Reviews

Doctor Who: The Twin Dilemma

The doctor as murderer? Talking penguins? Welcome to Colin Baker's controversial first-turn as the Doctor...


Doctor Who: The Twin Dilemma

Distributor: BBC Warner
Cast: Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Edwin Richfield, Maurice Denham
Network: BBC
Release Date: 2010-01-05
Amazon

To best comprehend Colin Baker's first episode as the Doctor, perhaps we start with the serial's last line: "Whatever else happens, I am the Doctor, whether you like it or not!"

Well, that's a little brash, ain't it? The first part of The Twin Dilemma even has the newly-regenerated Sixth Doctor go in brief little fits of madness in which he attempts to strangle and kill his own companion Peri (Nicola Bryant), resulting in intense psychological torture for the young woman. Especially coming off of the more easy-going Fifth incarnation played by Peter Davidson, the shift in tones between Doctors is nothing short of jarring, and in looking at the ratings for this serial, the public en masse agreed (note how viewership drops by over one million viewers between Part One and Part Four). Baker's Doctor was just as pompous as Tom Baker's fourth, but sans the same lovable charismatic charm, marking for a very, very odd introduction to a whole new era of Who.

The plot is simple: two mathematically brilliant young twins named Romulus and Remus (played by real-life twins Gavin and Andrew Conrad, respectively) are kidnapped by an old man named Edgeworth (Maurice Denham), who has been told by the slug-like ruler Mestor (Edwin Richfield) that he needs the boy's brilliance in order to help construct a diabolical scheme that will eventually rearrange some planets (although the reasons why are unknown to Edgeworth himself).

The twin's father contacts the authorities and soon an international search party are sent forth to try and retrieve the boys, all while the Doctor and Peri wind up getting mixed up in the hunt as well. Along the way, servants' brains are fried, the Doctor pledges to take a 1,000-year sabbatical, and Mestor's diabolical plan is finally revealed (and, oddly, it's not all that different from the plot of Transformers 2).

Yet, in its own way, The Twin Dilemma is not as much about the plot as it is about introducing the new Doctor's persona. Frequently, the show usually goes with a "lightweight" sort of episode to get things into motion, but with Colin Baker, producer John Nathan-Turner wanted to try something new. The plan, apparently, was to make the Sixth Doctor wholly unlikable at first, but then very gradually peeling away layers until we see a more humanized, lovable version of him.

Of course, that isn't how things played out, and instead of making a dislikable Doctor that we could grow to love, Colin Baker's first appearance was just out-and-out dislikable, showcasing a hubris and harshness that was heretofore unseen in the Doctor's emotional canon. For his part, Baker isn't at fault here: he plays a self-centered Doctor offshoot quite well (too well, perhaps?).

Instead, The Twin Dilemma is a serial that drops the clever literary allusions that so peppered Who-episodes of yore and instead seeks to create its own sci-fi world, which, truth be told, just doesn't hold up as strongly. It's not that the episode is unmatchable, boring, or the worst serial to ever grace the franchise (as many fans have oft-claimed); it's just that the Sixth Doctor's first appearance is so off-putting, it's hard to really rally behind the rest that The Twin Dilemma has to offer.

This aspect is wisely sidestepped in many of the special features that dote this disc. Although the interviews with various BBC television programs show Baker featuring a bit of smugness to him, some of the behind-the-scenes moments prove far more entertaining. After a serviceable look at how the title sequence was constructed with Sid Sutton (in a featurette called "The Star Man"), we get a real fun little interlude called "Looking 100 Years Younger" wherein Baker and Amy Lamé look back at each of the Doctor's wardrobes and note what made each of them so unique, from the too-high pants for Second Doctor Patrick Troughton to the "geek chic" look for Tenth Doctor David Tennant.

When it comes to Baker's own turn, he notes that his carnival-like jacket was like "an explosion in a rainbow factory", and takes it with relatively good humor. The long-running "Stripped for Action" featurette series continues to be the best extra of the bunch (as per usual), showing that during Baker's run as the Sixth Doctor, the Doctor Who comic strips got even more daring, taking bold, smart chances with the character and even giving him a talking penguin sidekick named Frobisher (no, really).

When all is said and done, The Twin Dilemma remains serviceable Who fare, but not a "great" serial by any stretch of the imagination. Although Baker's tenure would eventually climb to solid thematic ground (like on the great, twisting Trail of a Time Lord), this is one of those rare regenerations that can be considered wholly inessential.

5

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.