Reviewed By: TCar96
Review Date: 11/29/16 9:58 pm
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Utterly mental - carnivorous aliens; time-travel scientists; space stations; sontaran shenanigans; genetic splicing; Spanish shorts; two Doctors; two companions; blood, guts, gore and gaffes.
I can completely understand the marmite responses to the Two Doctors - I frankly can't think of anything like it across the Doctor Who canon I've read, listened and watched! There's an idea a minute, all woven together into a gripping story complete with triple crossings and twists and turns. Robert Holmes fires on all cylinders, quite literally.
As a result, the Two Doctors explodes with witty dialogue and characterisation. Day of the Doctor - THIS is how it's done, with Baker and Troughton starkly distinguishable. But that's not all: Peri is given real dry humour and genuine responses and reactions beyond 'what's this Doctor?'. Whilst Botcherby treads into whimsy territory, Shockeye's dialogue is simply exquisite. Holmes' wildly different approach to the growing trend of Phantom of the Opera villains is welcome, unique and really memorable.
This of course is only enhanced by top-notch performances all around, with particular praise to be set aside for Pat, Jacqueline Pearce and Colin Baker. They take the material on page and throw in their all - Troughton's prisoner scenes especially, in my view, trumping City of Death's famous Louis Quinze scene!
Sontaran prosthetics aside, production values are stellar, with punchy direction and a flawless score. The location work in Spain is a welcome change, albeit not particularly necessary. The story, with minor changes, namely a British pub lunch rather than Spanish restaurant, could have been set anywhere else - Sontarans seem out of place in the desert sun, similair to Cybermen matching icy environs. This minor pedantry aside, the Spanish shooting is a welcome visual change, just a bit redundant in terms of plot.
Unfortunately, I can't give the Two Doctors a 10. Tom Baker always mentions his view that Doctor Who ought to be more violent, to the point of absurd farce where all terror is sucked out, leaving horror, but a fun-horror with the knowledge on the part of the audience that the Doctor will get out in the end.
As mentioned, Holmes fires on all cylinders and as such that means maximum laughs - but also maximum horror. As a fan, I prefer body horror in my Who. The Williams era is my least favourite, Holmes & Hinchcliffe my favourite. I have no issue with Varos, or Attack of the Cybermen... but Two Doctors makes a major pitfall in my view. The use of a spike, rather than sci-fi weapon, to dispatch Botcherby, before an extended death scene complete with shell-shocked companion and lover is just too jarring. It's comic, but also horribly bleak - the two don't gel and I was left tonally confused towards the very end of the piece. For the grand coming together of our two Doctors, it's a shame that the jovialitiy of the serial had dissipated. There's a similair situation shortly afterwards with the Doctor's fight with Shockeye. Again, I love the Doctor being shown to be fallible. Heaven Sent's brutal torture of the Doctor shot the thing into my top 10 - but again there's a tonal issue here. The Doctor gets into a literal knife fight, and not gaining the upper hand, is cut and limps off visibly wounded and leaving a trail of blood. Afterwards he kills Shockeye by cyanide to the face, with a brutal Bondesque gag to finish.
The Doctor can be subject to harsh brutality, and many fans praise the sober, high stakes it brings to the show.
The Doctor can kill those who simply cannot be stopped by any other means, and many fans praise the ethical dimension it brings to the show, or find the black comedy to their tastes if well executed.
However, when extreme knife violence, bleeding and murder with recognisable earth objects sits next to Patrick Troughton in comic eye-brows making verbose guffaws about enormous meals - there's the mother of all tonal inconsistencies.
Despite this rant being a biggie, the Two Doctors gains its 9/10 for being so willing to go to so bizarre depths and take such massive risks. These risks certainly make it one of my favourite serials, but simultaneously prevent it from creeping into the pantheon of my absolute favourites.