Friday, October 14, 2005

'The Time Warrior'

4 episodes

Slightly inconsequential but enormous fun, this story served as the introduction to Season 12, new companion Sarah Jane Smith, the Sontarans, the first 'time tunnel' opening credits sequence and a new Doctor Who logo, the diamond-shaped one that went on to be perhaps the series' most famous - although the one it replaced after four years was later resurrected for the 1996 Eighth Doctor movie and has since fronted the entire BBC range of Who products for the first eight Doctors!

A pseudo-historical, this adventure features a faintly slapdash medieval setting, into which numerous top British scientists are drawn from the present day by the activites of Linx, a stranded Sontaran warrior. The Doctor's decision to trace the missing scientists in the TARDIS inadvertently involves the journalist Sarah Jane Smith, whose investigative instincts first lead her to pose as her aunt, the noted virologist Lavinia Smith, and then to poke around in the blue police box that subsequently whisks her off to the Middle Ages... Elisabeth Sladen makes an immediate impression as Sarah, being as endearing as Jo but with a much more pronounced intelligent, independent streak that soon sees her leading raids single-handed and the like! Her initial refusal to accept that she has been swept hundreds of years into the past is entirely understandable and highly enjoyable, as she struggles to persuade the bemused locals to snap out of their 12th century mannerisms, and the fact that for a long time she distrusts the Doctor is an original twist not seen since the very beginnings of the programme.

The chief joy of 'The Time Warrior' lies in its magnificent and hilarious dialogue. The bulk may not be strictly accurate to the period, but it has a meatily authentic-feeling cut and thrust to it that renders such considerations irrelevant. The repartee between Linx and medieval warlord Irongron is especially fantastic, as the two jockey for position in their fractious but mutually beneficial relationship - a classic example of the famous 'Robert Holmes double-act'. It is fascinating to see the interplay between them, two warriors from very different backgrounds yet almost equal face-to-face; although Irongron's attempts to intimidate the Sontaran fall flat and on one occasion result in a humiliating buffeting at Linx's hands, he continues to poke fun at his "toad-faced" accomplice. Irongron in truth gets almost all the best lines in the serial, although his dimwitted subordinate Bloodaxe's awed tribute "Yours is truly a towering intellect" - delivered apparently without irony - runs him close... These two form a subsidiary double-act that is also well-written and almost affectionate. The other supporting characters are also fleshed out nicely, from the myopic but admirably resilient Professor Rubeish to the kitchen servant Meg, and we get another appearance from Star Wars' Boba Fett, Jeremy Bulloch, as Hal the archer and one from EastEnders' Dot Cotton, June Brown, as the resourceful Lady Eleanor.

What is perhaps the most interesting is the depiction of Linx the Sontaran. The costume and makeup are fantastic, the squat, solid alien looking tremendously threatening both in and out of his tradmark helmet. Far from being the stock megalomaniac villain, he harbours no globe-straddling desires or delusions of grandeur - he is merely a soldier, who just wants to get back to the frontlines of his interminable war as soon as possible. We get quite a lot of backstory to fill us in on the legendary, millennia-spanning Sontaran/Rutan conflict (which was never to be seen directly on screen) and a sense of Linx's contempt for the primitive world he finds himself stranded on - plus, of course, the first-ever naming of the Doctor's home planet 'Gallifrey', where slightly surprisingly the title of the Time Lords' homeworld is slipped nonchalantly into the conversation as if it had been known all along...!


Episodes watched: 251
Episodes still to watch: 471

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