FOR THE FIFTH DOCTOR,
THIS STORY TAKES
'THE COMPLETE FOURTH
SERIES' DVD BOXSET
RELEASED IN NOVEMBER
IT TAKES TWO TO SAVE
16TH NOVEMBER 2007
In spite of Sarah Jane Smith’s second coming; a flood of references to Skaro, Gallifrey, and the Axons; the adaptation of a New Adventure; and even the return of the Macra, in my head I still perceived a very clear divide between the Doctor Who of today
and the Doctor Who of old. But just like the Titanic demolished the walls of the TARDIS’ console room, Steven Moffat’s Time Crash tore down the walls that I’d constructed.
“Today is to come.”
I was keyed up enough when two years ago – also courtesy of Children in Need - we were given the chance to meet David Tennant’s Doctor a month early, but to have Tennant’s tenth Doctor actually meet Peter Davison’s fifth is in another league entirely. And who should it fall to to write this very special episode but Moffat, writer of not just three of the revived series’ finest episodes to date, but also Doctor Who’s 1999 Comic Relief special, The Curse of Fatal Death. And on balance, I don’t see how any other writer could have done a better job with this brief two-hander.
As one would imagine, the internet has been rife with speculation as to where and when this little episode would be set and whether – unlike The Curse of Fatal Death – it would form a proper ‘canonical’ part of the show. Well I don’t think that anyone could have predicted how seamlessly this episode would slot into the closing moments of Last of the Time Lords – it certainly explains a thing or two about how the Titantic penetrated the supposedly impreg-nable TARDIS. Having forgot to put up the TARDIS’ shields after making repairs, the tenth Doctor’s TARDIS collides with the fifth’s, and the tenth Doctor finds himself face to face with himself, several centuries younger. With a hole in the universe “the size of Belgium” at stake, the two Doctors must work together to resolve the paradox of their meeting…
“Mind you, bit saggier than it ought to be. Hair’s a bit greyer.
That’s cos of me though. Two of us together has shorted out the time differential.”
If you watch the recent episode Human Nature carefully, lost amongst Smith’s scribblings
in his Journal of Impossible Things you might just catch a fleeting glimpse of some of the Doctor’s former incarnations. It makes me feel very old indeed to think that for the children who watched that episode, those greyscale drawings of incarnations as relatively recent as those played by Peter Davison, Colin Baker, or even Sylvester McCoy will have seemed as remote and as unthinkably ancient to them as those played by William Hartnell or Patrick Troughton once did to me. But just as The Five Doctors did for the children of the 1980s
on Children in Need night all those years ago, Time Crash brings a Doctor from long ago into the present to infuse a new generation with the enduring magic of Doctor Who.
Of course, with the best will in the world, Davison doesn’t look quite as he once did. For those like myself who regularly follow his ongoing adventures through Big Finish’s series of audio plays, it’s easy to forget that the youngest actor ever to play the Doctor is now in fact older than William Hartnell was when he first took on the role back in 1963. But I’m glad that Moffat’s script deals with Davi-
son’s looking older in a blithe,
jocular way, rather than try and
cover it up it with CGI or ignore
it altogether (as the production
team did with Patrick Troughton
and Jon Pertwee when they both appeared in multi-Doctor stories, each looking substantially older). It’s hilarious to see Tennant play with Davison’s jowls and mock his thinning hair, not to mention the coat that won’t fasten anymore or the gargantuan trousers (originally made for the bulkier Colin Baker for his post-regeneration scenes in The Caves of Androzani).
“Fair play to you, not a lot of men can carry off a decorative vegetable!”
What I really love about this mini-episode though is how it manages
to affectionately make fun of the Doctor Who of old, yet at the same
time treat it with great reverence, much in the same way that The
Curse of Fatal Death did. The banter between Tennant and Davison
is an absolute joy to listen to; I actually watched the episode with my
fiancée - who is not over-keen on Doctor Who, to put it kindly - and
she laughed the whole way through it. For me though, it was doubly
humorous as all the jokes about the fifth Doctor being “handsfree”
and wearing “brainy specs” weren’t lost on me. The line about the
console room’s “desktop theme” was absolutely inspired!
I also like how Ten has to convince Five that he is indeed his future self; it fits in wonderfully with the whole “Eighth Man Bound” lore. And as for the fifth Doctor, the tenth seems to rem-ember him being from around the time of Arc of Infinity and Snakedance, mentioning both Nyssa and Tegan to him and even having a bit of a laugh with him about the old Master’s “rubbish beard” as well as the new Master’s wife. As such, Ten’s memory of this meeting does beg the question as to why the ninth and tenth Doctor’s couldn’t remember that they were not in fact the last of the Time Lords, but at the end of the day such things really were
not intended to stand up to such neurotic scrutiny.
“You know, I loved being you. Back when I first started, at the very beginning,
I was always trying to be old and grumpy and important, like you do when you’re young. And then I was you. And it was all dashing about and playing cricket and my voice going all squeaky when I shouted...”
Where I think the episode truly excels though is in how Moffat cleverly uses the theme of recursion to form the core of his story. Simply put, whilst the fifth Doctor is panicking about the paradox that he finds himself in, the tenth is completely nonchalant. Why? Because he can remember it all working out alright. He remembers watching his future self manipulate the TARDIS controls to create a supernova, cancelling out the black hole caused by the paradox. And so he does just that. Sorted. Not only is this plot wholly relevant to the fifth Doctor, considering that the theme of recursion formed the basis of his opening serial,
but it’s also simple and spellbindingly obvious.
“‘Cos you know what Doctor, you were my Doctor. All my love to long ago.”
The ending is funny and charming, but above all else, remarkably poignant. At the very end Tennant does a bit of a Hartnell (back in The Daleks’ Master Plan) in that he breaks down that imaginary fourth wall between the actors and the audience, addressing Davison as himself rather than addressing the fifth Doctor as the tenth. Beautiful stuff.
And so despite the show’s looming hiatus, it’s as exciting a time to be a Doctor Who fan as ever. The series remains as popular as always with Tennant picking up yet another National Television Award for most popular actor, the series itself winning most popular drama pro-gramme for the third consecutive year, and shops being jam-packed full of Dalek Sec voice changers and build-your-own-TARDIS kits. Christmas is just around the corner, bringing with it the Titantic and Kylie Minogue, and from there it won’t be long until Series 4 begins. The Sontarans, Pompeii, Unicorns, Wasps, maybe even Davros… Roll on spring!
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
When recalling this incident from his younger self’s perspective, the tenth Doctor recalls being embroiled in adventures involving Nyssa and Tegan, the Time Lords at the Mara at this point in his life. This suggests that the fifth Doctor was plucked out of his timestream in or around Season 20. The specific placement between Snakedance and Goth Opera is based on the conjecture that as the Time Lords and the Mara were freshest in the tenth Doctor’s mind when trying to recall this period, these events likely occur soon after the stories involving them.
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