Saturday, 16 August 2014

Doctor Who: Twelve for Twelve - The Twin Dilemma Review (Sixth Doctor)

"Whatever else happens, I am the Doctor, whether you like it or not." 
Many would think I've drawn the short straw with reviewing this story, but you know what... I kind of like it. Although Colin Baker's era gets a lot of criticism, there are some real gems in the episodes, especially in his performance as the newly regenerated Sixth Doctor.

Discovering a new Doctor is always exciting and Colin Baker makes it all the more interesting. His Doctor takes us through a range of emotions - going from arrogant to hysterical to cowardly and even murderous, almost as if Baker is testing the new Doctor to see how he wants to play him. No other newly regenerated Doctor has displayed the Doctor's emotional change quite as boldly as this, to the point where the viewer is just as clueless to the new Doctor's personality as he is.

"How dare you not thank me!"
His explosive change of course and attempt on Peri’s life makes us question if we’ll even like this Doctor. Peri is quite quick to accept him though, which always surprises me with the companions, but I suppose after travelling with the Doctor they’re used to the strangeness. She clearly doesn’t like this new Doctor’s tetchy persona, but who can blame him when she never even thanked the Doctor for the heroic sacrifice in the previous episode which led to his regeneration?

One notable moment is the Doctor’s line “I’m not people.” which is very similar to the Eleventh Doctor’s “Am I people? Do I even look like people?” I’m betting Moffat has seen this episode too.

The wardrobe scene, with its callbacks to the Second Doctor’s fur coat and the Third Doctor’s velvet jacket, visually shows how each Doctor is different and one’s costume and personality would not suit another. The Doctor’s choice of outfit is one which nobody in their right mind would like, but of course, he's not in his right mind, and in a way the costume reflects the Doctor at this point. Peri voices the viewer’s concerns, but the Doctor’s stubborn opinions once again defines his Doctor. I mean, Peri’s outfit is hardly any better, and the Doctor's outfit is just as conspicuous as walking around in cricket gear - which brings me to Peter Davison.

The Sixth Doctor describes his former self quite critically. "My last incarnation. I was never happy with that one... It had a sort of feckless charm, which simply wasn't me." This highlights the stark contrast between this new Doctor and Davison's friendly, pleasant Doctor. It also harks back to the First Doctor, who, like this Doctor, was more grumpy and selfish than his later incarnations. I find it quite nice to see this sort of Doctor again as it reminds us that the Doctor is not like us and he isn't always the nice, friendly hero we expect. This is summed up in the final lines of the episode:
"You seem to forget, Peri, I'm not only from another culture but another planet. I am, in your terms, an alien... I would suggest, Peri, that you wait a little before criticising my new persona."
A very clever line that reassures the viewer that this Doctor might change, but even if he doesn't they're still stuck with him.

The story focuses around the kidnapping of Romulus and Remus, two children so irritating they make Clara’s Angie and Artie seem positively lovely, with acting as bad as their haircuts. They are joined by other bad actors who grace us with such scenes as Roger Nott's abysmal death by embolism scene. We also get to see Peri's amazing ability to stop crying quicker than the Vashta Nevada at a buffet, along with her magic invisible tears. There are some saving graces though, such as Maurice Denham's Edgeworth, who - apart from his terribly unconvincing being taken over by Mestor - is very interesting to watch. The revelation that he is actually Azmael, an old friend of the Doctor's, is an excellent little touch that creates a whole new chapter in the Doctor's life with untold adventures between the Fourth Doctor and his mentor. This technique of creating years of history in a few lines has been used a lot recently, especially with the likes of River Song, the majority of whose adventures we never even see.

The plot is quite basic: a bunch of aliens kidnap two genius kids to help create an explosion to spread their alien eggs throughout the galaxy. The story is fast paced but packs in a lot of interesting elements and manages to create well developed characters very quickly.

The aliens in this episode are actually not too bad. The Jacondans look as good as the cat people of recent episodes, although the costume budget appears to have run out at Mestor. In fact, I'd like to know what the costume designer was smoking when they made this episode. It's not just the Doctor's coat that's garish. Lang's sparkly multicoloured coat is blindingly bad. Just be grateful that the Doctor never chose that instead!

So there we have it, the Twin Dilemma. Sure it's not the best story and it has more than a few flaws, but if you appreciate it for what it is then you'll find a few gems in there. Colin Baker introduces his Doctor with pizzaz and over the course of the episode manages to create a well developed character that is undeniably the Doctor. I recommend you give this episode a chance and focus on Baker's marvellous performance.

Our series of reviews continues tomorrow, when Harris reviews Time and the Rani. In the meantime, why not treat yourself to some carrot juice?