“The Two Doctors” – Season 22, Serial 4, Story 141 – The Second Doctor gets his butt captured by the Sontarans (who want to kill people) and the Androgums (who want to eat people), and it’s up to the Sixth Doctor, Peri, and Jamie to save him without being turned into dinner. Plus, they’ve got to stop Dastari from developing time traveling tech to give to the Sontarans. Because the Time Lords don’t share Time.
The one thing that I will never understand with any of these multiple Doctor serials is why the Doctors spend so little time together. Do the producers think we want to see Patrick Troughton come back but we don’t want him interacting with Colin Baker? In THE TWO DOCTORS the chemistry between Baker and Troughton is fantastic in the few instances we get to see it, but the Sixth Doctor spends most of his time with Peri and Jamie and the Second Doctor spends most of his screen time tied up and at the mercy of the bad guys.
Which isn’t nearly as misogynistic/erotic (your choice) as when it happens to Lynda Carter.
The limited interaction between Baker and Troughton also points out how the show could improve the companion slot with someone a bit more forceful than Peri. Troughton, in fact, is the perfect companion for the Sixth Doctor – he’s witty, intelligent, obstinate, somewhat childish but not naive about how the universe operates. This isn’t a crack at Nicola Bryant – she’s doing what she can with the limited character she’s been given, but the character of Peri is still far too much the questioning, scared damsel instead of a fully realized adventurer. The result is that she’s been continuously steamrolled by the belligerent Baker.
In THE TWO DOCTORS (written by the legendary Robert Holmes), the serial starts with the Second Doctor and Jamie stopping by Space Station Chimera on Time Lord business to talk to Dastari, the Head of Projects in order to put the kibosh on some time experiments being conducted there. Dastari is understandably miffed by the Time Lords meddling, but you know, trying to develop time traveling tech is going to draw big flies.
It’s one of the great aspects of Homes’ writing that he can insert small political points like this in the service of a larger story. There’s a huge debate to be had here about who has the right to have power that ends up really being about who has the power to have the power; given the context of the serial’s production in the mid-80s, it’s hard not to see time travel tech as nuclear weapons, and the Time Lords as stand-ins for the Thatcher and Reagan Administrations. Instead of either suffocating this serial with this debate or giving it short shrift, however, Holmes’ allows Dastari and the Doctor a few minutes to argue about it before the Sontarans stop by to kill and pillage.
It’s one of the absolute joys of DOCTOR WHO, too, that Dastari is, on the one hand, a brilliant scientist (with enough “letters after his name to fill two alphabets,” according to the Doctor), respected enough to serve as the Head of Projects at Chimera, principled enough to not simply bend over for the Time Lords, elitist enough to allow for the use of Androgums as subjects in experiments, mad-scientist enough to genetically enhance the Androgum Chessene to have a genius intellect, mad-mad-scientist enough to try to turn the Second Doctor into an Androgum, AND ON THE OTHER HAND, look like exactly like Robert Evans would look if he was an alien mad scientist living with a cannibal workforce.
While the Doctor is busy not convincing Dastari to put a stop to the experiments, the Sontarans attack. They’ve teamed up with Chessene (see what happens when you give stupid people brains?) to kill everyone aboard the Chimera and then steal Chessene, Shockeye, Dastari, and the Doctor to Earth, where Chessene will attempt to isolate some kind of special Time Lord gene that gives them the ability to time travel. (I think this special symbiotic gene was called a midi-chlorian, but I could be wrong …)
The villains in THE TWO DOCTORS are all as fantastic as they are lamely named. Dastari’s Studio 54 scientist would be interesting enough, but Holmes also gives us Chessene, Shockeye, and the Sontarans, who are at odds with each other nearly as much as they’re at odds with the Doctors.
John Stratton’s Shockeye is a superb foil. Forget that his name, “Shockeye,” is so lame that it sounds like an early Image super villain. This creepy Androgum is the head chef on Chimera and desires, more than anything, to eat a human. Not just like, gnaw the flesh from someone’s bones all unfine young cannibal like, but properly prepare human flesh as if it were the finest cut of steak. Apart from his culinary skills, he’s still multiple tablespoons of nutjob; with his bushy red eyebrows and dedication to cooking, he’s like some perverted mix of Groundskeeper Willie and Gordon Ramsay.
Shockeye is as insane as he is determined and he gets all enthusiastic over slicing and sautéing both Jamie and Peri. Stratton plays him as always on the verge of succumbing to his urges and it’s a terrific performance, full of life and energy and humor without becoming a total joke and losing his edge as a villain.
The Sixth Doctor arrives on Chimera, spends forever and a day before her and Peri find a deranged Jamie, and then once he recovers they’re off to modern Seville, where Chessene has the baddies set up at a hacienda. The story unfolds mostly predictably but enjoyably and feels very much like an old six-parter, where you can have an episode-length adventure that doesn’t directly build to the overall climax. In THE TWO DOCTORS this technique is in evidence when the Sixth Doctor and Peri are wandering around Chimera with the station’s super computer trying to kill them. The pay-off is the rescue of Jamie, but in terms of the overall story, the rescue of Jamie is more important for sending the Sixth Doctor to Earth after the Second.
Down on Earth, Dastari manages inject Troughton with some of Shockeye’s DNA, which will turn the Doctor into an Androgum, complete with his own set of red bushy eyebrows and a taste for human flesh. The move gives Troughton a chance to chew some more scenery as he and Shockeye descend on the nearby town and eat a gargantuan feast from the restaurant run by Oscar, who was milling about earlier in the serial and dies one of the most cheesy death in the serial’s history.
Honestly, it is so bad you expect him to be kidding. He recites Shakespeare, but he does it in such a way that it makes Bugs Bunny’s “death” scenes … well, Oscar worthy. Maybe Holmes is a making a dig at awards shows?
The serial, as a whole, serves as a Vegetarian Manifesto of sorts. In the DVD extras, Nicola Bryant tells us that both she and Holmes were vegetarians and the show continuously digs away at the depravity of eating flesh. Shockeye believes humans must eat humans since they eat everything else, and even the Doctor, at the serial’s end, asserts that it’ll be a vegetarian diet from now on.
The serial drags at points, hurt by being a 3-part x 45-minute story but all of the performances are solid and the serial never drags for long. This isn’t the finest moment for the Sontarans, but they provide adequate muscle.
A very classic feeling serial which helps illustrate that – whatever the reason – the show’s producers let Baker and Bryant down more than they let the producers down. For all the somberness of the Baker 2 run, he more than holds his own with the impish Troughton, and the combination of the Second and Sixth Doctor gives the series a much needed spark.