The Day(s) the Doctors Met
We all know that the Doctor is a Time Lord, but sometimes his command of time and space isn’t quite up to scratch and that often results in him meeting himself in a different guise. Of course, if science fiction has taught us anything over the years it’s that meeting yourself or someone in your family in the past is never a good thing. For example, when Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) told Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) not to interact with his family members after travelling through time in Back to the Future (1984), hundreds of millions of people (the movie grossed $385 million worldwide) learned that crossing paths with a relative in the past can alter the whole course of history.
Naturally, for this hypothesis to be accepted by the science fiction community, it needs to be tested and that’s something the Doctor has done on numerous occasions. Although the consequences of two or more Doctors meeting aren’t always as dire as they are in other shows and movies, they often result in some sort of epic battle with creatures from another dimension. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty average day in the Doctor’s life.
The Doctors’ Perfect Poker Faces
One memorable episode where multiple Doctors got their heads together and subsequently clashed them was in Five Card Draw. Throughout the Doctor Who series, we often get hints that the man himself is something of a gambler, someone willing to take a risk and put it all on the line when it matters. Anytime he’s battling his top enemies, such as the Daleks, Cybermen or Weeping Angels, the Doctor is always willing to take a risk to win and that’s probably why he’s a canny poker player.
Looking back through the history of Doctor Who, there are numerous times where the game is referenced. From Lonely Days, where he won a planet playing poker on 25th Century Earth to the 1870s American Frontier where the Eighth Doctor played against himself in The 100 Days of the Doctor, poker seems to be the Time Lord’s game of choice when it comes to settling disputes and having some fun.
Thanks to studies carried out into the common traits of casino players, we know that the Doctor is actually well suited to the game of poker. By looking through the skills that define certain gambling types, we can see that blackjack players are persistent while roulette can often be impulsive decisions makers.
Assessments of gambling personality types also tell us that poker is the “ultimate skill game” and a combination of timing, mathematics and courage. The Doctor certainly is a combo of those traits. He meets enough of them to be considered someone who could potentially thrive at the poker table. But again, most poker players are disciplined and patient, according to the experts, and that’s certainly not the Doctor. Still depending on which Doctor you’re talking about.
However, the greats also don’t mind spending a lot of time on their own and have a calculating yet unpredictable streak. This is the Doctor’s personality down to a tee and that’s why the showdown in Five Card Draw is so engaging. With the Second Doctor, Third Doctor, Fifth Doctor and Sixth Doctor playing a single hand of five card draw to see who would face the knights in a battle, it was unclear which player would come out victorious.
Eventually, the Third Doctor won with a full house while the Fifth Doctor had to face the knights. In the end, it was the cards that had to decide the hand, rather than one player’s psychological advantage (as they essentially all had the same mind). In fact, such is the connection between Doctor Who and cards that British games company Cubicle 7 has actually created a five card draw style game called: Doctor Who: The Card Game.
The Missing Doctor
Of course, the Doctor facing off against himself in a game of wit and logic isn’t the only time we’ve seen multiple incarnations of the Time Lord appear in the same episode. The famous 20th anniversary episode titled The Five Doctors saw an unprecedented four Doctors actually appear on screen together.
The 1983 Children in Need special, which was one of host Terry Wogan’s top moments, lasted for 90 minutes and saw the four Doctors (Tom Baker declined to take part) work with each other in a bid to stop the Eye of Harmony being drained. Naturally, each one completes his task successfully (in the end) and harmony is eventually restored, but not before a series of near misses and untimely deaths (including the Fifth Doctor).
One of the other interesting times when multiple Doctors joined forces was the 239th story and the first feature-length multiple-Doctor episode shot by BBC Wales: The Day of the Doctor.
Despite almost falling flat on its face, the episode aired on November 23 and 24, 2013, around the world at exactly the same time (the discrepancy in dates was a result of the programme being shown in multiple time zones). The episode attracted 12.8 million viewers in the UK alone and saw ten Doctors make an appearance.
A Day for Doctor Who Fans to Remember
Leading the way with live appearances in the 50th anniversary special was David Tennant and Matt Smith, but we also got cameos from the likes of John Hurt, who is now using his Doctor Who name to support junior doctors in the UK, Tom Baker and Billie Piper, as Tennant and Smith race back through time in attempt to stop their own demise in a past life.
Appropriately, the 50th anniversary episode is packed with action, excitement and, of course, drama. In fact, if there was ever a perfect example of how things go wrong every time the Doctors cross paths, it’s this episode. While some may still criticise the modern incarnations of Doctor Who for their movement away from the kitsch, this episode has been highlighted as an excellent representation of the franchise as a whole.
Indeed, by bringing in as many Doctors as possible (through live appearances and archive footage), director Nick Hurran was able to show the rich history of the show and epitomise exactly why we love seeing old and new incarnations join forces on screen. So, while it’s true that Doctors mixing on screen doesn’t always work out well (although it usually turns out alright in the end), it’s certainly a tradition we wouldn’t swap for anything.