The Two Doctors

The Two Doctors

What’s the use of a good quotation if you can’t change it?

The Sixth Doctor

Synopsis

The Sixth Doctor finds himself teaming up with his Second incarnation to ensure his own existence in the presence.

Review

There is a distinct advance in bringing an experienced Doctor Who veteran in to write a story like this one, and that is that he completely understands the character of the Doctor.  Robert Holmes, who worked on the programme regularly from the late 1960s, is one of the best writers to work on Doctor Who in the show’s history and his experience writing for various incarnations really serves him in good stead here.  That’s not to say this story is perfect, however, as there are other issues at play here.

Holmes’ characterisation, despite the story’s other flaws, is on point.  The version of the Sixth Doctor he presents here is a lot better than most of the other stories in Colin Baker’s first season.  Here, the arrogance and hard edges to this incarnation are still present but they are dealt with much better and he seems a lot more recognisable as being consistent with past incarnations with the Doctor.  Examples of this include his snarking with the homicidal computer onboard the space station and his unwillingness to drop the initial mystery despite Peri’s misgivings.  Combined with a spot-on interpretation of the Second Doctor, and this element really works well.  The idea of having the Doctor converted into a species that he seems to see absolutely no redeeming qualities in is a really interesting idea and something that has never really been explored before or since  The story does have a rather heavy-handed nature when it comes to the writer almost lecturing about the issues surrounding eating meat and this is down to Holmes’ vegetarianism, but they are hardly subtle.  One of the clearest examples of this is the character of Oscar who kills helpless animals for fun but cannot stand the sight of gore.  The story also suffers from the rewrites and Robert Holmes’ lack of interest in Seville as a location is evident – he famously wanted the story to be shot in New Orleans and had a lot of jokes thrown in about the differences between English and American English.  The story does also have a more general issue which is its attitude towards violence, which definitely seems to be down to Eric Saward, but is particularly problematic when it comes to the death of characters like Oscar.

Two Doctors - Dastrai, Jamie, Doctor

It’s also really nice to see Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines back in Doctor Who.  Both actors feel as though they have not been away, despite a gap of nearly twenty years since both played their parts regularly and using the first part of this story effectively reintroducing them works really well.  I really like the reaction shot when the Second Doctor realises that he’s picked up a cucumber rather than a knife in his initial meeting with Shockeye.  This story does also add significant credence to the idea of Season 6B, which is a fan idea to explain some plot holes, such as Jamie and the Doctor openly talking about the Time Lords and the ageing of both actors.  The two returning actors also seem to enjoy great chemistry with both Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant which makes this story more enjoyable, but it is a shame that we don’t get to see these two Doctors spend more time together.  The scenes with both Doctors together really fizzle and it seems clear that both men had great rapport and respect for the other.

Two Doctors Sontaran

Sadly, the story really drags.  The story spends a lot of time with the Sixth Doctor investigating what has happened to his previous incarnation and I really think Peter Moffatt’s direction makes the story feel very flat and lifeless in places.  The classic example of this is the reveal shot of the Sontarans, which seems bizarrely framed.  The Sontarans themselves were included at the instance on John Nathan-Turner, and it is clear that Holmes did not want them there as he seems extremely disinterested in them.  Speaking of the Sontarans, their costumes really let this story down, especially the loose neck collars which make them look less believable.  Chessene’s plot changes halfway through the story, from being obsessed with taking the Doctor’s symbiotic nuclei to unlock the secrets of time travel, to seemingly converting the Doctor into an Androgum for no good reason.

Verdict: The last multi-Doctor story of the Classic era is largely flawed but great fun in some places.  It is probably the story that seems to understand what the production team were going for with the Sixth Doctor, and it is great fun to see Troughton and Hines back.  6/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), John Stratton (Shockeye), Jacqueline Pearce (Chessene), Laurence Payne (Dastari), Aimee Delamain (Dona Arana), James Saxon (Oscar), Carmen Gomez (Anita), Tim Raynham (Varl), Nicholas Fawcett (Technician) & Clinton Greyn (Stike)

Writer: Robert Holmes

Director: Peter Moffatt

Behind the Scenes

  • First appearance of the Sontarans since The Invasion of Time and their last appearance in the Classic series.
  • The first multi-Doctor story not marking an anniversary for the show.
  • Final story directed by Peter Moffatt and the first Sixth Doctor script written by Robert Holmes.
  • Last appearance of Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines.  Troughton was quick to agree to return, having enjoyed returning for The Five Doctors a couple of years previously.  He sadly passed away in 1987.
  • The story was originally set in New Orleans, where the plot involving the Androgums and food tied into the culinary tradition of the city.  However, funding was pulled, and the story was rewritten to be set in Venice, and then in Seville.
  • Jacqueline Pearce was a last-minute replacement for another actress and would go on to play Cardinal Ollistra in the War Doctor and the Eighth Doctor Time War series.
  • The TARDIS console used for the Second Doctor’s TARDIS was the prop used in the first two series of the Davison era as the budget could not accommodate the cost of the rebuilding of the original 1960s console.
  • The first three-part serial since The Planet of Giants and the last to date.

Best Moment

I really like the opening of the first part, where the scene changes slowly from black and white to colour.

Best Quote

Do try and keep out of my way in future and past, there’s a good fellow.  The time continuum should be big enough for both of us.  Just.

The Second Doctor

The Sontaran Experiment

fourth doctor transmat
The Doctor fixes an army of BB-8s.

It’s absolutely typical of Harry.  How anybody in his right mind can fall down a whacking great subsidence like that…

The Fourth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Sarah and Ian arrive on a desolated Earth and discover some shipwrecked astronauts, who are being experimented on by the Sontarans.  Can the Doctor stop Styre’s experiments?

Review

The Sontaran Experiment could be seen as padding between the weighty Ark in Space and Genesis of the Daleks, but to do so would be to do it a disservice.  In fact, it demonstrates the economy with which a Doctor Who story can be told, with no need for padding which can be seen in a lot of earlier stories.  It is well directed and the use of film for this entirely on location story shot on Dartmoor, although the Sontaran robot does look particularly wobbly, even for Doctor Who.

I feel a bit like a Morse message: slightly scrambled.

Harry Sullivan

My biggest problem with the story is probably the fact that the Sontarans need to conduct experiments on an uninhabited Earth, and don’t simply invade straight off the bat.  This element of the story really doesn’t work for me, especially if they have a battle fleet ready to invade, I believe that any warrior race championing themselves as the best soldiers in the galaxy would move in straight away and conduct these experiments later.  However, the experiments carried out on Sarah Jane and the GalSec crew are truly horrifying and give the story some of it’s more memorable moments.  The moment where Harry comes across the astronaut left to die of dehydration by Styre is horrifying, and the fear experiment on Sarah is really shocking. On a slight tangent, I like the fact that Sarah recognises that she has met Sontarans before – it’s a nice moment of continuity that Baker and Martin didn’t need to throw in. All in all, despite the leap that the initial premise of the story requires, the story is good and builds up fear in tension in a much shorter running time than other stories in Baker’s predecessors’ eras.  It is perhaps unfortunate that it falls between two stories widely considered to be the best that this era, and in some cases, the show, in general, has to offer.

styre sarah roth

Rodney Bennett’s direction also helps this story and the fact that this story was shot entirely on location in Dartmoor aids this story as it busts through the claustrophobia of entirely studio-based stories.  The story takes full advantage of this location, doubling up as the site of the abandoned London, and certainly helps the story when Harry starts wandering off.  The image of Styre’s head deflating at the end of the story is really startling and is definitely something that will stick with me for a while after watching this story.  The choreography of the fight scene between Styre and the Doctor (whilst obviously not being Tom Baker) is also pretty spectacular.  Bennett’s direction particularly effective in convincing you that this is a futuristic and abandoned Earth and really aids the story.

The cast here is small but pretty fantastic.  Tom Baker is particularly great, especially in the interrogation with the GalSec astronauts and there is a particularly lovely moment where he believes that he has misplaced the sonic screwdriver, only for Sarah to reveal that she picked it up earlier.

What would I do without you?

The Fourth Doctor

The story also separates the TARDIS team up a bit and allows Harry to do something affecting the plot.  It is Harry who discovers the first of Styre’s sadistic experiments on the astronauts and him who attempts to save Sarah from the psychological torture inflicted on her as well.  I have to say I really like Harry, despite his old fashioned nature, and Ian Marter plays the part really well here.  The GalSec astronauts are all well played, especially Vural and Roth, and I find the idea of the South African accents being a demonstration of the evolution of language through time interesting, as championed here by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.

sarah sontaran experiment

Verdict: A good story which demonstrates how easy it is to tell a compelling Doctor Who story over a relatively short duration for the Classic Era.  It does suffer from being in the middle of two absolutely superb stories.  7/10

Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah-Jane Smith), Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan), Donald Douglas (Vural), Glyn Jones (Krans), Peter Walshe (Erak), Kevin Lindsay (Styre and the Marshal), Peter Rutherford (Roth), Terry Walsh (Zake), Brian Ellis (Prisoner)

Writer: Bob Baker and Dave Martin

Director: Rodney Bennett

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • Whilst this is Tom Baker’s third broadcast story, it was second in the production order.
  • This story is the second to be filmed entirely on location, after Spearhead from Space, and is the first not to feature any studio scenes.  Unlike Spearhead,
  • This is one of ten stories not to feature the TARDIS at all.  Coincidentally, the following story, Genesis of the Daleks also does not feature the TARDIS.
  • During shooting, Tom Baker broke his collarbone.  His scarf was used to cover up the neck brace, and stunt performer Terry Walsh doubled for him in some scenes.
  • Kevin Lindsay returns for the second and final time playing Sontarans.  He played Linx in The Time Warrior but died due to a long-standing heart condition shortly after this.
  • Glyn Jones, who plays Krans, wrote The Space Museum, making him one of five people to write and act in Doctor Who.
  • This is the first two part serial since The Rescue and the last until Black Orchid.

Best Moment

The moment that will stay with me is Styre’s defeat and his head deflating.

Best Quote

Doctor! I thought you were dead.

Not me.  (Holds up a piece of metal) Piece of the synestic locking mechanism from Nerva’s rocket – popped it in my pocket.

Fortuitous.

Foresight.  You never know when these bits and pieces will come in handy.  Never throw anything away Harry.  (Throws it away)  Now, where’s my 500 year diary?  I remember jotting some notes on the Sontarans…It’s a mistake to clutter one’s pockets, Harry.

Harry Sullivan and the Fourth Doctor

Sontaran globe