Doctor Who: The Two Doctors (part one)

I had fun presenting tonight’s story to our son. I cued it up partway through the credits, pausing on “By Robert Holmes.” That way, he was very surprised to see the show begin in black and white and with an older Doctor at the TARDIS console.

So, a couple of huge points about “The Two Doctors.” First, obviously, it features the return of Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines as the second Doctor and Jamie, but they’re not quite the same as when we last saw them traveling together sixteen years ago. They’re visibly older – Hines was in his early forties when this was made – they’re on a mission for the Time Lords, of whom Jamie had never heard until his final appearance (“The War Games”), and they mention that Victoria, who had left the duo about a year prior to Jamie’s final appearance, is not with them on this mission because they dropped her off somewhere to study graphology.

So this doesn’t actually fit into the show’s established continuity very neatly at all. Nor does that one bit in “The Five Doctors” where we learn the second Doctor came from a point in time after the events of his and Jamie’s final story. So all of this sparked a terrific fan theory called “season 6B,” which Terrance Dicks, who wrote both “The War Games” and “The Five Doctors,” and script edited the show for the period before and after “Games,” later confirmed in a novel for the BBC called Players. Immediately after the Doctor went tumbling into a void at the end of “The War Games,” some other Time Lords interrupted things and told our hero that before his exile would begin, they would be requiring his services for some very discreet and very sensitive situations where the Time Lords could not act openly. The Doctor would be available to step in and do their dirty work for them, maintaining some plausible deniability.

So in Players, the Doctor has a solo mission for his new superiors, and it ends with him saying that he works better with an assistant and would like them to pick up Jamie and restore his memory. From there the pair work together for several years and reunite with Victoria at some point, and then have this adventure, crossing paths with the sixth Doctor and Peri.

I’ve always thought this was a blindingly fun retcon. It’s pear-shaped and not the smoothest one you could invent, but since it was beaten into shape by Terrance Dicks himself in a novel for the BBC, it’s as close to authority as it can be. But more about this in the comments, because I spend a lot of words on it.

The second huge point is that this introduces a character who Teenage Me thought was just about the greatest and most fun character in all of fiction: Shockeye o’the Qwancing Grig. (Teenage Me was prone to hyperbole.)

Shockeye is an Androgum, which is a very strong humanoid that lives on base instincts, shouldn’t have the capacity for intellectual reasoning, absolutely loves food, and has really been looking forward to eating a human for the first time. He’s played by John Stratton and he gets all the best dialogue. “Religion? I am not interested in the beliefs of primitives, only in what they taste like,” he bellows at one point, which isn’t the best line delivery ever, in retrospect, but I sure did love it in high school. I also overquoted one of the Sontarans in the story as often as possible, snapping “I do not take orders from civilians” whenever I could.

We had this semester-long creative writing exercise when I was in the tenth grade and had to keep using the same characters in our own stories, and use the characters that other people in our team had created. I just cheated and stole Shockeye for mine and didn’t tell anybody. I remember everybody else’s take on my version of Shockeye being very amusing. I was also friends with a fellow at another school and played GURPS for several months with his mates. I just rolled up Shockeye, and entertained myself with my character wanting to eat all the other members of the party.

And I’d have done exactly the same thing with the Kandyman had he been around at that time. Oh, that would have been fun. I can’t wait for my son to meet him in the summer…

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1 Comment

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One response to “Doctor Who: The Two Doctors (part one)

  1. Terrance Dicks may have given this retcon the most authority one could have, but this hasn’t stopped some fan commentators, most notably Tat Wood, from bending over backwards to deny it. A couple of the sidebar essays in About Time are really great – one of them is the very best thing about Volume Seven – but there are some howlingly awful ones as well, and Wood’s denial of “Season 6B” might be the most idiotic. Wood’s principal argument against it is a pretty strong point: Victoria was a whimpering teenager who hated scary monsters and would be unlikely to rejoin our heroes.

    And that’s true, if we assume that the Victoria who passed on this mission was still that same whimpering teenager, which is a strange assumption to make when we’re looking at 41 year-old Frazer Hines as Jamie. It’s also a strange assumption to imagine that these Time Lords who are keeping the Doctor available for missions are allowing him to run into any scary monsters where he might be killed, instead of keeping him on a tighter leash.

    Here’s a much safer assumption: the Doctor and Jamie work with an older Victoria, who has been living on Earth in the late 20th Century since we last saw her in “Fury from the Deep.” Victoria is in her late thirties and can decide which missions she wants to undertake with her old friends. When they pop in to tell her about this trip to Dastari’s space station, she declines in favor of studying graphology.

    In fact, since it’s reasonable to suppose the Time Lords are keeping the Doctor out of the random danger of death at the claws and laser guns of scary monsters, it’s also reasonable to assume that the Doctor and Jamie are only traveling at all with their express permission. Perhaps they live down the road from Victoria on Earth, and when he gets bored because the Time Lords haven’t given him the keys to his ride, the Doctor goes to thrift shops and buys racks and racks of clothes for the ship’s wardrobes for all the people who’ll one day travel with him… once he gets his freedom back.

    That’s not so hard to make fit, is it?

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