Doctor Who #646: The Two Doctors Part 3

"When you travel around as much as I do, it's almost inevitable that you'll run into yourself at some point."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.2 1985.

IN THIS ONE... The 2nd Doctor becomes an Androgum and goes to dinner, the 6th controversially kills Shockeye with cyanide.

REVIEW: Is this really the best use of Patrick Troughton? Turning him into an Androgum foodie and sending him, arm in arm with Shockeye, on a restaurant adventure? It's a piece of silliness that turns sour when Oscar gets stabbed by Shockeye over the bill, a needless death (and what were the chances the 2nd Doctor's favorite Seville restaurant is the EXACT one Oscar and Anita work at?), and one played with intense and risible melodrama. If you know me, you know I love a bit of Hamlet (even when the character actually meets a Marlovian fate), but wow, this is overwrought, and coming off what are essentially comedy scenes, it just feels wrong, sadistic. Speaking of sadism and ugly tonal shifts, the Doctor's murder of Shockeye is much more egregious than Varos' infamous acid bath scene. After getting stabbed a little in the thigh, the Doctor runs off, finds Oscar's moth-killing cyanide kit abandoned, prepares the poisonous mixture with a relishing smile on his face, grabs the Androgum from behind and forces the poison in his nose and mouth. The final quip/death pun: "Your just desserts." And later, he says Shockeye has been "moth-balled". Yes, sure, Shockeye had just killed Oscar, so having him die from Oscar's kit is poetic justice, but it's so violent, visceral and ultimately, callous, that it crosses the line when it comes to the Doctor's portrayal. You'll note the other villains die, in true Whovian fashion, from their own actions, even if the Doctor had a hand in it. The sabotage of the time machine means death for Stike and Chessene, but you could argue they'd been warned off enough times. The Doctor IS a killer, but one that uses traps and the villains own power lust against them. This cyanide business - and joking about it - is a far cry from that.

There are other problems as well. The Sontarans, wasted on this story, are poorly-realized creatures. Too tall and lanky to be part of the cloned stock we've encountered before, their masks are almost completely immobile when they speak. Stike survives the coronic acid attack AND the time trap, and starts turning into slime (I find 80s Who's body horror fetish kind of revolting), and then... blows up his spaceship? It's not clear how that happens and just looks like he self-detonates in the yard. Also incomprehensible is the 2nd Doctor's Time Lord DNA reasserting itself after his large meal, no explanation given. The vegetarian vs. carnivore theme is like annoying hammering, with Shockeye saying humans don't feel pain like we (Androgums) do, an echo of what meat producers have said about cattle, and then the Doctor promises a vegetarian lifestyle for himself and Peri. Whatever. I don't think meeting cannibals would put you off meat. The script certainly never proves eating sentients and eating animals is in any way equivalent, there's no real argument there. Maybe the Doctor has been put off meat by his embarrassing Androgum moments, where he's licking his lips at he prospect of eating a stray cat. That might do it. But then, I'd rather that scene never happened. And if we're going to cut footage, how about all the wandering through the streets of Seville? This is the bane of "vacation shows", dreary padding as the heroes, and in this case the villains too, look for the escaped Androgum Doctor. It happened in Paris and Amsterdam too.

It's not all bad, however. When the 2nd Doctor is himself, he's eminently watchable, and while I wouldn't call them fast friends, I like how the two Doctors don't constantly snipe at each other. Perhaps these two "clowns" have too much in common for the kind of contempt 2nd and 3rd had for one another. Their escape from the cellar using a wheelchair to flip over the table with the keys is well worked-out and a neat piece of business. Jamie doesn't have as much to do, sadly, but landing a kiss on Peri (after flirting with Anita in the previous episode) reminds us he was a bit of a player in his day. Of the guest characters, Dastari comes out of it alive and also the best. There's something almost moving about his slow realization that he's created a monster, that for all the mental enhancements made on Chessene, she's still true to her nature. A killer, more cold and calculated than her brethren, but still a killer. He looks away when she turns into a Hammer Horror vampire and starts liking blood off the floor, and turns on her in the end. There's an interesting moments in the streets of Seville when a local woman throws Dastari a rose from a balcony and he immediately walks over to Chessene and gives it to her. It makes me believe Dastari is in love with his chatelaine, a perfect woman he created for himself, and I wish the production had used this idea more overtly.

THEORIES: A small thought - The ease with which Dastari can change a person's species makes me wonder if the Time Lords' connection to the Third Zoners didn't include their buying or stealing such technology to create the chameleon arch.

VERSIONS: The Target novelization leaves out the reference to Victoria, which helps continuity a bit, and the Doctor confesses there's no such thing as a gumblejack. Shockeye writes and sings songs.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - A mess that calls the production's ethics into question (it's okay to stuff cyanide into a man's mouth, but eating meat is wrong?) and a poor use of the characters involved, especially Troughton, the Sontarans and the Sevillians.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - It has its moments, and it's great to see Troughton (and Hynes!) one final time, but the story's tonal shifts are disagreeable and the story fails to make its point.


LiamKav said...

The pro-vegetarianism in this episode reminds me of the "Lisa the Vegetarian" episode of the Simpsons, and I'm not quite sure why. Possibly it's because I feel I'm being lectured at, and if I only understood why eating meat it bad then I wouldn't do it.

Both shows do message television, and they both do messages that I don't necessarily agree with, but both episodes made me feel defensive. I'm curious as to what an actual vegetarian thinks of them.

(Is it worth noting that the Doctor appears to stay vegetarian during both this and his next regeneration?)

Unknown said...

@ LiamKav

I concur with your assignment of the vegetarian element.
The one thing I loved about Colin Baker's Doctor, is the carrot juice! ;)

Siskoid said...

If there ever was a candidate for brightly colored drinks...

Ken Begg said...

They mention several times that a second operation is required to stabilize Doctor 2's transformation into an Androgum. What bothers me is Doctor 6's supposed acquiring of Androgum traits, since Doctor 2 eventually shrugs them off. I guess it's to imply their winning is a close thing, but it just muddles things as far as I'm concerned.

Meanwhile, the Sontaran ship was preset to explode, so that explains Stike's third and final demise. The real problem is that a couple of times Stike says the explosion is designed to kill everyone in the hacienda, implying a far more massive blast radiance than what we get. You'd think Sontarans would have that sort of thing down.

Siskoid said...

Yes, but there's a difference between needing a second operation and magical reversal before our very eyes.

And the Sontaran explosion is missing Stike entering such a craft. That's why it's a puzzling moment despite the dialog about it.


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