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Recap / Doctor Who S10 E1 "The Three Doctors"

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Two Doctors are better than one. (When they aren't bickering, that is. Then you need a third one on a fuzzy monitor to break them up.)

"Oh, so you're my replacements — a dandy and a clown!"
The First Doctor, being incredibly unimpressed by his future

The one where self-loathing takes on a whole new meaning.

The tenth anniversary of Doctor Who was marked with the first "Multi-Doctor" story, a concept which would be used several more times over the coming years.

Written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin. This four-episode serial first aired from December 30, 1972 to January 20, 1973.

The Doctor is investigating the appearance of a mysterious blob-like creature which, it transpires, is hunting him down. Reluctantly, he calls on the Time Lords for help. Unfortunately, they're a bit preoccupied with a black hole draining all their energy, so they send his past selves over to help. The Second Doctor appears in the Third Doctor's TARDIS, and the two of them immediately proceed to bicker Like an Old Married Couple before grudgingly opening up a psychic link ("Contact!") between them. The First Doctor is caught in a time eddy and can only advise via the TARDIS viewscreen, but he deduces that the blob creature is a "time bridge". The Third Doctor and Jo, being a good companion and despite the Doctor's protests, allow it to capture them and they are transported to a world of antimatter beyond the troublesome black hole.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, the Second Doctor, the Brigadier and Sergeant Benton take refuge in the TARDIS. The Brigadier flat-out refuses to believe anything that's going on, and the Second Doctor trolls him mercilessly. The First Doctor tells the group to switch off the forcefield, and the TARDIS (and with it the UNIT HQ) are all transported to the antimatter world.

It turns out that the problem is Omega, a renegade Time Lord. Omega was a stellar engineer, and his experiments enabled the Time Lords to develop time travel. But one of his experiments went wrong and trapped him in the antimatter universe. Now he wants to return, but he needs a matter counterpart to take his place, and he wants the Doctor.

Driven mad by his isolation and physically corroded to the point where only his will survives inside his armour, he threatens to destroy the universe, but he is tricked into picking up the Second Doctor's recorder — the only thing not converted to antimatter when they travelled through the black hole — by the Second Doctor, using his outward appearance to appear harmless and waffling to annoy Omega like he always does, and is destroyed.

As a reward for saving the universe, the Third Doctor's exile is lifted and he's able to use his TARDIS normally once more.


  • And I Must Scream: Omega's body has been disintegrated, but he is still alive and conscious. He can't die as long as he believes he's still alive. And he's been in solitude for a few centuries at least.
  • Antimatter: A whole world made of it. And everything transported into it is changed to antimatter too. Except if it's protected by a force field, of course.
  • Arbitrary Scepticism: The Brig is rather accepting of the whole anti-matter monsters and black holes situation (he's dealt with weirder, arguably). But he immediately dismisses the idea of two Doctors existing at the same time (he thinks Three must have changed back somehow), and insists the TARDIS interior must be an optical illusion.
  • Artistic Licence – Military: British Army officers should not salute civilians. However, given that the Brigadier thought the Doctors were about to do a Heroic Sacrifice to save the entire universe, he probably felt bending the rules was justified.
  • Battle in the Centre of the Mind: The Third Doctor challenges Omega to one of these... and loses, badly. The only reason he doesn't die is because the Second Doctor talks Omega out of it.
  • BBC Quarry: The antimatter world, of course.
  • Big Bad: Omega.
  • Big "NO!": Omega pulls this one off in a disturbingly serious way. His genuinely heartbreaking wail is immediately followed by spoonfuls of Narminvoked, though.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: The Second Doctor decides that they need to confuse the anti-matter monster with "mindless noise," then wonders if there's a television handy. At the time this aired, wouldn't you, the viewer, watch this series on one?
  • Book Ends: The Chancellor was previously one of the two Time Lord judges who exiled the Doctor to Earth at the end of "The War Games". He plays a major role in lifting that sentence here, thus making him a linchpin in both the start and end of the "Exile on Earth" arc.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Even before the Second Doctor appears, his catchphrase does.
    Third Doctor: When I say run, run!
  • Broken Pedestal: Omega was the Doctor's childhood hero. It hurt to discover that he had gone nuts and become obsessed with destroying his own race, after having helped them progress so far.
  • But Now I Must Go: Averted! When the Time Lords send the Third Doctor a new dematerialization circuit for the TARDIS, effectively restoring his freedom, Jo posits that means he won't be sticking around Earth anymore. But the Doctor replies that he won't leave immediately; he has to rebuild the force field generator first.
  • The Cameo: Gallifrey (although it's not named yet) and a few Time Lords show up for a couple of scenes, including one of the very Time Lords who sentenced the Doctor to exile on Earth, thus providing a small Book Ends to his exile ending here.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Second Doctor's recorder, which he makes a big fuss about having lost, turns out to be just the thing they need to save the day at the end.
    • When the Doctor, Jo, and Dr Tyler are first brought to Omega's stronghold, the Doctor does a conjuring trick to make a point to Dr Tyler, then discards the bouquet of flowers he conjured. Later, Jo and Dr Tyler are trying to escape, and get lost in the maze of passages, until Jo finds the flowers on the floor and is able to work back from there to the entrance.
  • Chewing the Scenery: It's a wonder that Omega hasn't devoured his world with his grandiose dramatic flair!
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Two to Three, Three right back at Two, One to Two and Three, Two to the Brig, and the Brig at everybody.
    • For all of Omega's Large Ham Tragic Villain tendencies he gets a good snark at the second Doctor:
      "Are you sure you and him are of the same intelligence?".
  • Dramatic Unmask: When Omega reveals his true face to himself and to the Doctors.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?: Omega is not happy at being forgotten in spite of all of his achievements. Though the Doctor does point out that Gallifreyian society has venerated Omega as a heroic figure and one of the founders of their entire society, and can't reasonably be blamed for believing that he'd died in the centre of the black hole.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Upon being informed that the Doctor can still not help himself in this crisis, the President of the Time Lord Council has an idea.
    President: Show me the Doctor’s face as he appeared before we changed his appearance.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Omega is one of the best examples of this in the franchise, which is saying quite a lot. He both looks and acts like a character from a Greek tragedy, with broad, exaggerated gesticulations and a theatrical, perpetually projected voice that starts loud and only gets louder as he loses his already-tenuous grip on his emotions.
  • Exact Words: The Second and Third Doctors pledge that they will not attempt to leave Omega's realm before Omega himself. Omega assumes this means they'll stay with him forever. It doesn't.
  • False Reassurance: The Third Doctor says to Omega, "We will not leave here before you do." Omega assumes this means they will stay there with him. It doesn't.
  • Fisher King: Every time Omega gets annoyed, his fortress rumbles, shaking visibly as the anger increases. Justified because the fortress, and indeed the entire environment within the black hole, is shaped by Omega's mind.
  • Foreshadowing: The Doctor's line that compares being attacked by antimatter to "being punched on the nose by the invisible man" is, notoriously, nonsensical as science, but does serve the purpose of foreshadowing the big reveal about what's under Omega's mask.
  • Future Me Scares Me: Or rather Future Me Disappoints Me. Also inverted, since in this case Future Me Isn't Exactly Impressed With Me Either.
    • And, when there are two Future Mes, I scare them.
  • A God Am I: Omega has fallen into this big time due to his years of isolation and bitterness and his control over the anti-matter realm. Made clear when the Doctor points out that he and Gallifreyian society regards him as a hero for what he did to establish Time Lord society:
    Omega: A hero? I should have been a GOD!!!
  • Godzilla Threshold: A Time Lord meeting his past self is against the first law of time, but with their energy being sapped and the Doctor being the only one who can stop it and still needs help, the President ignores his Chancellor and we get this story.
    • Later, with Gallifrey low on energy and two Doctors struggling against Omega, he uses the last of their energy to send the remaining one in not the black hole.
  • Heads or Tails?: When the Second and Third Doctors are deciding who should risk crossing the "time bridge", the Second Doctor suggests this method, then flips a coin and announces that the Third Doctor has lost. Later, when they're deciding who should risk approaching the Singularity, the Second Doctor pulls the coin out again, and the Third Doctor points out that they both know he's just going to make the Third Doctor go first again.
  • I Choose to Stay: After spending his last three seasons, trying to get his TARDIS working again and off Earth, the Third Doctor gets his wish, and then decides to stay on Earth and work with UNIT. His successor will not share the same sentiments.
  • I Hate Past Me: Three doesn't so much "hate" Two as finding him "incredibly annoying." Averted with One, though, for both Two and Three, who treats him as a voice of reason and hold his advice in great esteem.
  • Large Ham:
    • Omega. Evil Is Hammy indeed.
    • Everybody, everybody gets at least one taste of pork products and/or scenery during this serial (for instance, ask The Brigadier his opinion on the Second Doctor's recorder...). That said, Omega. It's a wonder they were able to find any more ham for anyone else once Omega had gotten started.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The monitor screen in Time Lords' control room, which they use to track down the earlier Doctors, can apparently only display monochrome images, so the earlier Doctors first appear on a screen in black-and-white before being inserted into the present-day story in full colour.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Omega's will is the only thing keeping the antimatter world together. And Omega himself, for that matter.
  • Morton's Fork: Omega can only escape from his realm by relinquishing control of the Singularity he uses to create the realm. Unfortunately, the very moment he relinquished control of the Singularity, everything would fall apart — preventing him from escaping.
  • My Future Self and Me: An especially funny case, as the title characters cannot stand each other. Two and Three bicker constantly, and One gets a wonderful dig at them both (see page quote).
  • No Face Under the Mask: What is revealed when Omega's mask is removed. It turns out his body was consumed by antimatter aeons ago, and his willpower (and hatred) is the only thing holding him together.
  • No Indoor Voice: Omega is one of the hammiest Doctor Who villains, and that's saying something.
  • No Ontological Inertia: When Omega is destroyed, everything he had brought into his antimatter universe over the course of the story is returned to where it came from, including both Doctors, the TARDIS, and UNIT headquarters.
  • Not Where They Thought: UNIT headquarters gets teleported into the Anti-Matter dimension. For some reason, the Brigadier thinks they are in Cromer, a coastal town in Norfolk.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: At one point, the Second Doctor rambles to Omega about his lost recorder, prompting (yet another) tantrum on Omega's part. The Third Doctor reprimands him, only for the Second Doctor to reveal he's just been testing Omega's self-control to find a weakness.
  • Other Me Annoys Me: Two and Three have this attitude with each other.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Radio not working? Smack it on the TARDIS console. Voila!
  • Portal Cut: A multi-coloured energy blob teleports the Doctor and part of the building he's in through a black hole, and later the rest of the building. The two parts of the building arrive in different locations. At the end, when everything is sent back to "where it came from", the two parts of the building are re-assembled, apparently without any permanent damage.
  • Puff of Logic: Subverted. This is essentially what will happen to Omega if his will does not dictate that he exists, but Omega's will proves itself too unshakable for him to just disappear.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Omega's! Entire! Mental! Breakdown!
  • The Rival: Doctors Two and Three take an immediate dislike to each other, and begin sniping at each other from the moment they meet themselves.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: William Hartnell was ill and getting on in years (in fact, this serial was the last time he acted before his death), which is why the First Doctor appears only on a viewscreen.
  • Rebuilt Set: A combination of poor audience responses and the set being damaged in storage meant that the one-time "washbowl" TARDIS interior seen in "The Time Monster" is revamped. Tying in with the show's tenth anniversary, the new design modernizes the interior used from the show's inception in 1963 to "The Curse of Peladon" earlier in 1972, taking advantage of higher-definition color monitors by being more expansive and detailed and trading out the matte roundel wall for a real set of roundels. Typically, the Second Doctor doesn't like it.
  • The Scream: Omega lets out a rather convincing primal wail when he discovers that there's literally nothing left of him but his mind and some dust, animated by willpower alone.
    • And what we saw on screen was actually toned down from the first take. Barry Letts happened to be escorting some children on a tour of the set when this scene was shot and Stephen Thorne's first scream scared the daylights out of them. Letts asked him to take it down a notch for a second take.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Omega.
  • Self-Deprecation: The Doctor's plan to keep the antimatter organism from causing more trouble is to "keep it confused, feed it with useless information" — to which he immediately adds that he wonders if there's TV set handy.
  • Shout-Out: "And we are all together, koo koo kachoo?"note 
  • Something Only They Would Say: At one point the Brigadier — suspicious about the Second Doctor's presence and not fully understanding the situation, believing that the Third Doctor has somehow regressed into his previous body — demands to know whether he's still the Doctor by quizzing him about their previous experiences, including the Yeti in the Underground and the Nestene Consciousness. Partially subverted, however, since while the Second Doctor can remember the first one, as he cheerfully points out the second one hasn't happened for him yet, so he can't answer it.
  • Special Effects Evolution: The "organism" is a video effect that, a few years previously, might have been achieved through more practical means.
  • Stock Footage: The Gel Guards' claw when it fires. There was only one "hero" claw with lights inside, and the effect was done at the quarry.
  • Subverted Catchphrase: Benton passes up the usual "Bigger on the Inside" line.
    Third Doctor: Well, Sergeant? Aren't you going to say "It's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside"? Everybody else does.
    Sgt. Benton: Well, it's... pretty obvious, isn't it?
  • Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum: On learning that he can never leave his antimatter realm, Omega suffers a breakdown and starts vowing to destroy every living thing in the universe.
  • Temporary Substitute: Richard Franklin was unable to appear in the serial, so Captain Yates' role was assigned to Sgt. Benton, whose usual role was given to a new character called Corporal Palmer.
  • This Cannot Be!: Pretty much Omega's response to finding out his physical form has been destroyed: "It! Is! Not! True!"
  • Tragic Villain: You have to feel sorry for Omega living a secluded existence after being responsible for one of the biggest contributions to Time Lord science.
  • Travelling at the Speed of Plot: The sidekicks escape from Omega's stronghold and head back to the Doctor's lab at UNIT HQ in the Doctor's car while the Doctors confront Omega and then escape themselves. The Doctors, on foot, arrive back at the lab only moments after everybody else, despite everybody else having the car and a significant head start.
  • Unfazed Everyman: Sergeant Benton, as always. Gel monsters? The previous version of the Doctor turning up? The TARDIS being Bigger on the Inside? He's Seen It All.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: The three Doctors discuss their plan in front of everybody... with a psychic link. Of course it works perfectly.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: There's an entire world of antimatter inside it. And you can just walk up right to the singularity without ill effects. And afterwards, you can walk away from it again.
  • Villainous Breakdown: He's not exactly the definition of stability to begin with, but Omega goes completely off the deep end when he finds the aforementioned existence failure. "If I exist only by my will... then my will is to DESTROY, and ALL THINGS shall be destroyed! AAAALL THINGS! ALLLLL THIIIINGS!!!" (Cue second anguished wail.)
  • Visible Boom Mic: Just before the Second Doctor's arm appears, a boom mic drifts into the shot directly above John Levene.
  • Waxing Lyrical:
    Third Doctor: I am he and he is me.
    Jo: And we are all together, goo-goo-kachoo?
    Three: What?
    Jo: It's a song by the Beatles.
    Two: Oh, how does it go? [brings his recorder up to his lips]
  • Wham Episode: This brought back the two previous actors who had played the Doctor, a previously unprecedented event, but at the end the format of the series changed as the Doctor's exile to Earth was lifted.
  • Which Me?: The Doctors use "me" to refer to their other self, as well as "he".
  • Wrote the Book: According to the Doctor, his people invented black holes.
  • You Wouldn't Believe Me If I Told You: Mr. Ollis to his wife after he finally gets back home.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Omega is essentially the god of an antimatter world he's imprisoned in within a black hole. Despite having been destroyed by the singularity's energy, he still exists because of his belief and desire for himself to still be alive.


Video Example(s):


Jo quotes "I Am the Walrus"

After the Second Doctor is brought in to help the Third, the pair attempt to explain to Jo that they're different incarnations of the same Time Lord. Jo, still confused, riffs on Three's explanation by quoting the Beatles song "I Am the Walrus".

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / WaxingLyrical

Media sources: