Thursday, July 20, 2006

My Review of Doctor Who's: "The Time Warrior"

Written by Robert Holmes
Directed by Alan Bromley

Sarah Jane: “What’s happening?”
The Doctor: “You’re asking questions again.”

After three years with Katy Manning’s Jo Grant, the start of the eleventh season for Doctor Who would not only herald the last season for Jon Pertwee’s dapper Third Doctor but it also introduced two things that the show needed – a new companion and a new set of recurring villains that would both go on to be enduring aspects of the series history.

New companion wise we got a feisty journalist by the name of Sarah Jane Smith. Combining the best elements of the Third Doctor’s previous two assistants, Sarah was a woman with both heart and a steely determination to uncover the truth. In fact her meeting with The Doctor while posing as her aunt has more to do with scientists going missing from a security institute than it does with our Time Lord.

Fresh from battling the BOSS computer, The Doctor is sent by The Brigadier (who has nothing else to do) to see why so many of the scientists are going missing and it doesn’t take him long to realise who Sarah Jane really is. Then again if you’re going to pose as your aunt, be prepared for at least someone to smart enough to see through it.

Sarah Jane and The Doctor do have an interesting banter session. He patronises her by telling her to make coffee while she annoys him by questioning him. It also doesn’t help when Professor Rubeish goes missing that Sarah Jane ends up sneaking into the TARDIS as The Doctor looks for the missing scientist.

This leads to the second big event of the episode – the Sontarans. Okay so an alien with a spud for a head shouldn’t be the most riveting of villains but they’re not entirely a chore to watch either. Sontaran Linx winds up in the Middle Ages with a crashed spaceship.

Needless to say he wants out of here but he’s at the mercy of the scientists he abducts to repair his ship and the mercy of the thuggish Irongron and his aide Bloodaxe. Irongron basically wants to be king and although Linx would rather waste him, he agrees to help the idiot in exchange for his help.

Linx’s methods of helping require giving him advanced guns and an all killing robot that Irongron has fun testing on Hal the Archer. However throughout the whole serial, the alliance between both Linx and Irongron is a sour event. Irongron spends far too much time belittling the Sontaran while Linx’s obsession with Irongron’s quest for war matches his own.

The one thing that seems to be very noteworthy about the Sontaran race is that they seem to enjoy battle quite a lot. Even when The Doctor attempts to reason with Linx, the Sontaran has little interest in having his mind changed. Linx might think Irongron is an idiot but it still doesn’t stop from giving Irongron as much weaponry as possible.

If Linx and Irongron’s dynamic are turbulent, then it’s interesting to see that The Doctor and Sarah Jane also don’t see eye to eye either to begin. At first Sarah Jane is convinced that The Doctor is in cahoots with Irongron and stages a capture with Hal. However when she does find out that he’s one of the good guys, her next obstacle is grappling with the fact he’s a Time Lord.

It’s great that Elisabeth Sladen and Jon Pertwee have brilliant chemistry from the word go. I like that Sarah Jane is able to challenge The Doctor and I also appreciate that she constantly questions. For instance it takes her a while to actually believe she’s in the Middle Ages and I enjoyed her standing up Irongron more than I thought I would.

She was also determined in helping capture The Doctor and she wins points for not screaming when she first Sontaran Linx. She might not be the first strong willed companion we’ve had but like Barbara and Liz before her she’s definitely one of the strongest and most engaging.

As stories went, the Sontarans are actually a decent enough race and clearly made enough of an impact to be brought back to terrorise the Second, Fourth, Sixth and Tenth Doctors but the medieval setting really does little to make this story really stick for me. To be honest I think it would’ve been a lot wiser had we seen been taken to an alien world for this particular meeting.

Kevin Lindsay is wonderful as Sontaran Linx as is June Brown as Queen Eleanor but all the other supporting players just don’t engage you quite as much and the actor playing Irongron was quite dreadful. There are some OTT performances that you just really don’t need to see and his was one of them. Then again the one thing that does succeed is the Third Doctor/Sarah Jane team up and that is what really does matter.

Also in “The Time Warrior”

Originally this episode had been considered being called “The Time Fugitive” or “The Time Survivor”. Neither would’ve sounded that great.

Irongron: “More weapons? Like that that smote the sword from my hand?”
Linx: “Other weapons fitter for your purpose. Weapons that can strike a man dead from far away. You can a supreme warrior.”
Irongron: “I can be king! But what do you ask in return apart from your life?”
Linx: “Shelter.”

This was released on DVD in September 2007 with an interesting commentary from Elisabeth Sladen, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks. It’s also being re-released in May 2008 as part of a Sontaran themed box set.

The Doctor: “I read your paper on the teleological response of the virus. A most impressive piece of work.”
Sarah Jane: “Thank you.”
The Doctor: “Particularly when I realise that you must’ve written it when you were five years old.”
Sarah Jane: “Ah er yes, that is rather difficult to explain isn’t it?”
The Doctor: “But you’re going to try, aren’t you?”

Sarah Jane: “Look please. Now you’ve had your laugh now, you know, just stop it and let’s talk sensibly. I mean if it’s any consolation to you, you’re scaring me out of my wits.”
Bloodaxe: “P’raps the wench is crazed, Captain.”
Sarah Jane: “Come on, what is this place?”

This was the first serial in the show’s history to mention Gallifrey, The Doctor’s home planet. I wonder why it took this show so long to do that.

Irongron: “Linx.”
Linx: “Silence! This is important! My mission is threatened. Explain ‘The Doctor’.”
Sarah Jane: “He is a scientist. He was at the research centre. He said he was very fond of Delta particles.”

The Doctor: “You’ve been getting around, Sarah. Are you on visiting terms with all the local nobility?”
Sarah Jane: “Doctor, let’s get a few things straight shall we?”
The Doctor: “Oh dear. Well I’m afraid you’re going to be awfully confused if you ask me to explain about the TARDIS.”
Sarah Jane: “The TARDIS?”

I love the design of Linx’s spaceship. It looked very compact and the mention for killing a Sontaran is neat.

Sarah Jane: “You talk as if you weren’t human.”
The Doctor: “Yes, well the definition of “humanity” was always a rather complex question, wasn’t it?”
Sarah Jane: “You know perfectly well what I mean; are you or aren’t you?”
The Doctor: “If you mean am I a native of terra, the answer is no, I’m not.”

The Doctor: “Well don’t you want to know why I returned?”
Linx: “It is of no interest to me.”
The Doctor: “I came to offer you my help.”
Linx: “We’re sworn enemies, Doctor. Why should you help me?”

There is no chronology between this serial and “The Green Death” so I’m not sure how much time has passed since Jo Grant left with Cliff Jones.

Although seen as a fan favourite to many, I have to admit that with even with repeat viewing and listening to the commentary that “The Time Warrior” isn’t one of my favourites from the Third Doctor era. It’s alright but it could’ve been a lot better in my opinion.

Rating: 7 out of 10.