In April 2013, Carole Ann Ford revealed the producers had initially insisted that Susan not refer to the Doctor as her grandfather: "You will not believe why. They said, 'We don't really want people to perceive him as having had sex with someone, to father a child.' I just screamed with hysterical laughter and said, 'In that case, I'm not doing it.'" The script was changed to include mentions of the characters' relationship
In the March 2008 issue of Doctor Who Magazine, Russell T. Davies expressed interest in bringing back The Raston Warrior Robot in the new series of Doctor Who (2005), citing the battle between the Robot and the Cybermen in "The Five Doctors" as one of the finest in the show's history.
John Nathan-Turner hoped to have the show premiere on the actual 20th anniversary date of November 23 but due to scheduling problems it was pushed back to November 25. The show premiered in the USA on November 23, this is the first Doctor Who story ever to receive its premiere screening outside the UK.
Tom Baker declined to return as the fourth Doctor, feeling there hadn't been a long enough gap between him leaving the role and shooting commencing. He was represented on screen with previously unseen excerpts from 'Shada', an unfinished story from his tenure. For publicity shots featuring all five Doctors together, the BBC used Baker's mannequin from Madam Tussaud's waxwork collection in London.
Richard Hurndall is the first person to double for the Doctor whose face was visible on screen (because he was playing the part of the First Doctor, which had been William Hartnell's role before his death). The other doubles for the Doctor had all had their faces hidden up to this time.
According to the commentary by Terrance Dicks and Peter Davison, there was a scene scripted where the Doctor and Sarah Jane were to be menaced by Autons in an abandoned town while driving around on Gallifrey. This scene was cut because of budget issues.
The absence of Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor) presented some logistical problems for the anniversary production. Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith) was originally meant to be paired with Baker. However, when he declined to appear, Sladen was paired up with Jon Pertwee (the Third Doctor) as the two of them had worked together during season eleven. Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) was to have joined up with Pertwee as they'd worked together for several years. Instead, Courtney paired up with Patrick Troughton (the Second Doctor), whose companion Jamie (played by Frazer Hines) was unable to appear for more than a cameo.
Towards the end, Jon Pertwee's Doctor refers to Patrick Troughton's Doctor as "Scarecrow" in retaliation to being called "fancy pants". Jon Pertwee was, of course, Worzel Gummidge during the years either side of this episode.
John Nathan-Turner wanted Lalla Ward to reprise her role as Romana opposite Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor. Sadly, their divorce made this impossible. They both appear in stock footage. Mary Tamm revealed that she wasn't asked to reprise her role.
Robert Holmes' original concept The Six Doctors would have featured the Cybermen and their kidnapping of the five incarnations of the Doctor; in their attempt to extract Time Lord DNA to turn themselves into "Cyberlords", the twist being that the First Doctor and Susan would actually be android impostors (the former being the "Sixth Doctor" of the title) and the Second Doctor would have saved the day. Some elements of this plotline would be reused in Holmes' own The Two Doctors.
John Nathan-Turner originally wanted Doctor Who's very first director Waris Hussein to direct. Hussein declined, as he was in America at the time. He then asked veteran Doctor Who director Douglas Camfield, but but he also declined. Camfield was also very ill with heart disease, and this may have had an impact on his decision not to direct the production. He died of a heart attack early in 1984.
Deborah Watling was to reprise her role as Victoria Waterfield. She would cameo opposite Zoe and The Doctor would spot her as a fake when she refers to Lethbridge-Stewart as 'Brigadier', when he was a colonel when she met him in 'The Web of Fear'. Unfortunately, Watling was cast in The Dave Allen Show (1968) several days later, and reluctantly backed out. Her cameo was given to Jamie.
Leonard Sachs, Elspet Gray and Colin Baker were supposed to reprise their roles as Lord President Borusa Chancellor Thalia and Commander Maxil from 'Arc of Infinity'. When neither were available, they replaced with two new characters: Chancellor Flavia (played by Dinah Sheridan) and an anonymous Commander (Stuart Blake). Baker would, of course, replace Peter Davison as The Doctor.
A tight budget hurt production immensely. For instance, the Robot Warrior sequence was added at the last minute for one more obstacle for the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane. However, this was one of the few episodes to be helped by a BBC strike when unused segments of a previous episode were used to substitute Tom Baker's disappearance in his role as the Doctor.
According to the "Eighth Doctor Adventures" novel "The Eight Doctors" by Terrance Dicks, the Raston Warrior Robots were built by an ancient race, older than the Time Lords, who were ultimately destroyed by their own weapons.
Director Peter Moffatt disapproved of the Special Edition of the story which was later released on video, featuring updated special effects and reinstated scenes he had originally cut because he thought they were boring.
Fans voted this number 39 in a countdown of the 163 Doctor Who (1963) stories in Outpost Gallifrey's 40th anniversary poll in 2003, making it the most popular of the three multi-Doctor stories and the most popular special to be transmitted in an anniversary year.
The scene referencing K-9 and Company: A Girl's Best Friend (1981) was originally omitted from the original U.S. 90 minute broadcast on November 23, 1983. This may be due to the fact of K-9 and Company was not yet licensed for broadcast in the U.S. and therefore not seen yet by Americans, who would raise the question of why K-9 was with Sarah Jane. In 1984, when K-9 and Company was finally licensed for the U.S., the BBC restored the scene when The Five Doctors was edited down to the standard 25 minute episodes for American syndicated broadcasts.
There were three black-handled Cyberleaders in this story: the first leads the legion that follows the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith and dies by Raston Warrior Robot, a spear in the arm, a disc in the side, and vomiting milky tea; the second had the major speaking role and meets the Master before the first's death, dying from cyberweapon fire at the Master's hand; the third orders the detonation of the bombs placed around the TARDIS and had a higher-pitched voice. It is unusual for a story featuring Cybermen to have multiple Cyberleaders; in the new series, a new Cyberleader receives the designation only upon the death of the previous one via data upload.
Discounting the Brigadier, this story has the distinction of marking the first time companions from different eras had met and interacted. This would occur only once more in the original series, in "The Two Doctors" when Peri and Jamie meet. It has occurred several times in Doctor Who (2005).
This story was the first ever in which the Daleks and the Cybermen both featured (though they did not meet). This would not occur again until _Doomsday_ (excluding the Cyberman head seen in Doctor Who: Dalek (2005)). They would feature in the same stories again in Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens (2010).
The First Doctor was supposed to take a zig-zig approach across the chessboard trap, but Richard Hurndall walked in a straight line. There was not enough time to reshoot the scene (they were already 17 minutes into overtime), so this version was ultimately used regardless.
Peter Davison would later parody the Fifth Doctor's "I am being diminished" speech in the second episode of the second series of his black comedy, Rigor Mortis. Davison's character, a workaholic pathologist, doesn't respond well to a sudden drought of deaths. Undergoing a form of withdrawal, he says: "I am being diminished, whittled away, piece by piece. A doctor is the sum of his contributions to humanity, you know; a pathologist even more so."
Two versions of the end sequences were made. For the original broadcast version the Doctors and companions were returned using the TARDIS, with an image of the TARDIS "splitting off" from the remaining one and the accompanying dematrialization sound effect. For the Special Edition version, the Doctors and companions were returned via a Timescoop effect after they entered the TARDIS. The two versions also used different footage from Shada to show the Fourth Doctor's return to Earth.
This story marks the end of a long series of linked storylines that began with Doctor Who: The Leisure Hive: Part One (1980). Each story had been linked in some way, either as direct continuations, or in more subtle ways such as dialogue references to previous events. In this case, this story is linked to "The King's Demons" and earlier stories by the fact it resolves the subplot of the Doctor finally arriving at the Eye of Orion.
The Quarks from "The Dominators" were set to return in this story, but were removed from the script at an early stage and replaced by the Raston Warrior Robot, which is the only new "monster" featured in the special, and was itself a last-minute addition, after Eric Saward told Terrance Dicks that the Third Doctor and Sarah needed to encounter one more obstacle before reaching the tower.