Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Labour Delusion Max

The Prime Minister, on this morning’s Today Programme:
“We’re the insurgents, not the incumbents.”
No, Mr Brown. Just because you’ve been in power for so long, been so incompetent and ground so many people down that no-one in the country can stand the sight of you any more does not suddenly make you the heroic Rebel Alliance. You are the incumbents, and that’s why people hate you. What are you rebelling against? That two other parties are ahead of you in the opinion polls? So that’s you, the Government, ‘rebelling’ against us, the people. Yeah. See how that works out.

Of course, he might be claiming today that he’s rebelling against the evil Murdoch Empire. But he’s left it very, very late after kowtowing to their every demand for a dozen years – and he knows The Sun’s only deserted him because the voters already have, and the evil Empire doesn’t dare be on the losing side. That’s the only reason they switched sides from the other Tories in the first place.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009


DVD Taster: The Keys of Marinus

A sea of acid; faltering speeches; bizarre rules; glassy-eyed pretty young things; aggressive men in rubber; realising that designing utopia may not be such a good idea after all… But if you’re not going to Liberal Democrat Conference in Bournemouth (or if you need to get away from it in your hotel room), Monday sees Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus released on DVD. An early black and white tale starring top Doctor William Hartnell and the alien Voord, it’s the only Who story with an actor from Citizen Kane. Just don’t expect Citizen Kane (more very cheap Flash Gordon).

That Golden Moment
“They’re treating me well enough. Have you found the Doctor yet?”
“No – there isn’t a sight or sound of him anywhere.”
“We must find him, Barbara, we must. The laws in this country are a mockery.”
“I quite agree with you, my boy!”
With each of the six episodes of this 1964 story very different to each other, easily the best sequence for me comes about eight minutes into easily the best episode – part two, The Velvet Web – with an unusual amount of video editing and Kafkaesque psychological horror for the time… But Barbara’s waking nightmare has already been chosen as this story’s “Golden Moment” by Jonathan Morris in DWM, so I thought I’d pick something completely different. Fortunately, one sprung instantly to mind that never fails to make me smile. Sentence of Death, part five of the story, opens in a different nightmare – being accused of something you didn’t do, with no way to prove your innocence and all the rules changed. Accused of murder, even unflappable Ian blurts out that “this business is beginning to run away from me!” When Barbara, Susan and two friends arrive to see him – threatened with a year in the desert glass factories if they disturb the court – he’s visibly depressed, shaking his head from side to side as if punch-drunk. Who can save him now?

Then, six minutes into the episode, and after a fortnight away, the Doctor unexpectedly reappears.

There’s instantly a babble of happy voices and smiles as the friends mob him (“I’m just glad we’re together again,” gushes his granddaughter), and I always feel that reactions in living rooms around the land must have been the same. Certainly, mine’s always like that. For the first time in the series, the lead has taken a fortnight off – necessary, not just with ailing health but with making over forty episodes a year at the time – and, though I love the team of Ian and Barbara, the middle episodes sag noticeably without William Hartnell to spice them up. The relief for the viewer at the star coming back is given beautiful mutual reinforcement among the characters, as just as they reach the darkest point of the story, the man with the brilliant brain is back, and instantly striking a pose, hands on lapels, to take charge of Ian’s defence.

Despite hanging on a locked room mystery with such an obvious alternative solution that Susan almost hangs a lamp on it without anyone ever quite mentioning it (see if you can spot what I mean), much of the following courtroom drama is fun, from the non-speaking judge who nods so enthusiastically you fear his fabulous hat will fall off, to the Doctor’s first arranging a stay of execution while he divides his friends into library forces and detectives, to his bluffing flourish that flushes out one of the conspirators – hollow-cheeked, shifty young Martin Cort* – into an ill-fated confession at the side of his wife, the magnificently slinky and dubious Fiona Walker. Our elephant ought to be very keen on the city in which this takes place, except that the scripts suggest they can’t spell “Millenium”… But, above all, this is a golden moment because the Doctor’s back, and everyone – on both sides of the TV screen – suddenly knows things are going to be all right.

DVD Tasting

There was nothing remotely fetishistic about the Voord costumes…
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Something Else To Look Out For

Doctor Who started with a run of superb stories. An Unearthly Child, The Daleks and The Edge of Destruction are all extraordinary television – all available in The Beginning DVD boxed set – with Marco Polo something of an epic to follow. The show’s sixth story, The Aztecs, is one of the best in the programme’s forty-six years, a stunning historical tragedy. But the fifth Doctor Who story, The Keys of Marinus, is the first that feels merely ordinary (if you can call an attempt to produce a series of alien globe-trotting spectacles on 2 and 6 ‘ordinary’). As if the money and the energy have run out, and the early pressure to strive for greatness has worn off. It’s not actually bad, but whereas every previous story had had high ambitions, whether or not you agreed with them or thought them fulfilled, the ambition here is… To churn out six weeks of telly.

After a smash success writing The Daleks, Terry Nation here settles into a comfortable formula of plot devices he’ll use for ever after, a Flash Gordon serial-inspired travelogue ‘narrative’ that substitutes movement for twists or characterisation, and suspiciously familiar names (“Marinus” for a planet of seas, “Arbitan” for an ultimate judge, and, of course, “Just a minute – what’s your name – Tarron?” the first of many characters named after himself). Yet despite all that, this is a hugely important story, introducing many ideas to Doctor Who that will become mainstays of the series (and be done much better) later: the superior second episode has the series’ first signs of the Gothic; it also introduces mind control and possession, like a cheesy prototype of The Macra Terror’s delusional utopia; and the series’ first out-and-out ‘quest’, to find the eponymous Keys, is also the first to suggest that, like The Key to Time, you may not be all that keen on the object of your quest and that, like The Keeper of Traken, taking away people’s free will ‘for their own good’ may not have the best of consequences, though that moral’s rather shoehorned in at the end.

William Hartnell as the Doctor, teamed with granddaughter Susan and teachers Ian and Barbara, may well be my favourite of all the TARDIS crews, but they’re not seen entirely at their best here. Babs and Susan take it in turns to be typecast as ‘hysterical females’ (Barbara, in particular, is usually far stronger than this – though, in an otherwise insipid episode, she’s subjected to a deeply disturbing threat), while the writing out of the Doctor for two weeks is done in an especially clumsy way, his skipping ahead to find the final Key logically splitting their forces into equal teams of, er, five and one, as well as volunteering to be separated from Susan, usually the one thing he would never do. Still, Billy’s visibly refreshed on his return, having been so fagged out in the first episode that he fluffs his lines in several entertaining ways, most famously
“If you were wearing your shoes, you could have given her hers. Hmm!”
The direction is more listless than the script, but the sets at least try gamely. The one substantial extra – that is, on top of the usual full commentary and text notes – is on the sets, with the highly talented (if famously grumpy) designer explaining why writing a script with an entirely new country in every episode on no money may not have been Terry Nation’s most practical idea. He still did wonders on occasion, ranging from an amusingly cost-cutting idol through some rather intriguingly expressionist crags to the Key machine “the Conscience of Marinus” itself, which looks stunning. And, as I’ve suggested, the whole thing might be better off without its two shoddy middle episodes, the look included: The Screaming Jungle in particular is Doctor Who’s first unmistakably dumb and disappointing episode, where plot, incident and design all falter, without even the Doctor to distract us.

Many people know this story for its monsters, the Voord (immortalised in the phrase “Yartek, Leader of the alien Voord,” part of what passes for the Nicene Creed of fans of a certain age), yet we know surprisingly little about them. In theory after the same eponymous Keys as our questing heroes, they only appear in the first and last episodes, and we never find out so much as whether a Voord is a “man” “wearing a suit” (in early dialogue) or alien “creatures” (later), or even whether their name should or shouldn’t have an “s” on the end in plural. You’d think, though, if their fearsome appearance – remarkably similar to that of 2000AD’s Nemesis the Warlock, making me wonder if Kevin O’Neill was terrified at the age of 10 or 11 by a dark, horned creature with a curving bit of ‘spine’ – really was just a form of wetsuit that the one that hilariously ‘disguises’ itself would take its helmet off… Despite being promoted as ‘the next Daleks’, though (with the B-Movie disembodied brains in one episode actually much closer in concept), they never really took off. You can, at least, find them in The Fishmen of Kandalinga, an infamous story in The Dr Who Annual 1966 – sadly, unlike his splendid recording of The Lair of Zarbi Supremo on The Web Planet DVD, there’s no reading of this one by William Russell (Ian). As to why not, I suspect budget cutbacks, but you might also try reading the title out loud. In other exciting comic-related goodness, one of the legendary Grant Morrison’s early works was Colin Baker Doctor Who strip The World Shapers, now available as a graphic novel. It saw the return of the Voord in one of the barmiest Who stories ever drawn.

The Keys of Marinus is released on DVD on Monday 21st September. YouTube has the official BBC DVD trailer, and an unofficial one in the style of the Twenty-first Century “Next Time…” teasers, both rather jolly. A friend has just reminded me that a few seconds of the story were missing from the VHS release but have now been restored for DVD, so I’m particularly looking forward to seeing those for the first time. If I can spot them.

*Martin Cort in fact plays three different roles in The Keys of Marinus, but this one’s the most memorable – acting, rather than just menacing from inside a mask.

Martin is currently directing The Unimportant History of Britain at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, Kentish Town, London, without being dressed as a Voord. It runs there until October 11th.

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Friday, September 18, 2009


Big Government Vs Big Unions… Fiiiight!

A small part of my brain still thinks ‘back to school’ in September, and it’s not the only reminder of my childhood* around: this week seems stuck in the 1970s, though sadly the unconvincing stop-motion dinosaurs aren’t in Doug McClure movies but ‘live’ from the TUC Conference. Thrillingly, the big unions are threatening to savage a dying Labour Government this Winter. Because that always worked out so well for them. And if seeing Peter (hiss) Mandelson exchange blows with Brendan (yawn) Barber isn’t enough to excite you, there’s the threat of postal strikes and Harriet Harman’s career-best daft, petty foot-shooting…

Clash of the Turgid

You never quite know with the TUC Conference whether to glower that the Labour Party in effect gets two weeks of conference publicity while the rest of us are lucky to get one, or grin that it’s more like fly on the wall footage of a family row. This week’s given Lord Mandelson and Gordon Brown an enormous amount of free pluggage, but the family row’s been even more bitter than usual.

Everybody knows that Labour’s principal, increasingly shrill and desperate message has for years been ‘We’re shit, and we know we are, but, oooooh! The Tories! Scary!’ but it’s rarely been so blatant. After so long claiming that the Tories were evil for considering “cuts,” Labour this week were forced to admit that they would also have to make “cuts.” Except that, look, the Tories are evil! Oddly enough, this hasn’t been a wild success.

So while Gordon Brown’s been pretending that he’s been promising cuts all along to weary jeers around the country, it’s been left to Peter Mandelson to make a coherent argument. It’s coming up to a year since he was brought back into the Labour Government, and I still have the same equivocal feeling I did then: he’s one of their most effective ministers, but as a party politician, he’s pure poison. His much-quoted line this week was that they were going to be “Wise but not big spenders” – an approach cribbed from years of unreported Lib Dem soundbites on taxation, and simply not believable after a dozen years in power doing exactly the reverse. I could say, ‘It is big, but it’s not clever’, or ‘not little enough, and too late’, but it’s simpler just to point out that no-one believes him, and that they don’t have the time left to start now.

Compared to TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber’s Powellite rhetoric of “riots on the streets” if there are any public sector job cuts, however, Peter Mandelson seems positively plausible. It can’t just have been me who woke up to news of their competing speeches earlier in the week and imagined them animated by Ray Harryhausen: Lord Mandelson’s Labour Government a huge, coiling, venomous snake, darting and biting; Mr Barber’s TUC a vast, heavy, lumbering dinosaur, powerful but uncoordinated, hampered by only having several very tiny brains each wanting to move its limbs in different directions.

Voters hadn’t been treated to such a grisly display since those of us in London witnessed prehistoric relics Bob Crow and Arthur Scargill duking it out for rival far left fantasists on our ballot papers in June, their giant rubber bodies flickering in the cameras. Now, if you could explicitly vote against someone, surely Mr ‘I’d like to sit in my mansion and ruin your travel’ Crow would have topped the poll – and surely the only people voting for that self-indulgent old self-destructor Mr Scargill were extreme Thatcherites wishing the man who single-handedly destroyed the union movement was a power in the land again, rather than just The Man That Time Forgot.

My favourite bellowing union demand of the week, however, was blundering triceratops the GMB. They shouted to the Labour Government that there are ten thousand jobs in Barrow-in-Furness dependent on Trident, so that has to stay. Ten thousand? Goodness. If that’s the prime consideration, even senior bankers must be envious – these are some of the most expensive jobs in Britain. How about dropping Trident, and giving each of the workers there a million quid? It’d still save ninety billion.

Good News – No Post Strike!

At least, if you’re as fed up as I am with things being lost in the post even more than usual right now, and with random local strikes every few days (where’s my new Doctor Who Magazine, then? Eh? Eh?), there was a breath of relief this week.

You may have read that
“Ballot papers proposing a national strike at the Royal Mail over pay and job cuts are being sent out to members of the main postal union.”
“Sent out”? By post? Phew! Well, no chance of a national strike before Christmas, then.

Did Harriet Think Spitting Image Was A Documentary?

Thanks to Sara Bedford for highlighting a truly hilarious story. Gordon Brown’s Very Important Deputy (for Paperclips and Pissing People Off) Harriet Harman has spent years arguing for absolute, inflexible, dogmatic discrimination in favour of women, because neither any other social divisions nor political views matter. Earlier this Summer, Ms Harman provoked rows by stating that Labour should always have one woman and one man as Leader and Deputy Leader – even if, say, women got 80% of the vote in each contest and one was forced to stand down in favour of an unpopular misogynist as a result. Uncharitable people suggested she was rather hoping that when Mr Brown goes, entirely of his own free will and certainly not in any sort of putsch, as long as it’s within the fortnight, she would stand for Leader rather than Deputy and hope that no women stood for the latter position, thereby electing her on almost as democratic a technicality as Mr Brown’s coronation.

However, it appears that Ms Harman’s much-repeated argument that gender is all and political choice doesn’t matter is, er, self-serving hypocritical guff that she doesn’t actually mean a word of. Who knew? This week her “Equality Office” produced “Women in Power: Milestones,” listing the twenty-eight most significant events of the last century for female politicians.

Which mentioned all sorts of Labour hacks, but refused to name Margaret Thatcher. Oops.

Once again, people will struggle to be charitable to Ms Harman. Perhaps she used to watch a lot of Spitting Image, and on seeing Mrs Thatcher portrayed as a man, she was just dim enough to think everything on television was true…

Vince Tackles the Fiscal Crisis

If you’re tired of all the silliness and crashing dinosaurs, why not try a serious politician?

You won’t have seen much about it on the news, but Lib Dem Treasury Spokesperson Vince Cable this week launched Tackling the Fiscal Crisis: A Recovery Plan for the UK, which rather than just using rhetoric of undefined ‘good cuts’ versus undefined ‘bad cuts’ actually took voters seriously, and set out nine specific areas to start on saving (including a public sector pay freeze and pay cuts for top civil servants, tightening salaries to protect jobs). Now that even the Labour Government’s admitted they can’t afford the bills any more, isn’t it time the other political parties told us all what their actual proposals are rather than just calling each other names?

*I realise I may not entirely be flattering myself in bringing up my childhood at the same time as Jurassic metaphors.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Let’s Not Book A Room In Brigadoon

Have you caught any of BBC Four’s “This is Scotland” season? Because some of it makes you think, ‘No, it really isn’t’. A rare showing of Culloden was impressive, only a few weeks after I praised it, but as for last weekend’s outing for Brigadoon… It’s a textbook example of a story which, when someone tells it to you in a few lines, really captures your imagination – but which, when you actually sit through it, makes a terrible movie. An enchanted old village appearing from the mist just once a century… What could possibly go wrong? Go on, guess.

Perhaps it’s that I lack patience with musical theatre – I know, dock my gay points – except in rare cases, and that though Almost Like Being In Love is a good tune, the rest of the songs here are syrupy and go on for ever. Perhaps it’s the distracting accents. Now, every American producer knows that there are only three ‘English’ accents: upper class (evil, which permits intelligence, or inbred and very dim); Cockerney (lovable, poor and stupid); and Scotch / Oirish, which are of course the same (rustic, poor, quaint and stupid). In this quaint little story set in the quaint little Scottish Highlands, this realistic range of accents is on full display – while the heroes are, of course, American (think of it like An American Werewolf In London, except that they start singing instead of getting bitten. It’s horrific).

Welcome To Brigadoon – You’ll Never Leave

My main problem with the film, though, is that a mythic return to the Eighteenth Century is very much more attractive as a dimly imagined myth, and that when you’re invited to step into the past, you’d much rather it stayed in the past. While the village is supposed to have made a deal with God, it seems more like hell on Earth.

It goes like this. Back in 1754 – two centuries to the day before the story is set – Brigadoon was put under attack by witches, and prayed for deliverance. So they were snatched out of time to escape destruction, and the village now drifts back into reality for just one day every hundred years. So far, so intriguing. Unfortunately, in the film producers’ quest to expand an intriguing one-line idea to as long and turgid a movie as possible, they then strip as much magic as possible out of the story: audiences will swallow an enchanted village that lives one day a century without batting an eyelid, they reckon, but we couldn’t possibly ask them to believe in witches.

But if the big threat in the movie isn’t the return of the witches in a new sorcerous assault, or if it’s implied God didn’t save Brigadoon from an attack by real witches at all, what could the God-fearing people of the village have yanked themselves out of history’s progress to save themselves from?


Well, there’s a clue in tourist Jeff’s line on witches, “Oh, we have ’em; we just pronounce it differently,” but the village’s raison d’être is made quite explicit by the schoolteacher: “Oh, I know there’s no such thing,” he says of witches – just women they didn’t approve of. Yes, Brigadoon is social conservatism gone mad. The terrifying ‘attack’ and threat of ‘destruction’ was not physical but their unelected leaders’ view of moral, and the religious maniacs cried out in their surety that they couldn’t win by persuasion, ‘Stop the world – we want to get off!’

The biggest surprise to modern audiences, more even than the jawdropping misogyny and wandering accents, is that the tourists are American and the scary intolerant control freaks living in another century British. Nowadays, surely the film would have to have visitors from this side of the Atlantic discovering a mysterious village in some landlocked part of the United States that vanished from reality for fear the gays are getting married.

Clearly, some of the filmmakers realised that this was a monstrously scary form of social conservatism even for 1954, because it’s deeply schizophrenic about its sympathies. It’s a huge romance, with one of our modern American souls falling in love with the place and one of its people – and who couldn’t fall for Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse dancing around each other, and hope that love conquers all?

Well, his friend Jeff, for one, who as played by Van Johnson is a breath of urban, cynical sanity, with lines like “I’m a strange man, and you’re a mighty strange woman,” and “Is it formal, or shall I wear my Napoleon hat?” And then you discover that – jerking against the chain of the romance, the script and the enchanted hellhole – some of the young people are desperate to escape (and no, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have people forgetting / missing the outside world so much after two nights for them, but I’ll let that pass), and it turns out that no-one can ever leave, or the whole spell will collapse. You can’t even do an ‘exchange’. Gee, thanks. How much more repressive can this set-up get? I’m glad you asked, because of course one of the poor desperate prisoners makes a break for it, and there’s a hunt. Which, inevitably, requires a killing, even if it’s accidental (and again, I sense the scriptwriter who’s in love with this conservative utopia wresting the script back from the one who isn’t for a moment to stop the village dictators being so blatantly the villains by deliberate murder).

The idea at the heart of Brigadoon is a powerful one, borrowed from a German folk tale and borrowed by many other stories in turn, even a secret location protected by a “Brigadoon Circuit” in one of the finest Doctor Who novels – though in Robin of Sherwood’s Cromm Cruac and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) : A Man of Substance, both splendid pieces of television, each village has more blatantly made a deal with a devil – but not only is the film dreadfully dull, its social and sexual politics are diabolical.

On the other hand, this is just the film you want to watch to make you appreciate the go-ahead, all mod cons, funky charms of Bournemouth, should anyone be heading there soon.

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Sunday, September 06, 2009


DVD Taster: The Twin Dilemma

Tomorrow, a new Doctor Who DVD goes on sale. The Twin Dilemma is Colin Baker’s first story as the Doctor, and he’s terrific in it. As for everything else – well, its reputation is less terrific. When, in a week and a half, DWM reveals the results of their vote on “all 200” Doctor Who television stories, I confidently expect this to be near the bottom of the poll. Can neither Maurice Denham, Kevin R McNally nor a villain that’s a cheap Jabba the Hut knock-off save this 1984 B-Movie adventure? In a word, no. But it isn’t all bad…

That Golden Moment
“The shades of night were falling fast
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, ’mid snow and ice,
A banner with a strange device:
Ten minutes into Part Two, the new Doctor appears to have settled down – if only temporarily – and, ironically, this brings one of the most extrovert scenes in a far from hesitant performance. Leaving the TARDIS for the cold, gritty wilderness of Titan III, the Doctor goes striding up a rocky hill, exuberantly decrying lines from Longfellow in an hilariously misguided attempt to ‘cheer Peri up’. She’s tagging along behind, complaining and unimpressed (“Who cares!”) until he finds a metallic outcrop and, searching the surface, presents her with a door into an underground passage…

This has always been my favourite scene from The Twin Dilemma. After the deliberately off-key and off-putting Doctor essentially emerging straight from a regeneration into a nervous breakdown the previous week, this was the scene where I knew I was going to love Colin Baker. His evident joy in cutting a dash and reciting at the top of his voice may not be infectious for Peri – scripted to say she’s tired, but with the mini-skirted Nicola Bryant visibly frozen too and clearly not having to act being pissed off – but it worked for me. Colin looks like he’s having the time of his life (and rather good-looking here, too), with his infamously multicoloured coat for once working a treat, standing out brilliantly against the bleak grey landscape and evidently keeping the actor much warmer than his companion. There’s a lovely bit of music underscoring it all, the Doctor gets to work out and seek out a clever way in, there’s a probably deliberately funny exaggeration of the traditional roles of the Doctor as wide-eyed explorer and companion as feebly fed up, but most of all it taught me that, if you’re frozen to death in some depressing wilderness and still have miles to walk, you’re best off being very loud to keep your spirits up. As the South Wales police officers who once picked me up in the middle of the night, yomping the last few miles to a particularly unpromising by-election after many hours of hitch-hiking and singing Shirley Bassey Bond themes with everything I could must muster against a hailstorm, would no doubt testify.

Something Else To Look Out For

Colin Baker’s verve and enthusiasm is by a long way the most entertaining thing about this story. Unfortunately, the dreadful and unwisely protracted regeneration crisis writing means the Doctor is also often the worst thing about it. The concept of Colin’s Doctor was a cold ‘Mr Darcy’ figure that could be gradually unwrapped, but despite the actor working wonders with rotten material, the script editor was utterly hopeless at writing that overarching story. Randomly making him a bully, a coward and a loon doesn’t conceal a deeper layer; it’s just wrong all the way down. He runs from endearing and stirring to deeply unlikeable, without any natural dramatic progression, while Peri even lectures him on compassion, flabbergasting after the previous Doctor has literally just given his life for her (it’s difficult not to conclude that she fancied the old him and is now grumpy at not getting a shag before he ‘died’). And showing this story at the end of a season blighted poor Colin’s Doctor: writers and fans alike got stuck on the idea that his post-regeneration trauma was ‘what he’s like’, despite almost every other Doctor’s opening story being very different to how they settled.

I’m fond of many elements of this story, but I don’t rush to watch it. While Colin is striking, almost anything else that can go wrong, does. Save for an intriguing frieze and the odd model shot, the design is shocking, and it’s a thoroughly rotten B-Movie cliché of a script, full of appalling science and worse characterisation. The guest actors range from rather good to awful, but even the good ones can only work with what they’re given. Future Pirates of the Caribbean star Kevin R McNally has a thoroughly unlikeable character in worse outfits than the Doctor’s; Edwin Richfield is wasted as a monster (in theory one of the most powerful enemies the Doctor’s ever faced, but largely ignored in lists of gods and demons because it’s a bit rubbish); and Maurice Denham, emerging with some dignity, perhaps tellingly does best when acting ‘weary’. But if you want one reason to watch this – and there’s not much more – it’s always Colin. Making you believe that a bit of turned earth was once a beautiful grove on an alien world by words alone, making “Thou craggy knob!” entertaining or exploding “Villain! Murderer! A thousand currants on your head!” (perhaps the DVD will tell me what the real line is, but from past subtitling fiascos I doubt it), his vocal style’s what I remember, but today it’s his physicality that strikes me: closing in menacingly on Peri, deranged; leaning on the console; just walking round a gun; pointing a dramatic finger of doom; sprawling across a lab; striding up that hill. He’s endlessly watchable.

Extras include a piece on fashion and the Doctors – I suspect Colin will not be kind about his coat – along with the usual commentary, text notes and Photo Gallery, with contemporary items from Breakfast Time and Blue Peter. I remember the latter, even down to the sound effect when Colin, in full costume as the Doctor, does some ‘Time Lord magic’ to make the cat disappear. I suspect David Tennant, only a few months older than I am, saw the same edition and that’s why he vowed never to do interviews ‘in character’, but only as ‘David Tennant’. There’s also, I’m told, a trailer for whole Doctor Who DVD range (have they finally dug out those commissioned-then-dropped ‘also available’ trailers?), though apparently Colin doesn’t come out of it well. The extra I’m most looking forward to is Stripped For Action – The Sixth Doctor, a look at one of the most vibrant and memorable periods for Doctor Who comics (not least for the character of Frobisher, an occasional penguin). The one I’m most grinding my teeth over is that, yet again, there’s no isolated music provided. It’s not Malcolm Clarke’s best score, with rather too many unsubtle clangs, but I enjoy listening to them and – noting no ‘making of’ feature this time, either – it’s hard not to conclude that, increasingly, they’re doing this once award-winning, standard-setting range on the cheap.

On the bright side, The Twin Dilemma’s release means Colin is the first Doctor to have every one of his stories available on DVD, and with this and Delta and the Bannermen out of the way this year, the only way is up.

Colin these days is immensely pleased that he now has more action figures than any of the other Twentieth Century Doctors, with “Old Sixie” available in his infamous coat of many colours, in a sober blue version and in the mud-covered Peter Davison outfit he’s still wearing at the start of this story. You might be able to track down the novelisation by script editor Eric Saward, who may have made a total pig’s ear of the original script but whose book, as I’ve written before, at least does something interesting with it. Far more interesting, though, is Paul Cornell’s Circular Time, a set of short Doctor Who audio dramas with one a re-imagined prequel to The Twin Dilemma. It’s almost worth putting up with the original to get that. Astoundingly, one of the worst guidebooks available on the series – John Kenneth Muir’s obvious, overpriced and often idiotic A Critical History of Doctor Who On Television – not only likes this story but makes some interesting observations for once, arguing that it borrows from cop drama with a crime boss, getaway vehicle with false number plates, and the Doctor and Hugo each fit the idea of flawed cops (fallen cop trying to atone and revenge-ridden vigilante cop). It’s not worth shelling out for that entry alone, though. Besides, a list of “50 Reasons To Love The Twin Dilemma” I once found online was far more enjoyable to read, and I even agreed with twelve of them…

Final (leading) question: if, for some baffling reason, you were dead-set on calling a story “The Twin Dilemma,” and if, for some utterly inexplicable reason, your script were only to feature one of those two key words, which would you pick? Would you supply endless scenes of terrible teen actors who happen to be twins, or remember to include some sort of dilemma? Consider your answer more carefully than the script editor did.

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