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16 March 2016 @ 07:35 pm
The Randomiser: The Invasion of Time  
I warned Tame Layman going into The Invasion of Time that it didn't have a good reputation. We were, after all, still recovering from The Creature from the Pit. He expressed befuddlement at the end of episode 1 about it's poor reputation and then rigidly held to that opinion through the remaining five episodes.

There is actually a lot to like in The Invasion of Time. It opens with the Doctor returning to Gallifrey to claim his position as president of the Time Lords, from which point he starts acting in an increasingly erratic fashion until it transpires he is leading an invasion by Vardans as a ruse to both disable the Vardan threat and shake the Time Lords up a little. The best bits of these episodes are probably the Doctor's interactions with Chancellor Borusa, his former tutor. Borusa ably combines disapproval of the Doctor's behaviour, with a clear suspicion that he is up to something, and the ability to obey the Doctor's commands without being obsequious. It's a shame, really, that Borusa ends up going mad and getting trapped in a stone carving (in The Five Doctors) because one can't help feeling he would have been fun opposite Capaldi's Doctor. Louise Jameson's Leela is also good, refusing to conform to Time Lord ideas of civilisation, staunchly maintaining her loyalty to the Doctor and guessing what he wants her to do, even if she can't see his full plan. Along the way she picks up a Time Lady called Rodan, and one can't help wondering if the latter is a template for Romana who was to be introduced in the next story. She's a bit mellower than Romana but has a similar mix of self-confidence in situations with which she is familiar, with a tendency to fall apart slightly when out of her depth. She and Leela mostly make a good team with clear respect for each other.

The final two episodes, in a twist that feels a bit like padding, reveal that the Vardans were merely a stalking horse for a Sontaran invasion. The Doctor and his somewhat rag-tag team of Borusa, Leela, Rodan and Andred (a chancery guards he's picked up along the way), spend a lot of time running around Gallifrey and then the Tardis assembling the components of a Really Big Gun with which the Doctor proceeds to shoot the Sontaran leader. Leela elects to remain behind on Gallifrey with Andred - it has been noted that this is one of odder companion romances, not only does she spend relatively little time in his company but, while he's nice enough, he also comes across as a bit wet.

The special effects aren't bad. The Vardans initially appear as a shimmering insubstantial form which looks to have been created by someone shaking a sheet of aluminium foil, but is surprisingly effective for all that. The Sontaran costumes aren't, perhaps, quite the equal of the earlier versions but are better than the one's used in the 1980s. It is, now however, a little odd to see the Sontarans taken seriously. The sets for Gallifrey and the Tardis all look like a show making a surprisingly good job on a fairly low budget though there are some oddities - Gallifrey appears to be full of small moulded plastic chairs. The Shobogans hiding out in the Gallifreyan wastes look a little tame, but since it is suggested that quite a lot of them are Time Lords, or at least Gallifreyans trying to get back to nature, that is possibly not surprising.

The script is fun, at least in the first four episodes. It times the reveal of the Doctor's plan pretty well allowing all the details to fall into place nicely. Looking back on it, it lacks the tension of some of the earlier Fourth Doctor stories and relies a lot on a succession (of admittedly good) one-liners and the fact that the viewer doesn't know what the Doctor is up to, in order to keep things moving.

At the end of it all Tame Layman conceded it wasn't among the best Fourth Doctor stories, but maintained that even weak fourth Doctor stories were better than the best stories for some other Doctors (poor old Hartnell and Troughton got listed which I felt was a little unfair). I'm not sure I entirely agree, but the fact remains that for a story with a fairly low reputation this was mostly fun and watchable.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/187000.html.
philmophlegm: Victoria Waterfieldphilmophlegm on March 16th, 2016 08:11 pm (UTC)
I'm with Tame Layman - I've always liked it, although it might have been better as a four-parter.

I miss the 'real' Sontarans, when they were proper baddies, not comedy dwarves.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 17th, 2016 08:46 am (UTC)
The decline of the Sontarans has been quite sad. I think if they'd kept them at The Sontaran Strategm level - a good monster for a less serious invasion story, that would have been OK. But, much as I like Madame Vastra and Jenny, I find Strax incredibly irritating and kind of pointless.
liadtbunny: DW Leelaliadtbunny on March 17th, 2016 03:27 pm (UTC)
It def should have been a four parter, but then that's usually the problem of six parters. I didn't think much to the foil and Leela/Andred, but I did like that they lived off cheap smarties;)

Aw poor One and Two. What about 'The Aztecs' and 'The Mind Robber'?
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 18th, 2016 12:13 pm (UTC)
I'm 90% sure he's never seen The Aztecs (though I'll admit it's one story whose basic set up has always really put me off, despite the fandom acclaim. It seems to require quite a lot of companions being suicidally stupid, to drive the plot). I'm sure the randomiser will serve it up to us in due course however. I think he has seen The Mind Robber but I'm not convinced its any better than a lot of the other Jamie & Zoe stories several of which are pretty strong.