One of the biggest causes for speculation during the run-up to the Doctor Who Fiftieth Anniversary special was which (if any) former Doctors would be involved. It was announced that David Tennant would be a part of it, and just before it aired, Eighth Doctor Paul McGann appeared in The Night of the Doctor webisode, but what about other Doctors from the Classic Era? Without them, the show wouldn’t be what it is today, but for a long time all we knew was that, in what appeared to be some kind of BBC publicity stunt, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy (the fifth, sixth, and seventh Doctors, respectively) had appeared outside of the Beeb in London with signs protesting the lack of classic Doctors in the anniversary special. Well, now we know — those photos that made the rounds of the Internet were, in fact, taken during the making of The Five(ish) Doctors, a half-hour film written and directed by Peter Davison as part of the Fiftieth Anniversary festivities.
The premise of the film, which takes its name from the multi-Doctor story that aired during the twentieth year of the show, is that Davison thinks that classic Doctors should have a part in the anniversary special and volunteers himself for the part, enlisting the help of Baker and McCoy along the way. When their repeated phone calls to Steven Moffat and protests outside of the BBC have no effect, they take it upon themselves to go to Cardiff where, with a little help from Davison’s family connections (you did know that David Tennant is his son-in-law, right?), they sneak into the Roath Lock studios where the show is being filmed and attempt to create a part for themselves. Are they successful? Well, you’ll just have to watch to find out.
The Five(ish) Doctors is a wonderful tribute to Who old and new in the guise of a comedic masterpiece -—as one of the hosts of the Verity! Podcast noted, Davison can quit the acting gig and become a full-time comedy writer any time. The antics of the Doctors are hilarious, and they are always quite good at poking fun at themselves, from Davison’s repeated (and failed) attempts to get people to recognize him to Sylvester McCoy’s constant references to his participation in the Hobbit movies (and Peter Jackson and Ian McKellen even have cameos). Paul McGann is included in their group as well — he promises to help them out if he doesn’t have any other filming commitments. Tom Baker, however, the other living classic Doctor, only appears in the form of footage from “Shada,” the Douglas Adams story that was filmed but never aired. (If, like me, you have very limited knowledge of classic Who, let me explain why this is absolutely hilarious — Tom Baker refused to take part in “The Five Doctors” in 1983. In order to live up to the episode title, they stuck in bits and pieces of “Shada” footage, since no one had seen it on TV up to that point.)
In addition to the aforementioned “Shada” callback, there are numerous references to keep classic Who fans entertained — some I sort-of recognize but I’m sure many more went over my head. If you’re a New Who fan like me, however, don’t be turned off by the fact that it’s about classic Doctors. Many people involved with Doctor Who currently and just recently in the past appear in this film. In addition to Tennant (and his wife, Davison’s daughter Georgia Moffett) and Moffat, notable New Whovians include John Barrowman (who is trying to hide a hilarious secret when he runs in to the trio in London), Nicholas Briggs (the voice of the Daleks), and former show runner Russell T. Davies. The Doctor Who Experience museum in Cardiff even gets a few minutes in the spotlight — the three Doctors visit it before going to the studio in order to get their old costumes (their original jackets — yes, even Baker’s amazing Technicolor dreamcoat — that they wear on top of their fifth, sixth, and seventh Doctor costume t-shirts.)
There is so much more that could be said, but I’ll limit myself to only one more — go watch this video! There is so much good stuff here for new and old fans alike. It has to be one of my favorite parts of the Fiftieth Anniversary hoopla, hands down.
Some of my inside information (i.e., the references I didn’t get when I watched it, particularly the Tom Baker “Shada” clip) came from the Staggering Stories Podcast commentary. The analysis/review/squee I most enjoyed was that of the Verity! Podcast crew. No, that’s not a link to the specific episode — I couldn’t remember which one it was where they discussed it and the show notes didn’t help. You need to listen to them all, anyway, it’s an awesome podcast!