The Two Doctors
A Fix with Sontarans

Episodes One 9-minute episode Mini me
Dates Feb. 23, 1985

With Colin Baker,
Janet Fielding, Gareth Jenkins.
Written by Eric Saward.
Directed by Marcus Mortimer.

Synopsis: The Sontarans have invaded the TARDIS and only a former companion and a clone of the Doctor can help.


"A just world" by Thomas Cookson 28/3/20

For obvious reasons, this sketch has been deleted from The Two Doctors DVD, which I certainly won't shed any tears over. The only significant thing lost by its erasure is perhaps a last glimpse of Classic Who being a beloved popular show. How optimistic things seemed pre-cancellation, and what a shock the suspension must've been.

Nowadays, the cancellation's seen as something inevitable and deserved. New Who was driven by a fannish desperation to be constantly loved and adored. Doubtless stemming from bitter memories of the cancellation, now seen as the show's fatal price for making itself unlovable. Watching this, you may wonder was that fan consensus wrong? Not only does this sketch demonstrate Doctor Who's expansive light-entertainment reach, but there might've been plenty young Gareths in 1985 who took Colin's Doctor into their hearts.

It makes little sense a ratings lull could justify the axing, after the show's previous popularity. Were that why, how did the show survive The Invisible Enemy or Logopolis? Perhaps because the BBC hoped Williams' tamer approach might make Tom's stories more sellable to Europe, or they'd invested too much into JNT's fresh revamp to end it early.

Doctor Who isn't alone suffering a vindictive executive's sabotage. Quantum Leap suffered its Michael Grade in NBC president Warren Littlefield, who gave it a death-slot during its strongest run. Perhaps it's remarkable this didn't happen to Doctor Who earlier. Or indicative of how 1985's BBC was becoming more depressingly Americanized.

That image of Gareth Jenkins in home-made multi-coloured coat pinpoints how Grade never understood Classic Who's appeal. Grade perhaps never overcame seeing Doctor Who as his most unbeatable opposition when running LWT in the 1970's. Perhaps embittering his disdain toward the show and its audience's failure to appreciate what he considered worthy television.

Grade was native to ITV's rural upper-class dramas. BBC culture was Blue Peter, speaking to treehouse-building savvy youths making their own high society fashions from scissors and cardboard, or Top of the Pops, with teenage girls emulating Bananarama and Strawberry Switchblade's DIY aesthetic. Grade never understood this when he cancelled Doctor Who, and his BBC makeover encouraged a shallow culture where fans were as uncool in schoolyards as kids whose mums were spotted shopping in Oxfam.

It'd be nice believing Grade was equally ignorant of Saville's notorious behaviour when he kept Saville on-air, and axed Doctor Who. Sadly, interviews since prove he'd heard enough to at least suspect Saville's pernicious behaviour. In his mandate to downsize the corporation, he could've axed Saville's show but instead let that reprobate enjoy continued protection, fame and adulation. Colin described meeting Saville as an incredibly cold, unwelcoming experience. Describing Saville as being very territorial about who's show they're on.

Perhaps this prevented it happening again. Even though post-1985 there must've been other fans, writing in, wanting Saville to arrange their short adventures with Colin's Doctor and continue the series as a small feature on his show. Thus, the show's sets and props needn't go wasted. In hindsight we can only be glad the show didn't survive in that form. I'd actually written to Saville, aged 11, requesting my own Who story made where Daleks invade Liverpool. Me and Ace infiltrated their coastal base, blinding a Dalek guard with bubblegum, followed by a hoverbout chase to "The Heat Is On". Not realising Gareth beat me to it, nor how lucky I was to receive no reply.

This TARDIS-bound feature isn't what I would've wanted at 11. Perhaps reflecting the show being increasing seen as a TARDIS-based bad soap rather than an adventure series.

The first few times watching this, I didn't like it. The clash of tones between Colin's and Fielding's eras left me unsure how seriously we're meant to take it, or take Colin's childish chauvinism. It made me wish it were made three years earlier with Davison and Nyssa instead. I naively hoped Tegan being mentally scarred by Resurrection's events would be acknowledged. Instead, once she's back, she acts like nothing's changed and can't wait to resume complaining.

Tegan's at her bitchiest here. But somehow that works. I've slowly come to delight in it. The bickering's as contrived and artificial as ever, yet it somehow brings life to proceedings and stops this feeling like two kid's TV presenters feigning enthusiasm. Thus Tegan's welcome maternal protective instincts concerning Gareth feel beautifully real against a real danger.

Colin has good interplay with Gareth, making this a story that should've left parents finally feeling comfortable inviting his Doctor into their living rooms. Though I could've done without Colin cowering behind the console when Gareth arrives.

Gareth is surprisingly subdued and well-behaved. He appears rather shy. I can't help wondering where's his excitement at being on his favourite show? His performance is pretty null, but then he wasn't an actor. He has very few lines. Perhaps they wanted the story's plot twists to surprise him to get live shock reactions from him.

At best, Colin's Doctor could be an intelligent, morally ambiguous Molotov cocktail, with a bite his fey predecessor lacked. At worst, an infantile, petty chauvinist. But I think this was the Colin story many fans had awaited, giving them the chance they'd always wanted to unequivocally like Colin's Doctor (with his devilment intact). However, it helps if you've not seen Colin's era in a while.

Tegan and Colin get what they perhaps always needed. The right kind of opposition to make them stronger characters. It's nice seeing Colin hold his own against her. Elizabeth Sandifer lamented that Tegan and Peri couldn't somehow have swapped eras and Doctors. How Tegan's stridency ensures her acrimonious dynamic with Colin's at least kept on equal terms, refreshingly free of the abusive undertones regarding Peri.

Making this, in an unfortunate cruel irony, the one Colin story Elizabeth's feminist analysis gave a pass from any objectionable, misogynistic, 'rapey', 'creepy' elements, despite featuring a (yet unexposed) real-life serial abuser.

The plot itself's a basic base under siege. Essentially Earthshock's finale with Sontarans rather than Cybermen. A conventional, nonsense criticism would be that it doesn't explain the Sontarans to casual viewers. But the image of a Sontaran is self-explanatory as a brutish military foe intent on conquest and proving their manhood. However, they're not presented in ways that invite casual viewers' intrigue. They're presented blatantly and overlit. There's no gradual, relentless emergence from the shadows to greater triumphs.

In Earthshock, the seemingly camp, comical Cybermen kept appearing throughout with enough unnerving infrequency to convey an eerie sense of a relentless bad penny that couldn't be vanquished easily, that we're almost luxuriating in. Later imitators just presented the monsters blatantly, floodlit, without any emergence from the shadows.

Here the Sontaran invasion's conveyed by dialogue telling us they're infiltrating the TARDIS. Saward by now complacently trusting some lines by the Doctor to tell us the invaders are a threat needing destroying, or 'noble' and 'misunderstood'. Basically, the Sontarans aren't rendered tantalizing.

But it's short and brisk enough to be more satisfying and entertaining than those more drawn-out monster parades, by cutting to the chase and disallowing Saward's mean-spirited indulgences. Some well-chosen cheap BBC explosions give it effective punctuation, demonstrating that perhaps Earthshock's model works best at 10 minutes' length, without Saward's worst padding.

It's nothing expansive. It never really taxes Eric to outdo himself with anything too original. But it works as an undiluted, snappy Saward concoction. It's comfortable being light family entertainment, with an edge of the Sontarans being believable (by their track record) as a military force that doesn't spare child innocents. The threat to Gareth's life nicely mitigates Colin's resort to the gas, and even his gleefulness at his mini-me's handiwork.

It does Colin's era right enough to reaffirm that something's usually felt unpleasantly wrong. It's essentially the show putting on a good face on a good day, despite in actuality being in a rotten state. Unfortunately, it's largely successful precisely because it's not the kind of storytelling Saward wanted to write for Who. To him, this was probably the very 'pantomime walkdown' he'd always despised.

Basically, amidst Season 21's death, nihilism, misanthropy, it doesn't convey why there's something precious or special about Gareth to make his survival affirming. There are lines about his stellar military future fighting the Sontaran wars, but they jar with how Season 21 treated soldiers as merely contemptible cannon-fodder that Davison's Doctor didn't care about saving.

The only reason Gareth Jenkins doesn't die is because Saward knows he can't get away with going that far. Usually Doctor Who encapsulates the beauty of what still survives. But to Saward, anything less than a total body-count was a pantomime. Doctor Who was challenging because it generally renounced any 'just world' fallacies characterizing most family/kids' television. It's a show where bad things happened to good people (Edward Waterfield, Gharman, Laurence Scarman). Being family television for viewers too aware of world events to believe we live in any 'just world'. Saward's era inhabits a strange limbo between kiddie ethics and more gritty, nihilistic sci-fi. Resultantly, its attitude to its own grimness became crassly infantile.

Saward seemingly wanted to reassert that 'unjust world' view, against JNT's pantomime creep, but instead he achieved the worst of both worlds. Horrific slaughter, alongside the most infantile, despicable 'just world' excuses for why those slaughtered people were bad anyway, undeserving of the Doctor's protection - whether for being body-snatchers, smokers or for fighting back, or Peri's slowness to thank Colin for saving her life. Surviving Saward's arbitrary "just world" criteria usually demanded existing in a state of learned helplessness. Gareth only earns survival by being an uncritical fan.

Did Saward intend this sociopathic tone? Was it just the clash between what he, JNT and Levine wanted the show to be? Test-screen audiences can often demand amendments to make a film fit a 'just world' outlook. Sometimes (Deep Blue Sea) those amendments can be ruthless and vindictive. Perhaps Ian Levine's presence as JNT's singular test-screen audience, a manchild fan always wanting his way, pushed the show further into infantile, skewed 'just world' fallacies. Being made for Gareth Jenkins, an actual child fan, this was very 'just world', but enough to veto Saward's worst instincts. Jenkins survives because this is Doctor Who for a different audience.

It's actually possible to watch this sketch, prior to Saville's arrival, and almost forget the horror of him. Perhaps testament to Who's magic or Colin's reassuring stage presence, able to energetically whisk you away from real-world horrors even when they're literally footsteps away.

Saville's repugnant presence and manner here (Charlie Brooker aptly described seeing him 'like having a spider crawl across your brain') made chilling, unnerving viewing to me even before the revelations. His unnerving, odious invasiveness, and body language suggestive of wandering hands. Especially his downright reptilian advances toward Janet. A customary kiss on her hand shouldn't seem sinister, but there's an undertone of coercion and ensnarement. Like Saville's putting pressure on her to accept it for etiquette's sake or make Janet feel guilty or rude if wishing to escape the slimy gesture. Providing uncomfortable insight into his grooming methodology. The overdue exposure of Saville's crimes and emerging arsenal of horror stories about his every vile deed was important. Unfortunately, it also quickly became an overwhelming distraction from ongoing scandalous injustices concerning our poor, sick and disabled suffering from lethal Tory austerity cuts and ATOS/DWP sanctions. Its victims frequently demonized as scroungers deserving of excessive punishment and indignity, by the same papers milking Savillegate's outrage for all its infoshock power to dampen critical thinking.

Perhaps Savillegate helped sell the lie of our more 'enlightened' age where we 'know better' than those dark days of Saville's 1970's mesmeric popularity. Even whilst zombie capitalism persists to keep the most sadistic, cruel decision-makers in immovable, powerful government positions to cause ever more misery for the vulnerable.

Even in death, his evil outlives him.