The Twin Dilemma (TV story)

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The Twin Dilemma was the seventh and final serial of season 21 of Doctor Who. It was the first full story to feature Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor, uniquely being the final story of the season. It was also the last story to feature half-hour episodes until Season 23, and the first episode since 1966's The Power of the Daleks to feature a new Doctor's full debut partway through a season (rather than at the start).

The debut serial of the Sixth Doctor introduced a new and more colourful rendition of the starfield-themed title sequence by Sid Sutton, which featured the Sixth's Doctor's face appearing in a flash of rainbow streaks and changing from a smile to a large grin (the first time a Doctor's face was shown to change facial expressions during the title sequence), as well as a slightly redesigned version of the show's neon tube-stylised logo, now more curved in an upward arc and with the addition of blue, indigo and purple highlights. Both the new title sequence and logo remained in use to the end of Season 23.

This story has received an especially bad track record for criticism, a complete contrast to the reception of the previous serial. Three polls in 1998, 2009, and 2014 voted it the worst Doctor Who television story ever (DWM 265, DWM 413, DWM 474) and the 2023 poll voted it the worst Sixth Doctor story. (DWM 591) The poll in 2003 used a different voting system and The Twin Dilemma was not among the twenty-five stories which received no votes, placing it higher than last place. (DWMSE 6)

In SFX #150, Russell T Davies cites this story as "the beginning of the end" of Doctor Who


The Doctor has regenerated and all is not well. Confused, angry and acting strangely, the new Doctor decides to become a hermit, taking his concerned companion Peri to a desolate asteroid where he plans to live for several centuries.

The time travellers soon uncover a plot that threatens the entire galaxy. But who is the mysterious Professor Edgeworth? Why has an alien Gastropod kidnapped twins? And will the Doctor recover in time to stop Gastropods taking over the universe?


Part one[[edit]]

After his regeneration following the events on Androzani Major and Minor, (TV: The Caves of Androzani) the new Doctor starts behaving erratically. Peri is still shocked by the Doctor's change and has him look at his reflection in her compact mirror. The Doctor is happy with his new features, and, claiming not to be happy with his last incarnation, decides that he must change out of his predecessor's clothing and find a new outfit fitting his new persona. He goes to the wardrobe and starts looking for a new outfit, finding a glaring, mismatched, brightly coloured coat, to which he immediately takes a shine to. Peri tells him that he could not possibly go outside wearing such an awful garb, to which the Doctor takes offence.

Two twins, Romulus and Remus Sylvest, receive a visitation from a mysterious old man called Professor Edgeworth. They question how he managed to get inside their house. He tells them he will return when their father is there, then proceeds to take control of their minds. The trio disappear. They arrive on a spacecraft in deep space. Edgeworth then communicates with his superior, a slug-like creature called Mestor, who instructs Edgeworth to take the twins to Titan III.

In the console room, the Doctor is working at the console after dressing in a terribly mismatched outfit. Peri enters in a new blue outfit similar to her old one and asks how it looks. The Doctor responds, "Yuck", to her as she had done to his choice in clothing. He then enquires about Peri’s uncommon name. He suddenly quotes a poem about a peri — a good and beautiful fairy in Persian mythology, but one which used to be evil. The Doctor then accuses Peri of being evil, and of being an alien spy, before rushing toward her and throttling her. He catches a sight of his own manic face in a mirror and collapses in a heap, releasing Peri. When she tells him that he tried to kill her, he initially denies he could be capable of such an act unless it is in self-defence. Seeing how terrified of him she is, he is horrified by his actions and decides he must become a hermit on the desolate asteroid Titan III as his punishment until he is properly humiliated.

The twins' father contacts the authorities; he found Zanium in their room — a residue of their transmat and a sure sign of kidnap. Lieutenant Hugo Lang begins the pursuit and soon finds a suspicious ship previously reported missing. He tries to contact it, but it enters warp drive, something that class of ship is not designed to do.

On Titan III, as the Doctor contemplates a thousand years of solitude and Peri expresses her disapproval, they hear the crash landing. Examining the wreckage, they find the concussed body of Lang. They take him back to the TARDIS where he reveals his whole squadron has been destroyed. Believing the Doctor to be responsible for the crime, he points his gun at the Time Lord and threatens to kill him...

Part two[[edit]]

Peri pleads with Lang, telling him that the Doctor had, in fact, saved him, but he faints away. The Doctor is not keen to treat Lang, more concerned for his own life, but eventually agrees to Peri's persuasion.

Edgeworth argues with Romulus and Remus, making them do Mestor's work. He scolds them for setting up a distress signal, so they are not allowed to use electronic equipment to solve the equations they have been set. An image of Mestor appears and gives the twins a more blunt threat — work for him or have their minds destroyed.

On the TARDIS scanner, the Doctor and Peri see a building — something which has no place on an uninhabited asteroid. Leaving Lang behind, they find a tunnel which may lead to the building, but while exploring they are found by two aliens wielding guns. The Doctor cowers in fear and pleads with them not to shoot him, blaming the situation on Peri. They are led off and are brought before Edgeworth. The Doctor claims to be a pilgrim to Titan III, but Noma, one of the aliens, says they are spies and should be shot. The Doctor suddenly recognises Edgeworth as an old friend - Azmael, master of Jaconda, whom he last saw during his fourth incarnation. When the Doctor sees Romulus and Remus and discovers it is Azmael who has abducted them, he is disgusted. Azmael teleports away with the twins and the aliens, leaving the Doctor and Peri locked in the building. The Doctor starts to break the lock's combination, but Peri discovers Noma has set the base to self-destruct. The Doctor improvises a solution to teleport them back to the TARDIS. Peri makes a successful return, but the Doctor has not appeared when she sees the base explode on the scanner...

Part three[[edit]]

A glimpse of the Doctor is seen appearing in the TARDIS; he was delayed returning because he was using Peri's watch to synchronise their arrival, but the watch had stopped. The Doctor is surprised at Peri's compassion when she thought he had died.

On Jaconda, Mestor is seen putting one of the bird-like Jacondans to death for the petty offence of stealing a few vegetables. Soon, the TARDIS arrives, but instead of the expected beautiful planet the Doctor is expecting, he, Peri and Lang find a desolate wasteland covered with giant Gastropod trails. The Doctor is reluctant to go to the palace, scared for his own life, but is persuaded to take Lang there in the TARDIS. In the palace corridors, they see murals depicting Jaconda's history, depicting the slugs of myth - but it appears that they are now all too real. After avoiding some Gastropods, Lang gets stuck in their slime trail.

Azmael takes the twins to his laboratory and shows them a storeroom full of Gastropod eggs. Mestor arrives and tries to persuade them that his aims are benevolent. Azmael begs him to stop reading his thoughts and stop Noma watching his every move. He agrees and leaves. Azmael explains to the twins that Mestor usurped him as leader of Jaconda and outlines a plan to draw two outlying planets into the same orbit as Jaconda. The twins' genius is required to stabilise those planets in their new orbit. The Doctor, leaving Peri and Lang behind, finds Azmael's lab. In a manic fit of pique, he attacks Azmael but is restrained by a Jacondan and the twins. The Doctor apologises to Azmael but demands to know what is going on.

Meanwhile, Peri is captured by Jacondan guards and brought before Mestor. When Lang escapes to Azmael's lab and informs them what has happened, the Doctor finally shows compassion for her when he thinks she might die...

Part four[[edit]]

Mestor refrains from killing Peri immediately, finding her appearance pleasing. Jacondan guards arrive in Azmael's lab and seize the Doctor. The Doctor tells Mestor that he ought to allow him to assist with the dangerous operation of moving the planets, as a single mistake could blow a hole in that corner of the universe. Back in the laboratory, Azmael informs the Doctor the details of the plan to bring the planets into the same orbit — they will be placed in different time zones using time travel technology that Mestor stole from Azmael. The Doctor realises that, as the other planets are smaller than Jaconda, bringing them closer to Jaconda's sun will lead to catastrophe. The Doctor enters the egg storeroom and is disturbed that they have no nutritional mucus. He tries to cut one open with a laser cutter; the shell is impenetrable, but the egg reacts slightly to the heat. The Doctor realises they have been designed to withstand the heat of an exploding sun — the explosion of the Jacondan sun will scatter the eggs throughout the universe. When they hatch, the Gastropods will conquer the universe.

The one remaining Jacondan in the lab collapses dead, his mind burnt out. Mestor had been using him as a monitor and knows the full details of what has been discussed. Peri, Lang and the twins return to the TARDIS, whilst the Doctor and Azmael go to confront Mestor. When Mestor refuses to abandon his plans, the Doctor hurls a vial of acid taken from the lab at him, but a force field protects Mestor from any harm. Mestor threatens to possess the Doctor's mind and body and demonstrates by taking control of Azmael's body. Azmael tells the Doctor to destroy Mestor's body before he can return to it, which he does with a second vial. Then Azmael, in his last regeneration, forces himself to regenerate — killing himself — and in doing so destroys Mestor. Dying, Azmael says he has no regrets and that one of his fondest memories was a time spent with the Doctor by the fountain.

The Doctor and Peri return to the TARDIS. Lang has no family back on Earth and decides to stay behind on Jaconda to assist with their rebuilding. When Peri tells the Doctor off for being rude, he reminds her that he is an alien, with alien sensibilities: "I am the Doctor, whether you like it or not!"


Uncredited cast[[edit]]



Cultural references to real world[[edit]]


  • Zanium on the floor of the twins' room is evidence of an extraterrestrial kidnap.

The Doctor[[edit]]

  • The Doctor has recently regenerated from his fifth incarnation.
  • The Doctor calls the regeneration "renewal" in a similar way to his second incarnation and shows its side effects, such as violent fits which last temporarily.
  • The Sixth Doctor dismisses his previous incarnation by saying "He had a sort of feckless charm, which simply wasn't me".
  • The Doctor likens himself to a knight-errant.



  • A Jacondian myth tells that the Sun God was offended by a queen and sent the Gastropods to the planet.



  • Azmael last met the Doctor in the Doctor's fourth incarnation. On that occasion, Azmael got so drunk the Doctor needed to throw him into a fountain to sober him up.
  • The Doctor states that Azmael was the best teacher he ever had.
  • Hugo Lang is an officer of the Interplanetary Pursuit.
  • Azmeal is on his final life. He triggers a regeneration to get rid of Mestor when he possesses his body. It kills him.


  • Warp drive was installed on the freighter XV773 by the kidnappers of Romulus and Remus Sylvest, since the XV class of freighter was never built for it.
  • Professor Edgeworth uses transmat technology.
  • Mestor is able to open the TARDIS' door with a green ray.
  • Azmael attaches green circles on the wrists of the twins, causing a selective amnesia and a form of mind control.
  • Azmael intends to use a tractor beam to move two planets into the same orbit with Jaconda.
  • Azmael subjects himself to a revitalising modulator. The Doctor reprogrammes it to work as a limited time machine.
  • Mestor executes disagreeable people with a green ray which causes embolisms.

Story notes[[edit]]

  • This story had working titles of A Stitch In Time and A Switch In Time.
  • New opening and closing title sequences make their debut, which include a more colourful version than the previous one, incorporating Colin Baker's face rather than Peter Davison's, designed by Sid Sutton and Terry Handley. It used two different photos of the Doctor's face and featured the additions of numerous multicolour effects, such as a blueish-purple tunnel of spangle-like lights and red & green stars flying in to reveal the image of the Doctor. This sequence was mainly implemented to coincide with the new Doctor's multicolour outfit.
  • If The Trial of a Time Lord is counted as one 14-part story, The Twin Dilemma is in fact, the only Sixth Doctor story to feature the (at the time) traditional four-part format.
  • The cat badge worn by the Doctor in his lapel for this story was hand-made and painted by Suzie Trevor, and purchased for the programme from a specialist badge shop in central London.
  • Fabian was originally envisaged as a male character and the Jacondan Chamberlain as a female one.
  • The Doctor attempting to strangle Peri marks the first and to date only, time on television that the Doctor has attempted to kill a companion, if one doesn't count his destruction of Kamelion, considering that it was an android and that the act was an assisted suicide.
  • When in 2009, readers of Doctor Who Magazine voted on their favourite story, The Twin Dilemma came in at 200, making it their least favourite Doctor Who story. This dubious honour was achieved at about the same time the story was released to DVD in the UK, completing the DVD releases of the Sixth Doctor era. The previous story, The Caves of Androzani, was voted number 1, effectively bookending the charts.
  • While the date this story occurs is not stated in the story itself, the novelisation says that it has been five hundred years since 1810 and dialogue in AUDIO: Daleks Among Us firmly places it in 2310.
  • This is the last story to broadcast in the format that has been used since Castrovalva with two 25-minute episodes being broadcast each week on weekdays.
  • Colin Baker also provides, uncredited, the voice of a Jacondan at Freighter Control in part three.
  • The original script featured the Jacondans and Gastropods being dropped totally without resolution to the plot, with the final battle taking place in another dimension against a being called Azlan who was controlling Mestor all along.
  • Peter Moffatt described this story as the worst serial he ever did. Eric Saward felt the script was lousy, "but it started as a half-decent idea".
  • John Nathan-Turner and Eric Saward had different ideas as to what the Sixth Doctor's debut story should be. Nathan-Turner wanted a straightforward adventure pitting the Doctor against a strong villain, while Saward felt that the new Doctor's personality would be better showcased in a more unusual storyline. This would only serve to be the beginning of mounting tensions between the two of them (Saward having never been keen on Colin Baker's casting in the first place) that would ultimately lead to Saward resigning as script editor by the end of Season 23.
  • Anthony Steven's progress on the scripts was very slow, and he began offering the production team fantastical excuses such as his electric typewriter exploding. He eventually fell ill, leaving Eric Saward to heavily restructure the scripts, which Peter Moffatt felt had serious logistical and storytelling problems.
  • Ian Levine suggested that Azmael be the Doctor's old hermit mentor, referred to in The Time Monster and State of Decay. Unfortunately, Anthony Steven misunderstood the nature of the Doctor's relationship with the character, and made him a tutor at the Prydonian Academy instead.
  • John Nathan-Turner was encouraged to cast two more experienced female actors as Romulus and Remus, but chose male actors because he believed it was crucial the characters be boys for the script to work.
  • Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant had a frosty start to their relationship. Bryant had been nervous about suddenly becoming the senior member of the regular cast, and Baker had mistaken this for standoffishness on her part. Then on one occasion, Baker bit Bryant on the backside as a joke, which she tolerated. Kevin McNally did the same, prompting her to punch him in the face. Baker took Bryant out to dinner as a way of apology and they eventually became friends.
  • Harry Andrews, Bernard ArchardGeoffrey Bayldon and Peter Cushing were considered for Azmael.
  • Peter Capaldi was considered for Hugo.
  • Nick Brimble, Peter Childs, Emrys James, David Jackson and Bruce Purchase were considered for Noma.
  • Jim Broadbent was considered for Drak.
  • Dennis Chinnery replaced Peter Clay as Sylvest.
  • Colin Baker named this his least favourite story of his era, citing many reasons and stating that the titular twins couldn't act.
  • Commander Fabian's name was an homage to Fabian of the Yard.
  • Azmael took his name from Azazel, a fallen angel described in the Book of Enoch. Remus and Romulus Sylvest were named after the legendary founders of Rome.
  • A studio session was lost due to a strike by the BBC's scenery shifters, which had previously crippled The Caves of Androzani.
  • Peter Moffatt struggled to find twin boys to play Romulus and Remus. At one point, they were going to be girls, but John Nathan-Turner insisted that they be boys. At the last minute, Moffatt was approached by an agent representing Andrew and Gavin Conrad. Moffatt was unimpressed by the boys' acting ability and lack of experience, but he reluctantly agreed to hire them all the same.
  • Andrew and Gavin Conrad's father father, Les Conrad, had been an extra on the show on several occasions, and was given the non-speaking role of a Jocondan guard so that he could serve as the boys' chaperone.
  • Kevin McNally admitted to having a crush on Nicola Bryant. When he confessed it to her many decades later she respond that she knew.
  • The script instructed that the youths would be "Fourteen-year-old twin children ..dark, extremely good looking, almost sexually so."
  • The DVD release of this story on 7 September 2009 marked the first instance in which it was possible to watch a classic series Doctor's complete run on DVD without interruption.


  • Part one - 7.6 million viewers
  • Part two - 7.4 million viewers
  • Part three - 7.0 million viewers
  • Part four - 6.3 million viewers


  • The Edgeworth character was originally intended to be the First Doctor. (He wasn't. This is likely due to Saward's novelisation where he describes Azmael as "like Father Christmas without the beard"; a commonly quoted descriptor for the First Doctor by William Hartnell. However this was merely intended as an in-joke and should not be taken too seriously.)
  • Similarly, Azmael was at one point intended to be a returning K'anpo Rimpoche, regenerated into a new body. (This is nearer the truth, but not quite correct. Originally, Eric Saward asked Anthony Steven to add the hermit previously mentioned in The Time Monster as a character in this story. However, through Steven misunderstanding the request and/or Ian Levine pointing out that K'anpo had already appeared on-screen, the new character of Azmael instead ended up being added to the story.)

Filming locations[[edit]]

Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The uncredited person providing the service of wardrobe continuity makes an error in the first moment of part one. After the Doctor regenerates, a smudge of mud disappeared from his sweater.
  • The director commits a sin of blocking. Because of where he has Gavin and Andrew Conrad sit in one scene, the actors must be awkwardly repositioned in another. When the twins are playing equations, they suddenly move about a metre apart so that they have room to turn around and face each other.
  • The silver computer terminal in the safe house on Titan III is prone to wobbling — most obviously when Peri spots the bomb and the Doctor walks away to have a look.
  • In part three, when the TARDIS arrives on the supposedly decimated Jaconda, grass and trees can be seen in the background.
  • When the Doctor makes his first attempt on Mestor's life, the "acid" leaves a large powder stain on the glass shield protecting Edwin Richfield. On top of that, it knocks the shield back and causes it to start reflecting the studio lights. Colin Baker also conspicuously realises he's off his mark for the next shot, and side-steps closer to Maurice Denham so that he's positioned correctly.
  • At numerous points during the scenes in the TARDIS console room, a wire can be seen sticking out of the console, trailing across the floor and disappearing into a nearby wall.


Home video and audio releases[[edit]]

VHS Release[[edit]]

  • The Twin Dilemma was released on VHS video in May 1992, available exclusively from branches of Woolworths to tie-in with a special promotion. It was given a full release the following year.
  • UK VHS cover

    UK VHS cover

  • US VHS cover

    US VHS cover

  • AUS VHS cover

    AUS VHS cover

DVD Release[[edit]]

The Twin Dilemma was released on DVD on September 7th, 2009 in the UK, 3rd December 2009 in Australia, and 5th January 2010 in North America. This was the last Colin Baker story to be released on DVD.

Special Features[[edit]]

External links[[edit]]