by Mark Greig
The Graham Williams era is perhaps, in terms of quality, the most inconsistent in the entire history of Doctor Who. Hit would regularly follow miss followed, possibly, by hit followed, maybe, by miss. It’s an era littered with many all-time classics -- and just as many complete screw ups. 'The Invasion of Time' is one of those screw ups.
Written in a rush by Williams and script-editor Antony Read (under the pseudonym David Agnew) after another story fell through, 'The Invasion of Time' is a complete mess. The money had clearly started to run dry by this point in the season. The writers were aiming for something grand and epic but instead fell flat on their faces and produced what can only be described as an unintended farce.
At first it seems quite interesting. In a nice bit of continuity with ‘The Deadly Assassin’, that mercifully isn’t shoved down our throats, the Doctor returns home to Gallifrey to claim the title of Lord High President of the Time Lords. Once there he starts to go even madder than usual and eventually betrays his people to the invading Vardens. Who are the Vardens, you say? Well, the Vardens are one of the more unremarkable villains Doctor Who has ever produced, appearing initially as a dodgy tin foil effect before being revealed as nothing more that a bunch of normal looking blokes in naff costumes. When the Doctor quips “Yes, disappointing, aren’t they” you can’t help wondering if that’s actually Tom with one of his helpful script improvements.
By the end of episode four the Vardens are rather easily defeated, only for it to be revealed that this was actually a rather convoluted trap by the Sontarans. The sudden appearance of the potato headed ones feels like a last minute effort to fill up time once the writers realised they had two episodes remaining. The final episode's run around the TARDIS is blatant padding at its worst as the Doctor and his companions run up and down the same rooms over and over again, including an art gallery, flower garden and swimming pool, with the cockney Sontarans just one step behind.
Baker bounces through the whole thing with zero intention of taking anything remotely seriously, often shamelessly breaking the fourth wall for no reason. But at least he is entertaining. Can't say that for the rest of the cast. Louise Jameson gets the short end of the narrative stick, exiled to the waste lands of Gallifrey for the most part to hang out with a bunch of Conan rejects. But that’s nothing compared to her departure scene. This was Jameson’s last story as a companion and it goes without saying that she gets one of the lousiest farewells any companion has had to endure. I can imagine Williams and Reed spent a total of ten seconds concocting how Leela would leave the series.
It boils down to this; Leela, having suddenly and inexplicably fallen madly in love with a rather dull character who she’s had hardly spoken to during the last six episodes, decides to leave the Doctor and remain on Gallifrey. Louise Jameson reportedly wasn’t happy about this. She wanted Leela to be killed off, but the producers thought this would be too traumatic for younger viewers and nixed the idea. In the long sad history of undignified companion exits, this ranks somewhere between Dodo’s trip to the country and Liz Shaw’s sudden, off screen, return to Cambridge.
Notes and Quotes
--This is one of those rare stories where the Doctor not only uses a gun, but actually uses it to kill his enemy.
--'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS' was conceived because Steven Moffat was so annoyed by the chase through the TARDIS.
--This story introduces several Gallifreyan artifacts, amongst them the Sash of Rassilon, the Rod of Rassilon, the Crown of Rassilon, the Stapler of Rassilon, the Back Scratcher of Rassilon, the Fanny Pack of Rassilon and the all-powerful Ice Cream Scoop of Rassilon.
--Rodan is the first female Time Lord we've seen since the Doctor's granddaughter, Susan.
--This season was originally supposed to end with David Weir's 'Killers of the Dark', about a race of Cat-People living on Gallifrey. It was cancelled as the powers that be believed it would be too difficult to film.
Guard: "The Castellan will have me shot!"
The Doctor: "That's all right. I'll have him shot."
K9: (To the TARDIS) "You are a very stupid machine."
Leela: "Discussion is for the wise or the helpless and I am neither."
Andred: "You have access to the greatest source of knowledge in the universe."
The Doctor: "Well, I do talk to myself sometimes."
Stor: "This machine is a load of obsolete rubbish."
--He could just as easily talking about the script.
The Doctor: "Guard of honour? You're not fit to guard a jelly baby! Would you like a jelly baby?"
One and a half out of four Conan rejects.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.