THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Invasion of Time
The Paradise of Death
The Sontaran Experiment
BBC
The Time Warrior

Episodes 4 Sarah Jane finds herself stuck between a Sontaran and the Middle Ages.
Story No# 70
Production Code UUU
Season 11
Dates Dec. 15, 1973 -
Jan. 5, 1974

With Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen, Nicolas Courtney.
Written by Robert Holmes. Script-edited by Terrance Dicks.
Directed by Alan Bromly. Produced by Barry Letts.

Synopsis: The Doctor investigates disappearing scientists, kidnapped to medieval England by a stranded Sonataran soldier, Lynx.


Reviews

A Review by Leo Vance 21/1/98

This is an excellent story. It has all the elements in it that make a pseudo-historical story, and Robert Holmes has done well with a good script.

Linx the Sontaran is a superb monster, both in character and design. Kevin Lindsay really brings the character to life, and his motivations are well=written. They are much better than, say, the Primitives, the Ogrons or the Axons in earlier Pertwee stories. Supporting Linx are Irongron and Bloodaxe, a truly magnificent Holmes double-act. Irongron is very over-the-top (OTT), and even though I like OTT performances, he sometimes goes too far even for me. Bloodaxe is a perfect villains lieutenant, and the story is worth watching just for him, he is so hilarious. `Yours is indeed a, a towering intelligence, Captain'.

The Wessexes are less effective. The Lord and the Lady are not very well played, despite the fact that they are generally well written characters. Hal the Archer is the worst performance and character in the whole story. He is boring and awful. The luck he has in shooting Linx in the probic vent (without knowing about it) is unbelievable. The Squire who Linx hypnotises is better acted, but his role is simply unimportant and this disappoints, as there are not enough speaking parts on either side and thus the general population is fairly faceless.

Elisabeth Sladen was the big surprise as Sarah Jane Smith, putting in a tour de force. The only bad part is her ludicrous discussion with the Cooking Woman in Irongrons castle, but the subplot about her believing the Doctor to be evil is excellent.

Jon Pertwee is excellent. This is very well written for him, and the scene early on where he humorously suggests to a clearly "Liberated" girl (Sarah) that she fetch the coffee for them is excellent, and his small smile tells the audience he is not the chauvinist he appears.

All in all, a good start for both Sarah and the Sontarans. Also, Jon Pertwee gets a brilliant start to his final season. 8/10


Irongron's Star by Tom May 26/1/98

"A long shanked rascal with a Mighty Nose...."
This pseudo-historical romp is, without doubt, the only season eleven saga that stands up to close scrutiny. Pertwee, uninteresting in the extreme during this era of Doctor Who, is passable in this, and Lis Sladen is enticingly credible as Sarah-Jane.

The main triumph of The Time Warrior is Holmes' superbly defined characters. Commander Linx, Bloodaxe and good Captain Irongron are all typically marvellous Holmes creations. The tone of the story is light, and amusing, exemplified by Irongron. David Daker's performance is distinctly OTT, yet far more enjoyable, and believable than Alan Rowe's Edward of Wessex. The raport, or lack of it, betwween Linx and Irongron is intensely pleasing, and manages to distract the viewer from some padding.

As the first Doctor Who video I acquired, this story holds some affection for me. There is little wrong with the story, apart from, possibly the predictable sword-fight at the end. A shame that Irongron perished, as he, along with Count Grendel of The Androids of Tara, deserved a return much more than the Master ever did.


A Review by Joseph Nunweek 25/4/98

The Time Warrior does stand out in Season Eleven, mainly because it was held over from Season Ten. It is undeniably one of Robert Holmes' best stories.

It has lavish location filming a good monster for once. The Sontarans are one of those rare alien races that can actually suspend my disbelief, and are especially well designed for an era that gave us the Gel Guards and the Giant Spiders. The face mask and suit are very convincing. But Kevin Lindsay makes the part what it is. He gives Linx personality. The scheming Sontaran plays off Irongron superbly, helping him when it is suitable and the rest of the time arrogantly ignoring him.

Holmes, who makes the story what it is with fantastic dialogue, chooses not to focus on Sir Edward or Hal The Archer, but instead prefers to write for Linx's partners in crime. You can see how much he enjoyed writing The Time Warrior in the scenes between Irongron and Bloodaxe. While they are almost wholly comic characters with little dramatic impact, the unpleasant warlord and his trembling sychophant are the best part of the story.

Jon Pertwee, while not in finest form in this story, is still good, and Liz Sladen gives a great performance. New companions are usually suspicious of the Doctor, but the concept of Sarah aiding and abetting the Doctor's capture and believing him to be responsible for the vanishing scientists is a great concept. Professor Rubeish, while completely superfluous to the plot, is still very fun, and plays off the Doctor well.

This story is light and cheerful without getting too silly, and it's a total delight.


A Review by Keith Bennett 5/5/98

Doctor Who is often at its best when travelling into the past, as British television/cinema is usually at home with historical drama. With The Time Warrior, this is certainly the case, but the real highlight of this highly entertaining and amusing story is the wonderful dialogue, particularly that of the villains Irongron and Bloodaxe, superbly played by David Daker and John J. Carney respectively.

Bloodaxe's "Yours is indeed a towering intelligence" to his master, Irongron's "With poltroons like these, it were ill work to lay siege to a hen-coop!" and Lady Eleanor's marvellously gleeful, "You will mix a potion and poison the dog?" to the Doctor are only a few of the classic lines in this, one of Robert Holmes' best scripts. Enjoyable, too, is Irongron's alliance with Linx. One can almost sense the Sontaran's pain at having to put up with lowering himself to the level of these Earthlings of the middle ages, although this feeling might be helped by reading Terrance Dicks' excellent novelisation. Elizabeth Sladen stands out straight away in her debut story as the Doctor's new companion Sarah Jane Smith, and the action is fine swashbuckle.

Funny and fun, The Time Warrior is right up there with Jon Pertwee's best stories, and is indeed one that a fan might decide to show a friend to convince them what it is that makes Doctor Who so special. 8/10


Time's Running Out by Andrew Wixon 4/12/01

There are many significant firsts attached to this story - first story of the season (obviously), first use of the diamond logo, first Sarah story, first Sontaran story, first story to feature the word Gallifrey... but it's also the first story in the home straight of the Pertwee Doctor's era. And some might say it shows. He loses a straight fight with an adversary. He looks visibly older and more tired. In places he even verges on a parody of himself. Clearly Jon went at just the right time.

But that aside, this is another fun, undemanding Bob Holmes romp. It's not taxing, it's not deep, it's just an enjoyable collision of ridiculously incongruous characters and actors, with plenty of spicy dialogue, and a terrifically well designed and acted alien bad guy. And just look at how fast it's paced. The whole complex set-up of a stranded alien raiding the future for technical assistance and forced into an uneasy alliance with a robber baron is established inside the first fifteen minutes, tops. You're bombarded with jokes, images and ideas so persistently you don't have time to ruminate on the implausibilities of the storyline.

It has the Holmes trademarks - the Irongron-Bloodaxe double-act (David Daker gets some of the fruitiest lines I can remember), the trapped alien stealing the resources of others, the ability to sketch out a plausible alien motivation in only a few lines of dialogue. Of course, this doesn't rank as one of his major works - we all know what they are - but most other writers would kill to be able to write this way.

Pure hokum, purely to entertain the audience. Therefore, practically perfect Doctor Who.


Well it's no Carnival of Monsters but - by Mike Jenkins 12/12/01

While not on par with his last 10/10 effort, The Time Warrior is nonetheless a classic. It is one of Elizabeth Sladen's best performances on the show and some of her best chemistry with Pertwee. The historical setting works well and the Sontarans and the incidentals are both well characterized. What is so colourfully ironic is that although Linx likes to think of himself as a superior being, he is really just as savage and bloodthirsty as Irongron or Bloodaxe. The effects used for the time travel by Linx are particularly well realized. The idea of getting the world's leading scientist together is not so much contrived as it is an interesting and funny pun of how Lethbridge-Stewart and his boys like to deal with things. The scences where Sarah poses as her aunt are also quite humourus and well handeled. As much credit goes to Alan Bromley the director of this story as does to Robert Holmes. It's a solid 9/10. The only downsides are that Bromley didin't do more work on the show and that this would be the last truly classic story presented by Holmes in Doctor Who for the next decade. So this story is as tearful as it is funny and interesting.


Good ideas but a poor setting by Tim Roll-Pickering 22/4/02

The Time Warrior is like a curate's egg, with some good parts but also many bad parts. The idea of setting part of a story in medieval England is an interesting idea that allows for comparisons between a Sontaran and a human knight, but unfortunately the entire historical setting comes off poorly as it is little more than a backdrop for the story and the period is not a particularly fascinating one anyway. Equally weak are some of the characters, with Professor Rubiesh coming across as so laughable that it is wonder how he became a professor at all. It is also disappointing that there is no explanation for why the Doctor is still serving as UNIT's scientific advisor now that his ability to travel in time and space has been restored and Jo has gone.

However there are also some very good points to come out of the story, most obviously the introduction of both the Sontarans and Sarah-Jane Smith. Lynx is an extremely well defined character, coming across as a truly noble alien with a clearly defined set of values and thus a worthy opponent for the Doctor rather than as a mere monster from space. Although he seems to wear his helmet far more often than would be expect to, he nevertheless makes such a strong impression that any return appearance by the Sontarans is much deserved.

Also introduced in this story is Sarah Jane Smith. Elizabeth Sladen gives a very strong performance for her first story and Sarah comes across as a strong character, inquisitive and sceptical as any good journalist is and prepared to stand up for herself. Her strong feminist values and attempt to liberate the women in the castle kitchen doesn't come across too well, but otherwise she bodes well for the future.

Plot wise the story is well constructed but the whole medieval setting results in many weak characters who are somewhat clichéd, although Robert Holmes' script gives them many good lines. The sets are good and directionwise there's little to complain about in the story but it doesn't especially leap out. Ultimately The Time Warrior is a reasonable story that just fails to ignite enthusiasm for some reason. 6/10


A Review by Terrence Keenan 11/4/03

Ahh, The Time Warrior. It's brilliant, a comic historical feast with decent characters, a brilliant debut, and Pertwee's last great go round.

Jon's Doc is given the Holmes touch. Gone is the arrogant gasbag and pompous moralizer. Instead, we get a hint of what Big Tommy B would do with the role, a sense of the Doc being moral without being preachy, a hustler and con artist who loves a good fight, if done right. There's a point in part two, where Linx asks why the Doctor is on Earth if he a Time Lord. Instead of some pompous reply, we get "I'm a tourist. I like it here." It brilliant and funny. Then we have the moment in part three where Sarah and The Doc are chatting about Irongron upcoming attack which sums up exactly where Holmes thought the Doctor¹s character should be:

Doctor: The Time Lords are keen to stamp out unlicensed time travel
Sarah: You¹re serious about this.
Doctor: I may be serious in what I have to do, but not in how I go about it. (Trumpets blow.)
Doctor (big ass smile) Aha! The Battle is about to commence!
Cut to the battle, where Pertwee is casually lobbing his stink bombs over the wall. It's a nice way to show that even this Doctor had a sense of fun.

Sarah Jane Smith -- the Uber-Companion -- makes her first appearance. The early bits with the "don't trust the Doc" are a bit heavy-handed, but she shines in the scene with Irongron and Bloodaxe where she prattles on about where she might be. By the end of four episodes, Lis Sladen has established her character quite well, the working class girl who won't put up with anyone's crap. Yeah, the feminism is heavy-handed as well, but not to the point of obnoxiousness.

Linx is a prick. I mean that as a compliment. A warmongering Sontaran with a practical rationale -- like many a Holmes villain -- he's belligerent, duplicitous, militant and not without a sense of honor. He can also be savage when needed. One of the best villains ever.

What is a Holmes story without a double act? This time we get Irongron and Bloodaxe. In a story filled with solid performances, David Daker and John J. Carney steal every scene they're in. Daker's Irongron is sheer delight, but Carney gets a couple great lines as well.

Even if you hate Pertwee, you have to love The Time Warrior. It's one of the funniest and well acted stories in Who.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 5/10/03

Kicking off Jon Pertwee`s final season, The Time Warrior is something of a mixed bag. On the plus side it introduces Sarah Jane Smith who is a breath of fresh air; similairly the Sontaran Linx is visually impressive (even if he is just another alien hell bent on war), thankfully Kevin Lindsay`s portrayal elevates this. The historical setting is also refreshing, although despite the fine location work, it lacks any of period charm or characterisation. This is unfortunate, because as a result The Time Warrior comes across as somewhat lacklustre.


Time swapping in medieval England and not a rapper in sight by Steve Cassidy 2/3/04

"If you give rifles to them now by the 17th century they will have atomic weapons....They'll destroy themselves before they mature enough to handle the responsibility..."

I usually find time swap films to the middle ages slightly proposterous. They consist generally of a Hollywood star being sent back to 'Merry Olde England', complete with Californian hygiene and badly envisioned medieval architecture whilst teaching the misguided souls how to make French fries or breakdance. And there stands the poor medieval peasant in wimple or smock open-mouthed at this vision from the future while he raps at them and laughs at them for not having Walkmans (the worst of these was definitely in the eighties). While I shake my head and wish I had been born back then - at least 11th Century Manchester would not have to cope with the the smugness of tinseltown.

The Time Warrior blends not only one 'cultural clash' but three - the Doctor and Sarah, Irongron and Linx the Sontaran. Visitors from 1973 clash with those of 1073 plus an alien from beyond the stars. It takes the usual 20th century man meets 11th century man and gives it a new twist by injecting a deadly alien menace. For the most part it works, although this one gives the impression that Doctor Who is a children's programme more than most, and its four episodes are packed with enough adventure and escapism to keep even the most demanding Who fan captivated.

Journalist Sarah Jane Smith impersonates her virologist aunt Lavinia Smith in order to gain access to a research centre where top British scientists are being held in protective custody while UNIT (United Nations International Task Froce) investigates the disappearance of their colleagues. They have in fact been kidnapped by a warlike alien, a Sontaran, and transported back to England's early Middle Ages where they are working under deep hypnosis to repair his crashed spacecraft. In return for shelter, Linx has provided the local rampaging warlord, Irongron, with advanced weapons to take on and plunder the surrounding castles.

The Doctor and Sarah follow him back to this time and help repel an attack on the castle of Sir Edward Wessex. Linx just wants to escape Earth but in the meantime tampers with the time by providing Irongron with advanced weapons. The Doctor must stop Linx interfering, Irongron rampaging and get back to his own time with the scientists. They must do this before the spacecraft is repaired and it takes off from the castle where the after-blast will kill all the inhabitants.

Jon Pertwee and Lis Sladen

Part of this must be the performance of Jon Pertwee. It was his last season and while I find he sleepwalked a little through Death to the Daleks and Planet of the Spiders - in this one he is top-notch. The devil behind the eyes is most apparent in this Doctor and he truly does seem to enjoy himself. Part of that is probably the companionship of Lis Sladen in her first appearance, who, despite himself he really takes to. And she really shines in this adventure. 1973 may seem a long time ago now but feminisim and rascism were big on the agenda and instead of Dr Who having yet another bubbly airhead it tackles one of the Doctor's main criticisms straight on and makes his companion a strident feminist. We all know Sarah Jane mellows to become the Uber companion but in this one they attempt someone new - a firebrand who takes on everyone and strives to become the equal of the Doctor.

Actually, Sarah Jane could been seen as rather dislikeable in this one. To start with she is a liar as she infiltrates the UNIT where the scientists are being stored. And of course she gets the wrong end of the stick believing the Doctor to be the kidnapper of the scientists instead of Linx. But the key scene where she is won over is at Sir Edward's castle. While the Doctor sits down to make his little bombs she sits with him and he slowly reveals who he is. You can watch her fascination and interest unfold and by the end of the conversation she is absolutely hooked. She could never believe such a life could exist and from then on in she never leaves the Doctor's side. Talking of the 'bomb scene' this was the only scene where I felt I was watching a children's programme - the stinkbombs dislodging Irongrons men and their ladders - well, I felt I was watching the Children's Television Workshop circa 1973 - and before you say it - yes, I was....

Irongron and 'Linx' the Sontaran

But the thing could not hold together without its villains and with this one we have two of the strongest. Robert Holmes invented one of the worst of the galaxy's races with this one - the Sontarans. The thing with the Sontaran is that until The Invasion of Time we never really seen them in force. In The Time Warrior and the chilling Sontaran Experiment we only get to see the stranded Sontaran - the alien on a mission away from his race. This allows the writers to individualise them and the racial characteristics then stand out and in this case they invented a real monster in Linx. He is not interest in enslaving the inhabitants of Irongrons 12th/11th Century castle all he wants is to escape and rejoin his fleet by any means possible. If this means kidnapping scientists from the 20th Century then so be it and there are traces of the sadism shown in The Sontaran Experiment here in allowing the scientists to slowly starve and collapse of exhaustion. He is brought to life by Kevin Lindsay and works very well with Jon Pertwee. There is real animosity between the hissing Linx and the appalled Doctor in the scenes where they clash. Both actors do excellent work with their characters.

But the most memorable of all the characters has to be Irongron and his worshipping lieutenant Bloodaxe. David Daker bellows and bullies across the four episodes trying to bend Linx to his will like his other underlings in role that would have been perfect for Brian Blessed. I was trying to put a timeframe on this adventure and I would say it falls into either two periods of medieval history which involved such anarchy. The first is from 1082 to 1100 and King Rufus who bullied his way across the land and the second was the anarchy of the civil war between Maude and Stephen from 1114 to 1150 which allowed petty tyrants to flourish and bully their neighbours. Irongron falls into either two timezones and the thing about Irongron is that he never mellows. He is a child of his time and knows no other life but war and pillage. For a soft-side to be shown of Irongron would be to make the entire story implausible. He and Linx are kindred spirits - both warriors who glory in the life.

As for the others Jeremy Bulloch is memorable as Hal the Hunter and soon, in a few years, to be the galaxies most feared Bounty Hunter in Boba Fett. And Sir Edward and Lady Eleanor are adequate, providing a safe refuge for the Doctor and Sarah. And June Brown was a good choice as the 'narrow hipped vixen' Eleanor. June Brown playing a sallow faced buck-toothed harridan? Surely not? Oh sorry, I forgot about Dot Cotton. And a note must go to my favourite scene - the castle kitchen - where feminism collides with the middle ages. I kept wondering if Meg's reactions were accurate. In many ways they are - I expect women in the middle ages were just as scathing of their menfolk as they are today, but probably more resigned.

Anyway, a good adventure and worth buying. It actually gets better after each viewing with the little gems of dialogues slipping out. My favourite is the Doctor's description of Irongron: "Well, I certainly wouldn't invite him to the Royal Society..."

I tried to find the appropriate medieval adjective to end this piece of writing: but I'll settle on just one - vintage stuff!!!


"Not the weakest Linx" by Jason A. Miller 27/3/04

Finally, a Doctor Who story told from the point of view of the bad guys. Through ten seasons we never saw an episode that spent more time behind enemy lines than with the Doctor. If Power of the Daleks or Tomb of the Cybermen had been turned inside out, this may have been the result.

Irongron is a struggling bottom-tier medieval war lord, squatting in someone else's castle. The food is scarce and the wine is sour. Linx, a potato-headed clone warrior from a distant galaxy, crash-lands in the fields, and allies himself with Irongron in exchange for shelter. Soon, Linx has kidnapped a team of fuzzy-headed 20th century rocket scientists, and Irongron has lawyers, guns, and money. Well, just guns. And a homicidal robot knight. Working together, Linx and Irongron cause serious headaches for that neighboring sissy, Edward of Wessex.

This is great stuff. Robert Holmes was the one Doctor Who writer who instinctively realized that it's fun to root for the bad guys. Terry Nation never learned this lesson with the Daleks; David Whitaker made Daleks scary, but he couldn't make them cool. Meanwhile, 20 years before Quentin Tarantino gave us smart, hip hit-men like Jules and Vincent, Robert Holmes gave Irongron about eleven of the niftiest put-downs you'll hear on TV. Every time the redhead in my life complains about some chain-smoking, underweight Manhattan girl in her office, I reply: "That narrow-hipped vixen!", and she has no idea I'm even quoting Doctor Who. Now, I just need to find someone to call a "long-shanked rascal with a mighty nose". That would have been me, if I had longer shanks, but I don't.

Linx is pretty clever, for a clone warrior. I find it neat, too, that he's played by the same guy who would play Mild-Mannered Tibetan Monk in Planet of the Spiders that same season. He insults the Time Lords, he insults Irongron's men, he insults his slave scientists... and, when Irongron won't listen to his warnings, he suddenly gets philosophical: "By your dawn I shall be 700 million miles from here. Can I be concerned with the fate of primitives?". That's actually poignant. The only problem with this is that Linx has set the bar too high: the Sontarans showed up in three later DW stories, and a few largely unmemorable books, but were never again this compelling.

All this is not to say that Holmes achieved villainy goodness at the expense of the Doctor. In Pertwee's fifth season, Holmes writes him at perhaps his most Doctorish since The Ambassadors of Death. This is the story with the quote about the straight line and the shortest distance between two points. I had forgotten which story that was in. Also another line, which I hadn't remembered, but which makes as good a credo as any for the Doctor (apart from "Never cruel or cowardly") is: "[I'm serious] about what I do, yes. Not necessarily the way I do it."

Sarah Jane gets off to a flying start as a companion. Even more so than Liz Shaw, or Ian and Barbara, this is truly the most reluctant companion of them all. Who else, in their debut, gets to raise an army against, and kidnap, that long-shanked rascal with the mighty nose? Not Turlough. Not Ace. Maybe Compassion, but let's not lose focus here.

Once the Doctor and Sarah join forces, they make serious with the merry. Is there a funnier scene, ever, than the one where they dress up as friars in order to walk right into Irongron's castle? The sentry, that most Holmesian of common men, gets the last laugh: "'Tis be hoped the two friars are fleet of foot, or the Church will have two new martyrs 'ere long."

Meanwhile, shades of Caves of Androzani, the Part Three cliffhanger actually ends with the Doctor being shot in the face. The episode doesn't end on a gun barrel; it actually ends on the blast hitting the Doctor. Radical and funny, all in the same story. Could this have been by anyone else but Holmes? If you've had enough of Jon Pertwee, this is the story to get you back into it. And if you can't get enough of Jon Pertwee, this is the story to watch every day for a week.


"Because I'm very fond of delta particles!" by Joe Ford 7/4/04

Don't you just love it when the Doctor travels back in time? There is a little extra thrill for me every time I see the Doctor walk from the TARDIS into the past, influencing events that had nothing to do with him in the first place. The historicals always had more atmosphere, more charm and quite often more drama than the outer space stuff, the restricted setting might fire the imagination of the writers and I for one firmly believe that you do not need aliens and planets to create an inventive tale, there is plenty of drama here on Earth through the years to capatilise on.

But I still have trouble with the idea of the Pertwee era enjoying a historical tale simply because it is so damn unusual. And what's worse, his character really, really works in the Middle Ages. Rather than feeling out of place there is a real sense of belonging as he sets up as chief magician to Sir Edward. There is nothing incongruous about the Doctor ("A long shanked rascal with a mighty nose!") sitting at Sir Edward's table in a velvet smoking jacket, tossing bread over his shoulder and devising schemes to capture the enemy's castle. Pertwee seems to relish the action quota the historical tale offers him and seems as vibrant and witty as ever, I don't know just where this rot was supposed to set in in season Eleven but there are no signs of it here. The story and the Doctor ("Young girl? I'd have thought he was too old for that sort of thing!") both feel fresh and invigorating, the loss of Jo proving for the show's gain after all.

The Doctor ("Just some eccentric scientist!") never seems to stop in this story and at no point do you feel his motives are anything other than heroic. This is the character Jon Pertwee wanted to play, someone who is ruthlessly inventive (his stink bombs and Robot disguise are both great), active (dashing through the Great Hall dodging bullets, running through the courtyard avoiding the sharp edge of a sword) and a right eccentric ("I'm in no great hurry I assure you!" he says as knaves are about to shoot him). He has terrific chemistry with Sarah ("There are two species on this planet?") whether he is fighting her ("This isn't a rescue Doctor, it's a capture!") or helping her ("You can look upon my people as galactic ticket inspectors."). This is my third Doctor ("These wizards and warlocks were ever a treacherous breed, we best be wary of him"), one who risked his life for others and always came through in the end. Pertwee looks very dashing and I love him.

The story enjoys three bravura performances that light it up like the sky in the middle of firework night. The one everybody remembers so vividly is Kevin Lindsay's Linx ("He is a toad! Who knows what a toad thinks?") and quite rightly too as his lonely Sontaran warrior proves to be an extremely memorable creation. The mask is extraordinary; it looks genuinely alien and even better, it glistens with the feel of real flesh making the transition to believe this is a real alien threat all the more easy. There is too much to admire about Robert Holmes' introduction of the Sontarans ("Nasty, brutish and short just about sums him up"), this is another example of his ability to pluck plausible monsters out of thin air.

Linx ("Are they all so fair amongst the stars?") proves remarkably resourceful once crash-landing in the Middle Ages, seeking shelter with Irongron for his ship and using his equipment to project himself as far into the future to steal whatever help and devices he might require to escape the Earth. He has an extremely short fuse ("Primitives! Childish, squabbling primitives!") that provides some wonderful moments, especially as his relationship with Irongron begins to falter ("Threaten me once more and I will destroy you!"). But also he walks and thinks Sontaran, wanting nothing more than to return to battle, regarding the human race as a list of statistics ("You have a primary and secondary reproductive cycle. It is an inefficient system - you should change it" and "I doubt you would have the capacity to be a truly military species") and completely oblivious (and uncaring) to the danger of offering modern weapons to a thug like Irongron and permanently altering the web of time. It shows something of his character when he wishes to see the raid on Sir Edward's castle ("He's just like a little boy stirring up the red ants and the black ants. Its something to keeping him amused, to stop him from getting bored.") and his scathing criticism on their retreat suggests much about the Sontaran tolerance. We discover much about their species, the cloning, the War with the Rutans, the probic vent weakness... and Linx ("A warrior from the stars!") proves to be one of the best alien characters of the era.

Next up is the lively and verbose Sarah Jane Smith ("For pity's sake cease this babbling girl!"), my favourite companion by a long distance making her striking first appearance. How can you not love this woman? She smuggles herself into the Brigadier's security hotel, sneaks on board the TARDIS, teams up with the local gentry and fires up their fighting spirit and accuses the Doctor of being behind the whole sorry mess! She has an extremely sharp tongue ("Why don't you take of that ridiculous gear and go home to your butcher's shop!"), an extremely proactive attitude ("What's wrong with you! You rush into the castle, knock out the guards, grab the Doctor and away!") and doesn't suffer fools gladly ("He could just be changing sides to save his own skin!"). Elisabeth Sladen makes an instant impression, the best companion of the era yet; more dominant than Liz and more interesting than Jo, Sarah proves irresistible companion material for the Doctor. She doesn't always get on with him ("Kindly don't be so patronising") but you know it's going to be a hell of a ride ("Look at that great spider!") when Sarah's about.

And finally the phenomenally horrid Irongron ("Bother me now little Toad and you will feels an axe in your skull!") played by the loud and proud David Daker. What a performance! Rarely does a guest actor in Doctor Who make such an impact, Daker plays every scene at about seven hundred decibels, chewing up the scenery with a lust for the material on offer. Holmes makes sure Irongron gets all the best dialogue ("I should have carved him into collops on the spot!") and the most believable motives, hunger for power and fine wine and meat. What's more he has an excellent comic foil in Bloodaxe, the extremely thick companion who for once genuinely manages to amuse ("Yours is indeed a towering intelligence!"). They make for a rowdy and engaging pair, a couple of historical hard lads that Holmes has great fun with by commenting on the action with violent metaphors.

And that's not even mentioning Hal the Archer, Lady Eleanor, Sir Edward, the hysterically eccentric Professor Rubish ("Are you wearing a hat?")... there is a list of memorable creations that populate the story. As I have already demonstrated Holmes manages to dish out more than his fair share of ultra cool dialogue and this could very well be his best script yet, its very funny with a laugh out loud line every minute or so and an extreme amount of entertainment is to be had.

What's even better the production seems to work in tangent with the script and is has a very polished feel, the fact that they managed to shoot in and around a genuine castle helps to sell the story enormously. All of the location work is highly effective, especially the forest stuff, Doctor Who always succeeding in getting the most out of such verdant scenery. The sets also seem to fit the story well, the early scientific research centre might be bare and dull but the castle sets are a delight on the eye with some fine detail. There is lots of straw and filth scattered around to show these were uncomfortable times and Irongron's hovel is nicely contrasted with Sir Edward's luxurious surroundings. Plus the design of the Sontaran ship is a work of genius, simple and effective and seeing it outside in the woods never fails to tickle me.

I don't know what David Howe and Stephen Walker are on about when they say this story has a 'mid season' feel and that it not spectacular enough to kickstart the season. Without treading on the other stories of the year this is by far my favourite and one of my all time favourites of the Pertwee era. It has everything a good Doctor Who story needs, action, humour, a good alien, a fantastic companion, high production values and an engaging Doctor. In entertainment terms it is a superior Doctor Who story and I thoroughly enjoy it every time I watch it.


A Review by Finn Clark 15/9/08

The Time Warrior is one of those forgotten stories. People don't rave about as they do with other Robert Holmes stories like Talons of Weng-Chiang or Carnival of Monsters. The reason, of course, is that it's forgettable.

In some ways, I really like this story, but I also find it Graham Williams-esque in that it's a tiresome, lazy production that doesn't seem to give a shit. The script is great. It's witty and full of great lines. It's Robert Holmes at his most slipshod, but it's also delightful and charming and should have been the basis for some wonderful television. However, instead, I'd call it a strong candidate for the title of "worst Doctor Who historical or pseudo-historical" and it runs off with the crown if you change the adjective to "awkward". What are its rivals? The Visitation is simple-minded and has rubbish companions, but it's coherent and hangs together. Mark of the Rani is at once not very good and rather lovely, with its main mistake being to be made in 1985. The Unicorn and the Wasp is a gutless, frustrating abortion of a story, making a mess of the genre to which it's supposedly paying homage, but I can't deny that at least it has the courage of its convictions. I may disagree with the choices it made, but it certainly went all-out for them.

Its problem is tone. Robert Holmes didn't like historicals and it seems clear that he wrote them as pulp genre pastiches. Talons of Weng-Chiang is a mish-mash of Sherlock Holmes, Phantom of the Opera and other 19th century melodramas, while The Time Warrior is basically Robin Hood. You've got the wicked squire, the brave archer and so on. It's a cartoon and knows it, as is demonstrated by the Bloodaxe-Irongron scenes. Unfortunately it's not even internally consistent, with Hal initially being sent on an assassination mission but later resolving the episode 3 cliffhanger by shooting Irongron's axe instead of the man himself (huh?) and eventually waking all the bad guys so that they don't get killed when the castle blows up. No humans die in this story. It's pretty much on a par with an episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Bloodaxe and Irongron don't even seem dangerous, which is pretty much the point where any hope of being taken seriously rolls over and dies.

It seems fitting that Blackadder would later undermine even the line, "What is your cunning plan, Captain?" Nevertheless, Doctor Who is full of self-aware comedy, even within the historicals. It was Holmes's stock in trade. This story could still have been great, but unfortunately that would have required a director who was doing more than just telling the camera which way to point. We got Alan Bromly. After watching my DVD, I was dumbstruck to learn that he'd work again on the show, albeit several years later under another production team. That was Nightmare of Eden, another shambles with so little thought put into the tone of the story as to be a joke. In 1973, he didn't even have the excuses of ill health and Mad Tom.

Anyway, my phrase with The Time Warrior is "no one gave a shit". It's not true, but it's close enough. The director sets the tone and everyone follows, from the performances to the special effects.

The actors are annoying. David Daker and John Carney are having fun as Bloodaxe and Irongron, but in a Pirate Captain-way that means hamming it up and abandoning any reality or subtlety that could yet have been milked from a script far better than they think it is. They make some wonderful lines dull. I don't think the beards helped their performances, but that's not our problem. Meanwhile, Donald Pelmear needs slapping as Professor Rubeish, playing the character as nothing but "Mr Comedy Spectacles". Alan Rowe has an excuse as the milquetoast Edward of Wessex, but adhering to the character description doesn't make him interesting. The guard at the gate made me swear at my television. The sole exception is June Brown, who plays her thin part as if it's Shakespeare.

Even Jon Pertwee and Nick Courtney aren't at their best, although in fairness the Brigadier's contribution is a cameo in episode one. I enjoyed Pertwee's faces when he's fighting Linx's mind programming, though.

All that aside, the script is a mess. Even I noticed its plot holes. How did Linx manage to find that 20th century laboratory so accurately? Trial and error? Didn't anyone see him? You could have had fun with the Doctor chasing ghosts into the Brigadier's complex. Similarly what does Rubeish contribute to the story? Everyone lets him do as he pleases, including Linx and the people in the castle who must have been providing him with food since we don't see him collapsing from hunger like everyone else. Don't tell me he managed to steal it. Then the ending makes no sense, with Hal saving his enemies' lives and "Destroy Irongron's castle by sorcery, would you, toad-face?" I love Robert Holmes. He did wonderful work for Doctor Who and ironically this story contains some of his best writing, but bolted to one of his shoddiest frameworks.

However, all this overlooks the huge contributions this story made to Doctor Who. Leaving aside Holmes's fondness for continuity bombs, here the word "Gallifrey", it's easy to forget that this was the first story for both the Sontarans and Sarah Jane Smith. Both of those contradict everything I've been saying so far and are very good indeed. Admittedly, the Sontarans can easily be written as gargantuan cliches, but here they spring into being as a fully developed alien race and far more convincing than the story's non-SF elements. Kevin Lindsay is working hard in the role and creating a characterisation that would still be alive 35 years later, thanks to Christopher Ryan's impersonation in the 2008 Tennant Sontaran two-parter. I liked his bloodlust. The suit design is also good, despite a few problems: the helmet muffles the voice, the eyes don't match its eye slits and the prosthetics flap around the mouth.

Then there's Sarah-Jane Smith, who deserved her success. The show's too self-conscious about her feminism and the Doctor's comedy chauvinism turns into the real thing from time to time, probably thanks to Terrance Dicks. However, Sladen is working much harder than her co-stars and manages to overcome the rather cringeworthy material she's been given. Her scenes in the kitchens in episode four are certainly the most interesting thing about the story, with a surprisingly deep political discussion given that it's the 13th century.

As for the special effects, I don't mind them. They're aiming for the minimum, but they achieve it. The next story after this would be Invasion of the Dinosaurs. Say no more.

Incidentally, this story might be evidence of altered history within the classic series. These Sontarans clearly have not only time travel but know about future history. Linx knows about the 20th century and that Sarah's "civilisation knows nothing of time dimensional technology". What's more, they talk of invading Gallifrey and have a dismissive view of its inhabitants. However, the Doctor describes his people as "very keen to stamp out unlicensed time travel". He immediately undercuts this with the very Holmesian line about "galactic ticket inspectors", but this is also the same Holmes who wrote The Deadly Assassin and created the CIA. In the light of Invasion of Time and The Two Doctors, not to mention Genesis of the Daleks, I don't think it's unreasonable to speculate that history might have been rewritten to undermine the Sontarans' time travel capabilities somewhere during the Hinchcliffe era.

This story is poor and thin. It's written tongue-in-cheek, but directed without any awareness of... well, anything. The result is simply dull. The set-up is quite interesting, with Irongron as a robber baron who's taken over someone else's castle and Edward of Wessex being too weak to take him on, but I only learned that from watching the DVD extras. The story itself is a lot of undercooked yo-ho-hoing. Nevertheless, it deserves respect for Holmes, the Sontarans and Sarah-Jane Smith, not to mention some pleasant location filming and a surprisingly good-looking assault on the castle in episode three.

It's weird to think that Bob Hoskins nearly played Irongron, though.


A Review by Brian May 2/10/08

The Time Warrior is another story that has lasted the years well. The witty dialogue, sharp insults and great characters still bounce off the screen, a great testament to the marvellous Robert Holmes. Ironically, it's a story he didn't want to write. He disliked historical settings, but the finished product is of such high calibre you wouldn't be able to tell.

Holmes has given us something other than the invasion of Earth staple of the Pertwee years, yet maintains an ultimate threat, that of human history being altered. It's been done before in Doctor Who, The Time Meddler especially, but Holmes puts a new spin on it. The Monk interfered because he enjoyed it; Linx does so because it's a means to an end. He's crash-landed on a primitive planet and needs help to repair his ship. The course of history is threatened, but he simply doesn't care. The Sontarans are my favourite Who monster, and Linx is the original and best. I love an alien with emotions written into them - as opposed to cop-outs like the Daleks and Cybermen, who profess to have none but then make abundant displays of them. Linx gets angry, he feels insulted, he shows pride, he even aims to please (when asking Irongron if he's happy with the robot knight, his enthusiasm is almost child-like). He also has a sense of honour: he provides Irongron with a final batch of rifles to keep a promise, and even warns the robber baron and his men to flee the castle.

Linx's realisation is marvellous. His armour and helmet are particularly striking, making the first appearance of the alien as he exits his golf ball craft a stunning visual, while his unmasked visage is memorably grotesque. (And isn't it a delicious irony that the first word we ever hear a Sontaran say should be "Peace"?) Kevin Lindsay gives a fantastic performance, sharing the limelight with David Daker as they give us another Holmes double-act. Daker makes Irongron a multi-dimensional character. He's a source of much humour and the butt of many jokes, but he also gets to make a lot of them, while at the same time he's shown for what he really is - a dangerous, murderous thug who deserves his end. Daker's balancing act is perfect. John J Carney is great in support; indeed, in Bloodaxe and Irongron there's another double act. And the henchman, not the boss, gets the best gag; "Yours is indeed a towering intelligence!" always has me in conniptions.

These three performances tend to overshadow everybody else, but there's an impressive pool of acting talent at work; Jeremy Bulloch, June Brown and Alan Rowe are excellent in their smaller roles. I really like Jon Pertwee here. He's very relaxed, by which I don't mean lazy, but he makes his Doctor more easygoing and gently humorous than we've seen before. There's an air of resignation in Pertwee's manner; his era is coming to a close and this is the beginning of the end. The funny voice he puts on as he disguises himself as the robot is a bit of a misstep, but hardly the "self parody" Who's Next so disdainfully labels it. Of course, this is Elisabeth Sladen's debut as Sarah Jane Smith, and a competent, albeit inconsistent, one it is. She's an attempt to counter accusations of sexism against the series, but her headstrong feminism is a very cliched and rather overearnest effort to reflect such a sensibility. And, inevitably, in the last few episodes she's just the token companion for the Doctor to explain things to. Nevertheless, it's interesting to see the genesis of a character that would prove immensely popular and survive into 21st century Doctor Who.

Naturally for an historical setting, the design and costumes are great. Alan Bromly has come in for a bit of criticism, especially on the DVD features and commentary, but I like his work. His theatre background is obvious in the dialogue intensive scenes, but for the most part the script insists on such direction. It fails in the action-oriented high shot of the Doctor being chased round the castle grounds at the end of part two, which is too static for too long, and there are a few too many zooms; the closing in on osmic projector and empty table are quite bizarre and grate with the production's otherwise smooth feel.

But, overall, The Time Warrior is a highly enjoyable and deservedly memorable story. 8.5/10


When sci-fi meets the Middles Ages by Konstantin Hubert 21/7/09

The Time Warrior is innovative in several aspects: it introduced the great companion Sarah Jane Smith, the warlike Sontaran (an outstanding alien) while the Doctor's home planet, Gallifrey, is named for the first time. Moreover, for the first time "Episodes" were called "Parts" and a new title sequence and logo are introduced. All these innovations are enough to make it a reference story in the show's history. However, it is innovative even in terms of plot, thanks to its intelligent and original premise: an alien crash-lands on Earth (Middle Ages) and abducts scientists from the 20th century in his effort to repair his damaged star ship.

From the start, The Time Warrior sets itself apart from other historical serials: we witness a peculiar alien's (the Sontaran Linx) contact with people of the Middle Ages beside his damaged ship and then the action is transferred to a 20th century scientific complex. Scientists are kidnapped, while a quarrelsome and greedy bandit called Irongron allies with Linx in his attempt to gather powers in the war against the people of Wessex Castle. It is an amazing blend of historical setting and science fiction, shot in the location of Peckforton Castle. This is not the trite alien invasion that had characterized sci-fi movies in the 50s or other DW serials. The Sontaran Linx seeks to repair the ship and leave and not to conquer or research anything. Irongron and his men are the ones that exhibit here their ambitions to conquer.

Thus, The Time Warrior shows us the alliances between men and an extraterrestrial creature and the clash against their enemy: between Irongron's army and the Sontaran (this alliance being shallow) and between the people at Wessex Castle and the Doctor. It is a typical story of the show's non-violent nature, because, although both the Sontaran and Irongron are warlike enemies, the Doctor does not have recourse to use force against them, neither he nor Sarah Jane get injured and even when Wessex Castle is besieged no one gets injured and in fact no melee combat occurs. The Time Lord serves at the same time as the mysterious defender of this castle and as the saviour of the abducted scientists. He uses various gimmicks to outwit his opponents and fulfill his goals, including a strange gas he prepares to repel the enemies.

Elisabeth Sladen makes her debut here as reporter Sarah Jane Smith and, along with the Sontaran and Irongron, she steals the show. Bold and curious, charming and eccentric, she inadvertently finds herself in the TARDIS and in the Middle Ages, thus taking part in her first adventure. The scene in which she speaks to the Doctor and discovers the Time Lord's nature is one of The Time Warrior's classic moments. The Sontaran (Kevin Lindsay), with his toad-like brownish head, the great outfit, the humanoid and yet so alien appearance, is a striking creature, wonderfully conceived by Robert Holmes. It is no wonder that Sontarans were used again and that they have made their comeback even in the new series (The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky). When it comes to the bossy Irongron, perfectly played by David Daker, he is one of the series' most memorable and imposing one-off characters, albeit annoying at times, because of his irritable and vociferous disposition.

On the minus side, some of the story's action scenes appear funny because of poor execution: for example, the Doctor's chase at the end of Part 2 or the shooting scene in Part 4 in which, not to our surprise, the Doctor doesn't get a scratch. The plot includes some basic flaws: why doesn't the Doctor try to use the TARDIS to transport the scientists back to the 20th century? Since men of the 20th century can repair the ship, why does Linx negotiate and ally with some of the medieval people? Not only he does not ignore them but he also very eagerly seeks to talk to them, gives them guns, constructs a robot knight for them and makes promises to them like a politician, whereas he knows they cannot help him. It could be said that they give him a shelter, Irongron's castle, which houses the ship, but this was pointless. In fact, in the end, the ship takes off while still in the castle and it obviously explodes as it crashes into its inner walls!

Despite a few flaws, The Time Warrior stands as a solid and of course original title of the classic series. I recommend its DVD, which, although not one of the richest ones in terms of extras, features extras of the usual BBC quality.