Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Time Warrior

20 Jan 2009, 11:47 pm


The Time Warrior 1:

There's something quietly subversive about the first episode of this story.

Generally speaking, the most successful opening installments follow a similar pattern. A perplexing, or at least mildly explained, situation is taking place. Odd stuff is happening. The Doctor investigates - around the end of the first episode, something happens that offers the semblance of an explanation. Carnival of Monsters is something of a template for this, but it also applies to most of the Dalek or Cyberman stories.

Time Warrior feels likes it going to go down this route - and then it just doesn't. Like Carnival of Monsters we appear to have two seperate, incompatible plot threads. An alien in the middle ages versus disappearing scientists in the modern day. All would suggest we're going to be kept guessing at how the two relate...

And then we're not. We're pretty much ten minutes in when it becomes clear what's happening in this story. The last line of the initial medieval sequence (Linx saying he will get help where it is available) tied in with the next (where a row of modern dress scientists work in the background) could not be more explicit. So given that, where's the hook?

Well, the hook is in quirkiness and characterisation. Very soon after the likeably urbane Stevens we gain the dry and erudite Lynx (or is it Linx? Can't remember...). The direct contrast with the immediately unpleasant and boorish Irongron offers a lot of enjoyment. Both are a touch unusual for a Who villain, one too thick and the other too disinterested, meaning both are pretty amusing. In deed, everything about this story is light and amusing. The Doctor seems at his wittiest here (albeit when we say that, we mean 'for the third Doctor'), Rubeish is oddball
without being annoying, and the sequences with Sarah Jane are pleasingly spikey. Much as Jo's early scenes in the Green Death seemed livilier than the traditional companion material, Sarah gets a lot to play with in her earliest scenes, coming over as feisty - almost self-consciously so, as if determined to prove herself strong - with a naive streak. As an opening appearance it is very assured, particularly in her no-nonsense response to time travel (ironically, the only bit where SJS doesn't really hit well is in the slightly unconvincing way the script actually gets her to enter the actual TARDIS). It's also hard not to feel that the banter enervates Pertwee somewhat.

All of this goes to show that the script isn't keeping us engaged through mystery, but an entertaining, playful quality. That's not to say that the plot is bad, it's enjoyable enough, but it takes second place to Holmes enjoying his characters and the use of language.

#780 23 Jan 2009, 11:34 pm


The Time Warrior 2:

After the quirky quality of the last episode, the feeling continues. There's a jokey, almost farcical quality to this episode.

Like the last episode, the Doctor takes an awfully long time to turn up in this one. He's briefly in the reprise, but the opening section of this story is entirely about Sarah. And boy does she grab it by the throat. Rich with dramatic irony, her confident breezing through an incredibly dangerous situation is one of the brightest scenes we've had in the series. The combination of her misplaced certainty and the villain's utter bemusement makes for a lot of fun.

And the use of misunderstandings and confusions as a comedic device continues through the story, though it's worth emphasising that Irongron's just as susceptible to this as the Doctor and Sarah. Letting Sarah run free proves to be a big mistake, and it is very much this that provides the farce element, with the Doctor and Sarah running in and out around the castle for the first ten minutes or so, causing chaos but all but ignored (particularly lovely is the Doctor popping on to the balcony to save Hal with a neatly dispatched arrow, seemingly unnoticed by everyone). The essence of farce is a story working on many different levels, where different characters have different levels of comprehension, and that's what we have here. Sarah's perpetual misjudgements maintain this throughout, keeping it fast, but also fun and amusing - and how different is she already, leading a raggedy bunch of soliders to attack the Doctor? Not something you can imagine Jo doing (to any degree), and showing how she is driving the plot more than the Doctor.

The Doctor is mainly establishing the premise of the story, rather than pushing the plot along - meeting the main alien enemy, finding out what he's up against. His side of the story is less exciting - although it does contain the most bizarre revelation of the series. Just throwing out the name of his home planet, casually, after 11 years is a really odd moment. It feels exactly like the sort of thing you'd see after it was a well-established element of the mythology, or something early on in the run. It's quite a big thing to say this far in.

The only real flaw is the rushed cliffhanger. For the rest of the time, it's hard not to be swept away by the sense of fun and the sparkling dialogue.

#781 24 Jan 2009, 5:27 pm


The Time Warrior 3:

This episode does slightly suffer from the old sense that the third episode is where the plot has to be put on hold. Irongron's raid on Edward's castle seems like a bit of filler.

And whilst it sort of is, it also sort of isn't. There's a degree to which most stories have a central section where variations on a theme get run through, a series of complications and obstacles to overcome if you want to use the slightly trite descriptions of screenwriting courses. Whilst the sequence doesn't really drive the main story forward, it does work as a natural result of that story. It's the point where it's been going.

In deed, with hindsight it feels like it's exactly what the story needs. This is a story about two alien beings playing real life chess in the past. Linx's attack is exactly what the Doctor is going to do in response. It fits, it's a balance. It's easy to get swept up in the notion that every scene should advance the plot, but I don't think that's true. Things should change, certainly, but in a story like this where it is effectively a battle of wills between two combatants, you need a series of clashes between them. If it just went straight to the Doctor defeating Linx, then it would be a rubbish story.

There's excellent character work here. Linx himself is terrific, with all the smug superiority of someone dealing with people well beneath him. In deed, the fact that only the Doctor is a plausible threat to him makes him wonderfully laid back for a villain, casually dismissive and indifferent to the wiles of Irongron. Irongron gets increasingly stupid and cowardly the more we get to know him, and wonderfully self-deluded (his scene with the equally vapid Bloodaxe, playing off him like a medieval Dumb and Dumber, where he pretends he's well in control of Linx is a comic highlight). If there is a flaw with this story, it's that they're all three incredibly hard to dislike. Whereas in contrast, the goodies stronghold is populated entirely by the wet.

Still, all in all it remains rollicking good entertainment.

#782 24 Jan 2009, 11:27 pm


I love The Time Warrior. "Yours is indeed a towering intellect". Bloodaxe's brain-dead hero-worship of Irongron is just one of many wonderfully delightful touches.


#783 25 Jan 2009, 4:57 pm
Max K Wilkie


Dear Lord.

I've been re-reading some of your old reviews, Dorney, and I've only now just realised what an irritating berk I was at age 14...some of my posts earlier in this thread are mind-blowingly...err...berkish.

More to the point, I thought I'd let you know I'm still enjoying your witty and insightful reviews, which are still top-notch and, I think, the best around. And I'm still a berk, just slightly less irritating.

It's been ages since I've gone through the better Pertwee stories, I really must do it again. I remember Time Warrior being particularly good, indeed.

I'm now eagerly awaiting hilarious scorn upon your viewing of Monster of Peladon.



#784 25 Jan 2009, 6:44 pm


The Time Warrior 4:

OK, I'm going to have to admit it. I'm a little disappointed by this episode.

It's not actually bad, don't get me wrong. It just doesn't quite impact the way it should. It's probably the fact that it feels more like it's a third episode rather than a fourth. In deed, there's almost a clue to this in the cliffhanger resolution - it's almost identical to the resolution at the start of part three (villain about to kill Doctor, Sarah knocks the weapon away).

The story should be driving through to a conclusion at this point, but it instead concerns itself with minor little set pieces - The Doctor dressing as the android, Sarah getting roped in to work in the kitchens, the Doctor dodging bullets. They're all well put together and enjoyable (the latter in particular, a quirky and yet genuinely tense action sequence), but they're all about holding back the plot and stalling.

This is probably down to the story having shooting it's bolt too early. With Linx indisposed a minute or so in, the plot is essentially over (it's hard to see Irongron as any real threat to the Doctor - he's just too darn thick), so our heroes have to invent obstacles for themselves to keep it going. The various elements of what needs to be done to solve the day have been planned since the end of the last episode, and all of them work. This means that the episode is entirely about them getting around to doing them, or them taking a bit of time (most obviously with the scientists having to be sent back one at a time). It's all a little easy, so there's not masses of impact.

Still, it is performed with the same gusto and wit, and that is at least able to carry it through to some degree. The three central villains remain an enormous amount of fun. In deed, the story itself is comparitively light and simple - this one is all about the characterisation.

So, the verdict. A fine story, for the most part, albeit one that tails off slowly. A jolly romp, and fine entertainment. Basically recommended.

#785 25 Jan 2009, 6:48 pm


Originally Posted by Max K Wilkie
"Dear Lord.

I've been re-reading some of your old reviews, Dorney, and I've only now just realised what an irritating berk I was at age 14...some of my posts earlier in this thread are mind-blowingly...err...berkish. "

Were you? Oh, no worries. I've completely forgotten! Thanks for the nice comments this time!

"I'm now eagerly awaiting hilarious scorn upon your viewing of Monster of Peladon."

You know, I'm genuinely unsure how I'm going to react to that story. I know it a little better than a lot of stories this season, and I seem to remember being rather fond of it as a youth. Yet, I am aware of its less than stellar reputation.

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