Doctor Who: The Twin Dilemma


Rating 2½

Written by Anthony Steven (completed by Eric Saward)

Directed by Peter Moffatt

Starring Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Maurice Denham (Professor Edgeworth / Azmael), Edwin Richfield (Mester), Kevin McNally (Hugo Lang), Barry Stanton (Noma), Oliver Smith (Drak), Dennis Chinnery (Sylvest), Gavin Conrad (Romulus), Andrew Conrad (Remus), Seymour Green (Chamberlain), Dione Inman (Elena) and Helen Blatch (Fabian)

Following his regeneration, the Doctor’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and borders on psychotic. He attempts to strangle his companion Peri, but apparently remembers nothing of the incident immediately afterwards. He sets the controls of the TARDIS to take them to Titan 3 where, he says, he intends to spend a thousand years of solitude, but once there they encounter Commander Hugo Lang and become tangled up in a mystery involving Azmael, another Time Lord and an old friend of the Doctor.


There were two things more than anything else that contributed to the success of Doctor Who when it first began back in 1963. One was the iconic electronic theme music and the other was the creation of the Daleks. However, one thing more than anything else ensured its longevity and that was the regeneration of the Doctor. Initially, it was an expedient forced upon the producers of the show when William Hartnell, the first Doctor, departed in 1966, partly as a result of increasing ill health. The series had been a huge success and they were looking for a novel way of persuading the audience to accept another actor in the lead role. It worked beautifully and it meant that the show could now effectively continue for as long as there was an audience to watch it.

Colin Baker was the sixth Doctor, taking over the role from Peter Davison at the end of the twenty-first season. The regeneration itself took place at the end of the story ‘The Caves of Androzani’, which was voted by fans as the greatest Doctor Who story of all-time in the official magazine in 2009. ‘The Twin Dilemma’ was the final story in that season, told across four episodes between the 22 and 30 March 1984.

Unlike the previous story, ‘The Twin Dilemma’ is not universally well-regarded and it marked the start of a very troubled time for the show. In fact, many fans would claim it is the worst story in the history of the series. Through no fault of Colin Baker, several factors meant that his time in the lead role was not a happy one. In retrospect, however, it is clear that Baker was a good choice for the role and there were some interesting ideas played with during his brief tenure as the Doctor.

Baker’s performance in ‘The Twin Dilemma’ is perhaps rather hammy at times, but this was his first story in the role and the writers were attempting to show a new and much less likeable side of the Doctor. The moment when he attempts to strangle Peri still has enough of an impact to shock. The story itself fizzles, never quite catching fire, and doesn’t make a great deal of sense, but it is enjoyable enough and I rather like Mester, the telepathic giant slug creature.

There was, as I recall it, some unhappiness at the suggestion that this was a Doctor who was deeply flawed, one who bordered on megalomania. It brings to mind the reaction of some fans to Buffy’s flawed and complex character in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ – and later on when dislike of both the lead character and the actress who played her had become deeply entrenched in those same fans (irrationally so, in my opinion), their negative reaction to the flaws explored in supporting characters like Willow.

I don’t know if I watched all four episodes of ‘The Twin Dilemma’ the first time around, but I did watch the opening episode and it has always been one that has remained in my memory. I came to it again all these years later not expecting too much, but I was pleasantly surprised. Doctor Who has been much better than this many times, both before and since, but even below its best it remains compulsive viewing.

Review posted 8 May 2010


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