Monday, April 5, 2010

6W3 - The Two Doctors 3

My appreciation of The Two Doctors has completely changed over the years. As a teenager first watching this story for the first time, I was impressed with the relationship between the Doctors, I was in love with the Spanish countryside and cityscape of old Seville, and I thoroughly enjoyed my first ever glimpse of Patrick Troughton's Doctor.

Today, I'm still impressed with the relationship between the Doctors, I still adore the vistas of Spain, and I'm saddened at what was the last time that Patrick Troughton would play The Doctor. Troughton's Doctor was perhaps the most influential Doctor of them all, almost directly inspiring the performances of no less than four Doctors that followed him (including current Eleventh Doctor actor Matt Smith). His Doctor was also the most aloof, yet, at the same time, curiously accessible. Troughton appeared opposite four other Doctors in three stories after he left the role in 1969. No other actor's Doctor could mesh in with the other Doctors as Troughton's Doctor did in those stories. Can you imagine a multi-Doctor story with Tom Baker and William Hartnell and/or Richard Hurndall forming a double act? Jon Pertwee and Sylvester McCoy? No, because any other Doctor, particularly Pertwee and Baker, would be so keen to install themselves as the most dominant Doctor. That's not only a quality of the actors, but it's a characteristic of the Doctors whom they portrayed.

Troughton simultaneously played second fiddle and scene stealer in every scene he appeared in, which is what made him utterly brilliant. He also brings out the best in his fellow actors. You can tell that Colin Baker is clearly relishing every second of screen time with Troughton, who Baker has often called "his Doctor". And Troughton's Doctor makes Colin Baker's Doctor a much more likable person. Baker is tremendous in this story, and, knowing what was to come for his Doctor and his era, it makes watching his carefree bounding about the Spanish countryside all the more disappointing.

To be honest, though, it's the vegetarian theme of The Two Doctors that registered with me most on this viewing. I wasn't a vegetarian for the first few times I had seen this story, but I am now. I definitely don't want to get on a soapbox in this blog (and, no, I'm not a supporter of PETA or their methods), but the veggie theme here was just another brilliant piece of satire by Robert Holmes to make you watch a show decrying something that he didn't agree with while being entertained at the same time. Like Holmes's righteous, comedic anger at the invasion of privacy in Carnival of Monsters and the UK tax system in The Sun Makers, he very neatly deals with the perils of eating meat, something that was very important to him late in his life.

The fact that Shockeye was of a different species that humans (or, to use one of Holmes's favourite demonyms, Tellurians) makes his actions, and rampant lust to devour Jamie for lunch, as acceptable as any human being looking to sink his teeth into a lamb chop (to paraphrase The Rani). It therefore makes The Doctor's controversial killing of Shockeye near the end of Part Three just as understandable. The Doctor, his mobility severely hampered by a slash to the leg administered by Shockeye, who was chasing him with severe bloodlust on his mind, had no choice but to kill Shockeye in order to survive.

This scene is another example of the double standard that existed between the two Baker eras. In The Brain of Morbius, Tom Baker's Doctor not only kills Solon with cyanide, he doesn't even have the guts to do it while in the same room as the mad scientist. No one bats an eye. Colin Baker's Doctor kills Shockeye with cyanide in a fight for survival, and he is dealt yet another blow in the public character assassination going on at the time. It was just another round of ammo in Michael Grade's increasingly loaded gun.

Neither the character attack nor the cancellation (sorry - hiatus) were deserved, but then, that's the Colin Baker era in a nutshell, isn't it?


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