The Two Doctors

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for the U.K.
VHS Video
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(Doctor Who Story No. 141, starring Colin Baker and Patrick Troughton)
  • written by Robert Holmes
  • directed by Peter Moffatt
  • produced by John Nathan-Turner
  • music by Peter Howell
  • 6 episodes @ 25 minutes each, or
    3 episodes @ 45 minutes each
Story: A gourmet satire is on the menu when the Doctor (Colin Baker) investigates an attack on a space station, and soon finds himself headed for Spain on the trail of the Sontarans, an alien mastermind, a carnivorous chef, and one of his former selves (Patrick Troughton)....

DVD Extras (on 2 discs no less) include:

  • Audio commentary by Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Frazer Hines (Jamie),
    Jacqueline Pearce (Chessene), and director Peter Moffatt.
  • Robert Holmes career retrospective documentary (45 min.) with script editors Terrance Dicks and Eric Saward,
    former producers Barry Letts and Philip Hinchcliffe, and fellow writer Chris Boucher.
  • "Adventures in Time and Spain" production featurette with production manager Gary Downie (29 min.)
  • "Wavelength" audio only behind-the-scenes radio interviews (29 min.) with Colin Baker, Bryant, Moffatt, Downie,
    Patrick Troughton (The 2nd Doctor), Tim Raynham (Varl), John Stratton (Shockeye), producer John Nathan-Turner,
    designer Tony Burrough, costume designer Jan Wright, make-up designer Catherine Davies, sound effects designer Dick Mills,
    studio sound supervisor Keith Bowden, and production secretary Sarah Lee.
  • "Beneath the Sun" raw film footage on location (35 min.)
  • "Beneath the Lights" raw video footage in studio (25 min.)
  • "A Fix with Sontarans" TV skit featuring Colin Baker, Janet Fielding, Clinton Greyn, and Tim Raynham (9 min.)
  • Isolated Music track by Peter Howell
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery sound effects montage (8 min.)
  • 40th Anniversary music video (3 min.)
  • "Who's Who" text biographies (may feature on Region 1 discs only)

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program.
To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.


A lot of elements combine to make this story more interesting than most others from this season. Both Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines return to indulge us with the ever-wonderful second Doctor & Jamie duo, the long-neglected Sontarans are back, plus there is a large amount of location filming in Spain. To top it off, Jacqueline Pearce appears playing a role not too dissimilar from the Servalan character she used to play on the sci-fi show Blake's 7, and knowing Doctor Who, she may just finally get her well-deserved come-uppance on this show.

However, the only element that Robert Holmes' writing really does justice to are his new alien creations, the Androgums, and their overindulgence in sensational eating. Shockeye is the embodiment of this throughout most of the adventure, and with John Stratton's inspired performance, becomes something unique and disturbing to behold. If it was meant to encourage us all to become vegetarians (as apparently Robert Holmes and Nicola Bryant were), it does fall far short. For that, you would really need to balance things by showing characters enjoying vegetarian meals, and looking far more attractive and charismatic at it than the carnivore Shockeye and his like. This story is far more effective in encouraging people to avoid eating raw rats, becoming cannibals, or overindulging, and only one of those is a serious problem in human society.


A Structure for Every Era

It is interesting to note how each Doctor independently suffers the story-structure problems of his own era, something heightened in the six-episode version of the story. I will continue to automatically refer to the 25-minute international versions of this season's episodes, especially since it really highlights these structural challenges in the writing. Patrick Troughton's Doctor has no trouble getting to the scene of the action in the first few minutes of the opening episode - a space station expertly introduced through the TARDIS scanner. We get a lovely scene of his TARDIS's interior, juxtaposed well against the shot of the Doctor and Jamie exiting the police box, and although the materialization effect is left out, a unique dematerialization soon takes place shortly after. The important guest characters are all slowly introduced one after another, all easy to understand and enjoy. Well done. The Doctor gets straight to business with Dastari, and goes through a few really lovely scenes in his office.

Things go downhill for Pat's Doctor soon after, as he gets caught in the prisoner dynamic for most of the rest of the story. As was often the case in the sixties, he and Jamie appear to be off on holiday for the second of the six episodes, not making an appearance. Dastari and the uncredited Stike could easily have been carrying an extra across the field as seen by Oscar's binoculars, as the Doctor's face is well hidden from the camera. Pat's Doctor has little to do in the third of the six episodes, one shot of regaining consciousness, and one scene of groggy moaning that is repeated in part four. His Doctor is also absent/suppressed for much of the shenanigans of episodes five and six, while Patrick Troughton plays an Androgum instead (and very enjoyably at that).


Colin Baker's Doctor and Peri suffer more modern story structure problems. As usual for season twenty-two, they waste most of the first half-hour trying to get to the scene of the action. "The Two Doctors" manages to escalate this problem by ensuring that once they do get there, the action (and the rest of the cast) has moved on and left them. Colin's Doctor spends another two half-hour episodes trying to put together a mystery, to which the audience already has almost all of the answers. He comes up with some pretty ridiculous theories too - half are proven wrong later; some are ridiculously wrong anyway without the story proving it so definitively. It all feels like the padding that it is, not giving us the same quality of entertainment value as Jago's theories in "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" (story no. 91). The story is half-over before Colin's Doctor finally catches up with everyone else and has characters other than his companions to interact with.

Then he falls into a trap that Robert Holmes often laid for the fourth Doctor - instead of interacting with the guest characters, he hides in the shadows and eavesdrops most of the time. This goes to ridiculous lengths, showing Colin's Doctor and Jamie abandoning many rescue attempts, despite the fact that the villains are few and don't seem all that powerful or threatening. Colin's Doctor begins to appear cowardly. However, he does make himself look extremely clever whenever he does interact with the villains, as though he's only going to do it when he can get extremely good value and effectiveness for time spent with them.

And, as bizarrely usual for season twenty-two, Colin's Doctor has appeared to have defeated the most powerful villains before the final half-hour episode begins. This has not been a good story for the Sontarans. Although their presence is revealed wonderfully via some interestingly nostalgic model shots and a powerful new musical marching anthem from Peter Howell, director Peter Moffatt doesn't manage to give us a decent shot revealing the Sontarans themselves, in all their magnificent costume and make-up. Their presence on the space station remains mysteriously off-screen, before they simply show up on the Spanish footage as though they were ordinary Joes.

"Is that finally a Sontaran?" I asked myself when I first saw the story, squinting at Varl standing motionless in long-shot, and walking meekly behind Chessene in even longer shots. I had thought they were meant to attack the station and its inhabitants, not get friendly with its escaping refugees and get led around by them. Varl needed to explain himself and his motivation, and it seemed he was lucky just to get in a word of dialogue in each of his few scenes that episode. Chessene had mentioned making a deal with "Stike" - which hadn't struck me as a reference to the Sontarans, and doesn't make much impact. "Doctor Who" began to earn its reputation for confusing people again on this story.


Galactic Foes

Clinton Greyn and Tim Raynham both make wonderful Sontarans in this tale. Stike in particular has an excellent confrontation with Pat's Doctor in part four, and a suitably tense stand-off with Colin Baker's Doctor bridging parts four and five. Unfortunately, Stike only appears in three of the six episodes, and middle episodes at that. After some early shenanigans in part five, cut short as a Sontaran/Doctor chase sequence (the very kind of element the story needed more of) was eliminated from the script, Holmes' boredom with the Sontarans results in them slowly fading out of the story. In essence, Stike dies three times in episode five, with it having less dramatic impact each time, and not really interacting with his enemies during this at all.

Most specifically, all the Sontarans' talk of the importance of an outer space battle in the Madillon Cluster raises the anticipation that this will be a significant part of the final episode's exciting action. Instead, episode six gives us nothing of the Sontarans (or the Rutans) other than a 10 second cameo by Stike's dismembered boot. Definitely less than I'd hoped for when I tuned in.

With the Sontarans gone, "The Two Doctors" continues the severe anti-climax syndrome of season twenty-two. From defeating major galactic foes, we descend to running around a Spanish city looking to aide the inevitable return of Patrick Troughton to his senses, saving him from his own appetite and a fairly powerless pair of small time crooks. I do like the Spanish city sequences, but they should belong to an earlier stage of the story, escalating to a confrontation with a powerful Sontaran galactic plot, not anti-climaxing down from one.

Perhaps the most overlooked part of the heroic template during seasons 21 and 22 are the good local characters that our heroes can be proud to have helped or saved as a result of an adventure. Holmes' writing seems confused as to whether or not this should be the second Doctor and Jamie's role or not. He seems to be using them this way in terms of motivating Colin's Doctor's entry into the tale, and in making sure that they need rescuing often throughout the story. I don't think they really count in that role, since they are arguably as much our heroic regulars as the Doctor and Peri. Plus, whatever your temporal theories may be, it's virtually a guarantee that they will get through yet another adventure unscathed.


"Officer! Promptly on the scene as always..."

The characters of Oscar and Anita, on the other hand, fit the archetype of good, friendly characters perfectly. Oscar himself is a bit of a clone of Henry Gordon Jago from "The Talons of Weng-Chiang", and not quite as fascinating, but still works quite well. However, if the Doctors and their companions are going to help and/or save anyone, it should be Oscar and Anita. Thus, they don't do so well in the poor excuse for final action that this story comes up with. Colin's Doctor's party obviously isn't prompt enough for my taste. Why doesn't Holmes let them arrive in the restaurant in time to intervene and save Oscar? It would have given them more of the interaction they so desperately need, and would have elevated the feel-good nature of the adventure as a whole.

There's also an off-screen scene of the second Doctor witnessing (if not helping to convince) Dastari's return to the good side of the force. That would have been very worthy of inclusion in the final product. Positive touches like this are instead rendered forgettable and ultimately pointless thanks to what seems to be an unchecked overriding desire on the writers' part (Saward & Nathan-Turner included) to kill off the entire guest cast in a Doctor Who adventure yet again. Dastari's challenge to re-integrate himself into society is worthy of exploration, and would help the entire story cohere since Dastari has featured prominently in the whole thing. Instead we get a cheap cop-out, and our attention redirected to a retarded repeat of the cyanide mistake from "The Brain of Morbius" (story no. 84), now made even more graphic and brutal. The continuing erosion of values and structural sense at this point on the show is sad indeed.

The cliffhangers work fairly well in this story, including most of the unplanned ones. The Doctor and Peri get a good chance to wander around the dark, empty space station before the first of the six half-hour episodes finishes with the sudden, sinister introduction of a loud voice announcing "It threatened the Time Lords." At this point, the Spain setting has not been introduced, and we have no idea who or what or how many Sontarans may still be lurking around the corners, so good job. Episode Two's planned cliffhanger in the computer innards is adequate but not great, while episode three's cliffhanger, Anita directing Colin's Doctor's party towards the hacienda with "It's this way", is definitely weak but at least building anticipation that the story is finally going somewhere. Episode Four's cliffhanger is the best, bringing Colin's Doctor into a confrontation with the Sontarans, while Peri faces Shockeye. Part Five has Colin's Doctor by a fountain rambling about the raised stakes now that he is feeling the effects of the Androgum operation. Not a great direction for the story, but in terms of hitting a suspenseful spot to go out on at random, better than many other examples from this season.


Time and Continuity

Fans seem to go to a lot of trouble to figure out exactly when during the second Doctor and Jamie's history this adventure could have been squeezed in, and I've been among them myself. My current philosophy of time travel makes it not a problem at all - once accepting that the average person makes about 10 000 decisions each day that shift them from one possible line of history to another, it becomes ridiculous to expect to be able to travel into the past of a planet or of one's own life and witness things happening exactly the way you remember them. This does not erase any of the experiences you had to bring you to where you are now; you simply witness a different version of how things could have been.

This is the very essence of what we witness with Pat Troughton's Doctor and Jamie. Victoria has left them to learn graphology INSTEAD OF leaving them to get away from an endless succession of monster adventures. Or at least that's what she told them this time. Perhaps she is studying graphology with the Harrises from "Fury from the Deep" (story no. 42), or perhaps somewhere else. It doesn't matter. She won't be back. It's doubtful that the TARDIS we saw Pat's Doctor had in the sixties could have found its way back to her anyway. Once we accept this is a parallel Troughton Doctor instead of the one we remember, it becomes a moot point. Maybe they never met Zoe, or perhaps they did and Victoria outstayed her. The trial at the end of "The War Games" (story no. 50) has happened, probably with a different outcome for the Doctor. No forced regeneration, no exile to Earth. Instead, a more subservient version of the Doctor continues in the Patrick Troughton form, serving the hypocrisy of the Time Lords more obviously with Jamie at his side. Something similar can probably explain the absence of a double of Jon Pertwee's Doctor in the parallel universe of "Inferno" (story no. 54). This allows Jamie and Troughton's Doctor to age as much as they want, and travel together as long as they want. They can make up as many parallel futures for themselves as they want.

This also puts under scrutiny something else that was ridiculous in the script from the beginning - the sixth Doctor's fears that the operation on the second Doctor could somehow affect him as well. It can't possibly do that without telescoping through all the in-between Doctors and negating their history. I don't recall an Androgum Doctor in "The Green Death" (story no. 69), or "Genesis of the Daleks" (story no. 78), or learning to meditate in "Snakedance" (story no. 125). Colin Baker's Doctor is the product of his total experiences up to that point, experiences that cannot be erased simply by witnessing one of the parallel versions of what might have been. In any case, the effects of the only part of the operation that was achieved only last an hour, not the five hundred years they would need to catch up with Colin's Doctor. His immune system can do a lot in five hundred years.

His strange cravings near the end of the story only make sense as a case of mind over matter, and it's disappointing that this expert on time can remain so confused and fearful. Far less interesting than the powerful galactic Sontaran plot I had hoped for.


Production

Peter Moffatt's directing is back on form after the disastrous "The Twin Dilemma" (story no. 137), although things still aren't perfect here. Generally, he gets great performances from the cast, arguably the best of the season, and he manages to tell the story in visually interesting ways and keep everything at a decent level. His knack of knowing when to move on allowed a few scenes planned for the studios to get filmed on location instead, which is a good and worthy bonus. However, he too didn't make sure the Sontarans got all that was their due, including their physical entrance, making sure the collars of their masks were tucked in properly before each of their scenes in studio, and going for the abandoned corridor chase scene. There's a lot of excellent work here, but the subject matter begged for it to go up yet another notch in a few areas.

Musically, Peter Howell's score for this story is the tour-de-force for the season. We get a nice creepy theme for the Androgums, and plenty of atmospheric guitar music for the Spanish sections. Best of all, the Sontarans get a compelling anthem with a whole host of easily recognizable variations during appropriate cues, giving them the most distinctive and dangerous musical identity they have ever had. Howell has proved himself to be the musical maestro once more. Excellent!


With all of the wonderful elements this story has going for it, it seemed poised to top my list of season twenty-two favourites. But even then, it doesn't quite gel as a satisfying tale. "The Mark of the Rani" (the previous story) does that a bit better I think, although I might still wind up re-watching "The Two Doctors" more often, thanks to the irresistibly unique draw of Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, and the Sontarans. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole in this case, and one is left to eat from the good bits, add a few of one's own spices and flavourings to the mediocre, and send the inedible portions back to the kitchens.



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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "Timelash"



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