventures. Oh and absolutely NO BUG EYED MONSTERS! Well, that last rule went quickly didn't it?

    • EmmylovesWho says:

      "With comeptition from other channels, which sell advertising to create their budgets some feel the BBC has gone slightly downhill in the entertainement it offers, simply to compete with them."

      Damn Rupert Murdoch and his ilk, ruining my BBC.

      • kytten says:

        It doesn't help that the newspapers he runs drum up hate against anything the BBC show ever.

        • EmmylovesWho says:

          Especially the Sun.

          • kytten says:

            That's not a newspaper, it's cheap toilet paper with writing on it.

            We call it 'The Scum'.

            • virtual_monster says:

              I wouldn't even use it for that.

              • kytten says:

                Point. It would jsut make the situation worse, like everything else.

                At least it's not The Daily Mail. That would give me arsehole cancer (I am seriously starting to suspect that The Mail is actually cancerous and their constant stories about what else will give you cancer are a blind) for a hilarious of things that are cancerous according to teh mail.

                I feel I must apologise to non-british readers of these rants- The sun and the mail are tabloid newspapers that work by misrepresenting facts and drumming up hate and fear. A lot of people really don't like them.

    • FlameRaven says:

      Popping in just to say that, when I was younger and first heard mention of the British TV license, my mind was just boggled. "What? They have to PAY just to own the TV?!" I couldn't understand it. Paying for cable was something I knew about (although we had a hacked cable box so we didn't actually pay for that either) but paying just to own the TV seemed really strange.

      I have to say that today, as someone who owns a TV that isn't actually hooked up to receive any signal and exists just for DVDs, Netflix, and video games, the license fee still breaks my mind a little. I understand the general idea, but it still seems really strange.

      • kytten says:

        It makes more sense when you know that The Beeb was the first and only channel when the TV first arrived, wasn't government funded and refused to be funded by advertising, so they had to get their money somehow.
        Also, it's a very- British attitude to new tech. "You want this funky new thing? PROVE you have the responisbility to use it."

        Being funded by public money also gives the Beeb two things- a mandate to work in the public interest, which is why so many cutting edge/brilliant/revelatory shows and a set of strict rules they cannot break without losing the money. In theory (not always in practice) it means the BBC are more accountable for what they broadcast, unlike advertising-funded shows, who are accountable to their funders and their shareholders.

        • FlameRaven says:

          Ah, that does make more sense. Wikipedia also tells me that the US is pretty unusual in that we don't have a national broadcasting channel; instead there are tons of local public channels, and apparently a couple state channels.

      • Brielle says:

        Actually, you wouldn't have to pay to own your TV in Britain. There are some odd rules around TV licensing, but one of them is that you only have to pay if you watch live television, whether on your TV or online. Obviously it can be a bit difficult to prove that (although the inspectors actually have no right to enter your home uninvited, so people evading the fee tend to just ignore them if they come round), but them's the rules.

        Also, this entire topic has reminded me to rewatch 'I'm Proud of the BBC' ( which is one of my favourite things ever. It just makes me happy.

        • Elliott Mason says:

          I just wish the Beeb would let me pay a TV license fee from overseas, to let me watch iPlayer stuff of the things that will never never make it over to the American TV market, or do so on a multi-year delay.

          There are literally nearly a hundred shows that have BBC box sets in the UK that I cannot obtain over here, and would love to watch. Well, I can watch them on YouTube or Daily Motion if someone happens to have ripped them, but that's it — and I'd love to support the Beeb financially for the enjoyment I get out of them.

          But they won't let me. *sniffle*

      • electric ashera says:

        I live in Japan, which also has a tv license fee for the national channel, NHK. Of course, like many Japanese laws the tv license fee is a basically unenforceable creation that one pays out of a sense of duty or appropriateness. For the rest of us (I turned on my tv to WATCH TV ONCE, for the Olympics last year), avoiding/not paying the NHK guy (who comes round to check if you have a tv/collect your fee) is something of a fun game/challenge.

  10. who_cares86 says:

    So Pertwee or Troughton?

    Poor Troughton so much of his material has been lost and he's so good and funny as the Doctor, I really love him as the Doctor but the more I watch of Pertwee the more I think that he could just be the definite article. Ah damn why are all the versions of the Doctor so awesome there's no picking favourites because they're all fantastic in their own special way.

    • nanceoir says:

      I'd really like to see more of Patrick Troughton's Doctor, if for no other reason than recorders are awesome, and I want to see more Doctor + recorder. Plus, he sort of reminds me of Ed Wynn.

      (I was in an early music ensemble in university, which is where I grew to love recorders. I have soprano, alto, and tenor ones, for fun, really; I love the mellow sound they make.)

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      Oh god, I can't choose yet. I need to see more of them!

      • The Two Doctors is Troughton and Six. I like it; the baddies chew a lot of scenery and spout some utterly RIDONKULOUS technobabble. Plus, it was shot in Spain and has pretty scenery and a ridiculous expat brit civilian.

        • samarkand_ says:

          It also features The Worst Sontarans EVER and bonus cannibalism!

          I'd go for Tomb of the Cybermen, or–for those with lots of free time on their hands–The War Games.

      • who_cares86 says:

        Well that's good isn't it? Part of the fun is discovering all the different doctors and what makes them tick.

      • nyssaoftraken74 says:

        >Oh god, I can't choose yet. I need to see more of them!

        Very wise. I think you should stipulate that your next slice of Classic Who should be another Doctor you haven't seen yet. (I don't count you as having seen the Original, for obvious reasons.)

    • PeterRabid says:

      I find it impossible to choose who my favorite Doctor is. It used to be automatic for me: Tennant! Then Matt Smith started growing on me. When I went back to Classic series, I literally could not pick. Now Tennant's not even in my top three (although that varies). Troughton's usually up there, and Pertwee sometimes makes it.

      Plus, I recently started listening to Six's audios and he has forcibly and quite pompously clawed his way up to second or third.

    • jennywildcat says:

      Paraphrasing David Tennant (who, in turn, paraphrased the Brigadier) – I believe the proper response is "Splendid chap – all of him."

      • nyssaoftraken74 says:

        The Doctor has never been miscast. If an actor faltered in the role, it was a case of the production team and/or the wider BBC letting the show down. Consequently, I always try to draw a distinction between a particular Doctor (as in the lead actor's performance) and a particular Doctor's *era* (as in the stories written for him). Because sadly, it is the nature of TV for the lead actor(s) to get the blame.

        Film is a bit different, where people are perhaps more aware of the Director and/or production company. (Yes, George Lucas, I'm looking at you.) But on TV most casual viewrs only see the actors. A good actor can make a good script better, but no-one can make a poor script good.

        • nyssaoftraken74 says:

          And beyond the script, production flaws are too often unfairly levelled at the door of the actors. For example, `I don't like Peter Davison because his episodes are always overlit.` What does the lighting have to do with Peter Davison? Overlighting might be a flaw of his era, but that's irrelevant to his portrayal of the Doctor.

          My point is to reiterate that there is something to enjoy from all eras of the show. In fact, I think I say it best in my signature line on Gallifrey Base:

          `All Doctor Who is brilliant. It's just that some parts are more brilliant than others.`

  11. swimmingtrunks says:

    Yeah, this was definitely slow picking up, but once it got into it I was kind of surprised how funny it was. My amusement shifted from those awful monsters and special effects (way to draw a face on to an X-ray, guys! A stunning likeness.) to the bickering between Two and Three and the Brig's confusion. I haven't seen any of Three's serials, but I have seen a few of Two's before and I love his clownishness and ridiculous bowl cut. Poor William Hartnell, you could tell he was reading his lines off cue cards and having a hard time even doing that. I'm kind of confused as to why he was stuck in a triangle, aside from production reasons. Did I miss an explanation?

    I actually enjoyed some of the conceptual stuff in this one more than I have in most of NuWho. I really liked the idea of Omega existing only because he thought he did- a more literal "I think therefore I am"- with no body or anything to support his being. That said, whatever the hell that fight with Three was was hokey and crazy and hilarious. I understand it was supposed to be sort of metaphorical, but… What? What??

    • psycicflower says:

      They said that One was trapped in a time eddie and the Time Lords couldn't spare enough energy while fighting the anti-matter thing to get him out, just enough to communicate.

      • swimmingtrunks says:

        Thanks for that! I had gotten that they didn't have enough energy to send him there, but I missed the thing about the time eddie. I do find myself zoning out during some of the dialogue on these Old Who episodes, not sure if it's a pacing thing or a sound quality thing or what.

    • Elliott Mason says:

      In re the 'fight the dark side of my mind' scene: If you haven't seen much Pertwee, you wouldn't know that one thing that distinguishes that regen from most of the others is his seeming familiarity with 'martial arts' — meaning, judo-flips and unexplained physical hand-to-hand takedowns for the purpose of advancing the plot without shooting someone.

  12. Fusionman says:

    “It actually became fun to yell shit at my Netflix, MST3K-style, which included me narrating my own actions to my roommate as if I was Omega.”

    Yes! It’s also fun to do a Dalek voice while chatting to people.

    I think the speed of the Doctor is because A. It’s no longer in serial format. B. The actors are younger and C. how media itself has sped up.

    Now trivia time.
    A. This was the very last time William Hartnell AKA the First Doctor appears in Doctor Who. He passed away soon after. He was also too ill to play a more active role in the story. Instead his scenes were filmed in Ealing Television Film Studios while he read his lines from cue cards.
    B. Neither the Third nor the Second Doctor seems to recognise Jo’s reference to the song “I Am the Walrus” by The Beatles. How odd.
    C. Jelly Babies make their debut on Doctor Who when the Second Doctor offers one to the Brigadier. Several years later, jelly babies became the confection of choice of the Fourth Doctor and continued to be referenced from time to time on the series for many years thereafter. Huh. How bizarre.
    D. Originally Omega’s name was supposed to be Ohm, the word resulting from turning “WHO” upside-down.

    Sorry for not having much.

    • kaybee42 says:

      Ooooh I never knew D! I think they are both cool names 🙂

    • Tauriel says:

      Actually, it still is, in a way. The symbol for ohm (unit of resistance) is an uppercase omega. 😀

    • nyssaoftraken74 says:

      E. This story features a new TARDIS interior set, this time designed by Roger Liminton and based closely on the original. The previous one, which had appeared only in The Time Monster, had been disliked by the production team and had in any case been damaged in storage so that it was no longer useable.

      (Blatantly nicked from the BBC website, so I can't claim too much credit.)

      • maccyAkaMatthew says:

        Here's the Time Monster one:

        <img src=""&gt;

        It's lucky it got warped in storage, since it was a brand new set. Up to that point, with the Doctor stranded on Earth, he didn't go inside the TARDIS very much, so they got by on what was left of the 1960s set. That's why the Brig and Benton are so surprised by the inside of the TARDIS in this one. Somehow, I think if that set had survived, Barry Letts would have had a hard time justifying the budget for new one.

        Someone's collected images of all the different TARDIS interiors over here (it stops in 1996, with the TV movie):

        The rest of that page of the thread is slightly spoilery since they're speculating about series five. Subsequent pages are no doubt really spoilery.

    • doesntsparkle says:

      Not really Dr. Who trivia, it's kinda cool that Patrick Troughton is the grandfather of Harry Melling, the actor who plays Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter Movies.

      • Fusionman says:

        That’s close enough trivia for me! That’s pretty sweet to know.

        • doesntsparkle says:

          I think that pretty much every British actor has some connection to Harry Potter, Doctor Who, or Jane Austen movies. On that note, The King's Speech is pretty trippy.

          • fusionman says:

            There's only so many equity actors the Brits can use. 😛

            Seriously in a future episode Micheal Gambon (DUMBLEDORE) appears.

      • who_cares86 says:

        It gets freakier William Russell (Ian Chesterton) is the father of Alfie Enoch (Dean Thomas). He was 64 when he had him with his second wife.

      • maccyAkaMatthew says:

        And David Troughton, who is in The Curse of Peladon and another story (coming up) is Patrick's son (and Harry's uncle). David's son Sam (Harry's cousin) played Much in Robin Hood.

        Also, William Russell, who played Ian Chesterton, one of the first group of companions, is the father of Alfie Enoch, who plays Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter films.

    • Donald G says:

      More trivia: Costume designer James Acheson went on to win Oscars for costuming in feature film and did the costuming for at least the first Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire Spider-Man film.

  13. Selthia says:

    I enjoyed this one. It feels like Two completely steals the rug right out from under Three (I am not complaining at all about this, Two was absolute gold every time he was on screen). It's a shame he's missing so many serials.

    • Jen says:

      I'm loving Two so much. I'm new to Old Who so the news that he's missing a lot of serials is disappointing. 🙁

    • samarkand_ says:


      I would trade all of Four's run to get back the lost Two serials. 🙁

    • MowerOfLorn says:

      The interesting thing about Two, is that while he's not many of the viewer's favourite Doctor (this tends to go to Four or Ten, with occasional 'favourites' to every other), the actors playing the Doctor tend to draw a lot from Two.

      Matt Smith in particular has said he asked for his costume to be similar to that Doctor's, and his performance channels a lot of those mannerisms.

      • I thought his tweed coat and red bowtie were references to the 3rd Doctor..

        • nyssaoftraken74 says:

          Well that's an interesting little misconception. Smith has a troughton-esque silhouette (although the hand gestures are very Hartnell). However, while an actual tweed jacket is an image of what people seem to *think* the Doctor is like, it has in reality never been done before. The bowtie could be seen as a reference to Troughton or Pertwee, but he does have a soft spot for Troughton.

  14. Spugsy says:

    I actually really enjoyed this one, I think more so than City of Death. The plot was much better than I'd expected and I'm actually looking forward to my next dose of classic Who (I have only ever seen these 2)

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      It really is fun to go back and watch these. Way more serials than they have now, too.

      • Elliott Mason says:

        That's because modern one-hour eps have as much plot as old four-parters used to … it's really about on par if you do a 4:1 sort of ratio.

        You have nearly seen enough Old!Who to make watching The Curse of Fatal Death as funny to you as it needs to be — for that, you really need to see at least one serial with The Master in it so you get allllll the jokes, instead of just most of them.

        TCoFD will change how you watch all Who, forever, in the same way that Scream changes horror flicks.

        It is also the first script by The Moff ever filmed officially for Who — but it's not nightmare fodder, for once. Clearly it is indeed what happens when you let the fanboys write for the show, though. And in the case of TCoFD, make the sets, too — the daleks and TARDIS console used were made by obsessive fans making fanfilms (because the BBC's originals were either not kept or not usable anymore).

  15. Albion19 says:

    Just finished this! I love watching old Who and picking up aspects of past Doctors in the more recent Doctors. Clothes, vocal tics, ways of sitting etc

    Can't wait for tomorrow 😀

  16. samarkand_ says:

    Our expectations for TV change the more the very existence of TV itself is taken for granted. There's a great interview with RTD and DT (well, it's DT interviewing RTD–and I think I'm right about which interview I'm thinking of) where RTD talks about how once upon a time just a picture moving on TV was A BIG DEAL, and just being able to sit in your living room and watch a bunch of white dudes sit around a table and talk in a whole other location entirely was MASSIVE. The reason Doctor Who was so popular, even though to us now it looks slow and kind of dull, was because it *wasn't* just a bunch of dudes sitting around a table and talking. Other things happened! OMG! Amazing!

    But now, of course, other things happen on TV all the time, so it's no longer impressive. TV trains us to have a certain set of expectations that is sort of our baseline level of "Oh hey, okay, that's nice." Anything that exceeds or confounds those expectations is MINDBLOWING. Once upon a time, the baseline level was simply "People in a room acting out a play" so a situation where there were aliens and action and running down corridors was WHOA MINDBLOWING! But now that aliens and action and running down corridors is the baseline of "Oh, that's nice" then TV needs to up the pace, up the action, up the effects, up the drama, up the emotion, in order to move into the MINDBLOWING zone.

    This is why I really don't begrudge any modern Who fan for not being able to get into old Who. The slow pacing isn't a deliberate choice in order to make it more high-minded and cerebral. The slow pacing is a relic of a time when *even slower pacing* was the norm and people would watch Doctor Who and go, "I don't know why you kids today need all these whiz-bang effects and running about in order to ~appreciate telly!" I don't think that it's a mark of sophistication to still be able to dig an old style of media, it's just another preference amid many.

    tl;dr expectations change and the new normal replaces the old normal, and there are also fads and trends in style of acting/writing/directing, along with technological advances (moving cameras is something we take for granted now, that give scenes a sensation of being faster-paced and more tense, but there was a time when cameras really had to be locked off for technical reasons).


    • Jen says:

      This is an awesome comment! Do you have recommendations for more Two serials? I'm loving him.

      • samarkand_ says:

        My heart just grew three sizes!

        A lot of Two has been lost, because the old tapes were destroyed, alas. However, I'm a big fan of The Tomb of the Cybermen (the First and Second Doctor era Cybermen are extremely squicktastically creepy, much more so than later versions, imo), The Mind Robber, and his last serial, The War Games (which is 10 parts, and basically amounts to 90 minutes worth of action stretched out over 5 hours, BUT is worthwhile to watch nonetheless). He also appears in The Five Doctors (which is really three-and-a-half Doctors, as it features Two, Three, and Five, plus a stand-in for One and some stock footage of Four), and the Two Doctors (with Six and… I don't even know how to explain what the hell is going on in that one but it's 100% crack).

        • Jen says:

          I'll have definitely have to track these down. Creepy Cybermen and 100% crack sounds good to me. Thanks! 😀

          • maccyAkaMatthew says:

            It's actually quite easy to list the complete or almost complete serials for two, since there are so few of them:

            In chronological order (on DVD unless marked otherwise)

            Season 4 (1966-67)
            The Moonbase (2 of 4 episodes missing, on the "Lost in Time" DVD, with soundtracks of the missing episodes)

            Season 5 (1967-68)
            Tomb of the Cybermen (4 episodes)*
            The Ice Warriors (2 of 6 episodes missing, issued on VHS with a reconstruction to bridge the gap, no DVD release yet)

            Season 6 (1968-69)
            The Dominators (5 episodes)
            The Mind Robber (5 episodes)
            The Invasion (8 episodes, 2 animated with soundtrack)
            The Krotons (4 episodes, got a VHS release, not on DVD yet*)
            The War Games (10 episodes)

            The Dominators through to The Krotons is full run of stories and the first three lead in to each other (although you can easily watch them out of order). The Dominators doesn't have a great reputation, while The Krotons only fares a bit better. All the others are pretty solid, though, and Doctor Who is always worth watching, I think.

            If you watch The Invasion you get to see the Brigadier and Benton and UNIT for the first time and "that business with the Cybermen". The Brig first appears (as a captain) in The Web of Fear, which is sort of a prequel to The Invasion and a sequel to The Abominable Snowmen. Unfortunately, only one episode of each of those two stories still exists – they're on the "Lost in Time" DVD.

            There are soundtracks for all the stories with missing episodes available on CD, with linking narration. And there are various fan projects to reconstruct missing episodes with still images and the soundtrack. This is the most famous one:

            Stuff not on DVD can often be found floating around the web in the usual places.

            *available legally to watch here (may only work in the UK):

            The Tomb of the Cybermen

            The Krotons

            • Scarecrow says:

              It's not a full run of stories, you forgot The Space Pirates, The Magnificant Trout's penultimate tale!

              • nyssaoftraken74 says:

                I think you misread. He said The Dominators to The Krotons is a full run, although that unbroken run can be extended by 1 story to The Seeds of Death.

                In other words, The Space Pirates is the only 1 missing from Troughton's last season.

                • maccyAkaMatthew says:

                  I missed out Seeds of Death! Damn. But that's what I meant to say, yes. With the animation of the missing two episodes of The Invasion we now have a full run of season six, except for the The Space Pirates, with its single surviving episode.

                  So, my final list (I can't edit now there have been replies) should have read:

                  Season 6 (1968-69)
                  The Dominators (5 episodes)
                  The Mind Robber (5 episodes)
                  The Invasion (8 episodes, 2 animated with soundtrack)
                  The Krotons (4 episodes, got a VHS release, not on DVD yet*)
                  The Seeds of Death (6 episodes)
                  The War Games (10 episodes)

                  Can't be bothered to redo the italics…

                  • nyssaoftraken74 says:

                    It's a miracle I got The Seeds of Death right – I'm always getting that one mixed up with Tom Baker's The Seeds of Doom.

                    • maccyAkaMatthew says:

                      When they made The Seeds of Doom the idea that any story would get a video release was a completely alien one. So it just didn't occur to them that anyone would confuse the two.

                      And although The Seeds of Doom got a Target novelisation in 1977, they didn't get around to The Seeds of Death until 1986.

                    • nyssaoftraken74 says:

                      That is true, although it's interesting that I don't have such problems with other similar titles. Just this one. (well, these two. You knwo what I mean.)

                      This is really random trivia now, but I've got nothing better to do, so:

                      There are 5x `Planet of ____` titles in classic Who and 2 since its return.
                      4x `The ____ Planet` up to 1989 and just 1 since 2005.
                      7 titles containing the word `Time` 1963-1989 and already 4 from 2005-10.

                      (This is ignoring the individual episode titles used from An Unearthly Child to the final part of The Gunfighters.)

            • maccyAkaMatthew says:

              Just noticed that the Krotons link got screwed up by formatting problems. Here's a working version:

  17. Lemone says:

    Every time Omega’s aliens showed up I went “the trash heap has spoken! Nyyyeeeeeehh~!” Because I am a simple, silly creature.

    I love “The Three Doctors” because it does such a lovely job of showcasing each Doctor’s personality. I’m especially found of ONE. He’s so crotchety. <3

    Too bad 'The Five Doctors' isn't streaming on Netflix, I'd love to see that.

    • Elliott Mason says:

      There's a guy over on DailyMotion (they go by TardisMedia) that has an impressive selection. Not, I discovered, exhaustive: no Face of Evil, or Talons of Weng-Chiang, or several others I tried), but wide-ranging, and including 5 Doctors. Plus The Curse of Fatal Death, which is practically unobtanium, AND its behind-the-scenes stuff as originally aired.

      • Lemone says:

        Oooooooooo~! I’ll have to look him up when I get home. Especially for that “The Curse of Fatal Death.” It just has such a cool name!

        • Elliott Mason says:

          In re The Curse of Fatal Death: YOU ARE NOT PREPARED. No one can BE prepared. It is distilled Whovian crackfic, filmed BY THE BEEB, with a crudton of well-known actors chewing scenery like they think they're beavers on speed.

          I'd been hearing about this thing for over a decade, and soooo sad that it did not exist on dvd anywhere. I'd heard ABOUT what happens in it. You'd think this would make me prepared, but I WAS NOT PREPAAAARED!

          Pure. Awesome.

    • Amanda says:

      Hee, Fraggle Rock reference. You could check Veoh for the Five Doctors, that's where I found it

  18. jackiep says:

    Doctor Who is really a complete history of tv in one show. The first few series were more or less a weekly half-hour play, filmed the day before broadcast in a theatrical style with the production crew only allowed two actual edits per episode. Even costume changes are far as possible were timed as in live theatre, ideally in half an hour. As the Sixties wore on, more edits were allowed and more location filming happening, which meant that some scenes were being shot out of sequence and edited in later. As the Seventies came in, there was colour (and the extra expense that caused for sets, just like HD today is having an impact) and although things were largely shot in sequence, there were more and more times when things were also being shot by set (studio floor space was limited, so sets had to be assembled and disassembled to make room for other programs every week). More edits were now allowable and shooting by the end of the Seventies took place over a couple of evenings every week, plus location shooting. However very much the theatrical traditions, including the show must go on when somebody dried or fluffed their lines. The notion was to carry on and make the scene work (in fact in this era, one of the duties of the Leading Man in a tv show was to swear profusely if he thought that a take was going badly wrong in order to force a retake. Only he had the authority to do that, so heaven help a lesser actor attempting the same!).

    The Eighties showed the process continuing, but still very theatrical. It's noticeable that until the mid-eighties there was a tv philosophy that if there's seven people in a scene, then as far as possible they're in almost every shot. They now had lots of cameras and more special effects were being put in later, so filming was now often weeks before broadcast and increasingly out of sequence.

    Now it's being shot effectively as 45-minute movies. Scene by scene, out of sequence with normally two or three episodes being shot at any one time as location demands. Single camera (as opposed to multi-camera sound stages where the track of every camera had to be carefully worked out when designing the sets) and often line by line with multiple takes of each line to allow for editing choice.

    Watching the same show over nearly 50 years' worth of episodes really does inform on how tv has evolved over the years and also how the audiences have been expected to react, frmo needing everything ponderously explained in the early 1960s to expecting them to keep up with short, sharp changes today.

    • nyssaoftraken74 says:

      Yes, and the reason for the stark contrast between Classic and New Who is simply because of the whopping great 15 year gap, barring the TV Movie, which is a very different beast.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        Is the TV movie really that bad?

        • maccyAkaMatthew says:

          No. The Doctor is brilliant in it and some of the bad stuff is very enjoyably bad.

          But it's an object lesson in how not to start a series. If you compare it to Rose or An Unearthly Child or even Spearhead from Space (which is sort of a reboot for a new era in colour with UNIT and the 3rd Doctor and a new companion), it gets wrong pretty much everything that they get right.

          It starts with an enemy of the Doctor being executed by the Daleks (who are off screen) and a voice over (the Eighth Doctor) describing what happens and his enemy's last wish being for the Doctor to take his ashes back to Gallifrey (it makes no sense and would be completely baffling to a new viewer). Then we cut to the inside of the TARDIS, with the seventh Doctor, and the Eighth in voice-over explaining regeneration, sort of, and info-dumping in general. Then a big chunk of story gets used up by the regeneration. Plus we've missed being introduced to the TARDIS the correct way, by seeing the outside and then the inside, from the companion's point of view.

          The rest of the plot is sort of OK, if slight, but the whole thing is somewhat ruined by attempts to pander to a US audience. Still McGann is brilliant in it, so there's stuff to enjoy.

          In production terms, it's separate from the history of the show, since it's a typical slick, made on film, mid-90s US TV movie (filmed in Canada). It's probably the highest budget the show has ever had and way beyond anything the BBC could have done at the time. Still, Fox put it up against Rosanne where it pretty much tanked and we got Sliders instead.

          So, yes, you are sort of watching another show that Fox killed, although it should be said that they also gave these shows a chance in the first place (they were the only network in the US willing to take the risk on Doctor Who).

        • jackiep says:

          It has good bits, but the problem is that although many involved in the project were fans, there were a lot involved at high level who clearly didn't get the show at all. So it starts with the info-dump from Hell and never really gets properly going. The TV Movie is why we never got to see the Ninth Doctor regenerate, it started with him fully functional and why RTD introduced the back-story bit at a time, instead of the plot dump equivalent of "previously during the last 35 years on Doctor Who…".

          Had it gone on to make a series, I suspect that it would have been done by those involved who did understand it but it remains a one-off strangeness.

        • nyssaoftraken74 says:

          Bad? I didn't say it was bad. Just different. Specifically in terms of production style. I think you can watch Survival (the last classic serial in 1989), extrapolate 15 years and compare it with Rose (2005) and see that the show was beginning to move in that direction. What I'm trying to say, I think, is that I can see a stronger connection between Survival and Rose than Survival and the TV Movie, despite the latter being a decade earlier.

          In my opinion, the movie is a case study in `too many cooks`. (I *think* I spelled that last word right.) Just too many people demand too many different things go into it and the end result lacks cohesion as a result.

          There is nothing mediocre about the movie, I'll say that for it. It's a collection of some things done very well and some other things done very wrong. Also things that may have worked OK for the established audience but alienated new viewers.

          Re the TARDIS: It was mentioned on one of the DVD extras (commentary maybe) that some people who didn't know Doctor Who failed to make the connection between the police box and the TARDIS interior. I don't know how commonplace that might have been, but it is one of a number of things that just aren't made clear.

          At the time (1996) I thought it could potentially be the start of something. But since 2005, it just seems like a misstep. Still lots to enjoy, though.

  19. BBQ Platypus says:

    I've always actually preferred the pacing of the classic run of the show to the current one. Telling a story in four 25-minute episodes gives the story more time to breathe, in my opinion. Much of the time, the faster pace isn't a problem, but often, the resolution to stories in the New Series feels more than a little bit rushed (I'm looking at you, "Victory of the Daleks").

    "The Ark in Space" is a great example – not a single character other than the Doctor, Harry, and Sarah appears in the first episode. It really built the tension (and kept it up, too – even after the admittedly-embarrassing bubble wrap monster appears). My opinion of the classic run is that it does a tiny bit more than the current one, with a lot fewer resources. (The new series is still great, though).

    As for "The Three Doctors," I'm actually not fond of it at all. I'm not opposed to camp as long as it's leavened with wit (like "The Pirate Planet" and "City of Death"). But this is just drek. It does a disservice to all three Doctors – and to the Brigadier as well (since he acts like an idiot for no real reason). The actor who plays Omega delivers a truly embarrassing performance as well. "The Five Doctors" is much better as far as these sorts of stories go.

    I hope you're not getting the impression that the old series has nothing to offer other than amusing schlock. Because they were able to tackle a great variety of moods. I'd recommend you watch "The Caves of Androzani" or "The Curse of Fenric" for next week's story.

    • who_cares86 says:

      Yeah back in the old days things were often too slow but now they're too fast. You don't really have the build-up or the little character moments anymore. Yay for the Sarah Jane adventures using the 2×25 format. It still works brilliantly. It's actually more fun because you're always left guessing what's going to happen next halfway through the story and you get a completely different build up which takes just enough time to have quiet little character moments and build the suspense. Why they're not going back to it on Doctor Who is anyone's guess.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      Oh no, I don't get that impression at all. As I said up above, I prefer slow, quiet, long, drawn out, etc., over fast-paced media. I love stuff that makes me take time to build things up.

  20. BBQ Platypus says:

    For the record, I tend to prefer the lighthearted approach to the series more often than not – but variety has always been the show's greatest strength.

    I'm not the humorless twat that my last post might suggest I am.

  21. diane says:

    It's hard to think of greater contrast in pacing, anywhere, than "The Runaway Bride" and "The Three Doctors."

    I think it's true that pacing has sped up generally, but it can still be highly variable. For another recent series that has fairly slow pacing, there's HBO's Carnivale, which has some great characters and fabulous cinematography, (And thanks for the comment on Rubicon, by the way.)

    As for older movies that don't seem to have such unbearably slow pacing in terms of actors and dialog, there's always Casablanca. Another favorite oldie, Sunset Boulevard, is a bit mixed, with some actors feeling slower than others, but in general I never felt that I had to slow down my own expectations. By contrast, Citizen Kane is great but unbearably awkward in pacing.

    It's probably somewhat true that good characterization requires some slower-paced sections. New Who manages to do that reasonably well, in spite of overall rapid pace.

  22. Hypatia_ says:

    "I think it provides more opportunities for the Doctor to solve conflicts he is faced with, so in a way, it makes me appreciate what the current writing staff has to deal with. They don’t have a planet of time-traveling people to help the main character out. Well, plus it accents the feeling of loneliness throughout the episodes, but that’s an entirely separate point."

    You nailed it. That's pretty much why the new series dropped a bridge on Gallifrey, so that the Time Lords couldn't turn up and solve stuff when the Doctor got in over his head, as they sometimes did in the old series. Possibly also because the new series just likes traumatizing the Doctor.

    • maccyAkaMatthew says:

      Also because the series started with this amazing sense of mystery and then gradually added more and more background material. Which, for a new viewer, is a lot to absorb and runs the risk of diluting the mystery.

    • MowerOfLorn says:

      Yeah; because how could you really up the suspense if the audience can just ask "Um….why aren't the time-lords helping out with this whole stopping destruction of the universe thing?" Just a brilliant way to bring in plot holes.

      Plus, shiny new angsty back-story for the Doctor!

      • nyssaoftraken74 says:

        Plus, you can have lines like in Father's Day, where the Doctor says, "My people used to sort stuff like this out. They'd put a stop to it. Now there's just me." And then the worlds is saved by Rose's Daddy. That's powerful drama, that is!

  23. Thennary Nak says:

    I took a Japanese film class about a year ago and the teacher went over some of the basics of film and actually explained about why the change in pacing and such over the years. Simply, it's because the audience today is more entertainment media smart/savvy these days than in the past.

    Not to say the past people were any dumber but they didn't have the benefit of being familiar with television and movies in the way we are today. Most of us grow up taking in quite a few TV series and movies so we are familiar with the tropes and the production teams behind today's TV and film know this so they create programming with this in mind so unlike in the past they don't spend time introducing ideas that they think the audience will pick up from a cue in the look of a scene or back ground music and other things like that.

    My teacher's example for this was that she was watching the horror film Dark Water with her mom and grandmother and during a scene where water was flowing out from under a door her grandmother began talking that the leak needed to be fixed and fixated on how the water was going to damage the house. The cues that my teacher and her mother caught in the scene to let them understand that this was a scary moment just went over her head because she didn't really watch horror films so she missed the cues.

    I think the changes in Doctor Who and its pacing reflects this, especially since even though the new series is meant to be new viewer friendly it still takes liberties with expecting its audience to be familiar with parts of the series already from either having watched something from the older series or the fact that it had such a long and strong legacy that those in the U.K. could even be familiar with certain things about much how in the U.S. you expect people to know some of the most basic things about Star Trek or Star Wars even if they have never seen anything of either franchise.

  24. doesntsparkle says:

    This serial made me realize how conditioned I am today's entertainment. I love old movies, but it is sometimes harder to pay attention to them. What Mark said about pacing is really interesting. I don't know exactly how it happened, but I assume that it was a gradual process. I blame block-buster action movies, don't get me wrong, some of them are awesome, but they sort of killed the audience's ability to pay attention like we used to.

  25. maccyAkaMatthew says:

    The pacing thing has do with how TV drama used to be made in the UK.

    When TV started, dramas would go out live, filmed on multiple cameras (usually three or four) with the director cutting between shots from the gallery, as live. Everything would be acted out on sets in the studio, built next to each other for scene changes and with general blanket lighting that would cover all the camera angles.

    So, in many ways it was like filming a play.

    When video tape came along, the shows were recorded in advance of transmission, but video tape was hard to edit (you can't cut it like film) so the studio scenes were shot "as live" with as few pauses as possible and, again, the director switching between the cameras live. Even though video editing did advance, that was still the basic way of working throughout the show's history until 1989.

    Because 35mm or 16mm film is more expensive, it was only used on Doctor Who for location shots (and the first to have these was The Dalek Invasion of Earth late in 1964, at the beginning of the second season). These would typically be shot on a single camera and edited on film before being added to the video tape masters. You can see the clear difference in grading when the action moves from film to video and back again. In the 80s there was a move towards video for everything, since the technology allowed for outside shooting.

    ITV (commercial television) dramas tended to have larger budgets are were generally shot on film, as were most US series, although the mult-camera format is still used in studio sitcoms. The only Doctor Who serial to be entirely shot on film was Spearhead from Space in 1970, when there was a strike that meant they couldn't shoot in the studio at all.

    Part of the reason why the programme was cancelled was that that style of shooting was looking increasingly out of date and the BBC didn't think they had the resources to make something like The Next Generation. This is why they spent years working on a US co-production, which led to the Fox TV movie in 1996 (this was shot on film) and then, when that failed, to development being hived off to BBC Films (where nothing happened until BBC TV grabbed the rights back in 2003).

    With digital technology, you can now shoot and light each shot individually, do multiple takes and edit them together as tightly as you like, much like with film editing. So rather than seeing a document of a performance we get an assembly of fragments. And the technology had made things faster in all spheres. When film editing was done by hand, you couldn't easily view all the combinations or cut together many many shots over a few seconds.


    • maccyAkaMatthew says:


      Also, special effects had to essentially be practical, which meant they were limited by the physical world, with CGI you can get apparently solid things to do what you like.

      In sound terms, as well, digital technology means you can score much more of the dialogue and keep the soundtrack busy with music and sound effects. In old Who you typically only have music when nobody else is speaking and the sounds are generally what's in the studio, weird noises aside (these days pretty much every background sound is added in by foley artists).

      Finally, the speed of things has been accelerating since the technology has improved – people are pushing the boundaries, trying to do things that they couldn't do before.

      Thus typically a classic serial will have far fewer shots, fewer locations and tend to rely in speechifying to get information across. But I like the stillness and the constraints of the form mean that, at its best, older drama will play to the strengths of how they have to make it. So in old Who things will often be mysterious for a long time, whereas now they tend to be wrapped up quite quickly. In old who the music and the plotting would often be about building suspense, whereas now the accent is more often action-adventure. And in the old Who you often get time for some extended dialogue and the interesting diversions that that will take you in.

      There's one final thing to with old Who which is the serial format. Sometimes they are padding the story out to fit (classic device – get captured, escape, get captured again) but also they are deliberately repeating themselves. Through the 60s and 70s and quite a lot of the 80s they'd have to assume that people would only watch each part once (there were no repeats that week, and usually only one repeat at all, if ever, and no video recorders) and that many people wouldn't see all of the parts. So watching a serial which was supposed to play out over four weeks or more in a single sitting is getting quite a long way away from how it was envisaged that viewing would happen.

      TV drama (and film) is so fast these days that I find the older stuff refreshing. Just because you can do something it doesn't mean that you should. In film in particular I miss the amazing extended dialogue that, making a virtue of necessity, you see in classic movies. Part of the problem is that the fewer words your movie has the easier it is to sell internationally.

      New Doctor Who on the whole does vary the pace quite well, though. And in stuff like Misfits and Being Human where they don't have massive budgets there's a refreshing simplicity which I think is part of their success.

      Anyway, I'm really glad you enjoyed this one. It makes me fairly certain that you'll find something to enjoy in pretty much any old story. Even when it's bad it's usually amusingly and ambitiously bad and they never let their technical limitations hold them back, which is a good reason to live them and enjoy the intention.

      The "compost heap" monsters are officially called Gell Guards (although they are never named in the story). I quite like them when they are in Omega's palace (they match the decor and menace a bit more in those narrow corridors) and you get a close look at their single floating eyes – which are brilliant.

      • EmmylovesWho says:

        This was a really interesting comment. 🙂

      • nyssaoftraken74 says:

        The ambition is a very key point, I think. The ambition of the show sometimes outstripped what the could achieve – and that's still true of the new show – which is what drives the show and makes it what it is. I'm currently re-reading The Writer's Tale, and there's a great little bit about a partcularly ambitious plan for a certain overseas shoot, and the head of production sent Russell a whole list of reasons why it was absolutely impossible to achieve within the budget of the show…and then ended with, `Lets do it!`

        • xpanasonicyouthx says:

          Well, the ambition is why I ultimately really like the show, campy or serious or whatever it ends up being. The writers go after ridiculous plots and sky-high themes and absurd alien lifeforms…and they do it week after week.

          • maccyAkaMatthew says:

            And they usually build a completely new dramatic world with each story (less so if it's a sequel to previous one – but usually there are new things as well). I'm not sure of any other series which is quite that bold (or reckless, if you like).

  26. Penquin47 says:

    I enjoyed this serial. Reminded me a lot of old Star Trek in some ways (to the point where when one of the Trash Heaps showed up I nearly squealed "HORTA!!!" before I remembered I wasn't watching ST).

    The moment that most broke immersion and suspension of disbelief, though, was the "But if the Doctor and Omega are deadly enemies, why would Omega bring him here? UNLESS HE WANTED TO DO HIM GRIEVOUS HARM!!!" bit. Thanks, Jo, I love you and all, but I figured that out three scenes ago. I know Jo wasn't supposed to be a total moron, so it broke suspension that she'd be so shocked by that realization. Other than that moment, I really liked Jo – she seemed like a good match for these Doctors.

    Three was my favorite of the old Doctors – Two was awesome but a little too over-the-top for my taste, and we really didn't get to see One much. Poor One.

    I'm curious, and I hope y'all can answer this without spoilering: who was the Time Lord who kept overruling the Chancellor, and why was he allowed to get away with it? Is the Chancellor really just that weak?

    • Thennary Nak says:

      I don't think it's much of a spoiler but I haven't watched these episodes in a while. But I think if you are familiar with the old series you would know the answer kinda thing so read on at your on discretion.

      But I would assume it was the President of the Time Lords as that is the highest position in the Time Lord government and then you have the Chancellors under him/her.

      • maccyAkaMatthew says:

        Yes he's credited as The President, but his calling the Chancellor "your Excellency" rather confuses things.

        I think perhaps this makes more sense in the light of later episodes.

    • I adore Hortas, and now your comment has me wanting to watch "Devil in the Dark" again…

      Also: "My God, Jim, I'm beginning to think I can cure a rainy day!"

  27. PeterRabid says:

    There's a Monty Python sketch in which everyone in England is turned into Scotsmen by aliens ( It turns out the aliens are blancmanges. This is a favorite sketch for me and my siblings, and we all watched this particular serial together on New Years' Eve, complete with our usual MST3K commentary. Naturally, we decided to call the monsters blancmanges. Sometime during Episode 1 or 2, Benton decided to agree with us. We actually had to rewind to make sure we had heard him right. I'm not sure which came first, but if this Doctor Who serial was the inspiration for the Pythons' sci-fi sketch, I would not be surprised.

    On the subject of Jo, there is a big difference between classic companions and new companions. The New Series companions are fleshed of in much more depth than the old ones and the show is as much about them than it is the Doctor. That's just the way TV works nowadays. However, I rather think you caught Jo on an off-day, being that this was a multi-Doctor story focused primarily on the Doctors. She isn't always so two-dimensional.

    Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. I believe he's the "companion" (calling him a companion is a subject of much debate in fandom, although I like to think of him as one) that's met the Doctor in the most incarnations. If there's a UNIT story, the Brig has to pop up at least for a cameo, or maybe a name drop. He's even showed up on "The Sarah Jane Adventures." That's because he is awesome. Why would anyone put a man so skeptical of everything in charge of a military operation that fights aliens and other weirdness? Because they're British, that's why.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:


      • PeterRabid says:

        "He was nae so much a man as ….. a blancmange!" *cue dramatic music*

        Only in Monty Python could you find a plot by alien puddings who turn everyone into Scotsmen so that they can win the Wimbledon.

      • Tauriel says:

        I love you for loving Monty Python, Mark. 🙂 Seriously, they have the wackiest and most bizarre humour EVER. Another great absurd sketch is Confuse-A-Cat: 😀

      • Hypatia_ says:


        "He needs no companions…except for his mustache!"
        "And when the Brigadier's sad, he shoots something!"
        "I mean really, was it even a British banana?"

        • PeterRabid says:

          "A bucket of goo? Why the nerve of some robots! Have they no decency? They must not be English, to be outgunned by a Bohemian with a mile-long scarf and his bucket!"

          Also watch "Time Lord Retirement Club" in the video responses.

  28. Beci says:

    Over here in good ol' England we do like a spot of physics with our afternoon tea.

  29. _thirty2flavors says:

    I by chance watched parts 1 and 2 of this on Saturday, and I …just… I dunno, man, Classic Who is just not really my cup of tea, to use an appropriately British-sounding metaphor. I did really enjoy Two though, and Two and Three's bickering (and the way they looked at One as the wise one even though he is the youngest of them all). And I've seen older Jo in SJA, so it was nice to see bbJo here, she's cute.

    Also, LOL TIME LORD PAPER IS… CIRCULAR CONSTRUCTION PAPER. How space-age. As a New Who fan I find every additional detail about Gallifrey/the other Time Lords simultaneously intriguing and utterly hilarious and this was no exception.

    • Elliott Mason says:

      There's also a certain kind of pink clear plastic that naturally had orange edges (when you slice it — it's to do with light refraction) that shows up in several Who sets of this era. It gives me warm fuzzy nostalgias, because I had a four-petalled flower of it when I was a kid and found it endlessly amazing.

      It was between the workstations in the Time Lord control center this time; it also shows up prominently in the beginning of The Twin Dilemma, to pick another I've rewatched recently.

  30. EmmylovesWho says:

    Oh, classic Who and your infamously amateur "special effects" <3

    Amazed at those numbers, but I suppose loads of people did watch it; I remember my family members getting so ridiculously excited when the final confirmation of the remake came through. Cue lots of "hiding behind the sofa" jokes. (or, an example of how Who infiltrated beyond pop culture)

  31. nextboy1 says:

    It does make me wonder how many long classic serials could be successfully edited down to one or two part 45 minute episodes. Production values and editing styles do mean there is a lot of 'wasted' time in these serials. I know some people prefer it that way, but I would love to see some 'modern' versions of classic who, perhaps with some new Murray Gold themes for each doctor!

    • nyssaoftraken74 says:

      They did that on the DVD release for 5th Doctor Serial Enlightenment. In addition to the original transmission version. I haven't watched it, though, so I can't comment. I'm a purist – I like my Classic Who in its original form, thanks.

  32. MowerOfLorn says:

    I love multi-Doctor stories. They're really just sweet, fun and its like multiplying the Doctor's awesome factor! (I'm still holding out for one in 2013, DW's 30th Anniversary. Tennant's even said he'd be willing to reprise the role!)

    Anyway, my favourite line from the episode?
    Doc: "I am he as he is me-"
    Jo: "And we are all together, coo coo cachoo?"
    Doc: "What?"

  33. GoddessMER says:

    I honestly haven't seen this one, and will have to whip it out on my NETFLIX tonight while my boys are off doing other things.

    As for why TV nowadays is more fast paced then it was back then, I might have an idea.

    I remember reading an article in the NYTimes about Aaron Sorkin and "The West Wing." TWW was pretty famous because the style of how the characters spoke was quite different then other TV shows. It is very fast paced, with characters interacting with each other in an environment that is similar to a cattle auction.

    With "The West Wing" and "The Gilmore Girls," this kind of character dialog became very popular, and a lot of other TV shows adopted it.

    I wish I could find the article, damnit…

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      My sister used to watch Gilmore Girls and I watched an episode once and was SO LOST because the characters spoke so fast.

    • maccyAkaMatthew says:

      The West Wing has a thing that I think started on ER where characters are always moving and having conversations on the move. That way you can quickly segue into another conversation by having your new character start walking down the same corridor as the others and then older one peels off and it never rests or stops.

      Sorkin did it because he had so much to get into each episode. Obviously, it doesn't always work like that – but it's an underlying, "this is us getting through stuff fast" structure.

  34. Edel says:

    Can I just say? I love Sergeant Benton. Meets Two and is all 'Oh hey, I've been promoted'. He's like the Unflappable Higgs (ignore if you don't read Girl Genius). "Aren't you going to say 'it's bigger on the inside?'" "Well, it's obvious, isn't it?". Seriously, I love you Benton. Also, Two is just such a wonderful Doctor. If only there were more of his serials left. It's between him and Eight for favourite ever. (No offense to Pertwee or Hartnell fans, I've not that much exposure to either of their times).
    And yes, it is so slow compared to what we're used to, but I imagine part of the reason behind this pacing is that they had a shoestring and a bottletop left in the budget after spending on the blancmange monsters and Omega's lair and they needed to get as many episodes as possible out of it. Also, I like that the whole Timelord Guilt thing that Ten has down to a fine art is also present here. Eccleston and Tennant came by it honestly.

    • Selthia says:

      Couldn't agree more about Two and Eight. Two is such a delight to watch here and in the remaining serials. As for Eight, he definitely had some good moments in that movie but definitely gets more chances to shine in the audios.

      Um, Paul McGann for multi-doctor episode in nuWho please?

  35. rys says:

    I find I really like the slower pace in terms of dialogue especially. The frantic scenes of the new series are fun but I think sometimes that stops you from really getting into the story. You're just rushing from start to finish and it may feel like an exciting hour of television, but its not always satisfying.

    Anyway, I enjoyed this one! I hadn't seen it before. I like that you're sprinkling some classic episodes throughout your DW watch, they're pretty fun and give a bit more of a context for the new series.

  36. scififan04 says:

    Okay, now I really need to watch this! I was reluctant because I haven't really been able to get into Classic!Who all that much. I can't take it very seriously. I know it's supposed to be scary and tense and whatever, but I much prefer the character-driven aspects of New!Who.

    • scififan04 says:

      And on a side note, I don't care as much about the pace of the show if the characters feel real to me. I think the biggest issue I have with old tv shows is that they usually have more standalone episodes that wrap everything up in 1, maybe 2 episodes. There's no real rewatchability for me. I might as well be watching a movie. I love movies, but I tend to be drawn into shows with an overarching theme. For (a non-spoiler) example, Lost is awesome to me because I can rewatch the series and find a bunch of stuff I missed or didn't fully understand the first time around. If I'm going to take the time to watch something, I like it to make me think.

      • scififan04 says:

        And wow, that really doesn't relate to Classic!Who at all. I know that the old series has a lot of arcs, which I like, but they don't seem as connected to each other as I have seen in other shows.

  37. hassibah says:

    It's been taking me a while to adjust to the pace of classic who but I thought this one was way easier to get into than the last arc we watched, but maybe that's just because I was giving it my undivided attention this time(thanks, flu.) Either way the Wire was waaaay slower than this so I can't really be complaining about pacing.

    Amazingly the giant turds in this ep are only the SECOND most unfortunate looking aliens I've seen on this show. AGREED I totally love the villiain and how he talks and all the physics but the highlight of this story for me is definitely the extremely stuffy other timelords. I just have a soft spot for uptight British people.

  38. virtual_monster says:

    Ah, The Three Doctors. It's not the best of Three's run in terms of plot and effects but it didn't need to be – a multi-Doctor serial had never been tried before and was therefore, by definition, a mind-blowingly awesome thing in itself (The Three Doctors was intended to mark the show's tenth year). Also, as a cost-saving exercise, Three had hitherto been mostly confined to Earth – exiled by the Time Lords for the crime of interfering in other planets' affairs – and the resolution of this serial marked the end of that exile. Henceforth the Doctor would be roaming time and space again. This too, was exciting.

    I find there are things to love in this serial: Two is always a delight, as is the stoic, long-suffering and quietly heroic Brigadier. Some of the concepts are utterly intriguing and we learn a little more about the Time Lords (although interestingly at this point Gallifrey has never been named on screen). And of course there's Bessie, that marvellously old-fashioned yellow car, which was iconic in its day.

    The special effects are woeful to modern eyes. Some of that is down to how far technology has moved on and some of it… isn't. The weird gel creatures are not Doctor Who's finest hour. They're also far from its worst.
    Personally, I just wish they'd had a better stab at what a black hole might look like.

    Someone said in a comment a few episodes back that you never forget your first Doctor, or your first companion. For me that was Three and Jo Grant, whom I watched wide-eyed on Saturday afternoons on a black & white TV (unless I was at my grandparents' house – they had a colour TV, oh the excitement). Three has a certain sense of style, mixed with a curious blend of heroic authority and mischievous anti-authoritarianism which I think confused me at the time. I didn't understand it exactly but I knew I liked it. Jo Grant, on the other hand, was ditzy as hell but she was absolutely all heart. Add in Captain Yates, Sergeant Benton and the Brig and they made up a 'family' which somehow made things feel safe, even as I watched from behind the sofa (and I really did) because even the gel monsters are terrifying if you're under the age of five.

    Watching it now, I can see where I think it weak and where I think it still holds up but I can only watch with so much objectivity. Because for me, watching these old Whos from my earliest childhood televisual memories, is an exercise in warm, fuzzy nostalgia as much as anything else.

    That theme tune still raises goosebumps on my flesh though.

  39. Hypatia_ says:

    I don't love this one because I'm not particularly fond of either Three or Jo Grant (what the HELL is she wearing in this episode anyway, a Muppet pelt?) but Two and the Brig make it worth watching. The special effects are just hilariously dated, and if you thought the Racnoss Empress chewed on the scenery, she's got nothing on Omega. I'm amazed there was any left for her after he got done with it.

    There are better Classic Who serials, though this one is by no means the worst. Mark must watch something with Ace at some point, at least.

  40. Miri1984 says:

    Jon Pertwee played a character called Worzel Gummage in my childhood. This was the. best. show. ever. Interesting facts about that – Jon Pertwee always considered himself a comic actor and yet he played the Doctor very seriously and "straight man" like, whereas Tom Baker was in the National Theatre (run by Lawrence Olivier) and a very serious Shakespearean actor before taking the role as The Doctor, and he decided to play it comically. Also Patrick Troughton for THE WIN. The man is hilarious. He also had a minor role in The Goodies, another fantastic old British Comedy series.

    Can I put a vote in for "The Ark in Space" as an episode to watch? Or if you'd rather a non-Baker episode (since you've already done one), "The Planet of the Spiders" is also really tops – another Jon Pertwee (and also a Sarah episode). Some incredibly cheesy dialogue and hilarious villains with hilarious voices. But also a good story!

  41. LittleCaity says:

    Ah, The Three Doctors. Classic UNIT. The Brigadier. Benton's reaction to the TARDIS. Blobby monsters. Everything that made old Who awesome.

    Hrm, recommendations… Tomb of the Cybermen, Masque of Mandragora, Earthshock (for the love of god have a hanky on hand for Earthshock), The Mind Robber. Classic, Classic, Tearjerker, Mindscrew.

  42. xghostproof says:

    Haha, I loved this. I just finished watching, and wow. I'd only seen one Three serial previous to this, so it was nice to see One and Two, even if One was hardly there. The Three Doctors was really fun to watch, and makes me really want to watch some more of Two's run, he and Three's bickering really had me laughing.

    And holy crap was I ever laughing at Omega's over the topness. When he came in with that "WHAAAAT?" I'm just thankful I didn't start screaming I was laughing so hard.

    • nyssaoftraken74 says:

      I think it would be funny to dub that WHAAAAT over Tennant's reaction to Donna's appearance in the TARDIS! 🙂

  43. jennywildcat says:

    I'd never seen this one, but I'm very glad you watched it because now I had a reason to watch it! There are some gems in these old episodes (Benton – "If anything is missing, where do we say it's gone?" XD) and Two is absolutely hilarious! (That damn recorder!)

    As far as recommendations, I've only seen "Spearhead from Space" from Three's era, but one I really liked from Two's era is "The Mind Robber" – 100% cracked out and will screw with your brain, but in a good way.

  44. (For the record, I prefer slower/quieter, for the most part.)
    Then I really do think Friday Night Lights is up your alley.

  45. Brielle says:

    I think Mitch Benn (who is a good old Doctor Who obsessive) sums up original series female companions fairly well:

    I'm trying to remember where I saw it – probably on Doctor Who Confidential – but Elisabeth Sladen who plays Sarah Jane commented that one of the best things about the new series for her was that the female companions have a lot more agency and actual storylines. Admittedly they still have a tendency to run after the Doctor worshipfully, but as Steven Moffat pointed out, who wouldn't?

  46. Scarecrow says:

    Certain stories should be avoided also. There's a paticular Davison classic everyone always recommends, I'm sure you know what I mean… and it's great but as a first experience for the incarnation I do not think its appropiate.

  47. Reddi says:

    This was the first classic ep I went back to watch after seeing nuWho. I had seen the fourth doctor (Tom Baker) back in the 70s but never saw any others save one doctor five ep. So to get a handle on the mythology I figured I'd watch the three doctors and the five doctors and knock as many out with one viewing as I could.
    I've come to the conclusion there are better classic eps to get a feel for the doctors. But I liked this one. Boy was PACING different back then!

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