Click here to return to the main site.

Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Twin Dilemma


Author: Eric Saward
Read by: Colin Baker
RRP: £13.25, US $24.95
ISBN: 978 1 4084 6830 2
Available 05 January 2012

The Doctor has regenerated, having sacrificed his fifth persona to save Peri’s life. But things are not going well... On this occasion the process of regeneration is by no means smooth, for the even-tempered, good-humoured Fifth Doctor has given way to a rather disturbed and unsettled successor. In a particularly irascible moment, the new Doctor comes dangerously close to committing a shocking crime. Overwhelmed with guilt for his violent behaviour, the repentant Time Lord decides to become a hermit...

Eric Saward’s prose adaptation of The Twin Dilemma, first published in print by W H Allen in 1985, is far from being your standard novelisation. The 1984 serial on which it is based, credited to writer Anthony Steven but actually heavily reworked by script editor Saward, tends to languish at or near the bottom of fan rankings of Doctor Who stories. Therefore it’s hardly surprising that, as the novelist, Saward has made some changes.

He adds a lot of background to material from the first episode, which becomes the first four and a half chapters of his novelisation. He delves into the troubled mind of the twins’ father Professor Sylveste, who is addicted to Voxnic (an alcoholic beverage that is referred to several times during the narrative) and worries that the genius of his offspring will eclipse his own reputation. Perhaps inspired by the mediocre performances of the child actors who portrayed them on screen, the twins themselves are fearful savants, lacking in personality and social graces - imagine a hyper-intelligent version of Jedward. Saward’s depiction of Hugo Lang is perhaps the most startling deviation: on TV he was a heroic space pilot (with shades of Steven Taylor), but in the book he is a physical coward, interested only in political success and the wealth it will bring him. The destruction of Hugo’s fleet, which takes place off-screen in the original serial, is described here as an exciting space battle.

The events of the final three episodes are dealt with more summarily, especially those of Part Three. The true identity of Azmael and the nature of the Gastropods are revealed far earlier in the story than they are in the original serial, the role of the Chamberlain is greatly reduced, and Mestor (whose horrific description is in stark contrast to the cheap-looking boss-eyed costume seen on television - and on the book’s front cover) never exercises his power of embolism. The novelist glosses over the serial’s cliffhanger endings, which were never up to much and barely relevant to the plot in the first place. He dispenses quickly with the threat at the end of Part One, and misses out the other two altogether, also losing the time-travel nonsense surrounding the central cliffhanger.

Throughout the book, several Douglas Adams-style asides discuss such matters as the process of regeneration, the perils of using a revitalising modulator, and the fact that cats are the most intelligent life form on Earth.

Not all of the changes are for the better, however. Weak though it is, the original serial contains many great lines for the Sixth Doctor, some of which are cut here, including his “a noble brow” speech to Peri and a couple of amusing put-downs to Jacondan collaborators: “You don’t seem very popular. Have you got fowl pest?” and “Wait a minute, I know you! You’re the Chamberlain! ... I don’t like you.” Some ideas and names, such as Seedle and Slarn, are also used in Saward’s radio serial Slipback, which was in development at about the same time as this novelisation. The story’s discussion of celestial mechanics is as nonsensical as ever.

Colin Baker, who has remained the Sixth Doctor on audio for well over a decade now thanks to Big Finish Productions, is the ideal reader for this unabridged talking book. I found that I had made lots of notes about the narrative but none about the narrator, which I suppose means that Baker did a perfect job of simply conveying the story. My only criticism is that his impersonation of Peri leaves a bit to be desired.

If you like Doctor Who but dislike the television version of the Sixth Doctor’s debut, then this audio book may be the solution to your dilemma.


Richard McGinlay

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£7.69 (
£8.69 (
£10.60 (
Doctor Who: The Twin Dilemma (Unabridged) - Eric Saward
£9.95 (iTunes GB)
£9.29 (
£8.99 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.