The Highlanders

This story does not exist due to the wiping of old films by the BBC in the 1970s. As such, I’ll have a look at what the story entailed and talk about the important elements for Patrick Troughton’s time in the TARDIS.

The Highlanders was written by Elwyn Jones and Gerry Davis, and directed by Hugh David. Elwyn Jones, although commissioned to write a script, carried out no work on the script, and the story in its entirety was written by script editor, Gerry Davis.  Normally in situations where the script editor rewrote or wrote the majority of the script, they were not credited, however, in this case, Davis received an on-screen credit. Hugh David was amongst the actors considered to portray the First Doctor by Rex Tucker, however, Verity Lambert rejected him on the grounds that, at the age of 38, he was too young to play the Doctor.  David would also direct the next story, Fury From The Deep.

It was made up of four parts and would be the last ‘pure historical’ story of Doctor Who until 1982’s Black Orchid.  However, as The Highlanders is based around true historical events, unlike Black Orchid, it can be seen to be the last ‘true’ historical event.  The only character included in this story who actually existed is the villainous Solicitor Grey, though.

This episode sees the introduction of Jamie McCrimmon, played by Frazer Hines, who would remain with the programme until The War Games in 1969. Jamie is a fan favourite companion and would cameo in The Five Doctors and reappear again in The Two Doctors. Due to the vast amount of Doctor Who made in this era, Jamie McCrimmon is the companion with the most appearances, with 113 episodes under his belt.  He also narrowly misses out on appearing in every Troughton episode.  Hines himself now plays the Second Doctor for Big Finish Productions, as well as continuing in the role of Jamie.

Synopsis

The TARDIS team arrive in Scotland in 1746, shortly after the Battle of Culloden, where the Doctor tends to the wounds of a Laird of the Jacobites, Colin McLaren, and gains the trust of a small band of Jacobites.  All of them are captured by the Redcoat troops, except for Polly and the Laird’s daughter, Kirsty, and are put into the custody of Solicitor Grey, who plans to sell his prisoners into slavery in the West Indies.

Polly and Kirsty blackmail the leader of the Redcoats, Lieutenant Algernon Ffinch, to help them, and they smuggle weapons onto the stolen ship where the prisoners are being held, the Annabelle. Solicitor Grey and the captain, Trask, are overpowered, and the stolen ship is returned to it’s rightful owner, Willie Mackay, who agrees to take the rebels to France.  At the end of the story, Jamie joins the TARDIS crew.

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben), Anneke Wills (Polly), Fraser Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), William Dysart (Alexander McLaren), Donald Bissert (The Laird), Hannah Gordon (Kirsty McLaren), Michael Elwyn (Lieutenant Algernon Ffinch), David Garth (Grey), Dallas Cavell (Trask).

 

 

The End of the World

end of the world

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Euros Lynn

Starring: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Simon Day (Steward), Yasmin Bannerman (Jade), Jimmy Vee (Moxx of Balhoon), Zoe Wanamaker (Cassandra), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Beccy Armory (Raffalo), Sara Stewart (Computer Voice), Silas Carson (Alien Voices)

Synopsis

The Doctor takes his new companion, Rose, to the year 5,000,000,000 to witness the death of the world party on Platform One, along with some of the richest beings in the Universe. Meanwhile, robot spiders brought onboard by the Adherents of the Repeated Meme as gifts to the others on the station are infiltrating and sabotaging Platform One.

Behind the Scenes

This episode is notable for being the first episode in where we discover that the Doctor is the last of his kind and about the ending of the Time War, although who the Time Lords were fighting is not answered at this point. This episode also marks the appearance of the psychic paper, which was devised by Russell T Davies as a time-saving mechanism for the show, as it prevents the distrust of the Doctor and his companion commonly seen in the previous era of the show. With the show now being a one episode story, it removes episodes of the Doctor being locked away.

The episode also marks the first appearances of Face of Boe and Lady Cassandra, who would reappear in Gridlock and New Earth respectively. It also starts the tradition of episodes starting with a cold open, something which has continued through the revived series, and only happened sparingly during the classic era – in Castrovalva, The Five Doctors and Remembrance of the Daleks.

Behind the camera, we see a directorial debut for Euros Lyn. Lyn would go on to direct nine episodes of Doctor Who from 2005 until 2010, including The End of Time.

Due to the extensive use of CGI in this episode, the majority of the effects budget for the entire series was spent on this episode.

Review

The End of the World is a bold second episode for the revived series. The story takes us to the far future, introduces us to a series of new aliens and shows us the destruction of their world. The episode does also briefly touch on humanity and what it means to be human – Cassandra regards herself as the last “true” human, despite her never-ending cycle of cosmetic procedures, as opposed to the rest of the human race, who went out into the stars and “mingled”. It is an episode that you’d expect to come perhaps slightly later in the series, with perhaps an iconic classic foe such as the Daleks or the Cybermen, but the fact that we get an episode like this is great.

It seems strange to praise an episode by jumping straight to the ending scene, but this episode really puts Eccleston in particular through his paces emotionally. He has to convey great joy at one moment, burning rage another and almost unimaginable sorrow at yet another. This is the first mention we have of the Time War. Taking Rose to witness the death of her planet almost gives them something to share, although, as the Doctor states, Gallifrey went “before its time”, meanwhile the death of the Earth is something much more natural. The way he says “my planet’s gone”, is so matter of fact but so weighed down with sorrow. It has parallels with the scene at the end of Gridlock, where the 10th Doctor tells Martha that he’s the last of the Time Lords. I love both of those scenes equally, but the scene here is slightly better as it’s the first occurrence.

There are several nice moments in this episode, and what surprised me is how well this episode has aged. There are pop culture references, such as the use of Tainted Love by Soft Cell and Toxic by Britney Spears, however, these don’t date as badly as some later on in series one (I’m looking at you, Bad Wolf). There is also a nice conversation between Rose and the plumber Jaffalo where Rose realises the absurdity of her situation and perhaps how foolhardy she has been coming travelling with a man she barely knows. I gather that this was an eleventh-hour addition, and if that is the case I’m very glad it made it.

End of the World 2

That being said, the episode does have problems, especially surrounding the ending. It feels extremely rushed and the climactic scenes with the Doctor and Jabe with the spinning fans is a bit anti-climatic. However, the Doctor and Jabe are two of the most interesting characters in this story, and to spend more time in their company is definitely a positive. I also like the fact that immediately after Jabe’s demise, the Doctor goes to inform her people before reversing the teleport and bringing Cassandra back to the ship. However, the whole conclusion is ultimately rushed, although I do enjoy the fury and anger that we see come from the Doctor in this final confrontation. It is the first time we see this Doctor truly angry. I do also feel that there are perhaps too many aliens thrown in here, who serve no real purpose except to be in peril. This does allow us a fleshing out of the new universe but does seem a bit of a waste, especially when some of these creatures are never seen again.  We also don’t really care when characters like the Moxx of Balhoon die, for instance, because we spend absolutely no time with them.

Verdict: A strong second episode for Eccleston which gives us our first mention of the Time War. 8/10

Best Quote: 

Everything has it’s time, and everything dies.

The Ninth Doctor

Best Moment: The ending scene is just, to coin a phrase, fantastic.

 

The Daleks

Daleks

Parts: 7 (The Dead Planet, The Survivors, The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition, The Ordeal and The Rescue)

Writer: Terry Nation

Directors: Richard Martin (Parts 3, 6 and 7)  and Christopher Barry (Parts 1, 2, 4 and 5)

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Susan Foreman (Carol Ann Ford), Peter Hawkins and David Graham (Dalek voices), Alan Wheatley (Temmossus), John Lee (Alydon), Virginia Wetherell (Dyoni), Philip Bond (Ganatus), Marcus Hammond (Antodus), Jonathan Crane (Kristas), Gerald Curtis (Elyon)

Behind the Scenes

The Daleks were created by Terry Nation, who also came up with the main idea for the story, however, script editor David Whittaker is believed to have done a lot of work on character development and dialogue.  Nation’s agent negotiated a deal for him that meant that Nation ended up doing very well financially out of the Daleks, as he was made a co-owner.  Coincidentally, Nation’s agent was Beryl Vertue, who would go on to found the production company Hartswood Films, which produced several comedy series, including Steven Moffat’s Coupling in the early 2000s, and is Steven Moffat’s mother-in-law.

The Daleks would prove to be Doctor Who’s saviour.  Despite Sydney Newman’s insistence that he did not want any aliens in his new series, Verity Lambert stuck to her guns and got the Daleks made.  Her confidence in the story and the Daleks themselves would prove to be vindicated, as the story pulled in significantly more viewers than An Unearthly Child, and prevented the BBC from pulling the plug on the series.  The success of the Daleks amongst the viewing public was reflected by Dalek-mania, which would see the nefarious villains return every season up until season 5.  The Daleks would go on to appear opposite every Doctor (Paul McGann has faced them in Big Finish), and are as synoymous with the show as long scarves and blue police boxes.

Review

The first appearance of the Daleks is interesting, if a bit of an overlong story.  One of the most interesting things that I found about it was how early some of the lore that I had almost assumed got introduced in Genesis of the Daleks is actually brought in here.  The Thals, Skaro and the mutants (or gorilla gloves covered in vaseline) are all seen in this story.  Although The Daleks and Genesis can be seen to be contradictory, this didn’t really impact on my enjoyment of the story.  I think that the story does massively benefit from how menacing the Daleks look in black and white, and thinking about the reaction to their first appearance, it is easy to see how they became such an phenomenon.

The TARDIS team here get a bit more development which is welcome and the story does tap into contemporary concerns, with the radiation sickness storyline.  The Doctor here is shown to be quite self-centered and willing to put his granddaughter and her two teachers in danger to satiate his curiosity about the mysterious city.  However, when he realises his mistake, he does apologise to his companions – a bit too late really.  We also get a great exchange at the beginning of the story between Ian and Barbara about their situation and about their doubts about the Doctor too.  Ian is more of a traditional heroic character here, and occupies a role that modern audience would be more likely to associate with the Doctor rather than the companion.  Susan shows initial promise but then seems to blend into the background for most of the rest of the story, except when she screams.  She’s no Mel, but boy, can she scream.

With hindsight, some of the elements don’t work so well.  The question of whether or not the Daleks are actually villains in the first couple of parts doesn’t work with the benefit of seeing episodes featuring the Daleks for the last 55 years.  There is also the issue of the story feeling a bit too overstretched, with the story being made up of seven parts, however, I am never too bothered with this as an issue with ‘Classic Who’, as the stories were never ever intended to be binge-watched on DVD, and this story does benefit from more interesting villains and supporting characters in the Thals than there were in the previous story.

Verdict: A good story introducing an iconic villain, which perhaps suffers from the fact that there are more interesting stories involving them in the show’s history.  7/10

Best Quote: 

“You wanted advice you said.  I never give it.  Never. But I might just say this to you.  Always search for the truth.  My truth is in the stars and yours is here.”

The First Doctor

Best Moment:

The sequence in which they discuss the logistics of food on the TARDIS.  Or the cliffhanger at the end of the first part with the plunger with Barbara.

The TV Movie

McCoy and McGann

Writer: Matthew Jacobs

Director: Geoffrey Sax

Cast: Paul McGann (Eighth Doctor), Daphne Ashbrook (Grace Holloway), Yee Jee Tso (Chang Lee), Eric Roberts (Bruce/The Master), Sylvester McCoy (Seventh Doctor), John Novak (Salinger), Michael David Simms (Dr. Swift), Catherine Lough (Wheeler), Dolores Drake (Curtis), Will Sasso (Pete), Jeremy Radick (Gareth), Eliza Roberts (Miranda), Gordon Tipple (The Old Master)

Synopsis

Reaching the end of his Seventh incarnation, the Doctor is charged with returning the remains of the Master to Gallifrey.  However, the Master is not dead and causes a timing malfunction in the Doctor’s TARDIS, bringing the action to San Francisco in 1999.  The Seventh Doctor is shot by a street gant and regenerates after his biology confuses his surgeon, Grace Holloway, while the Master takes over another body.  Recruiting Chang Lee to his side, the Master aims to get control over the Doctor’s body by using the Eye of Harmony.  Meanwhile, the new Doctor needs to find a beryllium atomic clock to aid him to stop the Master…

Production

It is perhaps surprising that an American TV company would have wanted to take a chance on Doctor Who in the years post-cancellation in 1989.  However, American TV producer Philip Segal was so keen that he spent a considerable amount of time trying to get the BBC to agree to an American version, finally getting approval in 1994.

The production was held up by various other factors, with the TV movie eventually being picked up by Fox, with the BBC having appointed a producer, Jo Wright, to look after their interests.  Wright would have various input in the project, at one point expressing a preference for Tom Baker to return as the Doctor, and also putting forward the notion that if Sylvester McCoy returned, he should not speak in the episode, as McCoy’s tenure was still firmly associated with the show’s decline in the BBC.  Additionally, the BBC also vetoed the idea of bringing back Ace as the Seventh Doctor’s companion, something Segal was apparently keen on.

Actors who auditioned for the role of the Eighth Doctor included Rowan Atkinson, Paul McGann’s brother, Mark, Tim McInnery, Anthony Head and Liam Cunningham, and Peter Capaldi was invited to audition, but declined as he did not feel that he would get the part.  I’m sure I’ve also heard that Christopher Eccleston was also invited to audition, but also declined.  Paul McGann, best known at the time for his roles in The Monocled Mutineer and Withnail and I was cast as the Doctor, with Sylvester McCoy returning for the transition.  This was apparently due to McCoy wishing to pass over the role properly to his successor.

Despite strong viewing figures in the UK, it struggled in the US, going up against Roseanne.  Fox decided not to take up the option of a series, and so McGann’s run would be limited to just one screen outing.  In 2001, he returned to the part for Big Finish productions, and has continued to play the part to the present day, fleshing out the adventures of the Eighth Doctor.  In 2013, McGann finally got to film his regeneration in the online and red button extra, The Night of the Doctor being released ahead of The Day of the Doctor.

Review

Seen through a modern lens, the TV Movie is actually not as terrible as received fan wisdom would tell us.  Amongst other things, it has a fantastic production value, some great central performances and looks familiar as being Doctor Who to an audience who have been brought up on the modern era of the show.  On the other side, it does have Eric Roberts as the Master, and some fairly big plot holes.  A massive talking point at the time was that the Doctor kissed his companion – something that doesn’t seem so much of a big deal today, as the Doctor has now been seen to have over 20 on-screen kisses, and I believe that the first companion not to kiss the Doctor since McGann is the recently departed Bill Potts.

McGann

On to one of the strongest parts of the episode: Paul McGann as the Doctor.  McGann is a fantastic choice to play the Time Lord, and nothing encapsulates this better than the infamous shoes scene.  He immediately commands any scene he appears in, which makes it understandable why some fans want McGann to return on screen.  Really, the fact that the story gives him short of an hour of screen time is nothing short of baffling – perhaps it was overconfidence that the series would be a success and a series would follow to show the best of the young actor.  I am all in favour of continuity and the fact that Sylvester McCoy returns at the beginning is great, but it does feel with hindsight that it detracts a bit from McGann. I like the ordinary nature of the Seventh Doctor’s death though, as I enjoy the irony of a man who was always a couple of steps ahead of his adversaries being struck down by a stray bullet due to not checking the TARDIS scanner.  The regeneration scene, intercut with scenes from 1931’s Frankenstein, is also fantastic, although the “WHO AM I?!?” scene is a bit over the top.

The Doctor: Wait, I remember! I’m with my father, we’re lying back in the grass, it’s a warm Gallifreyan night…

Grace: Gallifreyan?

The Doctor: Gallifrey.  Yes, this must be where I live.  Now, where is that?

Grace: I’ve never heard of it.  What do you remember?

The Doctor: A meteor storm. The sky above us was dancing with lights.  Purple, green, brilliant yellow. Yes!

Grace: What?

The Doctor: These shoes! They fit perfectly!

The other strength of the episode is the performance of Daphne Ashbrook as Grace.  She is recognisable to a present day audience as more similar to the modern series companions, such as Rose and Martha.  She is a very strong character, and the two main actors have such superb chemistry together that it allows you to overlook some of the story’s deficiencies.

paul mcgann and eric roberts

Speaking of the deficiencies, we come onto Eric Roberts’ performance as the Master.  This is a much-maligned performance in fan circles, when, in reality, the majority of his performance could be seen as quite menacing, especially when compared to John Simm’s performance in The End of Time.  However, the last act, when he is in the Time Lord robes in the Eye of Harmony chamber, he starts chewing the scenery.  There are scenes where he is great though, like when the Master has just taken over Bruce’s body, or when he’s at the hospital asking about what’s happened to the Doctor’s body.  I don’t think the costume he wears for the majority is terrible, but he does just look like a Terminator rip-off. It’ll be intriguing to see what Big Finish do with this incarnation of the Master when he appears in The Diaries of River Song Volume 5.

I always dress for the occasion.

The Master

The biggest issue I have with the TV Movie are the plot holes in the story.  For instance, it bugs me that it is never explained how the Master gets into the TARDIS.  I appreciate that the production was troubled, and the eventual production was extremely rushed – they were supposed to have a 30 day shoot, but this was cut down to 25 days to save money – and there were various scripts floating around.  To be honest, we should be grateful we got the story we did, as earlier drafts involved a more family affair, with the Master and the Doctor revealed to be half-brothers, and the story around Ulysses, the Doctor’s father and Borussa being the Doctor’s grandfather.  Looking at it, the half-human line suddenly doesn’t seem so bad…

Oh, and that TARDIS set is gorgeous.  Absolutely gorgeous.

Verdict: A good fun but flawed romp, recognisable to fans of the modern series.  McGann is the strongest part of the story, and it is a shame not to see more of him on screen. 7/10

Best Quote: The Doctor: I love humans.  Always seeing patterns in things that aren’t there.

Best Moment: Either the shoes scene, or the regeneration sequence.

Time and the Rani

TimeAndRani

Writers: Pip and Jane Baker

Director: Andrew Morgan

Parts: 4

Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Melanie Bush), Kate O’Mara (The Rani), Mark Greenstreet (Ikona), Wanda Ventham (Faroon), Donald Pickering (Beyus), Karen Clegg (Sarn), Richard Gauntlett (Urak), John Segal (Lanisha)

Synopsis

The Rani takes advantage of a post-regenerative Doctor, the Rani hopes to take control of an asteroid composed of Strange Matter.

Behind the Scenes

Time and the Rani was the first story of the McCoy era, and the final Doctor to be appointed by producer John Nathan-Turner.  Following the show’s cancellation then return in the Trial of a Time Lord series, Doctor Who was in trouble.  The high ups at the BBC insisted that a new Doctor was appointed, making Colin Baker the only Doctor in the history of the show to so far be fired.  There was talk of Baker coming back for a regeneration but he wanted to have a final series, in which he would regenerate at the end.  The BBC refused, and so Sylvester McCoy played the Sixth Doctor in the episode’s opening scene.  Baker would finally get his regeneration story courtesy of Big Finish, almost 29 years after he played the role for the last time on television.

John Nathan-Turner’s appointment of the new Doctor would be more difficult as for the first time, the BBC demanded alternatives to the actor he was proposing.  McCoy passed the screen test against two other actors, and would go on to be cast, but Nathan-Turner was fearful that this act by the BBC would see more interference in the new series, however, his fears proved to be unfounded.  The production of Time and the Rani in particular was affected by the lack of a script editor – Eric Saward had left acrimoniously during the production of Trial of a Time Lord.  Andrew Cartmel would eventually be brought in, but unfortunately too late to affect real change to the script.  Cartmel went on to express disappointment that it was a story that didn’t really mean anything.  The script was affected by the uncertainty regarding whether or not Colin Baker would return, and had eleventh-hour changes made to it when it was clear that it would be an introduction for the Seventh Doctor.  This would be Pip and Jane Baker’s last contribution to Doctor Who on television.

The cast was relatively small for this story.  Bonnie Langford would return as Mel, who had been introduced in Terror of the Vervoids, part-way through the previous series.  Amongst the guest cast were Wanda Ventham, who had previously appeared in The Faceless Ones and Image of the Fendahl, while Donald Pickering had also appeared in The Faceless Ones and The Keys of Marinus.

Review

I will start with the positives.  Firstly, this is a strong directorial debut by Andrew Morgan, who would go on to direct Remembrance of the Daleks, which makes the episode look really great.  My favourite aspect of the direction was the bubble traps, which look fantastic.  Secondly, I also like Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor, despite his more comedic side that we see here.  His propensity to misquote proverbs is really nice and we do see glimpses of his darker, more Machiavellian side here. Thirdly, Kate O’Mara really gives a great performance here as the Rani, especially when impersonating Bonnie Langford, which can’t have been easy for her.  I’m not onboard with the story decision behind her doing it, but she at least gives it her all.

I feel the main problem with this episode is the tone.  The BBC were not keen on the violence that had been prevalent during the Davison and Baker eras, but similarly to the transition between Davison and Baker, I feel the production team made the decision to go too far the other way.  As I said above, I like McCoy’s performance as the Doctor, but there are moments when he is just too clownish.  Some of this is down to the scripting, and part of it must be down to McCoy’s background as a light entertainer, but it makes part really lose any dramatic impact and undermine an already weak story.

doctor_who_bonnie_langford_possibly_about_to_break_out_into_song

Speaking of the story, there are parts that seem to be completely dropped, like the ideas of the Rani kidnapping great minds from the past, such as Einstein, Hypatia and Pasteur, which I almost forgotten had happened until the Doctor was also captured to help the Rani’s plot.  As for Mel, I’m not entirely sure what she does in this story except scream – and her scream is really irritating.  The Lakertyans and the Tetraps are also really just forgettable.  I’m also confused as to why the Rani needs to dress up as Mel when she’s injecting the Doctor with amnesia anyway.  Surely all she needs to do is tell the Doctor that they’re both working on the same side, without having to dress up like her, which just leads to confusion with her own allies, the Tetraps.

On a side note, it is nice to get rid of the Sixth Doctor’s outfit quite quickly, however, I do feel that the question mark pullover is a bit over the top.

doctor-who-time-and-the-rani-costume-scene-new-sixth-doctor-sylvester-mccoy-300x234

Verdict: A poor episode saved by some strong direction and largely decent performances from McCoy and O’Mara.  It is let down by a pretty forgettable story though. 3/10

Best Quote: 

The more I get to know me, the less I like me

Seventh Doctor

Best Moment: Just visually, the bubble traps look beautiful and I love the idea of them.

Next time: The TV Movie!

The Twin Dilemma

colin baker

Writer: Anthony Steven

Director: Peter Moffatt

Parts: 4

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)

Plot Synopsis

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.

Behind the Scenes

The Twin Dilemma is widely believed amongst fans to be the worst episode of Doctor Who ever made and has come bottom of Doctor Who Magazine polls in 2003, 2009 and 2014.  Some quarters, including Russell T Davies, regard this episode as the beginning of the end of the show.  Part of this may be due to the fact that it immediately followed Caves of Androzani, which is often held as one of the best stories.  This is also the first debut story to be broadcast partway through a series since The Power of the Daleks in 1966.

The new Doctor, Colin Baker, had previously appeared in Doctor Who as a Gallifreyan soldier, Maxil, in Arc of Infinity, with his character even shooting Peter Davison’s Doctor in this story.  Baker is widely believed to have got the part of the Doctor due to impressing the producer, John Nathan-Turner, at a party where he appeared to be holding court with a group of people.  Nicola Bryant remained as the companion, Peri Brown, following on from her debut in Planet of Fire.  

The story was written by Anthony Steven, who had a long writing career, spanning back to the 1950s.  This was his only episode for Doctor Who, and by all accounts he struggled to conceive and write this episode, leading to script editor Eric Saward having to hastily rewrite and edit the script.  The story was also beset with usual production problems with industrial action affecting studio shooting.

It is now known that John Nathan-Turner was looking to leave the show following the success of his tenure as producer since taking over in 1979, however, the BBC would not allow him to move on.  From this point onwards, he asked every year to be allowed to leave the show, however, on every occasion, this was refused.

Review

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.”

This is a direct address to the fanbase and really rubs me up the wrong way – I can only imageine how it felt in 1984.

the twin dilemma

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.

doctor-who-the-twin-dilemma-review-jacondans-gastropods-aliens-300x175

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 of one of the best.  The start of the decline that led to the hiatus in 1989.  Sorry Colin! 1/10

 

 

 

 

Reviewed: Castrovalva

fifth doctor

Writer: Christopher H Bidmead

Director: Fiona Cumming

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Anthony Ainley (The Master), Derek Waring, Michael Sheard, Frank Wylie, “Neil Toynay” (The Portreeve)

Plot Summary

The Doctor’s new regeneration has proved more unstable than previously, and looks to recuperate with the help of Tegan and Nyssa.  Meanwhile, Adric has been captured by the Master, who has set a  recursive trap designed to destroy the new Doctor’s mind.

Behind the Scenes

The man who followed Tom Baker into the TARDIS was always going to face a tough task.  Baker had been the Doctor for seven years, through the reigns of three producers: Philip Hinchcliffe, Graham Williams and John Nathan-Turner.  Nathan-Turner had worked on the show on and off since 1969, but began working on the show on a more permanent basis during the reign of his predecessor as production unit manager.  He became producer of the show for Baker’s final series, where he changed a great deal – the costume, the title theme, and the introduction of the question marks on the Doctor’s clothing.

The new Doctor, Peter Davison, had worked with Nathan-Turner on All Creatures Great and Small, and had a growing fame as a result of his role as young tearaway Tristan Farnon.  Davison would be the youngest Doctor to play the role at the time, a record that would stand until the casting of Matt Smith in 2009.  The new Doctor’s TARDIS would include three companions, with Janet Fielding, who had debuted in the previous and Sarah Sutton, who had first appeared in the penultimate Tom Baker episode, The Keeper of Traken, joining Matthew Waterhouse.

The Fifth Doctor’s first story was caught up in production problems as the planned Project Zeta Sigma proved to be unworkable.  This perhaps worked in Davison’s favour, as Castrovalva was the fourth story that went into production and allowed for him to decide on how he was going to play his Doctor.

Castrovalva has a place in the history books as being the first episode to credit the title actor as “The Doctor” rather than “Doctor Who”.  This would continue until the cancellation of the show in 1989, and then would return after The Christmas Invasion, on the insistence of David Tennant.

portreeve

The story would see the Master in disguise again as the Portreeve, and would be credited as Neil Toynay, an anagram of Tony Ainley.  This also marked a change from traditional broadcasts of Doctor Who to twice weekly, away from its traditional Saturday evening broadcast slot. Finally, this marked actor Michael Sheard’s fifth appearance in Doctor Who, having previously appeared in The ArkThe Mind of EvilPyramids of Mars and The Invisible Enemy, and he would go on to appear in Remembrance of the Daleks.

Review

Castrovalva can be split into a story of two halves – the story of trying to find the Zero Room and the story of Castrovalva – which are both plans to unravel the new Doctor’s mind by the Master.  This is something quite unusual in terms of modern episodes featuring the Master, as run times tend to mean he has only has one plan.  Anthony Ainley’s Master here is really quite menacing, especially in the first two parts when he captures Adric.  The makeup on him is also pretty good and the reveal of his disguise as the Portreeve in part 4 is handled really well.

This is also the most turbulent regeneration story that we have seen to date – the Fifth Doctor seems almost completely unhinged and it is his hunt for the Zero Room to help stablise his new body that occupies most of the first two parts of the episode.  We get some fantastic quotes about regeneration in the beginning, especially:

That’s the trouble with regeneration.  You never know what you’re going to get.

The Fifth Doctor

There’s also the symbolism of the new Doctor unravelling the iconic scarf to enable him to find his way back to the console room, which symbolises the unravelling of his mind. We also get Davison revisiting his past incarnations, which is quite good fun and the first time this really happens in the ‘classic’ era of Doctor Who.

In the Fifth Doctor era, there is always a problem of the companions.  Many critics of this part of the show’s history claim that the TARDIS is too full and that many writers do not know what to do with all three companions.  To a certain extent, this is true of Castrovalva, however, I find the use of Adric to be quite creative and Bidmead does do a good job of giving Tegan and Nyssa something to do to help the Doctor’s regeneration along.  This does make sense too, as these are the Doctor’s newest companions, so they should be thrust almost front and centre with the new Doctor. Despite this, it does seem a bit bizarre that Tegan is so doting over a man she barely knows.  Whilst making my notes, I noticed a similarity between the trap the Master has Adric in and Ebony Maw torturing Doctor Strange in Infinity War…or maybe that’s just my mind in geek overdrive.

Adric trap

Another strong aspect of this story is the idea behind the recursion trap, in which Castrovalva folds in on itself to keep the Doctor entrapped.  This does so perfectly encapsulate the idea of Doctor Who dealing with science fact, rather than some of the ludicrous stories that became common in the late Tom Baker era.  All in all, most of Bidmead’s work here is good, despite the two earlier parts being less interesting than the second two parts.

Verdict: A good introduction to the Fifth Doctor, whose post-regenerative trauma leads to quite an interesting story.  7/10

Best Moment: A toss up between the Doctor looking at his new face in the mirror and the moment they realise the nature of Castrovalva’s trap.

Best Quote:

I’m the Doctor.  Or I will be, if this regeneration works out.

The Fifth Doctor