Saturday 30 January 2010

The Invasion of Time

The first story review on this blog! I am starting with this story for no reason other than that I watched it this week.

This story is generally poorly regarded. I do not think it is without faults, but personally I rather like it. This is a story I read as a Target novelisation when I was a new and very young fan. I remember really enjoying it, even though I found the plot difficult to understand.

The plot is very oddly structured with, the first part showing the Doctor supposedly being an agent of the Vardans in their attempted conquest of Gallifrey and the second part featuring the Sontarans.

It almost seems like we have Sylvester McCoy showing up a decade too early, with the Fourth Doctor being even darker, more manipulative and far more morally ambiguous than the Seventh. This is how I like the Doctor to be. I always prefer a darker Doctor and hate the holier-than-thou portrayal of the Pertwee years. I wonder about the Doctor's real motivations. Did he really become Lord President simply to destroy the Vardan fleet? This seems an uncharacteristically military concern for the Doctor. I suspect he was up to a little more than this, perhaps seeking some lost information from the Matrix.

The Time Lords are portrayed as a rather stuffy and dull lot, other than the wiley Borusa (I have a fondness for this schoolmaster turned politician) and the wonderfully oily Kelner. It is unfortunate that we see so few of them. Gallifreyan society is not convincingly portrayed. Rodan was a bit of a fragile creature, but she was still rather sweet and had a great rapport with Leela. It might have been nice for Leela to have stayed and Rodan to have become a joint companion. This makes me wonder how a Doctor-Leela-Romana team would have got on. It might have made for some interesting conflicts.

The Capitol set is better than some fans make out. Although a little small, it is at least very three-dimensional. I do have a problem with the scenes outside the Capitol; that quarry just does not convince. Even worse, we see not a glimpse of the city from outside it. At least there is an orange tint on the camerawork to remind us that the Doctor's planet has a burned-orange sky. Shame there were none of those trees with leaves of silver.

The Vardans look great as floating tin foil, but when they materialize as humanoids, they are very disappointing, as the Doctor himself admits.

The Sontaran costumes are okay. It is unreasonable to complain about Stor's cockney accent, but as a character he fails to impress. He does not display the depth in Lynx's character back in The Time Warrior.

There is the question of what happens to the Sontaran fleet. My guess is that the DMAT Gun somehow had the ability to desroy the Sontaran fleet (it is supposed to be some amazing and terrible weapon).

The score with all the organ bits works quite well in my opinion.

The spacecraft modelling was impressive; it is rather a pity that we would see a silver washing-up bottle spaceship a couple of seasons later in The Nightmare of Eden.

I loved the surreal chase through the inteirior of the TARDIS. It is fascinating to see how large the ship is. The carnivorous plant was a nice touch too.

There are a lot of complaints about Leela's departure from the TARDIS. It is true that there is a lack of chemistry between Andred and Leela that makes their announcement a surprise, but we have to bear in mind that the concept of romance before marriage is a very western one. It is likely that in Leela's culture, marriage is a decision made on more pragmatic grounds. A person who is strong and able to fight is an excellent prospect as mate for one in her culture. Leela made the decision to stay on Gallifrey, so she would naturally seek a mate who proves capable, as does Andred. Some fans would have liked to have seen Leela die fighting, but I question the desire to raise the show's bodycount. It is a children's show and a life affirming one. Why kill off a character unnecessarilly?

Andred is sometimes described as a Time Lord, which would clearly evidence Time Lord sexuality. However, there is evidence that becoming a Time Lord is something acquired. It may be that Andred is a non-Time Lord Gallifreyan who has not been made a Time Lord.

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