Sunday, 2 March 2014

Story 97 - The Invasion of Time


In which the Doctor makes a mysterious rendezvous with a massive spacecraft. He leaves Leela in the TARDIS with K9, and disables the scanner to prevent her from seeing what he is up to. On his return, he refuses to tell her what he is up to, and sets the co-ordinates for Gallifrey. Arriving in the Panopticon, he announces his intention to take up the Presidency of the High Council of Time Lords. The post has lain vacant since his last visit. On that occasion, he had put himself forward as a candidate. His only opponent - Chancellor Goth - was revealed to be a traitor and was killed. Thus, the Doctor is now the President. Gallifrey has been governed by Cardinal Borusa, now Chancellor. He is vehemently opposed to the Doctor assuming power. The Doctor finds an ally in the new Castellan, Kelner - though both distrust each other. The Doctor orders Borusa to prepare his new quarters, specifying a specific industrial theme... At the induction ceremony, the Matrix appears to momentarily reject the Doctor. Borusa blames Leela for the attack. The Doctor orders that she be expelled from the Capitol. She goes on the run. The Doctor then instructs K9 to disable the protective Transduction Barriers. In a space traffic control station, Leela meets a technician named Rodan. She sees a spaceship enter Gallifreyan space and sounds the alarm. In the Panopticon, the Doctor invites the assembled Time Lords to meet their new masters. Shimmering beings appear. Gallifrey has been invaded.


The new arrivals are Vardans. They want the Doctor to completely dismantle the Transduction Barriers to allow their entire fleet to arrive. Kelner quickly allies himself with the aliens. The Doctor arranges to meet Borusa in his new quarters. The room is completely lined with reinforced lead. He informs his old tutor of recent events. The Vardans are able to travel via any form of wavelength - including thought. As such they can read his mind - though not in this room. The Doctor has a plan to identify the Vardan homeworld and send them back to it - trapping them there. Anyone hostile to the Vardans is expelled into the wastelands. Leela and Rodan go there and meet a group who have turned their backs on Time Lord society and now lead a simpler life. Leela informs them of the invasion, and they plan an attack. In the Capitol, the captain of the Chancellery Guard, Andred, enters into a plot to stop the invaders - by assassinating the Doctor. K9 links itself to the TARDIS to plot the Vardan homeworld. The Doctor manages to convince Andred of his innocence - giving him a lead-lined helmet to stop the Vardans reading his thoughts. The Vardans materialise fully - appearing as uniformed humanoid soldiers. As Leela and the outlers attack, the Doctor has K9 link to the Matrix. The Vardans are expelled from Gallifrey and their planet locked into a timeloop. Everyone celebrates in the Panopticon, but the jubilation is short-lived as a group of Sontarans appear...


The duplicitous Kelner joins forces with the new invaders. Borusa helps the Doctor and his allies escape and all take refuge in the TARDIS. The Doctor has the controls to the Transduction Barriers rerouted through his ship - to prevent the Sontaran forces landing en masse. Commander Stor has Kelner give him access to the ship. The Sontarans pursue the Doctor and his friends through the many rooms within the TARDIS, including the swimming pool, workshops, an infirmary and storerooms. The Doctor devises a plan  - to build the powerful D-Mat weapon. He forces Borusa to hand over the Great Key - which powers the gun. When Stor's efforts fail, he decides to destroy the Capitol instead. The Doctor uses the D-Mat gun to obliterate him. He wakes up with no knowledge of having built the weapon. Gallifrey has been saved. The Doctor is about to depart when Leela announces that she plans on staying behind - having fallen in love with Andred. K9 will remain with her. The Doctor bids her farewell and travels on alone. He has a new project to keep him busy - K9 Mark II...


This six part adventure marked the end of Season 15. It is credited to David Agnew, and was broadcast between 4th February and 11th March, 1978. The writers were actually Scrip Editor Anthony Read, and Producer Graham Williams.
The story which was to have filled this slot fell through late in the day. Written by David Weir, it would have involved a race of cat people. Williams and Read had to hurriedly come up with a replacement. Read followed Holmes' advice of splitting six parters into a connected four and a two parter. To give the finale an epic feel, it was decided to have Gallifrey itself threatened. A popular existing monster was brought back, in the Sontarans. Sets and costumes from The Deadly Assassin could be reused. Much of the latter part of the story would be set within the TARDIS. Unfortunately, industrial action at BBC TV Centre caused much of this to be filmed on location at an abandoned hospital - and it shows. At no point do you ever feel that you are seeing parts of the ship.


Some very good special effects on show with a number of impressive spaceship shots. The shimmering tin-foil Vardans fail to impress, however. They're even worse when finally seen - boring uniformed humanoids.
Principle guest artists include John Arnatt, who takes over the role of Borusa. Angus Mackay had been invited back but had proven unavailable. Kelner is played by the wonderful Milton Johns, making his third appearance in the programme. Andred is Christopher Tranchell - also making his third appearance. Gold Usher is Charles Morgan, who had played Songsten in The Abominable Snowmen. Feisty old Lord Gomer, who wants to stay and fight, is also played by a series veteran - Dennis Edwards having played the Centurion in The Romans. Regular series stunt performer Max Faulkner gets his biggest role in the series as Nesbin, leader of the outler group. The Sontaran commander, Stor, is played by Derek Deadman, who was best known for comedy roles as well as criminals of varying types. The mask and vocalisation are not very good.
Episode endings are:

  1. As the Coronet of Rassilon descends onto the Doctor's head, he collapses in agony...
  2. The Doctor orders the assembled Council members to welcome their new masters, as three shimmering figures materialise...
  3. Andred enters the TARDIS and points his gun at the Doctor - threatening to execute him as a traitor to Gallifrey...
  4. The Doctor wonders why his friends have stopped celebrating. He turns to look at what they are staring at - and sees a group of Sontarans on the Panopticon steps...
  5. Thanks to Kelner's sabotage, the TARDIS is about to be thrown into a black star...
  6. The Doctor pulls out a large box - with "K9 Mark II" written on the side...


Overall, an ambitious serial that suffers from some poor production values. It's a pity the Sontarans couldn't have turned up earlier, as the Vardans are rubbish. The Part Four cliffhanger is one of the best of the classic series. A very poor (and unrealistic) departure for Leela.
Things you might like to know:

  • The further adventures of Leela and K9 Mark 1 can be heard on the long-running Big Finish series "Gallifrey".
  • It's supposed to be K9 Mark 1 that appears in the recent Australian K-9 TV series.
  • Nesbin's people have often been called Sheboogans. These unseen characters from The Deadly Assassin are obviously little more than vandals, so this cannot be the case.
  • It seems odd that a new Time Lady companion was created for The Ribos Operation, when the Doctor could just have taken Rodan with him on his travels. Up to the last minute, they were trying to talk Louise Jameson into staying, mind you.
  • Louise Jameson was approached about returning to the series to help bridge the Tom Baker / Peter Davison transition. She has subsequently stated that she felt turning it down was a mistake.
  • The shock appearance of the Sontarans at the end of Part Four was a great surprise in these per-internet days. Or it would have been, if the continuity announcement at the conclusion of Underworld hadn't featured a photograph of Sontarans in the Panopticon...
  • Both Clara Oswald and the Great Intelligence pass fleetingly through Gallifrey at this time, though unseen by the Fourth Doctor.

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