Doctor Who: The Time Warrior
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A terrifying clash between the past and future threatens the entire human race and plunges the Doctor and Sarah into a chilling race against time. When top scientists begin to mysteriously vanish, Doctor Who finds himself headed back in time to the middle ages and not-so-merry England. Linx, a war-loving Sontaren fleet commander, has crash-landed near a medieval castle and is supplying the feuding Irongron with advanced weapons that could totally change the course of human evolution. He is also using the kidnapped scientists to repair his ship. Linx is determined to return to his squadron - and nothing will stop him. As Irongron gets ready for battle, the Doctor makes his move. Can he save the doomed scientists, outwit Irongron and stop Linx from completing his catastrophic plan? The future of mankind is in his hands...
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in this we also learn the name of the doctor's home planet and it's called Gallifrey
What's more, "Time Warrior" also presented viewers of the time with the first pseudo-historical tale in quite a while. That's bound to strike us as a bit odd today since this format, cleverly mixing historical settings with science fiction elements, seems quintessentially "Doctor Who" as nothing else. Typical, possibly even prototypical. And this is a fine example somewhat vaguely reminiscent of the first (Doctor Who - The Time Meddler (Episode 17) of 1965), taking place in medieval times and involving an alien arming the locals with technologically advanced weaponry, only in this case in exchange for shelter and materials with which to repair his damaged spacecraft and rejoin the ever ongoing war between the Sontarans and the Rutans. The tense and obviously temporary self-interested relationship between Linx and the robber-baron type Irongron is well depicted. Indeed, the story includes a few nods towards the colonialist repercussions of this kind of exchange, and the early scene where Linx steps out of his ship and plants a Sontaran flag in the soil, claiming the planet and its possessions for his empire right in front of the bewildered inhabitants is simply priceless.
And yet it wouldn't do to go reading too far into these sorts of things, for above all this story is an unabashedly lightweight adventure. A meandering one at that, escaping and infiltrating and generally hopping about back and forth from one castle to the other again and again--but in a way that never drags or gets old. A wonderfully crafted script by Robert Holmes continually keeps things fresh and entertaining, mixing humor and any number of classic little moments with lots of thrilling action sequences (by the standards of the day, certainly, and still holding up reasonably well). This one's a real showcase for Jon Pertwee, perhaps one of the more active and athletic actors to play the role of the Doctor, and here we have him sword-fighting and dodging arrows and repeatedly busting moves with his Venusian martial arts and swinging from chandeliers and so on and so forth--never a dull moment. Aye, verily, 'tis classic Doctor Who at its most merry and vigorous. Miss it not!
What I love most about "Time" is that it's told from the point of view of the bad guys. It's the first time we get to spend more time behind enemy lines than with the Doctor -- and yet the plot never falters. "Warrior" introduces the Sontarans, an alien race also still relevant to the "Who" franchise in 2008. Ostensibly clone warriors, the Sonarans are benefitted by the fact we meet just one: Linx, played in a wonderfully villainous yet comic turn by the late Kevin Lindsay.
Irongron (David Daker, mesmerizing, right up to the top but thankfully never over it) is a bottom-tier medieval robber baron. Linx crash-lands and allies himself with Irongron in exchange for shelter to repair his spaceship. Working together, Linx and Irongron cause serious headaches for that neighboring sissy, Earl Edward of Wessex. Irongron, never far from a flagon of wine, delivers about eleven of the niftiest put-downs you'll hear on TV. "That narrow-hipped vixen!", for one. A "long-shanked rascal with a mighty nose", for another. And, who could forget, "By the stars, Bloodaxe, I swear I'll chop him up so fine not even a sparrow will fill its beak at one peck!". Now, if only I could find a way to quote that in real life...
Linx and Irongron have terrific chemistry throughout their uneven alliance. Even when one has to kill the other, it's almost by accident. After insulting everyone on screen for three and a half episodes, Linx finally gets philosophical when he realizes his spaceship's departure will destroy his unlikely ally: "By your dawn I shall be 700 million miles from here. Can I be concerned with the fate of primitives?"
All this is not to say that Holmes achieved villainy goodness at the expense of the Doctor. Holmes writes Pertwee at perhaps his most Doctorish since "Terror of the Autons". This is the story with the quote about the straight line and the shortest distance between two points. I had forgotten which story that was in. Also another line, which I hadn't remembered, but which makes as good a credo as any for the Doctor: "[I'm serious] about what I do, yes. Not necessarily the way I do it." And is there a funnier scene, ever, than the one where the Doctor and Sarah dress up as friars in order to enter Irongron's castle? A sentry gets the last laugh: "'Tis be hoped the two friars are fleet of foot, or the Church will have two new martyrs 'ere long."
The DVD release is sadly a little light on extras. The production notes, written by the usually stodgy Richard Molesworth, are getting funnier, at least. The commentary track is fine; Sladen, producer Barry Letts, and script editor Terrance Dicks are all old hands at keeping the observations fresh. The making-of featurette is fast-paced. For once, the updated CGI effects generated especially for the DVD are a marked improvement on the original. Even the two easter eggs are great: a digitally animated short, and Terrance Dicks ragging on his photo album. By the end, I was sad to put the DVD away, until I realized it's Friday night, and the new season begins tomorrow!