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4 December 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 338: The Three Doctors, Episode Two

Dear diary,

'I think the strain is a little too much for him,' Benton explains when the Brig has stormed off in a huff, refusing to believe that the Second Doctor could possibly have returned. It has to be said… this isn't the Brig's finest hour in the series. Right from the off he's being even more pompous and ridiculous than usual, refusing to take what the Doctor tells him at face value and simply becoming more and more exasperated. This now is very much the 'UNIT era' that I remember - and it's not one that I enjoy all that much.

When we had the character turning up in the 1960s, he was a pretty affable sort of chap. He got on well with the Doctor (after a few initial misgivings), but he was still decisive, able to get things done, and he'd take things at face value. For example, look at how quickly he accepts the Doctor's story about a time/space machine in The Web of Fear and compare that to his reactions here upon finally entering the ship for the first time. It doesn't help that even Benton is showing him up - in the last episode, he entered the ship, stated that the 'bigger on the inside' quip was pretty obvious and then announced that nothing to do with the Doctor would surprise him any more. The Brigadier takes almost the exact opposite approach here. When the Doctor tries to explain the situation, he snaps back 'I don't believe a word of it!'

It's a shame to see the character heading in this direction as I've really rather loved him up to now, and I was hoping that this story would be another four great episodes spent in his company. I will say that the shot of him first looking around the TARDIS is perhaps one of the most iconic he's ever had in the programme, and it's nice to finally see it here in context again.

Elsewhere, it's still Patrick Troughton who's stealing the show for me. In terms of his characterisation being a little off from the way he used to play it, I think he wavers in and out. There are a few moments that could have very much been lifted directly from his era of the programme without a great deal of trouble. I also need to hand out some praise to William Hartnell, who I've not seen in what feels like forever. He bowed out of the marathon way back in May for me, so it is good to see him again.

It's a shame in some ways that his last work for the programme came in such a diminished form, and I think that being confined to the TV screen means that he doesn't get as much attention as the other Doctors in the story, but there's still a few flashes of performance in there that are very much William Hartnell as he always was. I've often wondered how much of a performance he was able to give in this story, considering his ailing health at the time, but having watched the interview with him on the Tenth Planet DVD today I can see that he's acting just as much as he ever was. There's one particular moment today where he tells the Second Doctor to use his intelligence, and I can just picture him delivering the same line to Ian, or Steven, Vicki.

I have to wonder, though… are these earlier Doctors briefed for their involvement in the story? They both seemed to have a fairly good idea of what was going on when they arrived, and the First Doctor is almost acting as a go-between for the Doctor and the Time Lords. I'm a big fan of the idea that the Doctors don't remember their team-up adventures when brought together by the Time Lords (so the same would be true for the Five and the Two Doctors), so maybe the Time Lords are able to bring these two up to speed properly before sending them on their missions?

Another fan-theory that I tend to subscribe to is that when the Doctor regenerates, his past incarnation lives on in his head somewhere, occasionally chipping in with their own opinion. There seems to be some kind of evidence for this when the Second Doctor claims to have 'always had a great deal of respect for his advice,' in regards to his earlier self. What does everyone else think? Do the Doctors live on after their deaths?

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