Monday, July 30, 2007

Doctor Who - Timelash

It's later than usual this month, as my copy came late in the post, but here is my review from the Doctor Who Ratings Guide of this month's DVD release, Timelash:

A nice fun entertaining story

Cast your mind back in time...

The time: Early March 1985.

The place: Britain.

The event: The 'Cancellation Crisis'

Doctor Who apparently totters on the brink of being cancelled and fans rush desperately to save it. They set out to prove the series' values and look to the next story as a great symbol of just why the programme is so good.

The next story is... Timelash.

Few stories can have had a first transmission in such ominous circumstances as this one. Many fans were busy disputing the attacks on the series but a traditional simple tale that is at times a deliberate send-up was not what they needed to back up their arguments. Is it any wonder that Timelash has been criticised to the point that it is rare to find a 'Bottom Ten Stories' list that doesn't include this tale? This is a terrible shame as there is so much going for this story.

As one reviewer once said, this tale is almost like Doctor Who's equivalent of The Rocky Horror Show. In many ways it is a parody of the traditional science-fiction genre in which unlikely heroes are transported to distant worlds to fight strange monsters, rescue screaming heroines and overthrow tyrants before returning home. Numerous clichés are wheeled out in this story, ranging from the clone of the Borad, the attempt to explain a legend (in this case the Loch Ness Monster again), the vision of a devastating war that will wipe out all intelligent life, the tacked on ending, the rampaging monsters, the androids, the alien society where we only see a few individuals, the rebel groups, explanations being ducked and so on. Add to that a non-sparkling production and it would be extremely tempting to write this story off as a great mistake and an embarrassment to Doctor Who fans everywhere in their time of need.

And yet Timelash is so much more than this. Its roots are all too clear and indeed it is prepared to trumpet its debt to the works of H.G. Wells by featuring the man himself, showing him the inspiration for many of his works. Herbert is a typical young Victorian gentleman bound by the era's notions about the role of women and superstitions whilst eager to explore new lands and escape the confines of his home society. At times Herbert gets in the way but he behaves very much the way any ordinary person might behave if transported to a strange new world, clinging to the familiar and determined not to lose his only chance of getting home. Timelash may not be the most original of stories, but it does try to entertain, whilst at the same time makes an effort to develop some ideas, such as the Doctor's use of the kontron crystals. Glen McCoy's script may not sparkle but it does at least try.

Of the cast only Paul Darrow really stands out, delivering a very full of life performance as Tekker whilst the rest give straightforward performances that don't stand out at all. The production of Timelash is cheap, with the Timelash itself being extremely glittery, but there is at least an attempt to explain it in terms of the script through the Borad's inability to look at his own reflection, whilst the Borad and the Bandril ambassador are both realised exceptionally well. The music and direction of Timelash do help the story no end though, and the result is that this is in fact a highly watchable story that can bring great enjoyment. The best way to watch it is to treat it as a send-up of the series rather than a serious story and try to join in the spirit of things. 8/10
Timelash can be purchased from here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your guy "Dave" Cameron is going down the toilet.


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