"I am being diminished, whittled away piece by piece. A man is this sum of memories, you know, a Time Lord even more so..."
Someone is taking the Doctor's past selves out of time and space, placing them in a vast wilderness - a battle arena with a sinister tower at its centre. As the various incarnations of the Doctor join forces, they learn they are in the Death Zone on their home world of Gallifrey, fighting Daleks, Cybermen, Yeti... and a devious Time Lord traitor who is using the Doctor and his companions to discover the ancient secrets of Rassilon, the first and most powerful ruler of Gallifrey.
'The Five Doctors' was originally broadcast to celebrate the Twentieth Anniversary of Doctor Who in 1983. This new version of the story features extended scenes, previously unseen sequences, new visual effects and a stereo soundtrack. Not intended as a replacement for the original edition of the story, this is an alternative version which uses state-of-the-art technology to embellish and enlarge one of the greatest Doctor Who adventures ever...
-- from the Special Edition releases - 1995, 1999 and 2005
The Five Doctors, described many times as "the ultimate Doctor Who story", would find itself repeatedly the subject of range launches - a very early VHS release, an early laserdisc release, the first DVD release, and the first ROK release - and also the first major special edition enhancement performed by the BBC's Restoration Team.
Episode timings on DVD: 100'35"
Episode timings on PasC: 90'23"
09/09/1985: UK - BBC Enterprises - BBCV2020 / BBCB2020* [not pictured] [deleted 1988]
01/05/1988: Aus - PolyGram - BBC20202 [not pictured]
??/08/1988: NZ - Kerridge Odeon Amalgamated Video Services - BBC20202 [not pictured] [deleted 1/1996]
??/??/1989: US - Playhouse - 3717
*simultaneous VHS and Betamax releases.
Cover art by Andrew Skilleter, as used on the cover of the Radio Times in November 1983. As this was the first vaguely concurrent release (the story being less than 2 years old at the time of release), and as it was just the fifth VHS released in the UK (so uniformity wasn't much of a concern), the Davison "neon logo" was used (previously also used on the short-lived first release of Revenge of the Cybermen) - other territories used the standard diamond logo.
An incorrect master was picked, resulting in a version with 2 minutes of cuts being released around the world.
02/07/1990: UK - BBC Enterprises - BBCV4387 [deleted 14/8/1995]
For the UK alone, a rerelease took place in 1990 with the original story as broadcast - this is still the only way to see the original story, which has never been released in the US or Australia in any format.
Cover art was by Alistair Pearson, as used on the reissue of the Target novelisation from the same year.
A gift pack was also released, with a Dalek toy packaged inside (see right).
06/11/1995: UK - BBC Worldwide - BBCV5734
11/02/1997: US - CBS/Fox - 8455 [renumbered E1113 by Warner Home Video in 1993]
14/07/1997: Aus - Roadshow Entertainment - B00234
??/07/1997: NZ - Roadshow Entertainment - Z00198
Although the 90s had seen two extended releases of McCoy stories (Silver Nemesis and The Curse of Fenric), this would be the first true Special Edition - recreated from the original film reels, and with brand new CGI effects and a Surround soundtrack, this was a reworking from the ground up from the recently formed Restoration Team, who to date had performed colourisations on a number of Jon Pertwee stories. The team attempted to add their names into the end credits sequence, but producer John Nathan-Turner (who's voice was still heard loudly within the BBC at this time) vetoed it, forcing them to create a short sequence post-credits to list themselves.
The UK and Australian video release of this was as part of the 'Five Doctors: Special Edition' box (BBCV5737, left, and B00234, above) along with the first release of The King's Demons. Also included in the UK were a postcard book (below left) intended to house the art prints released with videos throughout 1995 (The Five Doctors itself contained postcard 7, above right), while the Australians got some playing cards. The American release was in a standard cardboard doublepack featuring none of this, and retitling the main presentation to The Five Doctors: Collector's Edition. For New Zealand the Australian individual videos were separated and released individually.
The cover art was specially commissioned from Colin Howard, except for the UK and Australian outer cases (which featured different photomontages) and the US version which reverted to the art from the 1990 UK VHS release by Alistair Pearson. In 1999, Slow Dazzle released a series of 18 postcards based on Colin Howard illustrations, including one of this very artwork (below right).
The first UK run of this release featured a faulty front-right channel. Once discovered, a second run was made, some re-using the faulty stock which already had a date printed on the spine (hence the in-vision dates on some copies do not tally). All correct copies had an orange sticker added to the spine to identify them.
??/??/1991: US - CBS/Fox - 3717-8O [front and back pictured]
The first of two DW laserdisc releases by Fox (and only seven DW laserdiscs to be released at all worldwide), the other being the following year's The Day of the Daleks, this repeated the 1989 VHS release, using the Skilleter artwork and the 2-minutes-short video.
Rok Player releaseBy 2005, Secure Digital (SD) cards had been gaining popularity as an effective method to store up to 1gb (10% of that of a DVD) of information for use in phones, digital cameras and so on. Phones and PDAs were also battling it out to become the de facto for mobile video, and to that end ROK had begun obtaining licenses to release films and animations on SD cards, bundled with a Nokia compatible decompressor and player, based heavily on the RealPlayer format.
DVD Bonus featuresAs this was the first release, budget was at a minimum, and all the BBC could afford (besides a deluxe 3D menu swooping around the TARDIS console room which would never be seen again) was 8 compilation tracks of the newly remixed soundtrack being played in isolation on a menu screen. Due to an error at the mastering stage, this plays back around 10% too slow. This was corrected for the American version, which included different track breaks and misses the last few tracks (see 'menus' below for grab on far right from UK version).
26/3/1986 - Cut version passed as 'U' by the BBFC for the UK.
11/2/1988 - Cut version passed as 'G' by the OFLC for Aus/NZ (later misfiled as the Special Edition).
20/6/1990 - Unedited version passed as 'U' by the BBFC for the UK.
6/10/1995 - Special Edition passed as 'U' by the BBFC for the UK.
23/4/1997 - Special Edition passed as 'PG' [Low level violence] by the OFLC for Aus/NZ
20/7/2000 - DVD passed as 'PG' [Low level violence] by the OFLC for Aus/NZ