Julien Neaves – Editor
Pre-article SPOILER ALERT for Series 12.
Previously in the Whoniverse fans were still reeling after that universe-shaking retcon of The Timeless Children. But with all that going on the other big continuity bomb that showrunner Chris Chibnall dropped, the introduction of the mysterious “Ruth” Doctor, got pushed to the side. We still have no idea where she comes from or how she fits into The Doctor’s (now extended) timeline.
This article, however, is not a speculation on the Ruth Doctor’s origins (we certainly have enough of those). But seeing the Ruth Doctor and the Thirteenth Doctor together got me thinking about multi-Doctor stories. And you know me, I love ranking things! The caveats are that it has to be a full story (so no Time Crash), no cameos (no Deep Breath, no Timeless Children), no regeneration episodes (got a list for that already) and it must have a previously introduced Doctor (so no Fugitive of Judoon). With that out of the way Allons-y, Geronimo and here we go:
#5 The Two Doctors
I rewatched this one for this article and thankfully it was not as bad as I remembered. The Second Doctor is his usual charming self, Jamie has a good bit to do and the usually acerbic Sixth Doctor is at least tolerable. If you pay attention there is a scene where I swear Peri mouths “a-hole” to him. A truer word has never been mouthed.
It was great seeing the Sontarans again and the story has some surprising moments of gore. As a villain Shockeye is some campy fun and we see how deadly the Sixth Doctor can be when he kills him with cyanide and quips “your just desserts”. Imagine the Eleventh Doctor doing that. But the whole anti-meat eating message bogs the whole affair down and the Sixth and Second Doctors spend very little time together. And isn’t that the whole point of a multi-Doctor story?
#4 Twice Upon a Time
For me Series 10 felt somewhat phoned-in and this episode does little to buck that trend. While on paper having the First Doctor (played by David Bradley, who previously played William Hartnell in the docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time) and the Twelfth Doctor together sounds like a winning recipe, the final dish ends up lacking some spice. Cooking metaphors – I’ve got em!
The First Doctor was mostly used for anachronistic humour and the Twelfth Doctor’s end of life crisis is not that compelling. I did enjoy the First Doctor critiquing his future self’s love of gadgets, including the ridiculous sonic sunglasses. On the positive side seeing Rusty and facsimiles of Twelve’s companions provided for some cool moments, but the lack of a villain or actual threat made the whole affair anticlimactic. Capaldi does deliver a banger of a farewell speech though. And yes I know this is also a regeneration episode. Don’t @ me.
#3 The Five Doctors
I have fond memories of my teenage myself and my mother watching The Five Doctors into the early hours of the morning; we didn’t have cable but our local station in Trinidad would switch to Syfy Channel (back then Sci Fi Channel) after hours. I remember it being so grand and strange and exciting, and I loved it. But then I rewatched it as a seasoned Whovian and with a more critical eye.
Firstly the Fourth Doctor (aka the best Doctor) opting out of the story is disappointing to this day. His big energy would really have elevated the whole thing. There is still a lot of love with this story: interesting Doctor/companion combinations (standouts being Second and the Brig, and Third and Sarah Jane); Cybermen getting beautifully murdered via the Raston Warrior Robot and a laser trap; and Anthony Ainley’s the Master in top devious form. On the downside some character returns felt wasted (why didn’t Susan confront grandfather about abandoning her?) and Borusa falls flat as a villain. The final act of The Doctors together is simply brilliant though. You really can’t not have a good time with The Five Doctors.
#2 The Three Doctors
You would think the more Doctors in a story the better the story, right? But strangely that’s not the case, and The Three Doctors takes our silver medal. There is just something so refreshing and so amusing about the banter between the Second Doctor and the Third Doctor, that if there was nothing else in this story I would still have a good time. First Doctor actor William Hartnell was ailing at the time of filming, hence the storyline of him being trapped in a time eddy (which you will notice was repeated for the Fourth Doctor in The Five Doctors). But despite this set up he makes the most of his brief scenes and his calling his predecessors “a dandy and a clown” is one of the best moments in the entire Whoniverse. The disbelieving Brigadier and always spunky Jo Grant also provide for great companions to the two bickering Doctors.
The plot itself is also pretty interesting starting with the mystery of the anti-matter entity and building up to the reveal of the bombastic big bag renegade Time Lord Omega. Could we bring that dude back in Modern Who? Please Chibnall.
#1 The Day of the Doctor
There was a reason that the 50th anniversary special was also aired in cinemas – it’s because it is movie-level epic! There is so much to unpack. The Eleventh and Tenth Doctors are at their best and make for a magnificent trio with The War Doctor, played brilliantly by late veteran actor John Hurt. We have a wonderful guest star in Joanna Page as the exuberant Elizabeth I, the introduction of Doctor fan girl Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), Clara at her best pre-Twelfth Doctor, and Billie Piper having so much fun as The Moment. For villains we have the return of the shape shifting Zygons after almost four decades, and they are more terrifying than ever. And we finally get to see the Time War and learn how The Doctor (almost) destroyed Gallifrey. Gimme a sec, I need to take a breath.
The Day of the Doctor is in equal measure funny, thrilling, scary and touching. And the first time I saw Tom Baker as the curator I cried. Big man tears cried. It was such a beautiful moment. The Day of the Doctor is both a love letter to the show and the fans as well as a fantastic story as well. We will just have to wait and see if they can top it with the 60th anniversary special.
So that’s my list. What’s your favourite multi-Doctor story? For my Top 10 Doctor Who Premiere Stories you can click here.
Julien Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel but dreams of being Batman. Also loves creating board games and is an aspiring Caribbean sci-fi author. Says things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Can also be found talking about stuff on Facebook at Movieville.