The first multi-Doctor adventure hit TV screens back in 1973 to mark the tenth anniversary of the show. Joining the flamboyant incumbent Third Doctor Jon Pertwee were his predecessors Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell. The plot saw an unusual energy blob heading for earth and Gallifrey under siege. In need of help, the Doctor broke the First Rule of Time by summoning his first two incarnations to assist him. Pertwee and Troughton’s Doctors spent much time bickering while occasionally speaking with the First Doctor who was trapped in a ‘time eddy’. This was unfortunately due to Hartnell’s declining health, which reduced his role to a pre-recorded cameo.
Ten years and two Doctors later it was time for the 20th anniversary celebration. Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor and his previous incarnations, along with some former companions, were mysteriously ‘time scooped’ to the Dead Zone on Gallifrey. Lord President of the High Council Borusa was seeking immortality from the tomb of Rassilon and wanted to use the Doctors’ wisdom to bypass the bobby traps hidden within the tomb. At face value it seemed a fun reunion to celebrate the anniversary – however, only Doctors Two, Three and Five were really in it. William Hartnell had passed away in 1975 meaning that the First Doctor was portrayed by Richard Hurndall. Meanwhile, Tom Baker declined to return so instead the producers used footage of the Fourth Doctor from the unfinished serial Shada. Oh and, yes, that’s a waxwork model of Baker from Madame Tussauds in the publicity shot above!
Two years later, Colin Baker’s multi-coloured Sixth Doctor come face to face with the clownish Second Doctor in Patrick Troughton’s third return for a multi-Doctor special. The narrative saw the Doctors and their companions Jamie and Peri whisked into the centre of a Sontaran plot to steal the secrets of time travel. Double-Doctor antics aside, at the end of this episode the Sixth Doctor decided that he and Peri should turn vegetarian – a decision he pretty much stuck to until Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor ordered steak and chips in 2005’s Boom Town.
Although 1989 saw the cancellation of Doctor Who, a charity special was produced by Children in Need to coincide with the show’s 30th anniversary. In a bizarre crossover with Eastenders’ Albert Square, the story saw the Rani open a hole in time to capture all the Doctor’s selves, trapping them in a time loop. Since both Hartnell and Troughton had passed away, their Doctors were already ‘captured’; represented in the special as weird wax figure heads floating around the Rani’s TARDIS. This time though Tom Baker did get involved, warning the other Doctors of the Rani’s plan. A nice bit of fun but some of the Doctors are really looking their age – watch out for Colin Baker’s bald patch!
The Multi-Doctor format’s New Who debut came in the form of another Children in Need mini-episode. Parked between the end of series three and 2007’s Christmas special aboard a space Titanic, this short saw the Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS merge with the Fifth’s – which apparently explained away Peter Davison’s ageing… The Tenth Doctor recognises the Fifth and, after enjoying the nostalgia of examining his younger self’s celery lapel, explains how he based his current style on him: “I still do that, the voice thing, I got that from you. Oh, and the trainers. And…” [putting his glasses on] “snap! ‘Cos you know what, Doctor? You were my Doctor.” It’s nice to know David Tennant was a fan of Davison’s – five years later the Fifth Doctor became the Tenth Doctor’s father-in-law when Tennant married his daughter Georgia Moffett.
With 2013’s 50th anniversary special beckoning, the series seven finale needed to end with a real cliffhanging bang. Not only did we find out what made companion Clara Oswald the Impossible Girl, but in the final moments we also got our first glimpse of John Hurt’s mysterious War Doctor, an incarnation Matt Smith’s Eleventh was not too pleased to see…
Here we are, the big one – the ultimate multi-Doctor story! Not only do we have David Tennant returning to join Matt Smith and the full introduction of a brand new and secret incarnation, John Hurt’s mysterious War Doctor, but also the heart-thumping scene in which EVERY Doctor – including Peter Capaldi’s yet-to-be-unveiled Twelfth (well, his attack eyebrows at least) – bands together to save Gallifrey from destruction. Multi-Doctor extravaganza! Oh, and then there’s Tom Baker’s cameo as the enigmatic Curator’, followed by a closing shot of all the Doctors together looking up at Gallifrey. *Faints*
Peter Capaldi’s epic full debut episode featured a tear-jerking second farewell to his former self, when Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor phoned Clara from Trenzalore just before his regeneration asking her to look after the new him. “Is that the Doctor?” asks Twelve. “He sounds old,” replies Eleven. “Please tell me I didn’t get old. Anything but old…”
Not exactly a meeting of Doctors per se – but we do see The Doctor at a time in his life that’s never been explored before, and we get a glimpse of another incarnation…
The Twelfth Doctor becomes paranoid that there’s a creature that has perfected the ability to hide. A creature whose hands reach out from under your bed at night to grab your legs. Throughout the episode, the Doctor tries to work out what this creature is while Clara dismisses it as a myth. That is until the TARDIS materialises in a barn during the Doctor’s childhood where Clara – while hiding to avoid being seen by a young (presumably) First Doctor – accidentally grabs his legs from under his bed. She is the Doctor’s monster! So she attempts to console the young Time Lord, telling him “Fear makes us stronger”, as we cut to the War Doctor on his way to that very same barn years later with the bomb know as The Moment. A bomb that if set off is capable of ending the Time War, but at the cost of billions of lives…
The Doctor may have met other versions of himself, but there have also been times when he’s come across the same incarnation who he must avoid or risk creating a paradox. In 2005’s Father’s Day, the Ninth Doctor and Rose rewatch Rose’s father get hit by a car in the 1980s – before Rose runs out to save her father’s life, thus deleting them from existence. The Twelfth Doctor must prevent a similar situation occurring in 2015’s Before the Flood.
Then there’s the times he fails… The first was in 1972’s Day of the Daleks when future versions of the Third Doctor and Jo enter the TARDIS during the Doctor’s time experiment. Apart from that, it’s only really the Eleventh Doctor who rather enjoys bumping into near future versions of himself. We see this first in The Big Bang and then in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS and the mini-episodes Space and Last Night.
Then there are the Doctors that the Doctor met who aren’t quite… well… the Doctor. Their names all begin with ‘The’ so they must count sorta, right?!
The Watcher (Logopolis, 1981) – This episode saw the Fourth Doctor regenerate into the Fifth after a shining white figure seen throughout the episode walked into him – and was then revealed to have sort-of been the Doctor all along.
The Valeyard (The Trial of a Time Lord, 1986) – The prosecutor of the Sixth Doctor’s trial is revealed by the Master to be an amalgamation of the Doctor’s darker sides from somewhere between his Twelfth and final incarnations.
The Dream Lord (Amy’s Choice, 2010) – Similarly to the Valeyard, Toby Jones plays the darker side of the Doctor who confuses reality for Amy and Rory.
The Tenth Doctor’s Clone (Journey’s End, 2008) – Formed by the energy stored in the Doctor’s severed hand, this half-human Doctor helps defeat Davros and ends up living in a parallel universe as Rose’s lover. As you do.
The Next Doctor/Jackson Lake (The Next Doctor, 2008) – Cleverly playing on speculation that David Morrissey would be taking over as the Doctor from Tennant, this episode actually revealed that ‘the Next Doctor’ was a human who had become convinced he was the Time Lord after experienced a devastating tragedy before being exposed to infostamps containing knowledge of the Doctor.
The Ganger Doctor (The Almost People, 2011) – The Eleventh Doctor faces a flesh double of himself, differing only in its choice of footwear.
The Twelfth Doctor’s Ghost (Before the Flood, 2015) – The Twelfth Doctor has an amusing FaceTime conversation from the past with what appears to be his own ghost.
The 50th anniversary multi-Doctor meetings didn’t end with The Day of the Doctor. An Adventure in Space and Time, Mark Gatiss’s drama about the making of the show, featured a lovely final moment at the TARDIS control panel when the First Doctor met the Eleventh.
Meanwhile, Peter Davison made the spoof adventure The Five(ish) Doctors following the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors in their attempt to be in the 50th anniversary special, and featuring cameos from Eight Doctor Paul McGann, Torchwood star John Barrowman, Steven Moffat, Russell T Davies, Sir Ian McKellen and Peter Jackson. Not to mention a nod to Tom Baker’s absence from The Five Doctors by ‘including’ him using stock footage.
Actually, let’s not even go there… there are so many! But hey, if you want to check out some of the latest multi-Doctor adventures in other formats why not have a listen to The Light at the End – a 50th anniversary special starring Doctors Four, Five, Six, Seven and Eight. Or if you’re more of a reader, check out Four Doctors from Titan Comics, featuring War, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth.