Before we get to the story itself, let’s deal with The Elephant In The Room that is the infamous Season 6B. I well remember the pre-Time War days of trying to reconcile the irreconcilable, and the wonder that was The Canon Keeper’s Guide to Doctor Who Continuity. And then, despite still having that basic Fanboy thrill of a list of any kind, I also remember how liberating it was to realise that, in my own head if nowhere else, I could just dismiss all of that as futile and try looking at things another way. That’s why, for me, there is no Season 6B. Problem solved. Let me explain.
Just as I don’t view the first four episodes of Doctor Who as a four-part story called An Unearthly Child [it’s a single episode story followed by a three part story called The Firemaker], so I equally don’t view everything from An Unearthly Child to Survival as all taking place in the same storytelling Universe. And if you disagree, as you are perfectly entitled to do, then please tell me how else do you explain Richard Hurndall in The Five Doctors?
My view, arrived at after much pondering of The Five Doctors, was then, and still is now, that the TV stories take place in different universes, in other words, they are different iterations of the same thing. Here’s how I always broke the Classic Series down into its various universes, each one completely at odds with all the others :
Whoniverse #1 – An Unearthly Child to The War Games : It seems pretty conclusive to me that the entire B&W era of the show is its own universe, separate from the colour stories. In terms of style and tone and diegetic narrative consistency, Bill & Pat are, literally, in a world oftheir own.
Whoniverse #2 – Spearhead From Space to The Talons of Weng-Chiang: So much is oh so different here, from two hearts to the Time Lords, that I always regarded The Golden Age as a completely different version of the show to what we saw during the B&W era.
Whoniverse #3 – Horror of Fang Rock to Shada: the “Graham Williams presents The Tom Baker Show!” version, the one that doesn’t take things entirely seriously, which puts it stylistically and aesthetically at odds with everything that went before it.
Whoniverse #4 – The Leisure Hive to Trial of A Time Lord: The JNT Era, the counter-revolution where continuity porn rules, fanwank is fine and there are question marks on shirt collars. To me, it’s just not possible to say that this takes place in the same Universe as City of Death. Proof? Look no further than the The Five Doctors…
Whoniverse #4.1 – The Five Doctors. The “alternate universes” theory is the only way you can possibly explain why William Hartnell is Richard Hurndall in this story. The Five Doctors must take place, at the very least, in a subset of Whoniverse #4, otherwise how do you explain flashbacks for Hartnell in Earthshock & Resurrection then Hurndall turning up in Five?
Whoniverse #5 – Time And The Rani to Survival: The Andrew Carmel Era, when JNT was completely burnt out and happy for someone else to do the leg work, just so long as he still had the power of veto. The time when Who really became a kids’ show.
Whoniverse #6 – The TV Movie. Obv.
Whoniverse #7 – The New Series. Mega Obv.
The point of view that says every TV story takes place all in the one Universe, just doesn’t work for me. If it works for you, then I’m happy for you, but for me, keeping the various iterations of the show distinct from one another helps avoid all that brain-ache that comes with being part of the Continuity Police. So much simpler and neater to go with the solution that they are all different versions of the same fictional thing, which of course, in terms of production teams, they are.
So when Terrance Dicks gets his continuity wrong in The Five Doctors, pretty ironic given how continuity-obsessed the Jemima Nathan-Turner era was, especially with Dame Ian Levine cheerleading from the sidelines, it doesn’t really bother me. Why? Because the Two we see in The Five Doctors in 1983 is clearly a different Two to the Two that we saw in The War Games in 1969.
Similarly, when Robert Holmes gets his continuity wrong in The Two Doctors, that’s okay because the Two we see in The Two Doctors in 1984 is an older version of the Two that we first met in The Five Doctors the year before. And he’s a completely different Two to the Two that we saw in The Three Doctors, because that takes place in a different Universe. All of which means there are three versions of Doctor Two, according to the Whopix take on things.
It’s a reading of the series, an interpretation of it’s various Producer-led iterations, that is actually in concert with the fictional universe of on-screen Doctor Who anyway. We know from Inferno and Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel that there are Parallel Worlds in the Who Universe, so why not take that to the next level and reason that the various versions of the show that we have been watching over the years are themselves from different Whoniverses? Works for me!
And while we’re at it, the reason everyone is duplicated on the parallel earth of Inferno except the Doctor it that it’s in a universe where he wasn’t exiled there. That’s my theory anyway, and I’m sticking to it. Paul Cornell was wrong, Bernard Wilkie was not Parallel World Doctor #3, so there! So, having ruffled fandom’s collective feathers, and leaving all that aside and moving on to the story itself…
I’ve edited The Two Doctors once already, as a B&W Pat Troughton story, and called it The Dastari Experiment, so retelling it again, but this time from Sixie’s point of view, was a fairly easy fan edit to do. We jump straight into the action with the Tardis arriving at the space station after the Sontarans have torched it, allowing us to discover the plot along with the characters when they meet Jamie. In the Troughton Version, Sixie didn’t put in an appearance until they met on screen – “Snap!” – and the main question I had for this version was how long it would be before Pat showed up in the Colin version.
What we want is for Sixie and Peri to meet up with Jamie as quickly as possible so it takes just six minutes for Jamie to attack Peri, something that makes no sense – earlier on, the Doctor said that the torching of the station was quite recent, so either he’s wrong or Jamie has reverted to cannabalistic savagery very quickly indeed. The only alternative explanation for the attack is that Jamie is attempting to rape Peri, and he can’t be trying to do that so, either way, it’s an instance of character serving plot and having Jamie do something that makes no sense, simply because we need a cliffhanger.
I don’t know about you, but I detect the dead hand of Eric Saward at work here, either that or Bob Holmes really was past his sell-by date at this point. So that entire sequence gets reworked so that now Peri finds the unconscious Jamie, she calls out to the Doctor, that distracts him, he sets off the booby trap, Peri goes back to see he’s okay, wakes him up and then takes him to Jamie, and there you have it – a sequence that works a damn site better than the original and makes a helluva lot more sense!
It was when I was trying to edit my way around all this that I had the idea of doing this as an episodic edit, instead of a compilation, which was my original intention. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea, partly because, it helps solve the problem of how to keep things moving and partly because it’s something different from the original. Ordinarily, you would expect that, after the question “if Jamie’s here, where am I?” you would cut straight to Pat, but I felt that having that as a cliffhanger moment instead, and keeping you waiting for Two to show up, was a better way to go.
Part Two gets us to the Hacienda as quickly as possible, via Oscar and Anita, and our first glimpse of Two. The main challenge was in keeping characters “off stage” until Sixie met them himself in the plot. Luckily Holmes was a good enough writer to avoid the usual mistake of characters learning things without the audience seeing them do so, which made things a lot easier.
And in order to keep things moving, there’s none of that astral plane nonsense, in this version Sixie either makes an educated guess that Earth is where they’ve gone or the TARDIS tracked their time traces or Jamie overheard Chessene & Shockeye or something, take your pick. And it’s also here that we get our first glimpse of Two, finishing close to the end of the TX Part Two, ending with Shockeye’s line “and then we can cook her!” Just three minutes later Shockeye has chased, caught and perved over poor Peri, but I felt it best to leave that moment for Part Three instead.
Part Four is mainly concerned with the side trip to the restaurant, which just happens to be run by Oscar and Anita from earlier on, what a coincidence! Of all the restaurants in Seville…
All this is just blatant padding but there’s no way to edit around it without it being obvious there’s been a cut made so, as before, I had to settle for cutting it back to the absolute minimum, ending with them being recaptured by Chessene.
And then it’s on to Part Five, where they all go back to the hacienda and everybody dies, except the ones who can’t. I quite like the way this story ended up being edited, as five short Totally Dr Who type eps, it’s a way of doing the story in bite-sized chunks that I haven’t done since tackling The Mysterious Planet and Mindwarp.
As ever with Fan Editing, it’s a case of doing something different and going with what personally feels right. It’s such a shame that the story itself is all wrong. We’re all acquianted with the reasons for the production team relocating the story from it’s thematically suitable habitat of New Orleans to Seville, which does nothing to support the thematic structure of the central idea of the story, out attitudes towards the food we eat. Seville should really have been Paris, or somesuch other internationally recognised culinary centre of excellence. But no, we can’t go back to Paris, we’ve already been there once for City of Death [And you can imagine how much continuity porn that would have jizzed into the script] so Seville it is. Bizarre.
But that’s not the real problem with the story, the real problem is that it’s fundamentally a bad idea. The script is far too preach-y and judgemental about our attitude to the food we eat, which is why the Androgums treat humans the way humans treat cattle and chickens, in order to point out to us that our attitude is wrong.
Which it may well be, but Holmes/Saward miss the mark here by pointing their finger at us instead of making us think, not a particularly persuasive way of changing attitudes. But for every Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstal or Jimmy Doherty there’s always some self-righteous Animal Rights Nazi ready to accuse and condemn, and that’s always a bad move if you’re trying to win hearts and minds.
Aside from the fundamental script problem, we’ve got the bloody Sontarans for no good reason other than pure fanwank, having not been in the show since The Invasion of Time and looking worse than ever, with masks that are devoid of all expression. And the costumes are just as bad. Quite aside from the wisdom of bringing back old monsters for nostalgia’s sake, instead of having a sound story reason for why it has to be them and no-one else, why do it if you can’t make them look better than they did on their last appearance?
Of all the “old monsters” JNT foisted upon the show during his time in charge, only the Cybermen arguably look better than they did last time out. The Sontarans in this story didn’t need to be Sontarans, and don’t have to be Sontarans, they could have been an entirely new race of war-like aliens who want time travel for all the difference it would have made. Okay, the Sontarans were the only ones who actually invaded Gallifrey in the Classic Series, so yes, you can try and use that to justify their inclusion if you want to.
But would the story have been fundamentally different if it had been, say, the Cybermen or the Daleks who were after the secret of symbiotic nucleii? No, it wouldn’t. And then there’s Chessene or Servalan In A Wig, which was the only reason Jackie Pearce was given the gig. Still, to her credit, she does what is asked of her and does it well, but it’s deliberate stunt casting and the reason it doesn’t work is precisely because she’s just Servalan In A Wig. If they had asked her to play Chessene the opposite of that, how much more interesting would it have been for her to play, and for us to watch?
And then we come to the biggest problem of all – Two and Jamie. If it were me, I would have been slightly uneasy about having one of my predecessors in “my” show in my very first year. Colin’s admiration for Pat is well documented and he’s quite right to praise him for having had the hardest job of anyone taking on the role.
But Two and Jamie simply shouldn’t be here, because, again, there’s no good, compelling story reason why they had to be there, why it had to be them. The story would have worked just as well with Jon or Peter, okay so the dynamics would have been different, but that’s all. Why did it have to be another Doctor at all, why not another Time Lord sent to negotiate with Dastari, who, lacking the Doctor’s adventuring expertise and experience, gets captured and needs rescuing?
At it’s simplest, it should have been Pat rescuing Colin. And it certainly should have been Jamie and not Sixie who dispatched Shockeye, but by this point in the show’s slow decline, they’re so fixated on continuity porn that they couldn’t even get that right. This edit completes the Colin Baker Era, making him the first Doctor to have had every one of his stories fan edited.