Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World – Episode Five

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The mysterious visitor at the end of episode four is revealed to be Donald Bruce.  Although he’s Salamander’s head of security, he also seems to have a policeman’s instinct, as he’s willing to listen to the claims of Kent and the Doctor that Salamander is not the universal benefactor he claims to be (although anybody who’s spent time around him surely would have quickly picked up plenty of negative vibes).

Astrid disarms Bruce’s guard and the Doctor attempts to bring Bruce onto their side by handing the gun back to him.  As Bruce says, “you must be a complete fool or very clever.”  The Doctor responds that Bruce will “have to make up your mind to that right away.”  This fairly basic piece of psychology does the trick and Bruce agrees to accompany the Doctor as he attempts to enter the Research Centre.  But as insurance, Astrid and Kent are left behind – under guard.

Meanwhile, Salamander is still underground.  One of the slight problems with the underground scenes is that there’s only three speaking roles – Swann, Colin and Mary (there’s plenty of other people in the scenes, but they’re all just rhubarbing extras who rush around with clipboards, looking busy).  Adam Verney (as Colin) is still machine-gunning his lines, delivering them with an intensity that borders on the manic.  As the character is supposed to be somewhat stir-crazy, it’s a reasonable performance choice – although a little of him does go a long way.  Especially when delivering lines such as “I don’t think it’s right. Just work, sleep, eat, if there’s enough to go round. Like worms under the earth, sightless worms wriggling about without hope, without purpose.”

Mary (Margaret Hickey) has the thankless task of having little to do except react to Colin’s complaints.  Swann (Christopher Burgess) initially seemed also to be a rather uninteresting character, very much Salamander’s yes-man, but events take an unexpected turn when he discovers a fragment of newspaper which was stuck on their new boxes of supplies.  Salamander has told them all that there’s a global war occurring on the surface, and that their work (engineering natural disasters), is vital to the war effort.

But the scrap of newspaper has a report about the sinking of a holiday liner.  How can there be holiday liners in a world at war?  Swann confronts Salamander and it’s the first time that we’ve seen Salamander even slightly shaken.  He quick back-peddles and tells Swann that the war is over, but the survivors are deformed in mind and body.  “They have a kind of society, but it’s evil, corrupt. You don’t think I could expose you to that sort of thing? Think of Mary and the other women.”  Swann insists on going up to the surface with Salamander.  Salamander readily agrees and it’s not hard to understand why – Swann may go up, but he’s not coming down again.

Jamie and Victoria were absent from the previous episode and in the first half of this one were only in a brief shot (as their unconscious bodies were carried past the camera).  Once they’ve woken up, they have to face the tender devotions of Benik.  Milton Johns excels in this scene.  So much is left unsaid, as it’s left to the viewer’s imagination to wonder exactly what Benik would be prepared to do to them.  Jamie tells him that he must have been a nasty little boy, Benik concedes he was, but that he had a very enjoyable childhood.”

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But he only gets as far as tugging Victoria’s hair when he’s interrupted by Bruce and (apparently) Salamander.  In order to convince Bruce that Salamander is as corrupt as he believes him to be, the Doctor stays in character for a while – and he’s convincing enough to fool both Jamie and Victoria.  The recovery of this episode allows us to see a few more nice visual touches – as Jamie and Victoria confront the man they believe to be Salamander, the Doctor takes fright and falls off his chair.  He’s then concerned that his friends don’t recognise him, but after miming playing the recorder he’s delighted to find they believe him after all.  Just before this, Letts manages to ramp up the tension as he rapidly cuts between close ups of Hines and Watling as they list some of Salamander’s crimes.

Kent and Astrid manage to distract the guard (thanks to some HP sauce, it appears) and Kent hot-foots it to the Research Station.  He says he’ll have no trouble getting in, since he has a pass (are we supposed to believe that Salamander wouldn’t have had it cancelled by now?!).

At the same time, Astrid is trying to shake off the guard (through a very unconvincing section of forest – alas, it’s too obvious that it’s a studio mock-up) when she hears a cry for help.  She stumbles across a mortally injured Swann, who clearly has come off second best in a tussle with Salamander.  It’s interesting that a few minutes earlier Salamander asked Swann if he was sure he wanted to go right up to the surface – the inference being that if he’d changed his mind, Salamander would have spared his life.   I’m not sure if that was the scripted intention or just how it was played, but it does make the character of Salamander a little more interesting (was he reluctant to kill?  And if so, was it just because he didn’t want to get his own hands dirty?)

As it is, we once again end on a cliff-hanger where neither the Doctor and his friends are in danger.  It’s another atypical ending to an atypical (but far from uninteresting) story.

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Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World – Episode Three

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Until late 2013, this was the only surviving episode of The Enemy of the World and it may be the reason why the story generally enjoyed a fairly low standing, pre-recovery.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, but it’s quite low on incident (which is quite typical for one of the middle episodes of a six-parter).

Salamander orders Denes to be arrested and he later tells Fedorin to kill him (thoughtfully he provides the poison to do so).  Given that Denes would obviously prove to be awkward if he was brought to trial, his removal is understandable – it’s just bizarre that Salamander would chose Fedorin to do it.  From his first scene he’s been presented as a weak link.  True, if he did murder Denes then it would tie him even closer to Salamander, but logically you would have expected that a hand-picked guard would be a better choice.

As has often been stated, it’s a little odd that Denes is kept under guard in a corridor.  This is because, apparently, it’s the easiest place to guard him.  What, easier than a room with a door they can lock?  In story terms, having Denes in the corridor means that he can easily interact with any passing character, but it’s a pity that they couldn’t come up with a better reason why he was there.

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This episode is immeasurably livened up by Griffin the Chef (Reg Lye).  In plot terms he contributes nothing (and he doesn’t appear later in the story either) but his droll sense of humour is welcome in a story that’s been rather grim up until now.  Griff’s an eternal pessimist and with a long-suffering air agrees to take on Victoria as an assistant.  He asks her to write out the menus.  “First course interrupted by bomb explosion. Second course affected by earthquakes. Third course ruined by interference in the kitchen. I’m going out for a walk. It’ll probably rain.”

Jamie wonders if somehow Salamander managed to cause the earthquakes.  We then cut to scenes of the continuing earthquakes and rather neatly we pull away from this footage to show it was something the Doctor and Kent were watching on a monitor screen.  It seems like a nice directorial flourish, although it may have been scripted since Kent unconsciously continues the conversation that Jamie (many miles away) was having as he tells the Doctor he’s convinced that Salamander, via the Research Station, is somehow responsible for the earthquakes.

This is Troughton’s sole scene in episode three as the Doctor and he’s still not convinced.  “What you’re saying is that Salamander’s found a way of harnessing the natural forces of the earth. It’s a little difficult to accept. I’m not saying it’s impossible, mind you.”  Although the plot’s ticking away nicely and Troughton continues to entertain as Salamander, the necessity of the story means that the Doctor is once again placed in the background.  He gets to witness how unpleasant and ruthless Beink can be, but it’s still not enough proof for him.  “Unpleasant, yes, destructive, but not necessarily evil.”

There’s quite a high body count in this story and in episode three we bid farewell to both Denes and Fedorin.  Denes is shot in the back after Astrid attempted to rescue him and Fedorin is poisoned by Salamander.  I love Fedorin’s death scene, as you can clearly see that David Nettheim was milking it for all it was worth!  Denes’ death is a little more rushed though – it’s possible that time was a factor as there’s a swift cut after he’s shot straight into the next scene.  It’s a shame that Denes won’t take any further part in proceedings as George Pravda, especially in this episode, was rather good, especially the way he managed a wry tolerance of the madness occurring around him.

We end with Salamander becoming increasingly suspicious of Jamie and Victoria (which will conveniently remove them from the story for a week).  He’s also amazed to hear from Bruce that he’s recently met with Giles Kent ……

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Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World – Episode Two

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The Doctor manages to bluff Bruce into believing that he’s Salamander, but afterwards he’s still not convinced that he should help.  “I don’t know where you stand, Mister Kent, but you and this Salamander are obviously on opposite sides. That at least is clear. But which side is good? Which side is bad? And why should I interfere?”

Kent’s proposal is that Jamie and Victoria infiltrate Salamander’s HQ (using a plan he’d already devised for his own operatives) to find proof of his criminal activities.  Given the Doctor’s reluctance to get involved, it’s a little strange that he agrees so freely to this, as it will place both Jamie and Victoria in terrible danger.  We’ve seen the manipulative side of Troughton’s Doctor before, notably with his treatment of Jamie in Whitaker’s The Evil of the Daleks, but it’s still difficult to believe that he would agree to such a risky plan so readily.

As Jamie and Victoria leave for the Central European Zone, Kent suggests that he and the Doctor take a look at the Kanowa Research Station.  They won’t reach there until episode three, but we briefly see inside it this episode, as we meet a character who’ll become more central to the story later on – Benik (Milton Johns).  Before we go inside, there’s an establishing shot of the outside of the building.  Although it’s represented by a still photo, it’s a nice touch that a small piece of foliage is slowly waved very close to the camera, increasing the impression that it’s a live action shot.  It’s a very simple trick, but quite effective.

Like many of the actors in Enemy of the World, Milton Johns would make several appearances in Doctor Who as well notching up hundreds of other credits.  Frankly, he’s something of a national treasure – one of many, many actors of this era who could always be guaranteed to enliven whatever tv show or film he appeared in.  Never the lead, but always solid support.

He’s tended to specialise in playing odd, weak or ineffectual characters and Benik fits into all three categories quite nicely.  We’ll discuss Benik in more depth later on, but even in his single scene here it’s quite possible to get a good grasp of his character.  He occupies a position of some power and he’s no problems with exercising this authority (witness his confrontation with Bruce).  But there’s something slightly repellent about him and he certainly doesn’t give off a very trustworthy vibe.

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We then move to the Central European Zone, where we get our first proper look at Salamander.  He’s got an interesting accent which at times does slightly rob the character of a little of his menace, but it’s Troughton, so you know that he’s always going to deliver a nuanced performance that will command the screen.

He’s meeting with the Zone controller Denes (George Pravda) and Fedorin (David Nettheim).  Salamander warns that the Zone will shortly suffer a devastating earthquake.  Denes is polite, but noncommittal, although he promises to have his experts check the data (much to Salamander’s irritation).  Denes is another of Kent’s allies, although when he speaks to Astrid later he mentions that the meeting he just had with Salamander was the first time he’d met him.  This would imply that Denes has only just been made controller, as surely he would have had contact with him on a regular basis.  And since he’s never met him, why is he so convinced that Salamander is evil?

Once Denes leaves, Salamander explains to Fedorin exactly what will happen next.  Denes will die and Fedorin will take over.  Salamander has incriminating evidence (faked, if we believe Fedorin) on Fedorin, but doesn’t plan to use it, “this just an insurance, hmm?”  It’s a joy to watch Troughton’s Salamander steamroller the ineffectual Fedorin and it gives us an early indication that he’s utterly ruthless – replace an honest man with one that you have a hold over and your power-base is immeasurably stronger.  David Nettheim’s role isn’t particularly large (he only appears in this and the next episode) but his twitchy, anxious turn is a memorable one.

Barry Letts elects to use back projection for the park scenes, which is an innovative, if not entirely successful, attempt to suggest the action is taking place outdoors and not in the studio.   After the initial location splurge at the start of episode one, the rest of the story is largely studio bound so it was reasonable enough to try and open things out.  When he became producer of Doctor Who, Letts would delight in using CSO in ways that few other directors would ever attempt, so it’s not surprising that he tried something similar here.  It looks just as fake as CSO often did, but we’ll give him points for effort.

The other major character introduced in this episode is Fariah (Carmen Munroe).  She’s one of Salamander’s servants, but Fedorin observes that she doesn’t appear to be an ordinary servant.  Fariah tells him that she’s his food taster, as there have been many attempts to poison him.  As her contempt for Salamander is barely concealed, Fedorin wonders why she decided to work for him.  Fariah tells him that Salamander has a way of persuading people and Salamander’s own comments on her are quite noteworthy.  “She was hungry. Only thing is, now she has all the food she needs, she’s lost her appetite. Both Troughton and Munroe are skillfully able to imply an intriguing back-story with just a few lines.

Meanwhile Jamie and Victoria have managed to win Salamander’s confidence (in a slightly unbelievable way, it must be said).  Salamander’s security must be really poor for Jamie to be able to get within touching distance of him without any of his guards being able to stop him.  Although his ruthless streak is made even clearer when he tells his guards to take the guard that Jamie overpowered away.  “Look after him.  Better still, get rid of him.”

Episode two ends with Salamander’s forecasted volcanic eruptions.  This is achieved, less than satisfactorily, via stock footage which doesn’t at all match with the clean VT studio sequences.  It’s also a little strange that Salamander quite calmly watches the devastation from the veranda in his Presidential Palace, which implies that that the eruptions can’t be too far away.  But at no time does anybody suggest that they should leave and move to a safer place.

Salamander orders Denes to be arrested and we then see a rather odd cliffhanger which ends on the worried face of Fedorin who’s clearly deciding whether to agree to Salamander’s plan or support Denes.  It’s a convenient place to pause the story, but rather atypical (normally we’d expect to see one of the regulars in peril).

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Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World – Episode One

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Even some eighteen months later, there’s a faint air of unreality about the recovery of The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear.

Maybe this is because the notion of complete (or nearly complete) stories returning to the archives seemed to be such a remote possibility.  Yes, it had happened back in 1992 with Tomb, but as time went on that appeared to be a miraculous one off.  Post-Tomb, we’d become conditioned that the small (but very welcome) trickle of orphaned episodes would be all we could ever expect.

The recovery of these nine episodes changed that though and it allows us to reassess a substantial chunk of season five.  For most people, including myself, viewing these two stories was a very different experience from watching The Tomb of the Cybermen back in 1992.  Tomb might have been a legendary lost story, but in 1992 I didn’t even have a complete collection of the existing episodes (although I was well on the way).  So Tomb was just another story and I approached it with none of the baggage that some older fans would have had.

Enemy and Web were very different.  I’d had the orphaned episodes for twenty five years and the audios for nearly as long.  So the small amount of existing visual material and the audio of the remaining episodes were very familiar – meaning that finally being able to put pictures to the sounds was an exciting, if slightly nerve-wracking experience, first time around.

This was Barry Letts’ first brush with the series and it’s apt that episode one features both a hovercraft and a helicopter, given that the Pertwee era would show a similar love of hardware.  The opening ten minutes or so are mostly shot on film and they help to give the story a glossy, expansive start.  As a first-time director on the show, Letts was clearly keen to push as far as he could and there’s some impressive shots (such as the POV from the helicopter showing Anton and Rod firing as it pulls away) that maybe a more experienced (or jaded) director wouldn’t have bothered with.

The early minutes are peppered with some lovely visual moments – such as the Doctor stripping down to his long-johns to take a dip in the ocean.  This emphases the Troughton Doctor’s child-like nature although he’s also quick to sense that the approaching hovercraft means them harm (although this seems to be via a sixth sense as there’s no visual clue).

The hovercraft is piloted by Anton (Henry Stamper), Rod (Rhys McConnochie) and Curly (Simon Cain).  It’s Anton who gets the lion’s share of their dialogue, although sadly it’s not particularly memorable and Stamper’s unsubtle delivery doesn’t help.  Thankfully, all three are put out of our misery shortly afterwards.

The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are rescued by Astrid (Mary Peach).  Our first sight of Astrid is from the rear and it’s easy to believe that this was a deliberate shot-choice from Letts as Ms Peach does have a rather attractive derriere.  Certainly something for the dads there!

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But although it’s impossible to deny that Astrid is an objectified figure right from the start, she’s also a strong, capable woman at a time when that was still something of a rarity in Doctor Who.  There are other examples in the Troughton era – Anne Travers in the next story and Gia Kelly in The Seeds of Death, for example – but they were still the exception rather than the rule.

After the Doctor attended to a flesh-wound she picked up during their escape, she begins to delicately pump him for information.  Once she learns he’s a Doctor, Astrid wonders in what field, possibly law or philosophy.  Troughton’s reply, with a faint smile playing around his lips, of “which law? Whose philosophies, eh?” is another of those lovely moments that only works when you have the visuals to match up to the soundtrack.  And it does make you wonder just how many more examples of Troughton’s magic are lost on the audio-only episodes.

Another nice moment comes shortly afterwards when she tells the Doctor that he’s “the most wonderful and marvellous man that’s ever dropped out of the skies” and asks if he’ll do something for her.  The Doctor’s quite taken with her compliment and dreamily tells her that, yes, he will.  But he’s brought up sharply when Astrid tells him it’ll probably cost him his life!  It’s a gag moment, as it’s impossible to believe that the Doctor would ever be taken in by such a cheap piece of flattery, but it’s still amusing.

What happens next is interesting.  The Doctor seems reluctant to meet with Astrid’s boss, Giles Kent (Bill Kerr) and wishes to leave.  It’s Jamie who for reasons unknown (perhaps he fancies Astrid?) tries to persuade him to stay.  The Doctor’s inaction during the story was mainly for practical reasons – an episode could either largely feature Troughton as the Doctor or as Salamander, but it would be hard to do both.  So the Doctor had to drop out of the narrative for a few episodes in order for Salamander to dominate. Therefore, if the Doctor had agreed to the impersonation straight away, then the story would have been over much sooner.

There could be another reason though – since the story was scripted by David Whitaker, the show’s original script editor, whose view of the series was very different from those who came after (especially Dennis Spooner).  Something very consistent in the Whitaker script-edited stories is that the Doctor never decides to stay and help purely out of a sense of moral duty (instead it’s generally because he’s unable to leave – the TARDIS is taken by Marco Polo, the lock of the TARDIS is stolen in The Sensorites, the TARDIS is trapped by a fallen girder in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, etc).  It’s therefore quite reasonable for Whitaker to script a Doctor who’s reluctant to act.

This is unusual for the series at this time though, where the Doctor is generally quite happy to pitch in straight away. But it’s an interesting move, as whilst Giles Kent is very convincing in painting Salamander as a villain, there’s little actual evidence to back this up.  For anybody familiar with the parameters of the series to date, it would seem clear that Salamander = Bad and Giles = Good.  As we’ll see though, things aren’t quite as clear cut and this is an early example of the series taking a more pessimistic world-view where few, if any people, can be trusted.  Possibly the best example of this is The Caves of Androzani which must be unique in lacking any characters (outside of the regulars) that could be said to be wholly “good”.

But even this early on, we have clear evidence that Kent is a ruthless manipulator.  He wants the Doctor to impersonate Salamander but obviously knows that he’ll take a great deal of persuading.  So he contacts Salamander’s head of security Donald Bruce (Colin Douglas).  Since they’re implacable enemies, quite what he says is something of a mystery, but Bruce turns up shortly afterwards and Kent gives the Doctor an ultimatum.  He has to impersonate Salamander and he has to be good enough to fool Bruce, otherwise the lives of Jamie and Victoria will be forfeit.

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Give a monkey control of its environment and it’ll fill the world with bananas. Doctor Who – The Two Doctors

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The Two Doctors is, to put it mildly, a real mixed bag.  Robert Holmes was asked to include a number of elements – a foreign setting (originally New Orleans, later Seville), the Second Doctor and Jamie and the Sontarans.  We’ve previously discussed how Holmes disliked “shopping list” stories – this was the reason he didn’t complete his draft script for The Five Doctors for example – so placing so many restrictions on him was possibly asking for trouble.  Another problem was that it was effectively the same running time as a six-parter (which was a length of story Holmes loathed).

Given all this, it’s a little surprising that The Two Doctors turned out as good as it did.  Its tone is uncertain at times (Holmes always had a dark sense of humour and was probably delighted to find his whims indulged by Eric Saward) and it’s surprising to see that Troughton is somewhat wasted, but there’s plenty to enjoy here, so let’s dive in

The opening fifteen minutes or so are pure bliss.  Back in 1985, the sum total of my exposure to Patrick Troughton’s Doctor comprised of The Krotons and The Three Doctors from the Five Faces repeats in 1981 and The Five Doctors from 1983.  They were enough to convince me that Troughton was a brilliant Doctor and this story only cemented my appreciation of him. Although Troughton looks much older and greyer than before, there’s still a spark there and his byplay with Shockeye and Dastari is lovely.  Frazer Hines, somewhat remarkably, didn’t look much older than when he bade the Doctor farewell in The War Games, some sixteen years earlier.  Whilst Hines works well later on with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant, it’s a pity he’s separated from Troughton for the majority of the story.

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The incomparable Patrick Troughton

Given the length of the story, it’s odd that Troughton is absent for such a long period (he vanishes fifteen minutes into the first episode and doesn’t re-appear until fifteen minutes into episode two – some forty five minutes).  And after such a strong start, he’s a somewhat impotent character for the remainder of the story.  He spends episode two tied up (although he has a few good scenes) and suffers the indignity of being turned into an Androgum in episode three, something of a lowlight of the story. But back to episode two, there’s a delightful scene between Troughton and Stike (Clinton Greyn).

DOCTOR: Tea time already, nurse?
STIKE: I do not understand.
DOCTOR: Just as well. A face like yours wasn’t made for laughing.
STIKE: The operation must begin at once. I am needed at the front.
DOCTOR: Yes, I heard you. What was it, a vital strike in the Madillon Cluster? Oh, dear me. Nothing changes, does it? You and the Rutans have become petrified in your attitudes.
STIKE: Nothing can change till victory is achieved. But, but I fear I might have made a tactical error.
DOCTOR: Oh? I thought the Sontarans never made mistakes.
STIKE: It is not easy being commander. The loneliness of supreme responsibility.
DOCTOR: Why don’t you resign, Stike? Take a pension.
STIKE: When I die, it will be alongside my comrades at the front. Doctor, you have a chance, in death, to help the Sontaran cause.
DOCTOR: How can I do that?
STIKE: Tell Dastari where your symbiotic nuclei is located in your cell structure. Vital time will be saved and I can be on my way.
DOCTOR: Is that what Chessene’s offered you, the knowledge of unlimited time travel? In that case, you should watch your back, Stike.
STIKE: What?
DOCTOR: She’s an Androgum! A race to whom treachery is as natural as breathing. They’re a bit like you Sontarans in that respect!
(Stike slaps the Doctor.)
STIKE: That is for the slur on my people!
DOCTOR: And for that I demand satisfaction!
STIKE: You know that is impossible.
DOCTOR: I am challenging you to a duel, Stike. That is traditional among Sontarans, is it not?
STIKE: Oh, I would dearly love to kill you, but unfortunately you are needed alive.
DOCTOR: Release me, Stike. You are not only without honour, you’re a coward as well.
STIKE: As you are not a Sontaran, Doctor, you cannot impugn my honour.
(Stike leaves.)
DOCTOR: Well, that didn’t work, did it?

It does worry some people that Troughton’s Doctor is working for the Time Lords (and that Jamie knows all about them).  This has given rise to the Season 6b theory, but the basic truth is that this was the latest attempt by Robert Holmes to demystify the Time Lords.  Holmes disliked the way they had been portrayed in The War Games (aloof, august, etc) and instead he took every opportunity to portray them as out of touch and basically corrupt.  The Deadly Assassin (which so upset a vocal minority of fandom at the time) was the clearest demonstration of this and The Two Doctors, more subtly, carries this on.  Holmes would, of course, continue this theme the following year in his episodes of The Trial of a Time Lord.  This interview excerpt with Holmes sheds some light on exactly what he was attempting to achieve.

When I wrote The Two Doctors, it was no mistake that the Troughton Doctor knew he was being controlled by the Time Lords. The theory which myself and others who worked on Doctor Who began to conceive was that the Time Lords were in dual control of the TARDIS all the time. The first trial was a mockery, a public relations exercise, because the Doctor had become involved too close to home and something had to be done about him. That’s why he is almost half-hearted about attempting to escape, which normally he never was. He knew that they were in complete control and had been all along. To operate as sneakily as this, you would have to be corrupt, and that’s what came later, when I was the script editor. Did they not condemn the Doctor to exile for interfering in the affairs of other planets? And yet who had sent him on these missions? They had!

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Episode one has some rather strange plot holes (although it’s possible to argue these away).  What was reason for displaying the image of the Second Doctor apparently being put to death?  If nobody was left alive then who would have seen it?  And it’s incredibly sloppy to leave the equipment in place, so that when someone came to investigate they would instantly see that the Doctor’s death was a fake.

And if the Second Doctor’s death was phony, why should the Sixth Doctor be affected?  It’s also a remarkable co-incidence that when the Sixth Doctor decides to seek medical advice he not only chooses Dastari (out of all the medical men and women in the Universe) but lands the TARDIS at exactly the point in time immediately after the Sontarans have attacked the space station.  The only possible explanation for these whacking great plot holes is that the Time Lords were aware the Second Doctor had been kidnapped and subtly influenced the Sixth Doctor in order to get him to investigate.

Robert Holmes always had a gift for language, which is very much present in this story.  True, it sometimes edges towards the macabre (there were plenty of examples of this in the 1970’s and it does seem that Saward was keen to exploit this).  Colin Baker benefits from Holmes’ writing – he’s impressed me in his stories so far, but here (thanks to Holmes) he goes up another couple of notches.  This is a good example of morbid Holmes.

PERI: Ugh! Oh, Doctor, it’s foul. Are you sure it’s safe?
DOCTOR: Plenty of oxygen.
PERI: Yeah, but that awful smell.
DOCTOR: Mainly decaying food (sniffs) and corpses.
PERI: Corpses?
DOCTOR: That is the smell of death, Peri. Ancient musk, heavy in the air. Fruit-soft flesh, peeling from white bones. The unholy, unburiable smell of Armageddon. Nothing quite so evocative as one’s sense of smell, is there?
PERI: I feel sick.
DOCTOR: I think you’ll feel a good deal sicker before we’re finished here.

And this is lyrical Holmes.

DOCTOR: She can’t comprehend the scale of it all. Eternal blackness. No more sunsets. No more gumblejacks. Never more a butterfly.

There are problems with The Two Doctors, and the major one is the Sontarans.  Although they have the reputation of being a classic Doctor Who monster, they were remarkably ill used, particularly in the original series.  Linx was great, thanks to a wonderful performance by Kevin Lindsey and an impressive mask.  Styre was comprimised by only appearing in one episode and a slightly less impressive mask (made to ease the strain on Kevin Lindsey).  Stor was pretty rubbish and the Sontarans were generally pretty ineffectual anyway in The Invasion of Time.

Which leads us on to their next appearance, in this story, and it does seem to be a case of diminishing returns.  The masks here are the worst yet seen – they look far too obviously like masks (just compare them to Linx from a decade earlier).  Both Stike and Varl are very tall as well, which looks a little odd – nasty, brutish and short should be how the Sontarans look.  Holmes writes them quite well, and Stike has a nice military swagger, but it’s clear they’re not the focus of the story and it probably would have worked just as well with just the Androgums.

The Sontarans (and their ill-fitting masks) fail to impress
The Sontarans (and their ill-fitting masks) fail to impress

The debate about violence during S22 was a fairly hot topic and there are two main talking points here – the death of Oscar and the death of Shockeye.  Oscar (James Saxon) seems to be an archetypal Holmes figure (think Vorg in Carnival of Monsters or Jago in Talons of Weng Chiang).  They exist to bring a little light relief to the story with their cowardly antics, but they come good in the end – by showing unexpected reserves of courage. Holmes was never afraid to kill off sympathetic characters (Lawrence Scarman in Pyramids of Mars, for example) but the death of Oscar is a jolt.

Although he wasn’t used as much as Jago, there would have been a similar shock if Greel had knifed Jago to death in the last episode of Talons.  His death is supremely pointless too – although maybe that’s Holmes’ point.  Throughout the story we’ve seen how groups of characters treat the species’ they consider to be lesser than them.  The Doctor and Dastari consider the Androgums to be a lower form of life, just as the Androgums regard humans as little more than animals whilst Oscar has no compunction in killing moths, which he does simply for the pleasure their mounted displays brings him.

The Doctor’s killing of Shockeye isn’t a problem – it’s obviously self defence as Shockeye was out for blood.  It’s just unfortunate that we have a few shots of the Doctor smiling whilst preparing the cyanide.  The sight of the Doctor apparently relishing what was about to happen is more than a little disturbing – although this may not have been the intention and simply how it was cut together.

So whilst the story flags somewhat in the last episode (like City of Death and Arc of Infinity they can’t resist a run-around so they can show off the foreign location) it’s never less than entertaining across all three episodes.  It’s a pity that Troughton wasn’t used better and also that the two Doctors were kept apart for the majority of the story, but apart from these niggles it’s a very decent script from Robert Holmes and in many ways it was the last one he wrote where he was fully on top of his game.