‘Mark my words, soon our planet will rule this corner of the universe with the power of a giant ocean.’ Blimey, this script stinks. The structure is terrible – the Doctor and Peri spend half the episode pratting about with bungee belts in the TARDIS which means they discover nothing about Karfel. Instead, we have to be told everything through appalling info-dumping like ‘I thought the Borad had banned all mirrors’ and ‘What sort of leader never appears in public, only on a screen?’. But then, all the dialogue sounds unnatural. Peri, allegedly an American teenager, declaims, ‘If you’re about to suggest the Eye of Orion, don’t. I’ve heard all about that elusive place once too often. No one lives there and few visit, apart from you.’ We even get the old Saward gems, ‘This is madness’ and ‘She must think we’re fools’. Oh dear.
It’s baffling. Why would the Doctor have given someone a locket containing a photo of Jo Grant and a lock of her hair? Why would Peri recognise Jo? For goodness sake: she’s just been in a story with Jamie – make it him or even Victoria. Why is the Doctor so horrible to Peri (bellowing in her ear) when they’ve been getting on better in the last few episodes? Why would deadly acid plants be left casually about the place? How was Herbert able to wander into the TARDIS (is the Doctor just leaving the door open now?) Was anyone script editing this?
This all points to the big problem with Season 22. Retrospectively, all sorts of critiques were thought up to justify the show’s cancellation, like it was too violent, and these have stuck. But I think Michael Grade was telling the truth in his Room 101 appearance: ‘I thought it was rubbish’. Time and again over the past few weeks I’ve come up against an episode where the dialogue is dreadful, the plot feels thrown together, and the obvious script edits have not been made. When the money or the directorial flair is there to paper over the cracks, you still get something that’s passable (Resurrection of the Daleks). Then you hit an episode like Timelash and the money and the inspiration have run out. A few years back, you might have had Robert Holmes or Douglas Adams at least making it funny. Timelash has nothing.
It’s not like I even hate it: it’s very bland, the set design is functional, but the different areas of the citadel are clearly delineated. The rebels are livelier than Jondar and Areta in Vengeance on Varos. The Borad has a great voice (he sounds like Morgus). Once he’s out of the TARDIS, Colin Baker gets to be heroic and likeable. Paul Darrow is being ridiculous but he’s at least making Tekker a hissable baddie in a way his Blake’s 7 colleague Jacqueline Pearce didn’t in the last story. It isn’t mean spirited or sadistic. But Grade was right: it is rubbish.
Next episode: Timelash – Part Two