The Five Doctors
The Three Doctors
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.

Back to page one (the first twenty reviews)


Doctor Who versus the Iron Chef by Jason A. Miller 20/11/03

If memory serves me right, the TARDIS never materialized in Kitchen Stadium. However, by the time the 2nd Doctor rattles off a list of unusual Earth recipes in Part Three of The Two Doctors, and mentions Brillat-Savarin, and when Shockeye wonders if shepherd's pie contains actual shepherds... then it's surely no coincidence that the story's villain, Chessene, is wearing a metallic silver gown of the type often worn by Chairman Kaga.

The Two Doctors is the best story of Colin Baker's abbreviated tenure as the Sixth Doctor. The episode was written by Robert Holmes, one of DW's top scribes, and therefore contains literally pages of quotable dialogue -- and that's just in Part One. The story contains the superfecta of Doctor Who tradition: the over-the-top villainness (Chessene), the quotable henchman (Shockeye), the duped human stooge (Dr. Dastari), and the prolonged gory death, complete with green ooze (Stike).

Not only that, but, being the longest DW story completed in the 1980s (not counting The Trial of a Time Lord), there's a multi-layered plot which improves with age. Consider that I'd always thought the reappearance of Holmes's own Sontaran enemies in The Two Doctors to be a bit of a time-waster. With this viewing, however, I realized that both Sontarans are well-acted, with witty dialogue -- and, more importantly, their shaky alliance with Chessene allows for, as the Doctor observes, "a double-double-cross". They don't waste time at all. Indeed, by story's end, of the seven major guest characters, all but one are dead. Similar to Holmes's previous script, The Caves of Androzani, only a woman survives.

To call this the best Sixth Doctor TV story may come as faint praise, but it's impossible to overstate Patrick Troughton's importance to the affair, in his Second Doctor swan-song. Strapped to a table for most of Part Two, Troughton still gets about 9 memorable quotes off in the first 9 minutes of Part One, and has a terrific turn as an Androgum gourmand in Part Three. Also notable is that the story's climax is interrupted so that the 2nd Doctor and Shockeye can drive into Seville (Spain) for a lunch that costs, in 1984 terms, $233 US. No-one pays the tab.

Also welcome is the return of old companion Jamie (Fraser Hines), who picks up the part after 15 years as if he hadn't missed a day. Teamed up with the vintage cast, both the 6th Doctor and Peri (Nicola Bryant) are at their most appealling. The best facet of Baker's tenure as the Doctor was his line delivery, and Holmes feeds him several zingers which he reads with obvious relish (pardon the pun). Some great clowning, also, as the 2nd Doctor defends himself against Shockeye with a cucumber, and the 6th Doctor later brandishes a banana.

The addition to Time Lord mythology is interesting (and sets up the Time Lords as the selfish villains they'd become in later TV shows and books). Less welcome for me was the 6th Doctor's sudden embrace of the "healthy vegetarian diet", although this part of the character would thrive for another 15 years; and his unsubtle dig at Christopher Columbus (who, if memory serves me right, is interred in Seville). You can also tell that the Seville restaurant scenes were originally scripted for more food-friendly New Orleans, before budget concerns intervened -- witness how the 6th Doctor stages a mock arrest of his earlier self, by reading the Miranda warnings. To quote the 2nd Doctor in Part Three... "Oh, my giddy aunt. Oh, crumbs!"

A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 4/7/04

Of all the multi Doctor stories, The Two Doctors is the one that stands up best. This is largely because there is something of a plot within the story as opposed to a runaround. It is also the best multi Doctor story for Patrick Troughton laregely because he is given something to do within the story as opposed to bickering with Jon Pertwee. Thankfully his interplay with both Colin Baker`s Doctor and Frazer Hines is a joy to behold. Colin Baker is actually rather good here too, his Doctor is still egotistical and arguing with Peri, but he is also more commanding in the role too.

However the story does have its flaws, the Second Doctor is virtually absent from the first episode once hes been captured, the Sontaran`s costumes do them no favours, rubbery masks and loose collars don`t make for a great returning villain. Similarly some of the other performances are variable, Laurence Payne as Dastari is particularly wooden and Jacqueline Pearce is simply going through the motions as Chessene (virtually playing Servalan in all but name, without any of the flirting.) By contrast however John Stratton`s Shockeye is great fun largely because the character is so well motivated by a desire for food.

If you can ignore the flat direction, Peter Moffat`s introduction of the Sontarans being a case in point, and tolerate some of the acting, then what you are left with isn`t necessarily a classic but is certainly watchable enough in its own right.

A Review by Finn Clark 4/11/06

Just like The Power of Kroll, The Two Doctors starts well but goes downhill. However, in fairness, neither story was written under ideal circumstances for poor Robert Holmes. The Power of Kroll was a last-minute replacement for an abandoned story, while this one had to be wrenched from its original setting of New Orleans. Furthermore it's an old-fashioned six-parter, to date the last since The Armageddon Factor in 1979. It's a mark of Robert Holmes's success on this count that people criticising this story never seem to take that into account.

Personally I think it's fascinating! Part one has a thematic depth and richness that's almost unparalleled throughout Doctor Who. It repays attention in a way one doesn't normally see. Stories like Pyramids of Mars or Tomb of the Cybermen are cracking yarns, but no more. They're just good tales well told. This however has two different extensively explored themes. It's a cliche that six-parters should in some sense be two stories in one, although even a glance at Troughton-era six-parters will show that you violate that rule at your peril. The Two Doctors however has two TARDIS crews with two interweaving plot threads, two sets of villains, two settings and two themes. I was particularly impressed by the latter, most stories not even managing one.

The first theme is about hunting and killing lesser beings, usually for food. The first Doctor-Peri scene is all about fishing, although the Doctor ends up saying, "Did you see the one that got away? The magnificent gumblejack that was trying to eat this poor little fellow?" Naturally he throws back the minnow. Back in 1985 I never took seriously the punchline about "a healthy vegetarian diet", despite the nut rolls in Revelation of the Daleks, but in fact it's the culmination of the story's themes. Robert Holmes was a vegetarian and had strong feelings on these issues, but fortunately he didn't write some "holier than thou" sermon. On the contrary, he dashed off a riot of sick gags and tastelessness. "They don't feel pain the same way we do."

That's one theme. The other concerns your innate nature and what happens when you try to change it, as summed up in the beautiful line: "Give a monkey control of its environment, it'll fill the world with bananas." (a) There's Chessene's double identity as shown in her relationships with Dastari and Shockeye. Dastari thought he could change her, but in fact he created a monster that made horrific plans with the Sontarans. (b) Then there's the Doctor. Colin Baker has mysterious mindlinks with Troughton, after the first of which incidentally it's interesting how quickly he decides to visit Dastari. More importantly, this is a 6th Doctor shortly after his regeneration, meeting an embodiment of his own instability and shapeshifting. He gets affected by his former self being kidnapped and/or Androgummed, although the temporal physics of this is counter-intuitive. "Celery, that's what you need." Jelly babies. There's also the minor detail of Time Lord genetic inheritance!

Normally the Doctor's just a hero who appears and solves your problems, but here Robert Holmes explored his nature more deeply than any other story. What's more, it's no identikit anniversary get-together. These specific Doctors are important to the story: the 2nd's innocence and the 6th's instability. And all that in a JNT laundry list commission of a multi-Doctor story. I think it's wonderful. (Holmes would soon take these ideas somewhere even darker with the Valeyard.)

We have Troughton being pitched into the Saward universe, with all its brutality and Time Lord obsessions. Much went wrong with Doctor Who in the mid-eighties, but for precisely that reason Colin Baker's era makes an even more complete thematic whole than Eccleston's. It's the rotting fruit of Eric Saward's scary vision: a universe collapsing in upon itself, full of old monsters and continuity. Time Lords are everywhere. We start with a villainous but sympathetic one in The Twin Dilemma and finish with Trial of a Time Lord and the Ravalox conspiracy. In the end even the Doctor will be evil. Somehow the retcon of a shockingly old Troughton working for Gallifrey feels oddly fitting.

Thus his meeting with Dastari ends with a massacre and Jamie abandoned, after which we get the 6th Doctor charging full steam ahead into a killer space station controlled by a homicidal computer. As in Attack of the Cybermen, we get this Doctor's appalling lyricism about death. "Fruit-soft flesh peeling from white bones. The unholy unburiable smell of armageddon. Nothing quite so evocative as one's sense of smell." Peri's response is simple. "I feel sick." Suddenly this unlikeable TARDIS crew works. Troughton's era was about joyful escapism. You wanted to be there, to travel with him. Not so with Colin Baker. Peri whines, complains and doesn't want to be there, but that's understandable since her adventures are so horrible. This is the Sawardiverse, which pours petrol over wish-fulfilment and lights a match.

Robert Holmes even tries to make us wonder if the Time Lords perpetrated this massacre. I never believed that in 1985, but today it's more credible. This is the age of Time Wars and Lawrence Miles's sinister Gallifreyans. "What kind of monster would want to stop the brilliant work that was being done here?" asks the Doctor. Bearing in mind developments in just the Colin Baker era, perhaps we were wrong to be so dismissive of Holmes's suggestions. As an aside, The Two Doctors is almost a prototype for Lawrence Miles's Interference: a multi-Doctor story that puts a classic TARDIS crew from a more innocent age into the grimmer, nastier universe of the then-current era. Both star the worst TARDIS crew ever seen in that medium. Both stories are also riddled with continuity, Time Lords and weird bio-technology, with a Doctor imprisoned for a stretch in the middle.

So I like the script's ideas. What about the production? It's directed by Peter Moffatt, which isn't a good sign, although he's far from my least-favourite director. At least he gives a shit, unlike Pennant Roberts, and he usually elicits decent performances. You can't blame him for the twins in The Twin Dilemma. He's not the best judge of tone, as shown by The Visitation's Richard Mace and here Oscar Botcherby, but on the other hand his shows tend to look pretty. State of Decay, The Visitation and Mawdryn Undead are all easy on the eye. The imagery in The Two Doctors is similarly attractive, with a space station as good-looking as Seville and the Spanish countryside. The Sontarans look unconvincing but no more than usual, while their eyes in that mask can be surprisingly expressive.

Regarding the space station: returning to it in an abandoned state is such a neat visual trick that I'm surprised it wasn't used more often. Doctor Who's best take on that idea to date is actually the Destiny of the Doctors computer game, which took the Graak to all kinds of different time zones, including one that was flooded and underwater. Here of course we have the further twist of wondering what the hell happened, although we have some idea.

The production's worst misstep is Oscar Botcherby. In the script he's great, being basically Henry Jago from The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Unfortunately, on-screen he's a loser. Yes, he's basically ineffectual and a failure as an actor, but the production undermines his comic moments with inappropriate music and never really has fun with the character. John Stratton has enormous fun with Shockeye (e.g. the rat) and that's why the character is so vivid onscreen. Oscar just seems like a waste of space, which is why his death in episode three feels so wrong. He hasn't been given enough weight to justify it. The production never took him seriously. I don't blame Holmes one jot. The final Oscar's too nerdy and tentative, which undercuts the comedy as well as the drama. He should have been more theatrical, a larger-than-life presence on a par with Shockeye et al. James Saxon achieves a kind of baffled sweetness in the role, but basically he's awful.

Mind you, about Oscar's death everything is misjudged. The guitar music is especially wrong, but that whole sequence is painful. Personally I suspect that Robert Holmes would have played it as comedy so black as to be barely detectable as comedy, if that makes sense.

Incidentally, one could almost regard Oscar as a surrogate 6th Doctor, with Anita his pretty companion. Colin caught fish and Oscar caught moths. Both are slightly pompous characters who love theatricality and language. The difference is that Oscar is squeamish, killing moths but hating the sight of blood. The 6th Doctor on the other hand is practically scary in part three as he sets up Chessene and the Sontarans to murder each other and then sits back merrily to watch the carnage.

Oscar aside however, the cast's fun to watch. Obviously I was delighted to see Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines again. They've always been one of Doctor Who's most sparkling combinations, even if they don't get enough to do here. Frazer is great even when getting almost no lines, while Troughton is obviously having the time of his life. He even gets to be bad! I was disappointed that his 'Doctrogum' wasn't evil enough to be scary, but he's still relishing every moment. Jacqueline Pearce is fun too, but the obvious standout in the guest cast is John Stratton. He's enjoying himself almost as much as Patrick Troughton, although it's interesting that they didn't try to make him particularly scary. Imagine some huge ex-convict stalking Jamie through the space station or Peri through Seville. That could have been terrifying.

In Season 22 it's curious that Peri has heard of Jamie and Jo, but knows nothing of Cybermen, Sontarans and Daleks. Uh, Doctor? Priorities? On a related topic, it's lucky for Robert Holmes that Pertwee had already known about Sontarans before The Time Warrior.

The Two Doctors is slightly awkward to watch and gets a bit runaroundy in its later episodes, but I don't blame Robert Holmes for that. It's a six-parter! More than anything else, this story needed a director in sympathy with Holmes's gleeful delight in gore and theatricality. Hell, reshooting Oscar Botcherby's scenes would fix 90% of this story's problems. Read the novelisation. It's even more gruesome than the TV version, but it's also hilarious. It's a shame that Holmes never wrote another. This story is full of good stuff, but I like its richness best. Those themes come through loud and clear. I'm coming to realise that Season 22 made some dreadful mistakes, but thematically it's one of the show's richest eras. "There cannot be a creature on the planet that humans do not kill and eat. Many beasts are bred especially for table." Even the Sontarans tie into the theme of using technology to overcome your own nature. They're a clone race, remember?

The multi-Doctor stories seem to rub up many fans the wrong way, but personally I like them all. If you can see past the self-congratulation, there's much to admire. If nothing else, reflect on this. Patrick Troughton appeared in all three multi-Doctor stories, yet only six complete stories have survived from his own era. The Two Doctors may not be another The War Games, but I think it's one of Troughton's most fascinating stories.

A Review by Brian May 27/11/07

The Two Doctors is flashy, glossy, and driven by concepts rather than storytelling: thus it's an ideal representation of Doctor Who in the 1980s. The concepts it relies on - multiple Doctors; the return of the Sontarans; another visit to an overseas locale - are simply dumped into the mix without the foundation of a proper story. If you like, there are too many ingredients and no recipe.

With Robert Holmes as the writer, you'd be forgiven for thinking he'd provide a worthy follow-up to the previous season's stunning Caves of Androzani. Alas, poor viewer, this was not to be. He's never been preachy before, but his anti-meat message is so didactic it belongs in Star Trek. There's little of his usual sparkling dialogue and, Oscar aside, no memorable characters. The aforementioned concepts were thrust upon him by John Nathan-Turner, who script-edited most of this, and Holmes doesn't seem very happy, whipping up a very tired, bored and boring mess. The plot is vague, motivations are unclear (Chessene suddenly changes her plan midway through) and it goes on seemingly forever.

The length was another Nathan-Turner imposition - and rather a hypocritical one. After all, it was he who did away with six parters, ironically when the last few finally got the pacing right! But this sees a return to the horrid padding of old. Most of part one is tedious, as we follow the Doctor and Peri through the deserted space station. There's only one good moment, when the computer suddenly says "They threatened the Time Lords". It's a nice jolt, and I remember it quite vividly as it was the cliffhanger for the story's Australian transmission, in which it was shown as six episodes (oddly enough, it was edited this way for the VHS release too!) The second episode also drags and only the last section of part three provides anything in the way of movement. The slowness isn't helped in any way by Peter Moffat's lifeless direction. Static images added to a stagnant script don't make for good fare, and this is before you factor in the horrid 80s costumes and design.

The Sontarans are completely wasted. Their return was publicised before airing, therefore denying us any Earthshock-style surprise, but their appearances are still clumsily handled. Their ships are sighted and they are identified as they approach the station, yet the monsters remain unseen as they capture the second Doctor. Why? We know who they are, so there's no real point for this. They then vanish for a while and re-appear in Spain - but they're just walking round and doing nothing, procrastinating, prevaricating and making macho threats. Then they're dispatched when the script has no further need for them, and on top of this the masks are crap; they're extremely ill-fitting, and as they're a clone species one of them shouldn't be more than a foot taller than the other!

Patrick Troughton is also wasted as the second Doctor. His performance is very good, but he's under-used and comes across as nothing more than a boast for the production team. They're showing him off rather than allowing him to be constructive. While there are moments of Troughton magic - the first ten minutes and his wonderful culinary escapade with Shockeye stand out - for the most part he's displayed like a trophy guest star. As much as I like Frazer Hines, he's not very good here. As with Troughton, the actor's enthusiasm is evident, but a 40-something man trying to re-create his youthful verve from two decades ago just doesn't work. Nicola Bryant gives one of her worst performances as Peri, but she's not helped by having her character so badly written. There's zero chemistry between her and Colin Baker, and she still can't say "glass" in a convincing American accent! (cf. The Caves of Androzani). Jacqueline Pearce is a fine actor, but she's stepped straight back into Servalan mode, only a few years after the end of Blake's 7, offering nothing new.

Colin Baker comes out best from all this. He's excellent, and by now has cemented his own interpretation of the Doctor. While he still can be an annoying git, the more unbalanced, disturbing aspects have gone - thankfully. Him killing Shockeye at the end shouldn't be as controversial as it's often been - there's no difference between this and his disposing of the Cyberleader in Earthshock - although the subsequent pun is very tasteless and should have been left out. On the subject of Shockeye, John Stratton gives a fantastic performance, sharing the best acting honours with Baker, although I also like Laurence Payne as Dastari, and James Saxon gives a memorable turn as Oscar. As I said, he's the best example of a Robert Holmes creation, reminiscent of Henry Gordon Jago from The Talons of Weng-Chiang.

While I'm being nice, I must admit the location photography in and around Seville is rather good, and I really like Malcolm Clarke's Sontaran march theme; it's a pity it wasn't used more.

But overall The Two Doctors is a sprawling and uninteresting mess, penned by a writer who seems to want no part of it. It's what you get when those in charge obsessed over gimmicks, image and continuity rather than solid stories. What's more sad is that it's Patrick Troughton's last appearance in the show that so rightly endeared him to countless viewers. He didn't deserve to bow out this way. 2.5/10

A Review by John Reid 5/4/10

The idea of previous Doctors meeting each other had been around since the seventies story The Three Doctors. Producer Barry Letts had treated the idea as a humorous tribute to the memory of the show by having the current (third) Doctor reunited with the second Doctor only for them to argue. They used the obvious plot device of having a powerful body (in this case the Time lords) taking older Doctors from their part of their time stream. An idea that Terrance Dicks would use ten years later for The Five Doctors.

The roots of this story go back to Robert Holmes being asked to submit an idea for the twentieth anniversary with the second, third and fourth Doctors returning to meet the fifth Doctor. In this plot, the Cybermen were after the Doctors DNA and wanted to extract the symbiosis of the Time Lord that gives him the ability to time travel. Holmes' story fell by the wayside but ideas from that story forms the basis of The Two Doctors, with the notable change from Cybermen to the Sontarans.

Writer Robert Holmes' original idea of the Sontarans in their first story, The Time Warrior was of a race of soldiers who were so incredibly pompous Colonel Blimp characters that, when arriving on earth, they found Earthlings to be more violent than they were. By the time of The Two Doctors, the Sontarans are not too far removed from Graham Chapman's officer from Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Holmes in The Two Doctors goes against the grain of how a story involving the same person could meet themselves without trying to come across himself. In this case, the second Doctor and Jamie are on a mission from the Time Lords to visit an old friend Dastari, as they have noticed he is responsible for disturbances in the time field. However, as the Time Lords have a policy of non interference, but want to make sure that Dastari doesn't rip a hole in the space time fabric, they send the second Doctor to ask Dastari to stop. It won't interfere with their policy of non intervention as the Doctor is a renegade.

When I first saw this story, I believed it was too long. Peter Moffat's direction, while lacking in places, is his finest hour and Patrick Troughton falls back into the role even though it had been 19 years since he started. Unfortunaltey, this isn't Peri's finest hour and the sixth Doctor was still finding his feet. However, the real star is Shockeye, as the idea of a cannibal race was one that Robert Holmes had been working on since his time as script editor. This story has been criticised for violence, but I don't consider it any different from previous years and justified as it would be in other Colin Baker gems Vengeance on Varos and The Trial of a Time Lord. The real strength of this story is Pat Troughton playing off Colin Baker's Doctor in what would be the second Doctor's last story. 9/10

Great, but not the best.

A Review by Yeaton Clifton 17/3/11

This classic episode featuring Patrick Troughton alongside Colin Baker is very entertaining if viewed as a satire and piece of black comedy. Troughton's performance is excellent, particularly the part of the story where he is transformed into a cannibalistic alien who goes with a similar alien to a restaurant in Seville. Unlike many Doctor Who serials, the story can be said to have a solid plot. The reality of cannibalism creates a conflict in the mind of the sixth Doctor about the business of eating meat. The conflict is resolved when he becomes a vegetarian. I am writing this review, my first review, to address two major complaints about The Two Doctors. There is a charge that it is illogical; it is logical as any story, given the absurd universe of Doctor Who. There is also a charge that the story is too violent; it would not be a black comedy if it were excessive and, given that violence is the subject of the plot, a certain amount of violence is understandable. If there something very wrong with this story, it is that the story is sexist, but I would like to explain the positive before I explain the problem. I do not consider it one of the ten best Doctor Who stories, and it did not work with me so well that I gave up meat. I am recommending this story to people who are in a mood for something absurd and funny.

There is something very violent about the cannibalistic race the Androgums. The Androgums believe they are far superior to the human race and view humans essentially as food. Androgums believe their gourmet taste makes them superior, although Androgum is conspicuously an acronym for gourmand: a word for a person who loves food although his or her taste is not very refined. It also conspicuous that the Doctor, when discussing a Androgum whose intellect was augmented, suggests that she cannot really be changed. It is a disturbing to suggest there is an irredeemable race and it would be inexcusable if the suggestion were taken literally. I interpret the statement as a comment about arrogance. It suggests the groups most certain of their own superiority might be the most inferior. The most arrogant people in asserting their superiority are the ones who cannot be redeemed. I believe that it is intended to call into question the human belief we are superior to the animals we eat. The analogy is completely over the top and offensive, but that seems to be the idea. The references to cannibalism are also very offensive and seem lustful, but that seems to be how the author wants to present our carnivorous nature. This not something that I agree with, but I think it is interesting to examine the scriptwriter's point of view. I would also point out that a great deal of what is on TV is more violent than any Doctor Who episode and most of these violent shows have no sane reason for being violent.

There is an interesting question that has been posed about whether the sixth Doctor would remember the events in a direct way. The story is that the sixth Doctor does not remember because his past is being actively altered as the story goes on. The sixth Doctor gets sudden encounters with his past changing. The sixth Doctor's timeline was altered because the Time Lords decided to use the second Doctor as their agent, thus disrupting the reality of the sixth Doctor. The proof of this is that when the second Doctor changes into an Androgum, the sixth Doctor starts to change, implying that is being rewritten so that he was an Androgum during all of the time in between when he was the second Doctor and the present. The second Doctor changes back into a Time Lord and the past of the sixth Doctor is restored. The logic is that of a TV series where it is possible to travel through time in a police box. In such a series, explanations tend to be odd, but The Two Doctors is not particularly odd in terms of the explanation it gives.

The biggest problem with the story is that, for a plot that claims to have an enlightened message, the way Peri is presented is fairly demeaning. Peri is the longtime companion of the sixth Doctor. She is underdressed, continually abused by the Doctor and seems to function mainly as defenseless victim for the Doctor to rescue. Her defenselessness is highlighted when she is placed on a butcher's table and an Androgum is waving a knife over her, planning to torture her before he chops her to bits. I am well aware that the show evolved into a vehicle in which the Doctor was the main hero and that some of his companions serve as decorations; for example, Leela and Amy are fairly decorative. The main hero is supposed to be the one rescuing the supporting case, but often the companions are given a certain amount of ability to defend themselves; even if we are to see Peri as not able to defend herself against monsters, there is the question of why she puts up with the Doctor's abuse. A sane woman would walk out of the TARDIS if treated that way and it gives the impression that attractive women are natural victims. Sexism is something of a problem with the entire twenty-first season, but presenting Peri as an object of cannibalism makes the problem worse.

I think The Two Doctors is one of the higher points of the Colin Baker era. It is funny, it moves fast and it gives you something to think about. There are a lot of chases that are fun, but do not keep the story from having a solid plot. Recommended for fans who are willing to look at something that is disturbing, so that they can get something to think about. Not for the faint of heart.

A Review by Richard Conway 22/8/12

Forever linked in the subconcious of Who fans with the cancellation/hiatus of 85. More than a quater of a century later seems like more than enough time has past to look afresh at The Two Doctors. The first thing that stikes you (sorry strikes you... couldn't resist) is that Robert Holmes (the writer) has written a black comedy for the programme. The one and only time he did so. I genuienly found myself laughing out loud throughout and for all the right reasons.

The problem the story has - if it has one - is that the production team in charge of making it seem blissfully unaware of this and seem content in making a standard action adventure. The only ones on the production who have seeminly latched onto the way the story has been written are the two leads, Colin Baker and Troughton. They both relish the sparkling dialogue throughout and bring out the black humour present. If ever there was a story in the mid 80s that showcased the breakdown between the two powerhouses of production, namely producer/director and script editor/writer, then it's this one.

The story itself is glossy and well-produced. With the Spanish locale not being neccessary for the story, it is at least pleasing on the eye and gives the story some high production values. The sets and the costumes are all of their time and that is not a criticism but merely stating a fact and all of the acting is of a good order also. With the main plaudits going to John Stratton's Shockeye. Between writer and actor, they come up with a wonderful creation, that is a grotesque in the extreme, and it's all the better for it. The only thing that lets down the character are the visualisations of the orange eyebrows and the silver warts; however, this was the mid 80's after all.

There is no denying that had this story kept it's original location of New Orleans and been tightened to a pacier 2 parter, that's to say 2x45 mins episodes, it would have been a more involving and exciting story but it didn't and wasn't and it is a fruitless task criticising a story for what it wasn't rather than what it was. The director of this story was Peter Moffat who, on his last work on the program, is as easy on the eye as ever. If he lacked a little behind the camera, it was when it came to action. He never cut enough or moved the camera enough to sell it and make it work, and his style of directing in this kind of genre did at times seem a little pedestrian.

In conclusion, what we get from this melting pot of ideas and talent is a story that ultimately falls a little between two stools. It runs from action adventure to black farce, many a time in the same scene, and this is possibly why even now, after all this time and free from the black cloud of the cancellation/hiatus, it's not held in higher esteem. The story is being pulled from a production perspective from both sides and therefore doesn't quite know what it wants to be.

The best example to demonstate this is in the death of one of the main characters. No, not one of the usual suspects that are used to illustrate where this story went wrong, but in Stike the lead Sontaran. His death is really grand farce and black comedy to a tee. He is killed three times in quick succession in three different ways by three different protagonists. The last time of course by his own orders! It's not only the funniest death in the whole series, it's probably one of the funniest moments as well. It just doesn't play out like that though because the production team are just playing it straight. Even when Shockeye caps of the gag by plonking down what remains of the character (half a leg), it's still played straight and so what comes out of these scenes is just seen as gruesome and misguided, rather than the clever black farce that it really is.

A misunderstood classic then. No, there's not enough excitment, tension or pure drama in the finished program for that. Neither does it deserve its tarnished reputation as the gory and over-violent misstep that brought the roof down on Who. Like the story itself, it falls somewhere in the middle. 3/5

"Licence to Kill" by Thomas Cookson 12/10/14

This is one last 80's story I must reckon with, but not necessarily to bury it.

Tom May has nailed how this was likely a vague attempt to make a 'classic' story. Unfortunately JNT by now defined 'classic' as The Twin Dilemma. But JNT knew what fandom apparently wanted, which was Robert Holmes and continuity.

There was no particular occasion for a multi-Doctor story here, only two years after the last one. I think it came about because Patrick Troughton was still keen on playing the character again. On those grounds, there's no reason it should've been out the question. And I doubt many fans would hand on heart say we should have been denied this story, given it was Pat's last performance in the role. Even I have trouble maintaining my 'it should have ended on Logopolis/Castrovalva' stance when I think of that.

So we have a conflict between fandom's self-loathing compulsion to bash continuity fanservice against their respect for one of the show's most beloved lead actor's last performances before he died. Sure Jon Pertwee's last performance hardly makes Dimensions in Time a keeper. But this is different.

As a continuity exercise, it makes more sense than Arc of Infinity or Warriors of the Deep did. The Sontarans are pretty self-explanatory to non-fans, and a multi-Doctor story would make sense to viewers who freshly remembered The Five Doctors and Davison's regeneration.

Bringing back the Sontarans might've been redundant if The Invasion of Time had been their finest hour. But it wasn't. So there was more you could still do with the Sontarans. In fact, this could have done for the Sontarans what Earthshock did for the Cybermen. After all, Season 22 is less a natural successor or continuation to Season 21 and more a Season 19 redux.

JNT's concern over recasting the Doctor after Tom Baker was whether audiences would accept the new guy, or even see this as the same show. The solution was to focus on continuity, surrounding Davison with familiar foes to corroborate his credentials by having his enemies still recognize him as the Doctor. Asserting that the show's past was bigger than Tom Baker. So after Tom Baker's departure to dismal ratings, Season 19 saved the show, yet simultaneously damned it.

This continuity fixation should have ended in 1983 with Resurrection of the Daleks and The Five Doctors at the latest. Unfortunately, the former was postponed a year. But Season 21 felt like the endgame, hopefully bringing the continuity to completion, before passing the torch to a new incumbent with more distance from Tom Baker's shadow.

But rather than letting this new Doctor carry the show without the crutch of continuity, they chickened out. Maybe JNT had an inflated opinion of how beloved Davison was, thinking Colin now had Davison's shadow to overcome. Sure JNT knew that some convention-goers, and even his own bitchy boyfriend considered Davison 'bland'. But he'd been beside Davison when promoting the show on chatshows, and knew Davison was, for many, the face of the Doctor.

So Season 22 gets heavy flack for its gratuitous continuity, not for being any more offensive or nonsensical about it than Davison's era was, but because it wasn't the fresh start we were unspokenly promised.

What do I think of The Two Doctors? Well, when I watching this story during an online marathon, I realized it really was a cut above Season 22's usual crop. Plenty of fans who hate Colin's era would consider this one story they'd gladly keep. Many other fans claim it put the biggest stake through the show's heart, precisely because all hopes rested on this combo of Holmes and Troughton. After all, if they couldn't save this era, nothing could.

My own view goes back and forth. I hate how this story valorises fandom's view that some lost-cause 80's stories were actually salvageable if only the production and directing had been up to scratch. It's actually true here, but I think this and Terminus are the only times where it is. No Hollywood production values could save Time-Flight or Warriors of the Deep from being rotten through and through. This script is different. It's very promising and should have been nothing if not satisfying. It's actually lavishly produced, but the director isn't in synch with the tone. Or rather, a really good director could pull its problematic tone together, but Peter Moffatt ain't the man for the job.

On paper, Peter Moffatt should have been a good choice. When directing State of Decay, he'd aggressively fought against Bidmead for the integrity of Terrance Dicks' vision. So equally he should have been in touch with what macabre tone Holmes was aiming for here. Peter Moffatt was rather the unsung hero behind the scenes of State of Decay, even taking time to sympathetically work through Tom and Lalla's issues. I'll probably go to my grave cursing how, in a perfect world, he'd have gotten the producer's job in 1980 instead.

He'd done a fairly sturdy job on The Five Doctors, so he was the natural choice for the next multi-Doctor story. He'd not only worked with Patrick Troughton before, but he'd demonstrated a good flair for maintaining the momentum of adventures split between separate parties on different routes to the same quest. But this story feels merely gimmicky, like a typical Doctor Who story that's been split in two. It doesn't feel like a proper multi-Doctor special.

So what works about this story, and what doesn't?

Well compared to stories preceding it, it shows a rapid curve of improvement in certain areas. It suffers from similar pacing problems as Mark of the Rani, but what fills its stretched runtime is far more substantial and engaging. Also, at its stretched length, you'd have time to really notice if it was as sloppy or half-finished an effort as Attack of the Cybermen or Vengeance on Varos was. And it clearly isn't. It holds together narratively very well, and in some ways pre-empts some of the timey-wimey business of Moffat's era. In fact, the scenes where the Sixth Doctor undergoes self-hypnosis to find his abducted second incarnation or begins succumbing to the Androgum conditioning of his earlier self seem like a forerunner to A Christmas Carol and The Girl Who Waited.

Where it is sloppy of course is in terms of canon continuity. So sloppy in fact that it birthed the Season 6B theory. This leads me to the conclusion that the JNT era wasn't really more accurate with continuity than the show had been before. It simply adopted that pretext as a propaganda tool that many fans swallowed, having wearied of the more flippant way continuity was handled under Douglas Adams. It wasn't so much about getting the facts right as feigning newly defined facts that are suddenly made out to be how they've always been. Which is in keeping with JNT's tabloid sensibilities. The focus on solidity of production value complemented the sense of watching a block universe with a set timeline.

What the story really has going for it though are its characters. See, in Attack of the Cybermen, I thought Lytton's gang were fairly witty characters, but then I realized that, beyond this, there's nothing to them. Even despite Terry Molloy bringing a lot to Russell's character, he's actually only there to deliver exposition about Lytton, then get killed off. Vengeance on Varos like I said feels half-finished: whilst Sil and the Governor are brilliantly drawn, it's a story in which the ciphers far outnumber genuine characters.

Shockeye feels authentically real and driven by animal instincts in a way that gives him a genuine visceral presence and danger. The man is volatile. Chessene, likewise, has a dark nature all her own that breeds inner turmoil within her. Oscar and Donna are a sweet and awkward but likeable couple. So it genuinely hurts when death strikes them. Even minor victims like the blind woman become people because of Chessene's telepathic reading of who she was and what thoughts and beliefs dominated her mind. Dastari is a bit on the limp side, but even his arc from turncoat to redeemed figure feels organic and believable. The Sontarans are wasted though. Yet again, under Saward, the Doctor needn't do much to overcome adversity when the villains are already destroying each other anyway.

It might mean this is a cut above Season 22 because our points of character interest aren't solely on the toxic Sixth Doctor and Peri relationship. But overall the character decisions are real and engaging and lead to genuine predicaments and sharp danger, and visceral sensations. Making this much more involving and rewarding to watch.

But the afterviewing does leave a nasty aftertaste.

From first watching this, I've always had problems with the fascistic assertion that Androgums can't be enlightened or redeemed because savagery is in their blood. Now I can enjoy the Planet of the Apes films without being bothered by its portrayal of a racially segregated caste system, with the gorillas being good-for-nothing thugs of the military who are considered stupid savages by the more enlightened higher up chimpanzees and orangutans. Maybe because we expect that kind of hierarchy of intelligence to the animal kingdom. But this is different, and far uglier, because it actually rules out the idea that intelligence can redeem the lower castes. The idea of arbitrarily cutting off someone's humanity and consigning them to a sub-human level just because of their race. No wonder Lawrence Miles was going to praise it in About Time 6.

It's not quite Warriors of the Deep where the Doctor outright tells the human victims of ethnic cleansing that we're a lesser species who have it coming just for existing. But it's close. It's about rendering the Androgums defenceless and powerless and ascribing how their lives carry less value.

Perhaps this is a continuation of Holmes' evisceration of criminal culture in The Caves of Androzani. That there exists a violent lumpen proletariat who can't be rehabilitated. That's a common view for a cynical ex-policeman. Is he wrong? I certainly believe some violent criminals or sex offenders can never be rehabilitated, and that their intellect only makes them more manipulative and dangerous. But framed in species terms, it comes off as racist and fascistic. Although a part of me suspects Robert Holmes intended the Androgums as more a universal metaphor for the human psyche and our darker, greedy, malicious desires that we repress. But typical of JNT's era, it comes off as too literal-minded to work.

As for Shockeye's death? I doubt anyone can seriously argue that a dangerous beast like Shockeye didn't need putting down after killing Oscar, without sounding idiotic. What choice did the Doctor have?

James Bond or Indiana Jones films feature plenty of cartoonish 'happy kills' of bad guys. Robert Holmes often specialized in them. See Terror of the Autons and The Sunmakers. I was somewhat glad we got away from this in the Davison era, where everything became a serious matter, until I realized that what replaced it was actually far worse. Dwelling on villains' screaming, corroding, dying moments. Going for forced, ugly repulsion to emotionally bully our sympathies for reprehensible scumbags. 'Happy kills' are slick and dealt with quickly. But an upsetting villain's death that provokes sympathy only works if you're technically exemplary at it. Good examples being Blade Runner and Das Boot.

Holmes is going for the former, but Moffatt films it as the latter, lingeringly, horribly. Producing an ugly mix. Like Cassandra's death, except in reverse. In terms of the Doctor's Van Helsing role of vanquishing evil by any means, there's no symbolism here. No potions. No alchemy. Just cyanide. A real-life murder weapon. Too easy. Too close to home.

Overall, it's Holmes writing the best Chibnall story that Chibnall never wrote. It's Countrycide with wit and imagination, and Pat and Frazer's double act. From that, you can gauge why it's a cut above Season 22, yet far less than we'd expect or want from Holmes.