The regulars -
Warriors of the Deep written by Johnny Byrne and directed by Pennant Roberts
An English Gentleman: With the odd exception in his first two years this is the season where I really start to buy into the fifth Doctor but going against popular opinion I actually feel there are some serious problems with his characterisation in this particular story. Everybody is always harping on about how the sixth Doctor is such an unthinking bully and the fifth Doctor a lovely pacifist – bollocks to that! He says hello to the staff on the Sea Base by almost creating a nuclear explosion and kicking the shit out of two guards – if that had been Colin there would be much finger wagging and tutting! He then goes on to disguise himself as a guard rather than just saying hello and then point a gun at the Commander! He also has a very odd stance on the Silurian attack on the Sea Base, he suggests that they could have blown the base apart and ‘they certainly have reason to!’ Short term memory loss means that the Doctor thinks that all the Silurians have ever wanted was to create peace with humanity when they tried to wipe us all out with a plague in their first story and then he goes on to have a right hissy fit saying he doesn’t know why he likes the people of our miserable planet so much when the Base staff suggest wiping the Silurians out because they are trying to incite a nuclear war! And then he does just that…murders the whole bally lot of them! But don’t worry because he looks around at the end and says ‘there should have been another way’ so that makes it all right! Never before has the Doctor been so judgemental and used such sledgehammer tactics – he even murders the Myrka rather than knocking it out or just harming it! There’s a tiny scene between Turlough and the Doctor at the beginning, which sees them sizing each other up now that the former has decided to stay, and its far more interesting than anything that happens when Tegan crowbars between them with her almighty attitude problem! ‘Tegan make a wish!’ – Peter Davison (despite the dodgy characterisation) is trying his damdest to make this story work. Basically he is fighting lazy direction, poor effects, a naff musical score, weak guest performers and the fact that he manages to find some moments of charm and general Doctorness shows what an incredible performer he is.
Australian Attitude: Tegan says she doesn’t like walking into rooms that say ‘Radiation: KEEP OUT’ written on the door but I am willing to bet the Doctor and Turlough shoved her inside! All Tegan does for the first two episodes is walk around corridors and she’s okay quite bearable in that time because she isn’t contributing anything to the narrative at all! At one point Tegan is flattened by a mattress, which means there is somebody up there listening to my prayers. My biggest problem is that there is nothing to do with her character anymore – back in season nineteen there was a nice little arc chugging along for her plus she had the two Mara stories that showed her at her best but since Enlightenment it is clear that Tegan is suffering from the Charley Pollard Syndrome which is she has to go because there is nothing else to say about the character but somebody cannot bear to part with her. With nothing else to explore Tegan is just…there. Being stroppy. Maddox holds the gun on Tegan and I was screaming ‘DO IT!’ at the telly!
Shifty Eyes: Such a waste, not giving Turlough anything to do because he is such an interesting character played by an actor who cares about the material. Basically he has taken his melodrama pills in this story and we get the following choice scrotum clenchingly dramatic statements: ‘FACE IT TEGAN, HE’S DROWNED!’, ‘GO TEGAN! SAVE YOURSELF!’, ‘The master control to bulkhead one…WHERE IS IT?’ and my personal favourite ‘The Doctor and Tegan…WHERE ARE THEY?’
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘There should have been another way’ but only because of the irony laced in that statement.
The Good Stuff: I rather like the model work, especially the opening shot and the Gerry Andersonesque Silurian probe. The story as written is great, two opposing nuclear powers with the one we visit expecting an attack with only a work experience lad able to operate the missiles and fire back…so why is it all lacking any atmosphere? I like the idea of the TARDIS entering the forbidden military zone; more stories should start with something juicy like that (but it’s a shame about the proper BBC English voice that warns them to bugger off). The Doctor falling into the water is a great, unexpected stunt. There’s a really good sequence where the guards walk into the TARDIS looking shocked which belongs in a much better story altogether. The Sea Devil face bubbling up with green goo is wonderful; there should have been more gore like that to make this massacre believable.
The Bad Stuff: Deep breath… The Sea Base is lit up like a football pitch and hugely spacious, they should have been clanking, dirty, dripping with lichen and claustrophobic (like the sea fort in The Sea Devils). The boring reveal of the Silurians is a shocking oversight; there are absolutely no attempts to build up any menace. The Silurian underwater sets should have been shot on film because they look like groovy Saturday kids TV sets! Why…do…the…Silurians…walk…and…talk…so…slowly? Nitza Saul is shockingly wooden as Karina and says ‘Don’t throw your career away over this’ with all the passion of a plank of wood. How obvious are Solow and Nilsen as bad guys? The look and act pure villain (and at one point Solow actually turns to the camera and gives an evil look!). Hang on a moment…all Maddox has to do is press a button but the ultimate responsibility is the Commanders? Get a grip lad! At times the Silurian dialogue is barely audible but since they hardly ever say anything worth listening that’s not a huge problem. The simulation nuclear run should have been tightly edited with quick cut shots, exciting music, tense performances but in reality the camera is stationary, there’s no music and the actors all look a bit bored! I’m surprised the Doctor didn’t say ‘Oh look Hexachromite gas! That’ll come in handy in episode four!’ The Silurian suits are way too cumbersome and don’t allow much movement so the actors all walk like they need a dump! Fortunately the Sea Devils walk at a snails pace too so neither of the reptilian races has to hang around waiting for the other as they plod…plod…plod through the Sea Base. There’s a serious case of wobbly wall syndrome at the end of part one! I think he’s supposed to be saluting but Salvix looks like he’s waving as he heads off to attack the Base! Compare and contrast the attack on the Sea Base to the attack on Davros’ prison in Ressurection of the Daleks – in the Eric Saward scripted massacre they are genuinely shitting themselves, terrified of the attackers but in Warriors they just stand there being shot down! It’s abysmally directed! That terrible Myrka head peeking through the double mattresses! The full size creature has to be seen to be truly believed – part panto horse, part seaweed and part Gorn from Star Trek! Why didn’t they rewrite the script to excise the Myrka if it is going to be hurriedly made and look like that? What’s really sad is the Myrka is wandering about killing people and you don’t give a damn – you’re just happy that they don’t have to endure this story any longer! What an unfortunate epitaph for Ingrid Pitt with her ‘judo chop!’ attack on the Myrka! The Myrka lies down so he can catch some rays, bless him. Who’s idea was it to put bubble wrap on the beds in the sleep quarters…how annoying would that be? I’m not kidding – go and watch the sequence where Icthar tells the Doctor ‘twice we offered the hand of friendship’ – it looks like the Sea Devil behind him has fallen asleep standing up! How many steals can you grab at from the Pertwee era – the Silurians and Sea Devils using the plot from Frontier in Space! There’s a whopping great close up on Ichtar’s bum when he dies and you can see his costume zip very clearly! The Commander, easily the most melodramatic thing dies screaming ‘He did it!’
The Shallow Bit: Ooh a soppy wet young Peter Davison! Someone hold my mum back! Oh no – the Sea Devils look like huge bulbous malformed willies in uniforms! I know the lead Sea Devil is called Salvix but through the distortion it sounds awfully like Cervix! What the hell is Tegan wearing? Looks like someone has been sick over her.
Result: ‘There should have been another way’ indeed! Warriors of the Deep is one of Doctor Who’s biggest embarrassments – it’s the sort of story that non-fans can justifiably point at and prove that the show was a shockingly inept pantomime. It is clear from the documentary that nobody was ready to make this and the script should have been shelved until they had the time, resources and right director to bring it to life. Its not even fun in kitsch way like The Chase and Time and the Rani because the whole thing is played (unconvincingly) so straight so there are very few laughs. It’s one of the shows lost opportunities because it is clearly Johnny Byrne’s best script; a dramatic, linear, pacy piece that ends on a very thoughtful note but any subtleties or dynamism is lost on the director who films it with all the excitement nature documentary. Warriors’ Gate and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy were made under similarly strained and rushed circumstances and they are both fantastic – Warriors of the Deep is one of the casualties of the classic series: 2/10
The Awakening written by Eric Pringle and directed by Michael Owen Morris
Open Honest Face: Davison seems a lot more confident in this story that he did in Black Orchid but that’s what three years in the role will do for you. There is something of the angry, slightly jaded hero about him, the one who left the Sea Base littered with corpses in the last story and who would go on to be bullied and pushed about for the rest of the season. Unfortunately throughout this story he is stuck with all the alarming exposition so rather than being able to enjoy the story and its quaint village atmosphere he is stuck explaining away every point to the pointless secondary characters. The one saving grace is his chemistry with Will which is really sweet and shows you just how charismatic and engaging it could have been during the Davison era had they jettisoned Tegan and brought in somebody with a little attraction.
Acidic Aussie: Speaking of Tegan here she is slap bang in the middle of her last season, dragging down practically every story since she left in Time-Flight, adding nothing of any worth and pretty much around because JNT thought she was popular. Lets take a look at the evidence. She whinges in her first scene that they are in the wrong place. Complains about her mistreatment. Hysterical about her Grandfather. Pissed off about her (hideous) handbag. Doesn’t like the carving in the church. Screams at the naff projection. Rants at Sir George. ‘Let me go!’ ‘I wouldn’t dream of putting you to so much trouble!’ ‘I’m not in the mood for playing silly games!’ ‘Thanks for nothing!’ Tegan is just vile. She finally smiles for the first time ten minutes before the end of the story. Frankly she’s only good for a May Queen burning these days.
Alien Spy: Wasted. Again. Turlough is lost amongst a huge cast and is only really actively doing something when he is locked up with Verney. Otherwise he runs about the village, with little dialogue and even less point. I quite like Turlough, his back watching slyness was a welcome touch of reality in the frequently stilted 80’s companions but after his introductory trio of stories he was merely a cipher, Frontios and Planet of Fire excepting. A huge waste of Mark Strickson’s talents.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You speak treason!’ ‘Fluently!’
‘The toast of Little Hodcombe…’
The Good Stuff: The ideas holding the story together are great and I can (almost) see why fans of this story are sold on them alone as they are so quintessentially, gorgeously Doctor Who. An isolated village, war games being enacted, an ominous crack in as church wall unleashing an ancient evil…it sounds like a marvellous story but unfortunately much of this is told through discourse rather than letting the atmosphere of the ideas come to life. The derelict church set is really convincing and I love the little splash of colour in the stained glass window. The sunny English village affords the story a few moments of sublime location filming. Will Chandler is charming, emotive and likable and feels so real, he really shows up the current companions for the vacuous nobodies that they are. The idea of the Malus ‘having a war in him’ is really scary. I have to compliment the lighting, which is stepped in shadows and appropriately moody which is not a compliment you can level at ever 80’s story.
The Bad Stuff: Polly James, the other half of the Liver Birds is as unconvincing and melodramatic in this as Nerys Hughes was persuasive and gentle in Kinda. There isn’t one convincing piece of dialogue in the first TARDIS scene, either in the script or the delivery. Willow bugs me more than many villainous characters because he is such a crawling mincing ham who was willing to attack people, burn Tegan and generally behave abusively and yet at the story’s conclusion they are all shaking hands with him saying ‘No recriminations?’ Get off! He should be arrested for his actions, its typical of this story’s not thinking things through. The cliffhanger features the longest ever ‘Doccctooooooooooorrrrrrrrrr!’ ever, give is a rest Polly! What’s annoying is how you can see how a lot of these scenes could be worked into a longer, more comprehensive and atmospheric story with some real tension and atmosphere. Its almost as though somebody has edited all the exposition scenes together without any of the mood or scene setting. Psychic projections replace plot development and are full of empty tension. One character states that the events here will change the future of mankind but there is no context and no substance for such a grand statement. Frankly it would be more than a little embarrassing if this led to the end of the world. The Malus projections in all their guises are static and unthreatening. Its weird but there is hardly a single scene that doesn’t feel truncated in some way; hardly any of the scenes flow naturally. Why does the Doctor take so many people into the TARDIS at once? And why do none of them have any kind of reaction? Gah – no logic, no character, no drama! What exactly do we know about Sir George, Willow, Jane, Woolsey or Verney at the story’s climax besides their occupation and function to the plot? The cast is so huge that many scenes feature people standing about with no dialogue. The casual explanation that the Malus was a precursor to an invasion is agonisingly lazy. The church explosion is very nice but when did we start preferring tasty special effects over a decent plot?
Result: The Awakening features a rushed plot that desperately needs another half an hour to sort out a lot of its problems. It would allow the plot to breathe, to bleed some atmosphere from the concepts and leave some time for some convincing character development (or simply some characterisation at all). The story pretty much sells itself on its location and the menace of its ideas but there is no substance or texture to the story to hold everything together. It’s basically a lot of running about, a few idle threats and a dozen psychic projections before everybody piles onto the TARDIS and the story is wrapped up in a bow of technobabble and screaming. This is probably the most frustrating Doctor Who story ever because I can see precisely how this could be worked into a truly phenomenal four parter. Some call it economic and pacy, I call it ultimately pointless: 4/10
Frontios written by Christopher H. Bidmead and directed by Ron Jones
TO BE REVIEWED...
Ressurection of the Daleks written by Eric Saward and directed by Matthew Robinson
This story in a nutshell: ‘So they have returned to their creator…like an errant child.’
Fair Fellow: Don’t get me wrong I think there is some superb work done with the fifth Doctor in this story and Peter Davison gives an exceptionally strong performance. What really gets stuck in my teeth is when writers like Paul Cornell enthuse about how pacifist Davison’s Doctor is compared to brutes like Colin Baker’s sixth Doctor. Its bollocks, frankly. In this story the Doctor willingly handles a pistol and shoots a Dalek mutant, he shoves a gun in Davros’ face, he happily clips explosives to a Dalek and then lets off a lethal virus that murders more. Just like in Warriors of the Deep his pacifist values are clearly in dispute and even he realises that he has to change his ways. It just really bugs me when people criticise the sixth Doctor for the same reason – I guess its because he has no problems taking out humanoid enemies whereas number five is a bit of coward in that respect, unable to take out Davros. ‘We have to find it before it tries to kill again’ is a typically melodramatic Eric Saward line that should be awful but Davison is simply gripping, giving these scenes a real seriousness. Something has happened to his character since the massacre on Sea Base Four, he was full of fire in Frontios and displays a similar blazing eyed fury in this story that is a welcome change. The fifth Doctor has grown a pair of balls! Davison does amazing work without saying a word; look at the look of pure hatred when he discovers the corpse of the Colonel and his men. His decision to kill Davros is a real shock but it does make sense if you have seen Genesis of the Daleks (to which the Doctor eludes to here). Robinson allows some astonishing close ups which allows Davison to emote beautifully when the Doctor holds a weapon in Davros’ face and the scarred dictator tells him he is a moral coward. Its not until Tegan turns on him and tells him she is leaving that the Doctor realises what this violence has brought him to. He begs her not to leave this and can barely shake her hand as she walks out of his life. He says he left Gallifrey for similar reasons and he will have to sort himself out. Its very strong characterisation for a Doctor who often gets saddled with a beige personality. What a shame that they should start getting his character right just as he about to depart the series but something is better than nothing.
Mouth on Legs: Unfortunately it is clear from her effect on proceedings that it is long time for Tegan to go. She gets knocked over by a Dalek, spends an episode in bed and then escapes and runs around a bit whilst Turlough is doing all the exciting stuff on the space station. However I never predicted that Tegan would get such an affecting departure scene – it is one of the finest offered up in the classic series. Saward pre-empts her decision with the sequence of the metal detecting nobody being shot in cold blood, the Professor gunned down and the massacre in the warehouse. There is so much death in the second episode that Tegan’s disgusted reaction mirrors the audiences. Surrounded by corpses Tegan declares she is sick of seeing people die and that travelling with the Doctor has stopped being fun. There is no time for a proper teary goodbye because she is out of there very quickly but she does try and come back but the Doctor has already left with his tail tucked between his legs hence her decision to stay on Earth is made for her. I was never the biggest Tegan fan as anybody who has read a fifth Doctor review written by me will attest but if she was written with the amount of care she is during her departure scene we could have had something approaching a real character on our hands. Unfortunately for the last two years she has just been a mouth on legs with little development and I can only welcome the far more interesting Turlough going solo.
Over the Shoulder: Never has that description been more appropriate! Look at Turlough in the background of every scene rolling his eyes about suspiciously. Anyone would think he was the Dalek agent! Unfortunately for the first episode he walks around corridors doing a whole lot of nothing (which is exactly how he spent much of Warriors of the Deep which I recently watched – why waste all the good material on the guest characters when you have perfectly good regulars doing nothing?). He trips over corpses, is beaten up and is sent on a suicide mission – could it be said that Saward might not like the character? One moment that is skipped over but actually shows how ruthless Turlough can be despite the fact that he is living under the pretence of a happy go lucky adventurer is when Mercer asks ‘What about the guards?’ and Turlough replies ‘We kill them…’ Near the end of the story Turlough says ‘best news all day’ about going back to Earth. He’s changed his tune!
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The creatures of Earth have no stomach for judicial murder. They prefer to leave you to rot and die. They call it being humane.’
‘They’ll kill anybody…even if they need them.’
‘Why do they take themselves so seriously?’
‘You’re like a deranged child always talking of killing, revenge and destruction!’
The Good Stuff: The opening scene screams of Saward; gripping, gritty, nasty and violent – it’s an unforgettably brutal rain lashed massacre by the Docks. Rula Lenska puts in a fine performance as the dispassionate, hard as nails station Doctor – she’s a million miles away from a similar character that Ingrid Pitt played far less effectively in Warriors of the Deep. The station sets look fantastic considering the budget restrictions; it looks futuristic, spacious and is lit moodily. Smoking in a Doctor Who story? The TARDIS and Tower Bridge is clash of the icons but perfect for publicity shots! Matthew Robinson’s dynamic direction ensures the attack on the station is pacy and dramatic (imagine if Pennant Roberts or Peter Moffatt were directing this?). What an entrance for the Daleks, blasting through the shield and massacring the crew. There is some face melting nastiness that makes this feel very life and death. Davros looks awesome bathed in blue light and smoke; they really have gone all out to make his return as spectacular as possible. A much-photographed scene, the Doctor pushing the Dalek from the second storey door is pretty damn exciting. Terry Molloy was a superb bit of casting as Davros and he manages to get under the skin of the character like Michael Wisher did, silky voiced and genuinely psychotic. Its great how much things changed come the eighties, I remember Verity Lambert saying she would never have shown the Dalek mutant in its entirety in fear of scaring the crap of the audience and here we have a glistening snot coloured nasty sucking blood from innocent squaddies necks. The whole sequence feels like it belongs in a horror movie and that can only be a good thing as far as I’m concerned. It’s nice that Saward didn’t forget about the Dalek/Movellan war but he cleverly didn’t think to include them either! ‘Why am I so excited? This will be the last thing I ever do…’ – the build up Styles trying to activate the self destruct is really tense and its another very attractive set. Dalek on Dalek action is fecking brilliant; they go up like insane robotic fireworks! I love the Daleks frothing foam from the virus and being unable to speak, it is genuinely disgusting! There’s a brilliant climactic explosion that sees Stein die twice over. It has already been mentioned but I am so shocked it had such an effect on me so I have to say it again – Tegan’s leaving scene is extremely poignant.
The Bad Stuff: What is it about future fashions? Those Thunderbird style hates are up there with the Seeds of Death nappy trousers as embarrassing trends that I hope died out quickly! Its not too much of a problem because the scene is so quickly edited but when the Daleks storm the bridge and massacre the crew it is clear there weren’t enough actors available and they are the very same ones who are trying to kill Davros elsewhere. There are some very funny Salsa dancing deaths! Thos soldiers from the warehouse are duplicated very quickly, aren’t they? The cliffhanger is both ridiculously melodramatic and makes no sense. If Stein was a Dalek agent why was he acting so terrified of the other troopers earlier in the episode when there was nobody to act up to? The Daleks seem to be juggling 101 plans at once and assassinating the High Council is one thread too far. Although than could be considered another step closer to the Time War, showing that they have their sights on Gallifrey. Why does that scientist grab her head as though she is being deafened? What is that all about? ‘I CAN’T STAND THE CONFUSION IN MY MIND!’ – I’m not sure how effective Bewes is in his role but then I was never keen on him in The Likely Lads either. The killing gets out of hand in the last episode when Saward can think of no other way to deal with his spaghetti junction of threads but to cut them all dead. Some of the exterminations are pure panto (one guy goes ‘arghrererearghhhhh!’). The Supreme Dalek popping up at the end should have been excised because it is just more complication.
The Shallow Bit: Tegan has never look more like a hooker. The soldier who is having a fag and attacked by a Dalek mutant is gorgeous.
Result: Yes it is too violent, yes it is too nasty and yes it is too complicated but I still find it ridiculously entertaining. For once the Daleks feel like a terrifyingly violent force that cannot be opposed and Davros makes a very welcome home with Saward setting up some interesting tension between him and his creations. Matthew Robinson’s direction must be praised because he never keeps the camera still and is constantly finding ways of making the action dynamic and looking like the budget was ten times the size. Peter Davison gives another impressive last season performance and the Doctor is pushed further over the edge than ever before. Ressurection of the Daleks is a terrific cowboys and Indians life or death struggle in space and one classic Who’s most effective action stories. Just don’t think about it too much: 8/10
Planet of Fire written by Peter Grimwade and directed by Fiona Cumming
This story in a nutshell: The Master has been cut down to size, Turlough is reminded of home and Peri causes a lot of horny young Doctor Who fans to think very bad thoughts…
Open Honest Face: When the first line out of our heroes mouth is one this laughable (‘Daleks, I sometimes think those mutated misfits…’) you might think we are in for a troubling ride but it is so refreshing to have a fifth Doctor story without Tegan dogging his steps I actually find this one of Peter Davison’s stronger performances. He seems perfectly comfortable with his decision to leave the show and embraces the holiday mood of this piece, kicking back and enjoying the adventure. I love the shot of him sitting by the quayside enjoying a glass of water and taking in the ambience. Peter Davison manages with one look of horror to suggest what a nightmare it is to have the Master on the scene better than Fiona Cumming has managed with a whole episode of dealing with the ham fisted bun vendor! The Doctor seems to have been taken a few counselling lesson as he attacks Kamelion psychologically, using metaphor to cut his link with the Master. The Doctor and Peri are kept apart until the climax of the story but it makes their scenes together worth waiting for. They spark off each other well, she is cheeky with him and he feels more like an old man in a young body than ever. I wouldn’t change the series between Sixie and Peri for anything (their chemistry is awesome) but it might have been interesting if this season had introduced Peri a little earlier so we could explore more stories with this duo. The look on Davison’s face as the Doctor apparently kills the Master is either one of regret or perhaps even the Doctor figures that his old friend has become such an embarrassing parody of his old self and needs to be put down like a sick dog.
Over The Shoulder: Its wonderful to see that Turlough is back at his shiftiest best in his last story, deliberately sabotaging the console and driving some painful feedback into Kamelion (come on, admit you were cheering too). Peter Grimwade eeks out the information about Turlough’s background a bit at a time to keep the viewer guessing. His unusual behaviour in the TARDIS preventing the Doctor receiving a Trion distress signal and the fact that he has been branded with the same symbol as Malkon leads up to the revelation that they were both political prisoners on their planet and brothers. Outshining both Tegan and Adric, Turlough has been the standout companion of the Davison era (Nyssa excepted) and it is great to see him going out in a story that answers questions about his background and provides some nice surprises. There is a terrific moment where the Doctor finally calls Turlough on his secretive nature and tells him in no uncertain terms if he is hiding anything that will aid the Master that their friendship is over. Its direct and perfectly played by both actors and shows that there could have been some real potential with these two travelling alone. That Sarn turns out to be a prison planet for political prisoners on Trion is an unsuspected turn of events and gives Turlough a strong reason to leave the Doctor. Civil war on his planet saw Turlough’s mother killed, his father was on the wrong side and was exiled to Sarn with his younger brother and he was sent to Earth. The mention of the solicitor is a lovely tie in with Mawdryn Undead. I find it so odd that in a three year span where the dynamics between the regulars is so mishandled that all four Davison companions get fantastic leaving scenes – Adric goes in possibly the greatest companion exit ever (how did that happen?), Nyssa’s is tear jerking, Tegan’s is an eye opening reminder of the violence that has crept into the series and finally Turlough gets a gentle, assuming exit that shows that a deep respect has developed between him and the Doctor. Why couldn’t the companions be this well characterised all the time? Ta-ra Turlough, you were a bit of a missed opportunity but by jiminy you had plenty of potential and I’m glad we had a male companion this interesting aboard for a while.
Doppelganger: Poor Kamelion never really had a chance to shine, did he? Not even Dodo suffered the indignity of only appearing in the first and last story (although at least Kamelion had a decent exit scene which Ms Chaplet was denied) and he has apparently been locked away in a completely empty room ever since he joined the TARDIS and plugged into the wall. A couple of issues of Doctor Who Weekly with Frobisher reveal just how much fun you can have with a shape shifting companion and the production teams failiure to do anything interesting with this character is possibly their greatest sin yet. Whether he is a creaky robot, Howard in silver paint or camped up as the Master, Kamelion looks rubbish and spends most of the story having a nervous breakdown. I’m sure his death scene was supposed to be a touching moment at the hands of the Doctor but the viewers can only feel relief that he has been put out of his misery.
Busty Babe: Impulsive, fiery, sexy and resourceful, its easy to see why a whole generation fell in love with Peri (for reasons other than the purely aesthetic). There is a brilliant moment in episode one where Peri and Howard talk about her backpacking across Europe with the oceans crashing away behind them and its like we have crossed genres into an episode of Home and Away and I can just imagine JNT watching these scenes and salivating, rubbing his hands together. Its one of the few times that you get the impression that Peri is an impressionable youth because just a few stories later she would have to grow up very fast and start taking care of the Doctor. I love her little rant when she is stranded on the boat, this is one spoilt brat and no mistake! Peri’s nightmares about Howard leaving her in the dark have led to all sorts of theories that she was abused but surely they wouldn’t have been promoting that sort of thing in Doctor Who? If the last thing Peri’s mother and step father knew was that she was trapped on the boat what on Earth did they think when they went out to get her and she was gone. Check out the Big Finish audio The Reaping by Joseph Lidster to find out – it is a fantastic story and Nicola Bryant plays her homecoming beautifully (plus it fills in loads of gaps with regards to her life back in the States). For a moment I was groaning at Peri screaming and crying in the TARDIS but if I had nearly drowned, found myself on an alien spaceship and watched my stepfather turn into a gangster I might be a little perturbed too. How awesome is she when answering ‘I am the Master!’ with ‘so what? I’m Perpeguilliam Brown and I can shout just as loud as you can!’ It’s a shame that nothing more was made of Peri’s ‘three month vacation’ with the Doctor but she manages to swap her trip to England with some young lads for a trip around time and space (mostly to England anyways…actually for once that isn’t true – Androzani, Titan Three, Jaconda, England, Telos, Varos, England, Space Station Camera, Seville, Karfel, Necros, England, Thoros Beta – three times!) which isn’t bad going. She will soon live to regret that decision.
How Utterly Evil: Its possibly the worst Master reveal of all time (its between this and The Kings Demons) – he giggles his way out of fairy dust and appears to have done a dreadful job of sticking on his fake moustache! ‘You will come with me or you will remain in the TARDIS…dead!’ is just about the funniest line the Master has ever said. You’ve really lost your touch, mate. And a polystyrene block bounces off his head! Was the idea to make the Master look as ridiculous as possible in this story? ‘You will be cremated…alive!’ are the sort of lines that a character spits when he has not only jumped the shark but given the ocean a wide berth too. Add ‘Infinitely superior, as I am to that galactic philanthropist!’ to the list too. Remember when the Master was the epitome of cool during the Pertwee era, puffing on cigars in a chauffeur driven car and tossing out one-liners. Those days are long past. ‘Allow me to introduce the Tissue Compression Eliminator!’ he announces as though advertising the latest toy for Christmas. Why does this fella have to end every sentence on a threat… ‘You escaped from my slave but you will obey me…or die!’ I can’t take him remotely seriously. The only thing that could possibly do to bang the last nail in the coffin is make him tiny and have Peri chase him with her shoe to comedy music. Why exactly is the Master’s TARDIS black? Why would you advertise the fact that you are evil with interior decoration? Isn’t the satanic beard and all in one black jumpsuit enough? Like Kamelion the Master’s death can only be a blessed relief for a character that has become a pantomime villain and it is only down to Peter Davison’s incredible reaction that the moment has any pathos at all. ‘I’ll give you anything in creation!’ he screams, about to burn to a crisp. How exactly? And spare me the thought of the two of them turning out to be brothers – thank goodness that line was never completed. Never fear the Master will be back next year with no explanation as to his survival (except ‘I’m indestructible, the whole universe knows that!’) and this time demeaned even further as he plays second fiddle to a spanking new renegade Time Lord that kicks him in the bollocks when he gets on her nerves.
The Good: Is there a classic story that feels more like Doctor Who on holiday than this? The opening scenes of volcanic landscapes, deep-sea diving and tumultuous oceans really give the story a strong feeling that we are on vacation and the usual leafy England is far away. It gives the show a spectacular look that reminds me just what a sound producer JNT was when it comes to putting money on screen. Who hasn’t dreamed of that scene where the TARDIS lands on a sun kissed beach? The Ursula Andreas shot of Peri being draped on the beach is brilliantly done. I really like the stand off between Peri and the Master with the vertiginous backdrop ensuring that she is in very real danger from his advances. Fiona Cumming gives the location work the care that the studio work is missing and the difference is encapsulated in the Master who is frightening and unrelenting out in the sunshine and camp as Christmas under studio lights. I’m not sure if the end of episode two is so effective because it is so well filmed (the music is great) or simply because after two episodes of the Doctor Who equivalent of ballet dancing something exciting finally happens. It doesn’t last long so enjoy it while it lasts. Once again the location work comes to the rescue in episode four where Cumming manages to stage what genuinely looks like a volcanic eruption. Eye watering heat and smoke curls from the ground as the characters make their way across crispy volcanic sediment and you feel as though the planet could crack open at any minute.
The Bad: It seems quite unfair to pair off Peter Wyngarde (who can deliver his dialogue with a naturalism without any effort at all) with Edward Highmore (who is trying his damdest to give Malkon some credence and failing dismally). Malkon must join the long line of vacant and soppy leaders of alien planets in Doctor Who- he joins the ranks with Queen Thalira from The Monster of Peladon and Vena from Timelash. Dallas Adams has a bit of trouble too but then he is shoehorned into a troubled role of the disapproving stepfather with lines like ‘Dammit Peri!’). Remember when the Doctor thought the idea of letting people into the TARDIS was a terrifying prospect? Clearly he has gotten over that fear in this incarnation since he is happy to let entire crowds visit in Black Orchid, The Awakening and Planet of Fire. I love how in all three of these stories there is no time to deal with anybody’s reaction to this machine that is bigger on the inside than the outside so we get a couple of seconds worth of shocked faces and then the plot moves on. It is such lazy writing (or should that be lazy script editing) its inclusion (which wasn’t needed at all) defies belief. How funny is it watching the Master and Peri play musical hide and seek when they head underground? Does Timanov commit suicide at the end? All we see is him stroll over to the fire whilst everybody is evacuating. It is a disappointingly casual and ambiguous end for a character that has been so dominant throughout.
On the whole I am extremely impressed with the CGI additions (Earthshock, The Invisible Enemy, Destiny of the Daleks and The Invasion of Time all benefit from updated effects) and special editions (the 70 minute Enlightenment is fast paced and visually stunning, Battlefield benefits from shots such as the helicopter coming to and from London, Curse of Fenric has a host of new material and Day of the Daleks is like watching a whole new show) but Planet of Fire is the one exception. Whilst I have the option to watch the originals on all of these stories this is the only one where I will only ever watch the original. Some of the effects are nice but for some bizarre reason the music is almost entirely absent (and it was one of the big strengths of this story), there is a tacked on prologue which is completely unnecessary (and looks really cheap) and a few updated effects do not make this anything to shout home about. In just about every way the original is the better version and it is a rare example of this sort of thing going wrong.
The Shallow Bit: Nicola Bryant is an absolute feast on the eyes, of that we are all aware but I am willing to be nobody expect such blatantly sexist shots with the camera practically going down her knickers and her bra as she prepares to jump into the sea! Add in shots of Mark Strickson’s tight package being unveiled as he dives into the sea and rescues her and the eye watering moment the pair of them fall to the bed in the TARDIS dripping wet and you might just have the most pornographic material in all of Doctor Who. Dallas Adams gets in on the action too and proves to be the hottest step father this side of the Atlantic with his lovely chest on display during his early scenes. For those of you who enjoy the hippy look there is Roskal with his long hair and hairy chest on display and to those who like them boyish feast your eyes on Malkon whose blue eyes and slim body are on display for much of his scenes.
Result: The first episode of Planet of Fire is like nothing we have ever seen before. Its not the writer that is to blame because he was given a shopping list of elements to be included that made the script to unwieldy and as a result Planet of Fire tries to do too many things and winds up being unmemorable. It wants to be an exit story for Turlough with revelations about his background, an introduction story for Peri, a continuation of the Master storyline, a treatise on religion and a science fiction tale about a planet on the brink of disaster. Because none of these plot threads have any time to breathe we get individual scenes that can be very good but the actual story itself is drawn out and anti-climactic. Gorgeous location work and great score help to smooth over some of the rougher edges (unusually for Fiona Cumming the studio work is lacking any realism) and Peter Davison, Mark Strickson and Nicola Bryant all give fine performances. Kamelion always was a joke and its nice of the series to embarrassingly admit it and thanks to his appearances in this era the Master has become a laughing stock too. Planet of Fire is such mish mash of good and bad it is hard to judge, its pretty average all told and its mostly aesthetics and some interplay between the Doctor, Turlough and Peri that keep it afloat: 5/10
The Caves of Androzani written by Robert Holmes and directed by Graeme Harper
Fair Fellow: Doesn’t it make you mad that this is how good the fifth Doctor could have been throughout his tenure? One of my biggest complaints about Davison was that on his less impressive stories he look as though he had just given up, stories such as Terminus, Arc of Infinity, The Kings Demons and Time-Flight (how it pleases me that I have reviewed three of these four!) he walks through like something of a beige blur. Colin Baker, bless his very few stories, at least made every story count because he convinces that there is something truly dramatic happening. Here the fifth Doctor is a fascinating character throughout and Davison gives his most compelling performance in the series. He’s simply extraordinary to watch.
The Doctor is observant, intelligent and not a pain. Did he get a merit badge for tracking when he was in the scouts? ‘Its probably quite harmless’ – hah, not if you want to turn into Colin Baker! Despite his walk through some very dark stories in his final season it still feels wrong for the amiable fifth Doctor to walk into a room and discover a consignment of gas bombs; its like a collision of two worlds, the joyful wandering fifth Doctor and the filth of the universe. He’s sarcastic (‘Well done sir’) but as soon as he is aware of the dangers he becomes fiercely angry and focused. I adore the painful look he gives Peri when she states the obvious. Davison’s blazing eyed protestations give him a lovely glow. He doesn’t find any form of death enticing. Curiosity has always been his downfall and he apologies to Peri for getting her into this mess. There’s a blissful moment of arrogance when Sharaz Jek admits the sight of beauty is so important to him and the Doctor gets right in his face. He is appalled that Jek suggests his intelligence is equal to his own. What a suicidal nutter, he walks in front of an armed android playing the odds. When the Doctor is casually grazed by a bullet it feels serious because of the well built up funereal atmosphere. The torture continues with the Doctor almost having his arms torn from their sockets. The Doctor asks to be left to die. He is always on the periphery of the story, slowly dying, mistaken for a gun runner, a government spy and a presidential mole, never before has carefree wandering felt so dangerous. This is a desperate man on the run trying to save his friend. The Doctor’s insane recklessness crashing the ship into the planet is a deservedly celebrated cliffhanger. Its touching how enemies Sharaz Jek and the Doctor work together to save Peri’s life. His victory is saving his friends life at the cost of his own. It warms your heart that he is comforted by his friends on his deathbed and chills you that the Master turns up just before he changes to taunt him. It’s possibly Colin Baker’s finest minute in the TARDIS where he gets to be witty, charismatic, a total slap in the face.
Busty Babe: Remember what I said about Peri being able to surprise you in a way Ace never could? In Caves of Androzani she is the best companion we have ever had, pivotal to the drama, important to the two lead characters and the reason the Doctor regenerates. It is very odd to see the fifth Doctor getting on so well with his companion, after the abrasiveness of Tegan for nearly three seasons (here’s a hankie if you want to weep) it is thrilling to have somebody who finally compliments him. Some part of me wishes we could have reversed the situation and had Peri throughout the Davison era and Tegan throughout the Baker era. In In a Fox with the Sontarans Tegan compliments the sixth Doctor extremely well and it would have been ripe for comedy and drama. I love Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant together but it does make you think. Sarcasm is not her strong point. She is the first person to ask about the celery in his lapel rather than accepting it as a quirk of eccentric behaviour. Whilst it would become the norm next season it was quite unusual to have a companion lusted after quite so violently and this is probably the best example of how chilling it can be. Jek’s advances truly frighten Peri, he plays with her hair and touches her, it is such intense lust its practically psychological rape. In the later episodes Peri looks really ill and tired – it really is a frightening introduction to the Doctor’s travels. We are treated to the best every companion scream where Peri unleashes her horror at Jek’s features, it is a scream loaded with meaning.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The public want their Spectrox, Morgus…’
‘Do you want to know why? You? With your fair skin and features. D’you want to see the face under here? DO YOU!?’
‘Your excellency’s safety is my soul concern…’
‘Is this death?’
The Good Stuff: The approach to Androzani, the TARDIS landing on the foggy sands, the voiceover, the long shot with the mountains in the distance…this story makes an instant impression. The camera tracks the Doctor and Peri from behind the sand dunes giving a simple dialogue scene a real sense of pace. The Doctor and Peri are both brought to the edge of death by Spectrox which Peri falls into and he touches before they even enter the plot, its such a casual accident moment. Morgus’ direct addresses to the camera are very dramatic. John Normington is perfect for the role, delivering quiet menace and an almost robotic, detached delivery. His is the voice of a schemer who is willing to waste lives in order to stay in power. Death under the red cloth is a military procedure that sees your ashes wrapped in the red cloth of execution and disposed of as per your instructions. Androzani is such a beautifully fleshed out world (Holmes at his best), steeped in politics and violence and the story is pitched at such a serious level it feels like a real place. Milky Spectrox holds back age, it’s a terrifying restorative that acts as a catalyst for war. I love the blink and you’ll miss it solution to the end of part ones cliffhanger as the android slides in behind the Doctor and Peri’s cell. The Doctor and Peri being gunned down in a hail of bullets is the shows best ‘how they fuck are they going to get out of that?’ moment. Morgus is closing plants in the west and opening them in the east and forcing unemployed labour. Poor Ensign Cass is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Has Doctor Who ever been as darkly violent as the scene where Krelper is taken to the edge of a mountainous precipice by knifepoint and forced to swallow a suicide pill? Jek is an unstable psychotic character but is afforded real depth by Christopher Gable who makes this Shakespearean revenge drama something special. Like Enemy of the World this is the story of two men and their pathetic rivalry and all the innocents that are dragged into the wake of their conflict. Morgus’ half-minute silence for the men he had killed tells you everything you need to know about this evil bastard. Robert Glenister’s dual roles are dramatically contrasted; one a cold eyed icily logical android and the other hysterical, half deranged soldier. To show how much Graeme Harper cares about his debut he even manages to coax a decent score out of Roger Limb who poisoned most of season 20. The androids are typical of Androzani’s simplistic yet frightening design. Harper employs some dizzyingly dramatic handheld camerawork and striking silhouetting lighting. The burning android. I’ve always loved doppelganger stories and Androzani goes one better by letting the duplicate not be one of the regulars (I love the super creepy moment where android Salateen stares through the wall at the real Salateen silencing Peri). Morgus shoves the President down a lift shaft after warning him that his life could potentially be in danger – is there no depths this git wont sink to (‘Have the lift engineer shot’). Gable plays Jek’s torment so well you get a real chance to understand his previous existence as a privileged, self-important fellow who mixed with the highest in the land. Scenes of the Doctor dodging bullets amongst the sand dunes are the most exciting action filmed the series gave us; it really feels as though he is on the run for his life. Salateen being blown backwards by bullets is so brutally casual it comes as a total shock. Has a final episode every felt this dramatic and climactic before? Chellak’s reaction to Jek’s face and his death by mud burst do not disappoint, you might need to pause for a moment to get your breath back. Krau Timmin smugly deposing Morgus is the one moment of justice in all this sickness. A bell tolls towards the end of episode four, signalling an important death. Holmes saves the reveal of Jek’s face for the momentous confrontation between him and Morgus, which could only end with both characters reaching a painful end. Returning to the TARDIS has never felt so vital. The regeneration is visually dramatic which is nice after the off screen one in The War Games, the gentle transformation in Planet of Spiders and the spellbinding merging in Logopolis.
The Bad Stuff: The TV remote is really obvious; you can see the volume and brightness symbols! A shame the view outside Morgus’ window looks so flat but I appreciate they were suggesting his status by having him work so far above the city. The Magma creature spoils an otherwise flawlessly realised story.
The Shallow Bit: Poor Peter Davison upstaged in his moment of glory by Nicola Bryant’s pair!
Result: Climaxing the fifth Doctor’s era with style, this is Doctor Who at its most devastating and violent. Caves of Androzani is the most dramatic Doctor Who story to date (including NuWho) and features Robert Holmes’ tightest script with razor sharp characters, a frantic pace, dialogue bristling with confidence and a stunningly satisfying last episode. Graeme Harper makes it his personal mission to make this story as stylish and dynamic as possible and he kicks off his astonishing run of stories with blissfully high production values. The highest praise needs to go to Davison though and he takes hold of this awesome opportunity to show his audience everything he was capable of. He’s astonishingly good. This has been touted as the best Doctor Who story of all time and whilst there are a handful I would say are personal favourites it is so good I can completely buy into its reputation. Another example of how blisteringly good eighties Who could be when it pulled out all the stops: 10/10
The Twin Dilemma written by Anthony Steven and directed by Peter Moffatt
Aristocratic Adventurer: Still the most controversial characterisation of the Doctor ever despites efforts in the new series. The Twin Dilemma’s erratic and violent sixth Doctor should have been an intriguing curio at the beginning of a long reign but instead a dramatically reduced number of stories meant that it resulted in being seen where the show really started to go wrong. That obviously wasn’t the intention and when watched with the hindsight of Sixie’s Big Finish audio adventures it makes a whole lot more sense and he shows the most character growth. This is my long winded way of saying that I don’t object to what was being attempted (in fact after three years of colourlessness I rather welcome it) but what I do object to is the realisation where both the script and the Colin Baker (despite many flourishes of quality) pushed the envelope a little too far. This is going to be a celebration of The Twin Dilemma’s (and the Doctor’s) madness and I will try and find many moments of joy throughout this most lamented of stories.
This time the Doctor can sense the regeneration has been a positive triumph in every fibre of his being! When Peri tries to show him the full horror of his visage he sees nothing but a noble brow, a clear gaze and a face beaming with vast intelligence! His breakdown in the wardrobe room is genuinely very disturbingly played by Colin Baker, switching from horror to dark poetry to maniacal laughter in a few seconds. You genuinely get the sense that this guy could be capable of anything. Whilst her incessant whining can grate on the nerves at times not even Peri deserves to be strangled and it might be a step too far to have the Doctor physically attacking his friends – it turns the TARDIS into a place to fear rather than a place of refuge and that is a very uncomfortable feeling. I admire their bravery for attempting it but it does nothing but harm the introduction of the new Doctor. How can he recover the audiences sympathies after committing such an action? When he realises how scared Peri is of him he suddenly has an epiphany – he is a living peril to the universe and he must become a hermit! Poor Peri has to put up with his insulting, accusatory nature and you want to cheer aloud when she finally turns on him and tells him she never saw anybody who loved themself so much with less reason. When the Doctor started ranting on about sicknesses in the air and troubled vibrations I thought he was losing it again. As soon as he meets up with his old friend and mentor the Doctor finally starts to stabilise and become somebody that we might like to get to know. Ten million million combinations might take even the Doctor a few days to crack. The Doctor hates hit or miss performances – he better watch out because he will be Sylvester McCoy before long. In one of his strops we learn what the Doctor really thinks of himself; old, lacking in vigour, his mind in a turmoil and not knowing if he’s coming or going or being. Come the last episode he is extremely grateful to see Peri alive. I love how he so brazenly strolls into Mestor’s throne room and attempts to kill him, its about as far from the fifth Doctor’s softly softly approach as you can get and very funny. He really enjoys winding the big slug up and after four episode of listening the Gastropod growling it is very refreshing. Colin Baker’s wife was right, Azmael’s death scene really is one of his finest moments in the series. It’s a genuinely touching moment and the final affirmation that the Doctor is back and better than ever.
Busty Babe: Nicola Bryant is phenomenally good in this story and it is often overlooked amongst all of the dreck. Given the erratic tone of the piece more than ever do we need a human presence to see through their eyes and she makes the early TARDIS scenes a haunting experience. Its helped by the fact that despite their characters differences, she and Colin Baker have instant chemistry and try and make the most of their tension with some lovely little touches. Peri really doesn’t fancy shacking up in some utterly comfortless place where she and the Doctor can suffer together for his sins. She is practically his moral compass, having to convince him to save Hugo. Peri sheds real tears when she thinks the Doctor is dead so I guess she has adjusted to him after all. Even the Doctor is baffled by her response.
Hunky Hugo: I really wish JNT had seen the wisdom of keeping Kevin McNally on, Frazer Hines style, when it became so apparent that he shared such fun chemistry with Baker and Bryant. Hugo is sweet to Peri but doesn’t put up with any of the Doctor’s nonsense and holds him at gunpoint whilst he does as he is told. He’s young, strong, fit of limb, he’s confident in his mission, his energies boundless and he’s highly motivated to success! He even has a gun to enforce his will upon others! Hugo tells Peri not to waste her breath on the Doctor and that they will manage without him. With the Doctor’s blessing (and an insult of course) Hugo takes up the mantle of ruling Jaconda. What a shame because its clear that Peri is as sad to see him go as we are.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Nothing but the grinding engines of the universe and the crushing borderm of eternity!’
‘He’ll be as right as rain whatever that means.’
‘I find you unreliable’ ‘So is most currency. Doesn’t stop people spending money wisely.’
‘What were you trying to do? Hard boil it?’
‘In my time I have been threatened by experts and I don’t rate you very highly at all!’
‘I am the Doctor…whether you like it or not!’
Lines You Will Never Forget: ‘Thou craggy knob!’
‘And may my bones rot for obeying it!’
‘Take care not to blow their hearts or minds!’
‘I don’t feel grown up any more!’
‘By heaven Peri I was right!’
‘Now your family will have to starve without your company!’
‘I’m not letting a manic depressive paranoid personality like you shut me up!’
‘What is it?’ ‘The sound of giant slugs…’
‘Its very disconcerting to have a void in the middle of ones mind!’
‘Our genius has been abused!’
The Good: Regeneration is described as a swift, volcanic experience, a violent biological eruption which is probably the most poetic description of the experience ever. The model work is of an extremely high standard throughout. It is so refreshing to get outside after an episode of cheap studio sets and the flaming wreckage of Hugo’s ship is very nicely done. Look at the face of the twin on the left when they first clap eyes on Mestor, it is the very image of ‘look as if you have just shat yourself’ terror – a small moment of enjoyment but I have to take them where I can. Because he is saddled with the twins, Noma and some dreadful sets you might be convinced that Maurice Denham is giving a bad performance but he is an oasis of skill amongst a sea of amateurs. It’s a very understated, touching performance that should be admired as much as the shows faults are laughed at. There is a very funny sequence where the Doctor wants to march on regardless and Peri suggests that there might be terrible danger so he changes his mind and wants to head back and then she wants to keep going because of the kids! The story of Amzael and the fourth Doctor getting drunk together (who else) certainly raises a smile. The danger of the imminently self destructing Titan Three base is sold through the excellent performances alone. People bemoan the ugly location work on Jaconda…but that is rather the point. Slugs are bloody hideous monstrosities and imagine what they could do today with CGI. Moving two planets into a new orbit so you can strip them of their resources is just insane enough to appeal and the Doctor pulls apart the theory quickly enough to show the writer has thought it through. The actual plan to use the exploding sun to blow the eggs across the universe is devilish madness and the most brilliantly b movie-ish plot since The Invisible Enemy (which was also about alien eggs spawning). I like the firwork guns that actually go ‘per-chew!’ Ugh, the melting Mestor is surprisingly effective (especially the grey shot that comes shooting out of his nose!). Amzael sacrificing his life is a great way of his finally trumping Mestor. The horrifying idea of the Doctor leaving at the end with twins leads might have lead to some speculation that they were new companions (Argh! Imagine!) and I like to think of a Big Finish spin off series with the Doctor, Peri and the twins having a whole load of adventures before returning them home! The closing smiles between the Doctor and Peri offer some hope for the future.
The Bad: Starting the story (and the era) with an introduction with Womulus and Wemus, the diabolically acted titular twins is not the most auspicious of starting points. The ‘because mother gave birth to us does that automatically grant her a place in our affections?’ line conjures up Adric style feelings of irritation in seconds. They have horrid bowler haircuts (just like Adric), rubbish geeky tunics (just like Adric), unconvincing actors bringing them to life (just like Adric) and get their jollies by immersing themselves in mathematics (just like…you get the idea). You get the impression that if they both were taken advantage of by a good a woman it would do them the world of good. Just like Adric. Whilst he does prove to be correct Professor Sylvest’s declaration that the twins equations could change events on a massive scale does indeed err on the wrong side of melodrama. Its made worse by the realisation which makes the game look really boring. Thanks to the robotic performances of the Conrad twins you really cant tell any significant difference once they have been hypnotised. A fabulously awful performance that is overlooked because of the twins is Barry Stanton as Noma who is the living embodiment of a slack, camp as Christmas toady. From the Bonnie Langford school of acting he stresses every line of dialogue as though it will be his last. The Jacondan makeup is one of the few things that is universally praised about this story but its actually pretty basic, just some silver paint, horns and feathers. Compounding this shows problems Malcolm Clarke’s music is intrusive and fails to whip up any kind of atmosphere, it just scratches away at the back of every scene like an irritating itch in the back of your mind. I’m not sure which set makes the least impression – the Sylvest household, the police headquarters or Mestor’s throne room. They’re all equally dreadful. I cannot believe they wrapped up elements of the sets in tin foil and plastic sheets – they surely cannot of looked any cheaper than that before? Nothing will quite prepare you for the sight of the pot bellied, boss eyed, hand flapping Mestor sitting in his tacky throne room (complete with the giant frog decked in Christmas tinsel). A more cumbersome, less expressive Doctor Who monster you never did see. Umm…the Doctor has spent the entire episode acting like the villain of the piece so why should we care if Hugo kills him? The location work on Titan Three doesn’t match the image on the scanner in the slightest. I have absolutely no idea if the Doctor’s plan to send them ten seconds into the past and transporting them into the TARDIS makes any sense but he sounds convincing enough so we’ll believe him. Hmm…Hugo just happens to put on the coat which has the power pack to his gun in the pocket. The embolism scene must rank in the upper echelons of most cringeworthy scenes in Doctor Who – watch that guy shake his stuff as his blood boils like a raging stream! ‘Look at the trees!’ the Doctor cries on the Jacondan wilderness which made have had more of an impact if they had bothered to erect more than three stumps in the mud. How stupid to actually show the Gastropods walking! Spare us the thought of a giant slug salivating over Peri’s assets. Its nice that there was slug poison hanging around in the laboratory. How cheap is the revolution on Jaconda, its just a few ‘per-chew’ sounds in the distance!
The Shallow Bit: The costume designer in this episode has a lot to answer for. The Doctor winds up decked out in the most lurid colours for the rest of his era, Peri selects a gingham blouse that would make Doris Day proud, Hugo gets trussed up like a chicken in bacofoil, the twins tunics are the epitome of geek and poor Azmael is forced to wear a white dress! As Peri so succinctly puts it ‘Yuck!’ Hugo is the first of a long line of hotties (especially in his black T shirt and braces) who would be appearing in Doctor Who from now on (other highlights of the Colin Baker era are Jason Connery and Glen Murphy).
Result: The first episode of The Twin Dilemma is the bravest and stupidest single episode of Doctor Who ever produced. When JNT said ‘this is the one I’ll be remembered for’ he was being extremely prophetic. The idea of making the new Doctor a villainous character is fascinating (Avon in Blakes’ 7 is proof it can work) but the realisation (just like practically every aesthetic element of this story) is appalling and really harms Baker’s attempts to settle into the role. After that shock of acid thrown in your face things quickly settle down into something a lot more tolerable from the second episode onwards and whilst there are still a mountain of problems to overcome (primarily the twins and Mestor with a special mention for the uber camp Noma) the performances of Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Kevin McNally and Maurice Denham really sing and provide some great moments. Because of all the drama in the TARDIS the plot only kicks in around episode three but what transpires is a fun b movie style invasion of the universe which you might try and resist but actually becomes quite engaging despite itself. Worst first episode ever? Maybe. Worst story ever? Not even close: 5/10