Thursday, 8 October 2015

Story 141 - Timelash

In which the Doctor discovers that the TARDIS is on a collision course with an artificial time corridor. This originates on the planet Karfel, where it is known as the Timelash. This time tunnel is used as a means of removing all those who oppose the government of the old tyrant who rules the planet - the Borad. Anyone thrown into it will never be seen again. There is a council on Karfel, led by the Maylin, but they have no real power. The Borad only ever appears on screen. Maylin Renis is summoned to the power room and is informed that he must divert huge amounts of energy to the Borad's sanctum. Renis has been joined by Councillor Mykros, who harbours sympathies for the rebels. Mykros realises that the diversion of power will affect the hospital - where Renis' wife is recuperating. Renis claims he cannot disobey the Borad, though he also admits his hatred for the tyrant. They do not know that the room is monitored. Renis is summoned to the Borad's chamber soon afterwards, where he is killed by being aged rapidly to death. The devious and ambitious Tekker takes his place. Maylins carry one of the two keys which operate the power exchange as a badge of office. When Renis' daughter - Vena - learns of his death, she snatches Tekker's key and throws herself into the Timelash.

The TARDIS has entered the time corridor, and the Doctor and Peri see an image of Vena pass momentarily through the ship. The TARDIS then materialises on Karfel, having traced the corridor to its source. The Doctor has visited this world before - back in his Third incarnation - and is remembered by its people. Knowing him to be a time-traveler, Tekker talks the Doctor into tracing where - and when - Vena has gone in order to rescue her and the key. Once he has gone, he attempts to have Peri captured, but she escapes into a cave system. Here she meets a group of rebels. She finds herself accepted by them when they see a picture of Jo Grant in a locket she is wearing. The TARDIS takes the Doctor to the north of Scotland, a few miles from Inverness, in the year 1885. A young Englishman named Herbert has taken a cottage here for a few months, and he has found Vena. He has an interest in the occult, and assumes Vena and the Doctor are supernatural beings. The Doctor takes Vena back to Karfel in the TARDIS, but en route he discovers that Herbert has managed to get onboard as well. Back on the planet, the Doctor discovers that Tekker has used him.

The rebels are captured, along with Peri. The Borad orders Peri to be returned to the caves with a cannister of Mustakozene-80 gas strapped to her. The caverns are also home to huge savage reptiles called Morlox. The Doctor is to be thrown into the Timelash but manages to overpower his android captor, which falls in instead. He, Mykros, Vena and the rebels are able to seize the council chamber and barricade themselves in. The Doctor and Herbert enter the Timelash so that the Doctor can obtain a couple of the Kontron crystals which power it. The Doctor aims to fashion these into a rudimentary time device. As well as enabling him to move a few seconds into the future, it can also harness energy directed towards it and transmit it back, in more powerful form. The Doctor uses it against a laser cannon which the guards try to use to break into the chamber. The Doctor goes to the Borad's chamber, and discovers that the old man is really a basic android. The real Borad is the scientist Megelan. The Third Doctor had discredited him due to unethical experiments on the Morlox. One of these experiments, using Mustakozene-80, has caused Megelan to become genetically fused with one of the reptiles - giving him great strength and longevity, but a hideous half-man / half-Morlox form. He is planning on doing the same to Peri, so that she can become his consort. He is also planning to provoke a war with neighbouring Bandril. The Karfelons will be wiped out, and only he and his consort will remain on the planet with the Morlox. Tekker has sneaked into the chamber, and when he hears this he rebels. He is also aged to death. The Borad attempts to do the same to the Doctor, but his crystal device bounces back the energy and the Borad perishes. The Bandrils have already sent a missile towards Karfel, which they cannot abort. The Doctor uses the TARDIS to intercept it - with Herbert once again onboard without his consent. It transpires that the Borad has created a clone of himself, and it was this who perished. He seizes Peri, but the Doctor returns in time to defeat him - forcing him into the Timelash. He will end up in Scotland in the 12th Century - near Loch Ness.
Mykros takes over, and sets about making peaceful trade agreements with the Bandrils. Herbert wants to stay on, but the Doctor insists on taking him home - having found out that he is the young Herbert George Wells...

This two part adventure was written by Glen McCoy, and was broadcast between 9th and 16th March, 1985.
It is McCoy's only contribution to the programme. It also marks the final work of Pennant Roberts as director.
Being a paramedic, McCoy had written a number of scripts for the hospital-based soap Angels. The first script he submitted included the Daleks - not realising Doctor Who wasn't just about them. His second idea was to take a look at the work of H G Wells, and how he might have come up with some of his plots. We have The Time Machine, obviously, with the TARDIS, Vena, and the Morlox. When the Doctor moves a few seconds forward in time, he appears to become invisible - referencing The Invisible Man. The Bandril attack on Karfel could be described as The War of the Worlds. He also throws in a second explanation for the Loch Ness Monster.
So - a good core idea, with lots of elements that should have made the story work. What went wrong?
Timelash sits in fourth last place in the DWM 50th Anniversary Poll. It has never been liked, for a number of reasons.  Script editor Eric Saward has admitted that he rather neglected it, concentrating on his own season finale, and tidying up other stories.
There is some dreadful acting on show. Some is just plain wooden, whilst Paul Darrow (Tekker) deliberately plays things over the top in full Olivier-Richard III mode. The direction is workmanlike at best. The sets are bland and over-lit. Once again, the Doctor and Peri take an absolute age to get into the plot. At one point the Doctor produces "seat belts" for the ship, in a lengthy bit of padding. As the story builds towards its climax, things drag to a halt with a TARDIS console room scene that had to be included when the second half under-ran. The Bandrils are clearly hand puppets and have no sense of scale. Are they one foot high, or 50 feet tall? There are contrived plot points. E.g. Of all the many companions to have traveled in the TARDIS, Peri just happens to have found and put on a locket with Jo's photo in it. And it was Jo who had visited this planet before.

There is one thing that is very good about this story, and that is the Borad. Robert Ashby gives a great performance, and the make up is really impressive. Mykros is played by Eric Deacon. Herbert is David Chandler. Vena is Jeananne Crowley. The rebel leader, Sezom, is Dicken Ashworth. Two short-lived characters, who are actually well acted and so worth mentioning are Neil Hallett (Renis) and David Ashton (Councilor Kendron). Underused as the public face of the Borad is Denis Carey - The Keeper of Traken and Prof. Chronotis in Shada.
A star of the future is one of the young rebels who gets cast into the Timelash in the opening moments of the story - Steven Mackintosh, playing Gazak.
Episode endings are:
  1. One of the Guardolier androids forces the Doctor towards the entrance of the Timelash...
  2. As Mykros addresses the Bandrils, the Doctor shows Peri Herbert's calling card - revealing that he is actually H G Wells.

Overall, sadly deserves the low opinion in which fandom holds it. Dull and badly structured. Dreadful production values and some very poor acting. With some care and attention it might have actually worked. There are a lot of culprits in the queue way before you get to the writer.
Things you might like to know:
  • Wells' works have appeared a few times in the programme. The Master reads The War of the Worlds in - what else? - Frontier In Space. The Seventh Doctor reads The Time Machine in The Movie. The Eighth picks up where he left off at the end of the story.
  • The first ever Dalek story is very heavily influenced by The Time Machine as well - the Thals being the Eloi, and the Daleks being the Morlocks.
  • Robert Ashby was once married to Louise Jameson - former companion Leela.
  • He is also the son of a one-time President of Pakistan.
  • And he was Pennant Roberts' original choice to play the Silurian Icthar in Warriors of the Deep. He's still acting - see the recent Kray Brothers movie Legend, starring Tom Hardy and, er, Tom Hardy. Another performance you might want to check out, appropriately enough, is an appearance in Jinnah - the biopic of Pakistan's founding leader. The title role is played by Sir Christopher Lee - his own personal favourite performance.
  • The painting of Jon Pertwee which appears in this story, taken from a publicity photo from Invasion of the Dinosaurs, was painted by US fan Gail Bennett. It was presented to producer JNT at a convention.
  • Tekker suggests that on the Doctor's previous visit he had more than one companion with him. The Third Doctor never had two companions in the TARDIS, and the fact that Jo was there has led to speculation that Mike Yates might have joined them in an unseen adventure.
  • Naturally, one of the novels slavishly attempts to plug this pointless continuity point.
  • Tekker's line about more than one companion is actually a throwback to an earlier version of the script, in which it would have been the First Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara who would have visited Karfel.
  • Just whose locket is it that Peri is wearing? Would Jo Grant have her own picture in a locket? That's what is being implied, but it is usually a loved one who carries your picture. Did Jo's mother make an unseen trip in the TARDIS, or is there something about Mike Yates we haven't been told about...
  • Paul Darrow's over the top performance is often attributed to an act of revenge for when Colin Baker featured in an episode of Blake's 7. Baker played a psychopathic, leather-clad criminal named Bayban the Butcher (in City at the Edge of the World). As "Babe", Baker had delivered a particularly bombastic performance.
  • Of course, Darrow had appeared in Who before - way back in The Silurians.
  • The implication is that the Borad becomes the Loch Ness Monster - when we all know that this is really the Skarasen.
  • Naturally, one of the novels slavishly attempts to plug this pointless continuity point.
  • Personally, I think the Skarasen simply ate the Borad within five minutes of his arrival.
  • Subscribe to this notion, and you won't have to read the book. It will be a couple of hours of your life you won't get back if you do.
  • Initially, the suggestion is that you don't know where the Timelash will deposit you. It is supposed to be random - so you could end up on an airless moon or the heart of a sun. Then it suddenly becomes just 12th Century Scotland. (Vena only ended up in the 19th Century because she got bumped off-course by the TARDIS). Does this mean that there was a colony of Karfelon rebels in Inverness-shire in medieval times?  Might this possibly explain the SNP?  
  • Fourth from bottom in a poll is actually a win for this story. When there were just 200 stories to score, it came 199th.

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