A Well-Prepared Meal (The Two Doctors)
Before we start, I just wanted to give everyone an update on the Troughton book – and this seems the appropriate post to do it in. I’ve switched to paying someone to copyedit in the hopes that it will reduce the number of infelicities that creep into the text. Unfortunately, that person is booked through to July, which means that the book is probably looking at a fall release.
That said, once I finish the first draft on the Wonder Woman book this summer I am taking a few months to do revisions on a couple of projects – both getting some proper academic work, and doing my revisions and additions to the Pertwee, Baker, and Davison/Baker volumes one after another and with the ability to focus on them as a main project instead of as something I’m fitting around the blog and another book. So while the wait for Volume 2 of TARDIS Eruditorum is going to be longer than I’d hoped, the wait for volumes 3-5 should be considerably shorter.
On to the post.
|That’s right, it’s the same picture again.|
It’s one way of learning visual literacy!
It’s February 16th, 1985. Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson remain at number one, remaining there for all three weeks of this story. Kirsty MacColl, The Commodores, and Howard Jones also chart. More inspiring are the album charts, where The Smiths’ landmark Meat is Murder debuts at number one in what is one of the most perfect thematic convergence of music charts and Doctor Who in some time.
In real news, William J Schroeder is the first person to receive an artificial heart and leave the hospital. It doesn’t go terribly well, admittedly, but it happens. EastEnders starts, and the day after the story ends the miner’s strike ends. Oh, and Doctor Who gets cancelled. Damn.
When last we looked at this story the question was whether or not it functioned meaningfully as a Patrick Troughton story, and it was found wanting. Lucky for it, then, that its primary job was not to function as a Troughton story but as a Colin Baker story, a job that it performs markedly better at. Especially so under the model I’ve been approaching the series under – indeed, the “Baker era as exorcism” theory has, perhaps, no evidence better than this.
It can hardly be called a surprise. I said we’d have to drop the “no talking about the production team” rule for this story, so let’s go ahead and point out that this is a Robert Holmes script. Holmes is always a nice writer to deal with as a critic simply because the authorial intent objection falls away. Holmes is a smart and clever enough writer to have intended much of what we’ll find here, and it’s only the alchemical embellishments that strike me as at all improbable.
The key detail is the part of the story everyone seems most ready to ignore – the Sontarans. Apparently Holmes was not terribly thrilled at the instruction to include the Sontarans, but was eventually mollified by Eric Saward pointing out that nobody had done them right since he created them. This is certainly believable – appealing to a writer’s ego is terribly effective. But this anecdote is, on the surface, difficult to reconcile with the fact that the Sontarans are treated as the most generic of generic aliens imaginable here.
Here I must acknowledge my debt to Rob Shearman, whose guest analysis of this story in About Time, to which this entry is little more than an extended footnote, sets the standard to which all other redemptive readings of Doctor Who must aspire. The problem with assuming that just because Robert Holmes was persuaded to use the Sontarans due to how bad everybody else’s take on them had been he was going to restore his original vision is absurdly reductive. No, instead what we get is an aggressive examination of the nature of monsters.
This, in a nutshell, is the disagreement between Shearman in his guest defense of the story and Tat Wood in his critique of the story. Alongside the Sontarans are the Androgums, a race of food-obsessed aliens who are repeatedly treated as brute savages by all of the other characters. One – the story’s main villainess – has been “enhanced” to where she is intelligent and acts like a human, to the consternation and horror of virtually every other character, particularly the Doctors. And the story over and over again stresses that you can’t change or improve an Androgum.
Tat Wood objects, and not unreasonably, that this is ethically appalling. But where Shearman retorts – and to my mind clearly gets the better of Wood – is in pointing out that the only reason anyone finds the treatment of the Androgums problematic is that they look human except for having funny eyebrows and a few pimples. Nobody, in watching the story, ever complains that the Sontarans are treated as generic and irredeemable monsters. And really, that’s just because they have potato faces.
This, of course, is exactly what Holmes was trying to do back in The Time Warrior – to create a villainous character who happened to be a potato-faced alien. He created a generic alien culture for them – planet of the war-like people – but Linx was manifestly intended to be a character. The steady reduction of his concept to “generic war potatoes” was, as Saward guessed, a source of annoyance to Holmes. But he didn’t fix the problem by redoing the Sontarans. He fixed it by creating the Androgums – essentially the same concept only now they’re food-obsessed instead of war-obsessed – and having them be humanoid enough that nobody was ever going try to reuse them as generic monsters. And then, for good measure, have the story repeatedly and uncomfortably treat them like generic monsters even though they’re clearly interesting characters. So basically, the Sontarans without funny masks.
That, right there, tells us an awful lot about how this story works. It’s the one story that we can say with some confidence is meant to be an exorcism. This is a story that is overtly and consciously about the flaws of Doctor Who. And being Robert Holmes, it’s not about fixing them. It’s about screaming angrily at them. It’s tempting to criticize Holmes here for his cynicism – to suggest that at some point bitching about the sad state of the world needs to come to an end in favor of doing something about it – but that’s not fair. After all, in some of the most recent stories we’ve had to be overtly mystical the themes have been Buddhist. In this regard, at least, Holmes’s approach is very much on target.
A central and important idea here is the idea that one does not eliminate demons and personal failings, but rather accepts them and comes to terms with them. It’s a theme in a lot of mystical thought, really. And it’s an important thing to realize about Holmes’s critiques here. It’s not that he doesn’t have a solution to the problems, it’s that for a lot of them there isn’t a solution that allows the series to still be Doctor Who. I mean, much as one can insist on some viewpoint where aliens aren’t treated as generic monsters, for instance, the truth is that in an action sci-fi show there are always going to be monsters. This is an objection that was first raised by Sydney Newman back around week five of the program. Then the Daleks hit the scene and raised ratings to where the show could actually survive. The idea that aliens aren’t going to be treated like the Androgums and the Sontarans is absurd.
This is true of most of what Holmes critiques here. Holmes is also visibly reacting against the role of nostalgia in this story. Given the task of bringing Troughton’s Doctor back Holmes does what is more or less the exact thing that nobody who was obsessed with the nostalgia of the piece expected or wanted – he brings Troughton’s Doctor back instead of “The Second Doctor.” The difference between how Troughton plays the part here and how he played it in The Five Doctors is profound. Put simply, he looks much older here.
The thing is, he wasn’t. The Five Doctors shot in March of 1983. This shot in August of 1984. And yet Troughton feels far older in this story than he does in The Five Doctors. But then, he feels far older in The Invasion than he does in The Five Doctors too. Troughton’s Doctor always inherited more of the “old man” characteristics from Hartnell than people give him credit for, and his portrayal here is far closer to what he actually did on the series than the defanged clown he played in the anniversary stories. There are moments that jar – snapping at Jamie about his mongrel tongue remains indefensible – but for the most part Holmes actually writes the character that appeared in the 1960s. This character is still magnetic and charming – especially in contrast with Hartnell, who was, after all, the only point of comparison when people formed their impressions of him. But he’s not nearly as saccharine as the character from 1973 or 1983.
This poses an interesting issue. For one thing, at least, it spares Colin Baker some of the ignominy that would otherwise exist. This is not a slight against Baker as an actor – it’s just that his Doctor was not conceived of as a charming and fun figure. Putting him opposite Troughton is rough to begin with – Shearman observes that Holmes is working on a theme in which Troughton is the “old” Doctor whereas Baker is the younger, more “fun” Doctor, and even with Holmes’s efforts to stack the deck in Baker’s favor it’s incredibly easy to love Troughton here. Had Troughton not been written back to his more… difficult version it would have been nearly impossible.
But there’s a larger issue here, which is an overt hostility to the very idea of nostalgia. With everything he brings back in this story he brings it back either in the form fans remember it with no regard for whether that’s still worthwhile (i.e. the Sontarans) or he brings it back with excessive fealty to the original concept so as to betray the false memories of nostalgia (i.e. Troughton).
This culminates in his supposed continuity goof with regards to Troughton’s Doctor and the Time Lords. Some amount of ink has been spilled on these, including a bit of my own, but for our purposes here suffice it to say that none of the options to explain how it is that the Time Lords can get in touch with Troughton or how Jamie knows about them quite work. This is, of course, a minor issue at best. But it’s almost tailor-made to piss continuity-obsessive fans off.
That, I suspect, is the point. Holmes’s interest in continuity has always been virtually null. He jettisoned everything we thought we knew about Gallifrey in the Deadly Assassin, and in bringing the Time Lords back as peripheral figures in this story he basically scraps all of that for a whole new set of technology and explanations of things. Tat Wood accuses this of being the point where Holmes starts to believe his own reputation, but I think nothing could be further from the truth. This is the point where Holmes loses patience with being put on a pedestal. It’s much like the classic story of comics legend Jack Kirby being told that someone was drawing one of his characters “Jack Kirby style” and remarking that Jack Kirby style would have been to create a new character. Likewise, the classic Robert Holmes style that fans so revere was never to do continuity-laden “return of the X” assignments. It’s a clear shot at the sorts of people who wanted Attack of the Cybermen – a reminder that the days of old that they were nostalgic for were not, in fact, defined by nostalgia.
This point also gets at the most controversial aspect of the story, the death of Oscar. I have little to add to Rob Shearman’s analysis here. Oscar is a broad comedy character in classic Robert Holmes style – and has always been safe within the overall shape of the narrative. Killing him is thus shocking. But the brilliant part is that he remains a broad comic figure even as he’s dying. Again, it’s deliciously angry – a game of giving people what they want – a classic Robert Holmes comedy character – and then playing it more faithfully than they wanted it played, remaining funny even to his death. (After all, the other thing Holmes is known for is ridiculous body counts.)
So what we have is a story that savagely refuses to give the audience what they ostensibly want and that instead shows how the very premises of the show are corrupt and decadent. As I said, this is the one story this season where the exorcism seems deliberate – where the script really is about identifying and displaying the flaws of the series. And, more to the point, not just identifying them but performing them – enacting them and, in a perverse way, owning them. Again we have a story that is about its own flaws, where the thematic content of the story lines up oddly well with its deficiencies.
But here we have a more damning one. Troughton’s Doctor – the most alchemical and mercurial of them – is reintroduced to the scene. More than any other Doctor Troughton’s was created by the actor. So much of his Doctor’s nature comes from the fact that Troughton is an astonishingly good actor. There’s a reason his character worked so rarely in books and other media that lacked Troughton himself – because so much of who his character is comes from him. And so his return is a genuinely powerful invocation – especially, as we’ve been taking much of this era, in hindsight, knowing that it’s his last time in the role.
It is, then, a final credit to Troughton that he can pull off this last transformation of his Doctor. To have the character be so recognizable as Troughton’s Doctor and yet remain unable to “save” this story (where salvation is defined, quite inaccurately, as avoiding its flaws ) is impressive. Troughton has always carefully moderated his performances, but here they are more finely tuned than ever as he, in a sense, takes the bullet for the series. Because the point of the story is that an alchemic Doctor, a great actor, classic monsters, none of these things matter. None of them make the show good. With just a slight angling of the series’ moral viewpoint – a tiny shift that brings its ethical problems to the fore – the rest comes crashing down in spite of them. No, worse than that – because of them.
It’s fitting that the story that demonstrates that not even Patrick Troughton can save the series from itself is the one during which the plug was finally pulled. But equally, this is a confrontation the show needed to have. These are real demons within the series, and they needed to be seen, acknowledged, and named. This is how one shapes the conditions under which the show will revitalize itself. One can’t just reinvent blindly.
In that regard, then, this is the archetypal Troughton story – one in which the spirit of his era is unleashed directly at its future. More than any other version it is Troughton’s Doctor who is defined by a tendency to bring your world down around you and vanish prior to rebuilding. The nature of mercurial anarchism is that one shapes the start conditions of the rebirth. In his last and most savagely brilliant gift to the program, the late, great Patrick Troughton does exactly that.
May 11, 2012 @ 12:28 am
Lovely. I am enjoying your sixth Doctor run much more than the fifth (although there were some quite sparkling Davison analyses they were more scattered), so putting the two together in volume 5 is a good marketing ploy!
I'm kidding about that – I'll happily buy them all – but you do seem to have gone up a gear. Great stuff!
May 11, 2012 @ 1:23 am
Apart from anything else, and rather ironically as I've only watched it once, this story was the one which had the most profound effect on me personally. As you point out the idea that, as Morrisey observes, 'Meat is Murder' is inherent in the writing. The absurdity of being in any way squeamish about eating human flesh while tucking into a juicy steak is definitively foregrounded here. It's also touched on in Douglas Adams 'Restuarant at the End of the Universe' where in the TV version the Dish of the Day disconcertedly but politely introducing himself to Arthur Dent was played by our own Peter Davison. This was, I believe, on Adams part an homage to the banquet scene in Alice Through the Looking Glass. ('Alice, Mutton, Mutton, Alice')rather than a diatribe on vegetarianism but I wonder, was Robert Holmes veggie? Anyway, it took a couple of years for me to process but I haven't eaten meat for twenty years now and this story was a major influence on that decision.
May 11, 2012 @ 2:05 am
I think you put across my somewhat garbled and overexcited points in About Time far more cogently than I do – and get more meaning to them too! Thank you. It's such a peculiar story, The Two Doctors, isn't it? Even from the title it appears to be promising something safe and fun, and it so manifestly tries to avoid being neat and ordered – even in the way that its pacing is somewhat lumbering, that it is clearly (and defiantly!) overwritten and self-indulgent. It's a strange and ugly piece of work, and I don't think for a second that director Peter Moffat intended that. But I believe that Robert Holmes sort of did.
My friend Ed Stradling – DVD director maestro – has an opinion that in season 22 you end up with a series of mismatches between scripts and directors. Attack of the Cybermen – bad script, good director; Vengeance on Varos – good script, bad director; Mark of the Rani – bad script, good director. The Two Doctors, he says, is the worst example of it. Imagine what this might have been like directed with the brio of Graeme Harper, or had Spain been captured with the artistry of Sarah Hellings. In a funny way, though, I think it's the naff blandness of Peter Moffat that makes Holmes' awkward anger come across all the more forcefully – it's the way that there's no attempt to acknowledge how edgy and uncomfortable this all is that makes it all the more blatant. Put in the hands of a director who wanted to do it properly, The Two Doctors might have lost some of the context it was attacking. Giving it to a director who treats it as if it's no more than a gentle romp in the style of The Visitation at once cripples it but makes it have a point.
May 11, 2012 @ 2:54 am
In a funny way, though, I think it's the naff blandness of Peter Moffat
That's Moffatt, you're thinking of someone else. Possibly several of them, up to and including Georgina Moffat, the tall one out of Skins who isn't related to any of the others or has anything to do with Doctor Who…
Henry R. Kujawa
May 11, 2012 @ 3:36 am
"He fixed it by creating the Androgums – essentially the same concept only now they’re food-obsessed instead of war-obsessed – and having them be humanoid enough that nobody was ever going try to reuse them as generic monsters. And then, for good measure, have the story repeatedly and uncomfortably treat them like generic monsters even though they’re clearly interesting characters."
Fascinating. I've seen this quite a few times, and I never noticed that before.
"it’s almost tailor-made to piss continuity-obsessive fans off."
Holmes did that in both "GENESIS" and "DEADLY ASSASSIN".
"Troughton’s Doctor always inherited more of the “old man” characteristics from Hartnell than people give him credit for, and his portrayal here is far closer to what he actually did on the series than the defanged clown he played in the anniversary stories. There are moments that jar – snapping at Jamie about his mongrel tongue remains indefensible – but for the most part Holmes actually writes the character that appeared in the 1960s. This character is still magnetic and charming – especially in contrast with Hartnell, who was, after all, the only point of comparison when people formed their impressions of him."
Again, fascinating. My exposure to Troughton was naturally limited to "FIVE", "THREE" and what was left of Season 6, which made its debut in the US the same year as this story.
Oddly enough, I've read the "THE TWO DOCTORS" was originally conceived as bringing back Richard Hurndall as The 1st Doctor… but he passed away before they could do it. So, Troughton it was. What do you make of that?
I have no problem with the fan theory that this story takes place after "THE WAR GAMES". What gets a bit confusing is that remote-control device for the TARDIS, which appears both here and in "MARK OF THE RANI" ("THE TWO DOCTORS" was filmed first!), and the idea that Troughton should have it while Colin says, "I always wanted one of those." Seems like a diverging timeline intersecting with the current one, doesn't it?
My favorite line, of course, remains, "I think your Doctor's worse than mine!" I also like how Jamie snatches a kiss from Peri. Way to go! Oh, and Colin looked so much better without the jacket in the 2nd half, didn't he?
One of the many things JNT obsessively jetissoned when he took over was 6-parters. But some stories need to be longer. He finally did one here… except, of course, it was run as a 3-parter.
May 11, 2012 @ 3:48 am
Beautifully done, Phil. I've really been looking forward to your returning here, and the turn you have pulled just now made the wait worthwhile.
May 11, 2012 @ 5:07 am
Judging from the Big Finish audio "Project: Twilight" that's far longer than the Doctor stuck with his vegetarian diet…
May 11, 2012 @ 5:42 am
Phil, you make me nostalgic for the days when I actually enjoyed this serial.
May 11, 2012 @ 5:42 am
Phil, you've made The Two Doctors another classic Robert Holmes joint: including all the flaws of the 1985 vintage of Doctor Who in the composition of the story itself. I can see everything the previous three stories pointed out, in addition to new targets of critique that Holmes introduced. The twists of continuity Holmes unleashes with the reasons why the Second Doctor and Jamie show up just pokes the Whoniverse in the eye. Henry's right to point out how silly it is for the Sixth Doctor to look at the Second Doctor's TARDIS remote control as if he never had it. I never noticed the subtlety of that joke, where the Sixth treats the Second like a different person, while a major plot point hinges on the Second being the past of the Sixth. All the characters are complicit in the violence of the Androgums because they hold the creatures irredeemable, incapable of imagining a world where an Androgum can be peaceful. Jamie mocks the Sixth Doctor's empty bluster.
We haven't seen until now in this season a critical focus on nostalgia, as distinct from continuity. This is probably the centrepiece component of the exorcism for The Two Doctors. Despite whatever Blakean mind-scapes mights have roiled under some previous Doctor reunions, they were always pitched as fun nostalgia-driven romps. That feeling is fine in small doses, just like any pleasant memory. But when it dominates one's thinking — or in this case, one's favourite television show — nostalgia distorts one's understanding of the reality of the present as well as the past. Jack Kirby and Gilles Deleuze were right: you never repeat the achievements of the past by emulating them, but achieving the creativity that made your heroes so remarkable.
Would I be right to expect the Timelash entry to include an account of the show's growing sexism and objectification of women? The problems of a show dealing with genuinely serious concepts like violence, sexism, and exploitation no longer taking itself seriously? For that last question, I'm remembering the pure camp performance of Paul Darrow and the cartoonish plot.
A statement of pure fan-love to Rob Shearman: I first discovered your work when I listened to The Holy Terror a decade ago, which I still think is one of the best stories in the history of Doctor Who. Every year of the new series when I still don't hear your name in the list of returning writers, I feel a touch of sadness.
May 11, 2012 @ 5:46 am
I remember from the New Adventures — although, as with most nostalgia, my memory is hazy — that the Seventh Doctor was a consistent vegetarian throughout his run. The Sixth was written as periodically relapsing. I think that was a small element of the concept the Virgin line had of the Seventh Doctor being an antidote to the inconstancy of the Sixth.
Looking forward to the New Adventures analysis over the Fall.
Henry R. Kujawa
May 11, 2012 @ 6:49 am
"Henry's right to point out how silly it is for the Sixth Doctor to look at the Second Doctor's TARDIS remote control as if he never had it. I never noticed the subtlety of that joke, where the Sixth treats the Second like a different person, while a major plot point hinges on the Second being the past of the Sixth."
I think a question might be… was Colin supposed to be joking? Or, since "TWO" was filmed before "RANI", did he have it in "RANI" because he got it in "TWO", but switching the order caused a continuity error?
In syndication, they always run the NIGHT COURT where Kwon Le gives birth just before the one that takes place just before she gives birth. Similarly, the schedule-snafu of Season 25 caused some glitches regarding Ace's rocksack, not to mention the development of her relationship with the Doctor.
May 11, 2012 @ 8:10 am
I mean, much as one can insist on some viewpoint where aliens aren’t treated as generic monsters, for instance, the truth is that in an action sci-fi show there are always going to be monsters.
True, but I think the ratio of stories-where-aliens-are-treated-as-generic-monsters to stories-where-they're-not has fallen a bit with the new series. Think of "Boom Town," "Planet of the Ood," "The Beast Below," "The Hungry Earth," "Vincent and the Doctor," "The Curse of the Black Spot," "The Rebel Flesh," "A Good Man Goes to War," and the two attempts to humanise even the Daleks — successfully in "Dalek," not so well in "Daleks in Manhattan."
May 11, 2012 @ 8:33 am
If "The Two Doctors" was meant as pro-vegetarian propaganda, then it failed for me at least. I remember listening to Shockeye's florid ruminations on how delicious Jamie would be if he were cooked properly, and my mouth started watering!
May 11, 2012 @ 9:55 am
While at the end of the day I can't say I liked The Two Doctors, I much rather prefer it's kind of angry, uncomfortable style over the Cybermen and Rani dullfests provided this season. A failed experiment is still better than playing it safe, at least the former leaves you with something to chew on.
May 11, 2012 @ 10:21 am
heh heh. Not suggesting that was its intention just that, bizarrely, My least favourite era of Doctor Who turned out to have the biggest effect on me.
May 11, 2012 @ 10:31 am
Indeed. I left off the 't'.
May 11, 2012 @ 10:54 am
I rewatched this story this week, specifically because I knew you would be returning to it. Unfortunately I have little to add to your comments despite that! I am figuring out just how lucky I was in the part of Colin's run I've actually seen already- Vengeance through Daleks and none of the others (although I'm starting in on Trial today). While all four of the stories are flawed, they do seem to be the better regarded chunk of his run on screen.
One thing that I really do appreciate about this one as opposed to "The Five Doctors" and to a lesser degree "The Three Doctors" is that the concept seems to be story first, multi-doctor second. Admittedly a very close second, but it's still nice. I think that touches on your observation that here we get Troughton's Doctor, not "the Second Doctor"; and it is a joy to have one more story where we get to see the real thing. This is also one of the all too few stories in the entire run where they actually seemed to give some thought to "which one deserves the extra length". I particularly enjoy how the first episode is roughly a Troughton episode followed by a Colin episode, meeting at the cliffhanger.
May 11, 2012 @ 12:23 pm
The Two Doctors isn't the worst Doctor Who story ever, but it may be the one I most dislike, for reasons you admirably summed up in your other entry on it.
Having said that, it occupies an interesting position at the heart of Season 22. As these posts have clarified, Season 22, while perhaps too mundane to be truly alchemical, is all about metamorphosis. Painful metamorphosis, unwillingly undergone, that doesn't end well. Every story bar Timelash has people turning into things they don't want to — Lytton->Cyberman, Peri->bird, Luke->tree, people->Daleks — and even in Timelash there was a metamorphosis, it just happened before the story started. Seasons 13 and 14 feature change too, as part of exorcising the Pertwee years, but there it isn't always horrible. Here it is.
So what makes The Two Doctors the right centerpiece for the season is two things: first, the Doctor too undergoes a transformation. This is the only story this season where he gets touched by the decay that's rampant throughout it. And second, it's the one story that shows a transformation that is supposed to be an improvement by the lights of the audience's normal attitudes — the Androgums' enhancement — only to turn around and show that to be horrible too.
So that's interesting. And it's cute that Oscar tries to enhance his life and ends up dead just like Chessene does. But I still don't enjoy watching it and, despite all the clever things it does with the audience's expectations, I wish they'd made it differently or not at all.
Henry R. Kujawa
May 11, 2012 @ 12:51 pm
"the concept seems to be story first, multi-doctor second"
Yes. I think I read (maybe) the idea was, why not just happen to have their timelines cross, since a thing like that seemed increasingly likely to happen by accident.
It got me thinking this past month, wouldn't it have been funny if when Tom Baker jumped into "…THE PIT", if he'd have found the 1st Doctor (Geoffrey Bayldon) down there. And then tried to figure out "Why can't I remember this?" I can just picture the 1st Doctor as being possibly the only character who could really put Baker's Doctor "in his place" with his overbearing, imperious attitude. And of course, the whole thing could be played totally for laughs.
"I particularly enjoy how the first episode is roughly a Troughton episode followed by a Colin episode, meeting at the cliffhanger."
Hey, that's right.
"Painful metamorphosis, unwillingly undergone, that doesn't end well."
WTF was going on? This crap continued in "MINDWARP" (with Peri– presumably), and "VERVOIDS" (the unfortunate assistant who had the accident and was kept in the isolation ward).
Of course, Kate O'Mara went thru an entirely different kind of transformation in "TIME AND THE RANI" (heeheehee).
Seriously, though, how do you think "THE TWO DOCTORS" might have turned out if Richard Hurndall hadn't passed away when he did? (Personally, I'm glad we got to see one more Troughton story.)
J. L. Webb
May 11, 2012 @ 4:40 pm
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J. L. Webb
May 11, 2012 @ 4:43 pm
I do seem to recall reading that Holmes was indeed vegetarian, although I can't account for the credibility of my source.
Also, as an interesting aside, Adams denied all accusation of there being a direct relation between the 'Dish of the Day' scene and the 'Alice, mutton' sequence.
However he denied wholesale having read any Lewis Carrol , in spite of numerous apparent homages in the hitchhikers series (not to mention the comparable nature of the premises themselves.)
J. L. Webb
May 11, 2012 @ 5:05 pm
The problem with "Daleks in Manhattan." isn't that it humanises the Daleks, it's that it presents an equation:
Dalek + Human = Mostly Human i.e. Human > Dalek
However much one may appreciate the sentiment, and agree that human nature is a better nature than that of a Dalek, it alchemically cripples the Daleks (for one story).
Also the episode looks astonishingly cheap and tacky by NuWho standards.
J. L. Webb
May 11, 2012 @ 5:50 pm
On the topic of making The Sontarans 'work':
It's questionable whether there will ever be a good Sontaran story again, if there have indeed been any (as opposed to good stories featuring a Sontaran.)
They were, as the good Dr. Sandifer has illustrated, never conceived as a race; expanding them out into one unsurprisingly led to another Generic Monster in the Who rogues gallery.
However the means by which they were expanded out turns out to have been rather apt, and may hold a key to some redemption; The Sontarans are clones.
Both conceptual clones of Holmes' original Commander Linx, and literal clones of some ancestral Sontaran.
So, built into them is the possibility of an interesting story, a discussion of whether there is more to Sontaran nature than war, of whether it's their identical DNA that reproduces an endless race of killers, or if it's culturally imposed, and given a little room to grow a bottled up wealth of diversity and personality and virtue might unfold.
curiously enough the closest we've come to seeing this is from the very (very [very]) unlikely source of A Good Man Goes To War (of all things); in which we meet a Sontaran who, given just a little chance to lead a different life, finds that he is well suited to being caring, compassionate, even maternal, and finds no glory in battle what so ever.
May 12, 2012 @ 12:41 am
Really? That is interesting. It's hard to believe a writer of his generation could have had an English childhood without reading Lewis Carrol. It's an odd thing to deny as the observation of similarities would indeed be suggesting homage rather than plagiarism.
J. L. Webb
May 12, 2012 @ 3:16 am
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J. L. Webb
May 12, 2012 @ 3:18 am
Either it's a string of improbable coincidences (kind of too Adams for Adams), or he was just trolling. I've always suspected the latter.
May 12, 2012 @ 4:31 am
Try 'Heroes of Sontar' for a good story featuring multiple Sontarans 🙂
May 12, 2012 @ 5:12 pm
He didn't say he'd never read it. From Gaiman's Don't Panic:
"I read — or rather, had read to me — Alice In Wonderland as a child and I hated it. It really frightened me. Some months ago, I tried to go back to it and read a few pages, and I thought, 'this is jolly good stuff, but still…' If it wasn't for that slightly nightmarish quality that I remember as a kid I'd've enjoyed it, but I couldn't shake that feeling. So although people like to suggest that Carroll was a big influence — using the number 42 and all that — he really was not."
Adams was incredibly magpie-ish as far as ideas go, and often wrote at a very fast pace, and used references that he later disclaimed all conscious knowledge of (for example he studied Pilgrim's Progress at university, and made a number of references to it in Hitch-Hiker's, yet he disclaimed all knowledge of the fact that Bunyan's single biggest influence had been a book called The Plain Man's Pathway To Heaven by Arthur Dent, even the title of which sounds a little like The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy). It wouldn't surprise me at all if little bits of Alice stuck in his brain and came out when he needed a random number or wanted to write a quick filler scene.
May 12, 2012 @ 5:18 pm
And the documentary about Holmes on the Two Doctors DVD says he was vegetarian.
May 12, 2012 @ 5:20 pm
"I first discovered your work when I listened to The Holy Terror a decade ago, which I still think is one of the best stories in the history of Doctor Who"
And one that touches on some of the themes of this story, and extends them…
May 14, 2012 @ 10:30 am
The Sarah Jane Adventures had a better than average Sontaran story.
May 21, 2012 @ 6:41 am
Henry R. Kujawa
May 23, 2012 @ 7:24 pm
"It is entirely untrue. Entirely."
I can believe that. I read the Shannon Sullivan page on this tonight, and there was no mention of Hurndall. How can that be, I thought? I know I read it in the DWMagazine, but did they get it wrong, or is there something missing? Perhaps it was a passing thought, but Hurndall died long before the story itself ever started to come together? In any case, I'm so glad Troughton did this. As smeone mentioned, so few of his stories survive, it's wonderful that he came back for 3 later stories. (And I've still got PROF. WAGSTAFF to re-watch… heehee).
Having watched "MARK OF THE RANI" again last night and "THE TWO DOCTORS" tonight, I see I mis-remembered the bit about the TARDIS remote. In "RANI" they played it up as a very big thing, that the Rani had invented a TARDIS remote. In "THE TWO DOCTORS", Troughton has one– but, as he's on a special mission for the Time Lords, the impression I'd get from this is, they loaned it to him. Of course, one question never even addressed here is, are the Time Lords who recruited Troughton from Troughton's time (relatively speaking) or Colin Baker's? Going both on the remote and developments seen in the "TRIAL" story, it seems likely it was Colin's Time Lords (so to speak).
Another favorite bit:
"Maybe you should see a doctor."
"………….Are you trying to be funny?"
"I can see by your attire that you are of the plain-clothes division."
(Colin's acting, for the most part, is so good in this!)
May 31, 2012 @ 11:02 am
Excellent news — really enjoyed volume one, and look forward to more in that format.
August 20, 2012 @ 3:25 pm
Stranger coincidences have happened. One day I was saying something particularly funny, or profound, or odd… or all three, even, I dunno… and someone noted that Dirk Gently was their favourite book. I asked why they said that, and it was because I was quoting verbatim from it. I found that unlikely since I had never heard of the book.
The person did not believe I had not read it. And then his incredulity went into overdrive during the rest of the exchange:
"Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. By Douglas Adams."
"Who?" I asked.
"I'm sorry, I…"
"He wrote the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy!"
"Oh, I've heard of that. It's good? I should read it?"
I found and read the books about a year later. This is all very strange, and all very true.
July 16, 2013 @ 1:13 pm
I'd go further, actually. I can't think of any new series story where an intelligent being is treated as a generic monster. Plenty where they're monsters, of course, as well as the ones where they just look like monsters (humans [or Time Lords] being the real monsters optional), but monsters with their own distinct brand of monstrousness that comes from a specific way they see the world that is distinct from the other monsters.
And, if there's more than one of a monster race, they usually have distinct personalities within this worldview. (Cybermen excepted, because the erasure of personality is part of their distinct monstrousness … which is why it's so easy for them to become generic monsters.)
If the Colin era is an exorcism, I think this is something it sucessfully exorcised.
December 20, 2013 @ 6:19 pm
To update this to include Season 7, we can add Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, where the evil is being done by a human who killed the spaceship's previous Silurian owners; A Town Called Mercy, where both the alien doctor and the cyborg are characters, not monsters; Cold War, where an Ice Warrior is revisited as a character with motivations, rather than a generic monster; Hide, where the monster turns out to be benign; and The Day of the Doctor, where the Zygons are partly redeemed. And obviously The Snowmen, The Crimson Horror, and The Name of the Doctor build on the depiction of Vastra and Strax as individual characters who happen to be a Silurian and a Sontaran. So the new series, especially during Moffat's tenure, has actually gotten a lot better about this.
November 21, 2016 @ 2:03 am
I fell over myself with joy at the reference to Frank Zappa’s live cover of ‘Ring of Fire’ on ‘The Best Band You’ve Never Heard in Your Life.’ The only other people I’ve ever encountered who know about this are people that I have tied to chairs and forced them to listen to the whole thing before giving them a drink of water (with or without alcohol as requested) and an apology. And only one of them, now deceased, would have actually also have seen ‘The Two Doctors’ (more than once!) and gotten this joke.
Since the read on this season also discusses themes of exorcism, I’m listening to ‘I’m the Slime’ in a nostalgic haze.
February 6, 2021 @ 7:32 pm
The uneven air to this story might be because it is where the traditional BBC values of an old school writer like Bob Holmes (oxbridge, donnish, tweedy) run headlong into the garish, eighties, New Romantics-going-to-seed approach of JNT. – which was a foretaste of the vulgarised BBC as we know it today. Troughton’s presence was entirely appropriate.