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Review #3643: Classic Doctor Who: “The Invasion of Time”

Posted on the 16 August 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: John Keegan

Written by Graham Williams and Anthony Read
Directed by Gerald Blake

This serial, marking the end of Season 15, doesn’t rank very high in the opinion of a lot of fans. Perhaps the most egregious sin of the story is that it sends Leela off in one of the most inexplicable ways possible. Granted, it’s not as bad as simply having her disappear completely without so much as a comment, but it doesn’t make a bit of sense, given what we know of the Time Lords and their society!

Review #3643: Classic Doctor Who: “The Invasion of Time”

Meanwhile, the story hinges a great deal on the Doctor manipulating his own people to gain access to the relics of the presidency and stave off invasion from various quarters. That requires him to hide his intentions from everyone, including Leela and K-9, so things get rather tense as the Doctor’s true plan is slowly but surely revealed. I do mean slowly; this is a six-episode serial, and it really could have been condensed to four episodes without losing much in the process.

As a follow-up to “The Deadly Assassin”, this falls a bit short. While the Doctor does intervene because the invasion(s) are more or less the result of his mistakes, especially the arrival of the Sontarans, it doesn’t quite change the fact that the Doctor remains a renegade. And the Time Lords, while far from perfect, should have the resources to recognize their vulnerabilities and adjust to them accordingly. It seems odd that this situation is so dire that the only solution to the problem requires the location of relics that have been carefully hidden for millennia!

Another problem is the depiction of the Vardans. On paper, they make for rather interesting villains, and their ability to read minds does explain the Doctor’s tactics well enough. On screen, they are about as silly as it gets. It’s not just that they look, for most of their appearances, like plastic wrap hanging from a string, but the effect is added to the footage through terrible compositing. It’s laughable, to say the least, and detracts from the impression of the Vardans that the producers intend.

On the other hand, this is the first time that we get this kind of tour of the TARDIS, which is a real treat. It doesn’t look as shiny as future adventures in the TARDIS would be, like those in “The Doctor’s Wife”, but it does paint the right kind of picture. And I’m sure that Leela’s ever-skimpier outfits, and the swimming scene, were more than a little popular to her fans at the time! If only the Sontarans were a bit more imposing and competent; at times, they come across as utter idiots, which is not good for an army of cloned warriors.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing is how the story ends: with the Doctor reduced to using a super-powerful gun to overcome his enemies, which also has the side effect of wiping out his memory of the events of the story. The Doctor’s aversion to guns has never been a secret, especially this incarnation, so it just comes across as lazy storytelling. Perhaps worse, the notion that the Doctor forgets what happened doesn’t mean that everyone else forgets, so how exactly do they explain how he used to be President, and now he’s not? It makes Gallifrey look even more insane than “The Deadly Assassin” did; there’s little wonder the Doctor needed to get away by any means necessary.

To be fair, the writers apparently had all of five days to put this one together, so one might be impressed by what they did manage to accomplish with the time they had. But at the end of the day, it still comes across as the perfect summation of Season 15: some good elements adrift in a sea of goofy and inexplicable choices.

Writing: 1/2
Acting: 2/2
Direction: 1/2
Style: 1/4

Final Score: 5/10

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