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Recap / Doctor Who S21 E7 "The Twin Dilemma"

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"Hey! I know my behaviour's been erratic lately, but please don't take away my sexy rainbow coat!"

"I am the Doctor, whether you like it or not."
The Doctor, addressing Peri and perhaps the audience as well.

Production code: 6S

The one where the Doctor tries to murder his companion. But more importantly, it's the one where he first dons... the coat.

Written by Anthony Steven. This four-episode serial first aired from March 22—30, 1984.

The story where Colin Baker made his explosive debut as the Sixth Doctor, ratcheting wildly from one emotion to another, showing the range of Colin's acting talent in a very upfront manner.

The Doctor isn't recovering well from his regeneration, suffering mood swings, arrogance, bad temper, and terrible dress sense. He suddenly decides Peri is evil and tries to kill her, then one mood swing later is full of remorse and declares his intention to find a deserted asteroid and become a hermit. Peri is not much impressed, particularly since he seems to have decided she has to go and be a hermit too.

As luck would have it, however, the deserted asteroid is also a stopping-off point for a group of kidnappers who have just abducted a pair of identical twin geniuses to assist with a sinister plot. It isn't long before the Doctor's rediscovering his enthusiasm for saving the universe from evil telepathic giant slugs.

His dress sense seems to be altered permanently, though.


  • Artistic Licence - Space:
    • This story butchers basic astronomic facts pretty badly — specifically, when the Doctor implies that planets have to be ordered from largest-to-smallest, and that small planets can't be placed any nearer the sun because they'd instantly get sucked into it due to the "gravitational pressure" being too high. Even though this logic would mean that in real-life, both Mercury and Venus (which are both smaller than Earth and closer to our sun) should have been sucked into the sun long ago.
    • To a lesser extent, the Doctor's implication that Joconda's neighbouring planets falling into the sun would cause it to go supernova. In theory, this actually could happen... after a few centuries of the planets inhibiting the sun's reactions and leading to a slow collapse, rather than instantly causing it to explode.
  • Big Bad: Mestor.
  • Bird People: The Jacondans look distinctly avian, with a helping of Big Ol' Eyebrows and moustaches.
  • Broken Pedestal: Edgeworth/Azmael, due to his willingness to kidnap children and do other nasty things in order to rid his world of the Gastropods.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Contrived Coincidence: This deserted asteroid suddenly has an awful lot of people on it, doesn't it?
  • Creepy Twins: Romulus and Remus aren't evil, but they are spooky mathematical geniuses.
  • Deconstruction:
    • If this serial aired today, people would interpret it as a high-profile trolling effort. The Doctor regenerates back into William Hartnell, undoing all of his character development thus far, and the new costume, which has always been a bit off-beat to show the Doctor's alienness, is eye-searingly ugly but with almost no redeeming qualities to bring it around to endearingly kitschy. By all indications, this was not John Nathan-Turner's intention; Colin Baker was interested in returning to a darker, less trustworthy Doctor, and Nathan-Turner cast someone who was the polar opposite of Peter Davison. It's hard to explain the outfit, though, except as a deliberate subversion of the hallowed regeneration makeover.
    • Six and Peri Brown are assuredly the most controversial portrayal of the Doctor-Companion relationship yet, with the Doctor threatening to abduct Peri against her will and make her into his au pair.
  • Dirty Coward: The Doctor, of all people. He does a Security Cling to Peri on facing his first Cliffhanger. He gets better though.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Even beyond the obvious strangling, the Doctor's treatment of Peri in this story and the way she responds to it is uncomfortably similar to an abusive relationship. Which is often cited as yet another reason why this story and the Sixth Doctor were and are far from popular.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Anyone who has watched it will think of Romulus and Remus when hearing the title, but anyone who knows it as "the first Sixth Doctor story" will think of regeneration and his mood swings. Of course, that sentence doesn't apply to most people — any story with Peri in it is Best Known for the Fanserviceinvoked. (By the way, there's nothing in it that can really be called a dilemma).
  • Dull Surprise: Romulus and Remus. The actors were picked purely for the fact that they were identical twins and it shows.
  • Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: The twins both have this... which wouldn't be such a problem if their names didn't both start with "R".
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • The Sixth Doctor strangling Peri makes it clear how unstable this regeneration is starting off. Fortunately, the Doctor gets better.
    • Mestor has one when he sentences someone to death by embolism for the first time.
  • Expy: Mestor is a gastropod version of Jabba the Hutt.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: The Sixth Doctor, in a bout of post-regeneration psychosis, graphically strangles Peri nearly to death.
  • Grand Theft Me: One of Mestor's powers.
  • Heel Realization: In a staggering display of paranoia and something he wouldn't normally be capable of, the Doctor strangles Peri due to regeneration sickness. She would have died if she hadn't managed to shove a mirror near his face; he backs away from his reflection, cringing and hiding his face, his sanity briefly restored soon after.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Azmael deliberately triggers a regeneration at the story's end in order to destroy Mestor's consciousness. But since he doesn't have any actual regenerations left, doing so kills him in the process.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The Doctor calls out Peri's fashion when redressing, even though his fashion taste is just as bad.
  • I Hate Past Me: As usual, the Doctor doesn't think much of his former incarnation.
    [The Doctor is checking his new appearance in a mirror]
    Doctor: Ah. A noble brow. Clear gaze. At least it will be, given a few hours sleep. A firm mouth. A face beaming with a vast intelligence. My dear child, what on Earth are you complaining about? It's the most extraordinary improvement.
    Peri: On what?!
    Doctor: My last incarnation... Oh, I was never happy with that one.
    Peri: Why ever not?
    Doctor: It had a sort of feckless "charm", which simply wasn't me!
  • Idiot Ball: The Doctor unsuccessfully tries to kill Mestor, who announces that he intends to possess the Doctor's body and absorb his mind. The Doctor's former tutor, Azmael tries to warn him that this would be easy for Mestor considering the Doctor's mind is still screwed up from his recent regeneration, but the Doctor brushes off the warning and actually demands that Mestor try to possess him. Instead of possessing the Doctor, who is quite literally asking for it, Mestor possesses Azmael, just to be a Jerkass and attempt to intimidate the Doctor prior to taking him over. Azmael, by the way, is a vastly experienced Time Lord who isn't suffering post-regenerative trauma. Result: the Doctor successfully destroys Mestor's body, and then Azmael retakes control of his own body and commits suicide, taking Mestor with him.
  • Insufferable Genius: Imagine if there were two Wesley Crushers, and you've pretty much got Romulus and Remus.
    • And if you shove them into one body you'd get the Sixth Doctor!
  • Kill the Host Body: Another Time Lord working for Mestor is possessed by it. Helpless, the Time Lord dies because he was out of regenerations, killing himself and the Big Bad.
  • Knight Errant: The Doctor describes himself as one:
    I'm a knight errant, not an errant fool!
  • Large Ham: Colin Baker as the post-regeneration Sixth Doctor is something you need to see to believe.
  • Laughing Mad: The Doctor's regeneration trauma runs the gamut of emotions, from "happy drunk" to "raving paranoia" and everything in between. The wardrobe change is interrupted by a bout of existential angst.
    "Nothing but the... urk!... grinding engines of the universe! The... crushing boredom of eternity! HAAAAAHahahahAHAhahahaA!"
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The Doctor's speech to Peri near the end is no doubt meant for the audience, as well as her. The Doctor even makes a few good points, shame that didn't save him in the end...
    Doctor: And I suggest Peri that you wait a little before criticizing my new persona. You may well find it isn't quite as disagreeable as you think.
  • Mood-Swinger: The Doctor's moods are completely out of control in this story, as a result of his regeneration.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The Doctor regains his senses just in time to stop his attempt to kill Peri, and is suitably horrified at what he just did.
  • The Nth Doctor: Colin Baker makes his debut as the Doctor.
  • Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: Perhaps the best example is the symphony in higher mathematics which is composed of large pixels.
  • Out of Continues: Azmael is on his thirteenth and final incarnation, and dies for good by forcing a regeneration to kill Mestor, who was possessing him at the time.
  • Pinball Protagonist: The Doctor spends the first three episodes of the story not really achieving anything with any relevance to the plot, beyond saving Hugo's life at the start of the second episode (and even then, only after Peri talks him into it), and then his own and Peri's life at the end of that episode. Even in the last episode, his only contributions are working out what Mestor's true plan is, and then unwittingly provoking Mestor into attempting a Grand Theft Me on Azmael, in turn allowing Azmael to pull a Taking You with Me.
  • Planetary Parasite: This story features the Gastropods, a race of nearly indestructible creatures who devastated entire planets, but whose eggs couldn't hatch unless seared by a supernova first, limiting their spread.
  • Pretender Diss: The Doctor gives a brilliant one to Mestor:
    In my time, I've been threatened by experts and I don't rate you very highly at all.
  • Resurrection Sickness: The Sixth Doctor becomes dangerously psychotic and suffers from violent mood swings, first convincing himself that his companion is a spy and trying to strangle her, then declaring that he needs to become a hermit for everyone's safety when he realizes what he almost did.
  • Reveling in the New Form: The Sixth Doctor immediately takes a liking to his new form, commenting favorably on his "noble brow" when looking at his visage in the mirror before telling Peri that this regeneration is an improvement over his "effete" predecessor.
  • Shout-Out: The Doctor quotes from the epic poem "Excelsior."
  • Single-Minded Twins: Romulus and Remus
  • Space Clothes
  • Taking You with Me: Mestor possesses Azmael, and is defeated when the latter forces a regeneration despite being on his final incarnation. This ultimately kills the both of them.
  • Teleporters and Transporters
  • Theme Twin Naming: Romulus and Remus.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: The Doctor's short-lived career as a hermit.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Had Mestor just taken over the Doctor at the end of the story like he claimed he could, he would have won. Instead, he screws around and decides to possess Azmael, a more experienced Time Lord who isn't in the throes of post-regenerative trauma, which leads directly to his defeat.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Peri's dismay at what the Doctor has become sums it up:
    Peri: You were almost young! I really liked you! And you were sweet, and—
    Doctor: Sweet? Effete! Sweet? Sweet? Sweet? Huh, that says it all!
    • The Doctor has a similar moment with Azmael later on.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Peri does not take the Doctor's attempt at strangling her well, not to mention all his mood swings and unpredictable behaviour.
  • You Say Tomato: A Running Gag in this story is the different ways in which "Lieutenant" is pronounced, with Peri saying "Loo-ten-ant" (the American pronunciation) and the Doctor and Lang saying "Leff-ten-ant" (the British pronunciation).


Video Example(s):


Six admires his new self

The freshly-regenerated Sixth Doctor immediately takes a liking to his new self, admiring his "noble brow" in the mirror and assuring Peri that this change is a definite improvement over his previous incarnation.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / RevelingInTheNewForm

Media sources: