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DVD Review: Doctor Who ‘Timelash’
T.E. Pouncey   |  

Doctor Who: Timelash DVDDoctor Who – Timelash
Starring Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant
BBC Video
Release Date: April 1, 2008

The Fabulous Baker Boy
Colin Baker is the Sixth Doctor in “Timelash”

There were two actors named Baker who have played the role of Doctor Who.

There is Tom Baker, who was incredibly popular in the role, played the Doctor for seven seasons (longer than any other Doctor so far) and was the FIRST Doctor most people in the mid-west saw, because his episodes were the first broadcast on many area PBS television stations during the mid-1980’s.

Then there was Colin Baker, who only played the Doctor three seasons, took the role when the series teetered on the brink of cancellation, and is one of the least familiar Doctors in my part of the USA.

One of the more interesting episodes from the Colin Baker period, “Timelash,” is now available on DVD from BBC Video. This episode finds the Doctor battling a ruthless alien, a crisis in the time/space continuum, and a script with more holes than 500 gopher colonies.

It’s not that Baker doesn’t gamely make the best of the material he has to work with, or that he doesn’t bring his own panache to the role, but there was apparently much in-fighting with the production company during this episode (which is all covered in a documentary featurette included in the DVD called “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly”) and the script, which was supposed to feature the Daleks, was rewritten to make the villain a humanoid/animal dictator in a mechanized wheelchair.

The story begins with The Doctor and his companion, Peri Brown (played by actress Nicola Bryant) arguing about the best destination for a little vacation. The Doctor seems particularly rude and mean to Peri and is annoyed at just about everything she says or does. Suddenly the TARDIS is caught in a “Time Corridor” and almost torn apart while the Doctor works to realign the TARDIS controls.

Meanwhile, on the planet Karfel, some revolutionaries opposing the planet’s ruler, Borad, are sentenced to be thrown into the “Timelash” — a corridor through time and space that will leave them permanently stranded on Earth in 1179. This is considered a “fate worse than death” by the aliens who scream as they are shoved into the Timelash.

Just for giggles, I “Googled” the year 1179 to see what horrible events happened in 1179 — and I couldn’t find anything remarkable. I can understand if they were afraid of being sent into the era of the bubonic plague or sent to time full of earthquakes or killer winters, but the worst thing I could find awaiting the aliens once they reached 1179 Earth, was a fire in the city of Rochester England that damaged its cathedral. And we don’t even know for sure the aliens were being sent to 1179 England. For all we know, they were deposited on the undiscovered great plains of America where they would have plenty of clean water, fresh food and might be mistaken for gods by nomadic Native-American tribes.

After a bit more rebel treachery against Borad, Vena, a woman who also opposes the dictator, pulls a powerful amulet from one of Borad’s loyalists and accidentally falls into the Timelash. She collides (as a ghost image) with the TARDIS and is deflected to the year 1885. When she arrives, a British man named Herbert, thinks he’s accidentally plucked the woman from an occult experiment he is conducting. Soon The Doctor arrives from the time storm on Karefel, Peri is kidnapped and the Doctor is forced to go to 1885 and retrieve Vena and the amulet of power. While there, The Doctor meets Herbert, who stows away aboard the TARDIS and returns with Vena and The Doctor back to Karfel.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to let you know that “Herbert” is a famous author. Just think of a famous author named Herbert who would have lived in 1885, and you can figure this out. I guessed it almost immediately, but it’s supposed to be sort of a “surprise ending” to the story.

The rest of the two-part episode involves The Doctor rescuing Peri and helping the rebels overthrow the Borad. There is a lot happening in this story including an imminent invasion of Karfel by some aliens called the Bandrils and Peri being chained in a cave and menaced by a big rubber monster.

One of the most intriguing elements of Timelash is that the Doctor remembers visiting Karfel in an earlier incarnation. There is an image of the third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) behind a wall and when Peri is kidnapped, she is shown a locket with a picture of one of the third Doctor’s companions, Jo Grant (played by Katy Manning). However, I have searched all available Doctor Who databases, and I can’t find an episode where the Jon Pertwee Doctor ever visited the planet Karfel. As nearly as I can tell, “Timelash” is the sequel to a Doctor Who episode that was never broadcast, or maybe never even filmed.

There is also a big “plot cheat” where you think The Doctor and Herbert have been destroyed in the TARDIS as it moves to intercept a Bendrils missile. Suddenly, The Doctor and Herbert arrive for a timely rescue to save the everyone, and when he’s asked how they survived, The Doctor simply says he will “explain later.”

Just try to imagine an episode of Star Trek where the Enterprise is destroyed and then Kirk and Spock show up near the end of the episode and tell the rest of the cast they’ll “explain later” how they got away and why the ship is still functioning — but never do. I think you’ll see why I have a problem with this.

But if you enjoy Doctor Who as I do, you tend to overlook plot holes just like you overlook the cheesy special effects, the poorly costumed aliens and the ludicrously constructed monsters. The Doctor Who universe is as rich and detailed as any you will find in science fiction — in fact, it’s closest U.S. equivalent is probably the current Battlestar Galactica series. Each Doctor has had his own quirks and surprises and each actor has brought his own contribution to the Doctor Who legacy.

Collin Baker does a pretty good job as The Doctor in “Timelash,” it’s just a shame we never got to see him grow into the role before the series producers decided to replace him.

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