Shows - Review
Doctor Who (1963-1989)
Episode: Timelash (Part 1)
Review by: Michael Hickerson
A couple of years ago, Doctor Who Magazine conducted a fan poll to determine the best stories of all time, as well as the worst. And the results were very interesting--not only in the stories that were picked to top the poll, but also the stories that rounded out the bottom ten of the poll. For the most part, the stories in the bottom ten had an odd common trait--a lot of them had the word time in them.
And, yes, Timelash was one of those stories.
I always try to come to any story that is universally bad with an open mind. This is Doctor Who after all, and there must be some redeeming quality to the overall story. Some sliver of hope, somethign that makes the story enjoyable and worthwhile. And I tried to come into Timelash with that attitude as I sat down to view it again. And, once again, I came away with the same feeling I always get when I watch the Colin Baker years--good Doctor, too bad about the stories.
How Timelash ever made it to the small screen, I am not sure. (And if Timelash was the story they picked over sereral other candidates, I'd hate to see just how bad the other stories that were rejected were). Part of the problem is that the story spends far too long with the Doctor and Peri on the sidelines and not involved in the action of the story. I enjoy a story that creates a realistic, believable society, but this is just ridiculous. It seems as though Glenn McCoy was told that he must leave the Doctor on the sidelines as long as possible and he did just that. By the time the Doctor becomes involved, I'm so disinterested in the story that it's hard to get myself back into the story at hand. Also, the story is a bit pedestrian at that--Doctor arrives on planet with totallarian regime and a small but spunky rebel group and proceeds to overthrow the regime. Not exactly a groundbreaking Dr. Who story there. (Not that they have to be groundbreaking, mind you...just do something new with it).
The entire cast is wasted here, though Colin Baker does his best with the material given. You can see the man honestly trying to work hard and rise above the material...but he never quite can. Nicola Bryant tries as well, but given the material--reduced to screaming female companion, it just doesn't work. Herbert is awful and thankfully, there is never any mention or idea that he might travel with the Doctor. (Also, it's fairly obvious from the first time we see him just who he might really be, so not a huge shock that he turns out to be H.G. Wells.) And the biggest crime is that Paul Darrow is utterly wasted as Tekker. After four brilliant seasons as Avon on Blake's Seven, Darrow seems to be on cruise control here--playing the villainous jerk. The thing that worked with Avon was that the character had some depth so that there was some sense of motivation to his being a villianous jerk. Tekker has none and the character suffers as whole.
One of the biggest complaints I've got is that for a show this is rich with histroy, why does Who have to go and invent a Pertwee story for this to be a sequel to? The Pertwee years have a good flow to them and it seems a bit hard to accept that the Doctor and Jo would have this lost adventure in there to make the fans wonder. If there were a story that screamed out for a BBC past Doctor adventure as a prequel, it would be this one. (Only problem: no one would care or buy the book).
And before you hit reply and start shouting that the backstory invention is exactly what the McCoy years does, read on. I can accept that the McCoy years do this because it is possible and even logical to assume that the Doctor had some adventures off-screen that occurred before we met him in the junkyard on Totter's Lane. So, I can accept that we had the first Doctor out there, exploring the universe and doing things that occurred before but just were not referred to. It's an interesting back story and one that makes me re- examine the entire history of Dr. Who in a new light--kind of like Deadly Assassin does to our view of Gallifrey. What I don't buy is creating a backstory simply to have a sequel. Indeed, one thing the Baker years suffers from is an over abudance of sequel-itis. So, to have a story that exists as a sequel to a story that never existed is one of those things that aliennates new fans and infurates long-term fans.
Overall, Timelash is a disappointment from start to finish and one of Who's worst efforts
Last Updated: 10/25/2006
Other Reviews by Michael Hickerson
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