Haha. Hahaha. Oh dear. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I snorted with derision several times over the course of this story, but inside I’m weeping for the demise of classic Doctor Who. It now seems extraordinarily likely that I’ve already experienced the highest highs on offer, and now my only hope is that this does indeed represent the lowest of the low. The Twin Dilemma is the worst serial so far by a huge margin – no matter how dull or irritating things have been in the past, at least The Doctor has been in it.
A bad impression was created by the tweaked opening titles, which are now far too busy for my liking. I like having two Doctor faces dissolving into each other, but the rainbow effects are overbearing and detract from everything else. I was never a fan of the neon logo in the first place, but the slightly modified version is worse. The basic rule for this serial is that if they changed something, they made it worse.
I was obviously aware of its reputation, so I did my best to give it a fair chance. I kept trying to tell myself it wasn’t so bad. Okay, he’s picked the worst possible outfit from a wardrobe where literally anything else would have been better, but it’s not so bad. Okay, he’s being a complete arsehole, but it’s not so bad. Okay, those creepy twins are annoying and they can’t even talk properly, but it’s not so bad. Maybe this could be… oh wait, now he’s strangling Peri.
From that point on, I had no tolerance for the Sixth Doctor – he was just a completely irredeemable prick throughout. He is both cruel and cowardly from start to finish, and he’s just not The Doctor. By the time he has a gun pointed at him for the first cliffhanger, you’re willing the guy to shoot him, so that we can have another regeneration and start again from scratch. Oh, and by the way: ending almost every episode with a crash zoom in on The Doctor doing a shocked face is laughably bad.
I mean, I can see what they were trying to do, by having him cycle through as many personality types as possible post-regeneration, but the effect is that I now think that the Sixth Doctor is crap. It’s not fair on Colin Baker (and I don’t even like him, thanks to his attitude to DWM and the European Union), nor is it fair on Nicola Bryant that her character, who’s only been around for five minutes, is now part of this weird, unsettling dynamic.
Again, I can see the appeal of trying to do everything as differently as possible from what’s gone before – there’s nothing wrong in that at all, it’s just that they do everything badly. Your average regeneration story sees The Doctor take a backseat during his instability, but that’s not the case here, perhaps due to Peri not being a strong enough character to carry a story like the Brig, Sarah Jane and, later, Rose can.
Instead, Peri is much more explicitly the voice of the audience, hanging a lampshade on things like his awful costume, his abrasive nature, and just how out-of-character this new incarnation is behaving. But the thing is, she’s right. At the end, when she’s pretty much saying that the new Doctor is shit compared to the last one, based on the evidence of his first four episodes I’m compelled to agree. Why should Peri have to teach him compassion? Companions should help the Doctor to understand how humans/lesser mortals tick, but saving lives and lending a hand should be his raison d’être.
The closing line – “I am the Doctor, whether you like it or not” – sounds like a threat. I don’t like it. I liked the old Doctor, and the way to endear me to the new guy is not to have him slag the old one off. I really hope he gets better as his tenure goes on, but regardless of that, this serial was the worst possible way of introducing him. I’ve not always agreed with everything JNT has done so far, but it seems like every decision he made here was beyond stupid. This was the end of a season, and if I was a viewer at the time, I would have no incentive whatsoever to come back for the new one. This is definitely the beginning of the end.
If I’m being extremely generous, I might say that aside from the catastrophic portrayal of the new Doctor, there might be the nubbin on a decent story lurking somewhere within, but I’m not sure that’s true. There were a handful of intriguing moments when The Doctor was beginning to figure out the big plan, but they were few and far between. Mostly we were faced with a rubbish guest cast – the majority of whom were difficult to tell apart because they were painted entirely grey – a rubbish monster, and a plot that barely stretched to four parts, even with the added regeneration shenanigans.
And yes, it’s completely baffling as to how it’s possible to produce Caves and this piece of shit back-to-back. Congratulations, JNT.
A shame that this is appended to Davison’s final season, as it brings the average down considerably. Take out the first and last serials and this would have been one of the better, more solid seasons of recent years. But as it stands…
SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 7.29
- Seasons/Series watched: 21 of 35
- Stories watched: 136 of 263
- Individual episodes watched: 626 of 826
Next up, a combination of longer episodes, the requirement for more frequent blogs and the impending arrival of Red Dwarf XI may cause me to slow down somewhat over the next month or so. On the other hand, it may not, as I have some time off work, but I’ll have to play it by ear. Bear with me, as on the plus side, it’s a lot easier to write about something that’s a bit shit than it is about something that’s consistently good…