The stories I’ve heard about you. The great Doctor, all knowing and all powerful. You’re about as powerful as a burnt out android.
On Karfel and 1885 Scotland, the Doctor and Peri, along with H.G. Wells work together to counter the despotic Borad.
Sometimes, it is hard to come to stories without feeling as though you are weighed down by general fan perception, and sadly, Timelash is one of those. However, having seen in multiple places people talking about how terrible a story it is meant I had no expectations when reviewing it for the first time. I am not going to argue that it is the best Doctor Who story ever produced, however, I did enjoy it more than I thought at the outset.
There are some particularly good guest performances here, namely from Robert Ashby, David Chandler and, personally, I enjoyed the performance of Paul Darrow. Ashby embews the Borad with a sense of real threat and menace by never raising his voice above a sinister whisper. Combined with some really effective prosthetics, the Borad looks fantastic. Equally, David Chandler is good as a young H.G. Wells, with the story giving him inspiration for two of his most famous works, The Invisible Man and The Time Machine. Chandler is full of enthusiasm and curiosity for his surroundings, and his willingness to get involved really helps the plot along. Paul Darrow’s performance is quite polarising, but for it is worth, I rather enjoyed it. There are not so subtle parallels to Richard III, but I actually thought he was more like a more brutal version of Sir Humphrey Appleby from Yes Minister in places, a shrewd tactician. I know that some people may find his performance hammy, however, I rather enjoyed it. But this is coming from someone who likes Richard Briers in Paradise Towers, so you can take or leave my opinion on this!
Before I go on to talk about the problems with the story, I will just quickly praise the work of Pennant Roberts, the director. Despite the story’s flaws, I never really ‘tuned out’ of watching Timelash, which is something that has occasionally happened to me whilst watching other ‘bad’ stories and this is largely due to his direction. He manages to make the colony corridors look interesting and it is a good decision to make the Borad’s chamber stand out from the other sets by using lighting.
Does nothing please you?
Yes – purposeful travel, not aimless wanderings.
The Sixth Doctor and Peri Brown
Sadly, the story itself lets the performances down, and we also see a regression in the characteristics of the Doctor and his attitude towards Peri to something akin to The Twin Dilemma. The Doctor here is portrayed as brash, insensitive and downright rude to Peri, in contrast to the softening that we have seen since his debut. Try as they might, Baker and Bryant struggle to make their performances shine in this adventure, largely due to the acidic nature of their relationship and the fact that Peri is largely sidelined to be a damsel in distress for the majority of the story. The fact that the Borad wants to use her to create a population of creatures like them is frankly laughable. There is some really obvious padding here too. The scenes with the TARDIS going through the Kontron Tunnel and the Doctor and Peri staggering around the console feel like they are afterthoughts and the reveal of the real Borad at the end of part 2 feels preposterous and tacked on. The constant references to the Doctor’s previous visit whilst in his Third incarnation really get a bit wearing – and it does get to the point where you start to think that maybe there was a story in the Pertwee era when the Third Doctor visited Karfel with Jo. It would, perhaps, have made for a better story if we had seen the Doctor’s visit through flashbacks, although with the budget on offer here, getting Jon Pertwee to reprise his Doctor probably would have meant greater problems.
The budget problems cannot be ignored, as Timelash does seem to suffer with it more than other stories of this era. This is understandable, perhaps, considering that it does follow a trip to Spain in The Two Doctors and precedes the return of the Daleks in Revelation of the Daleks, and at times feels like a forgotten younger sibling to both of them. The seatbelts in the TARDIS look particularly bad, however, there are some things that do look good, like the Borad, the Bandrils and the Morox. Perhaps, with the lack of money available to it, Timelash was always going to struggle.
Verdict: Not as bad as it’s reputation would have you believe, Timelash will never go down as a fantastic Doctor Who story, but there are enjoyable elements. 3/10
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Robert Ashby (The Borad/Megelen), Denis Carey (Old Man), Paul Darrow (Tekker), Eric Deacon (Mykros), Neil Hallett (Maylin Renis), Jeananne Crowley (Vena), David Ashton (Kendron), David Chandler (Herbert), Tracy Louise Ward (Katz), Peter Robert Scott (Brunner), Dicken Ashworth (Sezon), Steven Mackintosh (Gazak), Christine Kavanagh (Aram), Martin Gower (Tyheer), Dean Hollingsworth (Android), James Richardson (Guardolier) & Martin Gower (Bandril Ambassador)
Writer: Glen McCoy
Director: Pennant Roberts
Behind the Scenes
- Last story of the classic era to revolve around an adventure with a historical figure.
- Being broadcast after The Two Doctors, Timelash becomes the second story to have a reference to the following era, with an image of the Third Doctor appearing.
- Paul Darrow previously appeared in The Silurians and Denis Carey appeared in Shada and The Keeper of Traken.
The Doctor’s reaction when Herbert reveals himself on the TARDIS, shortly after the Doctor has kicked Peri off is really rather good.
Avaunt thee, foul, fanged fiend.
I can assure you that I’m not that long in the tooth, and neat blood brings me out in a rash.
Back from where you came, spirit of the glass.
Not just yet, if you don’t mind.
Herbert and the Sixth Doctor