Sunday 14 June 2020

Inspirations - The Twin Dilemma

The Twin Dilemma is the only Doctor Who story from the veteran TV writer Anthony Steven. He fell ill after the initial drafts were submitted and so much of what we see on screen actually comes from Eric Saward. Saward thought that Colin Baker was wrong for the role of the Doctor, and was unhappy at the way his casting had taken place. This is one of the reasons he decided to have the new Doctor "wrong" for a time - reflecting his view of Baker.
Baker had guest starred in Season 20's Arc of Infinity, and had thought that this would preclude him from ever getting to play the Doctor himself. A short time later Baker attended the wedding of one of the production team, and JNT noticed the way that he kept the crowd entertained with jokes and stories. Knowing that Peter Davison was about to leave, JNT decided that Baker would be ideal to replace him. He had experience of replacing Tom Baker, and knew that the new Doctor had to be quite unlike his predecessor. 
JNT and Saward presumed that all Doctors suffered from a post-regeneration trauma, but Saward formed his own theory as to why this new Doctor was so unstable. He was on the point of a nervous breakdown in his last incarnation - brought on by him trying too hard to be human. This is why the new Doctor mentions having changed for the better "and not a moment too soon".
Saward would later claim that entertaining wedding guests was not enough to justify giving Baker such a high profile TV role, without any competitive auditions.
Realising that Davison had proved to be very popular during his relatively short run as the Doctor, and knowing that the new Doctor was going to rather unlikeable to begin with, JNT decided to have Baker's first story as the final one of Season 21.The hope was that the character would be established as the show went into its long break, and the audience wouldn't be left wondering for months what the new Doctor would be like. In hindsight this proved to be a huge mistake, as the audience went into the break with generally negative opinions of the new Doctor.

Steven's script called for the twins to be boys, and this caused some problems. There were more female twins available in the acting profession at the time, and if no real twins were available it was easier to find two similar looking girls who could be made up to look like twins. 
Finding two male twins, or similar looking boys, was a problem for the director. In the end they opted for the Conrad twins - sons of Les Conrad who had been an extra on the programme since the early 1970's, and who had just featured in The Caves of Androzani. The problem was that neither had much acting experience, and one had a slight lisp. Veteran actor Maurice Denham, who had been cast as Azmael, noticed that they seemed out of their depth and so took it upon himself to help them as much as possible.
The idea that Azmael should be yet another "rogue" Time Lord came from fan-adviser Ian Levine. He suggested the name Aslan.

We can't discuss Colin Baker's first story without mentioning the costume. As Baker would say, as he was on the inside, at least he never had to look at it. The new Doctor is rather pompous and self-opinionated, vain and arrogant - all traits which were absent from his predecessor. JNT decided that his costume should be loud and vulgar, and a little schizophrenic, as befitting this new incarnation. The costume designer was asked to come up with something "tasteless", and was continually sent back to the drawing board until JNT would accept it. It sticks to the vaguely Edwardian feel of previous costumes in shape and design, but was made up of a patchwork of clashing primary colours and patterns, with multicoloured accoutrements. The trousers were made from a pillow case material, dyed yellow. Baker suggested the cat badges - based on the poems of TS Eliot, which formed the basis of the musical Cats. Baker planned to use a different badge for each story, and some were based on his own pet cats.
Baker isn't the only one landed with a tasteless costume. Police officer Hugo Lang decides that of all the costumes he could choose from in the TARDIS costume store, a brightly coloured tin-foil number is the most appropriate for investigating alien abductions.

The story itself doesn't seem to have many inspirations you can point to - coming across as a very generic science fiction tale. Some have claimed it is actually a parody of a typical Doctor Who story, as remembered by someone who isn't actually a fan. The idea that teenagers might have the power to destroy a planet may have come from the film War Games, which had hit the cinemas the previous year. In this, a teenage gaming nerd accidentally hacks into a Pentagon super-computer and almost starts World War Three, when he thinks he is only playing a computer game. Apparently Stevens had intended the twins to be quite dark characters, and possibly one was good and the other evil. It has been pointed out that the story as broadcast doesn't actually feature any kind of dilemma. This might relate to some aspect of the script which was dropped. 
Making the villains giant slugs - one of which is more superior intellectually than its underlings - comes across as very unoriginal when you consider that this story comes only a couple of months after Frontios, which had featured similar creatures who also wanted to move planets about as part of their plans for conquering other worlds.
Next time: the Cybermen return, in a sequel to almost all of their earlier stories...

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