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The Twin Dilemma (TV story)

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RealWorld
The Twin Dilemma
Peri and 6
Novelised as: The Twin Dilemma
Doctor: Sixth Doctor
Companion(s): Peri
Main enemy: Mestor
Main setting: Titan III and Jaconda, 2310
Key crew
Writer: Anthony Steven
Director: Peter Moffatt
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Release details
Story number: 136
Number of episodes: 4
Season/series: Season 21
Premiere broadcast: 22 March - 30 March 1984
Premiere network: BBC1
Format: 4x25-minute episodes
Production code: 6S
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The Doctor strangles Peri - Doctor Who - The Twin Dilemma - BBC01:52

The Doctor strangles Peri - Doctor Who - The Twin Dilemma - BBC

The Twin Dilemma was the seventh and final story of Season 21 of Doctor Who. It was the first full story to feature Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor. It was also the last story to feature half-hour episodes until Season 23.

Unfortunately, this story has received an especially bad track record for criticism. Three polls in 1998, 2009, and 2014 voted it the worst Doctor Who television story ever. (DWM 265, DWM 413, DWM 474) The poll in 2003 used a different voting system and The Twin Dilemma was not among the twenty-five stories which received no votes, placing it higher than last place. (DWMSE 6)

Synopsis Edit

A race of giant Gastropods has taken over the planet Jaconda. Their leader, Mestor, now intends to cause an enormous explosion in order to spread his people's eggs throughout the galaxy, and he kidnaps juvenile twin geniuses from Earth to work out the necessary mathematical equations. Space fighters led by Lieutenant Hugo Lang are dispatched to get the twins back, but they come under attack and Lang is the sole survivor when his ship crashes on the asteroid Titan III.

A newly regenerated Doctor and Peri become involved and help Jaconda's elderly former ruler Professor Edgeworth, who is really a Time Lord named Azmael, to defeat Mestor and free the planet's bird-like indigenous people from the gastropods' reign of terror. Azmael, however, sacrifices his life in the process.

Plot Edit

Part one Edit

After his regeneration following the events on Androzani Major and Minor (TV: The Caves of Androzani), the new Doctor starts behaving erratically. Peri is still shocked by the Doctor's change and has him look at his reflection in her compact mirror. The Doctor is happy with his new features and decides that he must change out of his predecessor's clothing and find a new outfit fitting his new persona. He goes to the wardrobe and starts looking for a new outfit, finding a glaring, mismatched, brightly coloured coat, to which he immediately takes a shine. Peri tells him that he could not possibly go outside wearing such an awful garb, to which the Doctor takes offence.

The two twins, Romulus and Remus Sylvest, receive a visitation from a mysterious old man called Professor Edgeworth. They question how he managed to get inside their house; he tells them he will return when their father is there, then proceeds to take control of their minds, and the trio disappear. They arrive on a spacecraft in deep space. Edgeworth then communicates with his superior, a slug-like creature called Mestor, who instructs Edgeworth to take the twins to Titan III.

In the console room, the Doctor is working at the console after dressing terribly in a mismatched outfit. Peri enters in a new blue outfit similar to her old one and asks how it looks. The Doctor responds, "Yuck", to her as she had done so to his choice in clothing. He then quotes a poem about a peri — a good and beautiful fairy in Persian mythology, but one which used to be evil. The Doctor then accuses Peri of being evil, and of being an alien spy, before rushing toward her and throttling her. He catches a sight of his own manic face in a mirror and collapses in a heap, releasing Peri. When she tells him that he tried to kill her, he initially denies he could be capable of such an act unless it is in self defence, but seeing how terrified of him she is, decides he must become a hermit on the desolate asteroid Titan III as his punishment until he is properly humiliated.

The twins' father contacts the authorities; he found Zanium in their room — a sure sign of intergalactic kidnap. Lieutenant Lang begins the pursuit and soon finds a suspicious ship previously reported missing. He tries to contact it, but it enters warp drive, something that class of ship is not designed to do.

On Titan III, as the Doctor contemplates a thousand years of solitude and Peri expresses her disapproval, they hear the crash landing of a craft. Examining its wreckage, they find the concussed body of Lang. They take him back to the TARDIS where he reveals his whole squadron has been destroyed. Believing the Doctor to be responsible, he points his gun at the Time Lord and threatens to kill him...

Part two Edit

Peri pleads with Lang, telling him that the Doctor had in fact saved him, but he faints away. The Doctor is not keen to treat Lang, more concerned for his own life, but eventually agrees to Peri's persuasion.

Edgeworth argues with Romulus and Remus, making them do Mestor's work. He scolds them for setting up a distress signal, so they are not allowed to use electronic equipment to solve the equations they have been set. An image of Mestor appears and gives the twins a more blunt threat — work for him or have their minds destroyed.

On the TARDIS scanner, the Doctor and Peri see a building — something which has no place on an uninhabited asteroid. Leaving Lang behind, they find a tunnel which may lead to the building, but on exploring find two aliens wielding guns. The Doctor cowers in fear and pleads with them not to shoot him. They are led off and are brought before Edgeworth. The Doctor claims to be a pilgrim to Titan III, but Noma, one of the aliens, says they are spies and should be shot. The Doctor suddenly recognises Edgeworth as an old friend - Azmael, master of Jaconda, whom he last saw during his fourth incarnation. When the Doctor sees Romulus and Remus and discovers it is Azmael who has abducted them, he is disgusted. Azmael teleports away with the twins and the aliens, leaving the Doctor and Peri locked in the building. The Doctor starts to break the lock's combination, but Peri discovers Noma has set the base to self-destruct. The Doctor improvises a solution to teleport them back to the TARDIS. Peri makes a successful return, but the Doctor has not appeared when she sees the base explode on the scanner...

Part three Edit

A glimpse of the Doctor is seen appearing in the TARDIS; he was delayed returning because he was using Peri's watch to synchronise their arrival, but the watch had stopped. The Doctor is surprised at Peri's compassion when she thought he had died.

On Jaconda, Mestor is seen putting one of the bird-like Jacondans to death for the petty offence of stealing a few vegetables. Soon, the TARDIS arrives, but instead of the expected beautiful planet the Doctor is expecting, he, Peri and Lang find a desolate wasteland covered with giant Gastropod trails. The Doctor is reluctant to go to the palace, scared for his own life, but is persuaded to take Lang there in the TARDIS. In the palace corridors they see murals depicting Jaconda's history, depicting the slugs of myth - but it appears that they are now all too real. After avoiding some Gastropods, Lang gets stuck in their slime trail.

Azmael takes the twins to his laboratory and shows them a store room full of Gastropod eggs. Mestor arrives and tries to persuade them that his aims are benevolent. Azmael begs him to stop reading his thoughts and stop Noma watching his every move. He agrees and leaves. Azmael explains to the twins that Mestor usurped him as leader of Jaconda and outlines a plan to draw two outlying planets into the same orbit as Jaconda. The twins' genius is required to stabilise those planets in their new orbit. The Doctor, leaving Peri and Lang behind, finds Azmael's lab. In a manic fit of pique, he attacks Azmael, but is restrained by a Jacondan and the twins. The Doctor apologises to Azmael but demands to know what is going on.

Meanwhile, Peri is captured by Jacondan guards and brought before Mestor. When Lang escapes to Azmael's lab and informs them what has happened, the Doctor finally shows compassion for her when he thinks she might die...

Part four Edit

Mestor refrains from killing Peri immediately, finding her appearance pleasing. Jacondan guards arrive in Azmael's lab and seize the Doctor. The Doctor tells Mestor that he ought to allow him to assist with the dangerous operation of moving the planets, as a single mistake could blow a hole in that corner of the universe. Back in the laboratory, Azmael informs the Doctor the details of the plan to bring the planets into the same orbit — they will be placed in different time zones using time travel technology that Mestor stole from Azmael. The Doctor realises that, as the other planets are smaller than Jaconda, bringing them closer to Jaconda's sun will lead to catastrophe. The Doctor enters the egg storeroom, and is disturbed that they have no nutritional mucus. He tries to cut one open with a laser cutter; the shell is impenetrable, but the egg reacts slightly to the heat. The Doctor realises they have been designed to withstand the heat of an exploding sun — the explosion of the Jacondan sun will scatter the eggs throughout the universe. When they hatch, the Gastropods will conquer the universe.

The one remaining Jacondan in the lab collapses dead, his mind burnt out. Mestor had been using him as a monitor, and knows the full details of what has been discussed. Peri, Lang and the twins return to the TARDIS, whilst the Doctor and Azmael go to confront Mestor. When Mestor refuses to abandon his plans, the Doctor hurls a vial of acid taken from the lab at him, but a force field protects Mestor from any harm. Mestor threatens to possess the Doctor's mind and body, and demonstrates by taking control of Azmael's body. Azmael tells the Doctor to destroy Mestor's body before he can return to it, which he does with a further vial. Then Azmael, in his last regeneration, forces himself to regenerate — killing himself — and in doing so destroys Mestor. Dying, Azmael says he has no regrets and that one of his fondest memories was a time spent with the Doctor by a fountain.

The Doctor and Peri return to the TARDIS. Lang has no family back on Earth, and decides to stay behind on Jaconda to assist with their rebuilding. When Peri tells the Doctor off for being rude, he reminds her that he is an alien, with alien sensibilities: "I am the Doctor, whether you like it or not!"

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

References Edit

Cultural references to real world Edit

  • To defend himself from the criticism about his new outfit, the Sixth Doctor reminded Peri Brown that Beau Brummell was also criticised because of his look. According to the companion, Brummell had "taste, a feeling for style", unlike the Doctor. (cfr. TV: The Sensorites)
  • The Doctor declaims verses from the 1841 poem Excelsior whose American author - Longfellow - he explicitly mentions.

Elements Edit

  • Zanium on the floor of the twins' room is an evidence for an extraterrestrial kidnap.

The Doctor Edit

  • The Doctor calls the regeneration "renewal" and shows its side effects, such as violent fits.
  • The Sixth Doctor dismisses his previous incarnation by saying "He had a sort of feckless charm, which simply wasn't me".

Medicine Edit

Mythology Edit

  • A Jacondian myth tells that the Sun God was offended by a queen and sent the Gastropods to the planet.

Planets Edit

Individuals Edit

Technology Edit

Story notes Edit

  • This story had working titles of A Stitch In Time and A Switch In Time.
  • New opening and closing title sequences make their debut a more colourful version than the previous one, incorporating Colin Baker's face rather than Peter Davison's designed by Sid Sutton and Terry Handley. It used two different photos of the Doctor's face.
  • If The Trial of a Time Lord is counted as one 14-part story, The Twin Dilemma is in fact, the only Sixth Doctor to feature the (at the time) traditional four part format.
  • The cat badge worn by the Doctor in his lapel for this story was hand-made and painted by Suzie Trevor, and purchased for the programme from a specialist badge shop in central London.
  • Fabian was originally envisaged as a male character, and the Jacondan Chamberlain as a female one.
  • The Doctor attempting to strangle Peri marks the first (and to date only) time on television that the Doctor has attempted to kill a companion (if you don't count his destruction of Kamelion as he was a robot, and Kamelion had requested he do so).
  • When in 2009 readers of Doctor Who Magazine readers voted on their favourite story, The Twin Dilemma came in at 200, making it readers' least favourite Doctor Who story. This dubious honour was achieved at about the same time the story was released to DVD in the UK, completing the DVD releases of the Sixth Doctor era. The previous story The Caves of Androzani was voted number 1.
  • While the date this story occurs is not stated in the story itself, dialogue in AUDIO: Daleks Among Us firmly places it in the year 2310.

Ratings Edit

  • Part one - 7.6 million viewers
  • Part two - 7.4 million viewers
  • Part three - 7.0 million viewers
  • Part four - 6.3 million viewers

Myths Edit

  • The Edgeworth character was originally intended to be the First Doctor. (He wasn't.)

Filming locations Edit

Production errors Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The uncredited person providing the service of wardrobe continuity makes an error in the first bit of episode one. After the Doctor regenerates, a smudge of mud disappeared from his sweater.
  • The director commits a sin of blocking. Because of where he has Gavin and Andrew Conrad sit in one scene, the actors must be awkwardly repositioned in another. When the twins are playing equations, they suddenly move about a metre apart so that they have room to turn around and face each other.
  • The silver computer terminal in the safe house on Titan 3 is prone to wobbling — most obviously when Peri spots the bomb and the Doctor walks away to have a look.
  • In part three, when the TARDIS arrives on the supposedly decimated Jaconda, grass and trees can be seen in the background.

Continuity Edit

Home video and audio releases Edit

VHS Release Edit

  • The Twin Dilemma was released on VHS video in May 1992, available exclusively from branches of Woolworths to tie-in with a special promotion. It was given a full release the following year.
  • The Twin Dilemma was released on DVD on September 7th, 2009 in the UK, 3rd December 2009 in Australia, and 5th January 2010 in North America. This was the last Colin Baker story to be released on DVD.

DVD Release Edit

Special features Edit
  • Audio commentary by actors Colin Baker (the Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri) and Kevin McNally (Hugo)
  • The Star Man - discussion with Sid Sutton about the making of the revised opening credits
  • Look 100 Years Younger - Colin Baker discusses the Doctor's choice of fashion over the years with comedian Amy Lame, ending with a digitally altered image of what the Sixth Doctor could have looked like had they followed Baker's original idea.
  • Stripped for Action: The Sixth Doctor - retrospective about the Sixth Doctor comic strips
  • Breakfast Time: March 1984 TV interview with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant
  • Blue Peter: 1984 appearance by Colin Baker
  • BBC continuity announcements
  • Easter Egg- On the first page of the Special Features menu, scroll down to the "Breakfast Time" option, then hit left to highlight a hidden Doctor Who logo. Press play to see silent film rushes from the location recording of the story.
  • Photo Gallery - Includes unreleased incidental music by Malcolm Clarke.
  • Radio Times listings (PDF)

External links Edit


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