‘THE INVASION OF TIME’
Please feel free to comment on this review.
Gallifrey and Sontarans with the Fourth Doctor, Leela and K-9
by Tim Bradley and Timelord007
“There’s nothing more useless than a lock with a voice print!”
“Even the sonic screwdriver won’t get me out of this one!”
‘The Invasion of Time’ is a six-part adventure with Tom Baker’s Doctor, Leela and K-9. I had this ‘Doctor Who’ story on DVD for my birthday back in May 2008! I was expecting this to be a Sontaran fest, set on Gallifrey for six episodes. Imagine my disappointment when it turned out not to be like that.
Ah yes! The six parter that concluded Season 15 and featured tinfoil aliens called the Vardans; a cockney sounding Sontaran named Storr who can hardly get his words out to deliver anything remotely threatening; the last two episodes having the Doctor running around in circles in some unused hospital (St Anne’s Hospital in Redhill) for no apparent reason; a clumsy Sontaran tripping over a sun lounger; Tom Baker chewing the scenery going all evil and shouty; and Leela falling in love with some chap named Andred who she’s only known for about 5 minutes.
And that’s Timelord007 summing up the story in one paragraph! Here’s the in-depth review! 😀
The story is by David Agnew, who makes his first contribution to the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series. David Agnew would later contribute to ‘Doctor Who’ again for his superb story, ‘City of Death’. It may come as a surprise and a shock to you all that David Agnew does not exist! No seriously, he does not!
‘The Invasion of Time’ is actually by script editor Anthony Read and script-edited by producer Graham Williams. The story was a last-minute entry into Season 15 to act as the finale, as the original six-part adventure, ‘The Killer Cats of Geng Singh’, by David Weir failed to meet the deadline.
(to Timelord007) “Timelord! Tell us a little on what ‘The Invasion of Time’ is about!”
The plot sees Tom Baker’s Doctor and his companion, Louise Jameson’s Leela, arrive on the Doctor’s home world of Gallifrey. The Doctor unexpectedly, but legally claims the title of President of the High Council of the Time Lords. He refers to events from the Season 14 story, ‘The Deadly Assassin’.
But the Doctor acts very aggressively, bordering on madness. As soon as he is sworn in as President and given access to the Matrix, which is the repository for all knowledge of the Time Lords, the Doctor’s first act is to have his companion, Leela, banished to the wastelands, outside of the Citadel.
The wastelands are where the outcast Time Lords dwell. Soon, the Doctor sets about dismantling the defensive barrier around Gallifrey. He’s seemingly aiding an alien race, known as the Vardans, to conquer Gallifrey and to take control of time.
‘The Invasion of Time’ was released on a 2-disc DVD, with the story on Disc 1 and special features on Disc 2. In terms of structure, we have the first four episodes set on Gallifrey with the Vardans invading and we don’t get to see the Sontarans until ‘Part Four’ where they invade Gallifrey in the last two episodes.
I would have preferred it if they had the Sontarans feature in all six episodes of the story as the main enemy, since I had hoped for that than what we actually got. I did a six-part story with the Sontarans where it was switched around, by having the Sontarans appear in the last four episodes of the six.
But saying that, it doesn’t mean I dislike ‘The Invasion of Time’ as a ‘Doctor Who’ story. Far from it! It’s very enjoyable. It’s just that the expectations that I had with this TV adventure were misplaced.
I remember seeing this first on those UK Gold omnibus repeats shown on a Sunday morning, thinking it was an average story. I also recall my parents buying me this story originally on video from Woolworths, while I was laid up in bed with bronchitis. It comprised of two VHS video tapes (three episodes per tape).
You know those bulky cassette thingys that you had to rewind after playing them through? I remember enjoying the story up until the climax of ‘Part Four’. Then of course, I bought the DVD upon release. I have to admit, the new CGI effects improve the look of the Vardans and the DVD extras are great value added material.
Just to say, I’m not really one for Gallifrey stories in ‘Doctor Who’. I get confused whenever I watch a Gallifrey story and its politics. But this is a lighter depiction of Gallifrey in ‘The Invasion of Time’. I really enjoyed those humorous sequences where the Time Lords chat and bicker among each other.
Gallifrey reminds me of watching ‘Westminster Live’. They talk utter nonsense among themselves, as they bicker and complain. I could easily imagine Teresa May as a Gallifreyan cardinal. Err, that’s an image I want quickly removed from my memory! Pass me the mind probe please, Tim!
While nothing gets done on Gallifrey, leaving it to someone else to save the day, I can truly understand why the Doctor left his home world to seek adventure. Because as a whole; Gallifrey is quite boring.
(to Timelord007) “Here’s the mind probe you asked for, Timelord! The Doctor gave it to me!”
Tim Bradley passes the mind probe to Timelord007.
(to Tim) “Thanks mate!”
Timelord007 takes the mind probe and puts it on his head, switching it on. Moment of silence ensues.
(sighs; contented) “Ah! That’s better!”
Anyway, let’s talk about the characters and the stars that perform them in this story!
I love Tom Baker’s performance here. His incarnation of the usual bonkers eccentric makes way for a darker and more sinister Doctor, as he slowly seems to be losing his grip on reality. His banishment of Leela is cold and his rage when unleashed during a particular scene with Borusa is unsettling. Tom plays the part very convincingly and hints at how the Doctor could be, if he ever turned truly evil.
Yeah, Tom Baker’s performance is great in this story! Seeing the Fourth Doctor behaving strangely put me at unease. It terrified me when I saw him having fits of anger in certain points of the story. But there are certain moments I do like where Tom’s Doctor is allowed to enjoy humour in the story.
These include the scenes where Tom Baker’s Doctor has jelly babies and he offers one to Commander Andred, who is eventually given the whole bag. That’s very funny. 😀 I also enjoyed the moments where the Doctor with Leela and Rodan are on the run from the Sontarans and they get lost in the TARDIS. The Doctor even trips up on his scarf at one point, which made me laugh. 😀
I also thought Leela, for the most part, was given a decent storyline barring her departure scene, which we’ll get to in a moment. Louise Jameson shows both strength and vulnerability in her character here, as she rallies the outsiders to rescue the Doctor from the Capitol.
It shows Leela’s strength as a fierce warrior, taking up arms in battle while also being quite dismayed and heartbroken at being treated appallingly by the Doctor, once he banishes her to the wastelands.
‘The Invasion of Time’ was the first ‘time’ (crikey that rhymes), when I saw Leela in ‘Doctor Who’. Having now met Louise Jameson already at conventions, I appreciate her dedication and portrayal of Leela as a companion in the series. She certainly plays Leela well for most of this ‘Doctor Who’ story.
K-9 is great in this and given a fair bit to do. It’s strange how likeable this robot dog is, which is all down to John Leeson’s excellent voicing of the character.
Yes I like K-9, voiced by John Leeson, too. I enjoyed that first scene between K-9 and Leela at the beginning of the story when the Doctor is absent. K-9 seems to be working a lot with the Doctor, concerning the Vardans. I liked the moment when the Doctor told K-9 to get off his foot in the TARDIS.
And yeah, I have to agree with Timelord007 about the Vardans in this story. They are pretty appalling in their original tinfoil appearance in the transmitted version of the story. The CGI make-over of the Vardans is very impressive. I prefer watching ‘The Invasion of Time’ with the CGI effects.
The Vardans are also an intriguing race.
And guessing by Timelord007’s statement, I assume…NOT! 😀
This leads us on to talking about the Sontarans. The Sontarans are led by Derek Deadman as Commander Stor. By the way, Derek Deadman played the villainous Comedian in one of ‘The Sooty Show’ episodes, ‘Superdog and the Comedian’. Quite a contrast to when he played Commander Stor!
I found the Sontarans fun to watch in this story. However I was horrified by Commander Stor’s make-up as a Sontaran. It looks ugly and disturbing, but not right in terms of other Sontaran make-ups, as seen in ‘The Time Warrior’, ‘The Two Doctors’ and ‘The Sontaran Stratagem’/’The Poison Sky’.
As I said before, I wish we saw more of the Sontarans in this ‘Doctor Who’ adventure. They only appear at the opportune moment when the Vardans have left and done their work. They also do nothing but chase the Doctor and our heroes in the Doctor’s TARDIS for the remainder of the story.
As a four parter, this may have worked better. But the tagged on inclusion of the Sontarans, which should’ve be an epic cliffhanger, is ruined by the reveal of their leader, Stor, who is one of the ugliest Sontarans ever in ‘Doctor Who’s history. Derek Deadman’s pantomime performance is utterly dreadful.
The Sontarans are meant to be a fierce force of nature, bred for war. But here, we have a Muppets’ version of Sontar’s finest warriors, with Deadman seemingly staring out at the audience while spitting out threats to the Doctor in his cockney tones. It’s so cringe-worthy bad!
As said before, this story features the last regular appearance of ‘Doctor Who’ companion, Louise Jameson as Leela. I’m afraid to say this, but I found it poorly handled with how Leela was written out. Louise Jameson said she would’ve liked to have died saving the Doctor by the end of the story.
I think that would have been a great way to depart and more suited to Leela’s character. Unfortunately she stays on Gallifrey and falls in love with Andred. Now I’m not saying that staying behind on Gallifrey and falling in love is bad thing. Certainly Andred is a nice guy throughout the tale.
But there’s no indication of a romance between Leela and Andred. They have scenes together, when Leela is trying out new outfits for the Doctor’s coronation as President. Also when Andred gets shot from a Sontaran blaster and Leela tends to him, it’s a sweet, tender and touching moment to watch.
But in terms of a romance, it’s not strongly evident. I would like love stories in ‘Doctor Who’ to have a sense of realism about them. This is what I’ve done with my ‘Fifth Doctor by Tim Bradley’ series. But on this occasion, it just isn’t so. Leela is given a poor departure in this story with no build up to it.
This is why I was so upset at how Leela was written out. It’s rumoured that producer Graham Williams tried to persuade Louise Jameson to stay and thought she would. But I think due to her strained relationship with Tom Baker at the time and her lack of character development, she decided to leave.
So producer Graham Williams and script-editor Anthony Read hastily wrote her the leaving scene where Leela falls in love with Andred, the Gallifrey guard, who she’s known for all but 5 minutes, which is a complete and utter joke. The character deserved a much better exit than this shambolic written effort.
It’s completely out of tone for her character. Leela would have fared better, sacrificing herself to save the Doctor or stay behind to rule the Gallifreyan wastelands.
But I suppose Louise Jameson is thankful for having starred in the ‘Gallifrey’ spin-off series by Big Finish, which follows after ‘The Invasion of Time’. It has many stories with Leela, Romana and K-9 on Gallifrey. ‘The Invasion of Time’ also features the last regular appearance of K-9 MkI in ‘Doctor Who’.
Here are some thoughts by Timelord007 on the story’s flaws.
It’s obvious the budget was down to its last few pennies and the location filming of a disused hospital completely fails to convince as the TARDIS corridors. But then things get very weird, as we have Borusa sitting by the TARDIS swimming pool, drinking cocktails (yes, really!); a voracious plant that gobbles up the Sontaran trooper (why would the Doctor keep such a plant inside the TARDIS?); some nonsense about assembling a D-Mat gun and the Doctor suffering amnesia sustained from the gun blast.
I also didn’t appreciate the fourth wall antics seen in this story, not once but three times. Twice by the Doctor: “Even the sonic screwdriver won’t get me out of this one!” and him grinning towards the camera at the story’s conclusion.
And as I said before, Stor, when issuing threats at the Doctor by looking at the audience, just makes the whole thing very silly. It doesn’t contrast well with the darker aspects of the story.
The guest cast includes John Arnatt as Chancellor Borusa; Milton Johns (who I’ve seen in BBC sitcoms) as Castellan Kelner; Chris Tranchell as Andred and Hilary Ryan as Rodan. I liked John Arnatt’s thoughtful performance as Borusa and Milton Johns is very slimy as Castellan Kelner in this.
Milton Johns had previously appeared as Benik in ‘The Enemy of the World’ and Guy Crayford in ‘The Android Invasion’. His performance here as the manipulative Castellan Kelner is very similar in style to his two previous characters in ‘Doctor Who’, but it’s decent nevertheless.
However, John Arnatt as Chancellor Borusa is amazing in the role. He comes across as both charming and likeable. He shares a wonderful chemistry with Tom Baker and is my favourite incarnation of the Borusa character to date.
The DVD special features are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s a commentary with Louise Jameson, John Leeson, script editor Anthony Read and visual effects designer Mat Irvine. There’s also a new CGI effects option of the story, with the new CGI Vardans, and an info-text commentary option to enjoy.
On Disc 2, there’s the making-of documentary called ‘Out of Time’, with behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews. There’s also the behind-the-scenes featurette, ‘The Rise and Fall of Gallifrey’, which chronicles the history and the development of Gallifrey during the classic TV series of ‘Doctor Who’.
There’s also ‘The Elusive David Agnew’, a funny ‘mockumentary’ looking at the mysterious writer of this ‘Doctor Who’ adventure. There are some deleted scenes of the story; continuity announcements of the story; a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story and a photo gallery of the story.
There’s also a ‘coming soon’ trailer for the ‘K-9 Tales’ DVD box set, including ‘The Invisible Enemy’ with Tom Baker, Louise Jameson and John Leeson as K-9 and ‘K-9 & Company: A Girl’s Best Friend’ with Elisabeth Sladen and John Leeson as K-9. There’s also an Easter Egg to look out for on this disc.
“So, Tim! Let’s give our final thoughts on this story.”
To sum up, ‘The Invasion of Time’ is an enjoyable six-part ‘Doctor Who’ story. It’s not great, but it certainly is worth a watch. It has an interesting scenario set on Gallifrey, despite the slow build-up to the Sontarans and the performances of Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are brilliant throughout here.
Don’t be too disappointed if you find very little of the Sontarans in this ‘Doctor Who’ adventure. At least they have a good go at making an appearance and being worthy for invading Gallifrey. This is something no-else has dared to do, apart from the Daleks of course when they invaded in the Time War.
‘The Invasion of Time’ is a mixture of what I love and loathe about ‘Doctor Who’. Parts of it are gritty and dramatic, while other parts are silly and cringe-worthy. Tom Baker’s excellent as ever and John Arnatt is simply superb as Borusa. Despite Louise Jameson’s good performance as Leela, her departure is poorly handled and the inclusion of the Sontarans turned this political dramatic sci-fi adventure into pure pantomime.
“Thank you Timelord007 for helping me out with this review on ‘The Invasion of Time’!”
“No problem, Tim! I’ve enjoyed our collaboration on this review.”
“Well that’s all from us, folks!”
“End credits now!” 😀
Sting music. Roll original 1974 Tom Baker end credits.
‘The Invasion of Time’ rating by Tim Bradley – 7/10
‘The Invasion of Time’ rating by Timelord007 – 7/10
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