The Two Doctors

Region 1

for North America
Region 2

for the U.K.
VHS Video
(Doctor Who Story No. 141, starring Colin Baker and Patrick Troughton)
  • written by Robert Holmes
  • directed by Peter Moffatt
  • produced by John Nathan-Turner
  • music by Peter Howell
  • 6 episodes @ 25 minutes each, or
    3 episodes @ 45 minutes each
Story: A gourmet satire is on the menu when the Doctor (Colin Baker) investigates an attack on a space station, and soon finds himself headed for Spain on the trail of the Sontarans, an alien mastermind, a carnivorous chef, and one of his former selves (Patrick Troughton)....

DVD Extras (on 2 discs no less) include:

  • Audio commentary by Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Frazer Hines (Jamie),
    Jacqueline Pearce (Chessene), and director Peter Moffatt.
  • Robert Holmes career retrospective documentary (45 min.) with script editors Terrance Dicks and Eric Saward,
    former producers Barry Letts and Philip Hinchcliffe, and fellow writer Chris Boucher.
  • "Adventures in Time and Spain" production featurette with production manager Gary Downie (29 min.)
  • "Wavelength" audio only behind-the-scenes radio interviews (29 min.) with Colin Baker, Bryant, Moffatt, Downie,
    Patrick Troughton (The 2nd Doctor), Tim Raynham (Varl), John Stratton (Shockeye), producer John Nathan-Turner,
    designer Tony Burrough, costume designer Jan Wright, make-up designer Catherine Davies, sound effects designer Dick Mills,
    studio sound supervisor Keith Bowden, and production secretary Sarah Lee.
  • "Beneath the Sun" raw film footage on location (35 min.)
  • "Beneath the Lights" raw video footage in studio (25 min.)
  • "A Fix with Sontarans" TV skit featuring Colin Baker, Janet Fielding, Clinton Greyn, and Tim Raynham (9 min.)
  • Isolated Music track by Peter Howell
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery sound effects montage (8 min.)
  • 40th Anniversary music video (3 min.)
  • "Who's Who" text biographies (may feature on Region 1 discs only)

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

A lot of elements combine to make this story more interesting than most others from this season. Both Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines return to indulge us with the ever-wonderful second Doctor & Jamie duo, the long-neglected Sontarans are back, plus there is a large amount of location filming in Spain. To top it off, Jacqueline Pearce appears playing a role not too dissimilar from the Servalan character she used to play on the sci-fi show Blake's 7, and knowing Doctor Who, she may just finally get her well-deserved come-uppance on this show.

However, the only element that Robert Holmes' writing really does justice to are his new alien creations, the Androgums, and their overindulgence in sensational eating. Shockeye is the embodiment of this throughout most of the adventure, and with John Stratton's inspired performance, becomes something unique and disturbing to behold. If it was meant to encourage us all to become vegetarians (as apparently Robert Holmes and Nicola Bryant were), it does fall far short. For that, you would really need to balance things by showing characters enjoying vegetarian meals, and looking far more attractive and charismatic at it than the carnivore Shockeye and his like. This story is far more effective in encouraging people to avoid eating raw rats, becoming cannibals, or overindulging, and only one of those is a serious problem in human society.

It is interesting to note how each Doctor independently suffers the story-structure problems of his own era, something heightened in the six-episode version of the story. I will continue to automatically refer to the 25-minute international versions of this season's episodes, especially since it really highlights these structural challenges in the writing. Patrick Troughton's Doctor has no trouble getting to the scene of the action in the first few minutes of the opening episode. The important guest characters are all slowly introduced one after another, all easy to understand and enjoy. Well done. The Doctor gets straight to business, and sinks his teeth into some really lovely scenes early on.

But all is not well for Pat's Doctor, thanks to prisoner dynamics and, as was often the case in the sixties, he and Jamie appear to be off on holiday for one of the six international episodes, not making an appearance.

Colin Baker's Doctor and Peri suffer more modern story structure problems. As usual for season twenty-two, they waste a good deal of time just trying to get to the scene of the action. "The Two Doctors" manages to find new ways to escalate this problem as well, making it go on longer than you would at first think. It all feels like the padding that it is.

There are also excessive amounts of eavesdropping instead of actual character interaction, which would be richer entertainment. However, Colin's Doctor does make himself look extremely clever whenever he does interact, as though he's only going to do it when he can get extremely good value and effectiveness for the effort.

And, as bizarrely usual for season twenty-two, the script is structured to aim for obvious anti-climax, perhaps because Holmes' prime interest isn't the same as that of the audience, muddling both the display of character motivations in early portions and the direction of audience anticipation in later portions. "Doctor Who" began to earn its reputation for confusing people again on this story.

Clinton Greyn (Stike) and Tim Raynham (Varl) both make wonderful Sontarans in this tale. Stike in particular has excellent confrontations with both Doctors, one of the highlights of the story.

The character of Oscar is a bit of a clone of Henry Gordon Jago from "The Talons of Weng-Chiang", and not quite as fascinating, but still works quite well. If you enjoyed Jago, you'll probably enjoy Oscar too.

I do like the Spanish city sequences as well, but they seem to be placed completely at the wrong point in the story's structure.

Perhaps the most overlooked part of the heroic template during seasons 21 and 22 are the good local characters that our heroes can be proud to have helped or saved as a result of an adventure. Holmes' writing seems confused as to who this should be, if indeed he even took time to think such archetypal roles through.

The script also doesn't seem keen to place cameras in the right places at the right times to show off the nobler aspects of the ending, and spend considerably more time and focus on things that make you wonder if you actually do want to root for the characters that the writers (Saward & Nathan-Turner included) obviously wanted you to.

The cliffhangers work fairly well in this story, including most of the unplanned ones, although they probably won't top too many lists of best cliffhangers ever.

Time and Continuity

Fans seem to go to a lot of trouble to figure out exactly when during the second Doctor and Jamie's history this adventure could have been squeezed in, and I've been among them myself. My current philosophy of time travel makes it not a problem at all - once accepting that the average person makes about 10 000 decisions each day that shift them from one possible line of history to another, it becomes ridiculous to expect to be able to travel into the past of a planet or of one's own life and witness things happening exactly the way you remember them. This does not erase any of the experiences you had to bring you to where you are now; you simply witness a different version of how things could have been.

This is the very essence of what I believe we witness with Pat Troughton's Doctor and Jamie. Without getting into too many details here, let's just say that in this story we might be looking at what the Doctor's double was actually doing when Jon Pertwee didn't encounter him after sliding to the parallel universe in "Inferno" (story no. 54). If this Jamie and this Troughton Doctor are doubles of the ones we saw in the sixties, they are free to age as much as they want, and travel together as long as they want. They can make up as many more parallel futures for themselves as they want.

There is much more to be said about story structure, parallel universe theories, and the merits and mistakes of this adventure's specifics ....come back and read it in the in-depth analysis version of this review after you've seen the show.

Peter Moffatt's directing is back on form after the disastrous "The Twin Dilemma" (story no. 137), although things still aren't perfect here. Generally, he gets great performances from the cast, arguably the best of the season, and he manages to tell the story in visually interesting ways and keep everything at a decent level. His knack of knowing when to move on allowed a few scenes planned for the studios to get filmed on location instead, which is a good and worthy bonus. However, he too didn't make sure the Sontarans got all that was their due, including their physical entrance, making sure they looked their best before each take of their scenes in studio, and going for an abandoned action scene. There's a lot of excellent work here, but the subject matter begged for it to go up yet another notch in a few areas.

Musically, Peter Howell's score for this story is the tour-de-force for the season. We get a nice creepy theme for the Androgums, and plenty of atmospheric guitar music for the Spanish sections. Best of all, the Sontarans get a compelling anthem with a whole host of easily recognizable variations during appropriate cues, giving them the most distinctive and dangerous musical identity they have ever had. Howell has proved himself to be the musical maestro once more. Excellent!

With all of the wonderful elements this story has going for it, it seemed poised to top my list of season twenty-two favourites. But even then, it doesn't quite gel as a satisfying tale. "The Mark of the Rani" (the previous story) does that a bit better I think, although I might still wind up re-watching "The Two Doctors" more often, thanks to the irresistibly unique draw of Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, and the Sontarans. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole in this case, and one is left to eat from the good bits, add a few of one's own spices and flavourings to the mediocre, and send the inedible portions back to the kitchens.

This story has become available on DVD and VHS video.
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DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
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DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
VHS Video
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NTSC B in the U.S.
NTSC A in Canada
NTSC B in Canada
PAL for the U.K.

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "Timelash"

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