Our Doctor Who expert, Tony Cross, is journeying through all of time and space to bring us his thoughts on every available Doctor story. Today is the Fourth Doctor adventure The Invasion of Time...
I have said before that there is no such thing as a truly perfect Doctor Who story.
Conversely there is not really a story without something praiseworthy, whether it be a performance, a scene here or there or even just a moment of glory.
Invasion of Time is one of those bad stories. There is some excellent stuff: Tom Baker's performance in the first three episodes when we are not quite sure what he is up to; Louise Jameson is great; John Arnatt does a fine, dry job as Borusa & Milton Jones as the oily creep Castellan Kelner & the cliff-hanger at the end of the fourth episode is a good twist but...and this is a large BUT...fundamentally this story is absolute rubbish.
It's not just the pathetic Vardans who go from Northern Irish wobbly tinfoil floaty things to disappointingly average humanoids in silly hats & dull uniforms; it isn't the long haired, tribe of the week Timelord drop outs who live in a giant sand pit outside the Citadel; it isn't the dumb ineptness of the Castellan's soldiers; it isn't Tom's OTT silliness or talking to the camera; it isn't the silly run around inside of TARDIS that fills up a large chunk of the final episode & it isn't even the cockney panda Sontaran Stor (Derek Deadman) who seems to be able to talk only in a sinister whisper whilst failing completely to be anything but absolutely rubbish at conquering Gallifrey. It is all of these things & more.
However what makes this story truly awful in my book is Leela's departure. She's staying on Gallifrey because she's apparently fallen in love with Andred (Chris Tranchell). Now whilst I'll admit Andred is the nearest thing to a warrior that Gallifrey might have, he's still dripping wet. Also how - by Rassilon's Rod - do they have time to fall in love when they barely have a moment together that doesn't involve dashing down corridors? It's a shocker of a departure for such an excellent companion (& actress). In fact I'd say it is the worst companion departure in the series. Yes, even worse than Dodo's disappearing act.
Leela isn't the sort of character to go quietly off with the first bloke who flutters his eyelids at her. And yes I know I'm more annoyed about this than I should be but however you cut it this is a poor send off. I judge it unfavourably.
In fact I judge this story as a whole unfavourably. It's almost the only story I've watched in my odyssey so far that I've struggled to motivate myself to watch each episode. It's been like the Doctor Who equivalent of dentistry: necessary but unpleasant.
Are there worse stories in Doctor Who history? Possibly. But there aren't a lot & at six episodes in length it was a more drawn out disaster than any other Tom Baker story so far. Yes, worse than the Invisible Enemy. It's the combination of pathetic villains, weirdly accented & in Deadman's case woefully acted with the crapness of Leela's departure.
I'll miss you Savage.
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
Image – BBC.