Doctor Who - The Twin Dilemma by Eric Saward

Published: March 1986

Edition read: Target first, 1986

Coolest Cover: Andrew Skilleter- whatever was wrong with ‘The Twin Dilemma’, it wasn’t the alien designs.

The BBC Budget Wouldn’t Run To: The luxurious facilities in the safe house on Titan Three.

Purple Prose: "The library, considered the best this side of Magna Twenty-eight, lifted her spirits even more.

To die in the dome, she thought, wouldn’t be a bad thing after all. At least she wouldn’t die ignorant.

And when she discovered the wine cellar, she also knew she wouldn’t die sober." (p.85)

Childhood Recollections: Not sure whether I read this all the way through, but I certainly got as far as the randy tomcat.

Ramblings: Adapting ‘The Twin Dilemma’ for the Target range must have presented something of a conundrum. As the Sixth Doctor’s debut story, it no doubt commanded a certain precedence and demanded to be adapted sooner rather than later, however given that whichever way you look at it, it’s not one of the strongest stories ever written and Anthony Steven presumably had no desire to adapt it, it fell to Eric Saward to try to make something of it. This is another case where it would have been useful to have more of an idea of Target’s lead-in times, as in early 1985 when the book was presumably commissioned, the future of Doctor Who was very much in doubt and with it Saward’s job as script editor. In that case, it’s entirely possible that Saward took the work on with an eye to having a second income in case his position as script editor suddenly ceased to exist. On the other hand, however, his approach to adapting the story is sufficiently flexible and entertaining to be able to stand in its own right.

Saward’s starting point was a set of scripts which must have seemed unspectacular on paper and, helped by poor visuals and some dreadful performances, have combined to leave the original story with one of the worst reputations of any Doctor Who story ever broadcast. Faced with what we might understatedly call something of a challenge, it’s to his credit that rather than a straightforward adaptation which would only have highlighted the original story’s inadequacies, he uses a style which takes the basics of the script as written and does something far more inventive with it. A story with more to its credit might have resisted such an approach, but Saward’s decision to turn the novelisation into a comedy works precisely because it adds to what was originally there without substantially changing the lines or the story. If the plot is restructured slightly, it’s with the understanding that what happens once we get to Joconda is less interesting than what happens on the way, so that the second half of the televised story becomes the last third of the book. But it’s hardly insignificant that Saward’s worldly (and often genuinely funny) prose is so readable that it’s sometimes a disappointment when he breaks off to return to Anthony Steven’s script.

It’s also clear that the adaptation was floating around in Saward’s mind at roughly the same time as ‘Slipback’ (of which another time); there are dozens of Saward-esque names floating around and not least another Seedle and Snatch. Having said that, however, it’s also a side of Eric Saward’s writing that we don’t often see, and while his approach owes a great deal to Douglas Adams’s pseudo-anecdotal Hitch-Hiker’s Guide style, Saward is sufficiently comfortable in it to make the approach his own. Looking at his reputation generally, however, it’s a shame that Eric Saward didn’t generally succeed in putting the same wit and vision of the Doctor Who universe into his own writing and the scripts he commissioned.