Written by Robert Sloman
Directed by Paul Bernard
This serial wraps up the ninth season, a season that was better than advertised and yet admittedly uneven. It also featured the Master in a couple new stories, both of which fit the established mold for the character and his bizarre, poorly-constructed machinations. But this serial cemented one thing in my mind: however badly the writers might have treated the Master over the Third Doctor years, Roger Delgado never failed to bring presence to the role.
There’s a lot to like about this story, even if it doesn’t really feel like it comes together when all is said and done. Part of the problem is the underlying snark, from the use of the acronym TOMTIT to the unfortunate decision to make the Brigadier look like a fool at every available opportunity. It’s hard to take the story seriously, so the production flaws are all the more noticeable as a result.
Then there are the other issues. Kronos looks absolutely ridiculous, even by Doctor Who standards, and the Doctor’s dispatch of the Minotaur is quite silly. I have to give the cast credit for making the Atlantis sequences work towards the end of the story, because there wasn’t nearly enough time to make a strong impression.
But there are interesting ideas here, concepts that still tantalize theoretical physics researchers to this very day. What if time was quantized? Would it be possible to find the interstitial “space” between quantized elements of time, and use them to move within the “fabric” of time as a result? And what would be the consequences of altering one’s place in spacetime to allow such travel be?
I also have to point out that this serial delves into the nature of the TARDIS and the Doctor’s relationship to “her” (his own assertion!), and how well that fits into the revelations of “The Doctor’s Wife” in the sixth series of the Nu Who era. I have to think that Neil Gaiman had this serial on his short list of influences for that modern classic.
The Doctor is his usual insufferable arrogant self, though perhaps a little more so than usual, and Jo has fallen into the habit of telling the audience directly than she’s an idiot to make the expository scenes perhaps less grating. It’s too bad, because when the writers actually take her away from the Doctor, they give her more personality. The rest of the cast, unfortunately, is rather bland, though Galleia’s oiled cleavage deserves a mention, given how prominently it is emphasized!
I will, however, note that this story is the first time since “Day of the Daleks” to feature UNIT to any major extent, and actually does so in a very comfortable way. Setting aside the poor treatment of the Brigadier, the writers assume that the audience is aware of Benton, Yates, and the organization enough to use them organically. Yates and Benton both come across as fairly competent and distinct, and even Yates’ brash backtalk is at a relative minimum.
One thing that helps, I think, is that I didn’t try to watch it all in one or two sittings. I spaced each episode out, which gave me time to anticipate how the story would progress a little bit more. It didn’t feel nearly so padded that way, and it was easier to overlook some of the story logic problems as well. It’s a bit below average in the end, but better than it could have been. All in all, not a bad way to end the ninth season.
Final Rating: 6/10