Friday 24 August 2012

640 The Two Doctors Part Two

EPISODE: The Two Doctors Part Two
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 23 February 1985
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: Peter Moffatt
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 6 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Two Doctors

Peri knocks out her attacker and frees the Sixth Doctor who unmasks the hooded figure as his old companion Jamie McCrimmon. Under hypnosis Jamie gives an account of how the station was attacked and he saw his Doctor die. The Sixth Doctor discovers an image projector in Dastari's office which produces an image of the Second Doctor in great pain. Reasoning his former self is still alive the Sixth Doctor makes contact with the Second telepathically and hears the sound of the bells in Seville Cathedral at a distance. The Sixth Doctor, Peri & Jamie leave for Spain where they meet Oscar & Anita who saw Stike's ship believing it to be a plane crashing. The Second Doctor is being held in the cellar of an old hacienda where Dastari, in league with his creation Chessene and the Sontarans, intends to isolate symbiotic nuclei of a Time Lord that gives them the molecular stability to travel through time and give this to the Sontarans. Peri is sent to create a diversion by knocking on the door and posing as a tour guide while the Sixth Doctor & Jamie gain access through a secret passage from the Hacienda's Ice House that Anita knows of from her childhood. But once in the cellar the Doctor & Jamie are discovered by the Sontarans Group Marshall Stike & Major Varl while Peri is captured by Shockeye, still seeking his first Tellurian to eat.

This is moving at a glacial pace! Yes Holmes' script, a commentary on Meat Eating, is fabulous in it's wordiness but virtually nothing is happening, there's no pace or life to it. This middle episode has little Troughton in it and by the time we're at the end he's still not met his later incarnation. You have to wonder about the wisdom of using The Sontarans as the villains in this story. Yes, they're Holmes' creations but their very first appearance in 1973 involved them using Time Travel so, despite nasty techonbabble explanations here, their inclusion seems odd. Also it's the second story this season, after Attack of the Cybermen, which involves an old Doctor Who Monster trying to get Time Travel!

I've been mentioning the increased level of violence and horror over the last two seasons as we've gone through but it's here that the program *really* got into trouble as Shockeye bites into a rat he finds in the cellar to see what it tastes like. The scene was filmed using a rat skin round, if I recall correctly, a plum. Viewers were outraged that this was shown at Saturday tea times and complained in their droves.

The break between episodes 3 & 4 of the 25 minute versions of this episode occurs as Anita leads the Doctor to the Hacienda.

Earlier on in the evening that this story was broadcast Jim'll Fix It broadcast a segment featuring a young viewer who wanted to be in Doctor Who. This mini story featured Colin Baker as the Doctor and, oddly, Janet Fielding as Tegan with the viewer, one Gareth Jenkins, fighting the Sontarans in the Tardis. It's on the The Two Doctors DVD but trust me, you don't want to watch it!

Over the weekend this episode went out rumours started circulating amongst Doctor Who fans that the show had been cancelled by the BBC. Reports ran in the newspapers that week about the story leading the BBC to put out a statement saying that they were going to "rest" the program for 18 months bringing it back in September 1986 for 14 episodes, one more than this season, but at the shorter 25 minute format it used to be produced in. Plans for the next season were already quite well advanced and had to be abandoned to get round the change in format.

Over the next few years it became very obvious that the BBC in general and Michael Grade, then the controller of BBC1 and Director of Programmes from 1986, had it in for Doctor Who. I can well believe that Doctor Who may have been effectively cancelled by the BBC, who were looking to save money in the wake of the expensive set up of East Enders and a program that BBC1's controller disliked is an obvious target. In 1984 & 1985 the Autumn Saturday night slot had been taken up by The Tripods which failed to return for it's planned 3rd series in 1986. Joining the dots up I suspect that Doctor Who was cancelled and then, to pay for it's resurrection and to give it a timeslot, the third series of the Tripods was forced to make way for it. We will never know for sure....

In the wake of the cancellation/hiatus announcements strong fan campaigns were conducted including the release of a charity protest single Doctor in Distress masterminded by fan and record producer Ian Levine. It's not the greatest work Levine has been involved with, and indeed many Doctor Who fans would be surprised to discover he has had a successful career in the music industry!

For a complete time line of the events surrounding the cancellation read Doctor Who: The Handbook.

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