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TME > Video > Commercial Releases

The Five Doctors

"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"

VHS releases

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.

Laserdisc release

??/??/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.

DVD releases

01/11/1999: UK - BBC Worldwide - BBCDVD1006
09/10/2000: Aus/NZ - Roadshow Entertainment - B001989
11/09/2001: US - Warner Home Video - E1596
02/07/2007: UK - 2|entertain - BBCDVD1006

This story was chosen to launch the DVD range, as its Surround Sound soundtrack could easily be subtly remixed into Dolby 5.1 - it was, therefore, the only release not to feature an "as broadcast" (or near-enough at least) edit in addition to the special edition. This was present as the SE alone (with very few bonus features!), whereas future releases (such as The Curse of Fenric) would feature multiple edits. The other way in which the disc is unique, is that is is the only BBC Doctor Who release to feature subtitles in foreign languages, including as it does French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Dutch.

While the original UK video release featured liner notes compiled by Gary Russell (as did all 1995 VHSs) the DVD included a large booklet, introducing us to the concept of Doctor Who and also the Doctors and companions present in the story. The writer of the booklet was apparently somewhat in awe of the production, describing, for example, Richard Hurndall as managing "to take on the task and recreate Hartnell's Doctor with breathtaking accuracy."

As John Nathan Turner had become less vocal around the BBC, the Restoration Team were able to include their names in the correct places in the end title sequence, with the slight alteration to the sound credit reflecting the new 5.1 remix. This has the unfortunate outcome of the musical 'segue' falling in the wrong place, not during Peter Howell's credit as it had always done previously.

A new version of the opening 'swoop' showing the timescoop picking up the BBC logo, as present on the video release, was prepared since the logo changed in 1998, but was vetoed by the Worldwide bosses.

Cover art by Colin Howard, from the 1995 VHS, and Black Sheep for the US. It was based on a template used for the first six BBC DVDs (all released on the same day in 1999), and loosely used for several more releases in 2000. In order to more closely match the rest of the range, BBC Online commissioned Big Finish artist Lee Binding to create a new cover for Christmas 2004 (see right) which was given away free on the offical website.

In Summer 2007, 2|entertain repackaged Spearhead from Space, Genesis of the Daleks, The Hand of Fear, Earthshock, The Five Doctors, Revelation of the Daleks, Remembrance of the Daleks and The 1996 Movie in new packaging, generally based on the existing art inside a circle motif - these were, however, just cardboard slipcases over the existing releases, and at a lower price-point.

Rok Player release

By 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.

On August 22nd 2005, they announced that a deal had been struck with BBC Worldwide to release some of their back catalogue in this format, launching with three episodes of Red Dwarf (Marooned, Quarantine and Cassandra) and The Five Doctors: Special Edition, with an RRP of 17 each. At the time of release, the Rokplayer cards were compatible with the following Nokias: 6680, 3230, 6670, 6260, 6630, NGage, NGage-QD, 7610, 6620, 3650, 6600, 3600 - with others (including Sony and Samsung models) made compatible later.

Each of their early releases included a sticker advertising "Special Bonus: includes, 15 wallpapers & 13 ringtones". Disappointingly, these were generic images and ringtones that were identical from one chip to the next. More disappointingly the chip was only half the size of a regular SD (with a "holder" making up the other half, allowing it to be safely plugged in and removed), forcing the filesize down to just 44mb - around 1% of that of the DVD version - the quality was less than impressive.

To make it more visible in shops, the chip (which featured a mini version of Colin Howard's artwork) was housed in a small plastic casing, which in turn was mounted in foam in a CD-sized case (see right).

The Five Doctors was released later in 2005, but so far no further releases have been announced...

DVD Bonus features

As 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).

The US release added a commentary by Peter Davison and Terrance Dicks, recorded 14/5/2001 in Theatre R at BBC Television Centre.

The Region 1 version also features a couple of tracks added by mistake. Title 1, track 5 is a silent version of the UNIT Recruitment Film from Spearhead From Space, and track 6 is a silent version of the Unsyphered Robot clip from The Robots Of Death featurette. These are not accessible from any of the menus.


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

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