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24 September 2014

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The Twin Dilemma

Production Code: 6S

First Transmitted

1 - 22/03/1984 18:40

2 - 23/03/1984 18:40

3 - 29/03/1984 18:40

4 - 30/03/1984 18:40

Plot

A race of giant gastropods has taken over the planet Jaconda. Their leader, Mestor, now intends to cause an enormous explosion in order to spread his people's eggs throughout the galaxy, and he kidnaps juvenile twin geniuses from Earth to work out the necessary mathematical equations. Space fighters led by Lieutenant Hugo Lang are dispatched to get the twins back, but they come under attack and Lang is the sole survivor when his ship crashes on the asteroid Titan 3.

The Doctor and Peri become involved and help Jaconda's elderly former ruler Professor Edgeworth, who is really a Time Lord named Azmael, to defeat Mestor and free the planet's bird-like indigenous people from the gastropods' reign of terror. Azmael, however, sacrifices his life in the process.

Episode Endings

The injured Hugo Lang suddenly raises himself from the floor of the TARDIS and, assuming the Doctor has wiped out his entire command, aims a gun at the Time Lord.

Ignoring threats from Hugo, Peri activates the TARDIS scanner just in time to see the dome of the 'safe house' on Titan 3 destroyed in a huge explosion. Believing that the Doctor was still inside, she breaks down in tears.

Azmael has the Doctor restrained from going to rescue Peri from the gastropods. The Doctor is distraught at the prospect of his companion being killed.

The Doctor tells Peri: 'Whatever else happens, I am the Doctor - whether you like it or not!'

Roots

Caligula.

Beau Brummel (influences on the Doctor's character).

Thomas Moore's Lalla Rukh.

Longfellow's Excelior.

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : "Well, look at me. I'm old, lacking in vigour, my mind's in turmoil. I no longer know if I'm coming, have gone, or even been. I'm falling to pieces. I no longer even have any clothes sense... Self-pity is all I have left."

The Doctor : "In my time I have been threatened by experts!"

The Doctor : "The very core of my being is on fire with guilt and rage!"

Dialogue Disasters

The Twins : "Our genius has been abused."

Fabian : [On the subject of her latest order] "May my bones rot for obeying it!"

Mestor : [Instructions to Azmael] "Take care not to blow their hearts, or their minds!"

The Doctor : [Whispers] "The sound of giant slugs!"

Double Entendre

The Doctor : "Thou craggy knob!"

The Twins : [To Azmael] "Why do you like to play the man of mystery? It's a role you play very badly!"

Continuity

The Doctor displays advanced medical talents. Azmael doesn't recognise the regenerated Doctor (whereas on most other occasions other Time Lords do). Fiesta 95 is a holiday planet. The space police service is run by a minister.

QV

The Doctor's Doctorate

Location

Asteroid Titan 3, Joconda, Earth, August [2200].

Links

Untelevised

Azmael last met the Doctor in the Doctor's fourth incarnation, and was the best teacher the Doctor ever had. On that occasion, Azmael got drunk.

Trivia

New opening and closing title sequences make their debut - somewhat gaudier versions of the previous ones, incorporating Colin Baker's face rather than Peter Davison's - designed by Sid Sutton and Terry Handley.

Distinguished actor Maurice Denham plays Edgworth.

Fabian was originally envisaged as a male character, and the Jocondan Chamberlain as a female one.

Myth

The Edgeworth character was originally intended to be the first Doctor. (He wasn't.)

Goofs

The Jocondan's awful death by embolism.

Azmael keeps a slug-killing potion hanging around, but has never thought of using it.

The tin foil sofa.

The twins believe Edgeworth's story that his teleportation into their living room is a conjuring trick.

Why do the kidnappers stop off on Titan 3?

Peri makes no mention of the Doctor's heroic sacrifice on her behalf, nor thanks him for it (no wonder he's touchy).

Why does Azmael call himself Edgeworth anyway?

Peri is lusted after by an alien hermaphrodite slug.

She has a touching faith in the notion that, as a policeman, Hugo cannot be a homicidal maniac.

The twins' father is indeed being 'melodramatic' when he tells them that their mathematical skills could change events on a massive scale: the sums Mestor requires could have been done by the Brigadier.

The altered revitaliser machine sends Peri 10 seconds back in time, and thus... back to the TARDIS? (Only if the TARDIS is exactly on the same line of planetary rotation, and exactly ten seconds of rotation away. Putting three planets in the same orbit, would not, even if fluffed, 'blow a hole in the universe'.)

Fashion Victim

The Jocondans, with their Bostick glue guns.

Mestor, in a horribly bad costume that makes him look cross eyed.

Azmael chooses to wrap his sofa in aluminium foil.

The Doctor, Peri and Hugo all go into the TARDIS costume room and emerge with awful clothes.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Colin Baker

Peri - Nicola Bryant

Chamberlain - Seymour Green

Drak - Oliver Smith

Edgeworth - Maurice Denham

Elena - Dione Inman

Fabian - Helen Blatch

Hugo Lang - Kevin McNally

Jocondan Guard - John Wilson

Mestor - Edwin Richfield

Noma - Barry Stanton

Prisoner - Roger Nott

Remus - Andrew Conrad

Romulus - Gavin Conrad Gavin Conrad's real name was Paul Conrad, but he could not be credited as such as there was another actor already working under that name.

Sylvest - Dennis Chinnery

Crew

Director - Peter Moffatt

Assistant Floor Manager - Stephen Jeffery-Poulter

Assistant Floor Manager - Beth Millward

Costumes - Pat Godfrey

Designer - Valerie Warrender

Film Cameraman - John Baker

Film Cameraman - John Walker

Film Editor - Ian McKendrick

Incidental Music - Malcolm Clarke

Make-Up - Denise Baron

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Christine Fawcett

Production Associate - June Collins

Script Editor - Eric Saward

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Don Babbage

Studio Sound - Scott Talbott

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Peter Howell

Visual Effects - Stuart Brisdon

Writer - Anthony Steven

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

The plot, if scientifically stupid, is actually rather good. The trouble is, there's not enough of it for two episodes, never mind four, and the slack's taken up with endless dull talking scenes. All this and farting music. Still, there are some very good performances in here, and it's a pity Hugo didn't get kept on.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

The era of the sixth Doctor gets off to a truly dreadful start with a story that is at times almost painful to watch. One of the most disappointing things about it is the depiction of the new Doctor himself. Perhaps the best that can be said about this is that the idea of making him dangerously unstable was a brave attempt at a different approach. Sadly however his bizarre behaviour and outrageous mood-swings seem forced and artificial, and succeed only in alienating the viewer. The worst moment of all comes in the first episode where, in a violent fit, he tries to strangle Peri before eventually managing to compose himself. One can imagine viewers switching off in droves at this point, having become completely disillusioned with the series.

Surprisingly, however, most contemporary fan reaction to Colin Baker's debut was cautiously optimistic. Simon Cheshire, for example, suggested in TARDIS Volume 9 Number 1 in 1984 that he was just about the only thing worth watching in the story: 'The sixth Doctor looks like turning out very well indeed - he has traces of his predecessors, yet he's sufficiently different to be an interesting and enjoyable character in his own right. If his neat blend of arrogant flippancy continues then I'm sure he'll be a firm favourite in years to come. Indeed his scenes with Peri were the only ones which really worked in this ropey escapade. The whole thing was just coloured-in Flash Gordon.'

Tim Munro, writing in the same magazine, had rather more mixed views: 'I find it difficult to judge [Colin Baker] after so little a time, but what I've seen of him I've mostly liked. His arrogance and total self-obsession [are] very nice, and his attitude to Peri in the first episode was magnificent. On the other hand I don't like the move to a totally alien Doctor - a Doctor who does not comprehend compassion and who retains his alien values might as well go home and be President.'

A major problem with the sixth Doctor is the horrendous costume that he is required to wear. Continuing John Nathan-Turner's policy of giving his Doctors highly stylised, uniform-like outfits, this one was designed according to his remit to be 'totally tasteless'. Quite apart from making the series' lead character look a complete joke, it has the unfortunate effect in storytelling terms of precluding any possibility of him entering unobtrusively into a situation or being anything other than the centre of attention. A still further drawback is that it encourages, indeed almost requires, the series' designers to make all other aspects of the production look equally bright and gaudy, simply to compete.

It would have been no good the costume designers giving Peri subtly hued outfits to wear, for example, as she would have simply faded into the background. So in The Twin Dilemma we have her sporting a blouse that appears to have been made out of deckchair material; and similarly Hugo Lang, who spends quite a bit of his time with the two regulars, acquires a jacket that seems to consist of sections of garishly coloured tinfoil.

Anthony Steven's scripts for The Twin Dilemma, apparently heavily rewritten by Eric Saward, leave much to be desired. Ian Clarke, also reviewing the story in TARDIS Volume 9 Number 1, highlighted some of their deficiencies: 'The general theme of a power to change matter by mathematics being misused and thus resulting in a threat to the universe is hardly original... Season twenty-one has contained some excellent dialogue, but not, I'm afraid, [in] this tale. It just seemed so full of clichés. I was most irritated by the scene in [Part Two] where Hugo, given the whole TARDIS to search for a small section of his gun, not only goes into the wardrobe but finds the precise piece of clothing in which it is hidden!'

It doesn't help matters, either, that Peter Moffatt's direction on this occasion is flat and uninteresting, and the whole production has a rather tacky, B-movie feel to it. The gastropods must be one of the series' most uninspired creations, as Andrew Martin observed in Shada 18, dated July 1984: 'Mestor, played by... Edwin Richfield, was a run-of-the-mill Doctor Who baddie, all threats, gurgling voice and hand-jiving... The gastropods were a nice idea wasted. I've always advocated slugs as monsters in Doctor Who as I'm petrified of the damn things. But... wasn't there a case for making the monsters in this story a little less like ultra-cheap Tractators?'

On the plus side, though, the bird-like Jocondans are quite effective, due in large part to Denise Baron's excellent make-up design. 'It would have been so easy to do them as boring humanoids,' noted Munro, 'but thankfully the make-up people rose to the challenge.' The performances are equally varied, ranging from the praiseworthy - Maurice Denham as Azmael and Seymour Green as the Jocondan Chamberlain - to the lamentable - Gavin and Andrew Conrad as the twins and, jaw-droppingly atrocious, Helen Blatch as Fabian. Gary Russell, writing in Zygon Issue 1, dated August 1984, tried hard to look on the bright side:

'The bit where the Doctor challenges Mestor, then throws the bottle and fails to have any effect, is a great scene, followed shortly after by Azmael's death throes, where the Doctor [allows] the very humanity that he claimed not [to] possess [to] show through beautifully.

'The last episode... is actually the best of the four..., showing the Doctor finally waking up to the fact that he has changed and his new life is worth living. Thus he fights to save Peri, the twins, Joconda and even [the] to an extent... rather clichéd character of Hugo Lang (a very Boys' Own Paper name if ever there was one).

'Trying to find any other good points in this story is rather difficult. The leads made it worth watching [and] the costumes and make-up for the Jocondans were splendid, but let down by the characterisations - a shame that although they looked birdy the opportunity was missed to play them that way, as the Menoptra played insects back in 1965.'

In the end, one can only agree with Russell's conclusion that: 'The Twin Dilemma was, apart from the acting of Baker and Bryant (and she became ropey occasionally), a silly waste of ninety minutes.'

< The Caves of AndrozaniSixth DoctorAttack of the Cybermen >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



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