Doctor Who #637: The Twin Dilemma Part 4

"And I would suggest, Peri, that you wait a little before criticising my new persona. You may well find it isn't quite as disagreeable as you think." "Well, I hope so." "Whatever else happens, I am the Doctor, whether you like it or not. "
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.30 1984.

IN THIS ONE... Azmael dies destroying Mestor before the evil bug can blow his eggs all over the universe.

REVIEW: The finale strikes me as a collection of missed opportunities. They make a big thing of the twins' mathematical prowess, but we never learn why the kids must never learn what they really are, or whatever their dad was going on about. There's a long bit about Jacondans trying to run in the TARDIS which likewise never goes anywhere. The plan to keep the two planet-moons a day ahead of Jaconda  so they don't crash into each other is absurd, of course (is this why we needed the odd 10-second delay on the T Mat in Part 1? To get us used to the idea?), but I don't think the physics check out on the idea that this will make their orbits decay and plunge them into the sun. So they're smaller planets than Jaconda. So what? So is Mercury, presumably, and it hasn't made our sun go nova yet. Any ticking clock suspense from this is ignored in favor of a confrontation with the Mestor itself, and it's Azmael who defeats him, not the Doctor, unless you count throwing a bottle of acid at a mindless shell (and here we go again, gross slime moment). Azmael dies with the single memory they wrote for him. And similarly, Lt. Lang decides to stick around literally because they never gave him a back story (honest, that's what he basically says!).

And yet, there are still things to recommend. Mestor is a ridiculous-looking villain, but the way he "burns out" a friendly Jacondan's mind to spy on the heroes is as macabre a reveal as any in the program's history. Lang getting stuck in the slime trail is a silly moment, but humanizes what could have been a one-note, violent character. The Jacondan chamberlain panics because he intuits (rightly) that a collaborator isn't likely to keep his head for very long, and the Doctor's rudeness is definitely appropriate. And to make a wholly personal observation, the Doctor says "I am a Time Lord!", which I just realized is the sample from the remix I use as a theme song for my Doctor Who RPG campaign/series.

But it's the final moment in the TARDIS that's really saves the serial. The Doctor, now "stabilized", explains that he's an alien and not likely to act human. So if he's rude, it's because he doesn't share Peri's values. He gives his ultimatum (quoted above) to Peri as much as to the audience. It's no threat, he says it with a smile, and she can't help it, she smiles too. She's accepted him. Have we? Mestor looks into the Doctor's mind at some point and describes him as a madman, which makes me think maybe the Doctor's always been a little kookoo for Cocoa Puffs. There's a reason he's not like the rest of his people. Sure, this regeneration has made him go too far in some ways, but he himself describes his fifth self as neurotic from trying to suppress Time Lord values and attitudes. The Fourth Doctor was quite bizarre, and what of the Doc11's famous "mad man with a box" line? There's always been madness in the Doctor, and it's what the companions are drawn into. Whether we like it or not. But I think we like it, and though it manifested unpleasantly this time around, it's why we should forgive this Doctor his post-regenerative abuses.

VERSIONS: Script editor Eric Saward wrote the Target novelization and added some odd details, including a description of how regeneration works by triggering a certain hormone, the fact that Azmael apparently gunned down the Time Lords' High Council (what), and the Doctor remembering past companions (most prominently, Adric).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The pay-off is rather weak, but the Doctor has some sweet moments with both Azmael and Peri. The season ends on a high. Just.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The serial poaches liberally from Frontios and is never better than ordinary. A story that introduces a new Doctor should do way better than Medium, but there you go.


LiamKav said...

After my statement that the Sixth Doctor had the best introduction moments, I'm now trying to think who has the best final line of their first story. What can I say, I love specific titles.

Third Doctor: Smith. Doctor John Smith.
Fifth Doctor: Well, whoever I feel like, it's absolutely splendid.
Sixth Doctor: I am the Doctor, whether you like it or not.
Seventh: I'll grow on you, Mel. I'll grow on you.
Eleventh: I am definitely a madman with a box. Goodbye Leadworth, hello everything.

The Sixth Doctor's is pretty good. Hopefully now that the kinks have been sorted out, next season will be...oh.

LiamKav said...

Y'know, looking at those, they are all very appropriate to those various Doctors. The Third was extremely "human" and seemed to not mind living on Earth, so him having a human name makes sense. The Fifth Doctor was splendid. The Seventh did grow on us, even if it took Andrew Cartmel to do so...

Siskoid said...

Great comments as usual Liam, am I to take it that I've hit "your" era of Doctor Who?

The last line of first stories you're missing:
First: Get back to the ship, child. Hold it.
Second: I think we'd better get out of here before they send us the bill.
Fourth: In you go.
Eighth: Oh no, not again.
Ninth: By the way, did I mention it also travels in time?
Tenth: Hmm? (Or if we use the Born Again interstitial: Christmas Eve...!)

I can see why you didn't mention them.

d said...

I 1st saw The Twin Dilemma at a con a few weeks after it was broadcast in the UK and maybe close to a year before it would be shown on PBS in the States. Think it was preceded by a talk about the show by Maggie Thompson for some reason. My excitement before seeing the 1st story of a new Doctor was almost palpable, as was my disappointment after it finished.

LiamKav said...

I don't really have an "era" as such. My family watched it a bit, but I was too young to understand it. I have vague memories of seeing "Battlefield" when I was 9, but that's it. My first exposure was a friend lending me his tape copy of The Five Doctors when I was about 13. My parents then bought me "Destiny of the Daleks" and "The Two Doctors" on VHS. I saw some repeats on UK Gold over the years and read the Discontinuity Guide and the BBC equivalent whose name I can't remember, but it was only around 2006-07 while Tennant was going great guns on TV that I decided to properly get into it, starting with Eccleston. I've since got lots of Classic Who DVDs and I'm watching them with a friend. Some stand up surprisingly well. Some are enjoyable if dated. And some are...urgh.

Coming to it from this angle, I have much more sympathy for Colin Baker than I imagine viewers did at the time.


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