Perhaps the greatest problem with The Twin Dilemma is the sheer sense of anti-climax. Any story following The Caves of Androzani would have had a difficult job anyway, but the sheer half-hardheartedness of Twin is very surprising. As the debut story of a new Doctor, you would expect maximum effort – but there’s certainly something lacking here.
If Androzani was a story where nearly everything went right – helped by an enthusiastic first time Who director – then Twin is the diametric opposite. Peter Moffatt was seen as a safe pair of hands – he would get the show made on time and on budget, but he wasn’t someone you would expect to deliver a great deal of visual flair. Although to be fair, it does appear that the budget had pretty much run out (a regular occurrence for the final story of the season – see Time-Flight for example) which may explain the sight of computer terminals covered in tin-foil and other production shortcomings.
Twin’s other problems, like Womulus and Wemus, are well known, so there’s no point in dwelling on them. A few words must be saved for Mestor though, an incredibly inept monster design. After the perfection of Sharez Jek, it’s a bit of a shock for the Doctor’s next adversary to be a giant slug – and even more when a good actor like Edwin Richfield is totally wasted behind such an immobile mask, which negates all subtlety in performance. So Richfield (excellent as Captain Hart in The Sea Devils) is forced to rant and rave in order to be heard (and the fact that Mestor’s cross-eyed is a problem too).
There are some decent performers on Jaconda though. Maurice Denham brings a much-needed touch of class to proceedings, even if he sometimes seems to struggle with the banalities of the script. Olivier Smith (Drak) manages to make something out of nothing and Barry Stanton (Noma) is also able to bring a certain gravitas to proceedings. Seymour Green (who had previously appeared in The Seeds of Doom) has some nice comic touches as the Chamberlain, whilst Kevin McNally relishes his role as Hugo Lang.
If you haven’t heard it, then the commentary track with McNally, Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant is well worth a listen. McNally is quite the Who fan and there’s a refreshing enthusiasm from him when discussing his brief brush with the series. His interview with Toby Hadoke, as part of Hadoke’s Who’s Round is also warmly recommended.
Of course, Twin is really about one thing and one thing only – the debut of Colin Baker’s Doctor. He certainly makes an impact and is immediately very different from Davison’s Doctor. Just as Davison’s Doctor was clearly designed not to be as dominating as the Tom Baker incarnation, so the pendulum swings again with Colin Baker.
The Sixth Doctor (like the Fourth) is happy to be the centre of attention and is capable of instantly dominating proceedings. He’s far from stable here, of course, and this helps to fuel the drama as well as pushing the spotlight onto Nicola Bryant. Apart from The Edge of Destruction, it’s hard to recall the Doctor ever being quite so unapproachable (although Pertwee’s Doctor could be a grumpy old so-and-so from time to time).
I’ve always enjoyed Colin’s take on the Doctor and look forward to revisiting his stories over the coming weeks. It’s fair to say that he was short-changed during his time on the series (although the previous Doctors, bar Davison, had maybe left reluctantly, at least they all had a decent run in the series) and he never got to develop the character that would later blossom with Big Finish. However there’s enough little touches throughout his two and a bit years on the show to hint at what he might have done with the part, had he had the time.
PERI: Did you have to be so rude?
DOCTOR: To whom?
PERI: Hugo. You could at least have said goodbye. Are you having another of your fits?
DOCTOR: You may not believe this, but I have fully stabilised.
PERI: Then I suggest you take a crash course in manners.
DOCTOR: You seem to forget, Peri, I’m not only from another culture but another planet. I am, in your terms, an alien. I am therefore bound to different values and customs.
PERI: Your former self was polite enough.
DOCTOR: At such a cost. I was on the verge of becoming neurotic.
PERI: We all have to repress our feelings from time to time. I suggest you get back into the habit.
DOCTOR: And I would suggest, Peri, that you wait a little before criticising my new persona. You may well find it isn’t quite as disagreeable as you think.
PERI: Well, I hope so.
DOCTOR: Whatever else happens, I am the Doctor, whether you like it or not.
This last scene seems to be aimed not only at Peri, but also the viewers at home. As to whether they’d warm to the abrasive new Doctor, only time would tell.