Monday, 7 October 2013

The Two Doctors

A little fishing for Colin.
I am not sure why they decided to bring back Patrick Troughton for a story in the middle of the 22nd season, but I am glad they did. ‘The Two Doctors’ is the longest story of John Nathan-Turner’s era as Producer, and a curious tale. Split into three parts, it would have been a six-parter if it was in any other season. It was a little long, but probably still too much material for 2 45-minute parts.
Troughton faces Shockeye with a cucumber!
We open with Patrick Troughton and Fraser Hines (also returning for the tale as Jamie) in the TARDIS control room. Peter Moffat cleverly has it start in black and white but slowly fade to colour which was a nice touch to open the show with. As a team they still prove to ‘have it’. Patrick Troughton’s wig never made it to the location filming so sadly he has grey hair for the story, but he also has some great moments when arguing with Dastari, played by Lawrence Payne (who was in ‘The Gunfighters’ many years ago).
The relationship between the sixth Doctor and Peri also seems to have softened again, and despite the odd bicker, there is a bit more humour in their relationship which balances it all out. We also have some great guest cast – Lawrence Payne I have
mentioned, but Blake’s 7 stalwart Jacqueline Pearce was great casting as Chessene, but the one who steals the show is John Stratton as Shockeye, an Androgum (a race of violent butchers who love to eat). His mixture of comedy and bloody-mindedness is great.
The story is a stretch for three 45-minute episodes as I mentioned. The second half of the second episode drags and is filled with a lot of running around by Jamie, Peri and the Sixth Doctor of the house in Spain and not much else. Spain? Yes, they shot this one in and near Seville. Actually I think the location works quite well, much more effective than Amsterdam was  in ‘Arc of Infinity’. I think it’s very well shot – Moffat had his detractors and he has directed a few stories than didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but his eye for good location shots cannot be questioned here in this story.
The wonderful Joh Stratton with Jacqueline Pearce.

The Sontarans. Were they thrown in just to give a bit more body to the story? Probably, but at least they are more menacing and less incompetent than they were in their last outing, ‘Invasion of Time’. The cast is completed by Oscar Botcherby (James Saxon) and Anita (Carmen Gomez). Oscar is a classic Holmes’ style character. An out of work British actor, he quotes Shakespeare and has a love of moths. He is lovingly portrayed by the actor too. He meets a grizzly fate at the hands of Shockeye’s knife near the end of the tale, which is a strange scene where he is basically left with Anita at his restaurant in Seville as the Doctor takes his 2nd self back to the house.
A wounded Sontaran,
Black humour. There’s a fair bit of it in ‘The Two Doctors’. A lot of talk about eating humans and indeed Jamie is being tenderised in the final episode for Shockeye to feast on. Chessene has an awkward but telling moment too when she reacts to the Doctor’s blood. Holmes was a vegetarian I discovered by listening to the commentary on the DVD. The story is not very ‘pro-meat’ it must be said. But the dark, black humour is a great touch and one that worked well.

The soundtrack too gives the story a very ‘different’ feel to it, especially the stuff filmed in Spain which has a very Latin tone. And best of all we have Patrick Troughton, perhaps past his best (especially in episode two where he is tied to the operating table for the entire episode, bar a brief moment he is paraded in a wheel chair) but still wonderful on the screen.
Troughton becomes an Androgum
The strongest thing though about the script is the writer. Robert Holmes writes rich and interesting characters, and a very solid plot line that is never too complicated for the viewer but is nevertheless interesting. There is betrayal, black humour, contrast and everything else you’d expect in a Robert Holmes script. He understood the programme. He probably wrote it standing on his head. It’s not the fastest paced story, it has its faults, but it’s a good tale nonetheless.


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