Friday, April 27, 2012

Does It Offend You? (The Twin Dilemma)

What do you tell a companion with two black eyes?
It’s March 22nd, 1984. Lionel Richie is at number one with “Hello,” and remains so for the whole of this story. Sade, Culture Club, Bananarama, and Depeche Mode also chart, along with, at number two for the second week of this story, the Weather Girls with “It’s Raining Men.” Hallelujah. In real news, the heyday of the Satanic ritual abuse panic begins in sync with the Colin Baker era as teachers at the McMartin Preschool are falsely accused of it. Speaking of Satanic ritual abuse, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Starlight Express opens in London.

While on television, we go from the supposed best Doctor Who story ever to the supposed worst. Unlike The Caves of Androzani, The Twin Dilemma made it as the worst story for two polls running. On basic quality, this might not be quite fair. It's very bad, but as a matter of competent production and provision of a modicum of entertainment it's not demonstrably worse than many others. If you were to show someone a selection of this, Warriors of the Deep, The Horns of Nimon, Mark of the Rani, and The Monster of Peladon and ask them to pick the worst of them I don’t think you’d see this one picked in particular excess to the others. There are actually moments of it that border on the compelling. I mean, this is praising with faint damnation, but it’s still worth noting that, taken on its own and out of context, and judged purely on its storytelling merits, this is merely among the worst stories ever made, but it's not clear that it's the worst story ever by any means.

But, of course, when have we ever taken things out of context here? Yes, the biggest problem with this story is its context in Doctor Who, but the thing aired on television in a context everyone involved knew about, so really, that criticism sticks pretty well. Because what this story does is doom Colin Baker’s tenure as the Doctor and, in doing so, ensure the show’s cancellation. In this regard it is the single story most destructive to Doctor Who. Never mind Michael Foot. At 100 minutes, this is the longest suicide note in history.

There are, of course, self-inflicted wounds prior to this. If the past two seasons hadn’t started with pieces of utter crap like Warriors of the Deep and The Arc of Infinity, if the Peter Davison era hadn’t been a monument to wasted potential, et cetera, et cetera. The Twin Dilemma’s spectacular faceplant and sabotaging of the series didn’t happen in isolation. On the other hand, it’s also not the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s the entire bale of hay flung at high velocity towards the camel’s back. Doctor Who was vulnerable coming into this story, yes, but even if the Davison era had been a consistent triumph it would have been, at the very least, in serious trouble coming out of this story.

The core of the problem was the decision to put so many eggs in one basket. Nobody has ever really offered a clear explanation for why Nathan-Turner decided that Colin Baker’s debut should be moved up to the end of Season 21 instead of the start of Season 22. It’s a strange idea, particularly in contrast to how Davison was introduced. With Davison they went out of their way to give him three stories to practice before his debut so that he’d know where he was going with the character. Now, with Colin Baker, who, while not the crap actor he’s belittled as by some, is not as good as Peter Davison, they dump him in the role with less prep time and expect his first time out of the gate to set the tone of the character for nine months.

There’s really no explanation for this. It’s a dumb idea on the face of it. At the start of a season if the new Doctor is wobbly coming out of the gate it’s not a huge problem simply because there’s a level of momentum carrying you from story to story. It’s easy to tune in next week after a rough story. But this asks people to tune in nine months from now and in a different timeslot. There’s much less insurance for a rough start. If Castrovalva had proven to be a turkey they had the opportunity to turn things around next week, as they did back in 1975 when Tom Baker’s debut was, let’s face it, not exactly inspiring but the next story was legendarily good. This is common sense - putting the debut of a new character at the start of the season gives you more than one chance to win the audience over. Putting the debut of a new character at the end of a season means that if you give a bad first impression that impression has lots of time to settle in.

So faced with that problem, at the very least, one assumes, you throw away the old “regenerative trauma” structure and have the Doctor start with his feet on the ground. I mean, OK, if you’re going to use one story to form the impression of your new Doctor then you at the very least have to actually show what your new Doctor is like. You can’t spend episodes mucking around with post-regenerative trauma when you’re trying to cement your new lead in the audience’s mind such that they’re excited to come back next season. In this regard, at least, The Twin Dilemma deserves some credit, in that Baker settles into his default mode reasonably quickly. But any points it gains are more than undone by the fact that they not only decide to introduce the Doctor in regenerative crisis, they do so by having him try to strangle Peri. In the best of circumstances this would be an unwise way to introduce a new lead character. In these circumstances it is difficult to understand how the idea even got approved.

More broadly, if giving yourself one shot to introduce your new Doctor is unwise, to do so when your concept for the new Doctor is that he’s an unlikable character who the audience slowly grows to trust and like is simply farcical. The two ideas are completely incompatible. Even if we grant that one of them is good - and I don’t really think “make your lead character unlikable” was ever going to be a winning strategy - “make your character unlikable and then put yourself in a situation where the first impression matters more than ever to the success of your show” is an idea that almost weaponizes stupidity.

Of course, the Colin Baker era is also shot through with dodgy post facto justifications. For instance, the new party line is that Colin Baker’s Doctor was supposed to have a shameful secret that would eventually be revealed so as to explain his hostile demeanor and make him palatable to the audience. I don’t doubt that this idea came up in conversation at some point, but there’s a fairly easy way to check if this was actually a plan that people had or just something that was mentioned as an idea once that later got seized on to explain what they were really doing. What was the secret? Anybody? Have any of the people who allegedly crafted this idea of a multi-season “peeling back the layers of the onion” arc for Colin Baker’s Doctor ever actually indicated what the big secret at the heart of his character was?

Of course not. Because there wasn’t any. This was never an actual storyline that was being written into the series. And who would seriously think it might be? This was a production team that couldn’t remember to have Tegan and Nyssa be upset with the Master over things that actually did get onto screen, and we’re seriously expected to believe that they had some idea for deep motivations for the Doctor that never made it to screen? When nobody has even come up with a suggestion for what it might be? Or, for that matter, how it might work? I mean, how exactly does Colin Baker’s Doctor suddenly acquire a dark secret that hadn’t affected any of his predecessors?

No, the far more likely explanation is the one that occurred to everybody at the time - that every Doctor is a reaction against the previous one, and that they decided to follow “nice” and “bland” with “nasty” and “loud.” Then decided to give audiences one shot at this deliberately hard to like Doctor and see if they’d tune in nine months later. Given this, it’s a wonder that so many people were even around to be driven away by the first episode of Attack of the Cybermen instead.

But fine, let’s accept that, against all logic, we’re going to attempt this piece of madness. In that case we should, at the very least, make sure we have a solid writer. Not just someone with television experience, but someone who’s got a proven track record of working with Doctor Who.Instead they pick someone with extensive television experience who’s never done Doctor Who before. He turns out to be dangerously slow and prone to claiming that his typewriter has exploded, and his script needs a complete overhaul. Again, one wonders why they even put themselves in this position. In the past new Doctors were debuted by old hands - Bidmead, Dicks, Whitaker, even Holmes had ten episodes under his belt prior to Spearhead From Space. And yet instead of asking Bailey, Clegg, Gallagher, or even one of the writers they mistakenly have been putting so much faith in like Byrne or Dudley they take a risk on an untested writer. Heck, have this be the story where Eric Saward writes it under his ex-girlfriend’s name so that at least it’s from the start overseen by someone who knows how this is supposed to work. Any of these ideas are smarter than letting the new Doctor debut under an untested writer.

To continue to check off obvious things this story should have done, if this is the story you want to make a big impression, you want to put some time into it. As Tat Wood points out, when you have three stories - a regeneration, a debut, and a bit of transitional loose-end tying that shuffles the companions, you don’t blow the budget on an expensive location shoot in Lanzarote for the transitional piece and have the season-ending debut be the piece of cheap comedy. This is a story that absolutely has to be big - on which they’re openly and deliberately having everything ride - and they don’t even bother to try to make it big.

Instead we get poorly cast twins (that the director tried to cast with better actors only to be vetoed because Nathan-Turner, for no discernible reason, decided it was crucial that the twins be boys), poorly cast everyone else, wretched sets, a stupid monster, flat direction, and a paper thin plot. The story looks like its aspiring to the Graham Williams era. Which is improbable given Nathan-Turner’s views of that era, and anyway, the script completely lacks the self-awareness that the Williams era had. Say what you will about the Graham Williams era, but it knew enough to wink at the audience when it was being crap. Its only problem was that circumstances conspired to make it crap far too often.

Here, on the other hand, we have the show being crap without seeming to realize it, and on a story in which it’s vitally important that the show not be crap. Miles and Wood offer the diagnosis that Nathan-Turner has, by this point, come to completely misunderstand how the series works. Certainly he seems to have simply internalized the assumption that “doing Doctor Who-like stuff” is the sole purpose of Doctor Who such that he hasn’t bothered to think through the interactions of the material reality of production and transmission and the standard tropes of the series. That much is clear from the fact that he simultaneously went with giving Baker an orphan story to establish himself and using the post-regenerative trauma angle when one should have precluded the other.

But that doesn’t explain the more fundamental errors. It doesn’t explain how Nathan-Turner thought end-of-season filler was compatible with launching his new Doctor. Nothing does, really, save for incompetence - a complete failure to meaningfully think about how things were going to come off to the audience. And that’s the really stark thing. I mean, let’s imagine that we were to allow for everything we’ve already diagnosed. Let’s allow that we’re going with a deliberately unlikable Doctor, that we’re going to have one story set the audience’s impression of this Doctor for nine months, that we’re going to have him act worse than normal in that story, and that we’re not going to try to make it be good. I have no idea why we would allow all of these things, but let’s do it, just for fun. If we accept that a cheaply made piece of fluff about an unlikable Doctor might somehow hook people and make them excited about the series, can we say that this might work?

No. We can’t. Because even given all of that it’s impossible to suggest that this is a workable setup. Because Baker’s Doctor isn’t just unlikable here. He’s intolerable. He’s an overtly bad person who any reasonable audience should actively dislike and want to see get his comeuppance. Whereas the series still visibly thinks he’s the hero. It’s not just that Baker’s Doctor is prickly and hard to like, it’s that he’s a bad guy.

And I’m not just talking about the scene in which he strangles Peri. I mean, that’s an appalling bit of bad taste. No, I’m talking about everything that comes after that. The Doctor reacting to it by declaring that he’s going to be a hermit and effectively kidnapping Peri to spend the rest of his life tending to his needs. The Doctor’s complete failure, at any point in the story, to actually apologize to her for it. To, in fact, declare that he’s an alien bound to different values and customs and that he’s who he is whether she likes it or not. And her grinning broadly at him as he says it, clearly OK with this abusive bastard who tried to kill her not even caring about it.

Even if we do hold rigidly to the “no hanky-panky in the TARDIS” rule this is difficult to accept. The Doctor attempts to choke his heavily sexualized female companion. He physically and violently assaults her in a manner that is chillingly familiar as a real-world phenomenon that happens to women at the hands of their male partners. Then he drags her against her will to what he says could be an entire life in which “it shall be your humble privilege to minister unto my needs.” She readily forgives him and grins stupidly at his charms. It’s not Nicola Bryant’s fault - she plays the material as well as it can be played. Nor is it Baker’s fault. They try to make the scenes watchable, but nobody could possibly make this work. Peri is violently assaulted by a man who overtly sees her only purpose as being to serve him, and chooses happily to stay with him. The show treats this man as its hero and expects the audience to tune in nine months later to watch his continuing adventures.

Of course they declined to. Baker’s Doctor is completely poisoned here. There’s nothing whatsoever that can be done to make this character watchable to anyone who has seen this. And I speak from experience here. This is the story that killed my parents’ interest in Doctor Who. To this day my mother refuses to accept the possibility that Baker might be good on the audios simply because of how much this story made her hate him. That’s how bad this played to people. That’s how you kill Doctor Who in under a hundred minutes. You make it about a battered woman idolizing her abuser.

Yeah, OK. I take it back. This is the worst fucking story ever.

109 comments:

  1. This is surely one of those moments where narrative collapse ceases to be a postmodernist critical tool and becomes the only possible answer to 'what on earth were they thinking?' The whole point of the story must be, will this new crazed madman turn out to still be the Doctor by the end? When I saw this (I was about eleven) I thought that was what they were going for. Unfortunately, I was uncomfortably aware that even by the end of the story the answer was 'no, not quite'.
    (And that's even discounting the additional problems you refer to at the end raised by depicting and then excusing male violence against women.)

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    1. Maybe (maybe!) this story would have forgivable if there had been some sense that the new Doctor's initial actions were beyond the pale. A dose of humility and an apology to Peri at the end wouldn't have improved the story much, but it would have pointed a way forward in future serials. Having the story end with a smug, self-satisfied quip means that no one's really sure whether the Doctor is just prickly or, as Phil says, a monster.

      This is actually something I think the writers picked up quickly in the next season. It becomes so common to have the Doctor end a story by lamenting about his failures that it not only becomes cliche, but poses a problem in its own right. The sixth Doctor, in the end, seems defined as much by his well-meaning missteps and failures as he does by his victories: his failure to properly read Lytton in "Attack of the Cybermen," or his horror at all the bloodshed in the aftermath of "The Two Doctors," for instance. But that only makes the Doctor ineffectual, and it at least clearly signals to the audience that he means well. We don't get that from "The Twin Dilemma." That'd be a problem by itself, but because so much is riding on this particular story in this particular slot, it's catastrophic.

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  2. Ouch. Completely fair, but... ouch.

    I'll go on the record and say that I actually enjoy the bulk of Colin Baker's tenure. Even really hated stories like "Attack of the Cybermen" and "The Two Doctors" rank reasonably well in my estimation. I can find plenty of things to enjoy about "Timelash," and even "Mark of the Rani" has its charms.

    But "The Twin Dilemma" is, as you argue, unforgivable. It's a train wreck of a story with a weak plot, little visual style, and horrifically poor characterization of both the regulars and the supporting cast. The only positive thing I can say about it is that Colin Baker does a fairly good job, and slips into the role faster than either Tom Baker or Peter Davison... but what the hell good is that when *this* is the role he's slipping into?

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  3. I find it very difficult to disagree with much of what you’ve written – clearly, this blights poor Colin for ever after, and not least among the writers for the following season, who blatantly keep writing for him as he is here (with the notable exceptions of Robert Holmes, of course, and – one good word to say about them – Pip and Jane). Much of which I can only put down to Saward disliking the actor and consistently going out to sabotage him, or simply being negligent, even though this story, for once, is clearly mostly the responsibility of JNT’s terrible decisions, despite Saward reportedly having written most of it when the original script turned out to be unfilmable. That almost every single person on the production and design side has an off-day only adds to it.

    I’ve not heard of the ‘dark secret’ before; as I discussed when I reviewed The Twin Dilemma, the version that usually does the rounds is that he was supposed to be a ‘Mr Darcy’, someone cold and arrogant whose hearts, we gradually come to see, are in the right place. Though if so, Saward had no interest at all in plotting that arc, and I don’t remember the page of Pride and Prejudice on which Darcy strangles Elizabeth.

    You might consider – and wince – when you talk about the previous Doctors’ introduction stories: not knowing what happened in the original script, if Saward did indeed rewrite it as much as is reputed, could this be his trying to follow the model of the previous introduction and saying, ‘I can do better than Bidmead, with more regeneration trauma and big monsters!’ Because surely this is Peter’s opening story of an unstable Doctor, all-powerful maths and boy geniuses, re-written to take its brain out and stick every cliché in?

    Despite all that, though the Doctor is the worst thing in this, I can find two defences, one small, one large. I can exactly see where you’re coming from in your final point, and can’t begrudge anyone for taking that interpretation and recoiling – but it’s still unfair on both the Doctor and Peri. Because it wasn’t a deliberate choice to assault Peri, but a symptom of mental illness, and damning someone for being ill (however crassly depicted) leaves a nasty taste in my mouth, too. You talk about context – well, isn’t the context that by the end of the story, he’s recovered or at least recovering from his illness, and that Peri can see in him again not someone who abused her when he didn’t know what he was doing, but the person who literally laid down his life for her when he did?

    And the large defence is that, for all that you contrast Colin with Peter to Colin’s detriment, for me the Doctor is also the best thing in this, and most of the time I’d far rather watch Colin’s performance – if not necessarily listen to his lines – than Peter’s. For me, he’s endlessly watchable, whether it’s his declaiming striding up that hill or all his inventive physicality, from leaning on the console or sprawling across a lab, to just walking round a gun, to pointing a dramatic finger of doom. Throughout Colin’s time as the Doctor, I just love watching him, and even if he’s having to work twice as hard to make us enjoy him despite the scripts, for me it works.

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    1. For all that, though... anyone with a mental illness who behaved like that would, once they'd started recovering, apologise and be mortified at their own behaviour. It's not the Doctor attacking Peri while ill that's the problem, it's him not showing any remorse for it afterward.

      I loved this as a child (we're now into the phase where I can remember individual stories from my childhood -- the first three I can remember clearly are The Five Doctors, this and Attack Of The Cybermen, though I was watching from a few years earlier) but it's the only story from the whole of the original series I find literally impossible to watch now -- it's upsetting to see the Doctor's behaviour in this.

      That said, I agree with you entirely about Colin. Davison may well be the better actor, but Colin is by far the better *Doctor*. He managed to carry the show pretty much single-handed and give the role utter conviction, at a time when all around him everyone was in "who can be the biggest arsehole and wreck the show the most?" competition.

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    2. I think the "Mr. Darcy" approach actually comes out pretty clearly during the next season. Even Saward gets it, I think: it's debatable whether or not the Doctor's regret over misreading Lytton in "Attack of the Cybermen" is particularly effective, but it gets the point across that the Doctor still means well.

      Which is the problem, really. Seasons 22 and 23 have a huge number of problems, but none of them are so bad as to permanently poison the well, so to speak. Which is how it usually works, really: Hartnell's entire tenure wasn't soured by "The Celestial Toymaker"; Troughton survived "The Moonbase"; Pertwee shrugged off "The Time Monster", and so on. Even Sylvester McCoy went on to great things after a problematic intro in "Time and the Rani." What we have here is a combination of a truly awful story, both in conception and realization, landing smack dab in what was the most important story for Colin Baker's Doctor.

      And that infuriates me more than anything else, because I really like Colin Baker. He's a very good actor, and the conception of the sixth Doctor as a prickly and arrogant, but ultimately well-meaning, is one I'm drawn to. It reminds me of the best of Hartnell or Pertwee's era, and even of occasional flashes of it during Tom Baker and Davison's runs. And I think, most of the time, he's capable of polishing even a poorly written script into an eminently watchable performance. But he was never given a chance by an audience introduced to him in "The Twin Dilemma," and the worst part of it is that I can't really blame them. I was lucky enough that this wasn't the first sixth Doctor story I saw, but I don't really know how I would have reacted if it had been. It wouldn't have been positive, at the very least.

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    3. I do remember the Doctor expressing remorse (disclaimer: I haven't rewatched it and have no plans to do so). Also, even within the moral compass of a program that hasn't had any serious acquaintance with feminism since 1970, it doesn't really need spelling out that attacking your companion is a Bad Thing. The thing is, though, that's not enough.

      Even the Doctor's remorse is arrogant and unpleasant - one part 'let's both go and become hermits as penance' while the Doctor's presumably still unstable, and another part 'that was completely out of character so we'll forget about it'.
      Also, the continuum between the dangerously unstable Doctor and the now recovered Doctor is not nearly steep or sharp enough. It's still not easy to see the person who laid down his life for Peri in him.

      Finally, because of the ideologies that play into real-world violence against women there are an additional set of problems in depicting a character who is violent against women and then excusing it by saying that he wasn't himself at the time. Murder is morally worse than rape; but in fiction a central character who is a murderer searching for redemption is less problematic than a central character who is a rapist searching for redemption. Given the non-existent relationship between early to mid eighties Doctor Who and feminism, I can't believe that consideration was a major part of the reception at the time, but it should affect out judgement looking back.

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    4. I wish I could disagree with you all... But bang to rights, I think. Sadly, it's only Sean I don't see: I don't think it's coherent enough for the 'Darcy' progression. It's more 'Colin is a flawed Doctor, so he must be punished, and punish himself, too', which is a very different line, surely inspired by this story: just look at the terrible things that happen to his companions (not least off-screen, when for a long time he was littered with deaths), and himself.

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  4. Incidentally, Philip, I'd *really* be interested, in the light of your comments here, to hear in the book version what your opinion of the Companion Chronicle Peri & The Piscon Paradox is (half of it is set immediately before Androzani, the other half after Mindwarp). It makes Peri's reactions here slightly more plausible, I think, and is one of the best things Big Finish have ever done, but I'm still not sure about some problematic aspects of it...

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  5. The problem with the argument that this story is the one that killed off Doctor Who is that the ratings don't seem to support it. Attack of the Cybermen got higher ratings than this, and indeed higher ratings than the series openers to both Series 20 and 21, and the ratings for Series 22 generally were similar to 20 and 21. So people did come back after seeing this. The real dip in the ratings came with Series 23 after the hiatus. You could argue that this poisoned the well, as Sean puts it, and after a season more of Colin Baker a chunk of the audience didn't come back. But it leaves open the possibility that a better Series 22 could have rescued the show.

    I was one of those who came back - I was nine at the time this aired, and although I can remember not liking the new Doctor much, I still came back for the next series. Part of this was probably "Dr Who is my favourite programme and I'm not going to stop watching it because of one bad story" and part of it was that I did get that this was a regeneration crisis and that Colin might imptove.

    I'm not going to defend the story - I haven't seen it in 28 years and I doubt I'll ever watch it again. The only thing that sticks in my mind is the strangulation scene.

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  6. I can't speak with much authority having not seen it for many, many years (and like the above poster have no intentions to do so any time soon!) But I do think the idea of an arrogant Doctor is still a very valid one, it's just that none of the writers seemed particularly interested in characterisation and, you know, making us care about the characters and other such piddling concerns. I think in the modern series, where characters are given more emotional motivation, the idea wouls work much better (and Christopher Eccleston's Doctor managed to get something of this into the 9th Doctor).

    I even think they could have got away with post-regeneration trauma if they had confined it to maybe the 1st 10-15 mins of Episode 1 and then have him being a good guy again by the end. But if he was made to do something as excessively good as attempted murder of his companion he would have to do something even more excessively good to redeem himself in Peri's and the audience's eyes...

    As to it being the story that killed the show - perhaps. But in my eyes the motivation for making the show was altered for the worst by the success of Earthshock. If that had flopped the philosophy of the producion team would have been very different. The cynical attitude of milking the past was what killed 80s Doctor who, ot so much poisioning the well, more running it bone dry. Russell T Davies was acgtually in danger of doing this with stories like Journey's End and the endless scenes of the 10th Doctor stalking his old companions; but Russell T Davies is at the end of the day a much more talented writer and so was able to get away with it by writing a lot of top notch stuff that you can forgive him. This little rant is in danger of going seriously off topic, so it's gloing to end... Now!

    Ah well, regarding The Twin Dilemma, there's no use crying over spilt milk. I can't even remember the plot of the rest of the story, and that's probably for the best...

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    1. When I say the 10th Doctor stalking his companions, I mean in nhis last episode; I don't mean to suggest he did this throughout his entire tenure! :)

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    2. I have to take the Tenth Doctor's "reward" of visiting his Companions one last time before regenerating with a dash of alchemy, of course.

      In the literature of Near Death Experiences, a common theme is that of the Homecoming, a reunion with loved ones who've gone before, and visitations of those still living. This makes a lot of sense to me -- if there's any sort of payoff (or salve) to be had from dying, it's the Love forged from our earthly relationships. Everything else is rather pointless, as far as I'm concerned.

      It also served as a reminder that the Doctor took Sarah's admonition to hearts, that it's good to drop in on his friends, while harkening back to the regenerations of Four and Five, and their remembering of their companions.

      Very apt, in the end.

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    3. Point conceded in terms of it's reason for being there; that reading certainly makes more sense of it for me. However, I still think it goes on for far too long. It's fair to say that a similar technique was used for the 4th and 5th Doctor's regerations, but I would argue that the End of Time sequence takes up far too much of the episode's time, and so comes off as self-indulgent. I remember watching it with my parents - casual viewers - who were, frankly, bored shitless with it, and I found it hard not to agree!

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    4. Also remember the "old John Smith" scene in "Family of Blood"--as he's about to draw his last breath, his only concern is the safety of his children, who have retreated to the country immediately following the Blitz. ("In the midst of the Blitz," if you're of a rhyming persuasion.)

      I think the implication is that, if you strip away the lonely angel and the earth-shattering battles, you're left with the inherently good and decent John Smith, whose dying wish is to know that his children are all right.

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  7. "I don’t remember the page of Pride and Prejudice on which Darcy strangles Elizabeth."

    In my edition, it's about eighty pages before he jumps in the lake.

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    1. I knew I should have read it again before commenting. Is he a zombie yet at that point?

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  8. At what point does Peri idolize The Doctor? One smile does not equal worship, and she's quite clear that this new Doctor in no way deserves admiration yet.

    I know you're looking at the show in the context of the time, but in a 2012 context, we have new series that's been thriving since 2005, so a bit of commercial suicide in 1984 doesn't seem so disastrous now. You praised parts of Williams era for what you saw as having affinities with punk, and the same could be argued for all the willful perversities of this story. There are a lot of problems with the execution, but I like the sheer effrontery of The Twin Dilemma and can think of few other franchises that would take risks this big more than 20 years into their run.

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    1. One smile does not equal worship in a realist sense, certainly. When that smile is the reaction shot to a clearly metatextual declaration that this is how Colin Baker's Doctor is going to be and is used as the ending image for an entire season, though, it takes on considerably more weight.

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    2. I took Peri's smile to mean that she accepts that Six is a rude bastard but no longer the murderous psychopath of his regeneration crisis. So I don't see that smile as worship in a surrealist sense, either. :)

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  9. In terms of 'what JNT was thinking' my
    answer usually is deliberate self-sabotage. He seemingly thrived on crisis management to the point of engineering them. I suspect it was even a narcissistic martyr complex. A Munchausen Syndrome approach of setting himself to fail to look like the victim of impossible odds, or like the 'mender' of self-inflicted damage. Hence why Colin's nicer moments in Mysterious Planet are often elevated to greatness.

    Indeed this Munchausen Syndrome bleeds into the Doctor's characterisation from Season 21, as he commits or allows terrible things to happen, or treats his companion like shit just so he can act remorseful after- this remains so in Season 26.

    A less cynical explanation is that JNT had long been going off fan opinion, hence why Ian Levine was kept close by. Then he casts Colin Baker, a fan with certain ideas of making the Doctor more like Hartnel. So JNT probably decided that this knowledgeable fan's opinion of how to do it was worth going with, to impress the fan audience that JNT was adulated by. The show was behind the times in special effects, so maybe aiming at the fanbase was wise as they had no problem suspending their disbelief and investing in the show. So the drive to make the show more 'real' to fans led to focus on continuity and visceral shock gore.

    "I am the Doctor, whether you like it or not" was a typically 80's message to the audience of 'you're either with us or against us'. But many of the fans JNT courted the adulation of were very possessive and territorial about the show, as was JNT, and he asserted his ownership over the show, of a kind that the fans respected because he promised to be 'their' kind of leader who'd give them what they wanted. We may not like to admit it but back then the two were made for each other.

    Then there's the way JNT was preoccupied with the idea throughout the Davison era that fraught histrionics made compelling and engaging TV. Janet Fielding said they were unsure of the running order of scenes and so were instructed to improvise an urgency or an argument so that each scene would be dramatic, regardless of which order it went in (I'd assumed that this was the chastity of the Davison era, eliminating the idea of sexuality by making interactions between men and women downright antagonistic). So in Twin Dilemma that becomes the approach throughout, of volatile moments and petty antagonism. But JNT had come to think of it as the way to do modern Doctor Who.

    What RTD did with Eccleston's Doctor, who was also spiky, rude, ruthless and unstable, and drawn in broad strokes, gives insight into JNT's idea that an angry, unpredictable anti-hero figure in a distinctive coat would become instantly iconic. He'd linger in the memory, albeit uncomfortably, convey a sense of no-nonsense authority and give the show a modern bit of kick (it seemed the 80's was about overkill in TV and Cinema to make the audience uncomfortable). Eccleston's Doctor won over the audience far better, but personally I found him too uncomfortably thuggish and belligerent.

    Maybe RTD's nostalgia for macho heroes of few words just won over the audience that was likewise nostalgic for the cartoonish, brash, colourful 80's and for Police Academy slapstick.

    JNT's nostalgia seemed more about Ed Wood films and Flash Gordon. Mindwarp to me was Twin Dilemma done right. It's Flash Gordon for the age of yuppiedom and the satirical writing and aesthetics are cutting edge- it all feels vividly nightmarish. And the 'Doctor's the bad guy' approach works in a poetic way of defining exactly what the Doctor isn't (But Twin Dilemma did open that door and in many ways its an opportunity too good to miss- audios like Curse of Davros wouldn't be possible otherwise).

    Twin Dilemma is the same approach, only completely behind the times. Which is the problem with JNT's vision- he doesn't see it as dated.

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    1. It's not every day I see RTD and JNT attacked as too macho.

      Honestly, would you like it if anyone applied this kind of crude psychoanalysis to you? Narcissistic martyr complexes and Munchausen Syndrome, indeed.

      Much of the arguing among characters in the 80s seems to be down to Eric Saward's writing style, as you don't see nearly as much bickering during Bidmead's or Cartmel's time.

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    2. What RTD did with Eccleston's Doctor, who was also spiky, rude, ruthless and unstable, and drawn in broad strokes, gives insight into JNT's idea that an angry, unpredictable anti-hero figure in a distinctive coat would become instantly iconic. He'd linger in the memory, albeit uncomfortably, convey a sense of no-nonsense authority and give the show a modern bit of kick (it seemed the 80's was about overkill in TV and Cinema to make the audience uncomfortable). Eccleston's Doctor won over the audience far better, but personally I found him too uncomfortably thuggish and belligerent.

      Thank you for pointing out parallels between Six and Nine! I've been rewatching Season 1 of the new show recently and I've been struck by how easily Colin could step into Eccleston's role (with Nine's bipolar mix of manic intensity, sullen brooding and bombastic anger). I can easily imagine DW being cancelled after Trial of a Timelord and then getting brought back ten years later, with an older, more subdued Colin wearing the all-black he'd wanted to wear from the start and coming straight out of the Time War to rescue Rose Tyler (played by Sophie Aldred) from the Autons. And that was before I discovered Jubilee!

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    3. "Thank you for pointing out parallels between Six and Nine! I've been rewatching Season 1 of the new show recently and I've been struck by how easily Colin could step into Eccleston's role (with Nine's bipolar mix of manic intensity, sullen brooding and bombastic anger)."

      Indeed.

      I think that both Doctors were interpreted to be results of the same kind of regenerative process. Where a previously benevolent and pacifist-leaning incarnation of the Doctor finds himself out of his depth in a string of very violent scenarios that he is not suited for handling. So resultantly when he does regenerate, his body chooses a more aggressive and ruthless personality that's more adapted to survival, to combat and violence and more prepared to do what has to be done without his predecessor's moral indecision.

      "I can easily imagine DW being cancelled after Trial of a Timelord and then getting brought back ten years later, with an older, more subdued Colin wearing the all-black he'd wanted to wear from the start and coming straight out of the Time War to rescue Rose Tyler (played by Sophie Aldred) from the Autons. And that was before I discovered Jubilee!"

      I could see that working actually. It's one of the few pre-McCoy potential end-points for the show that might still have inspired all the following spin-off material we did get. Others being (in diminishing effect) Revelation of the Daleks, The Five Doctors and Logopolis.

      With Trial of a Time Lord you have a story that redeems the Sixth Doctor and hints strongly at his future, which would encourage more novels about this incarnation. But it also establishes more about the corrupt side of Gallifrey and their malevolent galactic influence (something that Attack of the Cybermen and The Two Doctors hinted at), which the books could also build upon, along with the idea of the Valeyard and the Doctor's darker nature. As well as a blank slate new companion who now needs an origin story filled in.

      The Master could be dismissed from ever reappearing again in the books now that the Time Lords have captured and trapped him in the Matrix (and this might explain how he became used in the Time War). The Rani, as a more interesting shades of grey character could usurp him in the novels, and we'd also seen in Revelation of the Daleks a more complex portrayal of Davros and indeed how he might fit into the context of the futuristic setting. All of which the novels could build upon and flesh out further.

      The spin-off material was well in swing then already in the DWM strips and the Audio Visual tapes, and even in some of the American choose your own adventure style books that used the Sixth Doctor and made him far closer to his nicer Big Finish persona. And indeed there's still plenty of opportunity for Big Finish to happen, even if they're limited to only two official Doctors they can use.

      Interestingly enough, in regards to joining up Trial of a Time Lord, and the Time War, there was a fanzine article in Licence Denied which suggested how Trial could have been done better, and strongly suggested that the climax should have involved the Daleks invading Gallifrey, as something of both a ratings boost, and to show the Doctor's loyalties tested- does he help his people or does he side with the Daleks, using their threat to Gallifrey to force the Time Lords to undo what they have done to Earth if they want him to stop them.

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    4. A few years later here: dear lord Tommy.

      "I think that both Doctors were interpreted to be results of the same kind of regenerative process. Where a previously benevolent and pacifist-leaning incarnation of the Doctor finds himself out of his depth in a string of very violent scenarios that he is not suited for handling. So resultantly when he does regenerate, his body chooses a more aggressive and ruthless personality that's more adapted to survival, to combat and violence and more prepared to do what has to be done without his predecessor's moral indecision."

      So there was Night of the Doctor.

      "Interestingly enough, in regards to joining up Trial of a Time Lord, and the Time War, there was a fanzine article in Licence Denied which suggested how Trial could have been done better, and strongly suggested that the climax should have involved the Daleks invading Gallifrey, as something of both a ratings boost, and to show the Doctor's loyalties tested- does he help his people or does he side with the Daleks, using their threat to Gallifrey to force the Time Lords to undo what they have done to Earth if they want him to stop them."

      ...and there's Day of the Doctor. I'm calling it: "Tommy" here is actually Steven Moffat. :)

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  10. Possibly it's because I was only 13 at the time this went out and so I didn't see any of the "abusive husband" subtext, if that's what it was.

    For me it was clearly the case that strangling Peri was the act of temporary insanity, he isn't strangling his companion at that moment, he's having a paranoid delusion that she's an enemy of some sort - at least that's my recollection.

    Then he comes to his senses and, to my mind, is clearly remorseful - he backs off, eyes wide, looks at his hands in horror.

    Then he's like, I can fix this, I just need to meditate for a bit. "How long for?" - "Oh, just a hundred years or so".
    He isn't deliberately dragging Peri off to be a servant for the rest of her life, he's still unhinged and failing to realise that this is a more significant length of time to her than it is to a Timelord.

    Then, by the end of the story, when he chides Peri "you're watch stopped", his whole attitude has changed - he's warm, if slightly petulant, and gives her a smile - to which Peri responds with a grin of relief, indicating that it looks like he's going to be fine.

    Rose-tinted Spectacles? Maybe, but that's how I remember it.

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    1. EclecticDave -

      Having watched The Twin Dilemma a few months ago, what you say is pretty much accurate.

      The script needed polishing, but the concept of making the Doctor a little more mysterious and not instantly likeable was a laudable one...

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  11. Alex Wilcox:
    "if Saward did indeed rewrite it as much as is reputed, could this be his trying to follow the model of the previous introduction and saying, ‘I can do better than Bidmead, with more regeneration trauma and big monsters!’ Because surely this is Peter’s opening story of an unstable Doctor, all-powerful maths and boy geniuses, re-written to take its brain out and stick every cliché in?"

    Fascinating observation. I did get the part about out-doing the previous regeneration trauma, but somehow missed the rest. A pity. Both Pertwee & Tom Baker got over it after only 1 episode (though both didn't "settle in" to their new personas properly until their 2nd stories).


    Andrew Hickey:
    "Davison may well be the better actor, but Colin is by far the better *Doctor*. He managed to carry the show pretty much single-handed and give the role utter conviction, at a time when all around him everyone was in "who can be the biggest arsehole and wreck the show the most?" competition."

    EXACTLY what I've been trying to tell people. All that "love" for a "nice guy" like Davison's character is missing the point that that ISN'T the Doctor!!! Colin is more what you'd get if someone deliberately tried to make Hartnell a total A**H*** and he didn't have being old and borderline senile as an excuse. This also goes a long way to explaining why I enjoyed the first 3 seasons of the revival so much. Eccleston IS Hartnell as a young man (figuratively speaking), while Tennant IS Davison "done right" (which of course is my way of saying Davison NEVER was-- except maybe in "FRONTIOS").


    Sean Daughtery:
    "It reminds me of the best of Hartnell or Pertwee's era, and even of occasional flashes of it during Tom Baker and Davison's runs."

    While watching the "FANTASTIC VOYAGE" segment of "THE INVISIBLE ENEMY", the clone Doctor was so rude to Leela, I yelled at the TV, "My God-- it's COLIN Baker!!"



    Tommy:
    "I suspect it was even a narcissistic martyr complex. A Munchausen Syndrome approach of setting himself to fail to look like the victim of impossible odds, or like the 'mender' of self-inflicted damage."

    You've used these terms so much I had to look them up. Oh my God. The 1st applies directly to my father. SCARY.

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    1. I don't see much Hartnell in Eccleston, but I think there is a case that his Doctor is Colin Baker done right, so to speak. Indeed, the plot of Eccleston's season largely resembles the alleged plot of Colin Baker's tenure - the Doctor initially appears prickly and off-putting and over time we learn why, namely that he has survivor's guilt owing to the end of the Time War.

      The key differences are that Davies starts Eccleston with a big hero moment ("Run!" - it's not even a big hero moment, it's a big Doctor moment that's played as a bit hero moment) and then has him more coldly reject Rose. Then he has the sense to tell the entire story from Rose's perspective. There's no ambiguity over who the audience is supposed to side with there - the Doctor, wonderful as he is, is being a cad. Finally, we get to see him soften in that episode, having moments of clear vulnerability. ("I couldn't save any of them!") And then having to basically beg Rose to come along with him. Davies actually flags Eccleston as a Doctor who will soften and who we will come to better understand from the first moment. Whereas The Twin Dilemma presents an actively unlikable and horrible Doctor and then berates the audience for having the reaction its actively solicited.

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  12. In 3 years, I never really liked Davison's Doctor. And, however it came together, the bulk of his 3rd season-- made after he announced he was leaving by the end of it-- seemed like a deliberate attempt to put him thru non-stop HELL and "prove" that he wasn't up to the job. And then they took 4 whole episodes to kill him, painfully. As if someone really, really hated the character, and wanted him to suffer and die the worst death of any Doctor ever.

    So when he turned into Colin Baker, it just felt "right". Except, the wild, manic, insane excesses of his regeneration should never have extended beyond this story. Had anyone sane been involved in the writing, he would never have actually attacked Peri, he would have apologized for all his unstable behavior, and by the end credits, he would have ditched the "clown suit" in favor of what he wore at the press release photo-shoot. (Pale blue shirt & BLACK jacket.) And, the next season he & Peri would have gotten along from the start, and he would have had enough sense to save Lytton.

    My favorite bit in the whole story:
    "I've even lost my dress sense."
    "Oh, stop feeling sorry for yourself."
    "SELF-PITY is ALL I have LEFT!!"

    I have always enjoyed Colin's run-- even the BAD parts-- more than Davison's run (even the GOOD parts). A shame JNT didn't leave at the end of Season 21. (Or 20. Or 19.)

    By the way, I enjoyed Maurice Denham, but I'm glad they changed their minds and decided not to make him be "Kam-Po", as that would have ruined that character for me. I've also seen him in a couple of very unusual Agatha Christie TV stories, as well as playing Inspector Japp in the positively awful feature film, "THE ALPHABET MURDERS", which somehow manages to make "TWIN DILEMMA" look like Shakespeare by comparison.

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  13. "Hartnell a total A**H***"

    Henry, on this comments column we call an anthill an anthill.

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  14. I don't have much to say about this one that hasn't been said before. Except maybe to pile on?

    Even the alchemy is off. The use of Twins is a common alchemical trope, but usually the twins are mirrors of each other -- the point being that it's the union of opposites which yields the Philosopher's Stone. But such complexity is absent in this pair -- had there been, the choice to cast boys would have made sense, as a visual metaphor for the Doctor's own schizophrenia. And I do think that was the point -- for example, the twins have their memories blocked, just like the Doctor's memory failing him.

    I also think keeping the Doctor out of the fray for the first episode is a misfire. Yes, structurally it's another form of schizophrenia, with the Doctor story running parallel but separate from the Twin story, but the effect is to suck out what little drama existed in the first place. By the time the Doctor gets to exploring, there's no suspense because the audience superior position is too pronounced. It doesn't help that none of the characters in the Twin plot are terribly sympathetic or compelling. (This is one of my gripes with Revelation, come to think of it.)

    Not that getting any of these points right would redeem the overarching images of domestic abuse idolatry -- on this point I firmly agree with Phil, it's a story that doesn't deserve redemption.

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  15. This is the worst fucking story ever.

    Worse than The Celestial Toymaker, the only recorded instance of you tossing a serial out of the canon?

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    1. I am not opposed to a vision of the canon in which Colin Baker's tenure consists entirely of audio stories.

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    2. It's probably for the best that the proposed Celestial Toymaker story for the sixth Doctor was dropped, otherwise the fervour with which you'd throw that story out of the canon would punch a small hole in the universe.

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  16. I think Attack may offer a better example of this, which I'll mention when you do that one, but it seems to me that Saward was making the Doctor a character that writers (or at least he himself) would like to write, rather than one audiences would like to watch.

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  17. Jane:
    "Even the alchemy is off. The use of Twins is a common alchemical trope, but usually the twins are mirrors of each other -- the point being that it's the union of opposites which yields the Philosopher's Stone. But such complexity is absent in this pair -- had there been, the choice to cast boys would have made sense, as a visual metaphor for the Doctor's own schizophrenia. And I do think that was the point -- for example, the twins have their memories blocked, just like the Doctor's memory failing him."

    Interesting observation. I think deep in the back of my mind, such a thing may have occured at some point, but after seeing the story the first time it got totally lost.



    Philip Sandifer:
    "I am not opposed to a vision of the canon in which Colin Baker's tenure consists entirely of audio stories."

    What about those glorious comics illustrated by John Ridgway? They were my 2nd-favorite WHO comics after the ones with Dave Gibbons art. They took the series and the character in a completely different direction than the TV show did, and it's one that maybe the show should have gone in instead. (And who didn't love the talking penguin?)


    "This is the worst fucking story ever."

    Maybe if there'd been actual fucking involved, it would have been a lot more watchable. (C'mon, it had to be said!)

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    1. I have a feeling I'm going to have a lot of disappointed readers when I get to the 6th Doctor comics. I see why they're so beloved, as they spark with ideas, but there's no storytelling to speak of in them.

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    2. Agree or disagree to any given article, a lot of readers enjoy your style. :) (And I tend to agree more, but I'll submit that I am a fan of Colin's era, warts and all...)

      Thank you for providing a fantastic blog.

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  18. In terms of your "suicide note" observation, it's worth noting that this is one of a handful of Doctor Who serials over two episodes long to lose viewers between every single episode. (The others include The Underwater Menace and Warriors of the Deep, which suggests the audience knew what they were doing when they didn't go back.)

    The back two episodes are 100% Saward, btw. Absolutely definitely.

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  19. The explanation I heard as to why they stuck this at the end of the season : The first regeneration didn't fall right at the split between seasons, and they wanted to try that again.

    I've only seen/heard about 2/3 of the classic series, and this is fortunately something I've missed so far. While I'll get to it around 2015 if my plans work out - one episode a day, in order, starting 23 November 2013 - it's made my deliberately avoid until then list. In fact, at this point it IS my avoid until then list. I suspect my ability to enjoy the Sixth Doctor episodes is greatly improved by having not seen this yet.

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    1. To be fair... the first regeneration was two stories in, not six, and only occurred because, in the gap between filming blocks after "The Smugglers", it became readily apparent that Hartnell was no longer anywhere NEAR up for the job.

      Can you imagine having two Davison stories suddenly giving way to the Colin Baker era? It'd throw everyone completely off, if it wasn't spoiled...

      Quite telling that, like "Warriors of the Deep", "Dilemma" was nearly cancelled; perhaps it would've been better for the series if it had been.

      ...actually, scratch that; it WOULD have been better for the series.

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    2. But by all description Power of the Daleks was an excellent story. In many ways the whole point of the story was proving that this new guy was actually the Doctor. While the 2nd Doctor is a little odd at first, he doesn't do anything to make the audience (or the companions) dislike him intensely. Also, the gap between seasons was much, much shorter. Which doesn't matter because the 1st Doctor leaves early in the 4th season and so the 2nd Doctor jumps straight from his first story into the next half dozen stories. If they wanted to recapture that they should have killed the 5th Doctor in the season premier, not the penultimate episode of a season.

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    3. JNT said in interviews that he was worried that the gap between the last story of the season and the first story of the next season was too long to wait to see a new Doctor - he worried that the audience would forget and not tune in.

      He had the same concern in 1981 with Davison which is why they did the five face of Doctor Who between seasons to smooth the wait (and remind viewers or more likely fans that more Doctor's had appeared before Tom Baker).

      He wanted the story at the end so they didn't have to wait. That's fine but you don't add to that making him an unlikeable bastard.

      Bizarrely he was underestimating the audience and overestimating the audience at the same time. He didn't think they'd be interested enough to get excited about a new Doctor in a new season YET expected the audience to be loyal enough to come back after seeing an unlikeable Doctor.

      All rather schizophrenic.

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  20. In regards to the "there was no plan" approach to the Colin Baker era, I can't say I'm particularly inclined to disagree. That said, I read somewhere (I can't remember where) that the idea was that Colin Baker's Doctor, due to the traumatic events of his regeneration, had somehow "forgotten" what it meant to be The Doctor and his story arc would have involved him slowly remembering, his final redemption being regenerating again. Of course, I can't source it and I'm probably giving Saward and Nathan-Turner too much credit.

    Supposing for a minute that had been the plan though, even then I'm not sure that would have even been a terribly good idea in the first place and certainly introducing it with "The Twin Dilemma" was a catastrophic misfire. I like Colin Baker as an actor a lot, but I can't say even in the audio plays (where he's *exceptionally* good) his is a take I've been especially drawn to. I definitely agree with the posters above the Chris Eccelston is in many ways Colin Baker done right and that's one of my favourite seasons, so maybe I'm just being a hypocrite.

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    1. It's an interesting idea but sounds like fan retconning, there's little impression of any combining of ideas from Colin, Saward and JNT, they all did their own thing. None of them were on the same page.

      With the kind of series that Doctor Who is, I think it's too big an arc for the show to carry. It demands total concentration and total acceptance but an audience who watch every single episode. It's an idea for fans but not a TV audience. You could do the redemptive thing in a single story but I think a whole era is unworkable.

      I've seen it mentioned that JNT was on a massive high from Longleat in 1983 when going forward into season 21 and Colin's Doctor. He felt the show was untouchable due to the massive impression left by the huge crowds that attended that famous event. His outlook was increasingly narrow and closed.

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    2. I have heard the same thing about the Doctor 'remembering' how to be the Doctor, but I'm pretty sure it was a l-o-n-g time after the event (I certainly don't remember it being mentioned at the time!). IIRC it was someone saying 'this is what they should have done' or 'it would have been more interesting / explained a lot if...' rather than them saying 'this was the plan all along'. Although I can't remember who it was at all, I can't shake the feeling that it was Ian Levine.

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  21. I rewatched this last week to refresh my memory of this period. It definitely feels wrong watching it with just the TV series in mind. You have Peri meets Doctor. Doctor rescues Peri from the clutches of the Master. Peri decides to go off on adventures with Doctor. Then they land on a barren planet. Peri almost dies. The Doctor sacrifices his 'life' to save Peri. New guy appears and insanely attacks Peri. It definitely felt wrong at the end of episode two where Peri shows extreme distress at the Doctor's possible death. At that point, he hadn't really "proved" himself to actually be the Doctor yet.

    What I find interesting is with all the extra stuff in books and audio dramas (ok, I haven't read any books with Peri and the 5th Doctor, but there's at least a dozen Peri and the 5th Doctor Big Finish works. Enough that they add a second companion for many.) there is retroactively a lot longer of a relationship between Peri and the Doctor at this point. Which still doesn't make it any better, but might explain why she's willing to give this new Doctor more of a chance.

    If I ever show my more casual friends a taste of the 6th Doctor, I will definitely avoid Twin Dilemma at all costs.

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  22. I wonder how it would have gone over if they'd jumped straight from "ANDROZANI" to "ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN", with no regeneration trauma, just an amusing 1st half, followed by a depressing, pointless bloodbath (what, ANOTHER one??).

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  23. "With Davison they went out of their way to give him three stories to practice before his debut so that he’d know where he was going with the character."

    The facts have exposed this as a bit of retrospection from JNT. Season 20 became a season where "every story had something from the past" after Ian Levine pointed it out and after the event JNT took it up as a selling point for the season as though it was planned.

    JNT didn't make Castrovalva fourth to give Davison time to settle in.

    The truth is that the commissioned 1st script was rejected by temp script editor Antony Root after advice from Barry Letts (JNT was having fun at a convention instead of actually dong his job). The script from the Meglos writers was unworkable but director John Black was waiting to start on production. So they went with the first script available - cue Four to Doomsday. Then Christopher Bidmead was brought in to write a hasty replacement, and they made The Visitation and Kinda whilst he got on with it.

    And it was nothing at all to do with giving Davison time to settle in.

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  24. You know... a fan online wrote this, using many of the same characters and plot points, to create a more satisfying "Twin Dilemma"; it even starts with a "DWM Preview", which is where I'll drop you off: http://nigelverkoff.blogspot.com/2007/03/dwm-preview-twin-dilemma.html

    Once you're done that page, just click March on the sidebar, and scroll down 'til you find "The Twin Dilemma I"; the story proper begins there, and continues on each further numbered link on the sidebar up.

    Hope you enjoy; I know I did... and just pretend as though this is actually what was given us in March 1984. ;-)

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    1. Yup, you know it's bad when you have to imagine a fanficced retcon in place of what aired.

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    2. You know... a fan online wrote this, using many of the same characters and plot points, to create a more satisfying "Twin Dilemma"; it even starts with a "DWM Preview", which is where I'll drop you off: http://nigelverkoff.blogspot.com/2007/03/dwm-preview-twin-dilemma.html

      That was ... amazing! The author hits nearly every beat in the version that aired AND captures Colin's character perfectly AND was incredibly good! Even the "strangling Peri" scene worked!

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    3. I thought someone who read it might like it... ;-)

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    4. The best part was the costume and the explanation for it. For those who haven't read it, the idea was the Doctor put it on for a special trip to a planet celebrating a carnival season during which tacky clothes are treated as the height of fashion ... and then the wardrobe room accidentally gets destroyed leaving him with nothing to wear! It beautifully sets up a running joke that could last for years as the Doctor grows to like his ensemble and stubbornly clings to it while trading barbs with everyone who mocks it. Genius!

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    5. I'm glad someone enjoyed it. It's so rare to get ANY feedback, let alone positive...

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    6. Well, it's really only natural for such good writing to get a positive response, I think... :-)

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  25. All that said, from the point of view of serious Doctor Who fans, it could have been worse.

    They could have let Saward write a Doctor who routinely carried a gun and used it. It might even have been popular.

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  26. The Costume epitomises the behind the scenes mess; for every conflicting panel of fabric, you had a production team all doing their own thing. JNT had his own idea (unlikeable Doctor, tasteless costume), Eric Saward didn't like Colin's casting and was still telling writers to write it as James Bond (ref. Philip Martin)!?!? And Colin Baker enthused by the role and had own notions. But there's no team. It's a mess.

    Colin wanted to make the Doctor spiky and unlikeable. That's not unworkable but you need the right cushioning. Hartnell started as an anti-hero but he was surrounded by Ian, Barbara and Susan who could all gang up on him and support one another. Sherlock Holmes can be very unreasonable but he's balanced by Watson's likeability - a character strong enough to hold his own. The Sixth Doctor had Peri.

    The Sixth Doctor and Peri is the most ill-conceived pairing in the whole show. JNT had come to the conclusion that Doctor/One Companion is the best solution at the point when another was badly needed. I saw an interview where Mark Strickson regretted leaving when he did - he said he could see Turlough working with Peri and the Sixth Doctor (he got on well with Nicola and Colin). He made the point of the 45 minute episodes allowing more time for the character (ref. Strickson Myth Makers interview on Youtube). Turlough could have been Peri's ally, someone to mock the Doctor with. He could be as unreasonable as he liked but they would have defused him and humbled him. Peri is left on her own to shout at him. Why on Earth was she with him. No thought had gone into presence - it was just Doctor and one companion regardless of whether it worked or not. Colin and Nicola make it odd couple kind of laughably bad but I doubt that was the intention (even when they get on in Mysterious Planet that's even worse as WHY are they getting on!?!).

    The unlikeability could work but add in the strangling and it overbalances. You could have likeable and strangulation, he would come to his senses and apologise and be horrified at how he treated her, he could seek help and try to drop her off or something. You wait the whole story for some semblance of redemption but it ends with him not caring. For all his attempts at "atoning", it's all self-centred and doesn't take in Peri's feelings - "Woe is me, sod you Peri".

    Season 23 in many ways attempted some damage limitation but they totally immaculated him into a cuddly loud noise in a bad outfit. Colin was sabotaged from the word go. It's an endless list of bad decision making.

    For all the bluster and noise, the Sixth Doctor isn't that different to the fifth, certainly as he developed later on. The Sixth Doctor is made a redundant in some of his stories as the Fifth. Saward loves his mercenaries and has fun with his Lytton's and Orcini's whilst shoving his leading man into a prison or a long walk.

    One thing that I do like about the Sixth Doctor is his proactiveness. Even though he probably wasn't really, Davison isn't very demonstrative in his actions and I like the Doctor to be more obvious. Just as with Troughton and Tom Baker, the production team were being influenced by Sherlock Holmes (both writer guides early on for the 2nd and 4th Doctors mention him). There's a great scene in part 2 where the Doctor pieces together the situation, it's very vibrant and energised. Actually fairly decent direction from Peter Moffatt (a man who should NEVER had been assigned to the show ever!:)). And later in the story, he's a man on a mission. But this aspect very quickly disappears leaving us a Doctor who is a victim of circumstances.

    I still like this story. It's flaws make it fascinating to me and Colin's is a powerhouse of energy and enthusiasm that carries the story. He's far from my favourite Doctor but the potential excites me. I think Resurrection and Warriors of the Deep are far worse this season!

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    1. The discussion of how Baker and Bryant work together raises the question: Will there be a post on The Stranger?

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    2. Almost certainly. Keeping a three-post-a-week schedule with books is going to be quite difficult, and so there's likely to be a lot of coverage of spin-off material and things like The Stranger along with Pop Between Realities entries that will help track what television is doing alongside Doctor Who for the 16 years between Survival and Rose.

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    3. What television is doing? Sounds marvelous! Any chance we'll get some coverage of shows like X-Files or Buffy?

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    4. Buffy is 100% certain. X-Files... might be entertaining to do, but I've not seen a lot of it and it's kind of daunting to approach.

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    5. I'd hope The League Of Gentlemen gets covered, for obvious reasons...

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    6. I don't have a firm list, but most of the obvious things are likely. I mean, I need to find 3-5 of the buggers for each calendar year more or less.

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    7. Any of these?

      Twin Peaks
      Red Dwarf
      Babylon 5
      Xena
      Sopranos
      Firefly
      Alias
      Lost

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    8. Neverwhere?
      Farscape?
      Should Angel be covered separately? I believe it was more directly an influence on Torchwood than Buffy was.

      I imagine that Queer as Folk and The Second Coming might make it in. Along with Press Gang, for example, or Coupling.

      Moving on to post-new series Doctor Who: I think Being Human especially is a more successful attempt at what Davies was trying to do in Doctor Who/Torchwood.

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    9. Both Jane and David have identified at least some series I am certain to cover. And some I probably should but just don't want to. :)

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    10. The other UK genre television that I can think of in the period that might be worth covering is Ultraviolet.

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    11. I would say that looking at shows like Neverwhere and the BBC adaptation of Gormenghast would be a very valuable examination of the production styles/quality that could have been expected from 90s Doctor Who had it existed in the televisual medium.
      It's hard to cite them as creative influences, but hard to dismiss them when the BBC dramas of the era give us a glimpse of what might have been.

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    12. I always thought of the early 90's Australian children's sci-fi show "The Girl From Tomorrow" as being very Who-influenced, particularly drawing from An Unearthly Child. To me it offers a glimpse of what a 90's Doctor Who might have looked like, if Australia had bought the series.

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    13. Babylon Five seems nearly certain, as Rebecca Levene was heavily influenced by its arc style as she was editing the last quarter of the NAs.

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  27. David Anderson:
    "They could have let Saward write a Doctor who routinely carried a gun and used it. It might even have been popular."

    Far better would have been if they'd ditched Tegan and Turlough, and had Lytton as the new companion. (heh heh heh)

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  28. My first Sixth Doctor episode was the "Trial of A Time Lord" arc, which at least had the "terrifying in hindsight" aspect to it. I think if I'd seen Twin Dilemma first, I'd have written Baker off entirely. As it, he and Hartnell are my least favorite Doctors because of their inital attitudes toward companions.

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  29. In America, the Hartnell episodes made their debut the same year as Colin Baker. They ran a new Colin story once a month, and the rest of the time, they ran Hartnell. (Until they ran out of Hartnell, then the Patrick Troughton stories made their debut-- what few there were, all from the 6th season.)

    I clearly recall "casual" fans openly HATING both Colin AND Hartnell, giving up on Hartnell by his 1st story (and a few, by his 2nd). a shame, they never got to see him develop as a character, either. I wonder what they'd have thought if they'd started with "THE ROMANS" or "THE TIME MEDDLER"?

    "THE TWIN DILEMMA" was "held back" for a full year, and not shown until the whole of Season 22 made it here. That way they had 7 Colin stories to premiere all at once, spaced out over 7 consecutive months. But long before then, I got to see both "MARK OF THE RANI" and "ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN" at a convention (in that order).

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  30. For all the faults of The Twin Dilemma, and it has many, regarding it as the beginning of the end of Doctor Who is just bollocks. Look at the ratings summary here:

    http://www.themindrobber.co.uk/ratings.html

    Season 22, post-Twin-Dilemma, is very much in line with seasons 20 and 21. Regardless of this story, the audience kept tuning in to Doctor Who.

    It's season 23 that falls off the cliff, and the ratings never recover even though the quality of the show does. The big question, when it comes to the decline of Doctor Who, is not what was wrong with The Twin Dilemma. It's why did three milllion of the over seven million people who tuned in to Revelation of the Daleks tune out of The Mysterious Planet?

    My own pet personal theory is that The Mysterious Planet is total shit. This theory is admittedly unsophisticated, but does at least have the advantage of being consistent with the established data.

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    1. I'm no huge fan of The Mysterious Planet, but I'd say it's at least seventeen trillion times better than Timelash or Mark Of The Rani, both of which had very respectable viewing figures.

      Maybe it was to do with it having been announced as a 13-part story? Or was the Bonnie Langford casting announcement around then?

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    2. @ Iain: why did three milllion of the over seven million people who tuned in to Revelation of the Daleks tune out of The Mysterious Planet?

      My own pet personal theory is that The Mysterious Planet is total shit. This theory is admittedly unsophisticated, but does at least have the advantage of being consistent with the established data.


      Well, partly. Most of the drop happened before viewers got to see any of The Mysterious Planet, so its lack of quality can only account for the 1.2 million lost between episodes 2 and 4. You have to come up with a different explanation for the 2.8 million lost viewers who tuned out after Revelation. Since I have some liking for season 22's final story and don't want to blame that, I'm going to point you to Henry's post below.

      Individual episode ratings can be found at The Doctor Who Guide, btw.

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    3. Individual stories don't kill a show like Doctor Who. Placing it against heavy competition and constantly moving it around the schedules does.

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    4. These putdowns of The Mysterious Planet are a strange way to describe the only consistently good serial of the Colin Baker era. (*)

      (* That I've seen, anyway.)

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    5. The Season 22 ratings are tricky and difficult to track by story because of the bizarre drop within Attack of the Cybermen. What's important to note about everything post-Two Doctors is that the show was getting unprecedented press coverage then due to having been cancelled. Which had the effect of goosing the ratings nicely. Over the period where the decision was made Season 22 went from 8.9 million viewers to 6 million for the second episode of The Two Doctors, bleeding nearly a third of its audience when the cancellation announcement was made.

      Though I'll admit (and did in the post) that 8.9 million for Attack of the Cybermen 1 was a very good result.

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  31. As far as I can recall, I heard about Nicola Bryant being bounced off the show and replaced by Bonnie Langford before they ever filmed Season 23. I know this must be so, because I clearly recall reading about it, and seeing a rather unflattering photo of Bonnie, in DWM, before then going to a convention in New Brunswick, where I happened to see the "Cabaret" show held at a local live theatre ("stadium" seating), where Bonnie had the entire 2nd half of the show, and just about blew the roof off with her energy, talent & charm. A pity "Mel" never quite lived up to Bonnie's potential. But then, the same goes for Janet Fielding, Peter Davison, Mark Strickson, Nicola Bryant and Colin Baker!! All of them far more likable and talented than they ever got the chance to show on the program.

    It could be a matter of momentum. There's something to be said that once someone stops watching a program, they may have a hard time starting again. I know I do. 18 months off is nothing to ignore. (Even I somehow walked in halfway thru "THE MYSTERIOUS PLANET", and I was trying to tape the damned thing!) Also, they changed the time slot again, didn't they? That sort of thing almost always causes a ratings drop. So if you WANT a show to lose ratings, keep moving it around so that nobody, not even its most loyal, rabid fans, know when the hell it's on. (It "worked" for "WKRP".)

    And that's 14 parts! (I know, you're probably just trying to forget the one Pip & Jane wrote after Robert Holmes died.)

    It's too early to say it, but I will anyway... "THE MYSTERIOUS PLANET" always reminds me of a better version of "BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES". And Colin & Nicola are at their very best in that one. If only they'd been just like that all the way thru Season 22. JNT claiming he wanted to do a long-term "story arc" about Colin's Doctor slowly becoming more likable was monstrous nonsense, when you consider every single character on his "soap-opera" format version of WHO never developed one single bit from start to finish. (Well, until Sylvester & Ace.) Bad writing begats more bad writing, so did he really expect it was gonna suddenly get better, just because Robert Holmes wrote 1 story out of 6?

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  32. Well, all right. Got into Doctor Who with season four of the new series, watched the previous three seasons and the later two, and then decided to finally start watching Classic Doctor Who back in December, starting from the beginning, including watching reconstructions of the lost episodes. About two months ago, while I was watching "Terror of the Zygons," I discovered this wonderful blog and started reading the archives from the beginning. It's really made me reevaluate the stuff I've watched.

    And now, my Doctor Who marathon and this blog are in sync. I'm excited! Just wish we could have met up at a point where there wasn't a guy hanging around wearing a THE END IS NIGH sandwich board.

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    1. Don't think of it as the end being nigh. Think of it as us being just ten stories away from the beginning of a creative renaissance. :)

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    2. Seriously? I tried watching Time And The Rani today, it was just awful, considerably worse than anything from the Colin Baker era. Of that first McCoy season, only Paradise Towers has anything going for it, the other three are irredeemably shoddy and amateurish. I mean, they're *all* shoddy and amateurish, but Paradise Towers at least has a spark of something going on in there.

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    3. I think there's a meaningful distinction to be had between the phrase "is better than what comes immediately before it" and "is the beginning of a creative renaissance." I agree that all four of the Season 24 stories have serious problems, but equally, I think the things that make Seasons 25 and 26 the high water mark of the classic series are visibly emerging as early as Time and the Rani. And that only needing four stories to transition from a show that thinks Trial of a Time Lord is acceptable to a show that does Remembrance of the Daleks is, all things considered, a stunningly fast turnaround.

      But we'll discuss it more in late June/early July.

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  33. Actually, one of the bits of fan orthodoxy repeated here that I've always violently disputed was the idea that Peter Davison played the Doctor as "pleasant and bland" and that Baker somehow stepped into the part as his opposite. Whereas in fact, Baker's Doctor is only a slightly more extreme version of Davison's Doctor, and only seems like an opposite because of the two actors' differing qualities and the circumstances they're in.

    Davison actually portrays a very rude, shouty, Hartnellian Doctor; he's constantly berating Tegan as an idiot, has what amounts to several extended shouting matches with Adric for their entire time together on the series, and spends most of his last story being catty to everyone on-screen. But a) Peter Davison is Peter Davison, and he could butcher puppies in the street and leave everyone saying, "Awww...bless...", and b) he's playing against Janet Fielding, who is a wonderfully stroppy character whose response to shouting is to shout right back.

    Whereas Colin Baker is Colin Baker, and when he shouts, he doesn't come across as endearingly exasperated, he comes across as rude and angry. He's a guy fated to play the heavy. (It's sort of like the movie 'Dogma', where Matt Damon is the one gunning people down in a brutal and murderous rampage, and Ben Affleck just talks about doing bad things, but Affleck is the one who comes across as an irredeemable asshole.)

    And instead of shouting at Tegan, he's shouting at Peri, who unfortunately always looks like she's about to burst into tears every time he raises his voice. Forget Turlough--Baker needed Janet Fielding to stick around for one more season and be the companion who gives better than she gets. "A Fix With Sontarans" might have been a ludicrous joke sketch, but the chemistry between Fielding and Baker is fantastic, far better than that between Bryant and Baker, and hints at a much better series that might have been.

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    1. One also gets the sense Janet Fielding would have decked Eric Saward for how the strangling scene was written.

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  34. I think if Tegan had been in that scene instead of Peri, she would have kicked The Doctor right in the labonza! :D

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  35. I've just watched Twin Dilemma all the way through for the first time. Out of context, and with lowered expectations, I rather enjoyed it.

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  36. Your parents certainly weren't the only ones.

    A regeneration is always tough - witness the "bring back David Tennant" brigade today - and because I'd been a fan of All Creatures Great and Small I was perhaps a little more fond of Peter David than the material he was given really justified. But I'd stuck with it through the previous two transitions - I was too young to have seen Patrick Troughton outside of the Three Doctors and the Five Doctors - so it wasn't just that it was someone new.

    As you point out - this character is unlikeable. This was the last episode of Doctor Who I watched until the new series started (well I did see the movie, admittedly). I missed out on Sylvester McCoy entirely and I've been led to believe this was greatly to my detriment.

    But in a weird way, I've been looking forward to Colin Baker's tenure beginning on your blog - in part because until we get to the new series, this is now virgin territory for me. It's true that technically the 1st and 2nd Doctors were as well, and even parts of the 3rd, but a lot of that old footage is gone - whereas, if I am sufficiently masochistic, I can actually follow along from here. :)

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  37. Fantastic analysis, you really expose the bitter seed that poisons the heart of this story, and separates it from the other garish trash of the 80s.
    I have to say when I watched it last year (as part of watching Classic Who) the production was so laughable I barely took in the dark subtext of the Doctor/Peri relationship (which is perhaps even worse when you consider that her main defense of him amounts to 'He was so nice when we first met' far from an uncommon sentiment in real life domestic abuse situations.)
    in this regard i owe you a great debt in exposing quite how unwell this story is, and not for the first time.

    However, and it pains me that there need be a caveat to the above, we have drifted far now into the realms of the extradiegetic. Where once we were given an interpretation of each regeneration as a personal spiritual journey (as I am sure will resume) here we have only production notes. Certainly it is false to accuse the writers of having anything alchemical in mind, but I feel some duty is owed to look for it in spite of this.
    In that regard the closest I could offer would be that the Sixth Doctor believes essentially that he is the Fourth (not with regards to the strangulation, but addressing his general bombast and egotism.)
    Having experienced his fifth incarnation as a penance of humility, learning to take a step back etc. he now believes that he is restored to his former self (clear gaze and noble brow indeed),
    in this regard his character arc can be seen as an (unintended) development, as he gradually realizes some shred of humility, and ultimately... falls off of an exorcise bike.

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    1. There are two reasons why I'm not sure that narrative of the Davison-to-C.Baker regeneration is an appropriate way to look at this moment of the show for the Eruditorum.

      The simpler reason is that it's been done already. As far as my memory goes, the reaction to the Fifth Doctor's humility through the Sixth Doctor's return to a more blustery attitude has been a general fan consensus for as long as I've been interacting with the fan community. Phil's been touching on the reactivity of changes in Doctors for a while now, and commenting on Davison's undeserving (if widely accepted) status as the bland, ineffectual Doctor. Saying the Fifth Doctor is humble is a nice way of the standard dismissal. These ideas haven't been a central focus in any of the posts, such as the way the Second Doctor's simplistic attitudes about good and evil were in The War Games. But they've been there.

      The more complex reason is getting back to the alchemy. Apart from David Whitaker, no one in the production staff has been intentionally crafting alchemical concepts into the narrative of the show in its history. The freakiest part of Phil's analyses has been showing how the alchemy keeps bubbling up anyway. But the extra-diegetic production methods and circumstances of the JNT-Saward era has tamped down that alchemy more deeply than in any previous era.

      The Planet of Fire post ended by discussing how the potential of the Davison era to be a material alchemical character narrative shone through to him as a child. But as an adult, with a professional eye for media studies, Phil could see how the production circumstances were getting in the way. So it's difficult for the content of Doctor Who to articulate an alchemical narrative in this era. I'm interested to see how Phil will describe how the production circumstances of the Colin Baker era dissolve, perhaps almost to the point of outright destruction, the alchemical creativity of the show.

      I'm also interested to see if one of his BBC books is Spiral Scratch, which gives the Sixth Doctor the regeneration story he never received. Thinking on its story, it has a lot in common with the Hinchcliffe era's ideas, translated into the flashier mode the novels and audios have come to treat Sixth Doctor and Mel stories. Ancient evils from beyond the dawn of time threaten the universe. The best intentions of basically nice supporting characters end up bumbling to make things worse. The slow build to an epic scale that embraces not only the multiverse, but the meta-narrative of the multiple media of the Sixth Doctor. I'm not sure how many people other than me thought it was any good, though.

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    2. I think it's easy enough to interpret that the regeneration into the Sixth Doctor is a reaction to the last days of his predecessor which saw him overwhelmed and persecuted by a string of violent and death-laden encounters that he couldn't control, where his principles and compassion frequently paralysed him into inaction in a crucial situation, and which eventually killed him.

      The regeneration here being not so much about spiritualist evolution, but simply a survival mechanism. Making the Doctor more aggressive, ruthlessly survivalist, and adapted to a hostile and savage universe. But at the cost of making him initially cold, volatile and paranoid.

      There's also hints that something of the Doctor's strength and essence was being unhealthily repressed all the way through the Fifth Doctor's incarnation, and that it emerges like a Volcanic eruption when he turns into the Sixth Doctor- which I subscribe to, since I think the Fifth Doctor was far more the 'regeneration gone wrong' than Colin was.

      But that really sums up the problem with The Twin Dilemma I think. It feels like just another JNT engineered contemptful backlash against the previous era, except this time having the new Doctor himself rubbishing his predecessor. As though pitched at a fan audience that hasn't enjoyed the prior three years of the show at all with Davison and is on side with the rubbishing of his Doctor. But surely that's alienating the majority of your fan audience who thought it had been all progress up till now.

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    3. I'll freely admit that any speculation (my own included) on how to look at the Five/Six regeneration will be rather unoriginal (the most analyzed era etc. etc.), and attempting to derive spiritual meaning from the marketing decisions of a comity headed by JNT is going to be narrativly bankrupt...
      I suppose it's just upsetting that by this point any desire to take the show seriously from a diegetic perspective, to treat these characters as people, becomes conflated with apologism for the show's increasingly negligently (even sickeningly) unthought-out messages.
      I think ultimately that's the strongest argument against trying to find hidden depths in this story in the traditional Eruditorum fashion, that such attempts cover for the only real moral interpretation of the material,
      alas.

      As to the point regarding the Sixth Doctor's running commentary on how much of an improvement he is on his predecessor... i really can't help but feel this ranks among the most utterly misguided things about this story (alongside just about everything else, but still...), what possible logic is there to such sickeningly mean spirited sentiments? And as much as the Sixth was supposed to be something of a dislikable character it really seems for all the world like we're supposed to nod along with his assessment of the situation. at least until the last line, where he seems to have gathered enough humility to admit that we may well all hate him. but there's nothing we can damn well do about it.
      It's above and beyond a deplorable treatment of your fans.

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    4. Alchemy is about transformation. There's nothing of that in this era, just a relentless diminution, a using up of the show's essence.

      It's rather like the John Wiles era, except that John Wiles' rather oppressive vision of the show actually worked smoothly and compellingly, whereas Saward's operates only fitfully and painfully.

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    5. “any speculation (my own included) on how to look at the Five/Six regeneration will be rather unoriginal (the most analyzed era”

      Whilst the era's been analyzed, it’s been subject to many fan apologetics and obfuscation, desperate attempts to deflectively highlight ‘production faults’ to explain it away, when the problems go deeper. Like focusing on one design disaster to try and make that the issue (the Myrka, Colin's coat), or looking to the show’s past and highlighting precedents to justify it. Highlighting Hartnel nearly killing that caveman or how there’s always been bad stories.

      “attempting to derive spiritual meaning from the marketing decisions of a comity headed by JNT is going to be narrativly bankrupt...
      I suppose it's just upsetting that by this point any desire to take the show seriously from a diegetic perspective, to treat these characters as people, becomes conflated with apologism for the show's increasingly negligently (even sickeningly) unthought-out messages.”

      That’s a problem since Logopolis took characters in unsustainable directions. Nyssa lost her world, the Master’s evil was taken too far and went unpunished. Plus the first of many depressing cases of forcing a downbeat tone by making the Doctor incapable of action or rational behaviour.

      The 80s was all about shallow artifice. Davison’s sheer conviction hides it, but he's a reductio ad absurdum Doctor as an old square and pacifist moral nuisance. Colin’s performance is all too aware that he’s a reductio ad absurdum.

      The Doctor, after a string of violent events, regenerating into someone more unstable, ruthless and cold is believable to me. But it’s scripted so horrendously that it’s just false and obnoxious. His nasty moments feel patchy, artificial, and contrived. Associating contrived amateur histrionics with ‘drama’. There’s no sense of balance to bring the viewers on side. The ‘you’re not supposed to like him, that’s the point’ excuse is complete bunk. You need to admire even an amoral hero to follow the story, otherwise Goodfellas wouldn’t work.

      I like Colin’s Doctor, but only when his stories let me.

      80’s tropes aside, something at heart was far wronger. The show had gone televisually illiterate. Story and character disasters that should be impossible happened against all rational creative instincts. I blame JNT’s arbitrary, dictatorial authority, creating a rigid, anxious atmosphere of helpless subordination (and bitterness) where writer’s hands were often forced, or tied, or rushed, their voice stifled by unworkable dictates, making them obey or turn self-destructive. So many barren, rushed, angry, incoherent scripts, where characters seem under Voodoo influence, where the viewer can’t possibly be on the same page as the Doctor, hence the ‘it’s because he’s an alien’ excuse.

      80’s Who wasn’t as philistine as its many contemporaries. See Enlightenment, Varos or Revelation. But the team’s televisual illiteracy saw it fall into a mess of character stupidity that resembles someone's nervous breakdown.

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    6. ... basically 80's Doctor Who dealt in a different, more neurotic and almost freakish order of stupidity and mindlessness to the typical 80's popcorn entertainment.

      “regarding the Sixth Doctor's running commentary on how much of an improvement he is on his predecessor... i really can't help but feel this ranks among the most utterly misguided things about this story (alongside just about everything else, but still...), what possible logic is there to such sickeningly mean spirited sentiments? And as much as the Sixth was supposed to be something of a dislikable character it really seems for all the world like we're supposed to nod along with his assessment of the situation. at least until the last line, where he seems to have gathered enough humility to admit that we may well all hate him. but there's nothing we can damn well do about it.”

      JNT’s mistake was listening to fans, and the wrong subset of fans. Maybe when he heard fans say Davison was ‘too bland’ he felt he’d made a mistake that needed fixing. Since Colin was a knowledged fan with his own ideas about how the Doctor should be, JNT seemed to follow his suggestions.

      I think the impression we’re meant to get when Colin slates Davison’s ‘feckless charm’ is a renewed poignant sense of Davison’s absence. That this guy is cold, and will take some getting used to. You’d expect this Doctor to later win us over, or do something affirming with this harsher trait.

      In Remembrance, the Doctor’s irritable because he’s hiding a secret and must manage a dicey game and the humans keep interfering. But he remains the Doctor of old, until the very end where he does something unprecedented and ruthless, suggesting a different approach and new philosophy.

      Here it never happens. Any remorse is followed by more magnified pettiness and cruel berating. Catharsis isn’t the point. The unlikeableness is an ends in itself. And when the new Doctor says he was going neurotic with emotions, and had to change to function as a hero, it’s coming from the same production team who made his predecessor an unworkable failure in the first place. It’s contrived to justifty more contrivance. It’s an admission of not knowing how the Doctor works and even has him rubbish himself but ‘if it bothers you, tough, we’re in charge and we’re keeping him this way’.

      With greater care, the contrast between the 4th, 5th and 6th Doctor could’ve been beautifully poignant, done with more heart and less bluster, confusion or histrionics. More focus on the beauty of the Doctor's moral strength being emphasised by its absence (something that the Trial season occasionally got right), or moments like Snakedance where the Fifth Doctor realises he has to look within himself for his buried strength and essence in order to succeed, or his significant moments of regret and moral outrage in Revelation and Mindwarp.

      But the 5th and 6th Doctors don’t seem contrasted for anything poetic or affirming, or even for stories that fit their character, but as a fashion statement. Trying on something different that clashes with the old look, which unfortunately we’re then stuck with for the whole era.

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  38. As Exploding Eye indicates above (and this would be posted as a reply to that comment if the reply button wasn't weirdly failing), this story does, despite its many faults, manage the basic job of entertaining an audience. Even the most morally questionable Tardis scenes work as pretty effective bits of drama, even if the implications may be nasty.

    It isn't until season 23 that the show abandons, albeit temporarily, any notion of trying to entertain the uncommitted viewer. The results, sadly, speak for themselves.

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  39. I pretty much agree with everything Tommy said. I never liked Davison's Doctor, I thought Season 21 was just escalating violence and mass-murder to no good purpose, hell, I even hated with a vengeance "ANDROZANI" the first time I saw it (until I saw how brilliantly constructed and told the story in it really was). So naturally, I loved "TWIN DILLEMMA" more than it deserved. But it shouldn't have had to be that way. I'll say it again-- watch "CAMPION", and you can see how Davison's Doctor, if he was going to exist at all, could have/should have been written & acted. A "nice guy" who manages to be sharp, witty, and doesn't take S*** from anybody (especially his sidekick, Brian Glover). Colin, like Davison (and every other regular on the show at this point), deserved better writing. No-- MUCH better writing.

    STAR TREK-- the real one-- never had nor needed big budgets for visuals. It had writing-- and acting. And so did DOCTOR WHO. Until the end of Season 18, anyway.


    Iain Coleman:
    "It isn't until season 23 that the show abandons, albeit temporarily, any notion of trying to entertain the uncommitted viewer. The results, sadly, speak for themselves."

    "MINDWARP" immediately comes to mind. My God, I just hate Philip Martin's stories. Both of them.

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  40. What's so bad about Mindwarp, if I might ask? I remember particularly enjoying it when I watched it (Haven't seen Varos, so can't comment on that).

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  41. All Saward and JNT needed to do, really, was sit down for a second and think about "Androzani" and then the most obvious idea in the world would have come to them. Dr Who had saved Peri's life, and in doing so had lost his own. Now the new Dr Who would need to be saved by Peri.

    Peri would be the new (scrambled and amnesiac) Dr Who's moral compass, showing him, beat-by-story-beat how to be himself. And in doing so, they would form a firm friendship which would set things up for the next year of stories.

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  42. Tommy:
    "The Doctor, after a string of violent events, regenerating into someone more unstable, ruthless and cold is believable to me. But it’s scripted so horrendously that it’s just false and obnoxious. His nasty moments feel patchy, artificial, and contrived. Associating contrived amateur histrionics with ‘drama’. There’s no sense of balance to bring the viewers on side. The ‘you’re not supposed to like him, that’s the point’ excuse is complete bunk. You need to admire even an amoral hero to follow the story, otherwise Goodfellas wouldn’t work.
    I like Colin’s Doctor, but only when his stories let me."

    That really says it. Just watch this again tonight. What a schizoid experience. There are genuinely moments in here that are a joy to watch. Colin shows so much potential. and then they keep having these "WHAT THE FUCK???" moments. Repeatedly.

    Crazy but true: while Philip ripped this to shreds on character moment, over at PageFillers, there's exactly one review, and it spends just as much tme ripping it to pieces even more, for its total lack of scientific sense and logic. GOOD GOD. So you have a plot that makes no damn sense at all, hidden under a violently offensive character malfunction.

    And in the midst of that, you have moments of absolute nirvanna. What this show desperately needed at this point was a new producer and a new story editor. And much, much better writing.

    And by the way, does anyone else think it was just a complete waste of time for someone like Edwin Richfield to be completely buried under a costume like that, where you can't even hear his real voice? Why? WHY???

    Oh, and personally, I thought Peri & Hugo had a lot of obvious onscreen chemistry. It's surprising he didn't end up as a regular... or she, staying with him.

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  43. Sadly I missed all of these posts last year, but i have read the blog entry and all of the comment postings and have really enjoyed the discussion from all contributors. So much, that I have had ideas of my own regarding this story bubble up in me and connect with some new thoughts inspired by Philip, Jane, WM Keith and J. L. Webb.

    I know that my post here is a whole year late, but I really have felt inspired to write down my thoughts - which comes in two parts - a childhood reflection and an alchemical observation related to storytelling. As ever, for this blog it is all about context. Imagine me, a fourteen year old artistic, literate, introverted boy absolutely hooked on Doctor Who ever since I began watching it. I had a collection of Target novelisations, bought DWM and one early and vague memory is of the giant maggots from The Green Death.

    I recall that I watched (any, good or bad) Davison's era religiously and one thing that really stuck in my mind that I could never let go of after his regeneration was that Colin Baker had previously played a character who I had thought was rather nasty and unpleasant towards 'my Hero' - Commander Maxil. Understand, that in recent years I have really come to enjoy Colin's Doctor, especially on audio. But at the time I was devastated and confused. How could the character of the Doctor in whom I invested so much belief take on the face of not only an actor who had already appeared in the TV show (in my child mind there were Rules and the Doctor was always someone new), but the face of a character who had been cruel towards Davison's Doctor, who I had really identified with.

    As a child it felt like the illusion of the story was destroyed.

    I was reminded that I was watching TV and all I could feel was that I had been taken out of the drama, as my head was filled with thoughts of why the people who had run the show would make such decisions. Unfortunately this is the thought that stayed with me until the shows cancellation. My heart left the programme at this point. I did not return until the 2005 renewal.

    This really felt like the Ultimate Narrative Collapse, as my child's belief in the story was undermined.

    I have looked on recent years at much of fandom recounting their tales of how they never let go of believing in Doctor Who and how they kept the flame alive - I didn't. When I walked away from the show during McCoy's era (love him now!) I no longer believed in the show or the character and Maxil as the Doctor stayed with me, and the memory of how it felt that the show had not believed in me.

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  44. When reflecting on the Ultimate Narrative Collapse (the true Ultimate Foe?) I had the following ideas regarding Alchemy appear, inspired by the following quotes:

    Philip - "The core of the problem was the decision to put so many eggs in one basket."
    Jane - "Even the alchemy is off."
    WM Keith - "Alchemy is about transformation."
    J. L. Webb - "Fantastic analysis, you really expose the bitter seed that poisons the heart of this story..."

    Yes, I feel certainly the Alchemy is indeed off, and there is an Alchemical transformation in this tale - just not the one we hoped for. Within Welsh mythology the is an epic tale called 'Taliesin' about the transformation of a young boy called Gwion into a magical Bard/Poet/Wizard.
    This mixture and cauldron was created by a Goddess, Cerridwen who had two children - a boy and a girl. The daughter was pure light and the boy all darkness. To remedy this Cerridwen decided to brew the 'Elixir of Inspiration' in a great Cauldron and give this as a gift to her son to give him the gift of poetry, harmony and magic. Gwion was hired to stir the mixture and tend the Cauldron's fire for a year and in the end he accidentally drinks 3 drops from the Elixir, receiving the gift instead of the Goddesses's son.

    Now - the interesting part that made me think about this tale is the Elixir and the Cauldron. As it happens, ONLY 3 drops of the 'Elixir of Inspiration' hold the magic - the rest contains what is named as 'Baleful Knowledge'. As Gwion drinks the 3 drops the Cauldron breaks and the rest of the mixture spills out and poisons the lakes, land and animals.

    I think Philip this relates Alchemically to what "poisons the heart of this story". As the decision seemed to have been made as you suggested "to put so many eggs in one basket" and draw too much from the Cauldron, trying to combine too many elements in the wrong ways. This resulted in I feel a damaging of not just the story landscape but also in the long term the production team and for child viewers at the time such as me, my love for the show.

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  45. I can hardly express how much I hated this piece of shit at the time. Thank you.

    I note that in your epic list of its fail, you have neglected to get to the fucking awful acting from pretty much every character, main or supporting. That's okay, I'd rather forget it too. But in fact, it's the fucking awful acting that sticks in my head, nearly thirty years later. Fuck me.

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  46. It occurs to me that making the Sixth Doctor an initially unlikeable character is not the problem. The problem is making the main character unlikeable (after all, the First Doctor wasn't exactly loveable at first, but he shared the lead with three others). If JNT, Colin Baker and co really wanted to go down the Mr Darcy route, they should have made Peri the main (or at least equal main) character, as Elizabeth Bennet is in Pride and Prejudice. This would have given the audience a likeable and familiar lead character, and allowed us to see the Doctor's evolution/redemption through her eyes. In turn, this would also have meant Peri would finally have to develop into something more than simply eye candy.

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  47. I have to say, this analysis hits it, and I'm so glad it wasn't my intro to the Sixth Doctor. Coming to classic Who last year, The Twin Dilemma was actually incredibly late in my watching of the Sixth Doctor. I managed to watch The Mark of the Rani, The Two Doctors and Trial of a Timelord, not to mention Big Finish's The Sirens of Time and Urgent Calls before I even attempted this one. As a result, I actually like Colin Baker's Doctor. Big Finish did a lot to redeem him, and the awfulness of his debut was neutered because I had seen what he could be.

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  48. This is probably the greatest review of any tv show anywhere in the world. Hilariously funny and laser sharp accuracy. There is nothing else about Twin Dilemma that needs to be said or can be said. It's all here.

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