Season Twenty is considered to be a very special and well liked season for a number of reasons.
Firstly we have the return of companion Tegan Jovanka, a brief return of The Brigadier, the departure of Nyssa and the joining of Vislor Turlough and Kamelion. Then we have the return of a number of foes that The Doctor has encountered previously – including The Master and the Black Guardian.
However, the most important event of this, the Twentieth Anniversary season of Doctor Who is the special story "The Five Doctors" that reunited previous incarnations of The Doctor with previous companions and foes in a 90 minute single-part story.
Unlike the Tenth Anniversary special, "The Three Doctors", which had been broadcast at the beginning of Season Ten, "The Five Doctors" was shown as close as possible to the actual anniversary in November 1983. As Season Twenty started in January 1983 and lasted only for 11 weeks as this season contained 22 episodes shown twice a week. This meant that there was a gap of over eight months before this special story was shown. Some fans consider "The Five Doctors" as not being part of Season Twenty but it is generally considered to be part of this season especially as the majority of the funding for this story came out of the budget allocated to Season Twenty.
This story was the second of two visits that The Doctor made to his homeworld of Gallifrey during this season. Joining the current regular cast (Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson) this very special story included a multitude of guest appearances including William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Carole Ann Ford, Nicholas Courtney, Elisabeth Sladen, Lalla Ward, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Caroline John, Richard Franklin, John Leeson and David Banks. This unique story was done on a scale that had not been attempted previously and is highly unlikely to be attempted again.
This season though started with "Arc of Infinity", which in itself is considered to be a rather special story. Not only do we get to see Gallifrey again but we also get to see a foe who The Doctor had not encountered for ten years. This was Omega, another renegade Time Lord who had previously appeared in the 1973 Tenth Anniversary story "The Three Doctors".
But more importantly it was with regards to The Doctor’s companions that "Arc of Infinity" is remembered for the most. At the end of Season Nineteen we witnessed the departure of Tegan when she finally got her wish to be returned back to the time and place that she started her travels with The Doctor. But her absence from the TARDIS, at the end of "Time-Flight" (the final story of Season Nineteen), was to be short lived as in "Arc of Infinity", she would once again find herself caught up with The Doctor and Nyssa which resulted in her continuing her travels with them both once more.
The "Arc of Infinity" also contained sequences that were filmed overseas – an occurrence that took place for just the second time in the show’s history. The previous oversees recording had occurred in the 1979 Fourth Doctor story "City of Death". This had been on location in Paris, France. The venue Producer John Nathan-Turner chose for "Arc of Infinity" was Amsterdam in Holland.
Season Twenty is renowned for having all its stories containing a foe from the past. With Omega being represented in "Arc of Infinity" the story that followed was "Snakedance" which saw Tegan once again being haunted by the Mara who had made their debut in last season’s "Kinda". The next story was the first of a three-part mini-series that is more commonly referred to as "The Black Guardian Trilogy" as it heralded the return of Valentine Dyall reprising his role as the Black Guardian. The Black Guardian had last appeared in the 1979 Fourth Doctor story "The Armageddon Factor" at the end of Season Sixteen. In the three stories in this season the Black Guardian has finally caught up with The Doctor in his quest to wage vengeance on The Doctor for his earlier crime of sabotaging his plans to obtain The Key to Time.
The sixth story of this season, "The King's Demons", sees the return of The Doctor’s arch enemy The Master who is attempting to alter the course of British history at the time of King John and the signing of the Magna Carta in thirteen-century England. The final story of Season Twenty sees the return of a multitude of previous foes. Being the Twentieth Anniversary special "The Five Doctors" contained a Yeti, the Cybermen, The Master as well as a Dalek! The true villain of this story however, turned out to be President Borusa who had actually helped The Doctor during "Arc of Infinity".
During Season Twenty we also witnessed the comings and goings of many companions. As already mentioned Tegan, after leaving at the end of Season Nineteen was reunited, after a very short period of time, with The Doctor and Nyssa in "Arc of Infinity". Then in "Mawdryn Undead" we get to see the brief return of The Brigadier. Now retired from UNIT, The Brigadier is seen working as a school teacher at a public school. This story however, contains two time-zones and so we get to see two versions of The Brigadier. One as he was in 1977 and the other in 1983. It is also during this story that the Black Guardian enlists the help of stranded enigmatic alien schoolboy Turlough. Unwittingly The Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa allow Turlough to join them in the TARDIS completely unaware that Turlough is, all-be-it reluctantly, working for the Black Guardian.
The very next story, "Terminus", the Black Guardian persuades Turlough to sabotage the TARDIS forcing Nyssa to board a spaceship transporting sufferers of a deadly disease to a space station (known as Terminus) so that they can be cured. Nyssa, after becoming infected herself discovers that the cure, a large dosage of radiation, is partially effective and could, with her assistance and scientific skills, become much more effective. And so at the end of this story she elects to stay behind to help run Terminus as a proper hospital instead of a leper colony. Finally, in "The King's Demons" a new type of companion joined the TARDIS. This was the robot Kamelion. Unfortunately due to major technical problems Kamelion only ended up appearing in two stories ("The King's Demons" and next season’s "Planet of Fire").
As had been done with Season Nineteen, Season Twenty was aired two nights a week. Although the Wednesday broadcast would be maintained it was decided to shift the other weekly broadcast from Mondays to Tuesdays. The only exception was the first episode of "Arc of Infinity" which was still shown on the Monday.
Behind the cameras the main production team remained the same with Producer John Nathan-Turner and Script Editor Eric Saward both remaining at the helm for the whole season. The Writers and Directors employed for most of the stories were those who had worked on the show before and mainly stories from the previous season. The only really upset of the season was once again certain stories suffered due to industrial action within the BBC.
Since John Nathan-Turner became the show’s producer with Season Eighteen, the programme had received a budget sufficient for twenty-eight episodes. For Season Nineteen, two episodes’ worth had been diverted to create the 1981 spin-off special "K9 and Company: A Girl's Best Friend". It was therefore decided that Season Twenty would run with just twenty-six episodes along with the anniversary special, "The Five Doctors". However, due to the industrial action by the BBC’s electricians union production on the final part of the season was heavily delayed forcing the eventual abandonment of its final four-part story. This story would have seen the return of the Daleks and had the working title "The Return". Unlike the aborted "Shada", that was due to be part of Season Seventeen, "The Return" (renamed to "Resurrection of the Daleks") would finally be made in the following season. This meant that Season Twenty only ran for twenty-two episodes plus the anniversary special, "The Five Doctors".
Overall it had been an uneven season, with viewing levels down sharply on Season Nineteen - the first episode of "The King's Demons", in fact, scored the lowest rating since the Fourth Doctor’s disastrous final season. Meanwhile, given the many problems associated with Kamelion, John Nathan-Turner had already made the decision to write the android out of the show as soon as possible. Any thought of Kamelion playing an active role in the following stories had unfortunately been entirely abandoned.
Despite the fall in viewing figures this season contained a number of interesting stories. As well as introducing a companion and with the return of Omega and the Black Guardian, it of course contained the anniversary special and so is a season that contains many enjoyable and memorable stories.
The must see story of this season has to be the Twentieth Anniversary special "The Five Doctors" that reunited previous incarnations of The Doctor with previous companions and foes. This special story contains so many elements that are worthy of watching. Right from the start we get to see a clip of the First Doctor (played by the late William Hartnell). This clip was used as a pre-credits hook and was originally the First Doctor’s farewell speech to Susan in episode six of the 1964 Story "The Dalek Invasion of Earth". Its’ re-use in "The Five Doctors" was a fitting tribute to the great William Hartnell and set the tone for the remainder of this story perfectly.
|Hunting Down Omega
This anniversary special included all five incarnations of The Doctor. For the story proper the part of the First Doctor was played by Richard Hurndall. Joining him were Patrick Troughton (the Second Doctor), Jon Pertwee (the Third Doctor), Tom Baker (cameo of the Fourth Doctor) and Peter Davison (as the Fifth Doctor). Reunited with their respective companions we witnessed the First Doctor and Susan being chased by a Dalek, the Second Doctor and The Brigadier being trapped in a cave with a Yeti and the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith being pursued by a legion of Cybermen and having to find a way to get past a deadly Raston Warrior Robot. We also get to see, for the first time, a short scene originally from the aborted Season Seventeen story "Shada" of the Fourth Doctor and Romana punting on a river.
It is though the ending of this story when the four incarnations of The Doctor, that are trapped in the Death Zone, and a number of companions are re-united at last and start to work together (just) to learn the secret of Rassilon’s Tomb and to determine who has used banned Time Lord technology to bring them to the Death Zone - where we at last get to see Rassilon himself.
With such a well liked and unique story finishing off this season it would be easy to forget the other six stories that make up this season. This would be the wrong thing to do as a number of these stories contain memorable events – some for good reasons and others not so…
The first story of the season sees the return of Omega and Tegan Jovanka as well as a chase scene down the streets and across the canals of Amsterdam in Holland. This is the only second time that the show had been filmed abroad. In this story if you look hard enough you will even get a glimpse on camera of Producer John Nathan-Turner unsuccessfully attempting a bit of crowd control.
Then in "Mawdryn Undead", The Brigadier makes a brief return. Now retired from UNIT, The Brigadier is seen working as a school teacher at a public school. Not only does The Brigadier get to meet the fifth incarnation of The Doctor but he also gets to meet Nyssa and Tegan – but in a different time zone. Confused? Well this is because Tegan and Nyssa find that they have travelled back to 1977 while the The Doctor is in 1983. Both versions of The Brigadier end up on a spaceship at the same time and there is sequence where they are both wandering the corridors narrowly missing each other. However, the inevitable happens and they eventually meet, and as The Doctor predicted, and there is a massive discharge of energy.
This story also introduced new companion Vislor Turlough who, despite working against The Doctor, becomes a companion. Turlough is in fact working, all-be-it reluctantly, for the Black Guardian.
"Mawdryn Undead" is the first of a mini-series of three stories that is more commonly referred to as "The Black Guardian Trilogy". The second of these stories is "Terminus". Not to be considered to be the best of stories "Terminus" has the accolade of having Nyssa, for no apparent on-screen reason, shedding her outer clothes and spending the majority of this, her final story, in her underwear…