The Twin Dilemma

Written by:
Anthony Steven
Directed by: Peter Moffatt
Starring: Colin Baker
Year: 1984
Video Availability (NTSC Version): Try Amazon

"The Blimp, Frank, it's The Blimp!"

I'm actually shocked to find myself enjoying this. Those two twins aren't as bad as people make out. (They're supposed to be wooden for flip's sake - they're unemotional mathematical geniuses) The Blimp is also on great form with a nice script. His immediate narcissistic portrayal amuses ("I'm sorry... I'm afraid I don't understand" he muses at Peri's questioning of his looks) The Doctor getting murderous impulses divides fans, but I think it's okay. In fact, this is one of Colin's best performances in the lead role. No, really. Mestor, unseen, also makes an impact with his voice alone.

For the first few minutes, there are only two things that lessen the quality of the episode: Malcolm Clarke's music (he also made a mess of Attack, you might remember) and the production, which is undeniably tacky. Doctor Who is such a quaintly English show that police spacecraft have flashing police lights on top.

However, eighteen minutes in and things start to go awry. Colin's craggy nob speech sees him getting a bit embarrassing, and Mestor is finally revealed in all his plastic-masked glory. Oh, and Helen Blatch is crap. But it's still not - yet - as bad as I remembered. Don't worry, though... I'm sure I'll think it's garbage next episode.
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"If it's a question of his life or mine I certainly can" says the Doctor of Peri's suggestion he saves Hugo's life. I also like his amazed "It actually worked!" after sending Peri through that unlikely Transmat-type thingy.

In an unobtrusive continuity nod he pulls a Hartnell expression and does a reasonable Mighty Trout voice. They're slipped into the narrative rather than being part of it, so it works. His mention of Tegan is also acceptable, bearing in mind this was still the same season in which she left, and in transmission terms, just four weeks earlier. Colin's still pretty good in this, because the part he's playing is over the top but HE isn't. Well, generally. His "don't shoot me" scene is a bit cack.

Maurice Denham is great as Azmael, even if you can't shake the feeling he's too good an actor for the part. He even gets the ridiculousness of lines like "ten million million combinations" to sound not half-bad. But yes, I admit it - the twins are dire. And just how can a few sums generate planet-shifting power? The aliens also look silly. Perhaps no more silly than some of the weaker Who monsters (and certainly an improvement over the Gel Guards) but they look like they've got tinfoil on their noses. Come to think of it, they probably have - if John Leslie says that 50% of television workers dabble in cocaine then they were snorting it up on screen. And just why WOULD Hugo change into that gross shirt? It has no logic whatsoever.

The cliffhanger's a bit crap too, with Nicola crying over the Doctor's death, given that: A. She isn't that good an actress, and she looks gross when she screws her face up like that; B. Why does she care so much when the Doctor's been such a git to her anyway? and C. Even though she doesn't know the Doctor escaped, we the viewers do.

But it's still not that bad. Oh God, help me someone, help me! I'm enjoying The Twin Dilemma! Heeeeeeeeeeelp!
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"You have a nasty habit of pinpointing the truth, young man." "You even have a gun to enforce your will upon others." "I no longer know if I'm coming, or gone, or even been." "Self pity is all I have left." "Why do you like to play the man of mystery? It's a role you play so very badly." Anyone who likes to say The Twin Dilemma has a bad script should be silenced a little by those quotes. Although I admit "the sound of giant slugs" is pretty pants.

Colin's acting is really quite good this episode, particularly his righteous anger at the ravaging of Jaconda. But what lets the story down are the monsters - they're half-human, half-slug. If you've never seen the story and think it sounds silly, believe me, it's even worse on screen!

Exposition is dealt out three times this episode, once in a good way, twice badly. The "let's discuss what we know" scene works, because Colin's mind is fragmented and needs to fit the pieces together, detective-style. However, the cave paintings and Azmael's planetary chart are contrived. (And isn't he an idiot not to realise how cranky the plan is?)

The embolism scene is embarrassing and the cliffhanger is crap, but there's something humorous and refreshing about a stroppy Doctor who mardily barks "right, that's it, I'm off". Would The Doctor as anti-hero have worked for a few more stories? Probably not, but it is fun for a while.
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Mestor has the power to open the Tardis in this episode. It seems daft, but this is the second story that season where slug-like creatures have power over the Tardis. And I don't see people slagging off Frontios. This is a bit cheap and silly though, and the firecracker guns and monotone twins sit uneasily alongside Peter Moffatt's non-direction.

But what really kills the story stone dead is the fact that Mestor is such a crappy villain. (Though this is alleviated by Colin's mockery, including "In my time I've been threatened by experts... and I don't rate you very highly at all.") Azmael starts talking like Linda Blair out of The Exorcist (strangely enough, Denham mentions exorcism a couple of minutes later) and Mestor's body looks like it's ejaculating. When he gets exorcised it looks like the cheapo titles from Rentaghost. It's a bit tacky, a bit tatty, but I still quite liked it.

Have I gone mad?!!? Help me!
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Better than its reputation - or maybe I was just in a really good mood this weekend? - The Twin Dilemma presents a radical new interpretation of the Doctor, well-played by The Blimp. The production is tacky, the support cast weak and the plot daft, but it is quite a lot of fun if you're in the right frame of mind. My God, I'm speechless...
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