DoctorDoctor Who Guide

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List:
31 Dec 2003The Two Doctors, by Douglas Westwood
22 Jan 2004The Two Doctors, by Paul Clarke
04 Sep 2004The Two Doctors, by Joe Ford
04 Sep 2004The Two Doctors, by Brian DiPaolo
28 Aug 2005The Two Doctors, by Matthew Carr

After Revelation of the Daleks, the Two Doctors has to be my favourite DW story at that time and for pretty much the same reasons - lots of continuity references, old monsters and a quite unprecedented level of violence. However, there are many who dislike this story for precisely the same reasons, but I'll just give my viewpoints here.

Firstly, there is the heavy level of mythology in the story. What is wrong with this, in a twenty year old show? A story is only as good as its past and why should such a varied past be ignored? To spare confusion among present day fans? Please! And the humour here is also good, Doctor Who should always have humour somewhere in it and I don't think it was overplayed here. It nicely offset the other controversial aspect of the story, the violence!

This was so cool. I was a growing teenager at this time and DW seemed to be growing up right there with me. Tame stories like the Underworld or the Androids of Tara seemed half a lifetime away - come to think of it, it was. I loved seeing Stike's leg congealed in green blood, or Shockeye stalking a rat; they added wonderful menace and tension to the plot - the violence and the humour seemed to wonderfully dovetail each other out. In the middle of the Second Doctor/Shockeye in the restaurant scene, Oscar is brutally murdered for no good reason by Shockeye. Many people objected to this as too violent, fine. BUT, in a wonderful piece of poetic justice, Shockeye is himself killed by Oscar's cyanide kit, bringing the whole thing full circle. And people objected to Shockeye being killed as well! Okay, it was the Sixth Doctor wielding the cyanide,but he was in a life and death situation and didn't have any other means at his disposal.

The Sontarans were also excellent here - I love old monsters coming back and they hadn't been in a DW story for yonks, and that was the Invasion of Time. Enough said. more than time for their return, which was handled very nicely.

The only slightly peculiar thing about this epic tale is that the two Doctors should meet in the first place - in The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors this crossing their timestreams happened by direct intervention, but here it seems to be more or less by accident. Still, a minor quibble in an otherwise excellent fable. Loved Chessene and Dastari, loved the simplistic plot - but then, I love simplistic plots!

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'The Two Doctors' provokes a fairly lukewarm response from many fans, for a variety of reasons including the relatively high level of gore and violence on display. Given that Robert Holmes is by far my favourite Doctor Who writer, I must concede that it is rather disappointing; nevertheless, despite many flaws, it has much to offer and is arguably the best multi-Doctor story of the entire television series. 

There are several problems with 'The Two Doctors'. The most obvious is a rather gaping plot hole, which is the fact that the Sixth Doctor has no memory of the events taking place, despite the fact that he meets his Second incarnation here. This is arguably a problem with both 'The Three Doctors' and 'The Five Doctors', but is less obvious in those stories. In the former, the Time Lords deliberately cause the first three Doctors to meet, and the casual reviewer is reminded at the end of that story that they are capable of blocking memories (a fact first established in 'The War Games') as they restore the Doctor's memory of how to operate the TARDIS at the end. 'The Five Doctors' is less blatant, but the line "Old Rassilon is very clever" covers a multitude of sins. Here, there is no explanation at all for why the Sixth Doctor does not remember these events; whilst I can quite happily sit back and espouse the virtues of the "Season 6B theory" (which also, incidentally, explains the continuity problems for which this story is notorious amongst fans), the casual viewer should not have to resort to complex theories in order to explain the plot. The reason provided for the Doctors meeting each other is that the Sixth Doctor feels the trauma suffered by his past self, but this provides yet another logistical nightmare; unless the off-screen interference of the Time Lords in sending the Second Doctor to visit Dastari causes a change in the Doctor's timeline, it is akin to me feeling the trauma of some childhood injury, and if some change to the Doctor's timeline has occurred it raises the question of why only the Sixth Doctor goes in search of his past self. Neither explanation is at all logical. 

But despite this, I maintain that 'The Two Doctors' is the best multi-Doctor story of the television series, for the simple reason that the Doctor essentially bumps into himself on his travels. This isn't implausible for a time traveler, and I find the concept far more appealing than multiple Doctors being plucked out of time deliberately in order to combat some threat. Furthermore, of the three multi-Doctor stories in which he appears, 'The Two Doctors' boasts Patrick Troughton's best performance. He still doesn't quite recapture the fierce intelligence, compassion and whimsy that he brought to the role during his own era, but he's a lot better than the caricature of 'The Three Doctors' and 'The Five Doctors'. He also works well with Colin Baker, the pair complementing each other nicely without the rather contrived on-screen bickering that twice previously has characterised Troughton's appearances with Jon Pertwee. The Second and Sixth Doctors do bicker, but it feels far more natural and casual than that between the Second and Third Doctors. In addition, both Troughton and Baker seem to be enjoying themselves; Troughton is clearly pleased to be back in the role as a one off, and Baker has by now settled down somewhat in the role. Actually, it might be fairer to say that script-editor Eric Saward has allowed the Sixth Doctor to settle down. He's still egotistical, arrogant and temperamental, and he still argues with Peri a lot, but he's far less belligerent than in his first two stories, maintaining the more commanding and likeable persona of 'Vengeance on Varos' and 'The Mark of the Rani'.

'The Two Doctors' however, has other flaws. I haven't mentioned the forty-five minute episode format thus far, but it has a major limitation; with more time to fill before the first cliffhanger, the writers tend to prevaricate somewhat, with the Doctor taking a good twenty-five minutes or so to get involved in the action. 'Attack of the Cybermen' committed far worse crimes, 'Vengeance on Varos' made use of its grotesque supporting characters to distract from this problem, and 'The Mark of the Rani' avoided it altogether, but Episode One of 'The Two Doctors' does rather drag. After the Sontarans attack the station, we see little of the Second Doctor until the following episode, and the Sixth spends a great deal of time wandering about and achieving little. Whilst he tracks his former self to Space Station Chimera, he doesn't really find out what is going on until Episode Two, once he finds and calms Jamie. Meanwhile, he and Peri face some mediocre traps provided by the station computer, and then clamber about in a cheap and nasty jungle-gym set until the cliffhanger. 

Another problem of 'The Two Doctors' is the famously flat direction from the often-pedestrian Peter Moffatt. The ill judged long-shot revelation of the Sontarans has been well discussed, but the whole production is directed with very little flair. The overseas location filming is a waste of time and money, since little of Seville is actually seen on screen, creating the impression that the production team just fancied a holiday at the license payers' expense. Peter Howell's incidental score at least is very effective, but the overall quality of the production is highly variable; the Sontarans look absolutely dreadful, which is appalling considering how good Linx looked some twelve years earlier. Here, the Sontaran masks are rubbery and poorly fitted to the actors, and it doesn't help that Clinton Greyn's largely vocal performance as Stike is unconvincing and melodramatic. Greyn is not the only actor lacking; Lawrence Payne is terribly wooden as Dastari, despite far more successful performances in the series during the past, as Johnny Ringo in 'The Gunfighters' and as Morix in 'The Leisure Hive'. It perhaps doesn't help that Holmes' skill at characterisation deserts him on this specific occasion, since Dastari's motivation is highly unconvincing. From an old friend of the Doctor, he switches to an immoral excuser of his greatest creation's atrocities, failing to bat an eyelid at the slaughter of his colleagues on board Chimera. He equally unconvincingly sees the folly of his actions when he witnesses Chessene giving in to her Androgum nature and licking the Doctor's blood. Perhaps Dastari is just mad; this might explain why he leaves the keys stupidly near to the two Doctors after he chains them up in Episode ThreeÂ… Finally, Jacqueline Pearce is unremarkable as Chessene; she basically delivers the same performance she usually gives as Servalan in Blake's 7, but without the flirting. Whilst Holmes' use of a female principle villain is long overdue, it doesn't help that Chessene is by far the least interesting villain of the piece; like Servalan, she is ruthless, intelligent and utterly untrustworthy, but unlike Servalan she lacks character. Fortunately however, there is another villain present in 'The Two Doctors' who more than compensatesÂ…

Shockeye is a great villain. Whilst Holmes' skill at characterisation deserts him for Dastari, it serves him well in the case of John Stratton's cuisine obsessed villain. Shockeye is so memorable because he has an unusual but consistent and interesting motivation; his all-consuming interest in food makes him extremely dangerous to everybody else, especially humans, or as he calls them "tellurians". Typically for Holmes, Androgum culture is well thought out, making Shockeye and by extension all of his species except for the augmented Chessene a detailed alien race, rather than merely a monster. The Androgum philosophy that "the gratification of pleasure is the sole motive for action" tells the viewer a great deal about them and clearly motivates Shockeye (and their clan system, with names such as the Quancine Grig and the Franzine Grig, is further attention to detail). References to blood ties, and other cultural traditions such as tasting the raw flesh of any animal they eat before starting to cook it provide a wealth of information without the need for crass expository dialogue. The fawning Shockeye is especially effective thanks to John Stratton's performance; he captures not only Shockeye's insatiable appetite for food, but also his obsequiousness and most importantly the fact that the character is extremely dangerous. It is this latter character trait that provides most of the controversy surrounding 'The Two Doctors'. Many fans in my opinion exaggerate out of all proportion the scene in which he bites a chunk out of rat, but then I just find it amusing. Perhaps more valid a criticism is that the murder of Oscar is rather too brutal a scene for a series once more broadcast in its traditional Saturday teatime slot, as the camera lingers on Oscar's staring corpse for far longer than it needs to. On the other hand, from my perspective as an adult watching the story on video, it works because after the highly entertaining scenes in which the semi-Androgum Second Doctor and Shockeye gorge themselves on a vast amount of food it suddenly reminds us that Shockeye can and will kill without compunction. His pursuit of Peri at the end of Episode Two is highly disturbing, because rather than fawning over her as Sharaz Jek did (itself rendered effectively disturbing), his desire for her is perhaps even more horrific, as he intends to butcher and eat her. All of which brings me to Shockeye's death, and the Sixth Doctor's use of cyanide to dispatch his foe; I have no problem with it whatsoever. The wounded limping Doctor is being hunted by a physically stronger being that is both able and determined to kill him and he deals with him using the only weapon that he has to hand; the Doctor improvising to bring about the defeat or demise of his opponent is not new to Doctor Who by this time. 

The Sontarans' also benefit from their creator's touch, even if they are poorly acted and presented on screen. Holmes' once more imbues them with a sense of brutal honour, Stike fretting about not being able to stand shoulder to shoulder with his men in battle due to the delays caused by Chessene. He vows that "When I die it will be with my comrades at the front", bemoans his need to rely on civilians, and general demonstrates the brutal cunning and resourcefulness that the Sontarans possess at their best. Failed thespian, moth collector and temporary restaurant manager Oscar Botcherby, who is very well written but sadly underused, also exemplifies Holmes' skill at characterisation. The sheer number of characters already vying for time in the story means that Oscar is sidelined until his unfortunate demise, although Holmes succeeds in making him likeable enough that his death really has an impact. James Saxon is perfect in the role, and had the character had more to do and more screen time, I can't help thinking that he might be as fondly remembered as such Holmes' creations as Jago and Litefoot. 

The regulars are generally well served by the script. I've already discussed the Doctors, but Peri gets plenty to do with surprisingly little whining, as she is called upon to visit the villa, resulting in her near-consumption by Shockeye. Jamie is also used well, Frazer Hines falling back into his old role with consummate ease. The briefly black-and-white scene at the very beginning of the story perfectly captures the old relationship between the Second Doctor and Jamie, and Holmes further builds upon this by allowing him to bond with the Sixth Doctor and Peri too. There is also plenty of gentle wit, including Jamie's obvious hope for a farewell kiss from Anita; disappointed, he makes sure that he gets one from Peri at the end. The Sixth Doctor's complaining about himself also works quite well, and there is also a superb moment when Oscar mistakes him for a policeman. He tells the Doctor, "I can see by your raiment that you are plain clothes division", prompting the Doctor to look down at his garish clothing in puzzlement... Overall then, 'The Two Doctors' is not the classic that it could have been, but it is far better than some fans suggest.

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There are so many reasons why I love the Two Doctors I could chat about it ad nauseum. One of the best things about it is its utter uniqueness in Doctor Who history. There is quite literally no story like this one (whereas there are quite a few Caves of Androzani's and Talons of Weng Chiang's), a story which doesn't play by the rules of normal Doctor Who, that contains very little action and adventures but instead explores the plot ideas and characters so vividly. That abandons any sense of coherence for a slice of non stop indulgent fun. That uses dialogue so accurately that the script itself is worth gold. The Two Doctors doesn't want to be a safe runaround (but alas in places it touches upon this fabulous Doctor Who mini-genre), it wants to throw unpleasant images and concepts at you and expects you to accept them and move on.

One of the reasons I feel people moan about this story (and yet admittedly it had received critical acclaim in recent years) is the awkwardness behind some of the more 'adult' scenes on display. Shockeye's blatant cravings to eat a human is a uncomfortable reminder of our own obsessions and taking the metaphor one step further we see him lust after such a "fine, fleshy beast" laying her out on the kitchen table to have his wicked way. It becomes even more disturbing when we realise he craves a "jack" even more (and Jaime is then laid out on that exact same table whilst Shockeye tortures him horribly. This from the same man who bit into a live rat earlier in the show and held it up with a huge bite mark in it...very disturbing. The character of Shockeye is little more than a caricature but he is written (and played) with such utter conviction that the story takes on darker, less Doctor Who-ey shades than we are used to. 

Then there is the lack of plot. What? Lack of? I think not. It's actually a lovely plot and enjoyably complex. The only problem as far as I can see is the complete diverge from the plot as Doc 2 and Shockeye go into to town for some food. People bemoan that this story is too long but I must digress, yes it feels padded in places but if we started chopping unnecessary scenes we would be deprived of so many priceless scenes. I couldn't cut anything from this story justifiably. Doc 2 baiting Stike is totally pointless in the scheme of things but then we would miss Troughton's astonishing ability to switch from comedy to drama and back to comedy again in the blink of an eye. A few TARDIS scenes could be snipped but then we wouldn't be able to laugh as Colin abuses the machine in exactly the same way Troughton did earlier. And as for taking away the restaurant scenes....never! Some gorgeously placed black comedy in amongst the horror elsewhere and the death of Oscar, a scene I now celebrate because of its ability to get saddo fan boys so worked up. Even the obvious blood pouch in his shirt is just perfect. 

Bryant and Baker seem so much more comfortable with Homes' knowing hand to guide them. Those early TARDIS scenes are priceless with some the most rewarding dialogue they were ever given. I just love the Chris Columbus gag but the whole sequence about pin galaxies is also a treat. It's quite incredible how much Baker compares favourably to Troughton actually...all the tense scenes on the station are enhanced by his haunted reactions to everything. And all that talk about how brutal he is is just nonsense...look how he rushes to rescue Peri at the end of episode one or the scene that opens with him caressing her face to see if she's okay. Doctor nasty isn't making house calls today. 

Another thing this story manages that almost no other in the last four years has is its ability to have FUN. Its almost like a Doctor Who summer holiday with the amounts of running around in glorious Spain. With lots and lots of well scripted and acted comedy scenes and the gorgeous sun spilled landscape the fun just keeps coming. The last episode is a particular delight as things move back to the hacienda with lots of bluffs and double bluffs as characters are bumped off horribly (but memorably). The whole story is a bit of an indulgence in the end, not absolutely needed in the grand scale of Doctor Who but without it that infectious, enjoyable side to the show would be a sorrier place. The show is stuffed full of those little character bits, scenes like the celebrated one in Remembrance that 80's Who severely sacrificed in favour of action set pieces. Oscar's lovely speech about moths, the Doctor's reaction to the end of the universe, Jaime's attempt to get a kiss from anyone...lovely, lovely moments.

And lets not forget all the comedy that actually works. How funny is the scene where the Doctor keeps babbling and Peri is trying to listen to the horrible moanings that are echoing through the service duct. Scary but very funny. And only Robert Holmes could drive so much comedy from his own race, the Sontarans, they take themselves so bloody seriously (and nobody else does!!!) it makes Stike's eventual, horribly embarassing quadruple barreled death (stabbed, covered with acid, electrified by the time machine and blown up in his ship!) all the more wonderful. Shockeye's discovery of his bloody leg is the last straw, so funny it hurts. But the script is littered with well placed witty lines..."Centuries!!...if gonna take that long i'll see if Jaime's okay" is Peri's reaction to the end of the universe, Doc 2 and Shockeye discuss the delights of "Shepherd's Pie"...an apparently cannibal dish!, even better is how Troughton grates on about "monkeys" and later we see Peri chomping on a banana!!! Its long past time Doctor Who let its hair down after three years of serious (lets say dull) SF. 

This is probably the most entertaining story of Doctor Who's last ten years. Watching today we can critisize the amount of violence, the 45 minute episodes, the gratuitous location work but why bother. A story filled with so many rewarding moments, so much humour and horror, that deliberately flouts accepted Doctor Who law (continuity, realistic violence, genuine laughs!) to tell a great story should be celebrated. So I shall.

And I can't go without mentioning two of my favourite Who sequences...Cheseneye reverting back into an Androgum and lapping the Doctor's blood off the floor and the Doctor being chased through the hills of Seville by a knife weilding mainiac who uses the otherwise arbitary moth storyline to superb effect as he cyanides his victim to death. Doctor Who was never this totally brave again and thank god...the fans would probably have a heart attack.

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There are many advantages to being an American Doctor Who fan, and one of them is that I can show “The Two Doctors” to fresh-eyed viewers who are unaware of its controversial--and rather lowly--place in the series’ canon. Strangely, this often-panned episode has been a hit with my friends, who are invariably mystified when I tell them that it’s generally loathed. Maybe there’s something fundamentally American about the gratuitous violence and sexuality in “The Two Doctors”; it’s just tacky enough to be one of our own productions, isn’t it? Or maybe “The Two Doctors” is secretly rather good, and like “Duck Soup” or “Gojira,” it’s begging to be reassessed by the same critics who have been gleefully bombing it for years.

Part of the problem is that “The Two Doctors” will forever be associated with Doctor WhoÂ’s hiatus and eventual cancellation. Fans, eager to prove that they have mature and sophisticated viewpoints, have stopped blaming various BBC executives for the seriesÂ’ downfall and have turned their venom upon the series itself, blaming episodes like “The Two Doctors” for turning Doctor Who into a violent and gaudy shadow of its past success. No member of the production team is above criticism--Colin Baker is blasted for his ham acting, John Nathan-Turner is accused of “camping up” the series (though I sometimes wonder if fans arenÂ’t attacking his sexual orientation instead of his actual work), and even the mighty Robert Holmes is generally regarded to have burnt out by this disastrous point. To most fans, thereÂ’s a stink about this production thatÂ’s attached to all involved. YouÂ’ll even hear people say that Doctor Who deserved to be canceled after producing this turkey. 

What short memories we seem to have developed; “The Caves of Androzani,” which is often cited as the best Doctor Who story of all time, had been made only the season before, and with the same man in the writersÂ’ chair. Did the series really beg to be cancelled so soon after hitting that peak? IÂ’d argue--and I know how alone I am here, believe me--that much of AndrozaniÂ’s brilliance still shines in this episode. 

But before I get to the positives, I’d like to rebuff some common criticisms of “The Two Doctors.” Let me sum them up--the Spanish locations are superfluous, the violence is over-the-top, the storyline is padded and muddled, and Peter Moffatt’s direction is flat. Have I got it covered? Indulge me while I address these issues one-by-one.

I think that too much knowledge of the series’ production history might be a bad thing. Fans know that “The Two Doctors” was originally supposed to be shot in New Orleans (or one of several other locations), and consequently they’re hyper-aware that the Seville setting is largely arbitrary. Yet the settings of most Doctor Who stories are equally arbitrary. The authors of “The Complete Useless Doctor Who Encyclopedia” had lots of fun lampooning the series because episode after episode takes place in London. There is, of course, no particular reason why aliens should so often elect to invade England’s capital, just as there is no particular reason why the Sontarans base themselves in a hacienda near Seville. With all brutal honesty, the Spanish location was chosen because it’s pretty. One might say that such reasoning is rather shallow but, since television is a visual medium, I’d argue that such reasoning actually fits perfectly. I would certainly rather look at Seville (and its surroundings) than yet another mud flat at the bottom of a slate quarry.

The violence issue is rather more prickly. The same fans who rush to defend the Hinchcliffe era against accusations of excessive violence are the ones who feel that, in the case of “The Two Doctors,” the production team really did go too far. For whatever reason, Condo’s stomach exploding in “The Brain of Morbius” is perfectly acceptable, but Shockeye eating a rat is not (needless to say, I don’t think Mary Whitehouse would have drawn such a fine distinction here). In today’s post-Tarantino climate, however, “The Two Doctors” seems rather tame. In fact, it was pretty tame at the time, seeing as how violent spectacles like “The Wild Bunch” and any one of a dozen slasher movies had preceded it. The violence itself is clearly not the problem, but somehow its execution in this particular episode has come to be criticized as flawed and in poor taste. I simply don’t share that judgment. In Doctor Who tradition, the gratuitously violent acts are all perpetrated by the villains, and serve to build up suspense and tension. Never is the violence depicted in a humorous light; Oscar’s death is obviously supposed to be horrible, just like the Dona Arana’s (and Oscar’s sense of humor makes his death more tragic, not less). The Doctor does kill Shockeye, but only in self-defense, and can you really blame him? The only dubious moment is his “just desserts” pun, but again, this all seems rather PG compared to the gore fests and callous anti-heroes we get today. “The Two Doctors” still has its moral compass correctly aligned; the good guys are generally pacifists, and the bad guys are the bloodthirsty ones. Robert Holmes has pushed the violence envelope a little further here, but he’s operating in the same vein as he did during the Hinchcliffe era, which had itself pushed the boundaries established by Barry Letts.

Criticisms of the storyline hold slightly more weight, but not much. Chessene switches plans and has the Second Doctor turned into an Androgum because she believes that the Time Lords are closing in, and she doesn’t have time to deconstruct his genetic code piece by piece. Killing just the two Sontarans is sufficient because the other Sontarans have no interest in Earth; they’re fighting the Rutans elsewhere, and have no intention of invading (the planet is “conveniently situated” for Stike to stop over before the battle, not for him to occupy it). The “padding” in the third part is, in my view, some of the best comedy that the series ever featured. I don’t know what to say if you didn’t laugh at Troughton as an Androgum; I think his performance is priceless, and I’m glad he got one last showcase for his comic talents before bowing out. Ultimately, the much vaunted plot holes in “The Two Doctors” seem to be either nit-picking or totally inaccurate myths based on sloppy viewings instead of sloppy scripting.

IÂ’ll surprise you now and say that I agree, to an extent, with the common assessment that Peter Moffatt is a sub-par director. However, there is really only one terrible shot in this episode; that much maligned first appearance of the Sontarans outside the hacienda. Bizarrely, the earlier shot of a Sontaran raising its gun at the Second Doctor is wonderful, and I canÂ’t quite account for the contrast between the subtle directing there and the artless directing that comes later on. Generally speaking, though, I donÂ’t have much of a problem with MoffattÂ’s work; itÂ’s standard TV directing, not adventurous, but not rubbish either.

It’s a shame that I’ve had to write such a defensive review of this episode; now that I’ve trawled through all of the establish criticisms, I feel obliged to keep my positive comments short. Suffice to say that the Androgums are a more interesting race than they might at first appear to be. Their obsession with blood and lineage lends weight to their characterization that balances out their very stereotypical (but very amusing) obsession with food and other carnal pleasures. Like all satirical figures, they’re half serious and half joke, and over-the-top in the best way. Fans balk at the comical treatment of the Sontarans in this episode, but they’re being used for satirical purposes as well; and remember, the first Sontaran episode is a comedy, too. Holmes clearly conceived them as a humorous attack on narrow military minds, and attempts to make them more menacing during the Tom Baker era, whether you judge them as successful or not, deviate far more from this concept than does “The Two Doctors.”

The villains are so memorable that they detract somewhat from the novelty value of the episode, which is of course seeing two Doctors together. But that’s what I love most about Holmes’ script; it tells a proper story, and doesn’t rely on the same silly gimmick that barely held “The Three Doctors” and “The Five Doctors” together. Big Finish should’ve learned their lesson from here when they made “Zagreus.” That story was so keen to escape the gimmick of multiple Doctors that it cheated and didn’t deliver the goods, and the result was pretty much widespread disappointment. Yet “The Two Doctors” proves that multiple incarnations of the same Time Lord can appear in the same story, without that story stinking (ironically enough, “Zagreus” ended up being more bogged down in continuity than any episode of the series. While fans tend to condemn episodes like “The Two Doctors” for being continuity-driven, violent, and overly complex, their own writing often possesses all three of these qualities in spades).

There are interesting political undertones in the script, and itÂ’s surprising to see Holmes serve up a liberal message (the vegetarian not-so-sub-text) right alongside a conservative one (is the notion that Androgums canÂ’t evolve beyond barbarism a criticism of failed attempts to reform criminals?). The Gallifreyans are again depicted as manipulative and menacing after too many bad episodes had turned them into the DoctorÂ’s buddies, and itÂ’s possible for viewers to agree with Dastari that their interference is selfishly motivated. Holmes doesnÂ’t tell us exactly how to feel about the issues involved, and thatÂ’s what makes this good drama instead of irksome soapboxing, a storytelling style that has infested way too many Doctor Who stories of late.

While I don’t think that “The Two Doctors” will ever storm the Top Ten (honestly, it’s not even in mine), it does deserve better treatment, especially if even a handful of the arguments that I've presented here hold any weight. The recent DVD release was coldly received, but I couldn't tell if fans were reviewing the actual episode, or the politics and history behind it, which still seem to be distracting even after all this time. I honestly think that this tiresome baggage needs to be shelved. There’s a Robert Holmes gem here, waiting to be discovered, just beneath a very thin layer of dust (or perhaps I should say, more in keeping with the episode’s gruesome content, a very thin sheen of blood?)

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Disclaimer..."This review was originally to be written in Hong Kong, but sadly American funding has failed me and I am forced to relocate to County Durham. This location work was entirely integral to the plot, oh yes indeedy, but don't worry as I'm sure the change will have no effect on the finished product".

Ahem.

I am very fond of 80s Doctor Who, certainly more so than others. These are the years which first sparked my interest in the show after all. However, if anyone were to try and defend the shows' twilight years, the most advisable thing to do would be to erase 'The Two Doctors' forever.

The Second Doctor and Jamie are sent to the scientific research station Camera by the Time Lords to put a stop to some worrying Time Travel experiments. The station is attacked by Sontarans, and the Doctor is kidnapped. The Sixth Doctor and Peri arrive at the station shortly afterwards, and teaming up with Jamie they follow the Sontarans to Earth.

Easily the biggest problem with 'The Two Doctors' is the sloppy, lazy direction and editing. Revealing the returning monsters via a computer voice identifying their ships is almost forgivable, but then why do we not see them during their invasion of the station? It seems as though the Sontarans were intended as a surprise for later in the episode, but that this was forgotten at some stage. Eventually introducing the Sontarans in long-shot is another unforgivable lapse. Worst of all, Moffatt misses the chance to recreate the monsters' defining moment from their first appearance in 'The Time Warrior', by actually cutting away from a Sontaran just as he reaches up to remove his helmet! I mean, can you believe it?! The cliffhanger to episode one is particularly dire, and coupled with the direction and editing here becomes entirely bereft of drama. There are gaping holes in the script and far too much padding, and a committed director would certainly have demanded further re-writes to tighten things up (the same could also be said of the script editor, but more of that later). I always feel that there is a steady decline in quality of Peter Moffatt's work on Doctor Who - his first directorial effort in 'State of Decay' is easily his best, and his final in 'The Two Doctors' is easily his worst. There are a few moments of inspiration to be found - the shot of Shockeye stalking Peri at the close of episode two, for instance, is particularly effective and sinister. On the whole though, this story demonstrates a director tired, bored and apathetic towards their work, and the fact that this was Moffatt's final work on Doctor Who can only be met with relief.

Let's not pile all our disappointments on the director though. The script is wildly inconsistent and a huge let down. Episode one in particular is hopelessly padded, resulting in poor Colin Baker spending most of his scenes going "Hmmm...um...ah..." and gurning like an idiot in a desperate attempt to use up the time. Throughout the story, the dialogue ranges from inspired and witty to banal and clunky at the drop of a hat. It is public knowledge that Robert Holmes was less than impressed to be given a 'shopping list' - Sontarans, two Doctors, foreign location - but this is exactly what he and Phillip Hinchcliffe used to do - Renaissance, Portmeirion, cults - and nobody criticises them for it. I think the difference here is that the elements chosen by JNT are rather arbitrary. The second Doctor and Sontarans are used purely for the sake of bringing back old favourites. Seville is used not because it would be an interesting and attractive location in which to set a story, but because they want to film overseas, apparently just for the sake of it (some might say, purely to give the cast and crew a cushy foreign holiday, but I couldn't possibly comment). It seems as though no one gave any thought to whether these elements would actually make a good story. Holmes writes the Sontarans on autopilot, and is obviously having much more fun with his new ideas - Shockeye is a delight, and the Androgums are a very interesting race. Oscar is another rather camp and theatrical pleasure. Indeed, both these characters are classic Holmes creations. It seems to me that the script editor should have picked up on a lot of these faults and demanded re-writes, or done them himself, and yet again nothing was done. I don't pretend to know whether Eric Saward was in awe of Robert Holmes and blinded to the scripts' faults, or simply didn't care, or if the entire team genuinely believed that they were making a quality programme, but something somewhere went badly wrong here.

The variation between performances in 'The Two Doctors' is dramatic. Patrick Troughton is on his usual superb form as the second Doctor, however Colin Baker seems lost for most of the first episode (pehaps due to the obvious faults of the script) and his performance only really slips into gear in episode two. Frazer Hines phones in his performance, and Nicola Bryant is utterly dire (though with a cleavage like that, who cares?). Of the guest players, John Stratton is excellent as Shockeye (once you get used to him), Jacqueline Pearce is...well, Jacqueline Pearce, and James Saxon gives a fine performance as Oscar. Laurence Payne is just about adequate as Dastari, and Tim Raynham and Clinton Greyn do a good job of stomping around and shouting.

The overseas location work might be very pretty and can be of great benefit to some stories, but it is unnecessary and completely irrelevant here. Inevitably it leads to a lot of pointless padding in episode three as the Doctor and friends run around Seville for no very obvious reason and stand around fountains for the sake of showing off the local sights. Any story would suffer under these circumstances, but mid-way through the final instalment of a story the length of 'The Two Doctors' is unforgivable.

It has to be said that despite the effects being to a fairly high standard, the serial suffers because of its' gaudy, mid-80s production values. The costumes particularly are dire, with the unbearably awful Sontarans (their collars don't meet their bodies!), Chessene's wig, and Dastari's outfit all being memorably crap. Peter Howell's incidental score is typical 80s fare and particularly bad in places, though I think the 'war march' that accompanies the Sontarans is quite effective. As with most early to mid-80s episodes, the lighting for all of the studio scenes is far too bright, and they would have done well to follow the examples set by the previous years' 'The Caves of Androzani'.

A common complaint about the Colin Baker years is the level of violence on display, and whilst I've never really understood what the fuss is about I certainly think that 'The Two Doctors' crosses the line in places. Oscar's death is often commented on, and I can see why. Far more alarming is The sixth Doctor's murder of Shockeye - thoroughly unpleasant, alarmingly out of character and followed by a god-awful Bond-style quip, it should never have been allowed.

There are so many moments in 'The Two Doctors' where you think "Ah yes, here we go, now it's getting itself together", but it never happens. With a bit more editing during scripting, and a half-decent director, this could have been something really special. Sadly, it is an opportunity wasted. Troughton is superb and seeing the two Doctors together on screen is a delight (and honestly, I cannot imagine any other combination of Doctors being so perfectly matched), but this could have - and should have - been so much more. 3/10

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