The Twin Dilemma
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All photos © HBO
Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
recent poll conducted by Doctor Who Magazine asked readers to rank every single story from 1963 all the way to “Planet of the Dead,” which apparently can be calculated to a nifty, even 200 stories. “The Twin Dilemma” came in dead last; in an odd twist, the story that immediately precedes it, “The Caves of Androzani,” took the #1 spot. It’s true, “The Twin Dilemma” is not a great story, but it is also not nearly as bad as reputation would suggest. There are plenty of other entries that are far worse than this one (for instance, “The Keys of Marinus”). It’s mildly noteworthy that this story should be released at this time, as it’s the first story of the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker), and since we just saw David Tennant regenerate into Matt Smith a few days ago, there might be slightly more interest in the title than there would otherwise be. While the storyline is a bit duff and the creatures look rubbery and fake, the road the production team went down to unveil the new Doctor was probably the boldest experiment ever conducted under that banner. Whether or not you’ll find the experiment a success will largely depend on your feelings about Baker’s Doctor. If you didn’t like him before, nothing here is going to change that. If you enjoy his take on the character, however, he throws down a pretty dazzling, crazed performance for his freshman outing, and this is well worth checking out.
The story involves the kidnapping of two twin boy geniuses (what exactly is it with ‘80s “Who” and boy geniuses!?) by a benign rogue Time Lord going by the name of Professor Edgeworth (Maurice Denham). In reality, he’s an old friend of the Doctor’s named Azmael, and he’s using the boys’ skills to aid one Mestor the Magnificent, the leader of a race of giant slugs who has plans of galactic conquest (don’t they always?). If you saw the finale of “Extras,” which guest-starred David Tennant, the ridiculous creature Ricky Gervais played in that scene was likely based on Mestor. Azmael is only begrudgingly doing this as a last ditch effort to save the planet Jaconda, which appears to hold the same sentiment for him as Earth does for the Doctor.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is dealing with a much different sort of post-regenerative disorder than usual. Instead of being weak and tired, he’s seemingly full of energy, and bounding around the TARDIS making all sorts of plans, and taking numerous potshots at his previous incarnation, which he claims to never have been happy with. Each scene Baker has throughout this story is something different and strange, as his Doctor trudges forward in some sort of violent mental flux. One moment he’s nice, the next angry. His behavior runs the gamut as the story progresses, and in one scene – the one for which the story is most well-known – he attempts to choke the life out of Peri (Nicola Bryant); in the next scene, he doesn’t even remember doing it. He’s in turns boastful, cowardly, charming, witty, obnoxious – in many ways, he exhibits some of the same sort of behavior that many don’t care for in the Sixth Doctor, but here it’s cranked up to 11, and Baker’s having a field day the entire time.
What was particularly noteworthy about doing all of this with the Doctor at this juncture was that this wasn’t the first story of Baker’s first season – it was actually the final story of Peter Davison’s last season, so at the time, viewers had to live with this atrocious idea of what the new Doctor was going to be like for eight or nine months before the show came back. It probably didn’t do his era any favors, but looking at it from the vantage point of today – when you can easily move on to “Attack of the Cybermen” when the story’s over, it comes across as one of the most daring and thought-provoking things the show ever tried, even if it pissed people off to no end back in the day. Funny how these things sometimes work out, but his first story also happens to be the final DVD release of Baker’s, which means that he’s the first Doctor to have every single story from his era available on DVD. Perhaps not a huge milestone for a Doctor who only had eight stories to begin with (or eleven, if you count “The Trial of a Time Lord” as four separate stories), but something of a benchmark for the “Doctor Who” DVD range nevertheless.
Special Features: While there’s no proper “making of” on this set, there are still enough extras that make it a fairly worthwhile purchase for those who are game. The commentary is great fun and features Baker, Bryant, and guest star Kevin McNally, who plays Hugo Lang in the story. There’s just an immensely good vibe going on between the trio, and if you enjoy listening to commentaries on the “Who” range, this one’s a keeper. “The Star Man” is an interview with title sequence designer Sid Sutton. “Looking 100 Years Younger” features Baker and comedian Amy Lame discussing and dissecting each Doctor’s wardrobe; for those who know all there is to know about Baker, it ends with a great little finish. The ongoing “Stripped for Action” series offers up its take on the Sixth Doctor comics, and once again, it does not disappoint. There are two vintage interviews from “Breakfast Time” and “Blue Peter”; the former features both Baker and Bryant, while the latter has Baker flying solo. There are also the usual continuity announcements, production notes subtitles, photo gallery, DVD-ROM content, and an Easter Egg.