Doctor Who episode 637: Timelash – Part Two (16/3/1985)
‘I’ll explain one day.’ Well, it continues to be very weak without being horrible or wrong, and manages to include the single best sixth Doctor and Peri scene to date (the moment when the Doctor decides to nobly sacrifice himself and the TARDIS to save Karfel, and has to persuade Peri to leave him). Bryant and Baker play it beautifully, with the Doctor’s swerve into physically picking up Peri and yelling very clearly signposted as him doing his best to get her out of danger rather than risking her life. It’s very sweet, and, I think, largely scripted by Eric Saward. It’s a bit of a shame that it’s followed by an interminable scene of Herbert doing his best Adric impression. The line, ‘There’s nothing particularly masculine about throwing your life away’ could (should) be an apology for Attack of the Cybermen.
The Doctor’s (first) confrontation with the Borad is also reasonably well done – Robert Ashby has a brilliant voice, and the make-up is effective. True, the script sounds like a This Is Your Life introduction (‘Think back of a scientist you once befriended. Later, you reported that scientist to the Inner Sanctum for unethical experimentation on the Morlox creatures’) but it’s nice that the sixth Doctor gives fair warning to the Borad, and it’s only because he ignores this warning that the Borad is skeletonised.
Except, it turns out in a twist ripped from a slasher movie, that he hasn’t died after all, and he comes back for a fairly dismal encore which reveals that, bafflingly, a mural of what looks like a Pertwee VHS cover has been carefully built in front of a mirror, and then in turn bricked up behind a wall. This is one of several moments that probably made sense in the writer’s head but seem inadequately articulated on screen. The useless Kendron, who should have been played by Patrick Barlow, gets dispatched after a very weird scene where Tekker proposes to make him deputy Malin (I think it’s to show Tekker’s cruelty and ruthlessness but it seems like a lot of bother to persuade someone to go into a room with him). And then there’s the whole ending, which, like Time-Flight, boils down to “I’ll explain later.’
Most of the scenes go on forever with no sense of urgency. The Doctor abseiling into the Timelash is a new low: forlorn sprigs of tinsel and sparkly lights make it look like one of those crap Winter Wonderlands you read about every year, where disappointed parents complain about trudging round a field in Kent with a few sheds, student “elves” and a mangy reindeer. The scenes in it just keep on going as more and more people climb into the set equivalent of the Myrka. Then the next scene is an endless sequence of the Doctor tinkering with some wires. ‘It’s science fiction,’ Adric G Wells excitedly declares. Not quite, love.
Herbert’s one of the many problems with this: I’m not a fan of the performance, but the big problem is the script. You could see this working had Herbert been a viewpoint character rather than an annoying idiot who turned up near the end of Part One. The new series would have done something fun with the idea, like Agatha Christie in The Unicorn and the Wasp. The intent is here, but the talent isn’t.
And it just keeps on going, eyes fixed unblinkingly on the 45-minute finish line. 15 minutes from the end, the Borad’s been killed but the Bandrils have fired their bendalypse warhead. Hence Saward’s extended TARDIS scene. And even that’s not enough to fill the gap in the schedules, hence the Borad’s surprise clone or whatever. Finally, and thankfully, it ends. A lot of its problems are the same as Underworld’s: a rare example of neither the script, design or direction working. Thanks to Darrow and Baker it’s vaguely more “camp nonsense” than Underworld or The Ice Warriors, but I think that’s a weak return for the tedium of watching it. It was made out of necessity and obligation not enthusiasm; its worst fault is being part of a season that, given greater public scrutiny and BBC management disdain, desperately needed not to have such an obvious, wholesale failure.
Next episode: Revelation of the Daleks