Getting to know Who: The Three Doctors

Forty years ago, Doctor Who celebrated its tenth anniversary and brought together the Doctor’s earliest incarnations. Our celebration of key Doctor Who adventures reaches The Three Doctors.


Third, later joined by the Second. They’re aided (lectured?) by the First.


Jo Grant, and UNIT regulars Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Sergeant Benton.


Strange plasma creatures arrive on Earth. Gallifrey suffers a massive power drain. With the cause coming from beyond a black hole, the Time Lords are left with no alternative but to unite the Doctor’s first three incarnations to investigate.

The story so far…

  • The Doctor in his Third incarnation is largely banished to Earth, and unable to fly the TARDIS unless remote controlled by the Time Lords.
  • The Time Lords were introduced in 1969 in the Second Doctor’s final adventure. We’ve seen a few glimpses of them since, and met the unscrupulous Master, but it’s not until this adventure that more of their back story is filled in.
  • This adventure establishes Omega – one of the founders of Time Lord society. A stellar engineer who collapsed a star, Omega gave the Gallifreyans a power source for time travel. He was lost in the supernova and left for dead.

Best bit:

The First Doctor addresses his successors.


Key quote:

Omega: A hero? I should have been a god!

Why it's worth a watch:

The special effects may have aged very badly, but what The Three Doctors adds to Doctor Who’s legacy still endures. It expands the history of Time Lord culture – creating the character of Omega and explaining how the Gallifreyans became masters of time. It’s also the first time the series directly acknowledged and celebrated its own past, bringing past Doctors into new adventures. The interplay between the chaotic Patrick Troughton and the fastidious Jon Pertwee is fantastic – belying the fact that they initially found working together quite hard work. And seeing William Hartnell in his final TV performance – barely a ghost on a screen, but still able to issue a cutting put-down – is moving stuff.


Read more about The Three Doctors at the BBC Doctor Who website, or get to know more Doctor Who adventures.

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