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Doctors Dilemma

By Jon Preddle

The Five Doctors Dilemma

Coincidentally, five of the six questions covered this issue are to do with the twentieth anniversary tale The Five Doctors. But first, Stuart Brown of Havelock North writes, 'Two of my friends are convinced that the Doctor has only six regenerations. They say that when he first regenerated it was stated that he had only six but it was later changed to twelve. Is there any truth in this at all?'

I'm not sure where your friends got the idea of only six regenerations from, Stuart, but they are wrong. Until we saw it happen at the end of The Tenth Planet that we had no idea that the Doctor was capable of changing his form. It wasn't until The Deadly Assassin ten years later that the concept of a limited number of regenerations - twelve - became lore. Incidentally, the term 'regeneration' didn't appear in the series until Planet of the Spiders Part Six!

In earlier stories it was implied that only the Doctor had the ability to change his form. Time Lords, and even the Doctor himself, always referred to this 'miracle' as something else, never as regeneration:

  • 'You may have changed your appearance but I know who you are.' - War Chief, The War Games Episode Eight.
  • 'Your appearance has changed before it will change again.' - Time Lord, The War Games Episode Ten.
  • 'Show me the Doctor... before he changed his form.' - President, The Three Doctors Episode One.
  • '[The Time Lords] changed my appearance and exiled me to Earth.' - the Doctor, Frontier in Space Episode Four.

When we saw K'Anpo Rimpoche change into Cho Je we learned that other Time Lords had that same ability. And it was during the Doctor's discussion with K'Anpo in Planet of the Spiders Part Six that the word 'regeneration' was used for the very first time.

And that leads nicely into the first question about The Five Doctors. Alden Bates asks: In The Five Doctors, the Master was offered a new set of regenerations. Why didn't Borusa just do the same thing to himself instead of all that rigmarole with the Death Zone?

There is no direct answer to this evident in the episode itself, so my theory is that the Time Lords must have known that the Master is no longer a Time Lord. Having taken possession of Tremas' body in The Keeper of Traken the Master ceased to be a Time Lord and a Gallifreyan, and thus lost his natural Time Lord ability to regenerate. What the High Council was offering was to turn Tremas' body into that of a Time Lord and thus giving the Master a new cycle of twelve regenerations. Exactly how this would be achieved is not known but we can guess that the Eye of Harmony plays an important role. After all, it was by exposing himself to the crystal in The Deadly Assassin that the Master had hoped to trigger a new cycle.

As it is stated in The Five Doctors Borusa has himself only just regenerated. He wanted to be President-Eternal so maybe he was near the end of his own cycle with this latest regeneration. Maybe he thought that direct exposure to the Eye of Harmony would be dangerous and too risky to attempt, and also difficult to do without being seen! Therefore, the only other way to achieve his objective was to seek the power of immortality from Rassilon's tomb.

Sam Anderson has also been watching The Five Doctors: When the obelisk takes each person to the Death Zone, we see a small statuette of that person appear in the Game Room. The Master was summoned to Gallifrey by the other High Councillors and yet when the Fifth Doctor meets Borusa in the Game Room there is a figure of the Master on the game board and Borusa declares he brought 'an enemy to fight.' How can this be when the Master wasn't time-scooped by Borusa?

The existence of the Master's statuette indicates that Borusa had planned to include the Master in his scheme from the outset. With the Time Scoop becoming unreliable and causing the Fourth Doctor and Romana to get stuck in limbo, he was unable to scoop the evil renegade to Gallifrey so he probably used the Coronet Of Rassilon to 'persuade' his fellow Councillors to summon the Master. He then placed the already prepared statuette on the game board once the Master was in the Zone.

Sam also asks about the scene where the First and Fifth Doctors have just met and are discussing where they are. Part of the conversation goes:
First Doctor: We're in the Dark Zone on Gallifrey.
Turlough: How can you be sure?
Fifth Doctor: Well, the Tomb of Rassilon!
Sam wants to know how the Fifth Doctor knows about the tomb when he hasn't been outside the TARDIS and the only time the scanner was opened he was unconscious.

This dialogue occurs while the three companions are having a 'picnic' in the TARDIS. Although we do not see it on screen, there is sufficient time while the meal is being prepared for the First Doctor to tell the Fifth what has happened to him so far, including his encounter with the Dalek and the sighting of the Tomb outside.

Matthew Jones writes: In The Five Doctors, when the Second Doctor confronts Jamie and Zoo, he tells them that the Time Lords sent them back to their own people. He then regenerated into the Third Doctor, so how did the Second Doctor know about his future? And from Stuart Brown: I was wondering from which time/space period each Doctor was taken from in The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors. I know that the Second Doctor was taken from in between Fury from the Deep and The Wheel in Space in The Two Doctors.

The multi-Doctor stories were covered in Doctor's Dilemma back in TSV 15, but since that issue is no longer available I will use the same theories to answer Matthew and Stuart's question: Ben and Polly entered the TARDIS on 20 July 1966 as is stated in The Faceless Ones. The Doctor arrived in London in The War Machines on 14 July, a date given in that story. The main part of The War Machines takes place over three days, which is only to 16 July. Therefore, another four days lapsed between the destruction of WOTAN and the Doctor's departure. Since the majority of the Hartnell stories are consecutive there is no place that the Doctor could be snatched without being missed. However, those four days provide an excellent gap.

Therefore, in my view, the Doctor was scooped by the Time Lords in The Three Doctors during these days in London. He was returned to the same garden from whence he was taken only to be scooped by Borusa almost immediately after. He remembers his meeting with his future selves because he refers to 'the little fellow' at one point in The Five Doctors. He was subsequently returned to the garden by Rassilon, his memory having been erased (by Rassilon?), of both adventures with his future selves.

The Second Doctor recognises both Benton and the Brigadier in The Three Doctors so he must have been taken at some point after The Invasion. When he is subsequently returned to his own time stream at the end of The Three Doctors, his memory of that adventure was not erased. That could explain why, in The War Games, the Doctor is reluctant to contact his own people and later tries to evade capture because he knows what will happen to him! Therefore, I would place The Three Doctors between The Space Pirates and The War Games.

The Second Doctor's abduction in The Five Doctors is a little trickier. However, this is what I think happened: While on his way to Earth to begin his exile and before his appearance was altered the second Doctor managed to bypass the Time Lords' control of the ship and lands in England. He reads of the UNIT reunion in a newspaper, and jumps back in time by one day ('For once I was able to steer the TARDIS') to see the Brigadier. He says he's 'not exactly breaking the laws of time but I am bending them a little', which seems to refer to his escaping the Time Lord's control. He mentions Omega during his walk with the Brigadier, so he still remembers that adventure. When the obelisk approaches, the Doctor says, 'I think our past is catching up on us. Or maybe our future', which I think is a witty reference to his impending exile. Since he had only just left Gallifrey that is why he knows what happened to Jamie and Zoe, in answer to Matthew Jones' question.

At the end of The Five Doctors the Second Doctor is returned to the TARDIS by Rassilon. His memory of both adventures with his future selves is erased, his regeneration triggered, and the TARDIS eventually lands in Oxley Woods as seen in Spearhead from Space. (By the way, Stuart, because Victoria was travelling with the Doctor and Jamie at the time of The Two Doctors, it is more than likely that that story takes place between The Web of Fear and Fury from the Deep, not Fury and The Wheel in Space, as you stated.)

The Third Doctor knows Sarah in The Five Doctors so he must have been taken from some point during Season Eleven. Since all stories from The Time Warrior to The Monster of Peladon appear to be consecutive, the most likely place from which the Doctor was scooped is between The Monster of Peladon and Planet of the Spiders.

Based on the Fourth Doctor's style of dress in The Five Doctors, I would place his and Romana's abduction during Season Seventeen. And no, it was not during Shada!

This item appeared in TSV 37 (January 1994).

Index nodes: Doctor's Dilemma, The Five Doctors