Doctor Who: Timelash
(2 episodes, s22e10-e11, 1985)
A less than stellar kiss with history.
The Doctor and Peri are on their way to the constellation of Andromeda (or possibly the Eye of Orion) for a holiday, of which the Sixth Doctor seems to take many. Their transit – and the Doctor’s grumpiness – is interrupted by a Kontron tunnel, a time corridor that tears them off course and sends them toward Earth in 1179 AD.
There’s an interesting callback here. Peri mentions the Daleks using a time corridor, but that adventure preceded both her and the Sixth Doctor. Was the reference for the benefit of the viewer?
On a desolate moon, three rebels attempt to escape from a rigid hierarchy and punishment in the timelash (*ding*). They don’t get far before being captured and punished by the Borad (the societal leader), the Maylin (Renis, a mayor of sorts), and the Councilors of Karfel. Two of them, Gazak and Tyheer, are sentenced to the timelash, which is effectively banishment by time corridor. The prisoners plead for clemency due to the threat of war, but leniency does not come.
Skeptical councilor Mykros is told by the Maylin to cure his outspoken future wife Vena – fellow councilor and the Maylin’s daughter – of her stubbornness. Ah, sexism. Mykros follows the Maylin to the Borad’s power chamber (a rare place without surveillance) where he sees the mayor reluctantly transferring power from the Karfelon supplies to the Borad using two amulet-like keys. This will leave the timelash online but will harm the rest of the society, including the Maylin’s wife who is currently in the hospital.
Unbeknownst to the two men, the Borad was monitoring their discussion. Maylin Renis is brought before the Borad while Mykros is sent back to the inner sanctum. Renis is subsequently killed by accelerated aging, and Councilor Tekker is installed as the new Maylin. Vena is skeptical of her father’s death, and her skepticism only grows as Mykros is sentenced to the timelash. She tries to stop the sentencing but instead falls into the timelash (with the Maylin’s amulet in hand) and flies through the TARDIS is a ghostly fashion as the time capsule stabilizes and lands in the council chambers.
The Karfelons apparently have met the Doctor before, about a regeneration or three back, but the Time Lord is concerned: The Karfelons shouldn’t have access to a time corridor at their technological progression. The travelers are greeted, although the android guards steal Peri’s St. Christopher’s necklace. The reception is interrupted by an ultimatum from the Bandrils that results in a declaration of war. Peri receives a covert message – “Sezon at the Falchian Rocks” – before the Maylin returns and offers her a short tour of the citadel while he confers in private with the Doctor.
The Doctor is not interested in retrieving the Karfelon amulet until the Maylin reveals the true purpose of Peri’s tour: She has been taken as a hostage and the ransom is the Doctor’s cooperation. Peri outwits her captors and escapes into the caves of the Morlox – not to be confused with the antagonists of The Time Machine – which are lizard creatures that look similar in snout to the dinosaurs that invaded London during the Third Doctor’s tenure. She is rescued from the Morlox by Karfelon rebels Katz and Sezon, but the whole group is soon captured by the Borad’s guards after they find Peri’s note. Before they are apprehended, Katz shows Peri a locket that she received from her grandfather. Inside is a picture of Jo Grant.
I guess Peri has been reading about the Doctor’s prior adventures. Fascinating.
The Doctor reluctantly agrees to find Vena, who would have followed the time corridor to Earth 1179 AD. Instead, due to interference from the TARDIS, she has landed in Scotland 1885 and is rescued by a man named Herbert, a writer and aspiring teacher. When the Doctor arrives, Vena explains things, and the trio board the TARDIS for Karfel… although Herbert is more of a stowaway than a ticketed passenger.
Tekker coerces the Doctor to return the amulet and then reneges on the deal, refusing to reveal Peri’s whereabouts. Instead, he sentences the rebels and the Doctor’s group to the timelash. The Doctor uses a mirror to confuse the android guard and the rebels fight back, eventually taking the sanctum as their own. The Doctor rappels into the timelash and, with Herbert’s help, removes two Kontron crystals. He uses the crystals to construct a time-break, which allows the rebels to repel an attack on the sanctum. The Doctor and Herbert leave to deal with Borad.
In the battle, a wall is broken to reveal a painting of the Third Doctor. Meanwhile, Peri is chained up in the Morlox cave as a tasty treat.
Tekker retreats with Councilor Kendron to the Borad’s side, and the leader’s public face is revealed to be an android. The real Borad is a human-Morlox hybrid, and the creature kills Kendron after Tekker betrays his trust. The Doctor faces the Borad while Herbert watches from above, and the Time Lord figures out that the Borad is Megelen, a crazed scientist the Time Lord exposed on his last visit for unethical experimentation. Borad intends to use the chemical that transformed him, Mustakozene-80, to transform Peri and populate the planet. He also wants to use the Bandril assault to cleanse the planet of everything but the Morlox, paving the way for his new society.
The Doctor activates his time-break, setting up a ten-second delay between his image and true self and allowing him to set a trap. The Borad’s aging beam is reflected in the Kronton crystal and kills the hybrid. The Doctor and Herbert free Peri and then set their sights on stopping the war. The Doctor uses his title as President of the High Council of Gallifrey to convince the Bandrils, but they are unable to destroy the missile. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS and maneuvers the time capsule directly into the projectile’s path, risking himself for the Karfelons.
That effort takes forever as the Doctor prevents Peri and Herbert from helping (as well as deflecting the latter’s sexism and prattling).
The nearly indestructible nature of the TARDIS acts as a shield, destroying the missile in orbit and opening the way for new peace talks. When the Doctor returns, he finds a clone of the Borad has taken Peri hostage. After some verbal sparring, the Doctor breaks the mural of his third incarnation to reveal a mirror. The reflection drives the Borad back toward the timelash and the Doctor shoves him through. The Time Lord destroys the timelash and then prepares to take Herbert (better known as Herbert George Wells) home.
Oh, and the Borad? He’ll have somewhere to swim since the time corridor supposedly dumps into Loch Ness. He’ll have company with the Skarasen in a hundred years or so.
On the upside, I enjoyed the references to the works of H. G. Wells – The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, and The Island of Doctor Moreau were most prevalent – and the inference that the Doctor influenced those works. I was amused that the Third Doctor had a few adventures with Jo Grant outside of their three televised seasons together, but I would have liked the idea more if it showcased Liz Shaw instead of Jo. Sure, the Doctor didn’t get his keys back until Jo was on the scene, but I’m still upset at how the production team shortchanged Liz.
On the downside, other than the historical bits, this story wasn’t very engaging. The story was decent enough, but it felt thin and hastily constructed. We got a heroic Doctor, but the body count is still pretty high and the character is still pretty surly and petulant.
Regarding that body count, I’m curious about the other victims of the timelash, including the android that fell in during one of the battles. Are they roaming Earth somewhere, or is the timeline cleaned up somewhere along the line?
Despite the Doctor’s quotation of numerous rules and regulations this adventure, it’s probably not that important to him.
Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Revelation of the Daleks
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.