Doctor Who: The Invasion of Time (Story 97)
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In Leela's farewell story, the Doctor returns to Gallifrey to claim the Presidency and begins an unorthodox administration by opening the gates to alien invaders. This adventure is famous for its extensive look into the backrooms of the TARDIS.
Crystalline aliens lurk in their ship in the vicinity of the shield that keeps Gallifrey safe from its enemies, and the Doctor, in his Tom Baker incarnation, is engaged in highly suspicious negotiations with them. As he takes his seat as president of the Time Lords Council and displays ever-increasing signs of paranoia, expelling Leela (Louise Jameson) to the barren area outside the Time Lords' citadel, could it be that he has turned to the dark side? Or is this all a cunning plan?
This is one of the most inventive of the Doctor's adventures back home on Gallifrey, with nicely judged portrayals of the senior Time Lord bureaucracy, some suspenseful journeys through the Tardis's interior, and a surprise appearance by particularly unpleasant old enemies. The real high point, though, is Tom Baker's performance, more barnstorming than ever before, at times blazingly angry and at times even more terrifying when soft-spokenly whimsical; this is a story line that reminds us that the various incarnations of the Doctor are impressive as well as charming. --Roz Kaveney
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Top customer reviews
THE INVASION OF TIME was actually very hastily written and produced. The original writer that the Script Editor, Anthony Read, had commissioned simply couldn't handle a Doctor Who storyline, so a mere week or so before ACTUAL production time, both Read and producer Williams had to cobble a story together. And frankly, I think they did a great job (which is saying a lot considering how I am so not a fan of their first season as a production team). In fact, I would go far as to say the fact that because it WAS so rushed and so lacking in budget (which they blew on rather unfortunate special effects on the previous adventures of this season), INVASION OF TIME came off the better for it.
The story finally focuses on characters, on plot, and interactions, and not chintzy special effect silliness. Being the final episode for Leela, we get to wave goodbye to her (which for some, is a very welcomed thing). Read and Williams follow a slightly different format with handling a six part serial, using a "dog leg" plot switch half way through instead of the traditional "two - four" setup of basically breaking the serial into a two-part story and a four part story with coinciding primary scene/main character focus changes. It plays out well.
However, once we get to the final episode and get to see a very shabby, uninteresting Tardis interior literally looking like a disused hospital (and it WAS a disused hospital) one would see in B-grade horror flicks, add in long, rather meaningless (but humorous dialogue) walk-abouts, you may just marvel at the sheer disappointment this whole filler segment really embodies, especially if you watch the DVD special of bits that were cut out. Even MORE walking about aimlessly. LOL
Is this one of the best of the 4th Doctor's adventures? Generally, yes... except your take on the final 24 minutes will be quite subjective. You may love it, you may shrug it off, and you may just as well hate it. Yet still certainly worth a try.
How? Partly by making a virtue of necessity. The story returns us once again to the Doctor's home world of Gallifrey (for which sets and costumes still remained from Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin (Episode 88)), a rather tedious and drearily bureaucratic place enlivened only by petty political maneuvering and backstabbing, a society resting on its laurels after having achieved all it could ever achieve ages beforehand. Into this bland uneventfulness come the Doctor and his knife-wielding companion Leela, throwing everyone for a loop--including the viewer, as the Doctor begins to act more and more erratically, more and more like the very type of power-mad dictator he usually fights against. Tom Baker pulls this off with superb finesse, giggling (for instance) with wickedly barking mad glee as he supposedly introduces his fellow Time Lords to their conquerors, his apparent accomplices the Vardans. The writers keep us going for quite a while, too, finally revealing only rather late into the story that this is all but a risky yet clever stratagem on the Doctor's part to hoodwink the Vardans and save the day, expertly timing this revelation just exactly before the moment our confusion would've shifted into active dislike for our erstwhile hero.
Still, for all that, the strain shows. The concept behind the Vardans' threatening power--the ability to travel instantly along any wavelength, including that of thought--is as highly original as it is indeed formidable, but the less than special effect used to depict them (rattling tin foil superimposed onto the screen) is so dismal as to be distracting even to longtime fans tolerant of the show's chronic shortcomings in this area. Their humanoid form is not much more impressive, and then in an uncomfortable moment of anticlimax intended apparently to keep the story going for another two episodes at all costs, the Sontarans replace the Vardans with little real rhyme or reason. Don't get me wrong, the Sontarans are great, but this isn't their gig (shouldn't they be busy with the Rutans?), and limited physical beings with conventional space weaponry that they are, they seem much less a threat to the Time Lords than the prior Vardans. Second of all and in a similar vein, the frankly ingenious idea of having a chase through endless labyrinths within the Doctor's dimensionally transcendental vehicle the Tardis is sadly let down by actuality, it being painfully obvious that these are just old musty hallways in some building in England (a defunct mental hospital, as it turns out). Finally, Leela is swiftly and abruptly written out at the conclusion in an implausibly ridiculous manner glaringly inconsistent with her character--a particularly deplorable lapse for me, Leela being one of my favorite companions.
Given the circumstances, though, these problems are less surprising than the fact that it all ultimately beats the odds and holds together pretty dang well as an interesting and thoroughly enjoyable Doctor Who adventure. Some very memorable supporting characters contribute a lot to this success, including the Doctor's old mentor Borusa, venerable and yet foxily savvy, and the obsequiously scheming Castellan. On a larger scale, there is just something dreadfully compelling about the idea of an advanced society presuming itself invulnerable and so being taken off guard, and the unseemly politics of occupation are portrayed as convincingly as possible given the show's format. Finally, some of the off-the-wall oddball humor considered so typical of the Fourth Doctor really comes to the fore here, including a daring though momentary aside to the audience. Probably no other show could get away with this and still count as good solid serious science fiction, and on that strength alone "The Invasion of Time" manages as a fine example of classic Doctor Who, not to mention grace under pressure.