The Twin Dilemma

Chase - Posted on 22 July 2009


Okay, a few things out of the way first. I first saw Colin Baker in DW Monthly in a pic. I thought, this guy looks gay and there's nothing wrong with gay but he looked...pretty fem...and there's nothing wrong with that either. But to me he just didn't look like THE Doctor and to me the Doctor was not fem. At least not in any of his previous regenerations or whatever. That's how I felt at the time. I was proved wrong because I think he was a good Doctor. I also think he had the worst luck of any actor playing the Doctor because of many reasons. I think he had the worst scripts (at least up to TIME AND THE RANI and PARADISE TOWERS), I think he was saddled with a script editor who was in over his head and who ran out of ideas, saddled with a producer who also had few ideas left and was more concerned with promotion and drawing in big name guest stars, and with directors who knew less about the show than all of them did. When Colin asked, during TRIAL, what his motivation was supposed to be, no one could answer him and that's bad. Yet, on screen, he really tries...and tries hard. He's almost never times, he's bad but not terrible or horrible. I'd say TIMELASH marks his worst performance but most of the other stories show him in great form.

Colin impresses right away in this story. I also don't...and I have to get this out of the way...I don't understand how any fan of DW can find SO much fault with this story. Yeah, it has faults. Yes, some of the actors are inexperienced but, folks, this is DW, none of that is new. Some people compare it to CAVES and say there's such a big difference in story and execution...well, gang, this is the same show that has THE AZTECS surrounded by THE KEYS OF MARINUS (at least one of the brain monsters in the jar has antenna that remind me of Mestor) and THE SENSORITES.

Truth is: THE TWIN DILEMMA is very much a traditional DW story. I also can't understand how, and this is a strong statement: how anyone who does not like this story likes any DW at all in any  great chunks. Well, perhaps chunks is the wrong word. The story has two kids in it. Okay, that's new. But is it? DW is really a show that was made for children. Everyone gets crazed when I write that but it's true. There's always a bit of child in almost every DW story, except maybe CAVES but it is. They are mathematical geniuses (like Adric) and can effect stuff (like Adric). A Time Lord (although we didn't know at first he was a Time Lord) is using their or planning to use their math to effect stuff (like the Master in CASTROVALVA and come to think of it, LOGOPOLIS). There are cheesy space ships (oh come on,  you can cite some of those yourself, SPACE PIRATES, ARK IN SPACE, SHADA, etc) and everyone complains about the Space Police set. It, at least, looks like an office. Again, check out SPACE PIRATES for stuff like that or even WHEEL IN SPACE. There's a woman in charge as in EARTHSHOCK and possibly others I've missed.

The Doctor is mean. Okay, take a look at Hartnell and even Pertwee. Pertwee in THE DAEMONS, THE MIND OF EVIL, and a few others is constantly putting people down. In fact, at times, he's more brusk than Hartnell ever was. Tom's Doctor also had some moments against others. Of course, this Doctor goes far over the top...and tha'ts a good thing...because he's in regeneration crisis. Frankly, the best thing about this story is that: the regen crisis. Colin is up to the task, playing a manic Doctor who is conceited, worried he's a danger to the universe, pointing at Peri, insulting her, taking revenge on her when she says, "Yuck" to his outrageous costume, nearly strangling her, and rightfully chastizing her for wanting to leave the area when their might be survivors of the spaceship crash in the area.

Peri, for her own, gets her own back. She's much more brash here and much more likable as she tries to cope with a Doctor who's just changed and a situation that's almost unbearable and her fear at first, is well acted. Ditto the later anger she has when the Doctor criticizes her. I like that she gets her own back at him...only to be interupted by Hugo pointing the gun at athe Doctor and the cliffhanger...I really think it was a mistake to, next season, go for the 45 min episodes. THIS Doctor works best with the 25 min mark to be honest.

The Doc's costume. When I first saw it in the magazine my reaction was much like that of Peri's. YUUCK. It was terrible. Still, the costume didn't make the entire series, it was just a little part of it. This story, seen in its entirety the first time round, made me like Colin a lot and even the jacket a bit.              

Again, Colin does a great job in this and he's---unlike Peter---instantly IMO---the Doctor. Despite his "fits" and his meanness, to me, he was the Doctor right away and handled that well and took charge. When he talks about the crushing boredom of eternity and laughs in a manic's scary and thought provoking all at once. What is going on in the back of the DOc's mind when he's hiding it all away in his more saner moments? Is he bored living so long? How does he really feel about his companions? Then he contemplates becoming a hermit and living like a monk in a retreat like state. In THE STRANGER, the Doc...I mean the Stranger is doing just that and I think he has a female called Miss Brown that's looking for him to come out of retirement or something. I liked the first STRANGER or two...

Anyway, the twins. Yeah, they're new actors but IMO they're not terrible. They do the job. And that's what this story does: the job and to be honest, it entertains and is not as miserable about the villains as say, CAVES or RESURRECTION OF THE DALEKS. Also: who crashed the ship? Mestor or Azmeal-Edgeworth? One thing on my mind was: and it shouldn't have been: if they could have two kids again and who could effect mathematics, why didn't  they just bring back Adric or have him stay in the first place or maybe these two could use the math to bring him back. I know I was obsessed. Truth be told, Adric's death affected me greatly and it left a bad aftertaste in the show for me and I always hoped against hope that somehow, some new Doctor or team could rescue him, seeing the fault in the other Doctor's logic and inaction. Alas, it was not to be ever (and no, I don't count THE BOY TIME FORGOT at all).

 I can go into this later but for me, this story is probably the best of the Colin Baker stories, in fact, it's probably better than his entire first season following. I also liked MARK OF THE RANI.  And the Dalek story sort of grew on me. The rest...well, we shall see...    


Sorry but this is just very enjoyable. The Doctor acts like a coward and hides behind Peri, he tells her, the First Doctor quote, "Kindly refrain from calling me Doc" and then in a moment he becomes the warm friend that Azmael knows. Colin does a remarkable job here in all these fits and rises and valleys. He makes his Doctor very likable so its' no wonder that the audience stuck around for this story and actually remained loyal to Colin and the show until the story TIME AND THE RANI crushed the ratings.  Despite all the cowardness and the attacks on his friends, Colin imbibes his Doctor with enough strength, warmth, and kindness in tone to be very Doctor-like, more than Davison's entire second season. Peri is decidedly strong, too. Her pushing the Doctor to save Hugo is well acted as is her tolerance of the Doctor acting like a coward. Colin also does well to give the Doctor humanity when he sees the twins, "Earthlings. Children," and he smiles.

Peri does well in spotting the bomb that the alien left. Speaking of the aliens, they may look slightly silly but they seem to be birds, something the series has just tried out and I think it kind of works. Also: Hugo's outfit is also silly, it's much more tasteless than the Doctor's outfit and oh, he just happens to find the power pack that Peri hid in the very same uniform he tries on (?). Regardless, Hugo is also a strong character and his easing off of Peri is beliveable.

Colin does remarkably well in mocking up the transmat system to get Peri to escape...surprised that it actually a bit of Pertwee-Troughton ism. He is remarkably the Doctor in those scenes and in any scene he explains things. Peri shows her compassion more than once and even though several times in this story she and the Doc do not see eye to eye it never becomes as irritating as it will get in, say TIMELASH, and it usually is settled. The cliffhanger is also well done. I also like the touch when the Doc remembers Tegan by telling Peri, "Brave heart" and we hear Tegan's music when she left the TARDIS at the end of the Dalek story. 

I really enjoy this story so far and from start to this and I suspect I will enjoy all the rest of it.     


It would have been much better if Mestor was hidden from us in shadows or lit differently to make him more scary and to hide the awful mask. Seen in bits he might have been more mysterious or scary. Here, he kills a porter to make him seem dangerous so that later on when the Doc kills him it is justified. Mestor threatens the twins, too and quite scares them and to be honest, the twins do an okay job of showing us this. In this ep, Azmeal even threatens them and his Time Lord anger at them comes through...and he scares them.

The Doc wants to help but then again he doesn't want to stick his neck out. The regen crisis is still in full swing and he knows it and admits he is a mess, whereas before, he stated to Peri that is he never wrong. There are plenty of Colin Baker isms in this story and too numerous to mention here but he's a hoot to be honest and he starts quoting Longfellow to Peri. The planets in this look fairly alien and I'd like to know what destroyed the surface of Jaconda, I'd guess Mestor's babies or Mestor himself. And wouldn't Hugo make a good companion! I love how he and Peri team up to get the Doctor to take them inside the Mestor base in the caves. It's just great.  The control voice on the freighter landing bay sounds suspiciously a little like Colin...

THE DISCONTINUITY GUIDE claims that this has farting music in it, hilariously.

The Doc also calls the outside of the Police Box, "Hideous" heralding something that might happen in the next story, that of changing the exterior...thankfully NOT going to happen permanently. At the time, JNT was fostering controversy by declaring that the only constant the show needed was the Doctor and I think he was even talking about destroying the Tardis altogether...and definitely, he said, or so he said, changing the exterior in every story to match the surroundings. I guess it would make the show save money if they did that but to lose the POLICE BOX exterior for good...would be awful...  

The cliffhanger is one of many cliffhangers in Colin's era that end with zoom in close ups or just close ups on Colin's face as he gasps, "Peri!" or something similar. Here, it works because it is part of the sitiuation and it is fresh. I just love the scene where the Doc bursts into Azmeal's lab and points, "Still bullying children, aye? Villain! Murderer!"  and attacks him! Mestor's plan seems a little...insane. What is he, the Master? And how it can blow a hole in the universe is beyond me but still, this is not without its very fun and good moments...    


Mestor's plan: blow the sun up and move planets around so that his eggs can fly through space and take over all the planets. Okayyyy. The Doctor wanders in and out of attention, Mestor kills one of the good guys, and the twins stick up for themselves. Peri seems to take charge and Hugo proves his worth. What more can anyone ask for? Colin gets some great scenes including Azmael's death and he gets to diss the chamberlain ("I know you! You're the chamberlain. I don't like you." "Well then I suggest you start walking"). I wonder what the Jacondons are mopping up? Aren't they the ones who were being used by Mestor? Colin gets all bravado around Mestor but it's true: he's been menaced by things far more menacing than Mestor. He out and out throws liquid to kill Mestor and braves death for himself...but not realizing Azmeal would die.

At times it seems like the writer of THE FIVE DOCTORS wrote this too, there are a great deal of the same phrases ("Menace in my own shadow" "We must mind link" "Kindly refrain from calling me doc!") and a few others I think. I suspect this was written by the same person, Terrance Dicks maybe? It's traditional enough.

Okay this climax is fitting and not terrible and the entire story enjoyable. Not quite a total classic but not terrible and I love the ending with the Doctor saying, "Like it or not, I am the Doctor."  Then Peri smiles at him and he smiles back...

I can see people not taking to Colin right away with this...even though I did. I thought having a traditional monster/alien convoluted plot went right along with the untraditional method of  having a totally unstable Doctor throughout the entire story, possibly the entire season. It's risky and chancy but I think they pulled it off...this time. I also like that they took that risk, possibly the only and last risk they would willingly take and with care. For me, it works. One is never sure if this Doctor is going to choke another Time Lord or work with him; kill the enemy or make fun of him; save the twins or insult Hugo; call Peri a "nice girl" or "that stupid girl". And Colin is just the one to do this. Any other Doctor or any other actor could not pull it off, not with such a quick turn around between manic moments. ANd for that I just excuse Colin for so much later stuff like TIMELASH and all his fighting with Peri. The man is good. He deserved better scripts for what comes after THE TWIN DILEMMA is just so awful with the exception of MARK OF THE RANI and possibly REVELATION OF THE DALEKS.    

Oh and wouldn't it be interesting if en route to Earth to drop off the twins, the Doctor gets lost and he and the twins and Peri have countless adventures? No? I'd watch it. Especially if he's as manic as he is in this. And I especially enjoyed having the twins and Hugo around to offset the sameness of the Doc and one girl companion. From here though it's one girl almost all the time. And it's totally boring...

Zombie's picture

I like Colin Baker, and I agree that he was a victim of bad circumstances, but this story was terrible.  I don't think I could ever sit through it again.

Tin-Dog-Podcast's picture

alternate colin baker costume

Louis Trapani's picture

That may be a dashing Colin Baker, but it is a drab 6th Doctor.


Wyldstaar's picture

Seriously?  They couldn't have found something somewhere in the middle?  Horribly boring, but I can't help but wonder how this toned down outfit might have reigned in the Sixth Doctor's personality a bit.

I find that my mind suddenly wanders to that alternate universe out there somewhere.  In that world, people are just now discovering the gut wrenchingly awful clown outfit that Colin Baker almost wore instead of that plain black suit.

Enter: The Conquering Chicken

The change is so drastic that it sorta makes ya appreciate the multi colored jacket! 

DarthSkeptical's picture

Gonna have to agree with Chase as to at least one point:  "Dilemma" is a pretty traditional DW plot.  Strictly in terms of plot, it feels much more like what came before than what came after.  Fact is, it's better than most of the season in which it appeared.  Better than "Resurrection" and "Warriors" and even "The Awakening", hands down.  I'd say its core plot is better than "Caves", although "Caves" certainly wins in terms of acting and direction.  "Frontios" is the best of the season, with "Planet of Fire" having a whole set of different pluses going for it.  As for the Colin Baker era, it's just about the best thing on offer, really.  That's not saying much, of course, but it's saying something.  It also had the virtue of being distinctly non-traditional in terms of the Doctor's persona and his relationship to his companion, as well as providing new aliens, however badly realized they were.  It tried to be different without straying so far from its core DW roots as to be unrecognizable as DW.  I'm not saying it was the best thing they could have offered an incoming Doctor, but on balance its positives outweigh its negatives.  Hopefully the DVD release will allow for a fresh reassessment by DW fans, since it's likely been a long time since most fans have actually watched this thing.  

Have a lemon sherbet. It'll quench your thirst.

I'm a relatively recent Who fan, trying to acquaint myself with the classic series.  As we speak, I'm watching The Twin Dilemma for the first time, and all I can think is what a jerk! Not a fan of this Doctor quite yet...

Anyway, I *love* Davison!  He's my favorite Doctor of the classic series, and second favorite over all.  Watching the sixth Doctor's debut makes me miss him, even though I never really had him :-/

Troy Baker's picture

The idea about the 6th Doctor was for him to have an erratic personality in the beginning and as his regeneration stabilized the new persona would eventually settle down. Unfortunately Colin Baker had only "The Twin Dilemma" in season 21 and then people started tinkering with the show - the very next season went to double-length episodes and then the "hiatus". Colin Baker never really had a chance to do what he wanted to do with the character.


Having said that there are a couple of stories in the 22nd season that are pretty good. Don't judge the 6th Doctor on just "The Twin Dilemma".


PS: If you get a chance try listening to the Big Finish audios that he did. He does a very good job in those and he had a chance to flesh out the character like he wanted to do when the TV series was on.

Actually I felt, despite his outbursts of insanity and attempts to strangle Peri, "The Twin Dilemma" is a much better story than it is given credit for.  It is pretty good science-fiction with a theme of two intelligent twins who have it in their power to change the universe (even though they don't know it).  I have always felt this was one of my favorites from the C. Baker years.

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