Doctor Who – The Two Doctors Review (or “Fannying About In Spain”)

Now here’s a story that should be good.

The last Doctor Who from the pen of Robert Holmes was the top rated story of all time, The Caves of Androzani and this adventure is one of the true rarities in the history of the show; a story involving more than one Doctor.

It’s only been done twice before, in the form of the mediocre Three Doctors and the excellent Five Doctors.

But with Holmes in charge and Patrick Troughton and Fraser Hines involved, surely The Two Doctors will be good?

Right?

Wrong!

Doctor Who – The Two Doctors Review: What’s This One About

The Sixth Doctor stumbles across a Second Doctor Adventure that involves wrongly proportioned Sontarans, Servalan, a luvvie and…for some reason…Spain.

This is also a story told in three episodes, which means in terms of running time, this is the last Six Part story of the Classic Era.

Thoughts – How Could They Get It So Wrong?

The opening scene of the Two Doctors is filled with so much promise. The Doctor and Jamie in the TARDIS, blatantly trying to fit as much innuendo in as possible, setting up the story.

There’s no overacting and no stupid dialogue; you’re filled with a sense of nostalgia and hope for what could and should be a great three episodes.

And in fairness to it, the set-up continues well through the first half of Episode One (which – and I’m sorry to keep harping back to this – would be the entire length of a normal 23 minute episode).

Just for a moment, things seemed good

Just for a moment, things seemed good

But then it all goes wrong.

Once Patrick Troughton’s Doctor exits the stage midway through that episode it just becomes a tale of fannying about in Spain.

It’s as if the plot doesn’t matter any more, and it’s more important to show the local scenery.

Beyond the set-up – i.e. the Timelords have sent the Second Doctor to put a stop to the time travel experiments of Kartz and Reimer but instead he is captured so they can extract the symbiotic nuclei from him – it’s a load of absolute drivel

  • Why have they gone to Spain anyway?
  • Considering they exist purely to be turned on (that’s turned against rather than be sexually aroused), why even bother with the Sontarans?
  • Why are we supposed to care about a character whose sole purpose is that he “hilariously” wants to cook and eat a human?
  • Why would Dastari even agree to bring the idiot chef with them anyway?

These are all key issues, because ultimately all the Two Doctors is is a story that seems to be fitted round what items John Nathan Turner wanted it to contain.

Much like the Arc of Infinity and Planet of Fire, JNT wanted to go abroad. It didn’t matter that filming it in Spain added the sum total of sod all to the story, nor did it matter that to get the city centre of Seville they’d have to come up with an utterly stupid plot device (turning the Second Doctor into an Androgum for the sake of getting them to a restaurant), nor – as I mentioned above – did it matter that the Sontarans added nothing of value either. All that mattered to JNT was that the story include these things.

And it suffered as a result.

Another Case Of Fizzling Out

In many of the reviews of this season I’ve bemoaned the way the stories fizzle out, and the Two Doctors is no exception.

Even allowing for how poor it is in the first two episodes, it gets worse as it goes along.

Like I said above, the stuff with the Second Doctor being augmented was a total waste of time, but beyond that it’s just padding, padding and more padding, until they have to rush to the finish and kill everyone off (because…you know…Eric Saward is the script editor).

The repetition is incredible. The Sontaran leader gets put through the mill, being stabbed in the leg, gassed, badly injured in the time capsule and then blown up, while Shockeye manages to get both Jamie and Peri on his table.

All in the same episode.

It’s just a chore to watch.

The Nature of the Story Makes No Sense

Having the Doctor cross his own timeline is a big deal. It’s only happened a few times and when it has, it’s been explained.

But it wasn't to last

But it wasn’t to last

In the Three Doctors, the Time Lords brought them all together as a very last option.

In the Five Doctors, they were brought together having been scooped out of time.

But in the Two Doctors, there’s no special reason. The two of them just meet up.

And that is deeply unsatisfying when you take a moment to think about it.

Why would the Sixth Doctor not remember everything that happened? Surely that’s in his past?

Instead, it’s played out as if they are two completely different blokes leading separate lives.

The reason given for the Sixth Doctor being going to see Dastari is also convoluted. Considering the Second Doctor wasn’t killed, why would the Sixth Doctor feel as though he was? And why then? Why not an hour before? It’s just so poorly thought out.

And don’t get me started on how it makes no sense for a grey-haired Second Doctor to even be in a situation where he’s going out and doing assignments for the Time Lords with an older Jamie. For a show so wrapped up in its own continuity at this point, that makes no sense unless there’s a fabled ‘Season 6b’.

Moreover, it makes no sense that the Second Doctor would be familiar with the Sontarans when the Third Doctor wasn’t.

Argh it’s just so frustrating.

The Violence

I think the Two Doctors is the show at its lowest ebb when it comes to violence.

When you have the Daleks exterminating people or the Raston Warrior Robot butchering a troop of Cybermen, there’s an element of fantasy that detaches it from being properly grim. I mean sure, there’s death, but it’s not something that could possibly happen in reality.

But in the Two Doctors there are two instances that are different.

For a start, there’s the murder of Oscar. I actually find this to be perhaps the most unnecessary and distasteful death the show has ever presented.

For no good reason – i.e. for the sake of it – Oscar is killed by being stabbed in cold blood in his restaurant. Not only was it pointless, but it was also properly violent in a ‘real’ way. And then to top it all off, not only does he die in a theatrical and unrealistic way, but the characters around him act like it’s completely inconsequential. The Doctor’s half-hearted “Goodnight Sweet Prince” is unbecoming of the lead character in a show like this.

And speaking of unbecoming, the way the Doctor murders Shockeye with cyanide is exactly that.

To me, those murders sully the show for different reasons. The first was insultingly done and not needed in the plot, while the other just didn’t suit the character of the Doctor.

Go on Doctor, put your back into it. Murder him!! That'll give the kids a good role model

Go on Doctor, put your back into it. Murder him!! That’ll give the kids a good role model

Bad writing, bad decisions.

I’m just waiting for Peri to get brutally raped in Timelash now…

The Colin Baker Cliffhanger Close-Up Count

Here we have the best of all worlds.

Episode One finishes with a close-up of Baker
Episode Two finishes with a close-up of Bryant
Episode Three finishes with a close-up of them both.

And so the score is…

Doctor 6-4 Peri

Random Observations

  • Quite a few people seem to praise the performance of John Stratton as Shockeye but I have always despised it. He’s an overacting luvvie, an annoying character and he looks stupid.
  • And I don’t get the hierarchy with the Androgums either. They are presented as the lowest form of life yet consider themselves to be well above humans. But what species are the scientists on that space station meant to be if not derived from humans?
  • And how can Androgums read Spanish and Chinese? And are we to assume that their natural language is actually English?
  • Jacqueline Pearce just plays Servalan here. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to the individual.
  • Earlier I mentioned the lack of continuity. Surely a team of Ian Levine and Robert Holmes could remember between them that the Sontarans are supposed to be small blokes, not giant hosses?
  • If Shockeye is breaking down Jamie’s muscles so that he can be cooked more easily, how is Jamie able to walk without any problems moments later?
  • The Incidental Music where the Doctor brutally murders Shockeye is reminiscent of the music from the first ever He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon, The Diamond Ray of Disappearance.
  • It began to drive me mad, so I looked up the script and checked this out. The words “Of Course…” are repeated 23 times in the Two Doctors. Patrick Troughton at one point starts almost every sentence with them.
  • I find the moral of the story – i.e. that you can try to take the scum out of the gutter but you can’t take the gutter out of the scum – to be clunky and unbecoming of a writer as usually reliable as Robert Holmes
  • Why did they murder everyone on the space station anyway? And why didn’t they save Kartz and Reimer?
  • Despite all these problems, Patrick Troughton and Fraser Hines are both very good and are clearly having fun. Even Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are decent enough here, and in the main the Sixth Doctor is a better written character than he has been, but that’s not enough for me to be positive.
  • Indeed, I feel that Patrick Troughton especially was underutilized and ended up being a side attraction beyond the first 20 minutes.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #125. Absolute nonsense. Rating it that high does a disservice to the likes of Revenge of the Cybermen, The Rescue, The Myth Makers and The Enemy of the World, which are all below it.

Doctor Who – The Two Doctors Review: Final Thoughts

I understand that people will like this because it has Patrick Troughton and Fraser Hines in it.

But that’s not good enough for me.

They are both a breath of fresh air in what is clearly showing up to be the lowest point in Doctor Who history, but even they can’t save this one.

The Two Doctors is badly written gimmickry that exists without anything resembling a decent plot.

I really do not enjoy this story, not in the least bit.

It should have been so much better.

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4 Responses to Doctor Who – The Two Doctors Review (or “Fannying About In Spain”)

  1. I watched it a few years a go and was shocked by the appearance of the Sontarans. Considering they hadn’t been seen for (how many?) years do they not just walk up to the house, without helmets, in Spain. Hardly the impact received in the Time Warrior.

  2. Professor Thascales says:

    I agree with just about all the criticisms of this story. Most of it was just nasty.
    There were some enjoyably witty lines–proving that this was written by Robert Holmes, though the rest of the script might make you question that. And I was amused by Shockeye and the now-evil Second Doctor eating a thousand pounds worth of gourmet food, then saying it was “edible.” But that was ruined by the pointless murder of Oscar. –Maybe (just speculating) Saward encouraged Holmes to indulge his most rebellious desires as a scriptwriter, but without a context that would make it work.
    Occasionally I’ve wondered if Holmes could have made a story like this work if it wasn’t Doctor Who, but a completely unrelated SF black comedy (so it wouldn’t violate the spirit or continuity of Dr. Who).

  3. Caleb says:

    The Third Doctor was familiar with the Sontarans as he was able to explain to Young Sarah-Jane who they were: “Nasty, brutish and short.

  4. Yeah, this episode is pretty terrible, but, It is my ‘guilty pleasure’ episode. I just can’t stop watching it.
    Also, Peter Howells incidental music throughout the episode is actually pretty good.

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