‘DIMENSIONS IN TIME’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
The Seven Doctors (sort of) with Companions, Monsters and the Rani in ‘Eastenders’ Land
I’ve seen ‘Dimensions in Time’ a number of times and I’m still none the wiser on what it’s about!
‘Dimensions in Time’ was made at a time when the BBC took no interest in ‘Doctor Who’ at all and it wasn’t long after the show got cancelled in 1989. This story is meant to be the 30th anniversary special of ‘Doctor Who’ in 1993. Sadly it is a two-part tale with five minutes for each of the two episodes!
I appreciate that this was meant to celebrate the 30th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’ and accept that it was made for Children in Need and it raised lots of money. But for a two five-minute story, I couldn’t understand what was happening with the shifting time-periods and the shifting of companions and Doctors.
Originally, there was going to be a completely different 30th anniversary story for ‘Doctor Who’ called ‘Lost in the Dark Dimension’. That story would have featured Tom Baker as the main Doctor with the other Doctors making cameos. Unfortunately that special got cancelled before production.
‘Dimensions in Time’ was by David Roden and John Nathan-Turner. Interesting that John Nathan-Turner contributes as a writer to this ‘Doctor Who’ story as well as being the producer. I imagine this story was written in a rush when it got commissioned, since this was clearly shown in the final product.
I’ve seen ‘Dimensions in Time’ on YouTube. Sadly you can’t purchase the story, as it wasn’t released on VHS nor is it available on DVD. I would like the story to be released on DVD and to see a making-of documentary on ‘Dimensions in Time’ someday with behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews.
‘Dimensions in Time’ features the villainous Rani attempting to capture the first seven Doctors in a time loop and trap him in London’s East End. With the seven Doctors and his companions across three time periods, they have to work together to solve the mystery and also escape the Rani’s trap.
I admit I wanted to see this 30th anniversary special of ‘Doctor Who’ for Children in Need, because Sarah Sutton as Nyssa was in it. I’m a huge fan of Sarah Sutton/Nyssa and I didn’t want to miss out on seeing this 30th anniversary special of ‘Doctor Who’ to make up for her absence in ‘The Five Doctors’.
But after seeing ‘Dimensions in Time’ a number of times, I can’t help but be baffled by what’s going on in the story. I shared my thoughts and feelings about this story to Sarah Sutton at the ‘Collectormania Glasgow 2012’ convention in August 2012 and I’m very pleased that I’ve done so.
I mentioned to Sarah that I found the story baffling to watch, although it was nice to see everyone in it including the previous Doctors and companions who have been in the series including Nyssa. Sarah rightly pointed out that the story was for Children in Need and I agreed it shouldn’t be dismissed.
The aspect of ‘Dimensions of Time’ that makes it so unreal and odd was that this was the first and only time to feature a crossover between ‘Doctor Who’ and the BBC soap opera ‘Eastenders’. I’m dead serious here! ‘Dimensions of Time’ takes place in ‘Eastenders’ land. Interesting, but very odd indeed! 😀
I wonder why John Nathan-Turner would make a decision to set ‘Dimensions in Time’ in a soap opera setting that is worlds apart from ‘Doctor Who’. Yes, I know this is a charity special. But I don’t consider ‘Eastenders’ to exist in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe and I do not watch ‘Eastenders’ anyway!
There was an even an interactive aspect to ‘Dimensions in Time’ when it was shown on TV. The audience had to choose between two ‘Eastenders’ characters on which one was going to help the Doctor. WOW! I don’t think this made a difference, since those two ‘Eastenders’ characters would do the same thing.
The story was also shown in 3-D when it was being transmitted on TV at the time. This was…interesting. I’m not sure how the 3-D effects would have worked for UK television back in 1993. But it sounds like a bold move and it signifies that ‘Dimensions in Time’ was ahead of its time for TV.
Let’s talk about who features in this charity special. First there are the Doctors, Sylvester McCoy; Jon Pertwee; Tom Baker; Peter Davison and Colin Baker. The first two Doctors are represented by CGI heads, which in my opinion look terrible. I couldn’t feel the presences of the first two Doctors in this.
Tom Baker’s appearance in this charity special is very limited to one scene. He sends a message to all the Doctors out there in ‘Eastenders’ land to warn them about the Rani and finishes saying, “Good luck, my dears!” He’s lost his curly hair and he’s wearing the burgundy coat from Season 18 of his era.
The Jon Pertwee, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy Doctors are the ones who get to be the most active in the story compared to Tom Baker. They get to run around ‘Eastenders’ land with their companions and reveal some confusing information about what is happening during the story.
The companions are as follows. There’s Sophie Aldred as Ace; Carole Ann Ford as Susan; Deborah Watling as Victoria; Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier; Caroline John as Liz Shaw; Richard Franklin as Mike Yates; Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane; Louise Jameson as Leela; Lalla Ward as Romana; John Leeson as the voice of K-9; Sarah Sutton as Nyssa; Nicola Bryant as Peri and Bonnie Langford as Mel.
The companions featured in this story have more confusing appearances than the Doctor. Every occasion that time shifts, the companions seem to switch bodies as if they were Time Lords. JNT, the companions aren’t Time Lords! They can’t change forms (except Romana)! What were you thinking?!
The highlight of ‘Dimensions in Time’ for me was seeing the Doctors and his companions making an appearance in this 30th anniversary special. This especially includes Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa running away from the monsters with Peter Davison’s Doctor and Nicola Bryant’s Peri within London’s East End.
Sarah has shared that her daughter Hannah watched ‘Dimensions in Time’ as a little girl and saw her mum in it saying, “Monsters! Mummy chased by monsters!” That sums up ‘Dimensions in Time’ altogether as far as Nyssa is concerned. I love it that Nyssa appears in both episodes of this odd tale.
This story features the return of Kate O’Mara as the villainous Rani. The Rani has a sidekick who happens to be Samuel West as Cyrian. Samuel is the son of Timothy West and Prunella Scales and also played King Caspian in the BBC adaptation of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’.
Many fans have debated the canonicity (I hate that word) of this story and whether it takes place in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe or not. At first glance it doesn’t, since it seems to be all over the place. But I can happily say that ‘Dimensions in Time’ does take place in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe after all.
It seems that the story happens to be a dream or a nightmare inside the Doctor’s head. This was confirmed by the Seventh Doctor in one of the ‘Doctor Who’ New Adventures novels called ‘First Frontier’ (which I’ve yet to read). That’s what I believe and I’m sticking to it, otherwise this story doesn’t make sense. Mind you, this story doesn’t make sense anyway, but I’m trying to cope here.
With this story, the dialogue for the characters is awful and head-scratching at points. Also some of the Doctor-companions team-ups don’t make sense when the wrong companion is with the wrong Doctor like Mel with the Third Doctor. Only Susan and Ace realise that the Sixth Doctor is not their Doctors.
‘Dimensions of Time’ should have been made better by extending the episode lengths or have the story revamped and making it like ‘The Dark Dimension’ special they were going to make. I sometimes wonder whether I’m ‘thick’ (not my waistline) or if there’s someone who understood this story at all.
I did read ‘The Fact of Fiction’ article on ‘Dimensions in Time’ in ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ once. I enjoyed reading it, but I don’t think it helped with me understanding the story. I’ll need to read that article again, as I recall some interesting behind-the-scenes information on the writing of the story.
Despite the criticisms, I don’t mind ‘Dimensions of Time’ and I enjoyed it very much. I’m pleased Sarah Sutton got to appear in an anniversary special for TV in ‘Doctor Who’. It’s such a shame that the two episodes weren’t long enough and this doesn’t top up on ‘The Five Doctors’ anniversary special in any form.
‘Dimensions in Time’ rating – 5/10
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