Doctor Who: The Time Warrior
(4 episodes, s11e01-e04, 1973-74)
Welcome to Series Eleven and a serial chock full of firsts for the franchise. I really like the new title sequence and logo, which combines Star Trek-style warp speed rainbow star streak effects and 1970s psychedelic wormholes.
The story begins with a group of medieval warriors who are complaining about the poor stores in their seized castle, including sour wine and rancid meat, when they see a falling star. After a series of well-done effects for the crash, the raiders investigate and encounter a spaceship piloted by a Sontaran.
His name is Linx and his ship needs repair. After he claims Earth for the Sontaran Empire, the medieval warriors exchange their help for super weapons that would make them invincible. Flashing forward to the 20th century, the Doctor and the Brigadier investigate the disappearance of a dozen leading scientists and their hardware. Linx is the culprit, having kidnapped them through time so that they can repair his ship. True to his word, Linx has also provided Irongron, the lead human warrior, with a rifle.
During the investigation, the Doctor provides his name (once again) as Doctor John Smith, and we meet Sarah Jane Smith.
Sarah Jane is a journalist posing as her aunt, a scientist. When another scientist, Professor Rubeish, goes missing, the Doctor traces him through time and Sarah Jane stows away on the TARDIS. When the Doctor sets his course for medieval times, Sarah Jane disrupts an archer who is trying to assassinate Irongron, and then gets captured by his forces.
I loved the Doctor’s quote: “A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting.”
The Doctor witnesses Linx removing his helmet and, you know, the Sontarans really haven’t changed that much over the years. Sarah Jane is brought before Irongron, who is in a poor mood. Linx arrives, interrogates Sarah Jane, and provides a robotic knight for Irongron’s exploits. Irongron tests it by pitting the assassin archer against the robot for sport, but the Doctor stops the machine with an arrow to its remote control. The archer escapes with Sarah Jane, and the Doctor breaks into Linx’s lab after Irongron calls the Sontaran away to diagnose the robot. The Doctor discovers the missing scientists, including Rubeish, who couldn’t be hypnotized like the others because he left his glasses in the future, but the Doctor is soon ambushed by Linx. Linx interrogates the Doctor, who discloses that he is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey.
Sarah Jane is taken to the Wessex Castle where she meets the lord who wants to defeat Irongron, and they all assume that the Doctor is behind the plot to kidnap the scientists. They develop a plan to kidnap the Doctor and stop the insanity. Back in the makeshift lab, Linx restrains the Doctor with a headset that provides a shock when he strays from his assigned task. Rubeish helps him to escape, but the Doctor encounters the human warriors and is nearly beheaded by Irongron. He is saved by the archer Hal and Sarah Jane, but they spirit him away to Wessex Castle. They confront him about his role in the affair, but he convinces them that he is the good guy.
Irongron attacks Wessex Castle and is nearly dissuaded by the dummies that impersonate a superior force, but Linx shows Irongron how to shoot the rifles and they discover the ruse. The Doctor and Sarah Jane drive the warriors back with chemical warfare. Irongron is angered by the failure, and Linx is angry with Irongron.
The Doctor and Sarah Jane lead an attack on Irongron’s castle, and they sneak in disguised as friars. They discover the scientists suffering from starvation and sleep deprivation. When Linx returns to the lab, the Doctor offers to help him fix his ship in exchange for the scientists’ lives. Linx attacks in response, and while the Sontaran is distracted by the weakened Doctor, Rubeish hits Linx right in the probic vent, his only weak spot, and knocks him out.
Irongron summons Linx, and the Doctor responds in the guise of an upgraded robot knight. He is soon defeated and captured, and subjected to a firing squad to offer Irongron’s men practice with their rifles. Sarah Jane sneaks into the kitchen and slips a knockout draught into the food, and then helps the Doctor escape the rogues and their poor aim. Rubeish removes the scientists’ trance and works to send them all back to their time.
At this point, it’s Linx versus everyone else: When Linx’s spacecraft lifts off, it will produce a shock wave that will level the castle, and the Doctor wants to save the innocents from that fate. Linx begins the power-up sequence on his craft as the guards fall prey to Sarah Jane’s culinary sabotage. The Doctor figures out how to send the scientists home and leaves Rubeish in charge as he faces off against Linx.
Only Irongron remains standing from the drugged stew. He bursts in to confront Linx, but the Sontaran kills him. Hal warns the rogues that the castle is about to be destroyed, and then arrives just in time to shoot Linx in the probic vent with an arrow. Linx dies, but falls on the activation button for his ship, and the castle is destroyed as the Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Hal escape.
Irongron is dead, his marauders are scattered, Wessex is safe, and the Doctor and his stowaway companion set course for home.
This was a fun episode with so many pieces of the mythology. Sarah Jane is an empowered and very spirited woman. She takes charge and fights hard, but is also willing to admit when she’s wrong. She’s a fantastic character right from the start. I’m eager to see how she develops as a companion.
Grading this one was easy.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Invasion of the Dinosaurs
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.