The Two Doctors: DVD Special

Written by:
Robert Holmes
Directed by: Peter Moffatt
Starring: Colin Baker and Patrick Troughton
Year: 1984
Video Availability (NTSC Version): Try

The best of the "Doctors" stories, I nevertheless cringe that a mainstream television series could open with nearly ten minutes of an actor who hadn't been in the series proper for fifteen years. The line about Victoria is grotesque and shows a programme that is no longer populist. Frazer Hines is self-conscious, wooden and sparsely acted, though The Mighty Trout, grey hair or not, is of course fantastic. This is by far his best return appearance, and his dominant characterisation is a pleasant contrast to the dotty send-ups in Three and Five. Jamie, for his part, is grossly out of character. He'd never run and save himself, leaving him as a glorified girl, a second banana rather than amiable buddy to the Doctor.

When Colin does appear he's with a Peri who's - YES!! - wearing a bikini top. And he's too busy fishing to notice, where's his priorities? Colin's better than usual here, but his Doctor is still a gobby ponce. And that costume IS awful. There's no real depth with the sixth Doctor. His reflective moments are self-conscious and theatrical, while the rest of the time he's a panto dame. I used to enjoy Colin's performance when I was 14, but I have to admit now it was a bit pants really. His piercing Ken Williams whine combined with Peri's plaintive whinging do not a good combination make, and there's only one conclusion I can draw - he was shite.

A Robert Holmes script always has considered, above-average dialogue but this isn't his best and the direction doesn't help. I won't mention the long shot intro of the Sontaran as everyone always does, but it's true all the same. The Spanish guitar music is also an irritation. What's notable is how lengthy all of the scenes are. I don't know whether this is a good thing or not, really. It does allow for more character-based dialogue, but as the Doctor and Peri never have anything to say to one another it doesn't really matter. It doesn't make for dramatic urgency either.

The Two Doctors episode one is a reasonably made, watchable piece of television. It's pretty well written, pleasantly budgeted and adequately acted. But a great it is not. And after 44 minutes it's still not made clear to non-aficionados just why the silver-haired guy is also called The Doctor...
* * *

More half-baked anorakkisms here, with symbiotic nucleui and Rutan war campaigns.

In amidst all the poor acting - Hines, Bryant - is Colin himself. The scene where he goes into a trance had me curling my toes in embarrassment. This is even worse because his OTT nasal, girlie squeal of "Jamie!" is directly contrasted with Troughton's gruff subtlety. Mind you, despite decent playing from Payne, Stratton and Pearce Pat is leagues ahead of everyone here.

The Sontarans still have no real part to play in proceedings, and are, as everyone always says, pretty rubbish. Tall, thin, with rubber faces and loose helmets. This story isn't quite up there with, say, Attack or Resurrection in terms of continuity, but it's still pure fanboy. It really does look nice though, and this is one of the few Doctor Who stories where you can't say the budget is lacking. Well, much. Peter Howell's incidental music is particularly crap this episode mind you.

The rat eating scene is a bit much for a family audience and why can't Chesseyne detect the Doctor when he's just under the window three feet away yet she can even sense the religion of the old woman?

The whole thing is paced out to spread the story until the climactic episode, and is pretty poor when all's told.
* * ½

One strange thing is how the Jamie/Doctor dynamic is changed when he's with the sixth. Obviously Colin is much the bigger man, so Frazer's role as heroic protector is redundant. Instead he runs from peril to peril after his scraps of dialogue. Also note how in the opening minutes Colin looks down Nicola's cleavage. Can't say I blame him.

Troughton manages - just - to pull off the orange eyebrows bit, but it is very, very silly. This would probably have worked better as a two-parter, with the lengthy scenes and sparse music lending it no sense of urgency. All of the restaurant scenes are just pure location-hogging padding. How many times is someone locked up in that cellar anyway? How many times does someone escape being Shockeye's dinner?

Complaints of excess violence can be upheld, with stabbings, electrode torture, dripping blood and the Doctor committing murder. All of this is passed off as a very unsubtle take on vegetarianism. Just what we need - a Who story with a moral at the end.

How many times do people change their motivations this episode? How is killing two Sontarans going to hold off the nearby battle fleet? Still, it's almost worth it for the leaving scene between Doctors, where, patting his stomach to indicate Colin's girth, Pat notes: "The time continuum should be big enough for both of us... just."
* * ½

One of the better Colin Baker stories, but by the series' own standards it only reaches levels of mediocrity. Disappointing.
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Another old review above, and, updating this page to add a DVD feature over a year after writing it, I do have to observe that it doesn't flow and is quite disjointed. Oh well. Maybe one day I'll do these old reviews all over again. If I was reviewing The Two Doctors now I'd flag up even more how violent it all is. Doctor Who has used violence well in the past, and even in the same season, but here it all feels so sadistic and unnecessary, a mean-spirited gratuity, just like the astounding amount of padding that fills up the third episode. Anyway, this DVD release…

Just as poor fates befell him on the series, then poor Colin hasn't had a lot of good luck with the authoring of his discs. As with Vengeance On Varos, this one also suffers from an awkward layer change (19'39m into the second episode) which may cause some players to momentarily pause the disc. Again, it doesn't really detract as it's a split-second thing, but I can't let it go unmentioned as it does mean it's a flawed product.

The information text is reasonably involved, though suddenly things have become so fannish we get info text telling us about the "Season 6b Theory." (For the Anorak view on this, then see The Three Doctors DVD Review. As for the commentary, well, it's a bit of a stinker, really. You just can't predict how elements are going to collide together, and Frazer and Colin's banter is approximately ten thousand times more fun for them than it is for us. Frazer can be amusing, but lacks the real authority that, say, Peter Davison would hold in steering a conversation. Yet all seem unaware this time that the purpose of their conversation is to benefit and entertain the listener, not just mumble almost incoherently among themselves whenever they feel like it. Colin and Nicola are fine, though Colin's justification of the violence and derision of modern television techniques in favour of Moffatt's dreary non-directing style causes you to scratch your head in disbelief. Moffatt himself seems senile and oblivious to all around, while, as has been wildly reported, Jacqueline Pearce's chief contribution (other than pretending to laugh at other's jokes) is to say "Darrrrrrrling". A lot. Well, as is this is the Anorak Zone, then she says it thirty times over the three parts. Keeping the group separated for sections of each episode doesn't work well, either, and in a commentary dirge that doesn't quite come off, only the last 18 or so minutes of the final episode see all five working together. Even then, though, it has to be said that there isn't really the greatest rapport, and highlights can actually be numbered:
Highlight One: The end credits of episode one, where Peter Moffatt suggests they should have made the release into a movie format, cutting out the credits. When told that the buyers wouldn't want that, he gets his dummy, draws back his breath, and then spits it out over the studio floor over the Remastered version of The Five Doctors. Pick your teddy up, Pete, but thanks for one of the few interesting parts of the commentary.
Highlight Two: Five minutes in to the second episode and Colin and Frazer make jokey derisory remarks about each other's acting, actually succeeding in being funny.
Highlight Three: Peter Moffatt details a JN-T paddy fifteen minutes into the third episode. And that's it. One highlight per episode, with a possible fourth in the shape of Jacqueline discussing her herpes during the last instalment. One of the most missable commentaries of all, just like those for the 60s era it partially alludes to.

A double disc set, with extras being specially created to make them number over three-and-a-quarter hours in length, this of course brings up the question of whether more is less.

In A Fix With Sontarans (9'18m) - Other than the audio and info options (and Easter Egg), this is the only extra on the first disc, a "story" specially recorded as a part of Jim'll Fix It. Yet take no notice of fans attempting to reclaim it as a kitsch camp classic. Dimensions In Time I can understand, but this is truly f****** horrific, and represents all that was bad in Who at the time. Horrible.

Behind The Sofa Robert Holmes & Doctor Who (45'28m) - What a smashing little documentary this is, a retrospective on Bob, captured by the use of clips and the talking heads of Terrance Dicks, Barry Letts, Phillip Hinchcliffe, Chris Boucher and Eric Saward. Okay, its inclusion on the Two Doctors disc is probably more convenience than anything. As the story it's a supporting feature for is only covered for 56 seconds - and then in extremely disparaging terms - you might feel that it would have suited the Pyramids of Mars disc better. But although the interviews are conducted in front of black curtains that look as if they're waiting to have a backdrop keyed in, and the clips from stories not released on DVD aren't restored, I really enjoyed this a lot. The Space Pirates isn't mentioned, and Hinchcliffe's comment that Bob had "probably run the course" after staying on past his era sees us also skip The Ribos Operation and The Power of Kroll, but for a feature of this kind it's rewarding, and a little touching at the end. Doesn't Eric hate JN-T though?

Beneath The Lights (27'56m) - Footage of several studio takes, this sort of thing makes an ideal extra, and parts could be considered to be outtakes and extended scenes. What's more, you get to see Nicola adjust her bra strap. Bonus!

Beneath The Sun (36'14m) - Location filming taken from a VHS source. Deeply tedious to watch in one go, it's nevertheless worthwhile to include this kind of thing on a release, and the saturated colours make it look like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre that the story partly homaged… or at least that advert for Coke.

40th Anniversary Celebration (2'59m) - The theme remix with lots of clips, placed on all the 40th anniversary discs. Works better on a larger package like this, where it comes over as a nice freebie, rather than a fully ensconced extra in its own right.

Adventures In Time And Spain (29'26m) - With his natural, professional presenting style Gary Downie should get his own Holiday programme on TV. I jest, of course - his queeny anecdotes might work well on paper, but before the camera he's almost unwatchable. Yet call me naïve, but I never realised that the woman who throws a rose to Dastari was supposed to be a prostitute.

Wavelength (28'54m) - As with the Jane Asher radio play on the Dalek Invasion of Earth disc, they should perhaps work on a better way of presenting these audio strands than just a still photo. How should they go about it? God knows, I'm not a DVD designer, am I? I'm just saying, aren't I? For flip's sake! Anyway, while I applaud the inclusion of this piece for completeness' sake, it's not really the sort of thing you'd want to hear more than once, a radio spot of soundbites from the show, linked by Andy Peebles. "I asked Cathy on your behalf, just how people go about getting into the world of TV make-up." Well don't ask on my behalf, I couldn't care less.

Photo Gallery (8'05m) - In theory, I do actually prefer these auto display galleries as they're ideal for lazy people who can't be bothered to keep pressing their forward buttons. It's just that so many of them keep using deeply annoying sound effects. Thankfully, this is probably the best, with only the final chapter producing mild irritation, and the selection of 66 images are pleasant.

Easter Egg (2'02m, spoiler!) You can find this on the first disc, an unimaginative hidden extra of creditless beginning/end theme titles.

Also on the first disc is the opportunity to hear the isolated music track. Overall, despite the one layer change problem (which will only effect some players anyway) and the variable quality of the extras, I'd say this makes for one of the better discs in the collection… as long you're not a fan of commentaries, that is.

* * * *