Saturday, August 11, 2018

Smorgasbord of the Doctor

There are a lot of reasons The Two Doctors is significant for Doctor Who canon, but the three parter doesn't really get to the meat, so to speak, of the story until the third episode. This is where writer Robert Holmes really leaned into trying to convince the audience to go vegetarian while convincing the Doctor in the process. I doubt he actually converted many, if any, viewers but the attempt is entertainingly grotesque.

This is the first time two incarnations of the Doctor, Six (Colin Baker) and Two (Patrick Troughton) met without it being an anniversary episode and it's the first time the show shot on location in Spain. Like City of Death and Arc of Infinity (shot in Paris and Amsterdam, respectively), The Two Doctors makes use of the beautiful scenery. Which is always really refreshing for a show typically shot on cheap plywood sets.

I wonder what the locals made of this trio. Colin Baker was coaxed out of his coat by the incredible heat in Seville and Jamie's (Frazer Hines) removed a black coat that had initially accompanied this costume. I rather wish Jamie had actually dressed like that all the time during his original tenure on the show. He almost looks like the character he inspired on Outlander.

Meanwhile, Peri (Nicola Bryant), of course, was already showing plenty of skin. The Sixth Doctor's companion for most of his run, Peri is notorious for being weakly performed and written, her character concept apparently being primarily about her physical beauty. But, yeah, she's a knock out. Those gams . . .

And Robert Holmes was eager to use every asset to push his message. The second episode cliffhanger is Peri being straddled by Shockeye (John Stratton) with a point of view shot from her of him leering down at her with grasping hands saying, "Pretty, pretty." It looks like he's about to rape her and that's likely the intended impression. But, no, of course he simply wants to chop her up, cook her and eat her. The strategy here is to transfer the horror of one crime to another and maybe also for the young viewer, lusting after Peri, to be horrified at what a colossally ugly waste it would be for her to be slaughtered beyond recognition.

Later, Jamie, the Second Doctor's companion, receives a similar threat as Shockeye is busy "tenderising" the meat unconscious on the table. Also in Holmes' arsenal are scenes of Shockeye and Two arm in arm like a couple Mr. Hydes on the town in top hats, eager to sample all kinds of cuisine.

Of course, if this kind of thing really turned people into vegetarians, no-one who's ever seen Cannibal Holocaust would think of touching meat again. Activist vegetarians so often think that meat eaters haven't made the connexion mentally between the food on their plate and the happy little calf bounding about in the field but that's not true. People are quite conscious of compartmentalising and they have no qualms about it, some even relish in it (again, see Cannibal Holocaust. Or rather, don't). Even as a vegetarian myself, I can't help but laugh watching Two and Shockeye grinning at the waiter and the waiter misunderstanding when Shockeye asks, "Do you serve humans?"

The serial also features Jacqueline Pearce as the chief villain, an Androgam like Shockeye, but one who's been genetically altered to stabilise her appetite. Despite his apparent disgust for Androgams, the Second Doctor very amusingly points out how stupid it is to go to the trouble of modifying one species to behave like another.

Six does not benefit from being placed beside Two, of course. It's hard to say exactly what it is but somehow when Two says, "Come along, Peri," it's with infinitely more gentle understanding, even if Two, like all the Doctors, is supposed to be a bit self absorbed. Something about Colin Baker's performance is just so tinny and disconnected in a way that's difficult to describe.

Twitter Sonnet #1143

The cutlery across the kitchen moved.
Accord asserted by the forks awoke.
As nothing filled the spoon could prove.
A story cut is not in full revoked.
Continued stars inflame the worlds below.
A watch the size of pockets ticked apace.
A row of silent daisies think, "Hello."
An army brought an ant for just in case.
A cycle starts again but in a car.
An amber motor's gone without a sound.
Elab'rate hats adorn the taller tsar.
His cap was set too high to see the ground.
The hedges hid an empty plot of grass.
A cloud of wasps became a pretty mass.

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