When Colin Baker took on the role of the Doctor, something marvellous occurred. More than ever since the first regeneration, there were moments when one could really have believed that this was truly the same character that had featured on the show in its beginning. At times Colin Baker even seems to look like William Hartnell in his facial expressions. If William Hartnell had lived to see this era of the show, I think he would have felt proud, and satisfied.
Of course, Colin Baker also does a marvellous job of depicting the Doctor having undergone an unstable regeneration. While the Doctor often behaved bizarrely or became unwell immediately after regenerating, this time the Doctor seemed, as the Doctor himself puts it in the episode, “regenerated yet unregenerate.” But the characteristics we see are actually simply the Doctor’s worst traits accentuated: He has a penchant for paranoia, such as we saw in his attitude towards Barbara and Ian during early episodes such as “The Edge of Destruction.” He at times shows profound cowardice, in a manner that takes Patrick Troughton’s Doctor who runs away to new levels. And of course, there is the arrogance which has always characterized the Doctor – even the fifth Doctor, whom Peri characterized as “sweet” much to the new Doctor’s disgust.
The Doctor emphasizes that he is literally an alien, and thus his values and morals are not going to always seem appropriate from a human perspective. That too was a point the first Doctor made frequently.
The Doctor quite characteristically views his new self as an improvement. When the Doctor seems to come to his senses, and realizes how badly he has behaved towards Peri in particular, he says “Self pity is all I have left” in a manner that foreshadows the eleventh Doctor’s penchant for self-loathing.And of course, his taste in clothing was only slightly worse than it had ever been.
As far as religious themes and imagery are concerned, several points come up. The human twins whose exceptional math genius is central to the story are named Romulus and Remus. The Doctor in an outburst of paranoia accuses Peri of beeing a “Peeri,” a fairy from Persian mythology (right before trying to strangle her). When he becomes repentant, he proposes becoming a hermit pursuing a life of contemplation – if necessary for a thousand years – with Peri as his disciple. This is an expression of penitance, and a desire to atone for what he had done.
The planet Jaconda’s mythology also features, and the giant gastropods that were assumed to be the stuff of legend turn out to be real. According to their myth, the queen of Jaconda offended the sun god, who sent the gastropods to ravish the planet. But seeing the devestation, he had a change of heart and sent a drought to get rid of them. Apparently something like this actually happened, and the gastropods survived, and their ruler now had a plan to spread his race throughout the universe.
The episode ends with the wonderfully confident to the point of arrogance assertion by the Doctor that Peri might find that his new persona isn’t all that bad, adding, “I am the Doctor – whether you like it or not.”
The Colin Baker era is often viewed as something of a new direction for the show, with the Doctor behaving rather manically at times. But having watched the episodes from the William Hartnell era so recently, it seems to me rather to represent a return to the character’s roots. What do other fans of the show think?