Monday, 27 January 2014

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Invasion of Time (Revisited)

See here for my previous look at this story.
The Doctor pretends to go evil for some sheets of foil.
From Cathode Ray Tube
Doctor Who - Season 15, Story Six - The Invasion of Time (Revisited)
Written 16/7/13

What to say about this story? Well, I had originally wantd to try and write an article on this story for Celebrate, Regenerate, but I couldn't find a single thing that I actually liked about the story. I mean, that's a bit of hyperbole, really. It's two and a half hours of Doctor Who, there are some things that I can find here and there. But as an overall experience, The Invasion of Time so fails in every single one of its aims that it reaches a point which waivers dangerously between hilarity and tragedy. And that's not a good thing, it's never a good sign when I can't tell whether I outright hate the story or love it in a So-Bad-It's-Good way. Usually it's a little more clear cut.
    The first four episodes are bad enough on their own - a concept play where we're led along the garden path by The Doctor's apparently dark turn, which is never hinted at until the second episode and so we're left thinking that The Doctor is a total and utter tit for a week. Plus, the aliens he's apparently helping are some of the most weak and lily livered in the show's history - the Vardans, whom, while awesomely powerful in principle, are pathetic in execution. I've followed some pretty crappy looking monsters in my time as a fan, but I will not accept a monster who is literally a sheet of tin foil with a strong irish accent. Their humanoid forms are even less impressive, looking like bored versions of the Great Gazoo with a great deal less screen presence. I can understand your budgetary limitations and at a stretch I might even accept the tin foil in the same way I accept the same in Timelash. But the acting is just so poor. It really is, there's no escaping that.
     The last two episodes are where the serial really goes to shit, with all semblance of plot thrown out of the window in favour of running around the TARDIS corridors for a bit being chased by Sontarans. As is Invasion of Time practice, this is the worst execution they ever saw, with crumbling costumes hiding actors who have been for some reason directed to put on strong cockney accents. After four episodes which might have been simply mediocre on their own, the final two drag it out into a dull slog which you pray might sometime end. It's so random that they have to break open the by-this-time-tired book of Who mythology, essentially pulling the get-out-of-jail-free card by having The Doctor shoot the Sontarans out of existence and then forget all memory of it.
Hey, it's the guy from The Android Invasion!
From the BBC
     In my original review, I talked a bit about Gallifrey, and that's important too. After the fan uproar at seeing the mighty mythology brought down to something a bit more human, going to Gallifrey was dangerous ground, especially when the budget was in the state it was. Instead of the wonderfully complex, multi-layered sets we saw previously, the civilisation is reduced to a series of blandly coloured corridors occupied by about three people, and then some location filming outside which instead of exploring Gallifreyan society and customs only serves to raise more and more questions.
     This story stands as Leela's last, and it's a damn shame after this season and a half that a character so previously well-developed manages to be kicked out with such a bullshit excuse. Leela falls in love with Andred, a minor character whom she barely speaks to over the course of the story and whom she has so little chemistry with it felt weird to see them even holding hands. It's not something that Leela would do, there's no continuity in the characterisation that after being shown the wonders of the civilised world with Leela that she would choose to settle down with a guard. Plus her presence in this story at all sends a bad word back to the Hand of Fear, where humans aren't allowed on Gallifrey. It's almost as if everything this story does is towards fucking up Season 14.
     And now to the few spits and spots I do like. John Arnett's Borusa is fandabydozy, and is quite wonderfully playful in his trickery as he guides The Doctor around Gallifreyan politics. The scenes between him and The Doctor play out very differently to Borusa's last incarnation, and at a stretch I would say that it's a tiny bit better. I also happen to like the roaming around the inside of the TARDIS, no matter how nonsensical the location filming in Hospitals and Swimming Pools happens to be. It's playfully done and it doesn't look too tacky, and while the TARDIS interiors we see in JNT's tenure (which are remarkably consistent in appearance) are my favourite, I love the recursion and randomness that this serial feels fit to provide to fill up the last two episodes.
The Doctor is made President.
From Basement Rejects
     So, not a total washout. At the end of the day there's no-one I can really blame for this story, and I feel bad for it because the show was struggling with its cash and it is genuinely a miracle that the story was even made. After all the work that went into ensuring that the show made the screen, I think the whole story is imbued with a wonderfully shoddy charm. When I began this runthrough, The Invasion of Time was one of my least favourite stories. Given some of the crap I've seen, I can at least say that The Invasion of Time is entertaining, and given all the trouble it faced in production I find that something of a wonderful miracle.


NEXT WEEK: We meet Romanadvoratrelundar Fred Romana's first incarnation in The Ribos Operation.

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