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15 February 2018 @ 07:22 pm
The Randomiser: The Two Doctors  
The Two Doctors is a rather depressing viewing experience. There is so much there which one feels could have worked really well but somehow doesn't.

B. mostly complained about how long it took the two Doctors to meet up. What was the point, he wanted to know, of a multi-Doctor story where you don't really get to see them interact (though one could argue that this is precisely what The Five Doctors does).

The strongest part of the story is probably Jacqueline Pearce's Chessene - and I think it says something about the rest of the performances that I'm inclined to label hers as pleasantly restrained. She manages to give us a moderately complex villain with a clear plan and agenda. Dastari, on the other hand, seems somewhat character free beyond being a bit of a patsy and apparently devoid of any real capacity for empathy (he certainly seems to quite happily collude in the deaths of his colleagues) - moreover a great deal of the first half of the story makes little sense following the reveal that Dastari was complicit in the attack on the space station all along. Shockeye, for all he is pantomimicly over-the-top at least has a clear personality. The Sontarans are also bland. Arguably four antagonists is too many anyway, even for a six-parter length story, but also arguably in a story this length a diverse selection of villains with competing agendas is precisely what you want to keep things moving along.

Roughly a normal episode length is spent on a not-chase around Seville. While the production team may have wished to show-case their location filming one can't help feeling that endless shots of various characters checking out Seville's restaurants is not the most gripping thing ever.

Oscar Botcherby's death oddly doesn't work either and I'm not sure why. Doctor Who has shown us the deaths of sympathetic incidental characters many times in the past. I'm not sure if the problem is that Botcherby is a little too much of a caricature to be actually sympathetic or perhaps for us to genuinely anticipate his story may end in tragedy, or that the death itself is over-played, or the Doctor, Peri and Jamie's reaction to it is underplayed or what but it feels jarring to the flow of the story. Maybe its because his relationship with Anita never really convinces and so her grief feels misplaced.

Where some of Colin Baker's better stories, such as Vengeance on Varos, have a strong underpinning theme or message that can convert the larger-than-life style of the era into something approaching satire or allegory, the closest The Two Doctors comes to this is its portrayal of a species that views humans as food animals. I'd argue this is actually the strongest part of the story's plot, but it is essentially a distraction - a B plot that has little bearing on the main story about the attempt to steal the secret of time travel which is mostly just a bit dull and technobabbly.

There was the potential for something good here. But the tendency for Colin Baker stories to be over-the-top and bombastic has been dialled up and it lacks the substance that his better stories could use to support the bright colours and larger than life performances. An interesting failure, perhaps, but a failure none-the-less and at over two hours running time, one that outstays its welcome.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/483903.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on February 15th, 2018 10:12 pm (UTC)
I watched the whole of season twenty-two over the last two weeks or so, and I felt it was pretty awful. Possibly my least favourite season ever. There's a lack of plot substance, a lack of engaging characters (including/especially the regulars) and a level of brutality that is just depressing. I don't mind violence in Doctor Who per se, but too many stories are just reliant on shock tactics (and excessive continuity) to cover up for the lack of a coherent plot or engaging characters and there is a lack of humour that just makes things worse.

The Two Doctors perhaps exemplifies this more than any of the others except maybe Attack of the Cybermen. Parts of it (e.g. Shockeye holding up Stike's severed leg, Shockeye eating a rat and probably the death of Oscar) are trying to be 'edgy', but fail to say anything meaningful or do anything other than provoke disgust. It's also very padded and boring, and directed very badly (compare with State of Decay and see how 'Whoed out' Peter Moffat had become, or simply how little he understood the script). I don't think the Doctors not meeting is a problem in itself, but Troughton is criminally underused. After the first ten minutes of part one he is either unconscious, tied up or an Androgum (admittedly the second Doctor as an Androgum is moderately entertaining). Jamie gets more to do than he does!

The whole thing is just a mess and some fans have noted, the fact that Robert Holmes was descending to this level shows how bad a shape the programme was in. And that's without even mentioning the implicit racism in the Doctor insisting that the Androgums are essentially animals and can't be raised to a higher level (I wrote a blog post on this and related matters the other day and then backed away from posting it to avoid controversy and because I was worried that I was basically accusing Robert Holmes of being racist because of a poorly-thought through plot point here and a couple of lines in Talons. I can send it to you if you're interested).
louisedennis: Who:Sixlouisedennis on February 16th, 2018 05:50 pm (UTC)
The Writers' Room podcast has, fairly convincingly I think, argued that Eric Saward neither liked nor was interested in the Doctor as a character and generally wasn't that interested in the companions either (including ones he had had a hand in creating). It certainly explains a number of features of the stories he helms, such as the tendency to sideline the Doctor.