This was a story that severely disappointed me when I got my hands on the DVD. As a youngster I had rather enjoyed the other multi-doctor stories (The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors) – I think mainly for the sheer novelty of having more than one doctor in the story. This story is rather different to the other multi-doctor stories in that the others were written to celebrate the 10th and 20th anniversaries of the show respectively. The Two Doctors was sparked by producer John Nathan Turner’s desire to write a multi-doctor story that was not a celebration story, but genuinely an attempt to ask what happens when two doctors get involved in the adventure. The window of opportunity arose after Patrick Troughton enjoyed his return for The Five Doctors and mentioned he would love another opportunity to return.
So in principle, there were some excellent ingredients in the mix. The excellent combination of Patrick Troughton and Fraser Hines returned to the TARDIS. The plot was to involve the Sontarans, and illicit experimentation in Time-Travel, and it was to be set overseas. It would also be a landmark story in Colin Baker’s debut season – the only 3 part story (for Season 22 only the episodes were 45 minutes long rather than 25) in the season – so the first time since The Armageddon Factor that the producers aimed to produce a story this long.
The fact that it is also the last time a story the length of a traditional 6 parter was run speaks volumes. It did have to overcome a number of problems – many of them I have already covered before, which focus on the production values and the garish costumes – this story was the 1980s at its decided worst. And then there were the villains of the piece – the Androgums, and not least Shockeye, whom my dad rather accurately compared to Hannibal Lecter. As the main baddies of the piece they’re not terribly exciting, and they commit the cardinal crime of reducing the Sontarans to unnecessary heavies whose main role is to shoot people and then die horribly.
And the greatest crime of all? Patrick Troughton is a very fine actor, and his partnership with Fraser Hines one of the finest eras in the show – as evidenced by the few scenes they get to enjoy in this serial. But that’s the problem – for most of the serial the poor Second Doctor is reduced to impotency – capturing a problem that was even evident in The Day of the Doctor – providing enough for each doctor to do in a multi-doctor story. Then there are some glaring production issues – choosing to shoot in Spain means lots of scenes need to be outside – which is a bit strange when a significant proportion of scenes are studio based. And they mess up the Second Doctor’s timeline so badly (according to his last serial The War the Doctor was trying not to let the Timelords know where he is – by this episode he’s working for them) that they actually had to propose an imaginary Season 6b to deal with the discrepancy.
Now to be fair – it is actually quite high up my less liked episodes. The main reason is that it is a quite interesting concept, and possible to watch and enjoy. But you do end up somewhat disappointed by the flawed execution, and wondering what it might have been like if it had been produced today.
On a final note – I do not count this as the Second Doctor’s worst serial. This is partly the arbitrary decision that any multi-doctor stories fall under the lead actor at the time (Jon Pertwee, Peter Davison and Colin Baker respectively) – but also because it would not be fair at all to judge Patrick Troughton based on this serial. Fans of the Second Doctor will be delighted to hear that the lowest serial to feature Troughton as the lead actor will not appear until we reach the top 100 …