THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Five Doctors
The Three Doctors
BBC
The Two Doctors

Episodes 3
45 minutes each
One hungry Doctor
Story No# 141
Production Code 6W
Season 22
Dates Feb. 16, 1985 -
Mar. 2, 1985

With Colin Baker, Patrick Troughton,
Nicola Bryant, Frazier Hines.
Written by Robert Holmes. Script-edited by Eric Saward.
Directed by Peter Moffatt. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.

Synopsis: The paths of the second and sixth Doctor cross as alien omnivores plan to steal a secret of the Time Lords with the help of the Sontarans.


Reviews 1-20

An Unabashed Party! by Kevin Guhl 9/12/96

The Three Doctors was a landmark. The Five Doctors was a celebration. The Two Doctors is simply an unabashed party! Where great forces brought together previous meetings of the Doctors. this tale involves the sixth Doctor chasing down his former self (#2) who is being experimented on by Chessene and the Sontarans. As they endeavor to discover the Time Lords' secret of time travel, Doctor #6 races to save his former self from oblivion.

Warning: Don't dwell on the paradox or you won't enjoy the show! The Two Doctors has been criticized for including too much padding. brought on by it's many chase scenes. However, that particular plot works for this intriguing story. Wonderful chaos is abounds: the argumentive Doctors, Jamie and Peri's obvious attraction, boastful villains, great humour and strangest of all, Shockeye and the second Doctor's food hunt!

While many landmarks were achieved in this episode, the most notable (and saddest) is the late Patrick Troughton's final appearence as the Doctor. Although a few more scenes (especially with the sixth Doctor) would have been nice, Troughton is given (and gives) a good send-off, this episode resurfacing the chaos and humour quite evident in his era. Don't be ashamed to watch this episode... you'll have a blast!


A Review by Michael Hickerson 8/4/98

I've never been a fan of stories with multiple Doctors in them. They usually come off as rushed, as the writer tries to cram in as many moments between teh vairous Doctors as possible, often leading to a simplistic plot that fails to hold my attention and gets dry on repeat viewings.

The Two Doctors bucks that trend by being exactly the opposite.

In fact, The Two Doctors tries to make up for the lack of plot in The Five Doctors by having so much plot that it takes at least two or three viewings to get it all straight in your mind.

But, for some odd reason, I like The Two Doctors.

Part of it is nostalgia. Seeing Patrick Troughton don the mantle of the second Doctor for the final time is a treat. Troughton easily slips back into his second Doctor persona to give us a great performance. Indeed, of all the multiple Doctor stories that we've seen, this one feels the most authentic. Part of it I chalk up to the story being written by the late, great Robert Holmes. Holmes had actually written stories for the second Doctor (bad stories, yes, but stories!) and so he has an understanding of the character and how he relates to his companion(s). And it shows here.

But the script also succeeds because it balances this against the Sixth Doctor and Peri. Rarely is the banter so well written as it is here ("Circular logic will only make you dizzy Doctor"). And Colin Baker seems to have really gelled as Doctor in this story. His usual over the top antics are kept under control and allow us to see how good the sixth Doctor could be given a showcase for Baker's talents.

And, once again, the JN-T years give us some great background music. The Sontarin march is one of the better realized musical cues the series has seen and one that gets stuck in my head each time I watch the story. Why, oh why haven't they released this soundtrack on CD?

Alas, there are some negatives.

The biggest one is that it raises a lot of controversy about the exact nature of the series time line. Trying to fit the story into the second Doctor's era with an certainity is like getting oil and water to mix. My response to this complaint is, generally, who cares? It's a fun story.

The other glaring problem is of how little value the scenes filmed in Spain are. Unlike City of Death, where the Parisian atmosphere enhanced the story and gave it a distinctive flavor, the scenes in Seville do nothing. It could easily have been any town anywhere in the world. At some points, it seems as though they are trying to hard to show us Seville or give us the Doctor Who Seville tour that it distracts you from the main action of the story.

But these points really fail to take away from what is otherwise an impressive outing for the sixth Doctor. Adding that it's Troughton's final performance as Doctor only makes it bittersweet.


Close, but no classic by Ari Lipsey 13/4/98

After reading his review of The Ark in Space, I took Leo Vance up on his offer and went back to my videos and plopped one of the episodes he mentioned as a classic. Comparing the two would be an act of futility, as I really like both of them, but I'm not quite sure The Two Doctors is quite deserving of a classic title. To me, a classic episode is one that stands the test of multiple viewings without showing its plot or character weaknesses, something this episode fails in.

My favorite aspect of the episode is, of course, the two Doctors. What makes it more fun on a personal level is that Colin Baker and Pat Troughton are my two favorite Doctors. There's a lot of interplay with them; my favorite scene is when they're shackled together in the basement. And of course there's the Stattenheim Remote Control scene, another gem. The best scene in the serial however, is a scene in the TARDIS with the Sixth Doctor, Jamie, and Peri, displaying that the Sixth Doctor could have perhaps done better with another companion. All the performances are outstanding, Colin Baker outshining the rest with his loud, robust Doctor in full force. And Patrick Troughton makes an excellent Androgum.

The Two Doctors is tremendously flawed in characterization. Take Dastari, for instance. He is first drugged without consent by Chessene, but is then revealed that Dastari had agreed to help Chessene all along. Why did he need to be drugged then? What about Chessene's contingence plan? Why attempt to turn the Doctor into an Androgum? Chessene never explains why she wants to do this. And Shockeye? Chessene shoots him, but he helps her when they meet again. Maybe relations work differently in the Third Zone?

Classic, no but definitely a lot of fun. I'm sure Leo won't agree with me, but I guess that's the whole point of the Ratings Guide.


A Review by Matt Michael 14/5/98

The Two Doctors is a landmark story in Who history. Not only is it the last six-parter (equivalent), but it marks Patrick Troughton's final appearance as the Doctor.

As Season 22's showpiece serial, The Two Doctors, like many stories that season, is a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous. There are many good points -- Robert Holmes's script, as always, is brimming with ideas and filled with wonderful dialogue and characters, from the overblown and pompous Oscar, to the downright nasty Shockeye. The whole production has a glossy and expensive feel to it due, no doubt, to the location filming in Seville.

However there are also many problems with the story. Firstly -- the location filming, while attractive, adds nothing to the story. Previously the location actually added something to the plot -- for example, much of City of Death revolved around the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. Here, however, Seville might as well be Cromer for all that it adds to Holmes's story (although I am sure that this is largely due to the fact that the location was changed from New Orleans -- the gourmet capital of America, to Seville at a late stage).

Another problem lies in the pointless inclusion of the Sontarans -- their presence is never properly explained, and for all that they add to the story they might as well not be there. I also find the script's attitude to food somewhat distatsteful (if you'll pardon the pun) with much unpleasant criticism of meat-eating. Furthermore, in my opinion Troughton does not really get a very good send-off, appearing far too briefly for my liking, and being out of action for much of the story.

It has been said that The Two Doctors is a prime example of JN-T's dot-to-dot approach to plotting: all the right elements are there -- two Doctors, the Sontarans, an exotic location -- however the whole is less than the sum of its parts, not hanging together terribly well. Add to this some uninspired direction and poor design (the Sontaran leader's costume is too big for him!) and you have a story which is entertaining on first viewing, but which fails to impress. Only 7/10 I'm afraid.


A Review by Leo Vance 25/6/98

Robert Holmes is one of Doctor Who's most quixotic writers. A classic like The Talons of Weng-Chiang to a clunker like The Space Pirates to a good-enough like Ark in Space.

This is at the upper end. The cast are mostly good, centreing around Jacqueline Pearce as a well written and well acted Chessene, and the superb performance of Dastari. Clinton Greyn plays Marshal Styke well, and Major Varl is good too. Oscar Botcherby is a superb character, and Anita is well done too.

Colin Baker is at his brilliant best, and Nicola Bryant supports him well. Their dialogue is excellent, and the interplay between Doctor/Peri/Jamie works well. Colin Baker and Patrick Troughton get the best lines, and the strongest character is the Second Doctor.

The effects, direction and lighting are strong, as is the music. The location work in Spain is very well done, and the sets are good.

The Sontaran costumes are perhaps less effective than those in their first stories, but they're certainly better than the Tractators or the Garm from the same period.

All in all, probably not as good as The Sunmakers, but up their with The Deadly Assassin and The Talons of Weng-Chiang (probably better than either). 9.5/10


A Review by Sam Butler 7/1/99

Please forgive my savageness, but I struggle to comprehend how true Doctor Who fans could favourably review almost any of the Colin Baker era disasters, especially the junk Philip Martin offered with Vengeance on Varos and Mindwarp. There was a reason why the show was put on hold for 18 months, after all.

It is with this in mind that I must point out why I was so bitterly disappointed by The Two Doctors. Yes, it had Patrick Troughton and Frazier Hines, yes it had Jacqueline Pearce as a crafty villainess, yes it had interesting and diverse locations, yes it had Sontarans... but it had also had a repulsive sub-plot involving cannibalism which would make Bill Hartnell roll around in his grave, it completely wasted the Second Doctor and Jamie to the point that they were almost superfluous, and, of course, it had the hero and heroine of this tragic season, neither of whom I could ever enjoy or root for.

What was Robert Holmes thinking? Nine years previous to this, His Talons was arguably the best story of the best season of the show, yet here he relegates poor Patrick Troughton to an extension of his unwatchable Shockeye debacle, while Frazier Hines, like Peri, is there for decoration with no sense of character motivation or necessity to the story. Forgetting, of course, the impossible nature of the plot, (i.e Jamie learns here that the Doctor is a Time Lord, but in The War Games, he and Zoe had never heard of this term) I was so disappointed that Holmes, who'd written good stories for all but two of the Doctors (he didn't write one for Hartnell, and The Caves of Androzani was just as unforgivable as this offering), didn't attempt any kind of meaningful and thought-provoking interaction between the two Doctors, or instill any sentiment or nostalgia with Troughton's final appearance.

This story had all the elements of a classic Who tale, yet as with almost all Colin Baker stories, it gradually degenerated into a jumbled, poor-taste, anti-climatic waste of time and effort. Troughton and Hines' presence only served to remind us how great the show once was and how, until Ace came along, it was only destined to get worse ever since Peri and Doctor number 6 first appeared. 4.5/10


Confused Flavours by Mike Morris Updated14/9/05 Originally 23/6/99

The Two Doctors is a story that seems to crystallise and define an era - in this case the era is what's often called the "Saward era", and doesn't quite extend the full tenure of Saward's script editorship. Rather, it's largely a reference to Season 21 and 22 - a time when Doctor Who was dark, dangerous and uncomfortable, when the light-hearted idealist Doctor was ground down to extinction by a cold, frightening universe, and was replaced by a new Doctor more suited for the world he was in.

The reason The Two Doctors symbolises this so well - more so than, say, The Caves of Androzani or Revelation of the Daleks - is that it displays the flaws and weaknesses of the era as well the strengths. Revelation of the Daleks, really, is too good to represent Season 22. It's what Season 22 wanted to be. The Two Doctors is what Season 22 actually was.

And as a story, what traits does it display? Quite a few. It's an ambitious project that piles a lot into the mix. It's dark, dangerous, uncomfortable, violent; continuity-obsessed, contrived, overworked; thoughtful, didactic; cynical, manipulative, hollow, confused.

I should clarify my position, perhaps. I think The Two Doctors is a poor story, and every time I watch it I find it poorer still. Viewing it before writing this review was a painful, dull experience and it seemed to me to be a far worse story than I had remembered. And yet it's easy to see how many good intentions were involved in the story's creation; how many good points it has; how close it is to being a cracker; how enormously frustrating it is that it's not.

The largely positive reviews on this page are something I find... puzzling. Talk of this being one of the best scripts ever seems, to me, to be utterly bizarre. This isn't because of any deep 'n' intellectual objections to the story - it's because of the most basic one of all, which is that it utterly fails to entertain me. Talk of it being a fun romp ignores the fact that it's a: rather dull and b: not much fun at all. Talk of it being something disturbing and dark looks beyond what also seems pretty obvious, which is that it's, um, sort of trying to be a fun runaround.

Which is actually the story's main problem. The Discontinuity Guides opinion of the story was the wonderfully vague statement that "the whole tone of the thing is wrong" - which, despite the lack of precision, is the nub of the matter. Putting it simply, The Two Doctors has no idea what it wants to be. Its attempts to be a thought-provoking investigation of meat-eating (and, on wider basis, a graphic depiction of the animal side of human nature) are completely messed up by the inclusion of stylised, artificial characters like Oscar Botcherby, Shockeye and the Doctor himself - as well as a gaudy production and comedy-lead portrayals by Baker and Troughton. Meanwhile, The Discontinuity Guide's other observation - "beneath the tasteless surface it's almost a fun runaround" - is similarly vague-but-right. It brings back the Second Doctor and Jamie, as well as the Sontarans, and uses Seville as a location, suggesting a holiday-reunion romp, a la City of Death. However, the subject matter is so damn dark that it just can't function in that way. It's not that the surface is tasteless as such, but the "fun runaround" attempts make it seem tasteless.

This is part of the problem that ran through Season 22 generally, really. Eric had a vague notion of what he wanted to do with the show - make it dangerous, make it dark - but that premise isn't really refined enough. The directors didn't get it, usually, with one obvious exception (well hello there Mr Harper); Season 22 is notoriously bright and over-coloured, and the attempts at realism are stymied by other gimmicks that go in a completely different direction - Peri's leotards, for example.

The direction is actually a big part of the problem with The Two Doctors. Had Graeme Harper got his hands on this, it really might have been the story it should be. But instead it's Peter "I didn't understand the script" Moffat, who's having a bad day even by his low standards. The direction is shockingly, incredibly, staggeringly incompetent, inappropriate and flat. The long-shot revelation of the Sontarans is the most-cited error, but not actually the worst. Shockeye's biting into a rat, for example, should be shot in close-up, showing him tearing the flesh apart. Instead it happens in the background, and becomes rather offensive simply because it's so blase Chessene's licking of the Doctor's blood is similarly muffed up - it should be something fast, disturbing, lots of cuts, lots of close-ups as we see this woman surrendering to her suppressed instincts. But it's a dreary long-shot that seems to deliberately disguise the moment (possibly due to fears of censorship).

Revelation of the Daleks is the obvious comparison. It's far more violent and graphic. But it works, because it goes for it full-blooded; when the script tries to be shocking, the story really does shock. Lilt's interrogation of Grigory, for example - the violent way he force-feeds him his drink, the screaming of Natasha in the background, the stinging music. It's saying something. Whereas in The Two Doctors, the nasty scenes just sort of happen. Because of that, they don't seem to be there for any reason; they don't seem considered. Hence "tasteless".

Much of the story is bland in other ways. Laurence Payne's anaemic performance as Dastari is an obvious example; he doesn't seem to have any sort of idea who the character is, and Dastari should really be fascinating. And I'm going completely against the crowd here, but I don't think John Stratton is particularly good as Shockeye either. He's far too posh in the role and delivers his dialogue in a theatrical, almost pompous way; Shockeye for me never comes across as the pure creature of desire he's supposed to be. I'd prefer something in the mould of Bostock - someone really dirty and repellent. Shockeye to me seems like a lecherous old granddad who's drunk too much brandy and says rude things to shock people at weddings. He's not helped by the fact that the Androgum make-up is truly dreadful; the orange hair looks like a silly novelty-wig and the eyebrows are particularly fake-looking. As Rob Matthews notes in his review, Patrick Troughton has a very frightening face and turning him into a monster should work. But he just looks like a bloke going to a fancy-dress party. The Androgums don't look like subhuman aliens, they look like (at best) eccentrically ugly humans. The script's reference to their "heavy features" suggest that they were intended to look almost simian, something along the lines of Nimrod from Ghost Light, and they should have done.

Speaking of the Androgums, Rob Matthews has already highlighted a point which I find the most oppressive of the story - namely, the notion of Androgums as an irretrievably base underclass. It's worth remembering that Androgums aren't conditioned, programmed creatures like Daleks; they''re a naturally occurring species. The Doctor is appalled at the notion of these creatures being enhanced, in such a way that suggests that Nasty Androgums remain Nasty Androgums, no matter how intelligent they are. This is bloody unpleasant; it goes against one of Doctor Who's more important themes, which is that we shouldn't judge species by our own standards, that diversity is something to be celebrated, that anyone can really achieve anything. Instead it suggests that basic characteristics are something genetic and species can't change or grow. To put it in perspective, imagine if the Androgums were black kitchen servants or, to be a bit more topical, shifty-looking types from the Middle-East. Imagine the Doctor arguing that you can never truly civilise an Arab because he'll still be an Arab. Not too pretty is it? The fault is partially the script (it could be that the Doctor's objection is the artificial augmentation of an Androgum, that a species has to earn their intelligence - but if so it's nowhere near clear enough) and partially the production (if the Androgums were genuinely simian and savage-looking, it would be obvious to a viewer that Chessene's augmentation is unnatural and her morality therefore more fragile). Either way it leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

The script itself is serviceable but has ropey bits. It's very, very wordy, particularly in Part One. I must say that I always thought Part One of this story was pretty good, but watching it again left me struggling to work out where this impression had come from. The Sontaran assault on the space-station is well-handled, and the early Second Doctor scenes are fun; but the rest is ditchwater-dull. Rob Matthews notes that you almost don't want Colin and Nicola to show up, and I couldn't agree enough. The Troughton/Hines chemistry is so much fun that it shows up how damn tedious the Baker/Bryant bitchfest really is. The Doctor's fit is another example of the production being nothing like dark enough - we should have had something really disturbing, not a comedy pratfall. There's a needless reliance on coincidence when the Doctor elects to visit Dastari for no particular reason. Meanwhile, the exploration of the Space Station is endlessly boring. There are nowhere near enough dead bodies or devastation, and there's an interesting Signal from Fred when the Doctor notes the machine's "limited repertoire". So much conversation goes nowhere - the Doctor frets and frets about a temporal embolism and all life in the universe coming to an end, then just finds out he's wrong and forgets about it, which is the best example. But what about all those asides, those mind-numbing descriptions of insulated carpet (no, really) and Burberry's noose. They don't do anything. They don't tell us anything. They feel like the padding they are.

Then it's off to Spain, and things actually get worse. Quite a trick, you might say. And you'd be right. Leaving aside the premise - "Tune in for this week's thrilling instalment, when Chessene and Dastari consider performing an operation on the Doctor so that they can prime their Briode Nebuliser with the necessary Rassilon Imprimature and create a fully-functioning time machine," well that sounds unmissable - so much potentially good stuff here just doesn't work. We never get to feel the sheer horror of the possibility that the Doctor is actually going to be sliced up on a table by his former friend. The production just doesn't push that hard enough. Dastari's implements are on a goddam tea trolley. The Doctor is strapped to a plain old hospital bed. And then Chessene changes her mind about the whole thing because... er, because... because something. She just does. And I still don't know why she keeps the Sontarans hanging around, or why they've relocated to a highly-populated planet instead of a nice deserted one, or why they would perform the operation on the Doctor and then sod off and leave him completely unguarded, or why why why Delilah. There are some great little moments - Oscar's little story about his father the air-raid warden is wonderful - but there's just no impetus to any of it. It seems to go on and on with things happening at random, but sheesh, I just don't care. About any of it. Any of it at all. I mean, watch the story and see how long we have to put up with the Doctor and his bunch of mates tiptoeing around a house. Ages and ages, and more ages. And an era. And an epoch or two. Then there's Peri going in and making up her cover story... it all feels like filling out time. I felt like a God of Ragnarok, really - "Something had better happen soon..."

When it does, it's more wasted potential. The Shockeye/Second Doctor jaunt has the potential to be utterly brilliant, but the story yet again wimps out of all the inherent darkness there. The contrived, cynical, hollow death of Oscar is a horrible moment - and not horrible as it should be, but horrible because it's so crass and manipulative, so by-the-numbers, so meaningless. Funnily enough, and as a worthy argument against the "random death" line that people take when justifying that scene, there's a genuine moment of random death that's sensationally muffed when the Second Doctor and Oscar hijack a truck and kill the driver. Why no close ups? Why no shot of the Doctor's leering, subhuman face from the truck driver's point of view? Similarly, the Sixth Doctor's descent into savagery is so sanitised it becomes bad comedy - the "more than one way to cook a cat" scene is very silly indeed - when really, this would have been a good time for Colin to go nuts. I mean really nuts. I mean try-to-strangle-Peri nuts. But he doesn't, and it all gets sorted out, and the story winds up exactly where it was - and that's what makes it so nasty, really, because in storytelling terms it's not for anything. It feels like death and violence to fill out some time, because there's not enough plot here for what's basically a six-parter in the old money.

There are occasional scenes where The Two Doctors threatens to be the story it wants to be. One of them is Shockeye's death scene and the chase leading up to it - "the blood is warm and salt, Time Lord! I know how near you are!", that really does feel dangerous and is one of the most tensely effective scenes of the season - but the overwhelming majority of the scenes lack any sort of drive. Even scenes that would be memorable in the hands of an even vaguely competent director fail. Shockeye tenderises Jamie... with a silly looking plastic thing. It should be terrifying, but it looks stupid.

Oh yeah, there's Sontarans in it as well. An addition at JNT's bequest, I believe, and they do feel tacked on. Holmes actually writes for them beautifully - the perfect blend of pompous soldier and football hooligan - but then sabotages this work by having Chessene and Dastari treat them as idiots. Even that might be okay if they felt dangerous but they don't. The costumes are so fake-looking it's not true; bizarre, given that ten years ago they were perfect. And again, the scenes just don't carry enough menace. When Varl says "Sontarans lead, we never follow," it should be a chilling reminder that these monsters are lethal killers. But it comes across like impotent bluster. And that's the problem with the Sontarans here, they just seem crap at everything. After the initial space station attack (where they're kept unseen, presumably for the shock revelation that... oh no, that never happened did it?), they just don't do anything right. Can you really be scared of any monster who everyone treats like imbeciles?

Good stuff? Well, I love the use of the Time Lords. They're wonderfully present here, an oppressive bunch who overshadow the whole universe. In spite of the terribly dull realisation in The Trial of a Time Lord, one thing this period of the show does really well is establish the Time Lords as an active part of the universe, controlling everything from behind the scenes, known by every race and constantly watching and regulating the universe. It makes the universe seem claustrophobic, and works wonderfully well (notice how often the Doctor is referred to as "Time Lord" as well - as if it's the most important thing). The other positive is big Colin, who seems to have settled in the role somewhat and gives one of his best performances (in spite of a whole heap of know-it-all dialogue that seems calculated to make him as irritating as possible). Oh, and Anita. She's lovely she is. But really, this is a story that fails on just about every conceivable level. Even the location footage is remarkably uninspired. We don't see much of Seville at all, and the surrounding countryside is featureless. The overall feeling I got was that it wimps out of just about every dark idea it has - just look at how there's initially a disturbing subtext with Jamie's regression to savagery, but then he just wakes up, has a bath, and is all better.

Jonathan Hili's peerless review of Season 22 is a good point of reference. He refers to the show relying on gruesome imagery more so in the past, and cites a number of scenes in Revelation of the Daleks that work brilliantly. He's absolutely right... about Revelation, which as I say is what Season 22 wanted to be. But here the story notably avoids the most gruesome of the images on offer, and nervously sidesteps anything too visceral. And so, rather than me disliking it because it's violent and grotesque, my objection is that it's not violent and grotesque enough. In fact, for most of its length, it's not violent or grotesque, or fun or funny or exciting or thoughtful or anything at all. I'm reminded of the shot of the Sontaran leg - I honestly have no idea what that's supposed to be. Blackly comic? Visceral? Shocking? It's none of those things... it's just sort of there. Like the story itself.

And in that flat plodding climate, the dark grotesque elements seem to be completely without meaning. Because they're without meaning, they seem gratuitous. And so we get back to where The Discontinuity Guide started. The tone is all wrong.

And that's The Two Doctors then. It should be great, but it manages to be both boring and offensive. When I stuck it in the DVD player I really wasn't expecting to dislike it as much as I did, but it was a real struggle to watch and in Oscar's death has The Single Most Wrong Scene In Doctor Who Ever. What more can I say? Don't let the "by Robert Holmes" bit fool you - focus on the "directed by Peter Moffat" instead (for if anyone should ship most of the blame for this mess, it's him). The Two Doctors is just dreadful.


A Rare Treat by Greg Cook 5/4/00

In The Two Doctors, Colin Baker takes the coat off for a very long time; that fact alone recommends the episode.

Seriously, The Two Doctors, perhaps the strongest of the 6th Doctor stories, has long been overlooked and underrated by fans, but I think it’s something special. What's so great about it? Here goes:

Other great moments:

In a fun reference to The Sontaran Experiment, the Second Doctor challenges Stike to a dual, with amusing results.

The Sixth Doctor knows that the location of his other self has something to do with getting his hair cut.

Dastari coldly walks away from the girl who drops him a flower -- indication enough that he is a terrible man who must have an unhappy death before the episode ends.

There's some foreshadowing when the Doctor shows touching belief in the Time Lords' goodness; his faith will undergo terrible changes in the next season.

Jamie takes great relish in giving Peri a kiss, compensating for an earlier scene where he was snubbed.

The list goes on. The Two Doctors manages to create a few memorable characters, give the regular cast much to do, avoid padding, have some wonderful jokes, and even add to Doctor Who mythology. And as for those fans who hate the episode because of the continuity problems -- well, write a Past Doctor story to explain it all. For me, this story represents the best of the Colin Baker years, one of the rare good stories for a great Doctor.


A Review by Daniel Spelner 16/4/00

Just imagine a production incorporating a foreign location, the return of the Sontarans, the teaming up of a past Doctor and assistant - namely Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines (Jamie) and all written by Robert Holmes!! Well if there was ever a story with those ingredients it would, most emphatically, be an unparalleled Dr Who serial. Er, not when you're talking about making it in the Colin Baker era. Let us first deal with the script. There were a lot of rewrites due to the changing of locations and Holmes disliked tinkering with presumed finished scripts, further, he never appreciated six parters (which this was the equivalent to). The other main problem was the lethargic, torpid direction from, uncharacteristically, Peter Moffatt. Still, the show does have some wonderful Holmes characters, especially the crude, rustic Shockeye played with relish by John Stratton, and the militaristic, brusque Sontaran played superbly by Clinton Greyn. And Patrick Troughton's pixyish Doctor eclipses that of Colin Baker's entirely.


Shock? Aye! by Rob Matthews 26/4/00

It's hard to decide whether or not I like this story. It certainly kept me glued to the screen, and it's one of the boldest in the show's history. It plucked the second Doctor out of his timestream of monster-filled but basically innocent adventures and turned him into a near-cannibalistic fiend. His and Jamie's appearance here certainly help demonstrate how much the show had changed since 'the good old days', and the story was probably one of those most responsible for its near-cancellation (and then it's degeneration for the next couple of seasons).

For me, there is a lot to like. For starters, the Androgums are one of the show's most genuinely frightening creations. The scene in which Shockeye chases Peri is as terrifying as any such scene in a slasher movie. When Chessene suggests that he show her the kitchen, I still find myself tensing up and thinking 'No! Run! Run!' You may frown at the very idea that Who should be compared to visceral horror flicks at all, but I find it hard to square this reluctance with the beloved notion Doctor Who fans (British ones, at least) have about 'watching from behind the sofa'. Kids will most likely laugh at the crappy-looking Sontarans, but not at Shockeye. It is also partly due to his presence that Chessene makes such a chilling villain. We are aware all the time of her true vile nature because Shockeye is always hovering around in the background as a reminder. Her sophistication and great intelligence remain at the service of her selfish appetites and depravity. She is a genius, but lacking in self-knowledge, empathy, or objectivity.

I think most of us know from the beginning that Chessene will finally turn against Dastari. No scriptwriter worth his salt would let a dramatic irony like that slip by. But we don't know when or how she will do it, so tension is sustained throughout.

The story is one of many from this era in which Gallifrey and the Timelords have a large presence in the script. This, incidentally, is an interesting thing to note about the development of the show's internal logic. For a long time the Doctor's Tardis was merely a device (literally, a plot device) for taking him from one adventure to another. I guess what JNT and Eric Saward realised was that the craft which allowed the Doctor to participate in these adventures could also alter their course. Any lame old plan that some villain had to wipe out the tribe of whatever would surely be superceded once they got wind of a time/space machine in the area. For Davros in Resurrection, for the Cybermen in Attack, and for the scientists in Two Doctors, the Tardis itself is hot property. I suppose critics would call this a sign of the show disappearing up its own arsehole. I just think of it as following a stream of thought to its natural conclusion, whatever that may turn out to be. And I personally think the saga of the Timelords is anyway one of the best things about the show, so I liked the titbits about the symbiotic nucleus, and the depiction of Gallifrey's somewhat underhand unofficial intervention.

It's also great to see Troughton and Hines step so effortlessly back into their roles in the opening scenes. Massive continuity haemorrhages and ageing aside, their rapport and the comedy timing of "They'd all be scrambling around asking for my autograph" makes you wish that the sixth Dr and Peri didn't have to turn up.

However, I have to say that Troughton's out-of-character culinary excursion with Shockeye is another of the hilights of the story. It's bizarre and chilling and, most importantly, makes full use of Troughton's potentially frightening face. We see him as the good old Doctor we remember, and in a proper story rather than an anniversary celebration, but he also gets to do something truly different. It's disturbing, but that's no bad thing. The story was originally intended to feature Richard Hurdnall as the first Doctor, and while it wouldn't be right to say I'm glad he died, I'd rather see the real second Doctor than someone who can never be more than a stand-in for the first. Presumably the story was going to take place before he and Susan took their fateful trip to Totters Lane, hence retroactively grounding the first Doc into post-Deadly Assassin lore. One reviewer has said that The Two Doctors would have William Hartnell rolling in his grave. All I can say is that the show was not being made for a ghost, but for a latter-day audience.

Also, despite what many might say, the story has redeeming touches of humanity. Chessene seems momentarily touched by the old woman's dedication to her religion, Oscar is a pitiful and yet noble character whose fate is shockingly senseless yet borne with dignity, and Peri's concern for him is convincing. Even Shockeye has his moment, when he proudly tells the Sontaran that "Our leader is Chessene of the Franzine Grig'. And the Doctor recognises the poetic justice in Shockeye getting his "just desserts" from his victim's poison stash. The sixth Doctor mentioning that he "was always rather fond of Jamie" is nice, and helps to integrate Baker's incarnation those of his predecessors. We also see him in a more compassionate light when he ponders the destruction of the universe, something which even Peri disregards, because it won't happen during her lifetime. This part of the story is strangely oppressive, and I guess it must be Baker's acting that makes it convincing.

But I started this review by saying that I'm not sure whether I like the story. My main problem with it is somewhat paradoxically something that I've already praised - the idea of the augmented Androgums. There's something I instinctively find repellent about the notion of a sub-class of people, and the issue is glossed over here. Ultimately, the overwhelming message seems to be that people cannot change, and cannot rise above their ugly greed and appetites. It's satisfying in narrative and dramatic terms, but ideologically rather worrying. Perhaps the suggestion being made is that evolution must happen at its own pace and not be forced, that nature should not be tampered with. But that's a pretty specious notion when you consider the benefits that science brings. Not to mention that science itself is in a way a natural outcome of evolution, of the development of cognition and rationality. I don't know. I feel like something is not quite addressed in the course of the story. I don't like the sixth Doctor's comment along the lines that he's 'not interested in dead Androgums'. It comes across, it must be said, as racist.

There are other minor concerns, such as the pointless inclusion of the Sontarans and the contrivanced escapes from hairy situations. But they don't matter much. You certainly feel nothing but relief when someone walks in to stop Shockeye cutting Peri's throat, and later Jamie's.

The Two Doctors is basically a good hearty meal. But it leaves a peculiar aftertaste, and, like Shockeye, I worry about some of the basic ingredients.


Even better then Androzani by Mike Jenkins 30/1/02

Robert Holmes has written here what is easily the best script in Doctor Who and this is about the only time, with the exception of The Krotons and The Time Warrior that we will ever see his work underated. The Sontarans are characterised just as well as they were during the Pertwee and Baker days and have more interesting voices as well. The other aliens are also intriguing. Troughton, of course, the best doctor of them all, is who elevates this wonderful piece of work to an absolute 9/10 classic status.

On reflection, if Holmes had only written a little better for the Baker 1, then he would probably rate as one of my favorite Doctor Who writers. This story has the good extensive interplay so obviously lacking in The Five Doctors (but much more readily apparant in The Three Doctors). It might have been a 10/10 if they had done it for the 25th anniverary.

As it stand however, it is still a 9/10 classic. The acting is of an unusually goofy nature for this period in the programme's history but it's all the better for it and it's nice to see some nice and long with good plot exposition this late in the series as well. The sequence where one of the aliens is trying to eat Peri is truly well handeled, as are the scenes on the freighter. Holmes seems to be back on the classic story wagon train, but trouble will follow him in his next story and it would be unfortunate that that would be the story that he goes out on.


A very mixed, interesting production by Tom May 13/3/02

"Mainly decaying food... the unholy, unburiable smell of armageddon...! There's nothing quite so evocative as one's sense of smell, is there?"
This story marks in many ways the production team trying to "do" a classic. Two doctors, a lavish Spanish location, popular old enemies, within a script penned by one of the series' stalwarts. Also, it is a return to the "6-parter", 7 or so years after the last one completed, The Armageddon Factor, albeit this being in the 3 45-minute episode guise.

I wouldn't say that the length is at all excessive, but it could have been better used. The presence of the Sontarans is somewhat redundant, I'd say, with the Androgums a pretty interesting new race carrying the story's main thrust. And as Mike Morris and others have said, the design of the loveable old rogues has fallen a considerable way since their debut with Linx in The Time Warrior, which was more than a decade earlier. The impression of their redundancy here is partly made as Holmes seems to have little interest in writing for them, resulting in them being all but interchangable with many ranting Who villains, albeit with references to those old Rutans, once again. Holmes shows far more interest ain the Androgums and Dastari, and they are well played by the respective actors, Laurence Payne obdurate as Dastari, if constrained by a ridiculous, garish costume, Jacqueline Pearce typically effective as Chessenee, and John Stratton absolutely stealing the show as the malevolent, semi-comic-turn, Shockeye o' the Quawncing Grig.

Stealing the show is a fair feat, with two charismatic Doctors about... At times you do feel Holmes doesn't quite capture Troughton's Doctor, who he writes more as a Pertwee style one; the essential unpredictability, devilish cunning and whimsical anarchism of Troughton's Doctor is not quite there sadly. But the veteran actor's performance is much as loveable and well-judged as usual. As others have stressed, Colin Baker is shown in a good light here, able to play in a less garish light in the first episode in the deserted station, and with a modification of costume in the Seville part of the story. His infectious enthusiasm, whether for taking on the mantle of "police inspector" upon meeting Botcherby and Anita, in delivering with gusto prime Holmes dialogue in the space station, or in taking on the computer comprised of a "distinctly limited repertoire!" His more emotional side is brought out with his repsonse to Oscar's death, a scene I don't feel to be misjudged, in that the threat and sheer alien nature of the Androgums are given emphasis by it. Also, the "never more a Gumblejack" little speech is, of course, lovely, and a fine balance is provided between his amusing pomposity, his irascibility and his slight wistfulness in the opening scenes fishing and in the TARDIS. It seems to me that the stories Baker comes across best in are often those where he isn't centre stage; this, and the one-off marvel of a story, Revelation of the Daleks are fine examples of this. Otherwise, I suppose a case could be made for Mark of the Rani or The Mysterious Planet, but those stories have definite flaws.

Nicola Bryant I must say has never looked better than here, and Peri actually does come across quite well here, being involved more than one might have feared. Indeed, while there is yet another case of her being lusted after, in Shockeye's case it is thoroughly believable, and the cliffhanger closing episode two indeed disturbs... Frazer Hines reprises his role as Jamie very effectively, and it's not too noticeable that he is forty, playing a lot younger.

It all starts lovingly in black and white, albeit briefly, but things are marred a little, as I said, by the Doctor acting on the Time Lords behalf, undercutting and cheapening The War Games a great deal... Oh, and there's of course, the infamous double entendre; need anymore be said of that...!?

I don't see what the big deal about the violence is here; while the cannibalism is indeed played largely seriously, this sort of thing has been covered before in blackly comic children's and family literature; the brothers Grimm and Roald Dahl coming to mind.

Overall, I liked this story, as it had good, often cracking dialogue, a decent story and theme, and nice music and locations. The direction was maybe a tad uninventive, but few of Dr Who's directors were as good as a Camfield or a Harper. It could and perhaps should have been great, but it still rests, in my mind, as good Dr Who and above average Colin Baker. It is enjoyable television, and a palatable if eclectic and at times indigestible slice of Dr Who culinary expertise.

7/10


It makes no sense, but who cares? by Jason Thompson 3/4/02

The Two Doctors is a good way to spend an evening, but whatever you do, don't think about the plot. It's far more enjoyable if you just let the developments take you along for the ride.

Why do I say this? OK, let's do what I just advised you not to. The whole premise of these two Doctors meeting up is poorly done, and hinges on one vastly improbable coincidence. Firstly, what triggers the Sixth Doctor's collapse? Originally, we are led to believe it was a response to his second self being killed, but we later find that this was not the case, and he was merely drugged. Would this have caused the collapse? Did the three intervening Doctors also collapse? Then, and this is the improbable coincidence, the Doctor goes for medical help to the very place and person the Second Doctor was visiting when the incident occurred! Not only that, but he arrives just after the Sontaran attack, when he had all time and space to pick from.

Then we come to the part that is still hotly debated; the Second Doctor is acting for the Time Lords, when they don't find him until The War Games, then they sentence him to exile and regeneration. He's also done it before, since Dastari remembers him attending the inaugural ceremony bearing fraternal gifts from Gallifrey. Now it seems that they have found him, fitted a recall circuit to his TARDIS, and sent him on several missions. Additionally, he has been able to drop Victoria off somewhere, and apparently intends to go back for her. Given the entirely uncontrollable state of the TARDIS during his tenure, this makes no sense. In many ways, this comes across more as a story written for the Third Doctor, since he was frequently sent on missions by the Time Lords, and the dialogue would not sound out of place coming from Pertwee's Doctor.

A second coincidence that stretches credulity is Oscar Botcherby. That he was nearby when the Sontaran craft landed, and the TARDIS arrived, is fine (although I still haven't worked out how he missed the fact that one of the three people he saw through his binoculars was evidently not human), but that he also runs the very restaurant in all of Seville that Shockeye and the altered Second Doctor visit in part three just seems a little too unlikely. Still, his murder is done quite well, and illustrates the Androgum nature nicely.

Additional points of contention are; why are the Sontarans involved at all? What use did Chessene have for them, when she seemed quite capable of taking all the necessary equipment to Earth and leaving the station without their help? Why are they introduced in such a sloppy manner, being recurring monsters? The whole section about turning the second Doctor into an Androgum, and the subsequent chase around Seville, is obvious padding to extend the story to the three parts it occupies. The Sontaran costumes are terrible, with their obvious rubber faces and collars that are not joined to the suit (and they seem to have gained a good foot and a half in height since all their previous appearances). The computer's attempts to kill the Doctor and Peri in part one are just pathetic: apparently the machine can only alter the conditions in one room at a time, so all they have to do to escape is open the door and go somewhere else. OK, I realise that they had to avoid being killed, but it doesn't take much to realise that the machine could quite happily have depressurised the entire station, since there was no-one alive on it apart from the people it wanted to kill!

And now, just when you think I'm trashing the story completely, I'm going to tell you that I love it. I've listed at length the reasons why this story should be rubbish, but every time I watch it I can't help but enjoy it. Maybe it's the beautiful Spanish sun, or the joy of seeing Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines slip back into their respective roles so easily... who knows? I don't think the violence is overdone at all, as many seem to think (I love the section where Shockeye casually holds up Stike's blown off leg!); there's not much blood anywhere, and Stike getting covered in more and more green gunge is just funny. All in all, The Two Doctors is an enjoyable runaround in the Spanish summer.

Just don't think too hard about it...


My Friday night in... by Joe Ford 15/4/02

We had a choice. We could go to the pictures and see a movie or stay in and watch Doctor Who…and since we're all lazy of course we chose the latter. Me, my mate Matt and my partner Simon all settled in front of the television to watch this three part epic and here are just a few of the comments that were made…

Part One:

  1. Troughton chastises Jamie for his 'apalling mumbled dialect': Matt:"Troughton is such a cool Doctor, he takes the role and twists it into comedy and drama both to great effect…this is just one example of his versatlity."
  2. The Doctor and Peri fish and Simon laughs at his poor quotation and pathetic catch. Simon likes Colin Baker.
  3. The locale moves to Seville…Me: "Ooh this is so pretty, after so much time in that stuffy space station it is nice to see some characters in an exotic location."
  4. Peri is jumped on by somebody at the climax and The Doctor leaps on some wires. Simon: "Oh my god she's being raped…that's just wrong at this time of night! And look at those wires…they wouldn't hold him up!"
Part Two:
  1. The attacker is revealed to be Jamie. Simon is genuinely surprised. We all slap him for being so dumb.
  2. "BOING, BOING!"-"Something to do with getting my haircut" says Colin in a moment of insanity. We love his bizarre sense of humour. What a nutcase.
  3. Shockeye munches on the rat. Rat-phobic Simon screams like a big girl. Cue much laughter.
  4. Amongst all the comedy there is a plot. Shock horror. Conspiracies…plots…faked deaths…we all have our theories. Me:"The computer made it up because he was lonely!" Matt:"It was all the Sontarans…they staged it all and faked it so the Time Lords would get blamed (hmm, I wonder if he's seen this before?)." Simon:"How can it be the Sontarans…are you telling me that a race of alien monsters with heads like jacket potatoes could arrange all this…it's all down to the woman with the grey dress that makes her look pregnant (Chessene)."
  5. Shockeye talks about humans not eating humans. Me and Simon agree to cook Matt for Sunday lunch.
  6. Peri trips over as she runs from Shockeye…Simon:"Oh get up woman! God she's useless…but at least she's better than that Sarah Jane in that other multi Doctor story…when she trips over that mole hole!"
Part Three:
  1. We are all shocked at Shockeyes's blatant lust for Peri. None of us are shocked at Matt's blatant lust for Peri. He misses his girlfriend bad.
  2. Troughton and Baker finally meet. Simon:"Hurrah! After two episodes showing us how funny they are the two greats finally meet…and they don't get along…that's even funnier!"
  3. Doc 6 was lying to Jamie about the Kartz/Reimer module when the Sontarans were lurking about. Once again Simon is actually surprised. Once again we slap him.
  4. "I remember a dish…Shepherds Pie!" "Shepherds Pie…a Shepherd. Can't we walk quicker?"…we all agree this is the funniest line of dialogue we've heard!
  5. Oscar dies. Simon and Matt: "At last!" Simon: "Dontcha just love how the story just forgets about Oscar and moves straight back to the Doctor…ha ha!"
  6. "THIS WAY!" "NO THIS WAY!" "NOW LOOK YOU GOT ME INTO THIS MESS!"…Simon finds this instantly hysterical because me and Matt always quote this when we are lost in town and now he knows why!
  7. Shockeye: "Stike destroyed his ship…and himself…I found this." We had to pause for a second as we were truly wetting ourselves.
  8. Doc Colin brutally slaughters Shockeye. I explain to non-fan Simon that this is a subject of much controversy as the Doctor should never use violence…only wit. To which he replies: "Okay I'm a arrogant alien in a cool waistcoat and I'm being chased through some pretty hillside by a raving cannibal with the biggest knife ever…what the hell else could you do? Start a conversation…" I explain that Davison would probably try and offer a hand of friendship. Matt says it would be chopped off. We all want to see that now.
  9. The TARDIS remote control…Simon:"Cool!"
I'm sorry this review is more humourous than usual but I think you get the picture. We had a great night in thanks to the talents of Troughton, Baker and Holmes (dear Robert…where would we be without him)…we laughed at the cool lines, the poor effects and the general light heartedness of the story. We had a lot of fun. I suggest to all you fans out there (If you don't already!) grab a couple of cans, invite you mates over and stick a Who vid on. It is great! You don't even have to be picky (The Two Doctors was the last story I would choose to show Simon…I thought he would think it slow paced and dull…he loved it!). Just save the REALLY poor ones for yourself (after all you wouldn't want to look SAD, would you? Tee hee). Execpt The Chase…that I put on at the close of great all night party where my drunken crowd truly appreciated the outstanding special effects, gripping plot and excellent acting…!

Supplement 17/3/03:

Okay now that's over and done with now onto the serious stuff. There are so many reasons why I love The Two Doctors I could chat about it ad nauseum. One of the best things about it is its utter uniquness in Doctor Who history. There is quite literally no story like this one (whereas there are quite a few Caves of Androzanis and Talons of Weng Chiangs), a story which doesn't play by the rules of normal Doctor Who, that contains very little action but instead explores the plot ideas and characters so vividly. That abandons any sense of coherence for a slice of non stop indulgent fun. That uses dialogue so accurately that the script itself is worth gold. The Two Doctors doesn't want to be a safe runaround (but alas in places it touches upon this fabulous Doctor Who mini-genre), it wants to throw unpleasant images and concepts at you and expects you to accept them and move on.

One of the reasons I feel people moan about this story (and yet admittedly it had received critical acclaim in recent years) is the awkwardness behind some of the more 'adult' scenes on display. Shockeye's blatant cravings to eat a human is a uncomfortable reminder of our own obsessions and taking the metaphor one step further we see him lust after such a "fine, fleshy beast" laying her out on the kitchen table to have his wicked way. It becomes even more disturbing when we realise he craves a "jack" even more and Jamie is then laid out on that exact same table whilst Shockeye tortures him horribly. This from the same man who bit into a rat earlier in the show and held it up with a huge bite mark in it... very disturbing. The character of Shockeye is little more than a caricature but he is written (and played) with such utter conviction that the story takes on darker, less Doctor Who-ey shades than we are used to.

Then there is the lack of plot. What? Lack of? I think not. It's actually a lovely plot and enjoyably complex. The only problem as far as I can see is the complete diverge from the plot as Doc 2 and Shockeye go into to town for some food. People bemoan that this story is too long but I must digress; yes it feels padded in places but if we started chopping unnecessary scenes we would be deprived of so many priceless scenes. I couldn't cut anything from this story justifiably. Doc 2 baiting Stike is totally pointless in the scheme of things but then we would miss Troughton's astonishing ability to switch from comedy to drama and back to comedy again in the blink of an eye. A few TARDIS scenes could be snipped but then we wouldn't be able to laugh as Colin abuses the machine in exactly the same way Troughton did earlier. And as for taking away the restaurant scenes.... never! Some gorgeously placed black comedy in amongst the horror elsewhere and the death of Oscar, a scene I now celebrate because of its ability to get saddo fan boys so worked up. Even the obvious blood pouch in his shirt is just perfect.

Bryant and Baker seem so much more comfortable with Homes' knowing hand to guide them. Those early TARDIS scenes are priceless with some the most rewarding dialogue they were ever given. I just love the Chris Colombus gag but the whole sequence about pin galaxies is also a treat. It's quite incredible how much Baker compares favourably to Troughton actually... all the tense scenes on the station are enhanced by his haunted reactions to everything. And all that talk about how brutal he is is just nonsense... look how he rushes to rescue Peri at the end of episode one or the scene that opens with him caressing her face to see if she's okay. Doctor nasty isn't making house calls today.

Another thing this story manages that almost no other in the last four years has is its ability to have FUN. It's almost like a Doctor Who summer holiday with the amounts of running around in glorious Spain. With lots and lots of well scripted and acted comedy scenes and the gorgeous sun spilled landscape the fun just keeps coming. The last episode is a particular delight as things move back to the hacienda with lots of bluffs and double bluffs as characters are bumped off horribly (but memorably). The whole story is a bit of an indulgence in the end, not absolutely needed in the grand scale of Doctor Who but without it that infectious, enjoyable side to the show would be a sorrier place. The show is stuffed full of those little character bits, scenes like the celebrated one in Remembrance that 80's Who severely sacrificed in favour of action set pieces so often. Oscar's lovely speech about moths, the Doctor's reaction to the end of the universe, Jamie's attempt to get a kiss from anyone... lovely, lovely moments.

And let's not forget all the comedy that actually works. How funny is the scene where the Doctor keeps babbling and Peri is trying to listen to the horrible moanings that are echoing through the service duct. Scary but very funny. And only Robert Holmes could drive so much comedy from his own race, the Sontarans, they take themselves so bloody seriously (and nobody else does!!!) it makes Stike's eventual, horribly embarassing quadruple barreled death (stabbed, covered with acid, electrified by the time machine and blown up in his ship!) all the more wonderful. Shockeye's discovery of his bloody leg is the last straw, so funny it hurts. But the script is littered with well placed witty lines... "Centuries!!... Well if it's gonna take that long I'll see if Jamie's okay" is Peri's reaction to the end of the universe, Doc 2 and Shockeye discuss the delights of "Shepherds Pie"... an apparently cannibal dish!, even better is how Troughton grates on about "monkeys" and later we see Peri chomping on a banana!!! It's long past time Doctor Who let its hair down after three years of serious (let's say dull) SF.

This is probably the most entertaining story of Doctor Who's last ten years. Watching today we can critisize the amount of violence, the 45 minute episodes, the gratuitous location work but why bother. A story filled with so many rewarding moments, so much humour and horror, that deliberately flouts accepted Doctor Who law (continuity, realistic violence, genuine laughs!) to tell a great story should be celebrated. So I shall.

And I can't go without mentioning two of my favourite Who sequences... Chessene reverting back into an Androgum and lapping the Doctor's blood off the floor and the Doctor being chased through the hills of Seville by a knife weilding maniac who uses the otherwise arbitary moth storyline to superb effect as he cyanides his victim to death. Doctor Who was never this totally brave again and thank god... the fans would probably have a heart attack.


Mad for it at the Hacienda by Andrew Wixon 27/6/02

There are many good things to be said about The Two Doctors. It's well-plotted, pacy, isn't especially in-yer-face about the overseas footage and has a pleasingly diverse score. But (ironically, given the culinary theme of the plot) this is in many ways an over-egged pudding of a story that hasn't spent quite enough time in the script-editing oven.

As a multi-Doctor story Bob Holmes just about keeps it plausible (though the continuity is, tellingly, awful) and the story about the conspiracy to steal the genetic secret of time travel from the Doctor's DNA is promising if a bit lightweight. But it's clear that Bob's attention wasn't really focussed on all that as the story only really acquires any kind of energy or texture when it's concerned with Shockeye's obsession with food and his desire to eat a human being. Holmes' characterisations always tended towards grotesque caricatures and in this story there are plenty of them: Shockeye, the Sontarans (positively blimpish), and Oscar. All of these are way too OTT to be remotely credible. Things get truly bizarre in episode three with the cruise round the restaurant district of Seville by virtually the entire principle cast.

And things enter the realm of grand guignol, too, and not in a good way. There is a tendency for violent death to be followed by an off-colour joke. The scene in which the buffoonish Oscar is stabbed to death and gets a supposedly moving final speech is just terrible, misjudged on virtually every level. There's also the fact that Holmes must have sat down and typed 'Enter Shockeye, carrying Stike's severed leg,' for no reason other than a sick visual gag (and the director holds on the leg at the end of the scene just in case we didn't get it). And this is before we get to the whole cannibalism angle. Now don't give me all that stuff about how Shockeye isn't human so it's not really cannibalism. That's too fine a distinction for a show like DW. It's barely satirical, and it's done to death by the end of episode one. Like much of the rest of the story it's painted with a broad brush where finer strokes would be far more effective.

Even if it weren't for all the issues of bad taste (ironic, given the story's culinary - oh, never mind) there's still the fact that Patrick Troughton is woefully underused. He gets some good material at the start, but spends episode two tied to a couch and only really gets to do his stuff in episode three under the silly Androgum make-up. Frazer Hines (who must have a portrait in his attic that ain't looking too good) gets more screen time than the great man - there's something wrong there.

The Two Doctors is not vintage Holmes. It lacks subtlety, it lacks wit, it lacks restraint and it doesn't make best use of one of its best assets. It feels like a bad Holmes pastiche, or a compilation tape of bits of Talons of Weng Chiang and The Time Warrior, amongst others. The end result is rather indigestible.


A Review by Terrence Keenan 28/8/02

The Two Doctors is equal parts grotesque black joke about food (ala Hitchcock) and another continuity laden story from season 22.

But I'm not sure if it really works in the end.

Like Hitchcock's Frenzy, there are running jokes about food, consumption, and cannibalism. Shockeye, although alien, is the ultimate gourmand, only concerned about his appetite and trying the next delicacy. He thinks food, lives food -- he's a cook -- and is driven by food. An unusual character for Doctor Who, Shockeye is a interesting twist on the money hungry slobs that have populated Holmes stories in the past. It is Shockeye's appetite and quest for human flesh that anchors the story, more than the machinations of the plot. In fact, the main sweeps of the plot form a appetitus interruptus, breaking into Shockeye's cannibal mission when he's just about to succeed.

Chessene is the counterpoint character, driven by an appetite for knowledge. She hungers for information like Shockeye's hunger for flesh, although we don't witness this. Unfortunately, because this is less developed than Shockeye's gourmet desires, we lose a level of theme and character that either Holmes was unable to pull off, or just didn't notice.

The Sontarans make their weakest appearance in this tale. One wonders why they were included in this tale except to make another reference to Doctor Who's past. Methinks any militaristic alien race could have been used in their place with nary a difference.

The food motif is carried throughout the story, from the Sixth Doctor¹s fishing and raving about pan-fried gumblejack, to Jamie's desire for another meal while on the 3rd Zone space station, and the hunt for Shockeye and the second Doctor in the restaurants of Seville, to the end, where the Sixth Doctor decides to go vegetarian, food and hunger are constantly thrown up in our faces. This motif is extended to both the Sontarans' and Chessene's hunger for time travel. It's a rare thing that a motif is carried all they way through a Doctor Who story, and Holmes deserves a rave for this alone.

However, the black humorist tone is ruined by the scene in which Oscar is murdered. I think it would have played much better if Oscar had only received a thrashing. Oscar is a bit wary of confrontation, and a simple whupping would have completed the circle on this idea. However, when Shockeye outright murders Oscar, it no longer seems funny. Whether intentional or not, it ruins the dark, if comic theme of Shockeye's quest for human flesh.

Colin Baker turns in a solid performance. This is not the shouting, melodramatic Sixth Doctor from Attack of the Cybermen or Vengeance on Varos. Instead, we have an alien, but oddly sympathetic version who still bickers with Peri, but shows he cares about her. Peri, whose chest is on prominent display throughout the tale, is all right and allowed to be more than just a bimbo. Patrick Troughton spends much of his time tied to a chair, but his interaction with Jamie early in the first episode and C. Baker in the last are well done. It's obvious he relishes portraying the Androgum-ized Doctor. John Stratton steals the show as Shockeye, equal parts horrific and humorous. The others, unfortunately are rather boring. The two Sontarans grate on the nerves, Lawrence Payne, who looks like a member of the Buggles, doesn't impress, and Jacqueline Pearce unfortunately, shows no weight as the main baddie, Chessene.

The Two Doctors is a cut above the majority of stories of season 22. Its use of theme, motif and black humor are to be applauded, for the most part. However, some less than stellar acting, and a few wrong turns drag The Two Doctors back to an average story. The potential for greatness is there, unfortunately, its lost among some bad ideas that a rewrite could have solved.


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 26/3/03

I believe this to be Colin Baker's finest story as the Doctor. On first viewing way back in 1985 I loved it! That black and white beginning full of a rich past, a previous Doctor who has to be rescued by the current one, a return of the wonderfully ugly Sontarans, eccentric characters, gorgeous Peri, Sunny Seville. So many things to like!

The Two Doctors is by Robert Holmes, and it's another fine story from the master story-teller. Successfully combining 2 Doctors, a return of Sontarans, wonderful villains, and a foreign trip. It fully fleshes out its over 2 hour running time, providing enough interest and intrigue to keep the viewer interested. I know I am in a minority in this, but I really like The Two Doctors!

Colin Baker's Doctor is splendid. All that brashness and confidence. Totally dominant in all his scenes, and making full use of a very good script. Nicola Bryant is the stuff of teenage dreams, and of that I will always be grateful. I did like it better when she got on with the Doctor in the opening of Trial of a Timelord, but I always found her enchanting, even with her moans.

This story is not just a 6th Doctor one though, even though he is the dominant force. The 2nd Doctor is a big player, along with stalwart companion Jamie. Patrick Troughton is a wonderful Doctor, and his presence is a delight throughout. As the Doctor who returned more than any other I grew very fond of his portrayal through his reappearances. It was wonderful to discover later that his original stories are amongst the consistently best of the entire run. Here he returns again. Even though for a lot of the story he isn't quite himself, it is still a joy to see one of the greatest character actors ever, in his greatest role ever. Jamie is also very good here, and both actors are obviously having a great time returning to their familiar roles.

The story successfully combines 2 very different Doctors and a host of brilliant supporting characters. At 2 and a half hours it has the time to develop these characters - and that's not only valid for the main Doctors and Companions: Servalan herself, Jacqueline Pearce, plays the cold, augmented Androgum Chessene very well. There's an elegance about her. You really feel she has been enhanced to a higher intellectual plane. Shockeye is one of the great comedy characters of Who, a character Holmes excels in creating. His constant pleadings for food, his primitive behaviour. Of the rest I like Oscar Botcheby. With his theatrical leanings, and his love of butterflies, this is a character many have laughed about and derided. I thought he was charming, and his death was a real tear-jerker.

Episode 1 (the first 45 minutes) remains one of my very favourite episodes of Dr Who. I loved the derelict spaceship, the strange inner-workings that the 6th Doctor and Peri explore. I was genuinely surprised when the DWM poll came out and The Two Doctors did not top it! But it would be terrible if we all liked the same thing, wouldn't it?

All in all The Two Doctors is an extremely enjoyable romp. Does it make full use of its Spanish location? Probably not, but it's still nice to have somewhere different and sunny. Does it exploit Doctor Who's glorious past? It does nothing to diminish it for sure. It's not a mind-blowing classic, but it is great wondrous Doctor Who. 9/10


As overlong as some Troughton stories! by Tim Roll-Pickering 5/6/03

Unlike The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors in which the various incarnations were specifically gathered to face a great menace, The Two Doctors feels more natural in the way in which the two incarnations of the Doctor are brought together. Adding to this is the fact that this story marks no specific anniversary at all (although the novelisation was No. 100 in the Target range that doesn't really count here). Furthermore the story follows a natural course and so has a more specific plotline than previous adventures.

This story is frequently lambasted for the liberties it takes with the continuity for the Troughton Doctor, showing him as an agent for the Time Lords, willing to acknowledge his origins, able to pilot the TARDIS reasonably accurately (although the Time Lords may be aiding him) and travelling with only Jamie, who seems fully aware of at least the key points of the Doctor's background. There have been many theories that attempt to explain this but ultimately why let continuity get in the way of a good story? Additionally the question is often raised as to why the later Doctor can not remember fully the events his earlier incarnation experienced, but just try remembering accurately events from about seventeen years ago (let alone the 350 odd year gap that the various information about the Doctor's age would suggest) and this point doesn't seem like a problem at all. The result is a story in which Colin Baker and Patrick Troughton encounter one another in what is sadly the latter's final appearance in the series. Troughton and Frazer Hines resume the roles of the Doctor and Jamie as though they never left them and the magic isn't deflated in anyway by the absence of Victoria/Zoe or the more modern setting. They are ably complemented by Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant and the result is a strong line-up that fully deserves the equivalent of six-part story.

Unfortunately The Two Doctors is reminiscent of many Troughton (amongst others) stories in the way that it lasts longer than the plot can sustain it for. The storyline of the alliance between Chessene and the Sontarans to perfect time travel is extremely straightforward and the additional material involving the two sides planning to double-cross one another or the trip to Seville can hide the fact that the story would have been far more suited to two forty-five minute episodes than three. There are a number of other failings throughout the story, most obviously the way that it can't seem to decide if the Sontarans' presence is meant to be a mystery or not, with only Varl's hand seen aboard space station Camera and some close-up shots in Spain that hide him, but at the same time the computer in Part One clearly announces that the Sontarans are approaching. All this makes the long shot revelation of Varl seem tame by comparison. There's quite a bit of technobabble abounding in the story and it becomes extremely difficult to understand whether or not the Doctor is bluffing at various stages. The use of Spain is an interesting choice, since whilst it does show there is more to Earth than London and the Home Counties and is also a more logical choice than there since there is no known military installation in the area to oppose the Sontarans, the location itself is not sufficiently justified in terms of the story, other than the superfluous trip into Seville in Part Three. Nevertheless the script does contain some strong concepts including the morality behind Dastari's augmentation of Chessene and the possibility that the universe might end in a wonderful solilequity from Colin Baker's Doctor. However all this isn't enough to sustain the story and so it ultimately feels very weak.

The cast is small but the acting honours are competed for by Jacqueline Pearce as Chessene and John Stratton as Shockeye. The contrast between the refined, scheming Chessene and the food obsessed Shockeye is strong and thus makes for some good conflict between the two, especially when it is shown just how close to her Androgum inheritance Chessene truly is. Of the rest of the cast Laurence Payne seems rather bored with his role of Dastari, whilst the two Sontarans have a presence in their scenes but make little sizeable impact. James Saxon has the tragic role of Oscar but doesn't imbue the character sufficiently in the earlier parts to make his death seem all the more tragic.

The production of the story ranges from some good sets, though the attempt to make the Troughton Doctor's TARDIS look vintage falls down once the scene moves into colour, to some weak direction that doesn't always make the best use of the camerawork. The music is competent with an especially memorable theme for the Sontarans, but ultimately the story fails to shine. With a shorter length and a more justified location this might have worked a lot better, but as it stands it is a somewhat half-hearted tribute to the Troughton era in length and effect. 6/10


Two Much, Two Little, Two Late by Jamie Feather 24/7/03

I stumbled across this site completely by accident, while trawling for Logopolis sites in a frenzy of post viewing excitement. Logopolis always does that to me.

To submit or not to submit... decisions, decisions. What finally convinced me was nothing to do with Logopolis at all. It was in fact a secret and slightly naughty desire to find reviews of stories I love that I know everybody else hates and write semi-vitriolic responses. As such I scuttled off to Terminus and sure enough found the poor thing being mistreated as per. So how come I ended up writing a review of The Two Doctors I hear you ask between barely stifled yawns? Joe Ford, I reply.

Joe's cruel assessment of Terminus made me want to stick up for it. Unfortunately so incisive and delicious was his piece that I was hard pushed to come up with anything to beat it (and I wanted to, readers, so badly, for Terminus' sake because Terminus is the Doctor Who equivalent of me in the school playground).

Thus thwarted, I came up with another approach, and Joe made it easy for me. First, he pointed me in the direction of a couple of stories he really likes. Secondly, one of those he mentioned was The Two Doctors.

The Two Doctors is almost unique. It is one of only a handful of stories that commit the ultimate crime - it is utterly, irredeemably boring. It is also pointless.

The Two Doctors is boring... an argument:

  1. Nothing happens at all. Well, alright maybe some things happen, but I cannot bring myself to care about any of them, so convoluted and dreary is the plot. I care not a fig for the Androgums' quest to isolate the tiresome symbiotic nuclei, because I am absolutely uninterested in Time Lord biology, or how they control their TARDISes. I am not entertained or excited by Shockeye's indefatigable desire to fill his stomach. Are you, readers? Really, and be honest now?
  2. Nothing at all happens for many, many minutes. This is absolutely irrefutable. Endless amount of time is spent wandering the corridors of the Third Zone space station in part one. For variety (I may never extract my tongue from my cheek) we are then treated to what feels like hours in the infrastructure of said space station. Then hours in an uninteresting olive grove. Then what feels like entire days meandering the streets of Seville. I could go on... unfortunately The Two Doctors does.
  3. The central premise is old hat. Multi-Doctor stories are often praised to the skies because of the supposed entertainment value of the interaction between the leads. With the possible exception of bits of The Three Doctors, this compare/contrast exercise is very rarely entertaining. It is nearly always forced and embarrassing. By the time of The Two Doctors it is terminally dull and adds to the general tedium.
  4. No-one bothers to act. If they had, they might have jerked me out of my soporific state. With the exception of Jacqueline Pearce everyone else seems to be sleep-walking through the whole thing. Unsurprising, given how boring it all is.
  5. Nothing is original. Little things... Jamie wears an woollen kilt and a bloody great tartan pashmina thing that is clearly impractical in the Spanish heat. Be different, let him wear his football shorts! The travelogue style attempted by part three is a rip-off of City of Death. The Sontarans are included for no apparent reason, other than to reinforce the unoriginality of the it all.
I should, in a feeble attempt at a balanced piece point out that The Two Doctors is slightly less boring for approximately four minutes. The scene when the Sontaran battle cruisers are detected approaching the space station is good. The shot of the Sontaran's hand raising a gun to Troughton's head is nice.

Thanks to Joe Ford for unwittingly inspiring me to write this. I really enjoyed it which I think makes me mean-spirited. I hope poor Terminus feels better.


A Review by Paul Rees 26/9/03

The Two Doctors is one of those stories about which I really can't make up my mind. Upon its initial transmission, I remember being thrilled by it; at long last, after reading about them in Target novelisations, I was actually able to see the Sontarans in the flesh (and, of course, a multi-Doctor story is always guaranteed to bowl over a 10-year-old fan). But when the video was released some time in the early 90s, I was sorely disappointed: I found the whole thing to be long, drawn-out, dull and tasteless. Now, having just watched the newly-released DVD version, I find that my views have mellowed a little: The Two Doctors is entertaining enough if you're in the right sort of mood, and there are some wonderful characterisations and some beguiling set-pieces. But as a story it doesn't really pull together, and it is by no means Robert Holmes' best work.

In almost all of Robert Holmes' stories we find some wonderfully comedic characterisations, and here the two which stand out are Shockeye and Oscar. Shockeye is a wonderfully grotesque creation with his rice crispie-encrusted forehead, bushy ginger eyebrows and gastronomic hedonism. John Stratton's carefully measured performance keeps things just this side of believable, with the result that Shockeye must surely be one of Holmes' most bizarre and yet credible creations. Oscar, by contrast, is depicted here as the archetypal Englishman: diffident and foppish, with an underlying melancholy. He often gets the best lines (I particularly liked his reference to people "trained in the art of tying bandages") and his eventual demise is one of The Two Doctors' dramatic highlights. Goodnight sweet prince, indeed.

There are, in fact, several excellent and effective set pieces to be found scattered throughout The Two Doctors. Take, for example, the second Doctor's comedic challenging of Stike to a duel; Shockeye's tenderising of Jamie, who as an animal "doesn't feel pain in the way in which we would"; and, of course, the frenetic chase through the picturesque streets of Seville, with Doctor #6 in pursuit of the bizarrely Androgumised Doctor #2. Wonderful stuff, and much of it could only have come from the pen of the gifted Robert Holmes.

By contrast, the Sontarans are not at their best in this story. Gone are the ruthless, battle-hardened race of clones whom we first met in The Time Warrior; here, the Sontarans are more amusing than threatening. Whereas in The Invasion of Time the Sontarans were the master-planners with the Vardans as their dispensable foot soldiers, here it's the Sontarans themselves who are the bit-players, mere tools for Chessene to utilise as she sees fit. Stike in particular is hard to take seriously as he marches around the hacienda waving his baton like the Brigadier on a caffeine overdose. The fact is that there is simply too much packed into The Two Doctors and the potato-heads are, sadly, surplus to requirements.

It is, however, as a multi-Doctor story that The Two Doctors really fails miserably. Patrick Troughton gets a remarkably raw deal here; apart from at the very beginning and the very end, we hardly see him in character at all, as he spends most of his time either unconscious or as an Androgum. His transformation into an Androgum is wonderfully comic and very amusing, but I would much rather have seen more of the second Doctor whom we all know and love. There's precious little interaction between Doctors #2 and #6, and consequently no on-screen chemistry between them to speak of.

Jamie, by contrast, has a good slice of the action. Physically, Frazer Hines has hardly changed at all since 1969 and he delivers his one-liners with great comic timing. I particularly enjoyed the following exchange:

Jamie: He's not the Doctor I know.
Doctor#6: I am so, Jamie McCrimmon. I am another aspect of he, just as he is of me.
Jamie: Eh?
Doctor#6: I have been him and he will be me.
Jamie: And who will I be?
It's this sort of banter which really brings The Two Doctors alive, and makes it (despite its undoubted shortcomings) an enjoyable viewing experience. The dialogue is, in fact, sparkling throughout and - together with the excellent musical score, the delightful characterisations and the wonderful Spanish scenery - this is what manages to sweep me along, despite my reservations. 7.5/10

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