Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Who View: The Invasion Of Time

Tom Baker's Doctor isn't quite himself in The Invasion of Time as he returns to his home planet of Galifrey to take presidency, banish his companion Leela (Louise Jameson) to the wasteland  and drop the force field around the planet of the Time Lords to make way for an invasion force lead by The Vardans then ultimately The Sontarans.

Sounds great doesn't it? Re-watching 1977's The Invasion Of Time on DVD this week, I discovered why I have stayed away from this story since it aired in 1977, it makes no sense to me whatsoever.

The Doctor is collaborating with a shimmering tin-foil like alien race called The Vardans in the first few episodes which despite looking totally unimpressive, sound it too, (their voices don't even come across as menacing). When they eventually arrive on Galifrey there are only three of them, (a nod to The Dalek invasion of Auderley House in Day of The Daleks no doubt) and appear to take human form, The Doctor himself, even admits hey are rather disappointing to look at.

The Galifrey scenes are equally unimpressive, shifting between what looks like an old Top Of The Pops set, endless corridors of a disused hospital, a quarry and an elaborately designed lead coated room with clock cogs and wheels (the budget clearly used on designing this).

Once The Doctor comes to his senses and Leela musters up some help from the quarry (I mean wasteland) the Vardans are banished by the end of episode four. Hooray! Not quite - perhaps the most dramatic point of the story occurs at this episodes climax when The Sontarans arrive.

Unfortunately it doesn't get much better after that, we have four Sontarans invading Galifrey, (as opposed to seven guards and around seven Time Lords). The action then shifts to The TARDIS for the next two episodes as The Doctor and his friends take refuge in it, except because of industrial action, the scene shifts back to the disused hospital to make up alternative corridors and rooms. Unconvinced? So are The Doctors friends as they criticise the look of it "I'm a time traveller, not a painter and decorator" pleads The Doctor.

The story wraps with Leela's departure to stay back and marry the guard commander Andred (who?, exactly!) and K9 also decides to stay too, but we know he'll be back the next season with a MK II version.

Although The Invasion Of Time left me wondering what was going on most of the time, I think the concept and story is a great idea. Particular highlights are John Arnatt as Borusa and Milton Johns as the sneaky Castellan Kelner. My whole issue is the final execution was unconvincing from the poor excuse of invaders The Vardans (who lacked conviction) to the rasping Sontarans (who lacked numbers). In fairness, I'm aware the production of this story was hampered by industrial action and was a hasty rewrite because another tale was going to prove too much to make. Fair enough, but surely it must have crossed someones mind that invading The Doctor's home planet might be also quite ambitious to do effectively?

Leela's departure was also unconvincing and not fitting with such a great character, I think Louise Jameson has it right that Leela should have been killed off saving The Doctor's life, although that would have been nigh on impossible given the fact that Leela was more than capable of taking out the entire Vardan and Sontaran force on her own. The Doctor's farewell to her seems detached and unmoved.

Not the best example of Tom Baker era Doctor Who, but certainly a good example of cast and crew muddling through to make the best of a story hampered by industrial action.

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