Review By Paul Mount, 2.5 out of 5
1985. DOCTOR WHO is in trouble. But this time he’s not just bedevilled by Daleks and surrounded by Cybermen. No, he’s up against two terrible enemies which will prove to be the downfall of this most remarkable of television adventurers; viewer apathy and BBC disinterest. As this tired twenty-second season of DOCTOR WHO rolled around audiences had fallen (to a mere six million which ironically, by today’s standards, would be hailed as a great success and lead to an instant recommission for another season), the series had lost its ability to tell clever, thrilling stories (preferring instead to lose itself in its own long-forgotten history) and its likable new star Colin Baker had been lumbered with an unsympathetic characterisation and a dreadful pantomime costume. It’s hardly surprising that future production of the series was ‘suspended’ during the broadcast of ‘The Two Doctors’.
In truth, ‘The Two Doctors’ has precious little to recommend it. It’s a world away from the witty, inventive dramas the series had been pumping out just a few years earlier. The story, such as it is, involves sixth Doctor Baker embarking on a quest to save his former self (Troughton) who has been captured and imprisoned by rogue Sontarans who want to extract the vital Time Lord gene which makes the race capable of time travel. Throw in some augmented cannibals, sunny Spanish locations and dreary direction and you’re left withTothing of any real substance. Like the tedious overeating scenes featuring salivating Androgum Shockeye (Stratton)and the corrupted second Doc ‘The Two Doctors’ leaves its viewers hungry and unsatisfied, desperate for more fulfilling fare.
Desperate is a word which really sums up ‘The Two Doctors’. Teaming Baker with Troughton really does neither actor any favours. Baker, as the new TARDIS incumbent, is only a handful of stories into his tenure. Reminding viewers of a far superior predecessor effectively torpedoes any chances he has of winning over the show’s remaining audience and Troughton’s currency is diluted somewhat by the arbitrary and unnecessary nature of his reappearance. With ‘The Five Doctors’ fresh in audiences memories ‘The Two Doctors’ exists for no other reason than to get Troughton back on the screen. Admirable in itself, it robs ‘The Two Doctors’ of any sense of occasion; it’s just another story over-reliant on the programme’s own past. It’s another excuse for the general public to switch off because they’re not in on the joke and they really don’t remember much about the show’s history. They watch DOCTOR WHO to be entertained and excited. ‘The Two Doctors’ does neither.
For a show now so obsessed with its own continuity ‘The Two Doctors’ takes dreadful liberties with it. The script has Troughton acting as an agent for the Time Lords and happily wittering on about his own raceo bit rich considering all this backstory was only revealed in his last adventure ‘The War Games.’ It serves only as sloppy storytelling and takes away a little bit of the mystique of the Troughton era. The less said about the sixth Doctor’s violent and murderous tendencies in the story the better ?although I seem to recall this was a bit of a running theme throughout the year, one which lead a well-known Australian fan to dub the series ‘Doctor Hooligan’. Trite maybe, but difficult to argue with. The humanistic, generally pacifistic Doctor of earlier years has been replaced by a brash, gaudy, irritating boor quite happy to shoot people, toss them into pits of acid or, as in ‘The Two Doctors’ snuff their lives out with chlorophyll. The idea may have been to create an edgy, unpredictable character; in fact, it just makes him and his show unlikable and unpleasant to watch.
At three fifty-minute episodes, ‘The Two Doctors’ is long and uninvolving. Peter Moffatt’s direction is famously unsympathetic ?the hitherto-unrevealed bad guys the Sontarans (great villains ruined here by awful rubber masks and shouty performances) are exposed in a long shot ?and Robert Holmes, the show’s best writer, delivers a distinctly under-par script. The performances are flat and unenthusiastic, the special effects grim even by DOCTOR WHO standards. Unless you’re a completist, this is a release to avoid at all costs.
THE DISCS: Even the extras on this two-disc set are disappointing. The forty minute tribute to Robert Holmes is fun, lots of familiar and unfamiliar anecdotes recounted by professionals (rather than fans, which is a relief) serves to remind us how many of this great writer’s stories are already out on DVD and how much better than ‘The Two Doctors’ they all were. There’s too much boring studio and location footage and a nearly-unwatchable feature where Production Assistant Gary Downie wanders around Brighton beach reminiscing about location filming in Spain. Deadly dull, this isn’t even supported by production stills or drawings ?just more clips from the story we’ve just watched. Far more useful would have been a feature on the cancellation crisis which received plenty of media attention at the time and would have been a damn sight more interesting that Downie’s wistful memories. Even the commentary track can’t enliven the story; director Moffatt remembers little about the filming and Colin Baker’s not firing on all cylinders here. The track becomes irritating and unlistenable when Jacqueline ‘Darling!!’ Pearce turns up now and again. The most damning comment about the story itself is that the JIM’LL FIX IT extract ‘A Fix With the Sontarans’ is better than the story because it’s only eight minutes long and not one hundred and fifty. All in all, a shabby and disappointing release.