The Two Doctors
|The Two Doctors|
|Air date||16 February - 2 March 1985|
|Written by||Robert Holmes|
|Directed by||Peter Moffatt (not to be confused with Moffat or Moffett)|
|The Mark of the Rani||Timelash|
It’s 1985, a year that saw:
- the British Telecom announce the phase-out its famous red telephone boxes; Colin Baker announced his intention to continue wearing every color as well as red;
- five lionesses at the Singapore Zoo put on birth control after their carnivorous population increased from 2 to 16, leading to some gruesome meals;
- Australia's longest running soap opera Neighbours debut - one show actually more cringe-worthy than Doctor Who;
- Coca-Cola release “New Coke” which was received about as well as the Sixth Doctor;
- the founding of animation studio Studio Ghibli which entertains manchildren better than Doctor Who ever would, could, did or will;
- The debut of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes which entertains manchildren better than Doctor Who ever would, could, did or will;
- The release of Back to the Future which entertains manchildren better than Doctor Who ever would, could, did or will;
- The release of Ridley Scott's Legend, which entertains manchildren better than Doctor Who ever would, could, did or will;
- The release of Disney’s The Black Cauldron, another perfect example of a sclerotic entertainment deserving of euthanasia much like Doctor Who did;
- DNA first used in a criminal case, because you shouldn’t be going about augmenting an Androgum, it’s simply a dangerous idea;
- the broadcast of Doctor Who’s The Two Doctors, between the 16th of February and the Second of March.
If I had really wanted to watch some buffoonish BBC violence circa 1985, I could have just done an episode of The Young Ones (finished just a little over seven months previous to this story), but here I am. I’m sad we’ll never see a Rik Mayall Doctor, his annoying twerp of a character type would have been a relief following Fivie’s earnestly dull big brother/St. Bernard of a Doctor, but at least it’s not too late for an Adrian Edmondson Doctor; now that would be one destructive motherfucker of a Doctor, a real oncoming storm! Just please no more Alexei Sayle on Doctor Who, like, ever.
Anyway: The Two Doctors was the fourth story of Season twenty-too-late of Doctor Snooze, featuring the first reappearance of some potato-headed creatures after their blissful absence. No, not the Sontarans (although this is true for them as well), I mean “The Second Doctor” played by Patrick Toughknott, and “Jamie McCrimson”, played by Frazer Heinz, both elbowing their way onto the programme one last fucking time after appearing just two seasons previously in The Five Doctors - Jesus Christ, will no one rid me of these troublesome creeps?!
Death took Pat thankfully (after a prolonged struggle involving some bloody sneezing fits), but “the Fraze-Shifter” as he’s known to his sci-fi nerd friends yet haunts the programme, sometimes showing up uninvited on the set or at external shoots, staring wistfully at the throng of fans, none of whom even know who he is. Written by the ailing Doctor Who scribbler Robert (“Sherlock”) Holmes who died just about a year later due to BBC budget cuts, this story might be read as a sharp stick in the eye by a man who had come to despise what the programme had become. It’s also not afraid to ignore some solid blocks of continuity laid down lo those many seasons ago, but having written both Genesis of the Daleks and The Deadly Assassin, Holmes was already well-versed in pissing off obsessive fans while giving nought fucks about it. This gave rise to the "Season 6B" theory amongst the more useless of fans: before Doctor 2 regenerated into 3, he had some extra “secret” adventures between The War Games and Spearhead from Space.
This story is one of a very rare few that perhaps actually benefited from JNT’s lackadaisical method of production, allowing something approaching a personal opinion to slip by without undue ruination (Warrior's Gate, which JNT supposedly really disliked, is another), neatly slipping a shiv between the ribs of anyone with cuddly feelings for the show both past and present: Pat’s years were little more than a series of generic monsters besieging yet another cramped base, while the then-current 1985 version of the programme as run by JNT (this is just like time traveling!) had become, well, an empty shell of its former self. Or perhaps not. Much like how this wiki entry started, characters, villains and an entire alien race just sort of pop up along the way without any proper introduction, showcasing the profound lack of respect for storytelling endemic to the JNT era. My guess would be that Holmes did include such but they either got cut (the editor brought us The King’s Demons and this story only) or botched by the director (responsible for The Twin Dilemma, perhaps one of the worst Moffat stories ever not made by Steven Moffat).
On the other hand, Holmes could sometimes rise higher than ever before with The Caves of Androzani (hm, Androzani, Androgum…) and then fall so much further with The Power Of Kroll, so who can say for sure exactly whose fault all this was, at least without doing some real research - not me! And to be fair, Doctor Who has always been like a drunken driver wildly slaloming down a narrow lane lined with parked cars, madly careening from one wreck to the next. Sure, its erratic journey may appear to be straightening out, but that’s only because the last crash is in the rear-view mirror while the car lurches towards its next impact. So maybe this story with its compulsorily-assigned Sontarans was Holmes’ chance to condemn both road accidents at once. Maybe he should have called it that, The Two Road Accidents. This story seems to ask you to hate the show as much as it does, which wasn’t a difficult prospect back in 1985 during season 22.
Other Critical Swipes
With three episodes running about 43 minutes each, you have to approach this as what it plays like, a padded six-parter, because lengthwise it pretty much is. The Doctor Six and Peri spend a lot of part one wandering aimlessly around the abandoned lab crafting seemingly-endless minutes of their legendary chemistry of whiny sunshine and overbearing pomposity together, keeping even the dullest bits of dialogue singing as if t’were the most delicate of birds born aloft upon the elegant arabesques of uplifting air currents... Ha, not really of course, it’s all pretty obvious padding and makes for some long draggy scenes, unhelped by the fact we’re already champing at the bit to get back to the Doctor, “you know, the one we like.”
Really, you can’t blame Colin or Nicola though, not even your favorite Doctor and your favorite companion could have elevated these scenes much beyond “drudgery”.The Two Doctors is also a rather violent story without much ghoulish glee to leaven the distasteful atmosphere; even some ridiculous “Monster Mash”-level camp might have helped, but there’s barely a stab (ha ha) or two in that direction. Then again, Holmes originally set the story in New Orleans and apparently had to cut out jokes about the differences between British and American English when the plan to shoot there was nixed (I bet those were have been great, right?), so maybe he just didn’t feel like writing any more jokes. Also, the story’s allegory of meat-eating, hunting and butchering based around his vegetarianism is fairly heavy handed.
During the three weeks of this story’s three-part broadcast, the BBC announced the show was going on hiatus, which should really tell you something.
Notable Story Points
The Sontarans are announced before they even arrive, then for some weird reason kept off camera like some big surprise, then get shown later on without any kind of introduction, just walking along with some other villains, wtf? They end up being rather dull even if Holmes invented them himself back in the day, but they are clones, so they would tend to be generic characters, right? Maybe they just needed some jellyfish to fight. Anyway, you’ll scream to hear me say it, but you can’t deny that Moffat’s done more and better exploration of the Sontarans through Strax than anyone else since, what, The Invasion of Time? The Sontaran makeup here also is awful, about as passable as rubber Halloween masks, meaning only slightly below the usual Classic Who standards.
Both Doctor 2 and Jamie wear Spanish wigs, the British ones having been lost in the shipping to Spain. “The original wigs are, as far as is known, still missing to this day” according to the Tardis Data Core, like someone would actually give some thought to that, “Hm, I genuinely wonder what ever became of those goddamn lost British wigs all those years ago? Those wigs were lost, like, what - thirty years ago now? This is clearly something I need to add to the Tardis Data Core entry!” Fucking hell TDC, get it together man, you guys are the worst. Or… OR, maybe someone has secretly been holding onto those venerable artifacts he stole, and has edited the TDC to throw the MIA off his path. Hey, it could happen, you don’t know!
Let's take a look at the name of new alien race here, the Androgums. Following the usual naming conventions of science, their name can be broken down into its roots that should somehow describe them:
- Andro: a Greek prefix meaning male, man, or masculine
- Gum: a common English name for the soft tissue partly covering teeth; or perhaps any substance applied to the surfaces of materials that binds them together and resists separation.
So these aliens are either “sticky males” (ew, probably) or “male soft tissue partly covering the teeth.” That’s about right for the repulsively sticky bite this story hides beneath what should otherwise feel like a comfy multi-Doctor story.
Also worth noting about the Androgums: the BBC (Bitchy Bean Counters) petulantly required make-up artist Catherine Davies to invoice and justify each and every rice krispie she glued to the actor's faces to make them into “aliens,” something like Star Trek The Next Generation’s “forehead make-up equals alien” except worse, but certainly snap-crackle-poppier.
Doctor Two is really racist about Androgums, even though they appear to just be humans with rice krispies glued to their faces. Dastari even calls him on it, “Doctor, I expected something more progressive from you.” Doctor Two even insults Jamie at one point.
The usual bad editing crops up too: start scene A, interrupt it to start scene B, cut back to scene A before finishing B, etc. Both Doctors’ Tardises (“Tardii”?) look pretty dingy on the outside.
Our fond recollection of Doctor Two nearly gets violated by him being turned into an Androgum, probably the worst move of this entire story, meaning he wears some rice krispies and gets red eyebrows. Yet, Troughton actually manages to do a really solid impersonation of Shockeye; no matter the stupidity asked of ‘im, ‘e always did ‘is job well, our Pat. Doctor Two, temporarily an Androgum, and Shockeye heading out to find a restaurant while wearing some old silk top hats is one of the few bright points of humor in this mess; a joke about novelle cuisine is another. Another few script passes for jokes like those and this might have worked, but here it only brings meager pleasure. To be fair though, if they're going to pad the programme with bits really unconnected to the plot, at least they should be daft fun; this came close.
In a scene that smacks of a last-minute ad-lib, the camera person catches a cat scurrying the sidewalks of Seville and Colin says he wants to eat it, due to Doctor Two's Adrogumism (I word I hated to invent here) catching up to him. While I always applaud the inclusion of a real live animal in Doctor Who, this one didn't really bring much to the table (or Colin's plate).
Using the wheelchair to get the key wasn’t half bad an idea. Peri shows a fair amount of cleavage throughout, which may help you endure this story, which tells you how bad it is. The Rutans do get name checked.
- Episode one’s cliffhanger: Doctor Six gets gas and Peri has some guy climbing all over her.
- Episode Two’s cliffhanger: Shockeye, who’s creepy in a non-fun way and comes across like a cross between a pedophile and an old stage queen, is about to grope Peri.
- Episode 3’s cliffhanger: Doctor Who has been put on hiatus, is it die?! (‘no’)
“Circular logic will only make you dizzy, Doctor.” - Peri
“I feel sick.” - Peri “I think you’ll feel a good deal sicker before we’re finished here.” - Doctor Six
“I think your Doctor’s worse than mine.” - Jamie
“Boing!” - Doctor Six, thrice
I quite enjoyed the Sontaran yelling at Dastari that time was being wasted about half way through the middle episode.
Doctor Two sarcastically greeting a Sontaran with “teatime already, nurse?” was probably something Steven Moffat scribbled down on a notepad for later. See previous comment about Strax.
Peri, posing as a student, asks Chessene “do you live alone or other other occupants?” Note the doubled “other” there instead of “are there.” And they use that take anyway.
Twelve minutes into part three, Doctor Six proclaims, “at last! Action, I think!”
Violence and Death
Shockeye, who wears a terrible wardrobe-dived costume to hide his fake beer gut and appeared in the original televisual production of Quatermass And The Pit, wants to eat Jamie (don’t we all, ha ha). Chessene, another Androgum who’s been augmented to be smarter and had some plastic surgery to remove the rice crispies from her face and to make her look just like that lady from Blake’s 7, kills a really bored looking security guard watching camera footage of three rolling beach balls. Doctor Six and Peri find a dead Androgum in the space lab. Sontarans kill a nameless, line-less extra on the space lab via ray blast. The Androgums kill an old lady in Spain. Doctor Six drugs and hypnotizes Jamie. Shockeye kills and tastes a rat. Shockeye knocks out Peri. Jamie stabs the Sontaran leader Stike in the leg. Shockeye gets stunned by Chessene, who later tries to kill both Sontarans with acid gas. Stike isn’t killed by the acid gas but covered in green snot. Shockeye knocks out a truck driver by hitting him in the lower back with a piece of wood. Stike tries to operate the prototype time machine and gets even more snot on him. After a nearly-delightful fifteen to twenty minutes where almost every character drops what they’re up to to track down the restaurant-hunting Doctor Two and Shockeye, the story gets back to its usual ugliness by having Shockeye stab the moth-collecting Oscar so he can give us a terrible death scene (the actor later applied his talents to Roland Rat, which was probably a better place for him, and fitting in that the rat Shockeye ate was a puppet). Stike, now a snot-green and tattered mess, dies when he stumbles out to his spacecraft just as it blows up, having forgotten that he set it for self destruct. Shockeye uses a flesh-tenderizing device on Jamie, cuts Doctor Six with a knife but dies when Doctor Six outright kills him with cyanide! Chessene shoots and kills Dashari, then dies herself inside the exploding time machine, growing back her rice krispies and red eyebrows.
A Sad Fact of Life
Probably the saddest thing about this is that one can argue this to be the most well-written multi-Doctor story that depicts the Second Doctor the most accurately to the depiction of his initial run, while also probably having the best justification for it being a multi-Doctor story written into the plot, and that's still not to disregard all of the shit above, most of which is completely true. Let that sink in.