Audio Visuals
The Time Ravagers

Synopsis: Could it be that the legendary Time being, the Temperon is not a legend after all? Or are the Daleks up to their old tricks again?


Temperon Temperon by Matthew Harris 15/5/07

The Time Ravagers, from 1985, is the first "real" A/V production after the pilot episode The Space Wail. It features the debut of the "Nth Doctor", as played by Nicholas Briggs (after Stephen Payne took the role in the pilot, making him the Mth Doctor, I suppose). In true Doctor Who style, it's actually the second story Briggs recorded as the Doctor. It features the Daleks, although not until the second episode (because it's the Daleks, and they always have to show up at the end of part one cliffhanger).

It's immediately more confident than the pilot, which is what pilots are for. The script, by Nicholas Briggs as Samuel Flint, is on a far greater scale and features concepts, like the Temperon (think the Chronovore as imagined by Jim Mortimore), which the show at the time should have killed for. Unfortunately, the script suffers from the same thing as Briggs' later The Sirens of Time (which took a lot of concepts and plot devices, notably the Temperon, from this story): there's slightly too little plot and slightly too much technobabble. Worse, almost nothing at all happens in part one because they're saving the Daleks, who are basically the only things actually moving the plot! Once they show up in part two and things start to move, things improve, partly because the Daleks are cool, certainly cooler than they could have been. It helps that they're voiced by Michael Wisher, whose squawking, highly strung Dalek voices I have a sneaking regard for, if only because they were in the first Dalek story I ever saw (the 1993 repeat of Planet, since you don't ask). The fact that Wisher could only manage a couple of semitone variants is problematic at first, but you get used to it. Fortunately, the script gives him a few panicked "KEEP AWAY KEEP AWAY" lines to shriek, which was always his speciality (the horrified Dalek leader at the start of part two of Death to the Daleks will always have a special place in my mind).

The cast are much more comfortable in their roles, Briggs' Doctor seeming a little "Edwardian frock coat" cliched at first, but then you remember this was 22 years ago and it hadn't gestated into a cliche yet. Peter Davison had just left the role and Colin Baker's Doctor was deliberately as far removed from the frock coat as possible. Briggs' Doctor is closer to the former than the latter, but he's edgier than Davison, while being just as... I want to say "gentle" but that sounds stupid. You know what I mean. Most interesting is his use of mixed aphorisms ("let's not count our blessings before they hatch") a full two years before Season 24. This Doctor is very much a citizen of the universe and a gentleman to boot, if a little too quick to call people "idiots". Briggs's is clearly the best performance in this and many other A/V productions.

(by the way, just to reinforce the timespan once again, all Paul McGann had done on TV at the time was a Play for Today and Give Us A Break, while The Monocled Mutineer was still a year away)

Richard Marson and Sally Baggs, as his companions Greg and Nadia, are also much happier. In the latter case I imagine this is because she doesn't have to play two underwritten roles as in The Space Wail. An extra dimension is given by the fact that, within the story, the Doctor's just regenerated, and these two are our only ways to "see" the result. Baggs perhaps overplays the mistrust angle, pushing it to the boundaries of likeability, but to be honest that's exactly in keeping with the character. Marson's Greg tends to be a bit of a miserable git, although this improves as Marson's acting does. No idea what that says about either the character or the actor, though...

Overall, The Time Ravagers is definitely worth your time, but the series is still finding its feet. It's laudably ambitious, though, and that immediately sets a trend...