Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Twin Dilemma - "Our genius has been abused."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Twin Dilemma - Details

Season 21, Story 7 (Overall Series Story #137) | Previous - Next | Index

via Flight Through Eternity
What did we do to deserve this, any of us?

Memories are tricky. What we remember isn't the event, but the last time we remembered the event. Our memories are far less reliable than any of us are generally able to admit.

Here's what I remember. Young me, what? 13- or 14-years-old? Finally seeing the first episode of our new Doctor on the night of the highly anticipated debut broadcast on Public TV. We haven't been reading good things. Back then, nobody we knew had seen it, we could only read about reactions on the bulletin boards and in the magazines. It didn't sound promising, but it was still exciting. Youth's optimism.

Saturday after dinner, my grandmother and I watched together, every week. It was our time; nobody else in the family was into it. My grandfather and I shared a love of classic and outlaw country music that he imbued in me, and spent hours together listening in his music room. Hundreds of hours from the time I was a toddler until he passed, that was our time to bond one-on-one. Doctor Who was that for me and my grandma. She passed away more than twenty-five years ago and I still hold our Doctor Who time together dear.

Part of our ritual was that I had my own glass, a nifty little iridescent one that I've kept, and will keep, that I always had a Coke in while we watched. After my grandparents had both passed, it was the one physical object I wanted as an inheritance. It may be the one single physical object in my experience that has an almost magical property: every time I pick it up, it takes me back ... it makes time travel, from now to then, possible.

So, there we were, in our traditional spots, with our traditional beverages. (Hers was a stiff highball.) We were struggling with the opening of "The Twin Dilemma," not comfortable with how it was starting out ... and then the Doctor lost his shit and started to choke Peri. What I remember is that we looked at one another with pained frowns. It was a look that said, "this isn't going to be fun anymore. This ritual, it's going to end." It was heart-breaking. What our show had become, and what it meant for our ritual.

I don't remember how or when it actually ended. We watched more after that, and the timing of the American broadcasts may have meant we got to start over with the Pertwee stories and work through all those classic third and fourth Doctor stories again (we'd already been through them twice, I think) before it we finally stopped. But eventually we did, in any event, I don't remember watching any Sylvester McCoy stories with her. Whenever it was we stopped watching together, the moment we both knew it was to end was the night of that first broadcast of this story. It could never be the same after that night. We were on borrowed time.

That's sort of how growing up happens, right? Something changes, either in us, or in what we had perceived as the rhythm events, changes and we suffer a disconnect from a belief we used to have about how the world works and how we relate to the people and things in it. A new reality overwrites the old reality, but can never fully displace it. We're haunted by loss before loss adapting to new modes of thought that allow us to reconcile what we were and what we did with what we are and what we're doing. We keep inventing new selves, but have an internal narrative that tells us we're still our old self, a story that holds us together. A chapter in that story, the one about a grandson and his grandmother in a story together watching another story -- that chapter ended.

Damn, I hate this one.

Re-watching it for this post, much of it doesn't feel objectively any worse than several of the Davison, or even some of the Tom Baker, stories that dragged due to poor scripting, dismal performances, and dire production values. This domestic violence undertone (if we can even call it an undertone, it's so right there) makes it grimmer than most, but Colin and Nicola play the scene so broad, the choking doesn't really look very brutal, it's got a Punch & Judy staginess that relieves some of the tension. Still, there's no getting away from what it is.


  • The twins playing that "futuristic" board game, that's so obviously a backgammon board that makes no imaginable sense for whatever it is they're doing pushing those pieces around. Indicative of how they're not using the challenge of a low budget to up their creativity, instead just going through the motions of making a show because that's what they're paid to do and screw it if looks like garbage.
  • Colin Baker does as well as you could hope with what he's given. But the way they've dressed him, the lines he's given, everything around him really, it's all impossible to overcome.
  • After attempting to strangle Peri, the Doctor decides to make her his disciple. To take her to some shithole and force her to be his servant. It's even worse than light violence we just saw -- it's the opposite of regret for what he'd done, it's doubling down on destroying her life. We don't just dislike the Doctor in this moment, we're not even worried about this mental stability at this point. We loathe him and want Peri to run for her life.
  • Whoops, I think in the post for "Resurrection of the Daleks" I said something about how we'd heard, "Brave heart, Tegan," for the last time. But, Six says it to Peri here in his confusion. 
  • Asmael is a Time Lord? Wow, I'd forgotten that completely. This is similar to the experience of meeting Drax back in "The Armageddon Factor." Any rando you encounter doing henchman work could be a slumming Time Lord. 

Additional Resources:

Wikipedia transcript
Sandifer post
The Doctor attempts to choke his heavily sexualized female companion. He physically and violently assaults her in a manner that is chillingly familiar as a real-world phenomenon that happens to women at the hands of their male partners. Then he drags her against her will to what he says could be an entire life in which “it shall be your humble privilege to minister unto my needs.” She readily forgives him and grins stupidly at his charms. It’s not Nicola Bryant’s fault - she plays the material as well as it can be played. Nor is it Baker’s fault. They try to make the scenes watchable, but nobody could possibly make this work. Peri is violently assaulted by a man who overtly sees her only purpose as being to serve him, and chooses happily to stay with him. The show treats this man as its hero and expects the audience to tune in nine months later to watch his continuing adventures. 
Of course they declined to. Baker’s Doctor is completely poisoned here. There’s nothing whatsoever that can be done to make this character watchable to anyone who has seen this. And I speak from experience here. This is the story that killed my parents’ interest in Doctor Who. To this day my mother refuses to accept the possibility that Baker might be good on the audios simply because of how much this story made her hate him. That’s how bad this played to people. That’s how you kill Doctor Who in under a hundred minutes. You make it about a battered woman idolizing her abuser.
Wife in Space post
Sue: Is there a competition to see who can wear the stupidest clothes? That is insane. Even if he was taking part in the World Disco Dancing Championships, that would be insane. It’s much worse than Colin’s costume. Jesus.
AV Club review
Plot developments routinely drag things out needlessly—my favorite example is Hugo, alone in the TARDIS, deciding for no reason to change his shirt, and then later being puzzled by how to open the doors to the outside. There's no story purpose to any of that; Hugo could simply have gone with the Doctor instead. That's "The Twin Dilemma" in a nutshell: It wastes time on an entire scene about someone who can't find the doorknob.
TV Tropes page

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