The Deadly Assassin
The Invasion of Time
|Dates||Feb. 4, 1978 -
Mar. 11, 1978
With Tom Baker, Louise Jameson,
John Leeson as the vioce of "K9".
Written by David Agnew (Anthony Read and Graham Williams).
Script-edited by Anthony Read. Directed by Gerald Blake.
Produced by Graham Williams.
|Synopsis: The Doctor becomes Gallifrey's worst enemy as he betrays his people to alien invaders... or is he playing a dangerous game of double-bluff?|
A Gallifreyan Plot by Paul X 2/7/98
The Invasion of Time is a puzzling story to evaluate because there are plenty of good & bad things about it. Typical of a Graham Williams story, the plot has many twists & turns to keep the viewer interested over 6 episodes. Some shoddy sets, questionable acting/characterization, & conflicts to The Deadly Assassin are a few criticisms that detract from the story.
The sequences involving the lower levels of Galliffrey fail to convey any technological sophistication. When the Doctor attempts to disconnect the shields, it looks as if Tom Baker is messing around with the heating system of a hotel rather than a complicated piece of engineering protecting the entire planet. The idea of the Doctor tinkering with the system is fine, but the execution of the scenes make it hard to take seriously. On the flip side, the episodes inside the Tardis are harshly criticized because of the "normal" looking interiors such as the concrete steps, masonry corridors, infirmary with regular glass/wooden doors, & workshop that looks more like a high school wood shop. The unpredictable ordinariness & unusual mish-mash of styles creates a richer overall impression of the ship rather than all the sterile rondels that became typical later in the show's history. Agreeably the scenes probably could've been lit better, but the end result leaves the the impression the Tardis interior is as bizarre as its owner.
The Vardans & Sontarans start off well as villains but regress to comedic foils. The opening sequences aboard the Vardan ship are mysterious. The Vardan dialog while the Doctor is being inducted as president is vague & chilling. Even when they are physically introduced @ the end of episode 2, it's unsure who these invaders are. Their means of traveling along wavelengths & the possibilities of the Matrix being invaded are not fully explored. These are great conceptual ideas not executed effectively. However, the shimmering tin-foil effect wears thin & when they finally materialize as bumbling plumbers, it's a real let down. The simplicity with they are dispatched (placing a ton of jewelry on K-9 & voila! time loop) could have been resolved differently
The Sontarans fair much better. Their introduction at the end of episode 4 is unexpected. The intimidating instrumental music captures the moment perfectly. The initial massacre conveys the Sontarans are more formidable & bloodthirsty than the Vardans. The Sontarans are supposed to be a very deadly, powerful enemy, yet they too degenerate into buffoons. The ease which the Doctor deals with them, & in some cases the comedic manner in which he does, detracts from their impact. The demat gun, which ultimately resolves everything, seems like too easy a solution, "deus ex machina" at work. Still, compared to the "tinny" Vardans, one really can't complain.
Unlike in The Deadly Assassin the Time Lords are stereotypically overplayed as dignified technocrats lacking creativity, ingenuity, or depth. With the exception of Borusa, definitively portrayed by John Arnatt, all the other Gallifreyan charcters seem like cardboard cutouts. Andred is a dashing hero w/ little to do except look dashing. Kelner is an obqsequious sycophant fawning after the Vardans/Sontarans. Rodan is a book smart time lady obtuse to the situations around her. Although an interesting idea, the outlers (Shobogans?) are a rather dull tribe of Gallifreyan drop-outs. The Time Lords play second fiddle to the Doctor, much in the same way UNIT did towards the end of the 3rd Doctor's tenure. The heavy handed manner in which the Doctor is differentiated from other Gallifreyans makes it difficult to believe such a society is capable of great technological achievement.
Lastly the main roles are pretty well characterized except for Leela. Although one of the most independent & well portrayed companions, Leela is given a bum deal in this story. Throughout Leela's lack of education is handled in a condescending manner, even in the final Tardis scene..."I'll miss you too, savage....". Several occasions her limited vocabulary is targeted for some humor. In the end, Leela comes off more as a childish primitive rather than an instinctively intelligent warrior. This is unfortunate because Louise Jamieson's portrayal had been brilliant for most of her stories. Her staying behind to marry Andred is preposterous; a more suitable parting might have been to have the Time Lords return her to the Sevateem, perhaps to marry Tomas, if anyone at all.
All in all, I find The Invasion of Time to be an enjoyable story, probably because I saw it for the first time as a child & could appreciate it @ a more superficial level. As with most Graham Williams stories, the details do not live up to the conceptual ideas behind them, but it's still fun watch.
Characterisation by Tom May 10/7/98
"It's all about telling stories. Nothing else Matters."
In his interesting review of The Invasion of Time, Paul X raises some oddly valid points, yet I feel fails to fully adumbrate a crucial factor in the story's favour: Charcterisation of the Doctor, and the way his character is decipted in contrast to the other characters.
Firstly, I would agree that the mundanity of the interior TARDIS sequences is a success, especially in relation to the "sterileness" of the JNT era TARDIS. The opening exchanges between the Doctor and the Vardans are disconcertingly subversive. Subversive in that here, probably for the first time in Doctor Who, we see the Doctor behaving in a morally ambigious way, apparently selling out the Time Lords in favour of a clearly singular, formless, and possibly evil race, The Vardans. This subversion from the normal Doctor Who format makes The Invasion of Time a fascinatingly worthwhile and thankfully entertaining six parter, and it's supplemented by a deliciously leisurely pace.
The characterisation of the guest cast ranges from the "definitive" Borusa, the bland, low-key heroism of Andred, the acceptably believable, fawning Capitalism of Castellan Kelner and the mindless misuse of Louise Jameson's acting skills as Leela (particularly late in the story). Rodan is a subtle, weak foreshadow of Romana--albeit a peculiarly studenty one. Rodan provides valuable contrast to Leela's character and delivers a good put-down to Leela in episode 2 : "Please stop cavorting about like that, it's so undignified." It's good, although fairly predictable to watch Rodan lose her cool when into an environment more suited to Leela.
Against this reasonable backdrop of characters, it was imperative that the Doctor's character was examined well. Anthony Read and Graham Williams incredibly came up trumps, after having had very little time to write the scripts when Robert Holmes had pulled out of writing the story. They devised the adept plot and took the Doctor's character further than at any time since The War Games. The Doctor, in putting one over on his own race, shows his true contempt for the Time Lords with subtlty. The Doctor shows no mercy in his humiliation of his former peers--aiding an invasion from lesser beings and actually achieving it. It's intriguing to examine Tom Baker's performance, which is moody, comedic and shows a new, ruthless side to the Doctor's personality.
The Time Lords' spartan Capitol and Charcterisation in the story, is in fact a good thing: in that while they're still rather brainy, they're mocked because of their straight-faced, predictable, apathetical, dull and humourless attitude to life. This attitude proves a weakness, as, in the end, the Doctor humbles them, and shows why his way of life is infinitely better than theirs.
The Vardans are just the window dressing, so to speak, and any alien presence could've been used in their place here. Yet, their superficiality is cunningly put across, in relation to the Doctor's complex schemes.
When it seems that it's all over in episode 4 and the Doctor is saying goodbye (as he invariably does), the supremely shocking arrival of the Sontarans becomes a defining moment in the precise art of Doctor Who cliffhangers. After this, the story drops a gear or two, yet remains thoroughly engaging and leisurely in it's pace and plot development.
With the infamously bad ending and the dodgy designs of the Vardans being all that fans seem to be bothered about in this story, the story's deceptively fine characterisation of the Doctor has largely gone unnoticed. What's more, this is yet further positive proof, if it be needed, that Graham Williams knew how to consistently provide entertaining Doctor Who with depth sadly lacking throughout the JNT era. 9/10
A Review by Keith Bennett 27/7/98
This completion of Season 15 is, I think, another underrated story, although it's nice to see a couple of favourable reviews already printed here.
The opening episodes, with the Doctor behaving strangely and seemingly genuinely against the forces of goodness for a change are intriguing - Tom Baker is at his best in both his angry, almost hysterical moments, and when he lightens up into his more humorous side. The Doctor's battle of words with Borusa are superb, John Arnatt playing the old Chancellor to perfection.
With the other characters, Milton Johns is terrific as the slimy Kelner - he's the kind of... er... shoe licker, miserable crawler... that every place of work, every society, has at least one of. He is a joy to watch. Andred is nice, likeable and amusing, even if the Gallifreyan guards in general are portrayed as absolute morons, and I didn't think Leela was too bad, but her sudden decision to leave, having supposedly fallen in love with Andred, has to be one of the most ludicrous and most utterly unbelievable moments in Doctor Who history.
The story moves along at a nice pace and, apart from a couple of padded moments, isn't really too long; I agree that the interior of the TARDIS is very interesting and provides genuine enjoyment in the last two epiodes. The sudden appearance of the Sontarans at the end of Episode Four is a genuine shock, probably one of the best cliffhangers of all. The Vardans, however, look dumb in their crackly-tin foil shape and like a race of Rick Moranises when they materialise.
All in all, however, The Invasion Of Time is an enjoyable, thoughtful and entertaining adventure, and Season 15 in general a good one for Doctor Who. 7/10
Obsolete Rubbish? by Ken Wrable 23/4/00
The Invasion of Time is quintessential Graham Williams-era Dr Who. So, on the minus side, it looks pretty cheap, there's a marked absence of tension and traditional Who behind-the-sofa moments, and a lot of it is played for laughs. And on the plus side? Well, there's a witty and literate script, an interesting plot that's adeptly paced, a fantastic central performance from Tom Baker, and of course a lot of it is played for laughs. I had a really great time watching it, but I confess that stories like this may be something of an acquired taste and if you only watch Who because you enjoy innovative science-fiction then you're probably wasting your time with this one.
Personally, I don't find that the much-criticised negative aspects of The Invasion of Time hinder the viewing experience much at all. OK, so you've got some pretty tacky sets and props on display here (I'd particularly recommend you to watch out for the scene where a guard gains access to the TARDIS using what look like plastic toys from a Christmas cracker), but they don't offend me nearly as much as the gaping great plot-holes and bad characterisations that are all too frequently apparent in many of the glossier eighties Who stories. What grabs my attention more is the intensity that Tom brings to the scenes in episodes one and two where the Doctor seems to have sold out the Time Lords - he's nothing short of electrifying when he's snarling at Borusa and Kelner or laughing maniacally as the Vardans make their entrance on Gallifrey.
Ah, yes, the Vardans. The most pathetic alien race ever depicted in Dr Who? Well, quite possibly; they're vocally unremarkable, and when you finally get to see them it's a massive letdown. But isn't that the point? Even the Doctor comments on how disappointing they are. And in their favour, they have got the pretty good gimmick of being able to travel along any form of energy wave. I can think of quite a few Who aliens with less impressive powers.
Of course, it turns out that it's the Sontarans behind the invasion, whereupon the story promptly shifts gears. All the intrigue and politics of the first few episodes is forgotten about and we're into a glorious extended runaround taking up the bulk of the last two installments. The TARDIS scenes in episode six of The Invasion of Time have also taken a few hammerings over the years, but I think they're a hoot. I love the idea of the TARDIS being full of inappropriate brickwork and hospital corridors and hothouses and art galleries, and I think it's in keeping with the anarchic nature of both the series' premise and particularly of the fourth Doctor. I agree that the TARDIS interiors shown in Logopolis and Castrovalva are much more credible, but they're not nearly as much fun.
And I think that's the main point about this story. It's basically great fun, once you get past the bargain basement production values and the one or two instances of dodgy acting. The script's great, Tom Baker's on top form and there are a couple of very nicely realised supporting characters in John Arnatt's dignified Borusa and Milton Johns' conniving Kelner. It's certainly not in the same league as the earlier Fourth Doctor six-parters, but it's far from a disgrace.
A Review by Jamas Enright 1/11/00
This isn't a single story but three two-parters (much like The Armageddon Factor). There's an interesting 'Doctor appears to betray Gallifrey' story, a more humdrum 'Doctor stops the Vardan invasion' story, then a repeat of this in the 'Doctor stops the Sontaran invasion' story.
The first story is, I freely admit, new and exciting. How often have we seen the Doctor take the role of aiding the bad guys against the good guys? Sure, the Vardans aren't immediately portrayed as the baddies, but from the Doctor's shiftiness and lack of confiding in Leela, we get the right idea. Similarly the Time Lords role as good guys are as much from them being the Doctor's people as anyone else. But this is completely against what we expect of the Fourth Doctor, and so, it works on a shock value level. It also helps that the Vardans are completely unseen until the end of episode two, adding to their menace.
When you already know the story, the Doctor's motives are completely clear of course, but who can resist the feel of unease at the Doctor's laugh as he introduces the Time Lord's new masters? Once the Vardans come into play, the Doctor's motives are revealed, and we're back on familiar territory as the Doctor plays to keep the Vardans from doing anything drastic while he plots their undoing.
One point I'd like to raise. The Doctor pops out of the TARDIS and sees the supposed revolutionaries lying dead. His reaction? No more than a glance, and an 'I see.' This is the Fourth Doctor?
Still, the cliffhanger at the end of episode four is a definite plus. Can't get better timing than that. Out of nowhere, it's the Sontarans! This must be exciting. Except the Doctor's already onto to defeating them, and this seems to involve running up and down a lot of corridors first in the Capitol, then inside the TARDIS. K9 whips up a technological solution, and everything's fine again. But didn't we just see that?
Despite this seeming rehash/padding, there is something notable about this part. The Doctor wields a gun, and causally, almost callously, uses it to kill off two Sontarans. Again, not exactly proper Fourth Doctor code here. All this would be more reasonable for the later Seventh Doctor, but no-one minds, the Doctor forgets and life goes on, never to be mentioned again. If I didn't know better, I'd think someone was trying to make a point. Just as well I know better.
Tom Baker's performance is sterling. Apart from one part of one scene, in the first two episodes there isn't any indication that the Fourth Doctor is anything other than a betrayer and a dictator, two qualities the Doctor fights against. After that, Tom Baker is also an old hand at running around and spouting rubbish to distract from the fact that the Doctor doesn't know what he's doing. As far as satisfying the needs of the script, he's first class. But as seen above, the script has some serious problems with it.
The performances from the other main cast members are also superb. Milton Johns as the Castellan was wonderfully weaselly. John Arnatt carried Borusa's imperialness with grandeur. Hilary Ryan as Rodan obviously had fun. And I certainly believed that Chris Tranchell was a guard. The problem was that the characters were so two-dimensional (at best), that not even great acting could save them. Andred goes from 'guard out to save Gallifrey's purity, even if he has to kill the President' to 'lackey running around doing the Doctor's bidding', and Chris Tranchell does both roles well, but the transition happens in a moment, and you'd hardly believe they were the same person.
If you want the biggest character problem, then you need look no further than Andred and Leela's relationship. After nine stories, how has Leela grown? In The Face of Evil she is a savage that follows the Doctor around trusting him, doesn't know too much and fills a role of eye-candy. In The Invasion of Time, she's a savage, follows the Doctor, more or less, trusting him, doesn't know too much, and is still eye candy. That's the kind of character growth that can only be surpassed by the upcoming first Romana's descent from the Doctor's peer to just another screaming companion.
What of the rest of the production? Pretty good, actually. Some great looking sets, and some remarkable locations as well, especially for the interior of the TARDIS. A hospital ward is a welcome change from the typical corridor interiors. This goes well with some nice camera work, and the special effects (such as gun blasts) are actually put where they're supposed to be.
Some good moments: the episode enders, well shot. Some bad moments: near the start of episode two, Leela fights the guards and escapes using almost magic because she barely touches the guards at all and yet they completely collapse. And then there's a particular bug-bear of mine...
There's something about Dudley Simpson's incidental music that irks me. And this episode is no exception. Organ music works well in the coronation sequence, but not when it blasts out hearing anything else! There are other points where the music is totally at odds with the scene on the screen. When the Doctor exits the TARDIS for the final face-off against Stor, a light jazzy wind-instrument is not what's called for here.
If you've read this far, then you'll probably have the impression that I didn't like this story. Good, because that's the impression I was aiming for. There is great production quality here, some great acting, but the only part of the story worth watching is the first two episodes. The rest, we've seen before.
A Waste of Time Lords by Andrew Wixon 9/3/02
Famously, the head of the DWAS said at the end of Invasion of Time's fourth episode that he thought this story would turn out to be the best of Season 15. Well, everyone loves the unexpected appearance of an old enemy, and I assume that the 'shock' arrival of the Sontarans were what provoked this rather over-optimistic prediction. Because, while not quite as bad as the final pair, the first four episodes of this story are by no means special.
There are lots of things that contribute to Invasion of Time's status as a bit of a duffer - the main one being that the story just doesn't convince. The TARDIS interior of the final installment is obviously the interior of a hospital. There's no real sense of a civilisation in crisis after the Vardans invade. The Vardans themselves manage the unique achievement of having three distinctly different physical appearances, each of which looks stupider than the preceding one. Leela's departure is, let's be kind, pathetically contrived.
There's a lot of blatant padding in the closing stages of the story, too. There's also the definite impression that this script was pretty much written as it went along, there seems to have been no grand plan. The only new or interesting plot element is the Doctor's 'treachery'. This is an interesting idea and, welcomely, means that Tom actually has to act rather than indulge in his usual wacky schtick on autopilot. You're not for a second convinced that the Doctor's actually gone bad, of course, but even so there's some novelty value in the Doctor acting so proactively for a change. And every now and then something will pop up that makes you wonder if you're misjudging the story: some nice Tom/K9 dialogue, or an impressive piece of set design (most of the sets are stupidly cramped and/or badly designed) such as the atrium where the TARDIS materialises. But you haven't misjudged it. This story, while not being an absolute stinker, simply isn't very good. After the previous two season finales (Seeds of Doom and Talons of Weng Chiang) this exercise in mediocrity is a huge disappointment - and the founder of a great tradition of season-closing diappointments that would last, for the most part, until well into the 80s.
A challenge to preconceptions of the Doctor by Tim Roll-Pickering 6/10/02
This story is notable for the increased level of humour, with many situations sent up such as encounters with both Time Lord guards and Sontaran troopers whilst endless corridor scenes are parodied. At the same time the story takes a very serious stance by showing the Doctor in a deeply suspicious light for the first time since The Evil of the Daleks over a decade earlier. At the same time it also sees a return to Gallifrey but a Gallifrey that is portrayed somewhat differently from that seen in The Deadly Assassin.
The story opens with a shot of a spaceship that is highly reminiscent of the opening scene of Star Wars but wisely the story makes no serious attempt to compete with that film for effects. Instead The Invasion of Time presents us with mystery upon mystery as the Doctor sets about following an uncertain agenda, even threatening Leela and holding her at gun point. At times it is unclear whether the Doctor is planning something, has turned traitor or simply become power hungry and this adds to much tension. Tom Baker is successful in portraying the Doctor as variously the tyrant seizing power, the schemer confiding in others, the deceiver resorting to foolery to cover his tracks or the amnesiac who doesn't realise just what it is that he's achieved at the end. This is a story that truly challenges the viewers' preconceptions about the Doctor and remind them that not everything is as cosy as it seems.
As the Doctor admits, the Vardans may not be the most visually impressive race to ever appear in the series but that does not matter. What makes them effective is the way that they seemingly have the Doctor under their control and that he has had to resort to such extreme measures in order to tackle them. The arrival of the Sontarans at the end of Part Four does feel a little too much like an addendum to the story rather than a natural progression of events, but it makes complete sense for one race of invaders to seek to capitalise upon the plans of another. Unfortunately the Sontarans are portrayed appallingly here, being little more than a group of invading aliens with Stor displaying little of the honour and nobility that was seen in both Lynx and Styre. Furthermore most of the Sontarans keep their helmets on, with Stor only removing his on a handful of occasions and this severely limits the effects of the costume.
Of the Gallifreyan characters Borusa makes perhaps the strongest impact, with John Arnatt delivering a highly cagey performance for the Chancellor. Rodan is all too clearly a prototype for Romana but manages to successfully carry off the first ever female Time Lord (Susan doesn't count because we never knew about her background at the time) who finds herself completely out of her depth once she moves beyond her normal environment. Chris Tranchell is less effective as Andred and the romance between him and Leela that springs up in Part Six comes across as far too clearly an afterthought designed to write the latter out of the series rather than as a natural progression of the story. Milton Johns brings to Kelner a clear fawning side and shows how decadent Time Lord society is that the head of security is an individual who changes his allegiances all too freely.
Production wise The Invasion of Time is a mixed beast. Gallifrey looks a lot lighter here than it did in The Deadly Assassin and the general tone is one of tacky pop art that a traditional gothic feel, making for a different feel to the story. The use of locations for a number of scenes, both inside and out of the TARDIS is a bold move, but there's no reason to suppose that the TARDIS should be completely futuristic inside and the anarchic layout is more in keeping with the Doctor's character. The exterior of Gallifrey is a little too much like a generic alien world, but the use of an orange tint enhances the feel, as well as being a nice continuity detail that ties in with The Sensorites from many years earlier.
The Invasion of Time certainly has its faults such as the excessive use of humour, the poor portrayal of the Sontarans or the incredibly weak way in which Leela is written out, but it is a story that makes a strong effort to overcome its budgetary weakness and also displays a bold streak by daring to challenge the-then contemporary tradition of the Doctor always being a safe and trustworthy figure. This makes the story all the more bold and memorable and its good parts strongly outweigh the bad. 8/10
A Review by Brett Walther 28/4/03
The only Doctor Who adventures that I can bring myself to truly despise are those that have an incredible amount of potential, but fail to deliver.
No story disappoints in this manner quite like The Invasion of Time.
It has all the makings of a classic: the climactic episode of the season, the departure of a companion, the return of a popular monster, the Doctor resuming his Presidency of Gallifrey... It is almost impossible to conceive how it could fail, yet fail it does -- in a spectacular way, I might add.
This is without a doubt the lamest depiction of Gallifrey with which we've been presented -- although I suppose I'm being kind to Arc of Infinity by claiming that. We have Time Lords whose reaction to the Doctor's announcement that the Vardans are now the Masters of Gallifrey -- well, it isn't even a reaction at all. They just stand there! Atrociously directed, given this is a society in which we're told basically nothing has changed for millennia; and completely unforgivable, due to the excellent build up of tension in the scenes building up to this in which the Vardan ship approaches Gallifrey, accompanied by some excellent incidental music.
Design for the series reached an all-time low in Season Fifteen as far as I'm concerned. The blue and green plastic lounge chairs that we see scattered throughout the Capitol as well as corridors through which the cast can barely walk upright are possibly the tackiest sets ever to be featured in Doctor Who, made all too evident by studio lighting that approaches near-blinding brilliance in some sequences.
Leela continues to be treated as an idiot, which is shameful. Her initiative in rallying the Outsiders to rescue the Doctor from the Capitol gives her the chance to redeem herself, but instead, once they get back into the Capitol, she is subjected to a silly scene in the Presidential quarters in which she doesn't understand a comment made by the Doctor. Of course, the universally despised write-off of the character at the end of the story demonstrates the ultimate callousness of the production team in this regard.
One of the most irritating things about The Invasion of Time is the sheer amount of times we are "told" of something happening rather than getting to see it happening ourselves. Most notably, we don't get a sense of the Vardans actually being defeated, because instead of showing us the Vardan home planet becoming imprisoned in a Time Loop, we are given a boring report from K9. Likewise, the sequences in which large groups of Time Lords of the old regime are expelled from the Capitol into the wastelands of outer Gallifrey are never depicted. Similarly, the outdoor location footage doesn't give any suggestion that it takes place right outside the Capitol, appearing to be part of a different production altogether. (Much like the turgid TARDIS interiors in Part Six...)
As with all sub-par Doctor Who, even The Invasion of Time brings the occasional element of worthiness to the series. Part Four is undoubtedly the best of all six episodes. The story moves along with speed sorely lacking in the atrociously dull third instalment, culminating in the much vaunted surprise appearance of a familiar foe.
The Sontarans' brilliant appearance at the end of Part Four is one of their finest moments; and Dudley Simpson's score at this moment is truly thrilling. Contrary to much of what has been said about this production, Stor's mask is genuinely creepy, and combined with the actor's laboured and hissing delivery of his lines, he comes across as very alien.
These are not enough to redeem the adventure as a whole, however, and The Invasion of Time must surely rank as one of the least successful productions of the Tom Baker era.
Hmmm…Disappointing, aren’t they? by Will Berridge 16/7/03
There’s a moral to the production of Invasion of Time: if you’ve got 5 days to write a story for an ongoing TV series, don’t try and make it the most important to date. I mean, by having the Doctor become President of the High Council of the Time Lords, Gallifrey descending into civil war and being invaded by not one but two alien races, threatening the security of time itself, etc. Just don’t. Make it about something forgettable.
Because it becomes very clear very early on that the constraints experienced by the production team are going to make the story less memorable than it really should be. Let’s take the design of the Gallifreyan citadel, for instance. The sets in The Deadly Assassin were a deep, rich emerald green. Here they’re that horrible tacky grey and green colour. And Borusa’s desk is made of wood. And there seem to be plastic chairs lying around in the corridors! Before The Deadly Assassin Gallifrey was envisioned as the ancient home of an untouchably omnipotent race. If contemporary fans were disillusioned by that particular serial, had this one been shown first, the authors would probably have been hunted down and lynched.
It doesn’t help that the plotting and number of sets combine to give the impression that Gallifrey is a very small place. There doesn’t seem to be much of a high council to speak of on this occasion, Kellner and Borusa being the only significant Time Lord characters, in a six parter, too. Leela and the Outlanders seem to be able to get into the Citadel very easily. Shouldn’t there be something to stop them? And when Andred attempts a coup you don’t really feel that much is happening. Some people turn up, kill the Doctor’s guard, get shot. Hmm. Civil strife on the Doctor’s home planet? Shouldn’t there be more gravitas? Should the final battle be fought out somewhere other than a swimming pool and its changing rooms? Apparently not.
Maybe some would have been created if Andred had been instilled a strong sense of determination and honour within the character. He isn’t. I don’t know what his actor was trying to achieve, but it struck me as a feeble impersonation of Ace Rimmer. Unfortunately he isn’t the only ferocious fighting machine that come across a little on the silly side. The Sontarans, notably their commander Storr, seem to be having quite a struggle to get their words out, and on occasions deliver some atrociously bad dialogue. For instance, when one discovers the Doctor has sealed the door leading to the TARDIS interior, one Sontaran’s appraisal of the situation is thus:
‘It seems to have been fastened….with some sort of (*thinks*)…locking device…from the other side!’ (It sounds funnier on screen)He then suggests a plan of action:
‘Let us cut it open sir. Then we shall have them!’My sides were positively splitting at this point. I think it was because there was something strangely rude about the way he read ‘then we shall have them!’. After the Vardans, however, the Sontarans are quite a pleasant surprise. Their contempt for and abuse of the fawning Castellan is amusing, and they are at least a well designed and alien-looking race. (Well, a potato head is as close as you’re going to get to an extra-terrestrial on DW.) The Vardans, however, are the most universally ridiculed species on the show. The basic concept, that they travel along, erm, thought or wave patterns or something or other (Monsters that you need a basic knowledge of Physics to understand. Eurgh.), is quite original, unfortunately their natural form isn’t. After appearing as black menhirs, then, as a reviewer in The TV Companion puts it, as ‘pieces of baco-foil with Glasgow accents’, they manifest themselves as three slightly insecure-looking men in a daft military uniform. With Glasgow accents, of course. The scene then descends into ludicrous self-parody as the Castellan objects ‘but they’re just humans, aren’t they?’ and the Doctor remarks ‘hmmm…disappointing, aren’t they?’. Yes, the two Time Lords managed to sum up what was going through our heads quite succinctly. Very like our thoughts considering that the Castellan uses the word ‘human’ when neither he nor any of rest of the cast (bar Leela) are. He worked that out quick, if they actually were human. (I mean I know the ACTORS are). But wouldn’t ‘humanoid’ have been a better guess? Hmm?
Unfortunately the other characters largely descend to the level of their opposition for this story. Apart from the afore-slated Andred, Rodan is an insufferable wimp, and the only thing I can remember about the Outlanders is that two of them are called Nesbin and Presta. Silly, silly names. What happens to them in the end anyway? Leela should have been more at home in this story than previous ones, organising the recapture of the citadel, but she still gets the mickey taken out of her as she has to ask the meaning of prodigious and proficient. I never will understand the need the writers felt to counterbalance the fact a companion could actually take on bad guys by making her immensely thick.
Fortunately, Tom Baker’s interplay with the two other Time Lord characters makes up for a lot of the other substandard acting. His (affected) behaviour upon becoming president does homage to some of the more deranged Roman emperors. If the Doctor is imitating Caligula, or Nero, then Borusa, his sage and reproving tutor, is a Seneca, and the sycophantic, power-hungry Castellan a Tigellinus. (Sorry, I’ve just finished my Latin A-Level. Hence me spotting parallels with Tacitus is probably a coincidence.)
This story, given its content, should be one of the best-remembered in the DW canon. Unfortunately, it was so craply produced we’ve decided to forget all about it, to the extent it has received as many reviews as The Monster of Peladon. Oh dearie dearie me. 4/10
A Review by Terrence Keenan 26/9/03
Today's question: Can brilliant acting help cover over a pathetic script?
Answer: It depends.
Lets get this out of the way. The script for The Invasion of Time (TIoT) sucks elephant schlong. Now there have been scripts for consecutive stories that have repeated themselves, but TIoT repeats itself within the same story. And were the Outsiders really necessary to the plot? That whole "Wisdom of Rassilon" bit was a horseshit cop out. Leela's marriage to Andred is so wrong. And finally, the Keystone Kop Chancellary Guard... Oh, Prunella, it's just bad.
For the record, TIoT is the silliest script of the Whole Williams era and possibly of the entire show. Yes, sillier than The Horns of Nimon. I have this vision of Anthony Read and Graham Williams busting out the whippets and going nuts. Now in their defence, TIoT was a last second write up after Holmes backed out of doing another Gallifrey story and the replacement Killer Cats of Geng Singh fell apart for budgetary constraints. And the first two episodes are quite good, and the cliffhanger for part 4 is still a great shocker. Still, though, there are comedy bits in TIoT that even I can't defend.
And it's a big one.....
There are three absolutely brilliant performances which help out. Tom Baker fires on all cylinders in this one, showing a wide range of possibilities and selling the whole has-the-Doctor-turned-heel plot perfectly. John Arnatt is perfect as Borusa, and plays perfectly off of Big Tommy B. But the secret weapon is Milton Johns's Kelner. BEST WEASEL VILLAIN EVER IN WHO!!!!!!! I'm not kidding, either. Johns steals every scene he's in. That smarmy look on his face... makes you want to reach through the screen and smack the taste out of his mouth. What a suck up. What a weasel. What an amazing performance.
It's a shame that the rest of the cast aren't up to the level of these three. Louise Jameson give one of her weaker performances. And although Chris Tranchell is trying hard as Andred, he just looks and acts too doofy for the part. The rest are just one notes and cannon fodder.
So, can great performances cover up a weak, silly script? Um, no. But I can still watch TIoT and be entertained. And isn't that the point?
A Review by Brian May 25/11/03
The Invasion of Time is a story with a fascinating couple of premises. Firstly, could the (once) all-powerful Time Lords be invaded? Viewers have seen the Time Lords in danger before (The Three Doctors, The Deadly Assassin), but never the all out subjugation that is threatened here. Second, could the Doctor betray his people and side with the attacking powers? Both these ideas are something to chew over, and make for an interesting story. So how does the finished product deliver?
Well, it's a mixed bag actually. There are good aspects, and there are some bad ones. Unfortunately the worst elements seem to take over and plunge the tale into mediocrity. But let's start with the good. The three best things in The Invasion of Time are in fact three performances - namely John Arnatt, Milton Johns and, of course, Tom Baker.
Baker is absolutely superb in this story, especially in the first few episodes, when it seems that he is the villain of the piece. Baker gives his role intensity and total conviction - his maniacal laugh at the climax of episode two is a chilling moment (and one of my all-time favourite cliffhangers). Watching this for the first time, without the benefit of hindsight, you're unsure whether this is just a ruse or not. Instinctively, as the Doctor is always the hero, it's obvious it IS all a ruse, but for a few episodes, it's very uncertain. The Doctor becomes a frightening character for the best part of three episodes - a scene of note is when he ignores Leela's attempts to enter the TARDIS, apparently leaving her to the mercy of the guards. Later on in the story, some flippancy comes into Baker's performance - but that's after the realisation that he's still a good guy. These moments are thankfully short - Baker still holds his own.
The only other performance to match that of Tom Baker is John Arnatt's Chancellor Borusa. In my opinion he is the best of the four actors to have played the Doctor's teacher. He gives one of the programme's most interesting characters a real depth. Every piece of dialogue between the two is terrific. These include the conversation about tea, the rest of the Doctor outlining his real motives, and especially when Borusa effectively lectures and scolds the Doctor after the latter's betrayal is revealed ("You begin to disappoint me, Doctor"). The student-teacher relationship and rapport is explored in terrific detail. Milton Johns as Kelner comes in a close third in the race for best performance. Johns has a rather camp manner, evidenced by former roles in Doctor Who (The Enemy of the World, The Android Invasion). In these stories, his trait was rather annoying. Here it actually enhances the scheming, underhanded and power hungry Castellan. As with Tom Baker, he is better in the earlier part of the story, rather than the final episodes, when he's just running around fawning after the Sontarans.
Well, what about the other performances? The wonderful Louise Jameson shines as ever as Leela (apart from the very end, but I don't think even she can swallow the character's final writing out.) Long time stuntman Max Faulkner put in a decent effort as Nesbin, as does Dennis Edwards in the minor role of Lord Gomer; but apart from that, there's not much to commend. Hilary Ryan's Rodan is boring; Chris Tranchell's Andred is annoying (is he meant to be a handsome, dashing hero character? Could have fooled me!); Gai Smith's dreadfully hysterical - or should that be hysterically dreadful? - turn as Presta probably made her realise her career was not to be in acting (she's a successful Australian racehorse trainer - a bit of trivia for you!) Derek Deadman as Stor starts off promisingly but becomes the ultimate in overacting. The remaining performances blur somewhat between bland, forgettable and mediocre.
How does the remainder of The Invasion of Time stand up? Visual effects - quite good. The space models, which feature in the opening shot and in part four, are impressive, with music to match (a variation on a "Doctor theme" that popped up in the Graham Williams years). Even the shimmering baking foil Vardans are not that bad - they convey a sense of mystery - until the unfortunate appearance of the aliens in their real form!
There's not much else in The Invasion of Time that impresses. The interesting script is let down by some hammy, unnecessary and sometimes embarrassing dialogue. The Doctor's "Why don't you materialise and have a jelly baby?" to the Vardans is one example. Most of the dialogue between Andred and K9 is forgettable - the "I'd make him a sergeant!" line is cringeworthy. And what's the point of that "cyclic burst" conversation between the two elderly Time Lords? Padding has never been so obvious! For all the wonderful, profound exchanges between the Doctor and Borusa, there's also all this dross.
Script wise, there's a certain element of sloppiness, particularly in regard to the Time Lords. The story is a sequel of sorts to The Deadly Assassin, Robert Holmes's ultimate deconstruction of the Doctor's race. Only a few elements are brought over from that adventure - the Doctor's candidacy for the Presidency, which is the catalyst for this tale, and the Matrix. A large feature of Assassin, the latter doesn't feature that much here, although its relationship to the President is discussed (and is quite interesting). However, the nature and function of the Great Key of Rassilon has changed - previously it was something entirely different! What makes this all the more annoying is the centrality of the Great Key to this story's plot. You don't have to be a continuity freak to be irritated by this - especially when the previous story aired a little over a year before.
The story is also badly paced. The problem with six part stories was always padding. The last few efforts finally got it right, effectively dividing the adventures into a two episode story joined onto a four episode one (or vice-versa). The same rule is applied to The Invasion of Time, but the problem here lies in the respective sub-stories. Parts one to four, dealing with the Doctor's apparent betrayal of Gallifrey to the Vardans, is very slow, with no real action to break the monotony. During parts five and six, when the Sontarans are revealed to be behind everything, the story becomes a runaround - too much action and little else. I liked the concept of the chase through the TARDIS in the final episode, seeing a different and unexpected side to the Doctor's ship, but it's not long before it deteriorates into a collection of "walking along corridors" set pieces (although the different individual rooms and sections of the TARDIS are interesting in themselves).
The return of the Sontarans is another contentious matter. In theory, it's an excellent idea, and the end of episode four is a wonderful plot twist. It's startling and gripping. They are a wonderful race of monsters that deserved a good return, which they only partly get They are actually quite effective in the first half of episode five, inducing a sense of menace - even Stor's rasping Cockney voice isn't annoying until later on. The times he shoves Kelner aside are also quite effective, showing his short temper and determination. But from the moment when the Doctor flippantly manages to walk past two of them, fooling them in the process, they go downhill, turning into a bunch of incompetent and sometimes slapstick villains. And Stor seems to give up all too quickly, doesn't he? He suddenly resorts to blowing up the Panopticon, but why he should change his mind so suddenly - or indeed change his mind at all at this at stage - makes no sense. Of course, it's time to wrap up the story!
As for Leela's sudden departure, it's a tragic moment, for all the wrong reasons. A sort of relationship was developing between her and Andred in part six - her nursing the wounded commander quite a romantic clich?- but her decision to stay on Gallifrey with him is rushed and very implausible. I would have preferred a genuine tragedy - Leela sacrificing her life would have been perfect. Such a pity. But that's what you can say about this entire story. An interesting concept, but ultimately the finished product disappoints more than it entertains. 5.5/10
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 14/1/04
The Invasion Of Time is best viewed for what it is; a story of two halves. The first half is the better with the Doctor and K-9 seemingly betraying Gallifrey and this is reflected in Tom Baker`s performance. Indeed the appearance of the Sontarans is also shockingly effective, although their impact is lessened by Derek Deadman`s cockney accent. Leela gets her fair share of the action in her final story, her faith in the Doctor remaining strong throughout. Similarly there are some amusing exchanges between the Doctor and K-9 in the TARDIS.
What doesn`t work are the Vardans - they look like tinfoil - despite their ability to travel down wavelengths, making them potentially great villains. Likewise, some of the supporting cast are miscast and do nothing for the story, notably Rodan and Andred - indeed his decision to marry Leela seems like a step backward for the character. Finally, there is a lot of running around in the story, the result being that the Doctor fires a big gun and saves the day, which is not really a satisfying conclusion. Despite this the story remains enjoyable and hints at what Graham Williams had in store for season sixteen.
Invasive... by Richard Tarrant 29/1/04
After the last couple of fairly positive reviews, I wanted to balance things up somewhat with a poorly regarded story, and it seems that few people have a good word to say about The Invasion of Time. I have to admit that the experience of last watching this (perhaps a year ago) was like being pick-pocketed of two-and-a-half hours of your life. Two-and-a-half hours never to be returned, which you could have spent more enjoyably and productively by, say, repeatedly slamming your own head in the fridge door.
But, like a dog returning to its vomit, I watched it again yesterday for the purposes of this review. And I was amazed to find myself quite enjoying it. Oh it's horseshit, of course, and hardly anyone comes out of it with any credit, but somehow it just about holds together. I think the big initial problem was perception - 6 episode stories naturally get more attention and, after a series of Pertwee sixers that dragged so badly you could actually feel time go backwards, the Hinchcliffe team had resurrected the format with 3 unbelievably good stories (Genesis..., Seeds... and Talons...) which used the extra time to develop character and give real emotional depth to the story. Then Invasion... comes along and starts a new trend for 6-parters that stink. If it had been a standard 4-parter we'd be thinking of it just as a bag of shit (eg Underworld), not as a bag of shit AND criminally wasted potential.
The "potential" related also to the scenario. This was an absolute gift - a chance to refine and develop Bob Holmes' masterful creation of Time Lord society from the previous year's The Deadly Assassin - but in a remarkable effort of teamwork, Invasion... ended up actually undermining all that good work.
Firstly, stand up and take a bow... the design team! If I had a TARDIS myself, the first thing I'd do (even before visiting Jane Fonda on the set of "Barbarella") is to sit in on that first design meeting:
"Now, the script suggests that the Vardans 'have more power than the Time Lords ever dreamed of, and more knowledge than they could ever hope for', so how do we realize the various forms of these all-powerful entities?"Next up... the director! The decision to cast a Glaswegian Vardan and a cockney Sontaran was ballsy, and might have been worth pursuing further. A Welsh Dalek ("Halt or I'll, like, exterminate you, isn't it?") or a Geordie Silurian ("This is oo-ur fokkin' planet, divvn't ya naa?") would surely have been worth the license fee alone. But the rest of the direction just conforms to corridor-running clich? and lame comic devices. The dialogue is clunky (K-9's "we will give them a day off school" is jaw-droppingly inappropriate), most of the cast awful (especially the "outsiders"), and the direction creates no tension or involvement for the audience.
"How about giant black polystyrene eggs, Everything's-A-Pound Christmas decorations, and 3 small actors in It Aint Half Hot Mum hand-me-downs?"
"Great! Now Gallifrey is home to the most advanced civilization in the Cosmos - how do we portray that?"
"Ooh - how about just one long green and grey corridor with giant plastic potties dotted around?"
"Job done! Thanks guys!"
And the last of our little awards goes to... Big Tom! Proving that he's not entirely infallible. Yes, he has a few good scenes - the sinister laugh as the Vardans appear is great, and the "You have access to the greatest source of knowledge in the Universe"/"Well, I do talk to myself occasionally" exchange is superb, but the direct-to-camera "Even my sonic screwdriver won't get me out of this!" is unforgivable. And as other reviewers have pointed out, Tom's (fairly irrational) dislike of the Leela character robbed the leaving scene of a lot of its pathos.
And Leela is one of the great pluses of the story. Louise Jameson rises above terrible dialogue ("What does proficient mean?") and shoddy plot devices (the contrived leaving scene) magnificently, reflecting perfectly the viewer's confusion about the Doctor's intentions at the start of the story, and sense of loyalty even after her banishment (and she single-handedly rescues those scenes outside the citadel).
Of the other "strengths", I must be the only person in the world who thinks that Chris Tranchell is actually rather good as Andred, John Arnatt commits no cardinal (oh dear) sins as Borusa, Milton Johns makes a superbly weaselly and obsequious Castellan (his bow, which kow-tows almost to the ground, is a joy) and Hilary Ryan is good fun as Rodan. But the single stand out moment (and by that, I mean the "only" stand out moment), as others have pointed out, is the unexpected appearance of the Sontarans at the end of episode 4.
The bad certainly outweighs the good in this one, and even though I'm feeling a little more charitable on this viewing, I can't bring myself to give it more than 2/10.
My word, this one does get a bashing from fandom... by Steve Cassidy 23/4/04
I can see why, but at the same time think there is lots to recommend it. Even at it's most cheap and amateur it is still better then most of the McCoy efforts and half the Davison stories. And for me this is what works - the story.
I love the twists and turns of this tale. I loved the fact that the producers tried to subvert the familiar, to turn on it's head the preconceived notions of how a story should proceed. For the Doctor fails in this one, well, not quite fails but while he is sorting out one problem another one is creeping up unobserved behind him. Another alien race takes advantage of the Doctor's cleverness for their own agenda.
For this one is all about trust. Only a fool would trust the Sontarans. The Vardans don't trust the Doctor, and the Doctor doesn't trust the Vardans. The Time Lords don't trust him, and certainly don't trust each other. The Doctor cannot trust anyone, and only takes a precious few within the lead-lined room of the Presidents office or the TARDIS where no one can spy on him. He certainly doesn't trust Leela and banishes her because she may inadvertantly betray him. In fact trust is one of the key elements of Leela in this story - she is the onlyone who trusts the Doctor. He may treat her badly, but she trusts him to do the "right thing" in the end. Her trust in him is unshakeable.
Throughout fandom there are some massive criticisms of this story - cheap sets and props, the Vardans and the awfulness of the much-loved Leela's departure. But to countermand this you have an intriguing story, good use of K-9, the menace of the Sontarans and an absolute top-notch performance by Tom Baker. In fact I would say that this ranks with Genesis, Pyramids and Weng-Chiang for one of his finest performances. The actor playing the Doctor often makes or breaks an adventure and Tom's manic, overbearing, almost demented portrayal of the Doctor, who is deliberately keeping his mind messy so the Vardans would struggle to read his thoughts, is outstanding. He is the binding which keeps the adventure together. There must come a time when an actor needs a fresh take on his character or they get bored- and the writers do this with Tom Baker who runs with his role and succeeds spectacularly.
And what about the notorious production design? Well, as legend now knows the money was running out in 1977/78. Some of it is used well, the enormous set that the TARDIS stands in and the Presidential office look good without costing a million pounds. And I must admit I do enjoy the costumes, the high collared ceremonial robes of the Time Lords contrast wonderfully with the heavy furs of the Shobogons outside the citadel walls. Also some of the spaceship special effects are good, combined with the music there is a wonderful shot of the Vardan craft approaching the yellow/red planet of Gallifrey. But, to be honest, there are a couple of problems - the Gallifreyan control panels look like they had been made up during Play School and you can almost see the scenery wobble in certain scenes. One of the things that seems to invite criticism is the interior of the TARDIS. This is the first time we have really seen the inside, and quite frankly, I've often wondered how the Doctor kept himself occupied when not on some alien planet - surely he cannot spend all his time in the control room? It makes sense to have him have a workshop, greenhouse, art gallery and yes, why not a swimming pool? Personally I wanted to see a library and a ballroom.
And of course everyone cries out "But it looks like an Manchester Infants' School circa 1978!". Well, actually, it was St Anne's Hospital in Redhill - complete with decrepit lifts and peeling stonework. To me this adds to the authenticity of the TARDIS interior - he stole a type 40 model that was built two hundred years before. I suspect that had not perfected shiny interiors by then and as the Doctor is not the most houseproud of travellers, he probably did little to spruce it up. The comment by Rodan that it could do with a lick of paint is horribly apt. The Doctor spent far more time in his workshop than matching colours in his living quarters. And how about the other complaint - the Vardans? In conception they are interesting - a nebulous telepathic lifeform of insubstantial matter - in practice they rate with Erato, the Nimon and the Gell Guards as being the worse realised adversaries in the later part of the series. But the idea is a sound one, and they are convincing as cunning adversaries who are simply outmatched by the double-crossing Doctor..
Lets out sigh....nearly there..
And Leela? Well, everyone should know that with Romana I she is my favourite companion (see my review). Fandom seemed to want a big spectacular exit - her becoming Warrior Queen of the Sobogons or to go down fighting bravely with the Sontarans. But in many ways this wasn't the way the she was going. I'm afraid, in reality, she succumbed to that that age-old companion leaving syndrome - she wanted out, even if she didn't realise it herself. She was ready to leave, she had found an interesting place to live and made friends there. It all fits with Leela - the instinctual spontaneousness, the leaping before looking and hoping for the best. Her leaving scene is more moving than you think, mainly because of her concern about the Doctor being lonely without her.
Aaahhh...finally...the good bits....
Tom and Louise go without saying. But there are some good backup from the supporting cast. John Arnatt excels as Chancellor Borusa - this wily old bird keeps his almost Geilgud-like aloofness but at the same time has a few tricks up his sleeve. He is ably complimented by Milton Johns as Castellan Kellner. Mr Johns has made a career out of playing oily bureaucrats and puts in a good performance here. Rodan, as everyone else on this site has guessed, is a forerunner of Mary Tamm's Romana. Her character is a good contrast to Leela who thrives in Gallifrey's outer wastes while Rodan, never having left the city, is a fish out of water. The Shobogons in their furs and hairpieces are good and the orange tint to the screen gives Gallifrey an exotic hue. And the Sontarans? They don't have the explicit sadism of The Sontaran Experiment or The Time Warrior (apart from knocking Kellner around) but here we see them at full rampage. The sight of these tramping through the corridors of Gallifrey and the TARDIS, blasting at everything which moves is unnerving. And the famous cliffhanger at the end of episode four is duly praised as one of the best in the series, and rightly so...
So there we have it. The Invasion of Time is seen as a disapointment by many expecting another Seeds of Doom or Weng-Chiang for the end of season 15. Instead we get an entertaining runaround which is not the best in the season, but not the worst either. Budget constraints are obvious but the production team coped with a good enough script, a sense of humour, good acting and a twisting tale of cross and double-cross. Perhaps it is not one to show newcomers to the genre, but it is one to secretly guiltily enjoy....
Total wank! by Joe Ford 3/9/05
Just what is the considered opinion of the Graham Williams era? When I was a lad it seemed that his era was the lowest of the low, the nadir of Doctor Who and a warning of how bad things can get if you stop putting effort into the show. But then something incredible started happening, people started to appreciate the wit, the charm, the hilarious performances, the clever ideas and plot construction... suddenly it seemed the Williams era was the byword for how jolly cheerful and colourful and imaginative the show could be when so many talented people were involved. And now in the wake of the new series I am starting to notice some ill feeling creeping in again, comparing the production values and the "realism" of the performances. Is it popular? Is it shit? Who really gives a toss what fandom thinks anyway? Personally I find the three-season Williams era a treat, despite some budgetary problems (and I even dispute that to some extent as Horror, ,Image, Ribos, Androids, Kroll, Destiny, City and Shada all have fab productions!) and Tom Baker's increasingly loud performances, there are very few periods in Doctor Who's long history that manages to keep me so entertained. The feeling that the cast and crew were having a ball spills into many of the stories (despite the fact that many of the stories were made under terrible pressure) and there is an abundance of strong writing and surprisingly imaginative productions.
Which is all a load of baloney when you come to consider The Invasion of Time, easily the weakest Graham Williams production by some distance. Forget The Invisible Enemy (which has a brilliant first episode) and Underworld (which also has a pretty cool first episode) and even Creature from the Pit (which is simply wonderful despite popular opinion)... rarely has a story promised so much a delivered so little. In practically every single department it is lacking, a weak script, soggy acting, a production that would leave a Blake's Seven fan embarrassed and an abominable climax.
Anyone who still has The Deadly Assassin in their memory (which must have been everyone on its original transmission) must have been appalled (if they had half a brain, the DWAS doesn't count) when they first saw this. Assassin was a story that demanded a sequel such was the density of its ideas but so many of Robert Holmes's concepts are abused here. This is where the Gallifrey rot started to set in, a cheap, shoddy, boring environment, which for some bizarre reason JNT decided to transfer in its entirety to season twenty. When the DWAS proclaimed The Deadly Assassin as the end of civilisation as we know it because Robert Holmes took a powerful race of omnipotent beings and turned them into geriatric political backstabbers but then changed their minds and championed this rubbish as the best of the season you have to wonder if they truly appreciate the meaning of the word quality. This is everything they were going on about in Assassin epitomised. There is one reason why The Deadly Assassin managed to transform Gallifrey into a relatively normal alien planet and that is because it is written by Robert Holmes who is so skillful a writer he can keep things moody, dramatic and exciting and balance the human face of the Time Lords with some pretty grandiose ideas. The ideas are stolen for this story but not applied with anywhere near the same skill and besides what is the point of repeating the experiment if you aren't going add anything to the myth. The creation of a bloody great laser gun is hardly in the same league as Rassilon's star or the Matrix. It's not even a particularly impressive looking laser gun.
Graham Williams (City of Death) and Anthony Read (The Horns of Nimon) are NOT bad writers but the rushed nature of this script is obvious when watching, although some of the ideas are worthy (the Doctor gone rogue, Leela and the Outlers, the Sontarans invading Gallifrey) they do not gel into a satisfying whole. At six episodes long it is mercilessly padded with lots of time for important stuff like endless running around whilst ignoring pointless stuff like decent characterisation, decent explanations and decent drama. The Vardan plot is so hopelessly cliched I fail to see why they bothered, once they have a foothold on Gallifrey everybody pretty much acts as though nothing has happened... the Doctor and Borusa continue their mind games, Kelner continues mincing about... nobody acts as though the invasion of Gallifrey is important. And if they don't give a shit why should we? The Doctor is introduced as a traitor to his own people but nobody seems to care except Leela and she is thrown out of the Capitol so any drama that could be exploited there is neglected. The story seems to have been written to allow Tom Baker to act like a big bully (which he does rather well) but after the initial shock of watching him scream like a complete power mad loony for an episode even that loses its shock value.
We are introduced to characters like Rodan (who is about as useless as Time Ladies come) and Andred (who might be something of a dish but is motiveless throughout, switching sides on a whim and so stupid he keeps addressing the camera with his thoughts) and the big, burly Outsiders who might have been an interesting addition if they weren't another bunch of hairy tribes people the likes we have seen a million times before. When did Gallifrey become this ordinary? It is such a bland, unexciting place it is easy to see why the Doctor hopped off the first chance he could (so at least that is consistent with Doctor Who continuity).
The biggest surprise comes at the end of episode four which incidentally is the best the cliffhanger of the entire season. Hurrah, the yawnathon Vardan plot has been foiled by some tedious technobabble and we can move on to the next story... BUT WHAT'S THIS... The Sontarans have leapt through the gap in Gallifrey's defences and are standing in the Panopticon, blasters raised. The audacity of wasting the first four episodes (of a six parter) on a plot device to allow the real enemy access to Gallifrey is mind-boggling and the music, the unexpectness and Tom Baker's reaction combine to make this one of the best surprises in Doctor Who history. Now the real story can begin...
Imagine you were living in a poky little flat, stinking with mildew, rotten carpets, rat infested... that sort of thing and somebody tells you that you have been living in the wrong place all this time and your real house is waiting for you. That is the excitement generated by this cliffhanger. Unfortunately the resulting two episodes are the equivalent of being escorted from your horrid flat and being introduced to a soggy cardboard box. All we get is a protracted chase sequence through Gallifrey and then another chase through the TARDIS corridors, both looking horrifically cheap and nasty. There is no plot here at all, just unbelievably embarrassing monsters playing kiss chase with some equally bland characters. Along the way the Doctor builds his chunky laser gun and blows the Sontarans away. The end. The climax to this epic adventure is that the Doctor betrays all his morals and blows somebody away. A chilling climax for all the wrong reasons.
For all the production problems season fifteen had (what with Horror of Fang Rock forced into different studios than those planned and Underworld CSO-ing its characters into caves rather than building large scale versions) it had made an effort to try and salvage something (The Sun Makers is a desperately cheap production but acquits its sterile location work and sets surprisingly well and the CSO isn't that bad). Given the lack of funds and length of the tale you would think the writers would try to scale down the story but no, the production team were forced to try and realise Gallifrey in all its splendour and a labyrinth of TARDIS corridors and rooms. The result, this unwatchable dreck sinks even lower into mediocrity.
Some dusty old hospital corridors double for the TARDIS in a move so unconvincing it makes the actors look stupid. Gallifrey is represented by three plastic looking sets and a corridor, which the actors traipse back and forth between as though Gallifrey really is a massive planet and these just happen to be the rooms that were needed during this crisis. Spare me. Never mind the ill-fitting Sontaran costumes, the tinfoil Vardans (I kid you not) and the featureless location work. This story is ugly. The flat, dull direction doesn't help matters at all, Tom Baker out of control (his chemistry with Louise Jameson completely vanished simply because he doesn't like her character... compare this with his sparkling repartee with Mary Tamm next year), the action sequences barely deserve to be favoured with the word action and a Dudley Simpson score which tries triply hard to convince you something exciting is going on but ends up drowning out the story.
I can usually forgive any Doctor Who story because it offers up something of value but The Invasion of Time tests this theory to the limit. Some halfway-decent model work (about twenty seconds of footage) and a bloody good cliffhanger are not enough reward for trudging through six episodes of this muck.
Bizarrely this was the point where the Graham Williams era was criticized for its humour. A real oddity because there is very little apparent. Or sparkling characterisation. Or quotable dialogue. Or rewarding ideas. This story is an empty vacuum of everything that makes this era great. And it's also a good excuse for Williams to never, ever bring back any old monsters in any way, shape or form (well except the Daleks... and unsurprisingly they are probably the lest convincing monsters since the Sontarans!).
A waste of energy and resources. They should have forgotten about this nonsense and filtered the money into the other stories in season fifteen.
Doctor Who Goes Eastwooding by Hugh Sturgess 2/5/13
The Invasion of Time is the perfect Graham Williams story. "Perfect", here, means "archetypal", rather than "good". Like most of the Williams era, it's an ultra-shoddy high-concept mistake. It has not just one but three big, exciting ideas at the heart of the story, but it's one of the most amateurish, clumsy and disastrous productions in the show's history. The scripts throw their big ideas against the wall to see if they'll stick, while most of the cast is almost charmingly wooden, and the sets, the music and even basic production competence are at rock bottom. Yes, yes, the usual caveats about BBC strikes and 25% inflation, but, like Underworld immediately before it, its problems lie in the conception, not in the money spent on it.
This was only the second story set on Gallifrey, and it clearly follows on from The Deadly Assassin: there still doesn't seem to be a president, Borusa has been elevated to chancellor to replace Goth, and the Doctor claims his legal right to become president (being the only surviving candidate from the unseen presidential election in Assassin). But, by God, how the mighty are fallen. "David Agnew" has misinterpreted and mishandled the paradoxical, mundane but glorious, powerful but decayed world of Robert Holmes. Where Holmes saw a Dickensian satire of Oxbridge, with absent-minded, senile gods who have simply forgotten how powerful they are, Williams and Anthony Read see a banal, bureaucratic wasteland of bland, empty rooms. The ruined glory of Holmes's Gallifrey has been replaced by just another sci-fi planet, with boring old men in a citadel and hairy outsiders in the wastes. It's The Savages! The fog-filled, gloomy, atmospheric sets of The Deadly Assassin are flood-lit and horribly cheap-looking; yes, I know, an economic problem that the production team had no control over... but a good production team knows to hide cheap sets with lighting (as, indeed, Hinchcliffe did). Gallifrey looks like a conference centre or an airport. For some reason, when Williams became producer, basic production competence flew out the window. He had some wonderful ideas to bring to the series, but as a producer he was chronically incapable of getting the money and the talent on the screen. The grandeur of Gallifrey is gone, and it will never recover.
The central idea that crashes on its way to the screen in this case is the idea of the Doctor returning to Gallifrey and bringing an alien invasion down on their heads. The idea is an enormously powerful one, something any writer should kill to explore. The unusual opening, essentially in media res with the Doctor concluding his agreement with the Vardans to be their cat's-paw, and the next two episodes' focus on the Doctor as a unreliable and opaque figure show that the authors appreciated the potential in it, and that they knew that it called for a special kind of story. One thing that The Invasion of Time cannot be accused of being is a conventional, pedestrian story. In fact, it's constantly shaking up the formula in its settings, its plot, its characterisation and its structure (essentially three two-part stories linked by twists). If it had been properly handled, "Agnew" could have made the story a worthy sequel to Assassin. As I wrote in Outside In, The Deadly Assassin is such a strong story that it manages to pull the other Gallifrey stories into the semblance of an arc: viewed from the right angle, it's a tale of the Time Lords rising from their isolation to become an interventionist power, a trajectory out of their ivory towers that will culminate in the Time War. After rousing the Time Lords from their slumber in Assassin, The Invasion of Time - a direct alien invasion of Gallifrey - is the next step.
It seems the Doctor encountered the Vardans out in the universe somewhere, learnt of their plans, and decided to help them in order to lure them out into the open. Did he just do this to defeat the Vardans, or did he also intend it as a lesson for the Time Lords? The Vardans are an example of the evil he has fought, and of the danger posed by the powerful shirking their responsibilities. If the writers had chosen to explore an idea like that, the first two episodes could have been intriguing. Borusa could have been the Doctor's ally in gaining the presidency, being delighted at the idea of a bold interventionist like the Doctor leading Gallifrey; it would also add new dimensions to the daredevil persona of the fourth Doctor. Instead, the Doctor sleepwalks into office, seemingly because the Time Lords are too tradition-bound to prevent him. Most reviewers praise the opening two episodes for the idea of the Doctor turning traitor, and Baker's rendering of it. I disagree. I think the first two episodes, despite being plot-heavy while the others are plot-empty, are completely unsatisfying. The writers know what they want to happen, and they make it happen in the swiftest, least exciting way. The Doctor comes back to Gallifrey and becomes president with a monotone. "The unauthorised use of a time capsule carries only one penalty" - presumably, to be escorted to wherever you want to go, including into the offices of the chancellor. No Time Lords even object to this dissolute renegade being installed as president (an office to which he is entitled only by virtue of being the only surviving candidate) just a few hours after arriving; only the lovable old codgers (the Surgeon-General and the other one) have any problem at all, and that's only because it's bad manners.
The writing is functional and bloodless, but Tom Baker isn't doing it any favours. Like Underworld immediately before it, The Invasion of Time has Tom flicking himself onto autopilot every few minutes. He's clearly in love with being crazy every now and then, screaming at Borusa in Episode One and discussing jelly babies with the guard. (Borusa "doesn't care for jelly babies. I think he's frivolous.") He terrorises Kelner with jelly babies ("One grows tired of jelly babies") and explains his plan to Andred in the TARDIS. But when it comes to plot-related acting, he just can't be bothered. His lazy performance sinks the first two episodes, and his comedic shtick (like tripping twice in the TARDIS, or looking at his palm when talking about the back of his hand) is grimly unfunny.
The whole invasion is so poorly executed that it almost passes without notice. The most powerful civilisation in the universe has just been subdued in a few minutes by alien militarists, and no one seems much bothered. Look at the reactions of the Time Lords in the Panopticon when the Doctor introduces "your new masters": they don't react at all, and mildly obey his order for them to go back to their quarters as if nothing has happened. You've just been invaded by tinfoil apparitions: act like it! I'm assuming that the extras for this story were hired because they weren't too picky about being paid, rather than for their ability to act like human beings, or perhaps the director didn't tell them that the Vardans would be superimposed on the film afterwards, but it's like watching people's reactions to an empty room. The cast is mostly strong - John Arnatt is wonderful as Borusa, and Andred isn't as bad as the Williams era can get - but the minor parts are being played by rank amateurs: the scene in which Andred gets two Time Lords to join his side is painful to watch. It's not just the extras who screw up this genuinely awesome plot-line. Kelner acts as though this is all perfectly normal, and all Borusa will say is that the Doctor has "no rrrright!". That's it? Your president betrays your people and all you say is that he has no right?! By this stage, it's quite clear that the story is being written by a pair of non-writers, but surely two men capable of devising such a plot could drum up a bit of excitement when writing it?
Then the Doctor uses technobabble to make the Vardans' doo-dah hit the whatsit and everyone can go home. Some people have pointed out that the Doctor basically condemns an entire civilisation to a form of living death because of the actions of its military, but what I was struck by was the Vardan plotline's Moffat-esque qualities. Lead-lining the president's chambers is set up early and then revealed in a "ta-da!" surprise - exactly the kind of set-up and pay-off Moffat would use ("I asked you to line my room with lead. THIS IS MY ROOM!!!"). This is a distant evolutionary ancestor of modern Moffat Who: pretending to be crazy to get the baddies' guard down, plots within plots and then time-looping the enemy? That's exactly what the eleventh Doctor would do.
The twist with the Sontarans is actually handled very well, all said. It's completely unexpected and turns the story entirely on its head - exactly what a twist should do. The burbling music that goes along with Stor is probably the only good bit of music in the whole story.
Unlike virtually every other reviewer ever, I actually enjoy the two episodes that follow it. They are almost shameless in their disregard for the audience - with the Sontarans trying to open the hole in the transduction barriers while the Doctor's trying to close it, the characters spending twenty minutes almost wordlessly walking around a building, the most powerful weapon in the history of the universe being a standard sci-fi laser gun and Stor getting bored of this shit and deciding to blow up the galaxy on a whim - but (and I am not making this up) simply having people moving about the place gave it a sense of energy lacking from the previous four episodes. It says more about the rest of the story than about these episodes that people wandering around in circles in a deserted hospital is positively exhilarating by comparison. Yes, using some brick corridors, a tacky hotel swimming pool and a shower room to represent the TARDIS interior is disappointing when you consider what could have been, but the economics of the production were a nightmare, so I don't begrudge this kind of cost-cutting. I quite like it, to be honest. It's distinctive, and is actually more interesting than the bland silver corridors in The Doctor's Wife, or the white Ikea sets of the Davison era.
The story keeps bursting with great ideas that crash in flames because neither the script nor the production are any good. The Sontaran Invasion of Gallifrey is... three Sontarans. Episode Six is the first "hijacked TARDIS" plot, and the script seems to recognise this - Stor's line: "We will do battle on your own terms, Doctor...", together with ominous music - but it's just a runaround in some corridors until Stor gives up and decides to blow everything up. The idea of the Doctor building a doomsday weapon using the knowledge gleaned from Rassilon's ghost, still living on in the Matrix, is potentially awe-inspiring or even creepy, but it turns out to be the De-Mat Gun. What is it? What does it do? Why is it so terrible? It is left completely unexplained, prompting reams of fan theories that it wipes its targets from time (hence the Doctor's amnesia), but the script never hints at this explanation, or any other, for that matter.
This story truly is a train-wreck. Once again: yes, its economic problems were insurmountable, but the cheapness of its sets and the ludicrousness of the tinfoil Vardans (which I kinda like, actually) aren't the biggest problems. Doctor Who's biggest disasters have never been about money. The script, the acting and basic directorial competence loom much larger as The Invasion of Time's flaws. The plot is poorly thought out, and its running-time is bloated by naked padding of the most vacuous kind. The direction insults the viewer: there are so many shots that should be been redone, yet were allowed to go to broadcast. When the Doctor goes hopscotching through the Citadel in Episode Two, he knocks into the (stationary) camera; twice the camera wobbles seriously as it moves; and the confrontation in the TARDIS workshop is so badly done it looks as though Kelner appears out of nowhere. The Sontaran trooper leaps gracefully over a poolside deck-chair... and lands on the chair and trips over in a goof worthy of inclusion in "28 people you can't believe actually exist" list on Buzzfeed. There's so much more: the Outsiders who look like refugees from Woodstock, the chubby, doltish Vardan with the silver utility-braces...
Appointing Graham Williams producer of the series was one of the greatest acts of stupidity in the show's history. On the evidence, the man simply wasn't fit to be a producer. Instead, he should have been script-editor, or chief writer of the RTD variety - one whose job is to focus on the storylines rather than the prosaic but necessary job of hiring experienced actors, directors, and so on. Simply put, Philip Hinchcliffe's first season has only two real failures - Robot and Revenge of the Cybermen - and the former is really a holdover from his predecessors, and both are nevertheless competent if dull pieces of television. Graham Williams's maiden voyage, by contrast, began with two Hinchcliffe holdovers - Fang Rock and Image of the Fendahl - and then produced The Invisible Enemy, Underworld and The Invasion of Time. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a reign of evil. The Invasion of Time should be great, but it's awful. A scene in Episode One sums it up: the Vardans, at this stage seemingly cone-shaped stone-like beings (later revealed to be only the backs of their chairs), are tracking the Doctor; the leader switches to "visual" (this being a screen filled with pink and blue abstract shapes) and declares "Interesting! He's coming in to land."
As for the title of this review, count how many times the Doctor talks to himself during this story, including, in Episode Two, to an empty chair. "So, Borusa, how do you handle people who say that, that there's nothing so useless as a lock with a voice-print? I mean, how, how... H-how do you handle it? What do you... say... to people... when... Oh. Oh, you don't? No, you shut up."
"Abigail's Party" by Thomas Cookson 9/5/16
The Invasion of Time is almost the Twin Dilemma of the 70's. The end-of-season runt of the litter piece of pap where the Doctor suddenly becomes an unhinged villainous diva. And, like The Twin Dilemma, probably no one would've thought less of the season for its absence, but the producer was insistent that it go ahead.
Head of Serials Graeme McDonald suggested abandoning this and reusing the Gallifrey sets later, to save money that the show desperately needed after Hinchcliffe had wildly overspent on Talons of Weng-Chiang. But, with Williams' Key to Time arc planned next season, the sets would've gone to waste if not used here. The first of many detrimental creative decisions forced by economics.
It's also where the beloved Fourth Doctor takes a turn for the ugly. In
fact, he'd started Season 15 on an unusually cavalier note in Horror of Fang Rock, seeming contemptfully unconcerned
over the guest characters' well-being. Beforehand, he'd been the beloved
hero viewers could trust in. Even if Not anymore. His snubbing and banishment of Leela marks a grim
precursor to his caddish treatment of Romana next season. His complicity
in all the deaths here is unjustifiable. The Doctor's backstory with the
Vardans comes off too half-baked and vague to justify the Doctor's
reckless charade of endangering Gallifrey in order to save it, or why
fleeing the Vardans instead wasn't an option. Given Williams' season arc
ambitions for Season 16, it feels like he missed a trick here in not
having Season 15's other stories likewise dropping hints of secret
meetings with shadowy aliens or the Doctor worrying over some grand
It's not on par with Warriors of the Deep or The Twin Dilemma, which wrote the Doctor as so
unforgivably hateable it spoils my ability to enjoy even past stories with
him because of now knowing what his character is capable of or really
thinks of people at his worst. But I think nonetheless what's done to the
Doctor here is enough to leave viewers reluctant to follow him from
Philip Sandifer argued that this story shows great faith in the viewer
to deduce this is all a careful double bluff of the Doctor's, and it
certainly pre-empts Cartmel's 'darker Doctor' innovations. Unfortunately,
I don't believe the resolution sufficiently rewards that faith. The Doctor
seems ultimately unconcerned about the human cost of his actions, and,
like A Good Man Goes To War, it feels like an
exercise in sheer wankery.
To watch Genesis of the Daleks or The Talons of Weng-Chiang is to intimately understand
why this is a landmark show, and why the Doctor's an important, unique
Watching this, one could easily forget that had ever been the case or
that the show or the character had ever been that good. Yes, we can
delight in the thrill of the Doctor being shown as a more dubious
antihero, but I think there's a danger of making Tom's Doctor suddenly too
capricious or dodgy, and this presents him as little else.
The Doctor used to represent the need for caution over gung-ho spirits
(hence why I've never liked the modern Doctors' tendency for irresponsible
sabre-rattling). The Doctor represented a healthy alternative to the
increasingly macho, belligerent action heroes of the time. One who
preferred mediation, understanding and accommodation, with violence as a
That he'd just provoke an invasion and gamble with so many lives,
including Leela's, goes completely against that, raising too many
questions over what makes the Doctor now any better than the military
figues he once criticized? What makes him more worth rooting for than what
he supposedly stands against? Isn't that missing the point of his title,
'the Doctor', which suggests care and compassion, not sociopathic
Yes, there are moments where the Doctor breaks his resolve and must do
something rash and impulsive, but these moments are supposed to punctuate
a story rather than drown it; otherwise, those moments lose their effect.
Gareth Roberts suggested the Doctor here was partly making a point
about Gallifrey's complacency and how they need him, but that makes him no
better than Carnival of Monsters' villains releasing
the Drashigs to cause a crisis to benefit their political agenda. Roberts
also suggested the Williams era saw a character growth for Tom's Doctor
that exposed how retrograde Davison's characterization was. But I don't
see it here.
I could conceive of the Doctor regretting passing his chance to play
God in Genesis of the Daleks and subsequently
overcompensating by taking more drastic measures to sort out the universe.
But this just seems too spuriously done to convince of that. Plus, I've
never liked the idea of the Doctor as a bitter, failed undergraduate with
something to prove, even after having since raised grandchildren and spent
centuries off world. I think it'd be a non-issue to him by now.
But really the problem is the story doesn't make him a very compelling
anti-hero. In Abigail's Party, director Mike Leigh's focus made the
villainess Beverly as fascinating and mesmerizing to watch as she was
Here that doesn't happen. Tom seems largely bored, and his outlandish
antics and megalomania seem to inspire equally apathetic and lethargic
responses from the cast. It becomes too easy to become disinterested in
him and distracted elsewhere, and I think the director was. This story
required a lot of conviction to hold our attention at the wrongness of the
Doctor here, and sadly what we largely got instead was more indulgence and
dead air, leaving the guest cast with nothing to do but mill about.
Compare that to the season opener, Horror of Fang
Rock, in which the guest cast was stellar and each one of them felt
alive and credible.
It almost feels like the show's trying to make us thoroughly sick of
its superstar in just six weeks.
The Vardans are pathetically forgettable, making no impression and
further diminishing any sense that the Doctor's moving carefully against
some greater overwhelming force. The Sontarans' appearance makes more
sense as it's easier to care about a threat to Gallifrey from a race we've
seen in action demonstrating their might before. In an unfortunate way,
their inclusion is a criticism of the weightlessness of the Vardans as an
idea. Sadly, it's already too late to care about the odds when we know
how quickly Gallifrey would surrender without a fight. It somewhat fits
Robert Holmes' view of the Time Lords' fatal complacency, but takes it too
far and affords them none of the dignity Holmes had granted them, instead
simply reducing them to a reductio ad absurdum of themselves.
Nonetheless, I do like Rodan and how when meeting Leela she immediately
prefers her company to calling the guards. As with Susan and Romana, she
encapsulates the pre-1980s idea of Time Ladies being the stranger, wilder,
more playful counterpoint to their stuffy male counterparts, needing a
more magical woman's touch. Unfortunately, once she has to share screen
with Tom, her personality and agency immediately disappears.
Then there are the Outliers, living by harsh survival rules, Darwinist
conformity and with little pity for the weak. I'm rather troubled by how
we're supposed to root for their violent revolution against a civilized
democracy and by the Doctor showing no acknowledgement, let alone
condemnation of their murder of his door guards. Last time someone was
murdering guards in the Capitol, the Doctor did everything to hunt the
killer down, not shake their hand.
Hugh Sturgess has questioned my double standards concerning being more
forgiving of dubious morality in the Williams era compared to 80's
Who. Williams fare like The Sunmakers and Creature from the Pit invoked the peasants' revolt,
usually ending with the greedy leaders getting lynched, which was depicted
cartoonishly. A working-class hero's sordid revenge fantasy, essentially.
But this is an old mythical tradition, the Robin Hood narrative. We have a
romantic nostalgia for what medieval, idealistic men were prepared to do
for their cause in savage times. But we as an audience also know we've had
to become more civilized since and believe that harming people isn't the
way to solve our problems anymore.
My problem with 80's Who is that it outwardly removed any kind
of ironic or whimsical lens from the show and developed a po-faced,
lunatic-fringe ethos, pitched at a more humorless audience of fan zealots
who took the show's messages deadly seriously. Warriors
of the Deep exercised a warped desire for revenge on anyone who dares
disagree with our lunatic hero. In fact, nostalgia itself was being
perverted to mean something it never used to. In short, the JNT era's
preachings of peace and nobility became laughable, but, when it proscribed
violence as a solution, the show now felt like it really 'meant' it. And,
this time, these messages weren't drawn from folklore or other literature
but from the show itself. It made Doctor Who amoral and evil by no
other inspiration but itself.
This is more the makers getting careless and carried away, and not for
the first time. Back in The Chase, there's a
sickeningly cruel scene where Hartnell knocks an Aridian toward a Mire
Beast and forces Barbara away from saving him from being eaten. But the
Doctor's character and the show's morality had definably grown and
developed since then. This is a step back. No, I don't believe the Doctor
should be unable to kill as a rule, because that erases any possible drama
over whether, under certain circumstances or provocation, he might. But if
he becomes casual about bloodshed, then his darker moments equally lose
If we've evolved a humanity that prevents us from being prepared to
kill, then that's something the show should champion even whilst reminding
us that people and regimes prepared to kill in an instant still exist and
how military culture programs that humanity out of us. Yes, sometimes
killing an enemy is necessary, and reluctance to kill shouldn't mean
letting the bloodthirsty do whatever they want (except in Warriors of the Deep where that perversely is the
message), but the compassion that holds us back from that matters and
should be honored.
Surely then, something's gone wrong when the show's presenting those
prepared to kill in cold blood without justifiable reason as the one's the
show is rooting 'for'.
I've said of Warriors of the Deep that if the
Doctor stops caring about humanity or his companions' safety, the viewer
has no reason to care about him or root for his twisted beliefs or
loyalties or to believe anyone would stand by him. Therefore if they cease
to be able to root for the show, they might as well switch off.
Evidently they didn't here, which unfortunately tells me they didn't
care or take this seriously enough to even be concerned. The show had lost
its respectability and importance. Furthermore, the gulf between popular
understanding of the Doctor's moral, peace-loving nature, and how the
show's actually depicting him here is so unbreachable that the popular
understanding floundered as it lost its reference point of the show
actively demonstrating how the Doctor holds the line and when
circumstances dictate he must cross it. Hence why hardly anyone in the
80's could write the character properly anymore. Incensed by this
betrayal, fandom began hysterically deifying the 'unsullied' Pertwee era's
misremembered moral messages.
The Invasion of Time sees fandom begin to develop diminished
expectations that the public and the BBC weren't prepared to share. Maybe
The Invasion of Time was ultimately worth it for City of Death, but where does it end, before the excuses
and compromised standards accumulate until the show's worthless? Maybe the
line should've been drawn sooner and Talons of
Weng-Chiang was the last time it was unambiguously worth it to get
here, and everything afterwards was just false dawns.
Not anymore. His snubbing and banishment of Leela marks a grim precursor to his caddish treatment of Romana next season. His complicity in all the deaths here is unjustifiable. The Doctor's backstory with the Vardans comes off too half-baked and vague to justify the Doctor's reckless charade of endangering Gallifrey in order to save it, or why fleeing the Vardans instead wasn't an option. Given Williams' season arc ambitions for Season 16, it feels like he missed a trick here in not having Season 15's other stories likewise dropping hints of secret meetings with shadowy aliens or the Doctor worrying over some grand masterplan.
It's not on par with Warriors of the Deep or The Twin Dilemma, which wrote the Doctor as so unforgivably hateable it spoils my ability to enjoy even past stories with him because of now knowing what his character is capable of or really thinks of people at his worst. But I think nonetheless what's done to the Doctor here is enough to leave viewers reluctant to follow him from hereon.
Philip Sandifer argued that this story shows great faith in the viewer to deduce this is all a careful double bluff of the Doctor's, and it certainly pre-empts Cartmel's 'darker Doctor' innovations. Unfortunately, I don't believe the resolution sufficiently rewards that faith. The Doctor seems ultimately unconcerned about the human cost of his actions, and, like A Good Man Goes To War, it feels like an exercise in sheer wankery.
To watch Genesis of the Daleks or The Talons of Weng-Chiang is to intimately understand why this is a landmark show, and why the Doctor's an important, unique peace-loving hero.
Watching this, one could easily forget that had ever been the case or that the show or the character had ever been that good. Yes, we can delight in the thrill of the Doctor being shown as a more dubious antihero, but I think there's a danger of making Tom's Doctor suddenly too capricious or dodgy, and this presents him as little else.
The Doctor used to represent the need for caution over gung-ho spirits (hence why I've never liked the modern Doctors' tendency for irresponsible sabre-rattling). The Doctor represented a healthy alternative to the increasingly macho, belligerent action heroes of the time. One who preferred mediation, understanding and accommodation, with violence as a last resort.
That he'd just provoke an invasion and gamble with so many lives, including Leela's, goes completely against that, raising too many questions over what makes the Doctor now any better than the military figues he once criticized? What makes him more worth rooting for than what he supposedly stands against? Isn't that missing the point of his title, 'the Doctor', which suggests care and compassion, not sociopathic recklessness?
Yes, there are moments where the Doctor breaks his resolve and must do something rash and impulsive, but these moments are supposed to punctuate a story rather than drown it; otherwise, those moments lose their effect.
Gareth Roberts suggested the Doctor here was partly making a point about Gallifrey's complacency and how they need him, but that makes him no better than Carnival of Monsters' villains releasing the Drashigs to cause a crisis to benefit their political agenda. Roberts also suggested the Williams era saw a character growth for Tom's Doctor that exposed how retrograde Davison's characterization was. But I don't see it here.
I could conceive of the Doctor regretting passing his chance to play God in Genesis of the Daleks and subsequently overcompensating by taking more drastic measures to sort out the universe. But this just seems too spuriously done to convince of that. Plus, I've never liked the idea of the Doctor as a bitter, failed undergraduate with something to prove, even after having since raised grandchildren and spent centuries off world. I think it'd be a non-issue to him by now.
But really the problem is the story doesn't make him a very compelling anti-hero. In Abigail's Party, director Mike Leigh's focus made the villainess Beverly as fascinating and mesmerizing to watch as she was vile.
Here that doesn't happen. Tom seems largely bored, and his outlandish antics and megalomania seem to inspire equally apathetic and lethargic responses from the cast. It becomes too easy to become disinterested in him and distracted elsewhere, and I think the director was. This story required a lot of conviction to hold our attention at the wrongness of the Doctor here, and sadly what we largely got instead was more indulgence and dead air, leaving the guest cast with nothing to do but mill about. Compare that to the season opener, Horror of Fang Rock, in which the guest cast was stellar and each one of them felt alive and credible.
It almost feels like the show's trying to make us thoroughly sick of its superstar in just six weeks.
The Vardans are pathetically forgettable, making no impression and further diminishing any sense that the Doctor's moving carefully against some greater overwhelming force. The Sontarans' appearance makes more sense as it's easier to care about a threat to Gallifrey from a race we've seen in action demonstrating their might before. In an unfortunate way, their inclusion is a criticism of the weightlessness of the Vardans as an idea. Sadly, it's already too late to care about the odds when we know how quickly Gallifrey would surrender without a fight. It somewhat fits Robert Holmes' view of the Time Lords' fatal complacency, but takes it too far and affords them none of the dignity Holmes had granted them, instead simply reducing them to a reductio ad absurdum of themselves.
Nonetheless, I do like Rodan and how when meeting Leela she immediately prefers her company to calling the guards. As with Susan and Romana, she encapsulates the pre-1980s idea of Time Ladies being the stranger, wilder, more playful counterpoint to their stuffy male counterparts, needing a more magical woman's touch. Unfortunately, once she has to share screen with Tom, her personality and agency immediately disappears.
Then there are the Outliers, living by harsh survival rules, Darwinist conformity and with little pity for the weak. I'm rather troubled by how we're supposed to root for their violent revolution against a civilized democracy and by the Doctor showing no acknowledgement, let alone condemnation of their murder of his door guards. Last time someone was murdering guards in the Capitol, the Doctor did everything to hunt the killer down, not shake their hand.
Hugh Sturgess has questioned my double standards concerning being more forgiving of dubious morality in the Williams era compared to 80's Who. Williams fare like The Sunmakers and Creature from the Pit invoked the peasants' revolt, usually ending with the greedy leaders getting lynched, which was depicted cartoonishly. A working-class hero's sordid revenge fantasy, essentially. But this is an old mythical tradition, the Robin Hood narrative. We have a romantic nostalgia for what medieval, idealistic men were prepared to do for their cause in savage times. But we as an audience also know we've had to become more civilized since and believe that harming people isn't the way to solve our problems anymore.
My problem with 80's Who is that it outwardly removed any kind of ironic or whimsical lens from the show and developed a po-faced, lunatic-fringe ethos, pitched at a more humorless audience of fan zealots who took the show's messages deadly seriously. Warriors of the Deep exercised a warped desire for revenge on anyone who dares disagree with our lunatic hero. In fact, nostalgia itself was being perverted to mean something it never used to. In short, the JNT era's preachings of peace and nobility became laughable, but, when it proscribed violence as a solution, the show now felt like it really 'meant' it. And, this time, these messages weren't drawn from folklore or other literature but from the show itself. It made Doctor Who amoral and evil by no other inspiration but itself.
This is more the makers getting careless and carried away, and not for the first time. Back in The Chase, there's a sickeningly cruel scene where Hartnell knocks an Aridian toward a Mire Beast and forces Barbara away from saving him from being eaten. But the Doctor's character and the show's morality had definably grown and developed since then. This is a step back. No, I don't believe the Doctor should be unable to kill as a rule, because that erases any possible drama over whether, under certain circumstances or provocation, he might. But if he becomes casual about bloodshed, then his darker moments equally lose all meaning.
If we've evolved a humanity that prevents us from being prepared to kill, then that's something the show should champion even whilst reminding us that people and regimes prepared to kill in an instant still exist and how military culture programs that humanity out of us. Yes, sometimes killing an enemy is necessary, and reluctance to kill shouldn't mean letting the bloodthirsty do whatever they want (except in Warriors of the Deep where that perversely is the message), but the compassion that holds us back from that matters and should be honored.
Surely then, something's gone wrong when the show's presenting those prepared to kill in cold blood without justifiable reason as the one's the show is rooting 'for'.
I've said of Warriors of the Deep that if the Doctor stops caring about humanity or his companions' safety, the viewer has no reason to care about him or root for his twisted beliefs or loyalties or to believe anyone would stand by him. Therefore if they cease to be able to root for the show, they might as well switch off.
Evidently they didn't here, which unfortunately tells me they didn't care or take this seriously enough to even be concerned. The show had lost its respectability and importance. Furthermore, the gulf between popular understanding of the Doctor's moral, peace-loving nature, and how the show's actually depicting him here is so unbreachable that the popular understanding floundered as it lost its reference point of the show actively demonstrating how the Doctor holds the line and when circumstances dictate he must cross it. Hence why hardly anyone in the 80's could write the character properly anymore. Incensed by this betrayal, fandom began hysterically deifying the 'unsullied' Pertwee era's misremembered moral messages.
The Invasion of Time sees fandom begin to develop diminished expectations that the public and the BBC weren't prepared to share. Maybe The Invasion of Time was ultimately worth it for City of Death, but where does it end, before the excuses and compromised standards accumulate until the show's worthless? Maybe the line should've been drawn sooner and Talons of Weng-Chiang was the last time it was unambiguously worth it to get here, and everything afterwards was just false dawns.