Timestamp #130: The Five Doctors

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors
(Twentieth Anniversary Special, 1983)

 

“I am being diminished, whittled away piece by piece. A man is the sum of his memories you know, a Time Lord even more so…”

After a heart-touching introduction by the First Doctor, we find the Fifth Doctor – To save on confusion, I’m going to call them by number right out of the gate – putting the finishing touches on a brand new control console, and I actually kind of like it. The team is relaxing at the Eye of Orion, taking some time away from the rush of their recent adventures. The tranquil atmosphere has something to do with a bombardment of positive ions, and the Doctor agrees with Tegan that they can vacation for a little while.

Elsewhere, a black-gloved hand fiddles with controls and activates a scanner. On the screen is none other than the First Doctor (though not quite the genuine article due to an obvious need for recasting). A black Phantom Zone-like two-dimensional triangle swoops down and scoops up the Time Lord, an act that causes the Fifth Doctor considerable pain. The First Doctor is reduced to an Eaglemoss figurine and placed on a crystalline display.

Next up, we’re taken to UNIT HQ where Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is talking to his replacement, Colonel Crighton, when the Second Doctor arrives. The Time Lord has arrived to attend the Brig’s farewell speech and is unhappy with the renovations at UNIT HQ. He and the Brigadier take a walk, reminiscing over the Yeti, the Cybermen, Omega, and the Terrible Zodin (okay, not so much that one) before they too are swept into the Phantom Zone and turned into toys.

On to the Third Doctor, who is trying to outrace the spinning triangle in Bessie. He fails.

Tegan and Turlough escort the Fifth Doctor to the TARDIS, where he tells them that he must find his older selves to stop whatever is chewing at his soul. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sarah Jane and K9 puzzle over the danger that the robotic dog detects. Sarah Jane ignores his concerns and heads to the bus for her daily schedule. She’s later consumed by the mysterious triangle.

The Fourth Doctor and Romana are punting down the river at Cambridge, just like they did in Shada. It’s a clever re-use of footage, really. Anyway, they are also taken, which causes the Fifth Doctor to collapse, but not before he sets the coordinates. The Fifth Doctor fades in and out before the TARDIS lands, and the mysterious figure adds models of Tegan, Turlough, and the Fifth Doctor to the display.

On Gallifrey, the Inner Council has convened, comprised of a newly-regenerated President Borusa, High Chancellor Flavia, and the Castellan. Shockingly, they admit the Master for a conference. The Inner Council offer a pardon for his long list of crimes and a whole new regeneration cycle in exchange for one act: He is to rescue the Doctor.

Surprise!

The First Doctor wanders an angular cave of mirrors, joined in a surprise appearance by Susan. (There were cheers from this Whovian. I’ve missed her.) The pair run as a Dalek (we haven’t seen them in a while!) rounds a corner and opens fire. The place is known as the Death Zone, an arena-like place on Gallifrey where beings from across the universe were sent to battle for amusement before the time of Rassilon. The Council sent two representatives who did not return. They attempted to send the Doctor, but all of his incarnations have vanished from the timeline. All of them (except the Fourth because Tom Baker had reasons) have been deposited in the Death Zone. Inside the Zone, the First Doctor and Susan trick the Dalek into a mirrored dead end. It fires and the reflected beam destroys the creature, revealing the mutant within the armored casing. Through a hole in the wall, they see the tower of the Death Zone and decide to investigate.

Elsewhere, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier tangle with Cybermen and the Third Doctor reunites with Sarah Jane as he rescues her from a terrible fall. As the First Doctor and Susan wander, they find the Fifth Doctor’s TARDIS and meet Tegan, Turlough, and the Fifth Doctor. The First Doctor spearheads introductions all around and then tasks Tegan with fetching refreshments. She objects, but the Fifth Doctor asks her to humor the oldest of the Doctors. After all, he used to get a bit tetchy. Meanwhile, the Master is sent into the Zone with the Seal of the High Council (to prove his credentials) and a transmat recall device. He is soon found by the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane, but the reunion is broken up by laser fire. The Master runs one direction while the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane go another, but without the aid of Bessie who took a direct hit to the engine.

The Fifth Doctor sets the TARDIS coordinates for the Dark Tower, a place that supposedly holds the tomb of Rassilon and is the current destination for all of the Doctors and companions. The Fifth Doctor, Susan, and Tegan set out on foot to disable the force field around it so the First Doctor and Turlough can move the TARDIS to its doorstep. Meanwhile, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier go in through the cave system beneath the tower, the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane encounter Cybermen, and the Fifth Doctor’s team encounters the Master. The last event is watched by a squad of Cybermen, who rush the Time Lords and stun the Master. The Fifth Doctor sends Susan (who twists her ankle) and Tegan back to the TARDIS before using the transmat recall to return to the capitol. The First Doctor decides to take up the Fifth Doctor’s task, and Tegan joins him. Amusingly, the First Doctor still has a great deal of resentment at being addressed as “Doc.”

The Fifth Doctor confers with the Inner Council about who has control of the time scoop and the Cybermen. He uncovers a homing beacon inside the recall device, surmising that someone led the Cybermen to the Master to attack the Doctors. Borusa has the Castellan, who originally gave the device to the Master, arrested and his office and quarters searched. Meanwhile, the Master makes an arrangement with the Cybermen, who then converge on the TARDIS.

The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane encounter a Raston Warrior Robot, a perfect killing machine, halting their progress until it passes. Luckily, the Cybermen approach and engage the Raston, providing a diversion for our heroes to escape (with the Raston’s supplies). In the caves, the Second Doctor and the Brig find a Yeti, which they evade before finding a door to the Dark Tower. It is unlocked, so a trap must lie beyond.

In the Citadel, a chest containing Black Scrolls of Rassilon, forbidden knowledge from the Dark Times, is found in the Castellan’s quarters. The Castellan is taken away for interrogation but is shot dead (without regeneration) en route. The Fifth Doctor is forbidden by Borusa from returning to the Death Zone. Flavia is tasked with taking care of the Fifth Doctor, and they discuss the possibility that the Castellan was not the traitor.

At this point, all three entrances to the Dark Tower are in use. The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane zipline across to the upper entrance, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier are in the basement, and the First Doctor and Tegan use a biometric entry coder to open the front door. The Master follows through the main entrance with the Cybermen. Interestingly, the First Doctor does not recognize his former classmate. The Master tricks the Cybermen into a death trap, but the CyberLeader survives until the Master tricks and kills him with a Cyberman blaster. The Master passes the trap, followed by the First Doctor and Tegan who survive by using π. Stay in school, kids… math can save your life.

The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane descend toward the Tomb of Rassilon, but the closer they get, the more psychic energy pushes back on Sarah Jane. The Third Doctor scouts ahead and finds former companions Mike Yates and Liz Shaw. Similarly, the Second Doctor encounters Zoe Heriot and Jaimie McCrimmon, but in both cases, the former companions are only specters designed to impede progress toward the heart of the tower. Once the Doctors understand that the companions are mere illusions, they disappear with chilling screams. The First Doctor is unaffected since, at his age, he has nothing left to fear.

The First, Second, and Third Doctors, along with their current traveling companions, finally arrive at the tomb. After a series of reunions, the Doctors decipher the Old High Gallifreyan language of mathematical symbols to discover that whoever wears Rassilon’s ring shall achieve immortality. The First Doctor is troubled by the last line in the text: “To lose is to win and he who wins shall lose.” The Master arrives shortly afterward and threatens the Doctors, but he is sucker-punched by the Brigadier and tied up by Tegan and Sarah Jane.

The Fifth Doctor goes to confer with Borusa, but the president is nowhere to be found. The Doctor discovers that the Harp of Rassilon is a musical key. The key unlocks a chamber where the figurines (including one of the Master) are being overseen by Borusa, the true mastermind of this scheme. The president is not satisfied with leading Gallifrey for all of his lifetimes, but instead want to be immortal and President Eternal. He plans to use the Doctors to clear the path and traps, leaving the way open for him to claim the prize. When the Fifth Doctor refuses to help, Borusa uses the power of the Coronet of Rassilon to compel his cooperation.

Politicians, right?

The Third Doctor reverses the polarity of the neutron flow on the control console, and with the forcefields down around the Tomb of Rassilon, the TARDIS engages autopilot and moves to the tomb with Susan and Turlough. The movement is just in time as the Cybermen detonate a bomb to destroy the TARDIS, but they miss. Soon, the Fifth Doctor and Borusa arrive via transmat to claim the prize. The first three Doctors combine their psionic powers to break the telepathic hold, and as the Fifth Doctor is freed, the voice of Rassilon issues a challenge to Borusa. The First Doctor convinces Rassilon to surrender the ring to Borusa, and the president’s desire is granted: The faces that line the plinth come to life, for they are those who have previously sought immortality, and Borusa becomes one of them.

Rassilon offers immortality to the Doctors, but they decline in exchange for the chance to go back to their respective timestreams. The Fourth Doctor is restored to Shada, and the Master is restored with the promise that his sins will find their punishment in due time. As the Doctors says their farewells, the First Doctor (smugly) explains that he convinced Rassilon to give Borusa the ring because he finally understood the riddle: It was a trap set by Rassilon to weed out the more selfish of their people because they were a danger to civilization. Each set of Doctors and companions boards the TARDIS in order and the TARDIS splits through a form of temporal fission to return them their proper homes.

Chancellor Flavia arrives and tells the Doctor that he is due back to the Citadel. Since Borusa has been disqualified, the High Council has decided that the Doctor shall resume his duties as Lord President. He orders Flavia back to the Citadel, telling her that she has full authority until he arrives in his TARDIS. After ushering Tegan and Turlough aboard, he sets a course and dematerializes, stunning his companions by announcing his intention to not take office.

“You mean you’re deliberately choosing to go on the run from your own people, in a rackety old TARDIS?”

“Why not? After all, that’s how it all started.”

 

All in all, this was a wonderful story to celebrate a significant milestone. I was curious, so I looked at scripted entertainment television across the United States and United Kingdom and came up with a short list of shows to reach twenty years by 1983: Coronation Street, Guiding Light, As the World Turns, General Hospital, The Wonderful World of Disney, Romper Room, Search for Tomorrow, Captain Kangaroo, and The Edge of Night. There were also a couple of semi-scripted children’s shows like Blue Peter and The Sooty Show, but the fact remains that, in a world dominated by soap opera longevity, Doctor Who was the only science-fiction drama reach that mark.

Yeah, they deserved this party.

I was very pleased to see so many of the companions back in action, even if their cameos were short. While I would have loved to see Liz, Zoe, and Jamie get into the mix, the saying holds true that too many cooks spoil the broth. It was clever, however, to subvert nostalgia with the canonical circumstances of The War Games. I appreciate that level of attention to detail.

I did miss having Tom Baker in the mix, which would have drawn The Five Doctors down to four if it hadn’t been for Richard Hurndall. From what I gather in fan circles, his involvement as the First Doctor is sometimes disparaged, but I thought he did a fantastic job. Mixing his performance with the archival footage at the beginning (effectively bringing us two First Doctors) was a nice touch and a beautiful tribute to the beginnings of this franchise.

Finally, that wonderful musical mix over the end credits to tie the eras together: C’est fantastique.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Twentieth Series Summary

 

 

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.

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Timestamp #124: Arc of Infinity

Doctor Who: Arc of Infinity
(4 episodes, s20e01-e04, 1983)

 

A Time Lord is fooling around with the bio-data extracts of the Doctor and communicating with a mysterious holographic figure, an act that only a High Councilmember can perform. When he is discovered, he kills the security guard and disables the console. On the TARDIS, the Doctor and Nyssa are performing a little maintenance when they start to lose control. The mysterious being that received the Doctor’s biodata attacks the TARDIS and attempts to temporally bond with the Doctor. The attempt fails, and Nyssa discovers that the creature is made from antimatter and is shielded by an area of space called the Arc of Infinity.

On Earth in Amsterdam, two backpackers squat in a crypt at the Frankendael mansion (which is actually a real world place). In the middle of the night, they are awakened by the lights and sounds of a TARDIS materializing. When one of them investigates, he is attacked by a bird-like creature, and the other backpacker runs in fear. He ends up at a hostel where he has a reservation and discovers that his friend was expecting company: His cousin is arriving the next day.

The Time Lord High Council, led by new Lord President Borusa, are investigating the antimatter being and its link to the Doctor. The commander of the Chancellery Guard, a man with a familiar face named Maxil, orders the Doctor’s TARDIS to be recalled to Gallifrey. When it arrives, Maxil arrests the Doctor and Nyssa, and when the Doctor resists, he is shot. Luckily, the gun is set to stun.

What a welcome home. At least the one computer technician is friendly enough to help behind the scenes.

The Doctor and Nyssa are taken to the TARDIS, which Maxil powers down to prevent it from leaving, as the High Council discusses how they could have handled things better than meeting one of their own with guns. Of note, Councilor Hedin is played by Michael Gough, previously the Celestial Toymaker and soon to be Batman‘s butler. He doesn’t seem to age much.

Our remaining backpacker, who we shall call Robin (for that is his name), arrives at the airport to greet his friend’s cousin. His hypnotized friend is named Colin, and the new arrival is none other than Tegan. Robin and Tegan adjourn to a local café to discuss Colin.

Maxil retrieves the Doctor and Nyssa, escorting them by gunpoint to the council chambers. Nyssa, despite being an alien, is welcomed by the High Council. (Speaking of aliens, where are Leela and K9 in all of this?) They discuss the Doctor’s tumultuous history (including Romana’s conspicuous absence, although they don’t use her full name) before detailing the antimatter being’s threat to the universe and how to solve it. Since it is being drawn to the Doctor through his bio-data extracts, the obvious solution is to execute the Doctor. As the Doctor is led away to await execution, Nyssa pleads with the High Council. En route to the TARDIS, the Doctor meets up with Damon, the friendly computer technician, who slips him evidence of a traitor on the High Council.

Damon teams up with Nyssa and arranges to meet with the Doctor. They compare notes (including a mention of Leela) before Commander Maxil shoos the pair away. The order is given to execute the Doctor, and we discover that the antimatter being is in the TARDIS on Earth with Colin. Under the sound of a cloister bell, the Doctor is taken before the High Council and, despite a last minute appeal by Nyssa, given the same treatment as only one Time Lord before: Destruction.

At the exact moment of dispersal, the antimatter being attempts to bond again, and unbeknownst to the High Council, the two are directed into the Matrix. The Doctor’s body, on the other hand, was shielded and hidden by the traitorous councilor. The antimatter being reveals that his is a renegade Time Lord, but leaves the Doctor before explaining further. Meanwhile, Maxil and the Castellan discover that the Doctor survived and begin a search of the TARDIS and the Citadel.

On Earth, Tegan and Robin investigate Colin’s mysterious circumstances. They find the bird creature (an Ergon) and are transported inside the renegade’s TARDIS where they are scanned. The renegade uncovers Tegan’s connection to the Doctor and uses her as leverage to gain the Doctor’s cooperation. The Doctor resists at first, but relents as the renegade tortures Tegan. The Doctor is rematerialized in the Citadel, and the renegade releases Colin as a reward for Tegan’s assistance.

The Castellan analyzes Damon’s evidence, then assembles the High Council to reveal the traitor: Lord President Borusa. As the Castellan weaves a tale of treachery, the Doctor finds Damon and Nyssa in the computer room and makes plans to return to Earth. Meanwhile, the real traitor is revealed through communication to the renegade to be Councilor Hedin.

Oh, Alfred, how could you?

The Doctor and an armed Nyssa race to the TARDIS as Maxil and his guards pursue them. Our heroes come across Hedin, who has Borusa at gunpoint and is demanding access to the Matrix, and are captured by the traitor. Hedin reveals that the renegade is Omega and is going to be transferred to our universe. They are interrupted by the Castellan, who inadvertently kills Hedin and takes aim on the Doctor before being called off. They are all too late, however, as Omega takes control of the Matrix.

The Doctor enters the Matrix and uncovers Tegan’s location. He and Nyssa slip away undetected, return to Earth, and after a lengthy search, they find the crypt. They defeat the Ergon but fail to stop Omega’s transfer into normal matter, revealing an exact duplicate of the Doctor’s appearance. Unfortunately, the transfer was incomplete, and the Doctor, Nyssa, and Tegan chase Omega into the city as the renegade slowly deteriorates. The chase ends at the end of a dock, where the Doctor reluctantly expels Omega back to the antimatter dimension, ending the threat.

After checking on her cousin, Tegan reveals that she has nowhere else to go, and she rejoins the crew of the TARDIS as a willing passenger.

This story got a bit long in the tooth during elements of the chase and the return to Gallifrey, but much of that was absolved in the otherwise solid plot and characters. Definitely a good start to a new season.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Snakedance

 

 

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.

Timestamp #97: The Invasion of Time

Doctor Who: The Invasion of Time
(6 episodes, s15e21-e26, 1978)

timestamp-097-the-invasion-of-time

 

Duplicitous Doctor is delightful.

Somewhere in deep space, the TARDIS is parked on an alien ship. The Doctor negotiates with the ship’s crew as Leela and K9 keep the TARDIS running. Leela tries to use the scanner, but the Doctor disabled it to prevent her interfering. The Doctor signs a contract granting him complete control over the Time Lords, returns to the TARDIS, and departs. Leela takes a dip in the TARDIS swimming pool to pass the time.

On Gallifrey, the Time Lords detect the incoming TARDIS, but they cannot determine who it is, so they increase security. The TARDIS materializes and the guards, led by Commander Andred, arrive with orders to arrest the pilot and destroy the capsule. The Doctor emerges and demands to be taken to Chancellor Borusa.

Leela is on Gallifrey? How can she be there but Sarah Jane could not?

Upon meeting with Borusa, the Doctor claims his legal right as President of the Council of Time Lords. He is very gruff and brusque with the Time Lords, who are unaware that every interaction is being watched by the mysterious aliens. The Doctor selects his Presidential chamber, including 20th century décor and lead-lined walls, and orders that Leela be given proper accommodations.

Once the Doctor in inaugurated, he will be connected to the Matrix, the repository of Time Lord knowledge and history. The ceremony proceeds, but once the circlet is placed on his head, the Doctor collapses in pain. He is attended to by the surgeon general, although Borusa wants him arrested (which cannot happen to the President under law), and taken to the Chancellory to rest. Leela is taken away for questioning in the matter, and when she arrives at the Chancellory, the Doctor recovers and has her expelled from the Citadel since aliens are not allowed there. Leela runs to evade capture.

At this point, everything’s playing out as if the Doctor is completely betraying Leela.

Borusa tries to call the Doctor’s bluff, but the Doctor tells him that as long as Leela remains at large, Gallifrey is in danger. Borusa leaves the Doctor rest, after which the Doctor dons his normal attire and escapes the Chancellory. He hopscotches his way to the TARDIS with Leela in pursuit, but he locks her out and then shares a secret plan with K9. While on the run, Leela stumbles into the space traffic control room and meets the operator, Rodan. Together, they note that a massive warship is approaching the planet, but Rodan assures Leela that it cannot harm them so long as the planetary transduction barrier remains in place.

The Doctor leaves the TARDIS and returns to the Chancellory just in time to meet with Castellan Kelner, who has been watching the Doctor’s adventure the entire time. Meanwhile, a guard unlocks the TARDIS, releasing K9 who stuns the guard for his trouble. K9 disables the transduction barrier, allowing the warship to approach and three aliens to materialize in the Citadel as the Doctor laughs an evil laugh.

The aliens are called the Vardans, and the Doctor entered into an alliance with them some time ago. He asks Borusa to meet him in his chambers later, and tells the Vardans that it is only a matter of time until he retrieves the Great Key. When he reaches his quarters, he explains everything to Borusa, their secret maintained by the lead-lined walls of the room. Leela was banished to protect both her and the secret. Leela convinces Rodan to join her in the Wastelands, which she believes to be part of the Doctor’s plan. The run into Andred, who lets them go but stays behind to face the invasion and keep tabs on Castellan Kelner. In the Wastelands, the duo encounters a tribe of Gallifreyan outsiders led by Nesbin. These tribe has rejected Time Lord society and live in the wild.

The Doctor and Borusa leave the chambers and meet with Kelner and the Vardans. The Doctor begins his act: He has Borusa placed under house arrest and directs Kelner with tracking and expelling trouble-making (potentially rebellious) Time Lords. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS where K9 is interfacing with the control panel. He places the circlet on the robot dog’s head, giving him access to the Matrix. Andred, in an attempt to defend his home, enters the TARDIS and corners the Doctor, threatening to assassinate him.

K9 stuns Andred before continuing his analysis. When the guardsman comes to, he realizes that his weapon is ineffective. The Doctor leaves Andred with K9 and discovers that Kelner’s men have eliminated Andred’s force. He returns to the TARDIS and explains things to Andred: The TARDIS shields them from the Vardans, and the Matrix has been invaded. The Doctor modifies Andred’s helmet to shield the guardsman from the Vardans, then constructs a plot to disable the remaining force field around Gallifrey. The downside is that only Rassilon has the power to do so, but the upside is that his being lives on in the Matrix.

Kelner and the Vardans discuss the Doctor’s erratic behavior and begin to plot against him. Meanwhile, Leela organizes the rebel tribe to stage an assault on the Citadel. The Doctor returns the Vardans and tries to earn back their trust by opening the planet to attack. He opens a hole in the shield directly above the Citadel, and a spacecraft approaches as three humanoids materialize in the Panopticon. As the hole opens, K9 leads Andred to the Presidential chambers and Leela leads the tribe to the Citadel. The Doctor returns to his chambers, prompting the Vardans to place Kelner in charge and order the Doctor’s execution, but K9 traces the Vardan signal back to its source and places their planet in a time loop.

Presuming that they have won, the Doctor, Leela, Andred, and the tribesmen converge on the Panopticon and being to celebrate, but their joy is short-lived as three Sontaran soldiers appear and take aim on the group. Well, that escalated quickly.

I did like how the Doctor immediately surrendered to save the assembled innocents.

The Sontarans used the Vardans as pawns to dismantle Gallifrey’s defenses. The Doctor hides his true identity as the Sontarans search for him, and Borusa works behind the scenes to provide a distraction. The Doctor’s group scatters while Kelner remains behind to polish boots with his tongue. The Doctor, Leela, Rodan, Andred, and Nesbin – basically, the power players in this plot – run to the Presidential Chambers and find Borusa. Hot on their heels, the Sontarans begin to assault the door, which Borusa had previously reinforced with titanium. Escaping through a secret exit, the group (now including K9) moves to Borusa’s office. The Doctor sends everyone onward to the TARDIS, then asks Borusa for the Great Key of Rassilon, the literal key to ultimate Time Lord knowledge. Borusa attempts to deceive him, but in the end surrenders the key to the Doctor, making him the first president since Rassilon to hold it.

On the way back to the TARDIS, Nesbin is killed, but with his last ounce of strength he takes down a Sontaran. The Doctor and Borusa retreat to the TARDIS with Sontarans in pursuit, and the Doctor entrusts the Great Key to Leela’s protection. As the Sontaran commander forces Kelner to widen the hole in the planetary shield, the Doctor works with Rodan to seal it. The overrides for the shield are controlled from the TARDIS, so Kelner sabotages the stabilizer banks and sends the time capsule hurtling toward a black star. The Doctor overrides the stabilizers, but that leaves the TARDIS stuck in state until the override can be, well, overridden.

Kelner gains access to the TARDIS, and the Sontarans pursue the Doctor’s group through her labyrinthine interiors. Which, in this incarnation, appear to be a series of industrial tunnels and eclectic rooms. In the workshop, the Doctor tasks a hypnotized Rodan as K9’s assistant, including possession of the Great Key, while he distracts the invaders. The Doctor’s group finds Borusa at the swimming pool, and he joins the running distraction. When Andred is inadvertently wounded, Leela takes him and Borusa back to the workshop. The Doctor meets up with them, and finds that Rodan and K9 have constructed a de-mat gun, the ultimate weapon of the Time Lords that erases its targets from all of time. The Doctor pursues the Sontaran commander to the Panopticon, where the warrior plans to destroy the Eye of Harmony, which will destroy Gallifrey. The Doctor uses the de-mat gun on the explosion, which removes the commander from time, destroys the gun, and wipes the Doctor’s memory of the entire event.

The Doctor used two different guns in this story. I really need to start a tracker of some sort.

With the day won, the now resigned President gets ready to depart, but Leela and K9 decline to follow. Leela has fallen in love with Andred, even though aliens are not welcome on Gallifrey, and K9 remains to look after her. As the Doctor flies on to his next adventure, his former companions mourning his newfound loneliness, he pulls a box out of storage: K9 Mark II.

This serial had some really good plotting and acting. It was great to see the Doctor playing such a powerful role in saving his home. I really wish that he hadn’t had the entire thing erased from his brain since the important part to forget was the de-mat gun.

It’s also time to say goodbye to Leela. Louise Jameson is a great actress, but Leela wasn’t my favorite companion. Granted, Sarah Jane is a hard act to follow, and Leela saved a couple of stories in her run. I will miss her.

The big downside to this story: The patched-in love story for Leela. It just appears as a quick method to eject her from the TARDIS, and that drags the grade down from a glowing top score to a solid four.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

UP NEXT – Fifteenth Series Summary

 

 

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.

 

Timestamp #88: The Deadly Assassin

Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin
(4 episodes, s14e09-e12, 1976)

timestamp-088-the-deadly-assassin

 

This story is an all-around exercise in Tom Baker trying to carry the show by himself, even including a unique introduction.

Through the millennia, the Time Lords of Gallifrey led a life of peace and ordered calm, protected against all threats from lesser civilisations by their great power. But this was to change. Suddenly and terribly, the Time Lords faced the most dangerous crisis in their long history…

Driven by a premonition of the Time Lord President’s assassination, the Doctor returns home. He’s not exactly welcome since he is a convicted criminal – I guess we’re just ignoring the fact that his exile was forgiven? – the Gallifreyans guards plan to arrest on sight. It is, after all, Presidental resignation day, and the Time Lords don’t want any trouble.

We get several bits of new mythology here. First, the TARDIS is a Type 40, and she is obsolete. Second, we get to see the unique chapters and dress of the Time Lords: The Prydonians, of which the Doctor is a member, are devious and wear scarlet and orange; The Arcalians wear green; the Patrexes wear heliotrope; and there are several other “lesser” chapters who don’t get name-checked today.

There’s also the Seal of Rassilon, which we previously saw when it wasn’t the Seal of Rassilon.

The guards force the locks on the TARDIS – that’s a new one for me, since the mythology to date and in the revived series suggested that the lock was impenetrable – and the Doctor sneaks out. He encounters another guard who is immediately killed by an unseen assailant, and the authorities assume that the Doctor is responsible. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS, unaware of a dark figure watching him. The mysterious figure is working for the Master, who looks decayed and worn.

The guards transduct the TARDIS directly into the capitol, which inadvertently allows the Doctor to sneak in under a very formal disguise. At the ceremony, the robed figure takes down a camera operator. He sets up a rifle and surveys the stage through his scope. The Doctor dodges the guards by talking to Runcible, the journalist who is covering the event and refers to regenerations as “face lifts”. The Doctor spots the rifle and bursts through the crowd to the platform. As the President takes the dais, the Doctor takes aim and shoots the president. The guards arrest him shortly thereafter. The president died without naming a successor, and therefore Gallifrey is under constitutional crisis. Chancellor Goth orders both an immediate election to save face on the galactic stage, as well as an immediate trial for the Doctor.

The Doctor explains his premonition, but it is dismissed as impossible. The trial moves swiftly with a strong argument for prosecution, but the Doctor derails the trial by invoking Article 17 and running for president, which (in a moment of plotonium handwavium) guarantees his liberty until the election is over. He is given 48 hours to prove his innocence.

The Doctor inspects the rifle and discovers that the sights are fixed to prevent the shooter from getting an accurate shot. Inspecting the Panopticon, the Doctor finds his shot, which had gone wide. Meanwhile, Runcible reviews his footage from the incident and discovers the cameraman miniaturized inside the camera. The Doctor recognizes it as a tactic of the Master, and realizes that he is due for a final showdown. Meanwhile, Runcible is killed by knife.

Enter: The Matrix. The Master’s biographical data extracts have been deleted from the computer, and the Doctor’s has been tampered with. After a discussion of how the Matrix works – presumably as a repository for brain patterns after Time Lords finish their regenerative cycles – the Doctor deduces that the Master has used it to implant the premonition into the Doctor’s head to draw him to Gallifrey. Sneaky sneaky. The Doctor enters the Matrix to find the Master, and a battle of wills takes place over a rapidly shifting virtual landscape, which taxes both the Doctor’s and the assassin’s physical bodies.

You know, this is a really odd story.

The Doctor’s allies start to believe his story as they watch his physical readings during the Matrix experience, in which the Doctor runs, strategizes, and hides near a random toy spider.

The Master realizes that the Doctor is gaining the upper hand, so he sends an enthralled guard to the Matrix control room to kill the Doctor. The Doctor’s allies stop the threat as the Doctor gains the upper hand and unmasks the assassin: It is Goth. The antagonist tries to drown the Doctor, but the Doctor escapes and leaves the Matrix.

The Doctor and his allies track Goth to the Master’s lair. The Master appears dead – this is one time that I would endorse poking the corpse with stick to verify matters – and Goth is nearly at his end. Goth explains that he found the Master dying on Tersurus, at the end of his regeneration cycle. The Master promised all of his knowledge to Goth if he could return to Gallifrey. The Doctor is cleared of all charges, though Cardinal Borusa puts on his political hat and alters the story to make it more palatable, which makes Goth into a hero.

As if we needed any further evidence as to why the Doctor dislikes his own kind so intensely.

We get a little more mythology here. First, Borusa was the First Doctor’s mathematics instructor at the Academy. Second, Rassilon is established as an ancient Time Lord and founder of Gallifreyan civilization. Third, with repercussions throughout the rest of the franchise, we get the regeneration limit of twelve.

The Doctor presumes that there is more to this whole story, and believes that the secret lies in the ceremonial sash and rod, the keys to the Eye of Harmony, which is the heart of a black hole captured by Rassilon as the source of Time Lord power. That power is hidden under the Panopticon, and the Master plans to use it to restart his regeneration cycle. The Master escapes the morgue, his death a ruse – you really should’ve poked him with a stick –   and secures the sash and rod. He unlocks the Eye of Harmony and begins the process, one which will destroy Gallifrey and several other worlds. You know, go big or go home… or in this case, both.

So, is the Eye of Harmony linked to Omega as well? The lore stated that Omega used the creation of a black hole to give the Time Lords the power of time travel.

At this point, I’m also drawing attention to the Master’s makeup. It is atrocious.

We rush toward the climax as the Doctor pursues and fights the Master, stopping him (with appropriate dramatic tension) just before the last cable is uncoupled. The Master falls through a fissure in the floor as the Doctor stops the chain reaction, literally saving the world.

Cardinal Borusa is appalled at the damage, but congratulates the Doctor on his performance. The Doctor departs, and soon after, the Master does as well in his own TARDIS.

This was a nice experiment, but I was not impressed. The story was pretty bad on its own, and the Doctor desperately needs a companion to even him out. That said, as a primer on Gallifreyan mythology and means to resurrect the Master after so long, this one serves its purpose. It’s also a decent way to keep a nemesis alive after being away for 21 stories, while trying to figure out how to honor Roger Delgado’s performance.

It all settles out to an average score.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Face of Evil

 

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.

 

 

Timestamp #65: The Three Doctors

Doctor Who: The Three Doctors
(4 episodes, s10e01-e04, 1972-73)

Timestamp 065 The Three Doctors 2

 

Happy 10th anniversary, Doctor Who! Traditionally, you’d get something made of tin, but the Time Lords are feeling benevolent.

A Pandora’s box arrives in the form of a cosmic ray research module, and it’s hungry because it eats Mr Ollis, the warden of the bird sanctuary where the module crash-landed. Doctor Tyler arrives and takes the box to UNIT where the Doctor analyzes the data, and the Doctor trolls the Brigadier with a silicon rod to stir his tea. As the Doctor and Jo investigate the crash site, the module consumes Doctor Tyler, and a psychedelic cloud leaks out, menaces our heroes, and eats Bessie.

Someone needs a copy of Care and Feeding of Psychedelic Clouds for Dummies.

As if that’s not enough, several cyclopean crab creatures apparate and storm UNIT HQ. The Brigadier leaves Sgt Benton in charge of the lab and leaves to assess the situation, prompting the cloud to arrive and force the Doctor, Jo, and Benton to take refuge in the TARDIS. The TARDIS won’t dematerialize, so the Doctor plays his last resort card and calls the Time Lords.

The TARDIS has been redecorated again, and while I liked the wash basin roundels more, this is still a step up from the wallpaper that dominated the Troughton era. While I was observing that, Sgt Benton was having his “bigger on the inside” moment, which made me laugh.

The Time Lords determine that the attack is stemming from a black hole which bridges into a universe of anti-matter, but they can’t help because the same gateway is siphoning all of their power reserves. Despite the First Law of Time, which forbids the Doctor from doubling back on his own timeline (wait, what?), the Time Lords break the rules and send the Second Doctor to help the Third.

Oh, the irony.

The Second Doctor arrives, heralded by his trademark recorder, and followed by his dislike of the new décor. Sgt Benton is overjoyed, since the last time this saw this Doctor was during the Cyberman invasion. The two Doctors link together telepathically, but can’t get anything accomplished because the “dandy” and the “clown” can’t stop bickering, so the Time Lords call up the First Doctor to set them straight. He can’t come all the way in because of a plot-convenient time eddy that the council cannot overpower, but he passes the word that the black hole is a time breach and that they must cross it.

The Time Lords, by the way, call the First Doctor the “earliest Doctor”: Hartnell’s character was definitively the original.

The Third Doctor decides on a bad plan and rushes out of the TARDIS. Jo follows, and both are consumed. The Second Doctor sees that the cloud has been temporarily satiated, so he and Benton leave the TARDIS to investigate. The Brigadier meets the Second Doctor again, and he jumps to the conclusion that the Third Doctor has regenerated… er, degenerated… er, changed back into the Second Doctor. Bickering and hilarity ensue.

The Second Doctor deduce that the cloud is made of antimatter, and that it was sent by someone powerful since it hasn’t caused a matter-antimatter annihilation. He suggests confusing it with useless information, such as with a television. That’s right, Doctor Who went meta before meta was a thing. While the Second Doctor works that problem, the Third Doctor and Jo wake up on a barren world with the one-eyed crabs, pieces of the laboratory, and Bessie, and they use the car to track a set of footprints to their source.

Back on Earth, the Brigadier wants the Second Doctor to address the Security Council, calling him the Third Doctor’s assistant to sideline the whole regeneration question, much to the Second’s chagrin. The cloud gets the hunger pains again, and the Second Doctor, the Brigadier, and Benton take refuge in the TARDIS. The Brigadier’s “bigger on the inside” moment trumps Benton’s as he accuses the Doctor of building the contraption from UNIT materials and funds. As the Third Doctor and Jo find Doctor Tyler and are subdued by the crab monsters, the Second Doctor works with the First Doctor who suggests letting the cloud attack the TARDIS. When it does, the entire headquarters building is transported into the black hole, which leaves the Brigadier nearly apoplectic. He goes off to call in this new development as the Second Doctor and Benton find Mr. Ollis, and then get captured by the crabs.

We also note that the TARDIS is just a prop thanks to a camera angle that peers all the way inside.

And then we meet the architect of this whole thing: The legendary long lost Time Lord named Omega. He was the solar engineer who created the supernova that powers Time Lord civilization, but was supposedly killed in the resulting explosion. In reality, he was transported to the antimatter universe, where his will and thought turned the formless matter into physical form. It’s also his cage, since his will is the only thing maintaining reality, and he vowed revenge on the Time Lords who left him stranded. Omega deduces that the Second Doctor and the Third Doctor are the same Time Lord, and boy is he angry. He places them in a cell pending execution, and they continue bickering before the companions put them in their place. I loved that!

Omega has control of the singularity, which grants him immense power, and Jo considers that the Doctor must also have some potential in this universe. The two Doctor will a door into existence, they all escape the cell, the companions get lost and escape the palace, and the Doctors get discovered by Omega in the singularity chamber, where Omega challenges the Third Doctor to a mental Thunderdome. The Third Doctor is defeated, but the Second reasons with Omega using the imprisoned Time Lord’s freedom as leverage.

The Time Lords send the First Doctor into the black hole, reasoning that together they are powerful enough to defeat Omega. The Second Doctor laments his lost recorder (foreshadowing!), but deliberately angers Omega to challenge the villain’s self control. The two Doctors reason that if Omega can transport matter to Earth on the light stream, he could transmit himself as well, but Omega reveals that he is a prisoner of his own design. If tries to leave, he loses control over the construct, and if he stops controlling the construct, he cannot leave. He brought the Doctor(s) to become the new caretakers. As he prepares to leave, however, he discovers that he no longer exists in a form that can survive outside of the antimatter construct. Omega is powered only by his will to live, and that only works on this side of the mirror. He goes all Kylo Ren on everything since he does not want to live like that, and the Doctor run back to the TARDIS just in time to let all of the companions seek shelter.

The First Doctor is unable to fully appear in the antimatter universe since the Time Lords’ power is so badly compromised, but he links with his successors and formulate a plan. They ask Omega to bring the TARDIS to him, and then ask the companions to trust them implicitly. They promise to set Omega free only if he sends the companions home, and Omega counters that he cannot be freed, but will keep the Doctors as his companions. Each of the Doctors’ companions step into the light stream and go home.

As much as I tear into the Brigadier’s character, he did have a very touching moment as he saluted the Doctors. He truly believes it to be the last time that he shall see them.

The Doctors offer Omega the TARDIS’s force field generator as a means to escape, but he physically rejects it, and the Second Doctor’s recorder (which has been on the TARDIS inside the generator the entire time and not modified to exist in both universes) annihilates with the anti-matter in a supernova, breaking the bridge and returning everyone to their rightful places. Poetically, the act also restores power to the Time Lords, making it the second time that Omega has exchanged his life for their civilization.

In exchange for his help, the Time Lords forgive the Doctor of his crimes: After fifteen serials in exile, they return his knowledge of time travel and provide him with a new dematerialization circuit. Jo is elated, since the Doctor decides that he can’t leave Earth yet since he needs a new force field generator.

Thank the Maker, we get time travel again!

Overall, this was a great story, and it was fantastic to see Troughton back in action. His madcap style is a great contrast to Pertwee’s pompous prim and proper. It was also good to see how well the companions and Doctors all interacted, although it would have been nice to bring in some of the First and Second Doctor’s companions as well. Time and budget are always constraints, and it might have also muddied the plot a little.

One place where I’m torn is with Hartnell’s final performance. It was so good to see him in character again, but he was obviously very ill and not fully back to where he left the character thirty-six serials ago. Sadly, he died two years after this performance, his last as the Doctor and his final acting performance overall.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters

 

 

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.

 

Timestamp #50: The War Games

Doctor Who: The War Games
(10 episodes, s06e35-e44, 1969)

Timestamp 050 The War Games

 

We’re back to a regeneration episode and we have nowhere to go but up after The Space Pirates.

The TARDIS arrives in a war zone with a really nice shot of the materialization reflected in a puddle. The war is similar to World War I in 1917, and the travelers find themselves in an artillery barrage, discovered by Lady Jennifer Buckingham, taken prisoner by Germans, and finally liberated by British and Lieutenant Jeremy Carstairs. Strangely, both Buckingham and Carstairs have gaps in their memories.

General Smythe, the area commander with mind control glasses, has a transmitter that may be alien in nature. He asks an unknown entity for more specimens and disappears from his office. When he gets back, he holds a kangaroo court-martial for the travelers, finds them all guilty, and sends the Doctor to be executed. At the firing squad, a surprise sniper saves the Doctor, and both he and Zoe escape.

Speaking of surprises, General Smythe has what appears to be a TARDIS. Wait… what?

Jamie, assumed to be a deserter from the Highlanders, gets placed under guard with a Redcoat prisoner who thinks it is 1745 instead of 1917. Though it’s not explicitly stated, this Redcoat was apparently abducted from the same foggy battle where Jamie originally left with the Doctor.

After some shenanigans, the traveling trio escape with Buckingham and Carstairs, travel through the mists, and encounter a phalanx of Roman soldiers. After coming to the conclusion that this strange world is a combination of zones segregated by crucial wars in Earth history, they escape back to the 1917 zone and try to get a map. With the map (and an amusing sequence at the Chateau) they head toward the blank triangle zone in the center of the matrix and get captured by the Germans, commanded by another officer (von Weich) with a mind-controlling eyepiece.

They escape from that predicament and roll on to the American Civil War zone, but get besieged by a Confederate soldier and have to take refuge in a barn. A TARDIS arrives, disgorges fresh Confederate troops, and then dematerializes with a curious Doctor and Zoe inside, leaving Jamie with Lady Buckingham to be ping-ponged between Union and Confederate troops, the latter of which are commanded by von Weich. That dude gets around.

It turns out that Smythe and von Weich are engaged in a tactical competition, supervised by someone known as the War Chief. The War Chief and his peers (Chief Scientist and Security Chief) are under the command of the War Lord, who is attempting to distill a superior warrior class by pitting humanity’s soldiers against each other which he can use to spread an era of peace by might throughout the universe. May the odds be ever in their favor. In a twist, the War Chief is neither human nor whatever species the other chiefs and War Lord belong to (which the wiki refers to as the War Lords), but is instead a Time Lord.

A Time Lord: The same species as the Monk, Susan, and the Doctor. Oh, boy.

It also turns out that the TARDISes being used by the War Lords aren’t actual TARDISes, but rather are SIDRATs. They have very limited lifespans, can be manipulated from the outside, and follow the ’60s sci-fi conceit of being almost like the hero vehicle but spelled backwards. The War Chief wants the Doctor to join his cause because he really needs a better vessel to complete the War Lord experiment, and the Doctor has just the thing, which we found out that the Doctor stole from his home planet because he was bored.

Meanwhile, the companions discover that there is a resistance force among the humans. These rebels cannot be reprogrammed by the War Lords, and in his passion to track them all down, the Security Chief flashes all of the known agents across Zoe’s pretty much eidetic memory. After she escapes from the War Lords, she and Jamie spearhead a campaign to assemble the resistance forces and assault the Central Command.

The separate story lines finally collide when everyone converges on Central Command and dismantles the whole shebang. In the process, the War Chief kills the Security Chief, and the War Lord kills the War Chief. I seriously expected the War Chief to regenerate, and since he disappeared from view so quickly, I’m almost expecting that thread to come back at some point.

So, in the end, the Doctor is left with a world full of humans stranded out of time and no remaining SIDRATs to take them all home. After a lot of hand-wringing, the Doctor decides to call upon his people for help… and then runs like hell. He’s been violating Time Lord law by interfering in time since he stole the TARDIS, and his reckoning has finally come. The Time Lords return all of the humans to their homes, take the War Lord into custody to stand trial for his crimes, and drag the Doctor kicking and screaming to their door.

The War Lord’s trial ends with an attempted escape and hostage situation, but the Doctor outwits the War Lord. The Time Lords find the War Lord and his posse guilty, and the punishment is complete removal from time as if they never existed. The Time Lords then try the Doctor for his crimes. Rightfully so, the Doctor is proud of his interferences and justifies his fight against evil.

As they decide his fate, the Time Lords allow the Doctor to say goodbye to his companions before they send them home. Zoe and Jamie are allowed to remember only the first time they met the Doctor, but nothing more. They accept that the Doctor will continue to fight against evil, but he cannot be allowed to travel any longer, so he is exiled to Earth without the ability to dematerialize the TARDIS. They will also force him to regenerate.

On the plus sides, Jamie and Zoe show fantastic character in driving the resistance solution. It was also really nice to see both John Smith and the sonic screwdriver make their returns. There was also a quote in there somewhere about the Time Lords being curators over their museum of time, which seems really interesting in light of certain events in The Day of the Doctor.

On the down side, the Mexican resistance leader, Arturo Villar, was a caricature in racism. The sexism makes sense with the era, but the actor is obviously a white dude with a Speedy Gonzales accent. It made my skin crawl.

Considering the goodbyes and the regeneration, I feel so incomplete. Zoe and Jamie, two of the most likeable companions in the series so far, had all of their development erased in single moment. Only the Doctor remembers how their travels influenced their lives, but the influence and resulting changes are gone forever. The lack of proper goodbye also extends to the Doctor, where the last we see of him is a swirl into darkness. The character of the Doctor continues on, but the Second Doctor just ends.

Remember when I said that regeneration episodes were tough? This one was especially so. By the Timestamps rules, regeneration stories get an automatic +1 on the rating to compensate, but this story didn’t need it.

I still feel cheated out of a proper goodbye.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Sixth Series and Second Doctor Summary

 

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.