The Gastropods have taken over the planet of Jaconda and intend to cause a massive explosion to spread the eggs over the universe. In order to do this, the leader of the Gastropods, Mestor, kidnaps two Earth child geniuses, Romelus and Remus to work on the equations to allow this to happen, meanwhile, Hugo Lang of Interplanetary Pursuit, is sent off to attempt a rescue. The Doctor and Peri become involved following a problematic regeneration, and aid Professor Edgeworth, the former leader of Jaconda, who is actually a Time Lord, Azmael, to save the universe.
I’m going to be honest – I struggle to be critical of Doctor Who. It is a show that I love and I really struggle to pick flaws in stories. However, when confronted with an episode like The Twin Dilemma, this goes by the wayside. It gives me no joy at all that Colin Baker’s debut story is awful. It is fortunate then that he has been given the chance to redeem his Doctor’s reputation through strong work with Big Finish.
Right, with that out of the way, let’s address the major issue with the episode. The production team made the decision to make the new Doctor too unlikeable. The Sixth Doctor is such a stark contrast to his two most recent predecessors, Tom Baker and Peter Davison, and it feels like they decided to go drastically off the rails. The issues I have with this culminate with the strangling of Peri, which is a step too far considering that the companion is supposed to be the audience surrogate. For the record, I have no issues with making the Doctor sterner or not as amiable as some other – I like Peter Capaldi’s Doctor in series 8, for instance – but I feel that the production team here got the new Doctor majorly wrong. There are moments where the Doctor almost seems to be back to what we would regard to be normal, but then he goes and does something like arguing with Peri and storming off in Part 3. Then we get the famous quote
I am the Doctor, whether you like it or not.The Sixth Doctor
This is a direct address to the fanbase and really rubs me up the wrong way – I can only imagine how it felt in 1984.
In addition to this, there seem to be poor decision across the board, especially with costumes. The problems with Colin Baker’s costume are well documented and I won’t go into them here. But costumes seem to be a major issue with this story, which really detract from the story and make it rather laughable. The Interplanetary Pursuit uniforms, with their massive stars just look idiotic and impractical, and when Lang is given the opportunity to find a new outfit on Titan III, he manages to choose something worse than the Doctor. The direction is also standard Peter Moffatt fare – that is to say quite bland and uninteresting.
The villain, Mestor, is also forgettable and occasionally incomprehensible, and that’s really all I have to say about him. The other characters other than Lang are a really in the same mould. Remus and Romulus are irritating. Azmael is also a difficult character as we’re supposed to care when Mestor kills him, however, he is mostly memorable for kidnapping Romulus and Remus and threatening to kill them, which really robs his death of any emotional impact. The only reason why Lang doesn’t suffer with the same thing is because we see much more of him. Peri does not really do anything in this story either although there are some good moments when Peri bursts the Doctor’s pompous bubble.
This story suffers with really poor cliffhangers and resolutions. The most effective one comes in part two, when we believe that the Doctor has died and the resolution is quite clever. However, aspects like when Mestor captures Peri and threatens to kill her, but then finds her appearance pleasing, which completely undermines the initial cliffhanger.
I’ve got the joys of Time and the Rani next…
Verdict: A really disappointing episode, coming off the back of one of the best. The start of the decline that led to the hiatus in 1989. Sorry Colin! 1/10
Starring: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Kevin McNally (Hugo Lang), Maurice Denham (Professor Edgeworth/Azmael), Edwin Richfield (Mestor), Gavin Conrad (Romulus), Andrew Conrad (Remus)
Writer: Anthony Steven
Director: Peter Moffatt
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Composer: Malcolm Clarke
Broadcast Dates: 22 – 30 March 1984
Behind the Scenes
- Colin Baker had previously played Gallifreyan guard Commander Maxil in Arc of Infinity in which he had shot his predecessor, Peter Davison. Producer John Nathan-Turner is believed to have been convinced to cast Baker after seeing him holding court at a wedding.
- The Twin Dilemma has the dubious honour of having a poor track record in fan polls. In Doctor Who Magazine polls held in 1998, 2009 and 2014 placed the story as the lowest-rated televised story. This may be, at least in part, due to the problem in following one of the best-received episodes, The Caves of Androzani.
- Anthony Steven struggled with the conception and development of this episode, with script editor Eric Saward having to hastily rewrite the script.
- The story was beset by issues relating to industrial action impacting studio filming.
- This is the first story since The Power of the Daleks to feature a different lead actor to the one who commenced the Season, with The Twin Dilemma closing out Davison’s last season.
- It is now well known that John Nathan-Turner was looking to leave the role of producer, however, this was denied by the BBC as there was nobody suitable to take the role. Nathan-Turner would request to leave the show every year until the show’s eventual cancellation in 1989.
- Colin Baker provides the voice of a Jacondan at Freighter Control in Part 3.
- Albert C. Richardson previously appeared in The Chase and Genesis of the Daleks.
- Edwin Richfield played Captain Hart opposite Jon Pertwee in The Sea Devils.
- Kevin McNally would go on to appear in the audio drama Spider’s Shadow.
- Seymour Green appeared in The Seeds of Doom.
- Helen Blatch was a voice artist in The Deadly Assassin.
The story does improve slightly in its concluding part, where the Doctor realises that there is a point to keeping on living and saves the day.
Well, look at me. I’m old, lacking in vigour, my mind’s in turmoil. I no longer know if I’m coming, have gone, or even been. I’m falling to pieces. I no longer even have any clothes sense…Self-pity is all I have left.The Sixth Doctor
Next story: Attack of the Cybermen