03 Jul 2003The Twin Dilemma, by Gareth Jelley
14 Mar 2004The Twin Dilemma, by Paul Clarke
04 Sep 2004The Twin Dilemma, by Alex Boyd
05 Mar 2006The Twin Dilemma, by Ewen Campion-Clarke

There is something incredibly charming about stories like The Twin Dilemma - like old 1950s B-movies, where the monsters are cheesy, and the plots laughable, certain Doctor Who stories work, and are incredible watchable, because they just possess a charm and vitality which certain SF series, no matter how well-produced, will never possess. The Twin Dilemma possesses this charm, in my opinion, and as an added bonus, the primary performances in are really quite something too. 

Colin Baker's first time on screen as The Doctor has been described as 'misjudged', and at the time it may well have been. After the self-sacrifice of the magnificent Caves of Androzani, you would not need to apologize if you thought to yourself: who is this unbelievably arrogant, obnoxious person calling himself the Doctor, yet exhibiting none of the qualities that have become associated with 'The Doctor'... however, watching it now, it is a masterstroke to play the Doctor this way. It challenges what we know about the character, and places him into a far more alien position. Yes, it also alienates the viewer to a large extent (we sympathize with Peri, and find the Doctor very difficult to 'like' in any way), but by doing that the writers can prepare and plan for the moment when the Doctor re-enters our sympathies, and becomes our friend again - by having it that we dislike him for a time (yet know deep down that he is a 'hero'), the strength of our sympathy for him later will be all the stronger. And then, when we like him again, when he is our true hero again, the hints of the alien, and the strange will remain. There is nothing misjudged about this Doctor - it was simply that after the Fifth Doctor, this mad, bad Sixth Doctor felt utterly different. A Doctor, if he is to work, must be both alien and human. 

And there are constant hints in the characterization in The Twin Dilemma of what we like about the Doctor: his adamant claim to want to escape, his heroic saving of a life, his unceasing desire to save the world. The Doctor we know and love is there, but the characterization is underscored by an impatience to hang around (the scene when the police man gets trapped in the gastropod 'glue' is inspired and hilarious - the Doctor provides *absolutely no help whatsoever* while he struggles to free himself, and eventually just walks off!), a lack of selflessness, and a generally worrying change of character... But this side to the Doctor is not unknown. The Third Doctor could be arrogant, the First Doctor could be impatient, the Fourth Doctor was frequently high-minded... There are flashes of the past in this uncomfortable and unfamiliar incarnation of the Doctor. What a brave, wild thing to do for his first story. Colin Baker, and everyone on the crew, must have thought the writers were nuts. Place a crazed and mad Doctor into a basic, un-radical, but highly romp-ish pulp SF plot (good secondary work from Mestor)... light blue touch-paper... stand back... see what happens... Yes, the story is nothing special: as a story, a plot, a string of events... But as an experiment in character, the story is in inspiration. The plot is simply a side-show, a means to an end: the writers want to show us the nutter who is now the Doctor. 

I am now, more than ever, eagerly awaiting some Sixth Doctor novels. There is, and always has been, a huge amount of potential in the character.

Filters: Television Sixth Doctor Series 21

The disappointment that I feel when watching 'The Twin Dilemma' straight after 'The Caves of Androzani' must be similar to that which one would feel on having finally had sex with someone you have fancied for ages, only to discover that they have infected you with syphilis. Except that embarrassing venereal diseases are probably more fun than watching 'The Twin Dilemma'.

Before I unleash the floodgates of bile, I'll start with what I do like about 'The Twin Dilemma', which surprising as some might find it is Colin Baker's performance as the Doctor, and also Nicola Bryant's performance as Peri. Whilst I consider Colin Baker to be a decent actor, his portrayal of the Doctor on television is incredibly hammy, but it is a brand of ham that I find highly entertaining. After Peter Davison's serious, earnest portrayal of the Fifth Doctor, Baker's bombastic approach to the Sixth came as a bit of a shock to many fans at the time, and for many of those fans an unwelcome one. Personally, at the age of six-and-a-half years old, I watched in stunned disbelief as the Doctor attempted to throttle his companion, as I suddenly realised that the ever-reliable Doctor was no longer as reliable as he had once seemed. And I found the idea rather exciting. As I've grown older, this feeling has lingered to the point where I now find the Doctor's post-regenerative trauma in 'The Twin Dilemma' fascinating. The Sixth Doctor is arrogant, egotistical, bad-tempered, impatient, selfish, indignant, patronizing, and incredibly erratic. As he recovers from his regeneration, this is especially obvious; whereas previous incarnations have considered their new features with a certain lack of enthusiasm, the Sixth smugly describes his "clear brow" and "noble" gaze to Peri. He wanders about Titan 3 extravagantly bellowing poetry, cackles madly in the wardrobe, and veers between outright cowardice (such as when he cowers behind Peri when Noma and Drak threaten the pair with guns) and reckless bravado ("what's a little radiation when we have a purpose?"). 

What is particularly interesting about this manic characterisation is the effect that it has on Peri. Having nearly died during 'The Caves of Androzani' (and lest we forget, the Doctor sacrificed an incarnation to save her, although it goes unmentioned here!), she continues to suffer considerable emotional turmoil throughout the first three episodes of 'The Twin Dilemma'. Confused and frightened by the Doctor's transformation, she suddenly finds herself confronted with a travelling companion who on occasions actively bullies her, and of course briefly tries to kill her. She becomes increasingly angry and frightened as the story progresses; she is horrified by the Doctor's insistence that he become a hermit and she becomes his disciple, and she is clearly at her wits end when the Doctor drags her across Titan 3 only to cower behind her when they are threatened with guns. He belittles her constantly, uttering contemptuous comments such as "Stay behind - this is work for heroes, not faint-hearted girls!" and "Poor pusillanimous Peri! What a pitiful performance". He also nastily points out when they find the injured Hugo that had they gone back to the TARDIS as she wanted to, he would have died, accusingly telling her that "You would have left one of your own kind to die". But the point of all this is not that I take a malicious glee in seeing Peri suffer, but rather that the character benefits from it for one simple reason; she continuously tries to appeal to the better nature that she believes the Doctor still possesses, and by trying again and again she eventually succeeds. Moreover, she does not simply roll over and accept his constant verbal abuse; at the end of Episode One, she snaps, and gives as good as she gets just before Hugo wakes up. As his new persona stabilizes, she acts as a stabilizing influence; he seems to genuinely intend to let Hugo die after he threatens the Doctor in a moment of delirium, but she convinces the Doctor to help him. She also reminds him that his lack of compassion is a difference that remains between them. Above all, she remains his companion, and under pressure their previously close, or at least friendly, relationship begins to resurface; when the dome is about to explode, he stops sniping at her and explains how he plans to save them. By the end of Episode Three, his new persona has, for better or for worse, settled down, and his concern for Peri at the cliffhanger (in a horribly directed breakage of the fourth wall incidentally) is undoubtedly genuine. Two brief scenes, one in Episode One, and one in Episode Four ultimately typify their new relationship; the first is Peri's "yuck" on seeing the Doctor's new outfit, which he promptly reciprocates when given the opportunity, and the second is the final "I am the Doctor - whether you like it or not". Peri glowers in response, but as their eyes meet they both break into smiles, and it sets the new status quo; they bicker incessantly, but they are once more friends and travelling companions. And for the record, I love that coat; the horrendous clash of colours is superbly suited to the personality of the Sixth Doctor, which remains volatile and unpredictable even after he's recovered from his regeneration. And by Episode Four, he has indeed recovered; he takes charge of the situation on Jaconda and is determined to stop Mestor, whatever the cost to himself. It is also worth noting that Nicola Bryant puts in an excellent performance; as Peri is subjected to more and more abuse from the Doctor, she conveys Peri's anger and distress extremely well, proving that the emotion she showed in 'The Caves of Androzani' was no mere fluke.

Unfortunately, almost everything else about 'The Twin Dilemma' is utter codswallop. Firstly, let us examine the plot. This basically concerns Mestor's plan to kidnap the twins and use their mathematical genius to create a supernova, thus scattering his eggs throughout the universe and also providing them with the heat energy that they require in order to hatch. This plot is, in essence, bollocks. For one thing, even if causing the other planets of Jaconda's to crash into their sun would actually create a supernova it certainly would not "blow a hole in the universe". For another thing, if Gastropod eggs require such enormous heat to hatch, where did Mestor and his brood come from? They are supposedly creatures from Jacondan mythology, the Doctor hypothesizing that some dormant eggs survived. Fine, but in that case, where did they get the heat energy necessary to hatch? When Hugo tries on a jacket in the TARDIS wardrobe, he just happens to try the one in which Peri has hidden the power pack to his gun. Which also begs the question, why didn't she just hide his gun? In all fairness, this is not the most scientific implausible plot in Doctor Who, nor does it boast the most plot holes. Unfortunately however, it is one of the most tedious. The entire subplot of the safe house on Titan 3 is an exercise in prevarication, presumably to give Colin Baker time to establish himself as the Doctor, but Baker's hammy performance aside, it is all immensely dull. Even by Episode Four, with Mestor's plan revealed in its entirety, there is little sense of danger. The impression is given, presumably unintentionally, that Mestor's plan is something that he will get around to actually acting on sometime in the future, when he can be bothered; I assume his intention is actually to begin as soon as the twins' equations are completed, but there is a distinct lack of suspense or urgency to the proceedings. It doesn't help that, in Episode Four, writer Anthony Steven suddenly decides that Mestor can switch bodies and has decided that he is tired of his own, since this gives the impression that he wanted an interesting climax between the Doctor and his opponent and ended up clutching at straws. We are also presented with some of the worst filler in the series' history, in the shape of the ghastly scenes at the twins' home and in the Space Police headquarters, more on which later. 

By far the worst aspect of 'The Twin Dilemma' is the script, which contains some of the most diabolical lines in the series history. Baker's extravagant performance means that he can just about get away with lines such as "Thou craggy knob!" and "We all know the fate of alien spies", but nobody else in the story is so lucky. Lines such as "If those twins have fallen into alien hands… this is something I've always feared!", "He's right commander, it wasn't built for warp drive", and most of all "And may my bones rot for obeying it" litter the script like turds on a beach. At the end of Episode One, Hugo kindly explains why he was going to kill the Doctor with a quick run down of what he's thinking at the time. Mestor says of the twins "Take care not to blow their hearts or minds!" and he later orders Azmael to give the twins artificial respiration when he tells him that they are tired. Draw your own conclusions. 

Then there is the characterisation and acting. Maurice Denham brings a certain dignity to the role of Azmael, which is a considerable bonus given that the script portrays him as a silly old fart. Exactly why the Jacondans accepted him as leader is unclear, since for all that that the Doctor proclaims him to the finest teacher that he ever had, he misses the flaw in Mestor's plan that is almost immediately obvious to the Doctor. Having said that, the final scene between the Doctor and Azmael is quite touching, as the old man dies in his former student's arms, telling him that the time they got drunk sitting on the edge of a fountain was one of the best moments of his life. Probably didn't get out much then. Joking aside, it is a great character moment and Denham and Baker do it justice. On the subject of Azmael however, I'd be fascinated to know what he was thinking when he adopted the alias Edgeworth for no apparent reason; presumably this alias, like the safe house on Titan 3, is intended to ensure that there is no trail to Jaconda, but it seems entirely unnecessary, with even Mestor calling him Edgeworth until the Doctor reveals his true name in Episode Two. 

Kevin McNally puts in a reasonable performance as Hugo Lang, but despite the praise his performance gets from fans of 'The Twin Dilemma', the character is a bit of a nonentity. Seymour Green's performance as the Chamberlain is also often praised, but the actual character is an ill timed and poorly scripted attempt to introduce comic relief into the proceedings. It is typical of 'The Twin Dilemma' in fact that it is the several really bad performances that are the most memorable. Everyone mentions the twins, and I'm not going to prove the exception to the rule; they are really, really bad actors. They are so bad in fact that I have a horrible suspicion that John Nathan-Turner said to Eric Saward one day "Hey, I've found a pair of twins we can cast! I don't know if they can act, but let's cobble together a story around them!". Mind you, in fairness to the Conrad brothers, if I was given those costumes and those hairstyles and put in front of a camera, I wouldn't exactly be trying my best. They too are cursed with atrocious dialogue, most notably during the horribly stilted "Mother's a fool!" scene with their father. Worse perhaps than the twins however are the space police, represented here by the vastly untalented Helen Blatch's Fabian, and her timid assistant Elena, played by Dione Inman. Elena is an astonishingly vacuous character, piping up with occasional lines of tripe in support of Hugo or in mild and slightly worried looking objection to Fabian's orders to leave the twins to their fate. Edwin Richfield, returning to Doctor Who after his impressive performance as Captain Hart back in 'The Sea Devils', here gets presented with a costume that makes him look both cross-eyed and constipated simultaneously. In a voice that makes him sound like he has a mouthful of food, he bellows crap dialogue and tries to sound menacing, but the odds are frankly against him. 

So much else is wrong with 'The Twin Dilemma'. The Jacondans look stupid; avian humanoids should not be realised by giving them a beak for a nose above an obviously mammalian mouth. Orville would have made a more convincing alien. The sets are awful, horribly tacky affairs littered with day-glow plastic, and in the case of Mestor's throne room a big frog. Peter Moffatt's direction is flat an uninspired, as signposted early on by lingering shots on the twins' equations, possibly a misguided attempt to show that the designer had come up with a funky alternative to numbers. Malcolm Clarke's incidental score isn't bad in places, but it is often both too strident and thoroughly intrusive. I could go on, but frankly I've had enough; 'The Twin Dilemma' is a poor end to Season Twenty-One, and a very poor debut for Colin Baker. Unfortunately, things don't improve much with the first story of the next season…

Filters: Television Sixth Doctor Series 21

In the Twin Dilemma, Colin Baker has the following line: “Well, if he really does believe such unimaginable rubbish he must be faced by some unimaginable disaster which has unhinged his mind.” The repetition makes it sound like a line from Plan 9 from Outer Space, but speaking of “unimaginable” disasters, Doctor Who must have been utterly confident at this point to begin a new era with a ranting, bickering, cowering Doctor dressed in that costume. Add to that a slow and barely engaging story, poor production values and music that follows character movements and manages to be as irritating as Colin Baker. 

All I can think is that out of overconfidence (or not particularly caring) the producers allowed one of the worst stories ever at a critical time. The show would never be so confident again. Say what you like about the show being put on hiatus, after that every story at least tried to do something, and we never got anything as bad as this again. 

For a Doctor to have a bad exit is unfortunate, but for an actor in the main role to have such a brutal first outing is disastrous. In this case, as all fans know, they followed a great exit with a horrible beginning: the Davison Doctor left showing great courage in facing his own death, and admirable loyalty in staying dedicated to Peri throughout the previous story. And Caves of Androzani is brilliant for that – by the end, the Doctor is shrugging off literally everything to stay focused like a spotlight on saving his friend. It may have made sense at the time to follow it up with a less dramatic story to provide a break, but the contrast couldn’t be stronger given that the new Doctor cowers in the face of, well, nothing more than slow moving slugs. 

Highlights of episode three include space lieutenant whats-his-name (who points his gun at the Doctor’s face every other sentence) getting his feet stuck in slime that hardens like concrete and cutting himself loose while everyone argues, and an ending where the Doctor yells “Peri!” despite that fact that she’s nowhere around, simply because it helps provide an episode climax. In fact, many scenes could be cut, and not just scenes featuring minor characters. In episode one, every scene at the intergalactic police headquarters (or whatever it’s called) is ultimately pointless. And given that the evolution of the Doctor’s character here is a misfire (to bring back some of the testiness and confidence of the first Doctor was a great idea, and well timed, but to make the Doctor the most irritating character in the story goes a little too far), some of that overwhelming performance by Colin Baker could easily be trimmed as well. 

One of the dialogue highlight from episode four: 

Mestor: “You really are mad, ha. You dare to threaten me in my own throne room?” 

Doctor: “Did I threaten him? Did you hear me threaten him?” 

Mestor: “Be silent!” 

Doctor: “Watch it, Mestor!” 

As a villain, the slug Mestor is incapable of a facial expression, thanks to the costume, though he does manage to wave his hands at times. The Doctor says it himself: “I don’t rate you very highly at all.” To top it all off, it’s more the Doctor’s old mentor that finally saves the day. 

So here’s what I propose: a special edition of the Twin Dilemma, where it’s been edited down to perhaps three episodes, and some of the effects improved. This is a particular set of episodes that’s doomed to poison Colin Baker’s era as long as any station shows the episodes in order, so since the BBC owns the program they can minimize the damage. A shorter edition of this would be much more tolerable.

Filters: Television Sixth Doctor Series 21

I'm falling to pieces! I don't even have any clothes sense...

Lots of 'bad' stories are often just mediocre, but seem worse due to being directly after brilliant stories. Revenge of the Cybermen isn't so bad, but when you've just seen Genesis of the Daleks? The Long Game after Dalek? Pretty much every Season 17 story after City of Death? Lets face it, no story could have started up after The Caves of Androzani and not suffered.

I, however, was fortunate to see this on video without having seen the masterpiece beforehand.

It ultimately dulled the pain, but it didn't help. I wish I was a funky rebel Who fan, able to hold up the most pathetic of stories and scream it's genius, but sometimes the majority are right. Not always, but when The Twin Dilemma ended up the least-liked official Doctor Who story, it was not by bad luck.The Twin Dilemma is bad. And worse, it's important. It's the first story of a new Doctor. It needs to be good, or at least, entertaining. And it fails. Anyone who has seen the new Children in Need special (which I insist on calling Afterlife), you can see the whole point of this story - the Doctor's regeneration is going wrong just when he needs to get his companion to accept him - done far better in seven minutes.

It gives me no pleasure to say it's a stinker.

In a way, the troubled background of the story (Anthony Stevens collapsed while writing it and his typewriter blew up, forcing Eric Saward to take over at the last minute) means it's got a better excuse for being crap than Resurrection of the Daleks which had plenty of time to have its wrinkled smoothed out only for the writer to simply make even bigger problems. However, the gloss to Resurrection means a first viewing leaves you bouncing with exploded Daleks and a massive death toll. It may not survive anything other than a cursory viewing, but Resurrection still beats Twin.

OK, the problems with Twin are if not obvious then at least very noticeable.

First off the scene where the Doctor strangles Peri. Now, on the one hand, it sets up one of the theme of the stories - the newly regenerated Doctor isn't so much mad, he has no self control. He sees a course of action and continually exaggerates it until it gets silly. Even his attack on Peri is justified in the plot. Here is a woman he risked total death to save and... she doesn't even thank him. She calls him old, ugly, rude and insults his fashion sense but expects him to applaud hers. Can you honestly blame the Doctor for being annoyed at Peri? But then it starts. The paranoia - Peri got the Doctor killed, Peri's not sorry, Peri's rude to him, was it all a plot? Is Peri some kind of saboteur trying to kill the Doctor? Is he going to let her get him killed again? Can he risk her killing anyone else? No, he's got to kill her now!

Of course, it's ridiculous and stupid. But that's the horror of the regeneration crisis, the Doctor can't help himself. When he realizes how dangerous he can be, he comes up with a simple and effective plan - put himself out of harm's way until he's settled down. Except he gets carried away: he's becoming a hermit, thriving on desolation, chanting in Latin and requiring eternal atonement! No wonder the production team wanted this idea for a regeneration story, it's brilliant - a Doctor going rogue, trying to stop himself screw up everything and somehow helpless...

And like so many brilliant ideas, Twin buries them under gastropod slime.

Like the gastropods themselves. This is the series that, twelve episodes previously showed the most horrific and stomach-churning insectoid grubs imaginable in the Gravis and his Tractators. I'm shocked that Doctor Who's cash-strapped ingenuity didn't step in and re-use them - not only were the monsters already made and shown to the public, there's not much difference between these slugs wanting to move planets and these grubs wanting to move planets. It would have been very interesting to see the blunt, coarse Sixth Doctor up against an enemy the Fifth Doctor defeated by never having an angry word with. Instead, we get the wittily-named Gastropods.

And they are rubbish.

We only see Mestor do anything, but apparently there are two other slugs waddling around, not even noticing that there's a huge blue box marked POLICE blocking their empty corridors. Mestor looks crap too - fat, cross-eyed and morbidly obese. Its embarassing to see him wobbling on his throne waving his paws on either side of his dumbfounded face. And why is there a frog outfit on a pole beside his throne? Why does he fancy Peri? Why is he supposed to be scarier because he is "half humanoid half slug" a phrase the Doctor trots out over and over again? Why does he have these mental powers? Why does Mestor go all the way to Azmael's room for a quick Q & A he could have done via telepathy, especially when he could have sent a vision of himself like he does to Titan 3? Why is he apparently determined to blow himself up? Just... why, full stop?

And the most painful thing is that Mestor could have been terrifying. Yes, even with that costume. His origins seem to be less oversized garden pest, more Skagra from Shada, who was determined to become a God by making his mind and personality spread like a disease, washing across civilization. We get a tantalizing glimpse of this, with Drak dropping dead and Azmael being possessed. There are a few moments when Noma implies that its not him talking, but Mestor when he euphemistically says that he does what Mestor 'would have wished' and he 'too, has duties' - but its all undone when it turns out Noma was genuinely working on his own bat. The suggestion that anyone might just turn out to be possessed by Mestor would be great thriller material, as well as explaining why the hell anyone puts up with this ranting, rude megalomaniac. It could also explain why no one realizes this last, desperate plan is so obviously doomed to failure and no one notices - because Mestor is blocking their thoughts.

A creature whose mental powers can control an entire planet would surely be calm, disarmingly polite... a bit like Noma... but Mestor shouts things like "Never argue with me again!" and goes to all the trouble of zapping workers to death instead of the cheaper bullet-in-the-back-of-the-head. It's not embarrassing when the Doctor denounces Mestor as crap, because he is. It's embarrassing because a story that is meant to establish that the Doctor is more cunning and cleverer than his opponent sets him up against an incredibly stupid slug. That looks stupid. And fancies Earth women.The Twin Dilemma also crystallizes the part of the Sixth Doctor's era I hate. Not the continuity, the companions, the costume or Colin Baker, but the no unity of action. It happens again and again. This story encompasses Earth, Titan 3 and Joconda and only the last one is in any way relevant to the plot - and we don't get there to episode three, where the plot finally starts. The first scene of the story should be (an unseen) Mestor ruthlessly executing the thief (in front of assembled masses to prevent further rebellion), not Rom and Re playing backgammon. We don't even see the regeneration sequence again, and it's far more important to the plot than it was in Robot and it was repeated then as well.

Why does the story stop at Titan 3 anyway? Why not have the Doctor simply mis-steer the TARDIS straight to Joconda and have him mistake its raped landscape mistaken for the quarry he was aiming for? Why do we abandon Earth after the worst episode - we never get to see Rom and Re meeting up with their parents, for Elanor and her boss be glad to see Hugo's alive and well. And if we're not going to see them undergo the whole 'growth over the adventure', why the hell include them in the first place?

In fact, the twins themselves baffle me. What on Earth inspired anyone to have a story where identical twin geniuses are kidnapped? It would make more sense for Azmael to be stealing some nifty computer designed for it - hell, I bet I wasn't the only one expecting the twins to be revealed in episode four to be badly-programmed androids (and would explain why we never see their mother). The twins are like Adric clones - something Saward flags up in his novelization - where you would expect something more like Chloe and Radcliffe from The League of Gentlemen. They should be creepy, speaking in unison, ideally freakier than their kidnappers. But they're not even as interesting and need to wear different colours in order to be told apart (colours also inexplicably mirrored in the pens they use, their backgammon set, their home computers and the ones the Jocondans helpfully provide).

Come to think of it, why have their memories removed? In prose, I might get that, having a novel hinge on these twins trying to remember where they are, where they came from and to be revealed at the conclusion. But we already know. And the amnesia does nothing to stop the twins asking awkward questions, causing trouble and whinging. Remove those circles and does the plot change? No! Hell, I don't even care they've been kidnapped, because their first scenes show them to be arrogant, emotionless, smug, gormless and rude. When they're kidnapped my sympathies are for Professor Sylvest when he gets home, not for dumb and dumber. Why is their "game of equations" so dangerous anyway? Looks like a dull computer game to me. And if its so dangerous, why on Earth allow the twins access to the computer to use it anyway?

Azmael doesn't grab me either. Why does he insist on calling himself Professor Edgeworth? If he had established this identity on Earth in order to infiltrate the twins' room, I could buy it, but he just teleports in and teleports out again. The character is written a bit like the Doctor in Caves of Androzani, a tired Time Lord desperate to save the day any cost. Part of me wishes it wasn't Azmael but Maxil involved, ironically regenerated into Peter Davison. You could believe him when he tells the twins either they help him or they die, and you can see him grimly setting the base on Titan 3 to explode because he honestly can't risk the Doctor interfering. Maurice Denham does a wonderfully tired old man, even though he does resemble that big-headed monster from an Original Star Trek episode (I do love his sad "I can if I have to" as he uses his mind power to freeze the twins in mid-stance).

Colin Baker's first full story. And he's far from perfect. I've met the man, he's a lovely human being and Big Finish have proved both he and the Sixth Doctor got a short rift. Here... he's intermitent. Sometime he's acutely embrassing (though not as embarassing as Peri's sobbing at the end of part two - the only time Doctor Who makes me want to hide behind the sofa), but I don't look at these moments and think 'Colin, you're crap!' I think Colin is deliberately acting badly, for the moments to show that the Doctor isn't thinking straight. Watch the bit where the Doctor makes a ludicrously overblown and passionate speech that just because there's a minor mystery to be solved the whole universe is about to fall about and only HE and PERI can POSSIBLY stop it, only for Peri to meekly ask "How?" and the Doctor blows out his cheeks, shrugs and changes the subject. That's brilliant, that is, fantastic.

However I can only really appreciate it because I know it's the latter that speaks of natural Colin Baker than the former. The Doctor is given countless stupid things to say, but knowing its awful doesn't stop it being awful. Just as good as the moments when you're not sure if he's having a fit or not: when the Doctor goes on about how old and useless he is, it's said with rising hysteria rather than self-pity; when the Doctor calmly and reasonably insists he and Peri leave the TARDIS to face, if not certain death, then a horrible, harsh life; and when he suddenly starts baiting Mestor. The moment where the Doctor's wandering mindset causes him to deride existence as boring and laughing hysterically is wince-inducing, but the moment were he goes Hannibal Lector on Peri/Piri is definitely scary.

But it happens in the first episode! That's what's wrong with it, not the act but it's timing!

Imagine it happening not just after the Doctor's finished changing, but instead happens towards episode three. The universe is in danger, the Doctor needs to get in action but we can see his thought processes have got muddled, he's moving off topic, getting enthusiastic, and now he thinks Peri is the danger to him and she can't reason with him and the Doctor attacks her - bang! Cliffhanger! And it's made all the more poignant because we know, like Maddox in Warriors of the Deep, the Doctor doesn't want this to happen...

The whole relationship between Peri and the Doctor is skewed. She starts off by treating him with open contempt and when she finally realizes the Doctor is not in the best of moods to be taunted with, she instantly becomes meek before finally snapping. Yet, this happens in the first episode! If you're going to have an emotional arc to the four episodes, it shouldn't be over in part one and then get repeated. I admit, Peri's tirades against the Doctor are brilliant (her taken-aback shout of "I'm not letting a manic-depressive paranoid personality like YOU tell me what to do!" is killingly funny), but they are not consistant. Peri has as many mood swings as the Doctor, being quiet and contemplative while tending Hugo to blubbing at the thought the Doctor's dead to giving the impression she'd want to do the deed herself. Peri was timid around the Fifth Doctor (did she have a crush on him?), and it would have been more effective if that had stayed until the end of the story where she finally snaps and earns the new Doctor's respect. The bit where he marvels she still cares about him is a case in point - he should be touched, not baffled!

The suit, also, is another thing I'd do differently. Actually, I don't hate it (my biggest issue is that it's a bugger to draw), but it is a massive problem. The Twin Dilemma might look like the cash-starved end-of-season four-parter it is, but it's doing better than The Caves of Androzani (where spy cameras are studio cameras, personal computers remote controls and laser guns replaced by machine guns with sparks added in post-production). The reason Twin looks worse is because its decked out in awful greens, purples, silvers, blues and browns. And why? Because of that coat! There's a whole chunk of The Sixth Doctor Handbook explaining that due to the way TV works, brighter colours cause others to fade out so everything in The Twin Dilemma had to look so gaudy otherwise they would litterally wash out by the coat. As Eric Saward notes in his novelzation, all the colours clash and don't add up to anything - a bit like the story itself. It would also, in my humble opinion, have been better had the Doctor not chosen the bloody outfit in the first place but rather grabbed the first thing to hand because the TARDIS was out of control and needed something to wear. Four episodes go by and the only person who thinks the Doctor looks stupid in the coat is Peri - hardly the evidence needed to show the Sixth Doctor is 'totally tasteless', is it?

The problems are shared by the plot. Anthony Stevens seems to have been making it up as he goes along and Eric Saward is constantly building up elements only to end up ignoring them. Mestor wants no link between Joconda and the twins' kidnapping... but he has the power to wipe out entire space fleets by just thinking it! Mestor tells Azmael to reveal what he knows in the belief learning the mission will be benevolent will convince the twins to cooperate - which begs the question why he didn't do this from the beginning, and maybe just write a letter to the twins asking for the answer on the back of a postcard? If Mestor is so powerful, why doesn't he slam the planets into the sun instead of going through the charade? And why is his plan's aim appear to be to increase his species but not himself when every other scene shows him to be an arrogant megalomaniac? What are the 'consequences' the twins foresee about the planet juggling, because it clearly isn't the one the Doctor twigs to? Why does Noma, clearly a smart cookie along the lines of Lytton, honestly believe Mestor is benevolent? If the Gastropods eat everything and food is running out... why don't they just eat the Jocondons? Why does Azmael have a couple of handy 'anti-Gastropod' juice hanging around and never used it? Just how and why did Mestor have the X3773 captured, and why doesn't he change the number plate if he doesn't want it traced? How come he can communicate with Azmael, but Azmael needs a pager to talk back to him? And why oh why does Hugo pull a gun on the Doctor and threaten to kill him if he becomes unstable when he's never seen the Doctor unstable? As far as Lang knows, the Doctor's just a prima donna!

The last scene doesn't work. I wish it did. The Doctor's line ("And whatever else happens, I am the Doctor - whether you like it... or not.") is delivered firmly but not angrilly, and the smile between him and Peri makes the story end on a happy note. But there's no resolution - otherwise we wouldn't have most of Season 22 where the Doctor and Peri are arguing all the bloody time. The line is given such heavy emphasis you wonder if the Doctor was originally supposed to say the same thing in episode one, only this time Peri actually believes him.

Oh, and the cliffhangers... Not good. Not good at all. I can forgive episode one as we see the Doctor's face (just in time for it to be blown off), but Peri's strange snorting sobs are off-putting. The extremely long lingering shots on Colin Baker's face for the other two are bad. Really bad. Especially the final one, where the Doctor is clearly staring straight at camera and looking gormless - and not at all like the genuine smile he was giving to Peri seconds earlier. You would have thought someone would have noticed and done something... And the music is terrible - bar the scene where Azmael detects the TARDIS following his ship and, not recognizing it, wonders what it might be as a militaristic version of the theme tune plays.The Twin Dilemma just doesn't work. And that's not just bad, it's a tragedy. Because new Doctor stories are the only stories in Doctor Who that HAVE to work. There are crap Dalek stories, Cybermen stories, companions can have bad arrivals and worse departures, and even regeneration stories have been known to below par. But a story introducing a new Doctor just can't afford to go wrong, and The Twin Dilemma hits the ground burning - there are good elements but the don't gel and we're left with a bad start to the Sixth Doctor, a terrible continuation of The Caves of Androzani and lacklustre end to Season 21. Eric Saward easily improved the whole story for his novelization, which proves that Twin was one rewrite short of greatness. JNT was not perfect, but fighting to keep the half-thought-out The Twin Dilemma in Season 21 rather than finish it in Season 22 was the only big mistake he'd made since taking the reigns.

If there's a story Big Finish are going to replace in the canon, don't let it be Shada, let it be this.

Filters: Television Sixth Doctor Series 21