Friday, September 18, 2015

Timelash - "Save your breath for the Timelash, Doctor. Most people depart with a scream."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Timelash - Details

Season 22, Story 5 (Overall Series Story #142) | Previous - Next | Index

Yep, as awful as I remembered, and everybody else remembers. However, in its defense (sort of), if this had been Colin's debut, instead of the risible "The Twin Dilemma," it wouldn't, I think have been as fatal a blow. So that's something.

The reason "TTD" comes to mind is that in this one Six and Peri are bickering again, for some reason, so we're back to the Doctor being an ass to Peri again, sort of like in that other one. But at least he doesn't try to strangle her in this one. This, by the way, is me struggling to find something, anything to say about this one apart from piling on it. So, that I have some slight motivation not to trash it suggests something about it at least offers the hope of a redemptive reading. But I'm not going that far.

So what in the name of Herbert George Wells is happening here? How does this kind of story get made? Well, it starts with an idea that has potential. Turns out it was young writer Glenn McCoy. His idea wasn't a terrible one. He's got some H.G. Wells background and knows where to put the story in Wells's life to make it fit. Aligning Doctor Who with the roots of modern speculative fiction isn't an unworthy endeavor.

Also, I'm not wholly opposed to referencing events from the Doctor's past we haven't seen. I rather think we need that occasionally to flesh it out, and remind the viewer, as "The Face of Evil" did, that there's more to the Doctor's life than what we see on the screen.

Mix in the actor who played Avon in Blake's 7, a decent bit of monstercraft for the Borad, and it feels like there should have been enough elements here for the thing to work. Coherence though, is difficult in this era. The forces of entropy at work. Chaos. Things fall apart. The center will not hold.

John Nathan-Turner sends Colin and Nicola off to perform in a panto and to Chicago for a convention during rehearsal, so it's understandable if they are not firing all cylinders. Glenn McCoy is young and Eric Saward doesn't seem to have a genius for editing scripts, and maybe that's what this needed. Episode 2 under-ran, so they had to pick up some filler. When you're already having trouble making sense and telling a well-paced story, stretching for time is almost never going to help things.

In the end, I'm inclined to be more forgiving of the stories where their badness stems from failing to execute on an idea, they manifest as forgettable, unlike those that are built on foundation of rubbish and execute poorly, where they tend to leap to mind as exemplars of awfulness -- again, "Dragonfire," I'm looking at you.

Additional Resources:

Tardis Wikia entry
Wikipedia entry transcript
Sandifer post
Shabogan Graffiti
Wife in Space post
TV Tropes page

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