Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Story 70 - The Time Warrior

In which UNIT investigates the mysterious disappearance of a number of scientists. The Brigadier decides to get all similar experts under one roof in order to better guard them. The Doctor joins them in an old country house, along with the TARDIS. He will be sharing a dorm with the myopic Professor Rubeish, who is suspicious of the virologist Lavinia Smith. The Doctor knows that she is not who she claims to be due to her age. Lavinia is really Sarah Jane Smith, her journalist niece. Rubeish is abducted - vanishing into thin air. The Doctor discovers that the scientists are not being taken to another place, rather they are being snatched away to another time. The culprit is Linx, a Sontaran officer whose scout ship has crashed on Earth in medieval times. He has forged an alliance with a robber baron named Irongron, offering advanced weapons in return for shelter whilst he repairs his craft. With no advanced equipment in the late 12th Century, he is forced to travel forward in time to get it - as well as the scientists who he mentally conditions to work for him.

The Doctor travels back through time in the TARDIS, following his trail - unaware that Sarah has wandered aboard the ship. She is captured by Irongron's men and at first believes that she has entered some sort of medieval recreation for tourists. Linx is concerned at her presence, recognising the synthetic materials of her clothing. Irongron plans to raid the castle of his neighbour - Sir Edward of Wessex, whose forces are depleted as his best men are fighting abroad. The belligerent Linx is keen to get involved in the attack. Sir Edward's archer, Hal, was captured at the same time as Sarah - having failed to kill Irongron when Sarah interfered with his aim. He finds himself having to fight a robot knight which has been supplied by Linx. The Doctor saves him, and he and Sarah escape. The Doctor is captured and forced to help Linx with his work. He is rescued by Rubeish - who has not been mentally conditioned like the others due to his poor eye sight. Sarah warns Sir Edward and Lady Eleanor that Irongron is being helped by a "wizard" - believing this to be the Doctor. She and Hal abduct him from Irongron's castle. He is able to tell them about the Sontaran, and he agrees to help them defend the castle.

Irongron attacks, with Linx in tow, but the Doctor uses a variety of tricks to force them to retreat. Knowing that Linx will soon be able to take off - destroying Irongron's castle as he does so - the Doctor must rescue Rubeish and the other scientists. He and Sarah break into the castle with Hal. The Doctor pretends to be another robot knight as a diversion, whilst Sarah drugs the food and Hal disarms the soldiers. Irongron is killed when he tries to stop Linx leaving. The Doctor shows Rubeish how to break the mental conditioning and to send the scientists back to the 20th Century. Hal fires an arrow which hits Linx in the Probic Vent at the back of his collar, just as he is about to take off. Sontarans re-energise themselves through this inlet. Linx dies at the controls of his ship. Irongron's castle is destroyed as the ship explodes.

This four part adventure was written by Robert Holmes, and broadcast between 15th December 1973 and 5th January 1974.
It is the first story of Season 11 and is significant for a number of reasons. There is a new title sequence, with camera "howlaround" replaced by the slit-scan technique to give the tunnel effect. Included is the famous diamond logo for the first time.
A new companion is introduced - Sarah Jane Smith played by Elisabeth Sladen. Sarah was intended as a much stronger female character, more independent than previous companions.
Sladen was not the first choice for the part. Actress April Walker, who had appeared on stage with Pertwee and was known from numerous comedy performances, was the first person contracted. Pertwee objected to the casting as Walker was too tall and blonde. He felt his Doctor should be physically bigger than the companion and thus appear as a more protective figure. He often described his cloak as being like the wings of a mother hen. Having a companion too close to himself, physically, diminished his authority he believed.
A new alien race is introduced - one which would prove to have an enduring appeal. Linx, the Sontaran, is played by the Australian actor Kevin Lindsay. The costume (Jim Acheson) and make up designs are superb, combining with Lindsay's performance to create one of the best realised alien creatures in the programme's history. The moment when Linx reveals his features for the first time is a classic moment for the series, and one of the top cliffhangers.
Another significant moment is the almost casual mention of Gallifrey - the Doctor naming his homeworld for the very first time.

Of the guest cast special mention must be made of David Daker as Irongron. He almost didn't get the part, Bob Hoskins having been considered first. Daker is superb - especially in his scenes with his somewhat dim lieutenant Bloodaxe (John J Carney). They have some marvellous Holmes lines - my personal favourite being Irongron's description of the Doctor as "a long-shanked rascal with a mighty nose."
Hal is played by future Boba Fett Jeremy Bulloch (who had previously appeared as the young rebel Tor in The Space Museum). He was seriously considered as a potential  second companion. The production team already knew that Pertwee would be leaving at the end of the season, and there was a strong possibility that the new Doctor might be a much older actor - who would need a younger male companion to handle the rough stuff.
Donald Pelmear's Prof. Rubeish is a bit of a mad scientist stereotype - but provides some extra humour.
Sir Edward is Alan Rowe (The Moonbase, Horror of Fang Rock and Full Circle), and Lady Eleanor is played by that chain-smoking stalwart of Albert Square, June Brown.

The Time Warrior is a quintessential pseudo-historical story. There had been one or two similar stories in the preceding years - starting with The Time Meddler - but from this point on they become much more common. Robert Holmes did not want to write a historical setting, claiming he knew nothing about castles and knights. Script editor Terrance Dicks gave him a kids' book on the subject and told him to get on with it. Some years later, when their roles were reversed, Holmes wanted Dicks to write a story set in a lighthouse. When Dicks complained he knew nothing about lighthouses... You can guess the rest.
Episode endings for this story are:
  1. The Doctor sees Linx emerge from the castle into the courtyard. Thinking himself unobserved, the Sontaran removes his helmet and his features are revealed....
  2. The Doctor finds himself at the mercy of Irongron, who raises his axe...
  3. The Doctor offers to help Linx if he releases the scientists and destroys the anachronistic weapons. Linx gives his reply, shooting the Doctor...
  4. The Doctor and Sarah bid farewell to Hal by the TARDIS. The young man watches as the blue box vanishes before his eyes.
Overall, an excellent four parter. Lis Sladen impresses from the start and the alien Linx is a fantastic character (thanks to the aforementioned combination of mask, costume and performance). Good sets and use of location filming. Despite the fact that he hasn't got long left in the series, Pertwee really gives the impression that he is enjoying this story.

Things you might like to know:
  • On the first day of filming - the sequence where Linx emerges from his distinctive golf-ball shaped craft to claim Earth for the Sontaran Empire - director Alan Bromley questioned Kevin Lindsay's pronunciation of the species name (believing the first syllable should be emphasised). Lindsay riposted that the middle syllable was the key one - and he should know as he *****ing well was one.
  • Barry Letts was never happy with the explosive conclusion to the story - some stock footage of a quarry blast being used for the destruction of the castle. When the opportunity to add CGI effects on the DVD release arose, the castle explosion was one of the shots "enhanced". Letts is reputed to have said, on seeing the results: "Now what about those dinosaurs then...?"
  • From now on we get Part One, Two etc, instead of Episode One, Two etc.
  • Steve Brunswick's sentry is quite possibly the worst actor in the history of Doctor Who... And that's saying something.


  1. My favourite DOCTOR WHO serial of all time. Thanks for giving it this thoughtful write-up.

  2. Glad you love it as much as I do, and thanks for the comment.