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Doctor Who: Twin Dilemma by Eric Saward

01/03/2012. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Doctor Who: Twin Dilemma in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: Twin Dilemma in the UK

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pub: Audio Go/BBC. 4 CDs 252 minute story. Price: CD: GBP 10.60 (UK). 978-1-40846-830-2. Download: GBP 11.06 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-40845-051-2) narrator: Colin Baker.

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First we have to agree that ‘The Twin Dilemma’ is not very good. The opening adventure of a recently regenerated Doctor is wrong on many levels. The Doctor is camper than a van in this series and lurches from one personality to another. Nothing he does in this incarnation makes much sense over the course of the story. Peri’s calm acceptance and even welcome of his bizarre persona at the end beggar’s belief.

That’s the TV version and time heals. This is the audio book of the original Target novelisation which everybody loves. Eric Saward, who was responsible for overseeing extensive script revisions before it could be filmed, went on to produce the novel in 1985. It serves as an explanation and an extensive back-story which could not be incorporated into the TV show. This audio version is read by the mature Colin Baker, the wise old Sixth Doctor himself.

‘The Twin Dilemma’ is a story of abduction by a renegade Time Lord of the clever twins, Romulus and Remus. They are to help a giant slug take over the galaxy with their remarkable ability with calculus. At the same time, the Doctor has undergone a traumatic regeneration and changes from a sweet blonde boy who is kind to animals into a curly-permed monster who tries to throttle his companion. Perhaps he should have just tried throttling the producers.

There is so much back-story in this that you can’t help thinking it got the word-count up as the story remains thin. However, the extensive descriptions about how the process of regeneration affects a Time Lord is very relevant to how the plot is resolved. No wonder the stripped down television version doesn’t work. The twins, Romulus and Remus, who are given very little to do in the series are given a family and more depth including a mother who avoids their company and a father who is drinking heavily to avoid their amoral intelligence. The comedic possibilities are further examined with an extensive section on the father’s dilemma when he meets his lover’s husband.

Aside from all this gubbins, there is a lot about the Doctor and his regenerating worries. It is much more understandable than time allowed in the series and forms the basis for future problematic regenerations including the personality changes that affect the Eleventh Doctor neatly summed up in his exploration of food likes and dislikes. Here the Doctor lurches from a psychotic killer to Sherlock Holmes and to the vain glorious hero. In this guise, he saves a space pilot who he witnesses crash landing after taking Peri to Titan 3. They never really explains why he happens to choose Titan 3 to become a hermit and do penance for his attack on Peri. Stuffed in the narrative is a very expansive back story for the space pilot as well. Somewhere, between the Doctor’s rapid personality changes and his efforts to save the galaxy, he settles down enough for Peri to stay in the TARDIS without fearing for her life.

Also shuffled in here, is the story of the other Time Lord, Asmael, who completely confusingly appears as Professor Edgeworth in the opening episode of the TV version. Here his background as a Time Lord and rationale for being in charge of the planet Jaconda are covered and somehow it all makes a kind of sense. It’s still a mish-mash but at least it makes more sense than the original and has its own period charm and unique nuttiness that makes it seem alright.

Mestor, the slug who wants to take over the galaxy was a laughable rubbery foe on TV with its desperately poor budget. Here, we can use our imaginations and the vivid description at least makes a valiant effort of trying to make him scary. The whole idea of infecting the galaxy with chomping hordes of gastropods makes a lot of sense. Luckily, the councils got in plenty of salt for the roads so if it ever happens we should be able to avert gastro-stropy.

All in all 'The Twin Dilemma' is entertainingly told but you might need a long journey to really get the most out of it. If you want the expanded version of the TV series and you are an original Target novel fan then this timely issue will keep you entertained for many hours.

Sue Davies

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