Strange Matter #16
No, this is not a joke piece. I’m serious.
Sian O'Neale, editor of Strange Matter, was asking for season review pieces for Colin Baker. Being the cheeky bugger I am, I chose season 21 — which is almost entirely a Peter Davison season…
I considered briefly writing this whole thing as a joke on the conspiracy that kept Colin Baker out of all but the last five episodes of Season 21. Then I re-watched The Twin Dilemma, and I changed my mind. This had to get out — The Twin Dilemma is actually very, very good!
Basically, this story has some of the best direction and music ever to appear in Doctor Who. Combined with some strong characters (and, admittedly, a few rather wet ones too), it makes for great viewing. To show you how I have come to this conclusion, I refer you to the notes I scribbled down while watching…
The first thing to notice is that, despite being a regeneration story and all, it’s quite a few minutes and plot turns until we see our new Doctor. Maybe they were trying to boost our anticipation for when he did appear, but it’s still a very weird decision. But when he does appear, all is forgiven as we see some gloriously-scripted and presented scenes with the Doctor and Peri. The Doctor’s behaviour and state of mind are beautifully backed up by both direction and, especially, music. We start with some serene gentle tones, but with the turning of the mind comes some rather discordant orchestral tones which, while not swamping the scene like some incidental music does, still provide a very threatening tone.
We also get some great lines; such as the Doctor proclaiming ‘I’m not people, Peri. I happen to be me!’ and the various put-downs from Peri. In fact, Nicola Bryant is a star throughout this story, especially in her early scenes with the new Doctor. Her three stories in season 21 were all great vehicles for her as a strong character, actually, and here she shows great strength in what would be an extremely harrowing and confusing situation. She also looks to have had quite a bit of a crush on the Fifth Doctor…
Colin is very cool, very elegant and grandiose — all you expect from a Doctor, really. His nasty turns are well-acted and directed — for example, angled tracking shots of him prowling around the TARDIS console as he spits out venom at Peri, shown still and small in the foreground. In fact, this is probably the reference any director should make if they have to direct TARDIS interior scenes. What often appears as a static set is fully exploited by director Peter Moffat, and it looks incredibly better as a result.
In fact, most of the sets look good in this story, though you can see spots where they obviously ran out of money, as well as some of the tacky sets that characterised much of the futuristic Doctor Who stories in the Eighties; you know, aluminium foil everywhere. Of particular note is Hugo’s crashed ship, which is totally believable. More amusing is the mechanical lock on Titan 3 — a beautiful example of the above-mentioned aluminium foil, plus the classic ‘oops, not attached to the floor properly’ syndrome. And the police station looks like it has been borrowed from The Bill; acting, sets, costumes, the lot. They’ve even got normal objects pretending to be high-tech computer equipment. Ha!
While we’re on fluffs and tidbits, I loved the alliteration of "P"s at the end of the first episode, Peri does some of the best eye-rolling you’ve ever seen, Andrew Deans stars as Hugo Lang, and why Mestor chose to have a painted watermelon as a chin I’ll never know.
The overall plot is quite good, though a bit thin and has a few credibility holes, such as the Doctor and Peri going back ten seconds in time to escape the Titan 3 base. Surely they want to move in space?! (Having said that, it’s a neat use of a revitalising modulator!)
As for other characters: Azmael is cool and a nice piece of acting, the Jacondans (bar that stupid Chamberlain, who seems to think he’s in a pantomime) are a great species of fine actors except when Mestor puts a green glow over them, at which point they jump around stupidly, Hugo Lang is typical companion fodder, and Mestor is — well, it’s hard to be impressive when you’re a slug with a silly-looking face who has to be helped to waddle anywhere. But, to Edwin Richfield’s credit, he just about pulls it off.
And the twins themselves? Well, for what they are (a pair of naive dweebs), they’re not too bad. Take that, Wesley!
Plus there’s more great (and revealing?) dialogue like ‘This is ridiculous! How have we got lost? There’s only one passageway!’ I found this story a real eye-opener, and immensely enjoyable. Ignore the hype, and check it out yourself. Let’s have some facts when it comes to this story, please…
And anyway, Peri is just so bloody cute…
[I’d like to add a note to the effect that you should not take Eric Saward’s novelisation as a reasonable translation of what happened on screen. While it is quite amusing at times, it also shows great sections of Pip & Jane Baker-like brevity. In particular, the great early scenes in the TARDIS are completely glossed over, with the dialogue virtually completely missing. Plus there are gross inaccuracies (or maybe just what Eric wanted) such as the first cliffhanger being resolved by ‘Quickly, the Doctor snatched the gun and simultaneously chopped Hugo across the side of the neck. Instantly the pilot was rendered unconscious.’ Whereas, in reality, we saw a look of sudden mortality on the Doctor’s face, some quick stalling by Peri, and eventually a weakened Hugo collapsing. Rewriting of history like this (I mean you, Anthony Howe!) helps no one.]
Here’s the list of the Doctor Who reviews available here:
→ Benny Adventure: Beyond the Sun
→ Benny Adventure: Deadfall
→ Benny Adventure: Ghost Devices/Mean Streets/Tempest
→ Benny Adventure: The Sword of Forever
→ Fanzines: Mag Bag #1
→ Fanzines: Mag Bag #2
→ Fanzines: Mag Bag #3
→ Fanzines: Mag Bag #4
→ Fanzines: Mag Bag #5
→ Fanzines: Mag Bag #6
→ Fanzines: Mag Bag #7
→ Fanzines: Mag Bag #8
→ Fanzines: Mag Bag #9
→ Fanzines: Mag Bag #10
→ Fanzines: Mag Bag #11
→ Fanzines: Mag Bag #12
→ Missing Adventure: Dancing the Code
→ Missing Adventure: Downtime
→ Missing Adventure: Invasion of the Cat-People
→ Missing Adventure: Lords of the Storm
→ Missing Adventure: Scales of Injustice
→ Missing Adventure: Shadow of Weng-Chiang
→ Missing Adventure: System Shock
→ New Adventure: Bloodheat
→ New Adventure: Death of Art
→ New Adventure: Dimension Riders
→ New Adventure: Eternity Weeps
→ New Adventure: Falls the Shadow
→ New Adventure: Legacy
→ New Adventure: No Future
→ New Adventure: Sleepy
→ TV: The Curse of Fenric
→ TV: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
→ TV: The Happiness Patrol
→ TV: Season 25 Review
→ TV: Season 27 Review (the 2005 return)
→ TV: The Twin Dilemma
→ Or just head back to the Doctor Who Index
This page last updated by David J Richardson on Wed, 20 Apr 2005.