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24 September 2014

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The Invasion of Time

Production Code: 4Z

First Transmitted

1 - 04/02/1978 18.25

2 - 11/02/1978 18.25

3 - 18/02/1978 18.25

4 - 25/02/1978 18.25

5 - 04/03/1978 18.25

6 - 11/03/1978 18.25


After a meeting in space with a group of unseen aliens the Doctor returns to Gallifrey and claims the presidency of the Time Lords. Leela meanwhile tries to work out why he is behaving out of character. At his induction, the Doctor is 'crowned' with a device giving him access to the Matrix. He then arranges for the transduction barriers around Gallifrey to be put out of action by K9. When this is done, his alien 'friends' materialise. They are telepathic invaders called Vardans.

The Doctor links K9 to the Matrix in order to determine their point of origin. His plan is to place a time loop around their home planet, but he must avoid arousing their suspicions - hence his erratic behaviour. He banishes Leela to the wastelands of outer Gallifrey for fear that she might unintentionally jeopardise his plans. There she meets a group of Gallifreyan outsiders, and together they organise an attack on the Capitol to fight off the invaders.

The Doctor finally springs his trap and the Vardans are banished. Then, however, Gallifrey is invaded by Sontarans who, unknown to the Doctor, were using the Vardans to enable them to conquer the Time Lords. The Doctor uses knowledge extracted from the Matrix by K9 to construct a forbidden de-mat gun, activated by the Great Key of Rassilon. He then uses this to kill the Sontarans, although his memory of recent events is wiped in the process.

Leela announces that she wishes to stay behind with Andred, one of the Chancellery guards, with whom she has fallen in love. K9 elects to remain with her.

Episode Endings

The presidential induction ceremony reaches its conclusion as the Matrix circlet is placed on the Doctor's head. Suddenly he writhes in pain and falls to the floor, clutching at the circlet.

K9 blasts the transduction barrier controls and the Vardan ship enters Gallifreyan space. The Doctor gathers the senior Time Lords in the Panopticon and introduces them to their new masters - the Vardans. Three shimmering shapes appear as the Doctor laughs in triumph.

The Doctor returns to the TARDIS, where K9 has been tracing the Vardans' point of origin. He places the matrix circlet on K9's head. Suddenly Andred entered the TARDIS with some guards. He sentences the Doctor to death as a traitor and raises his gun.

With the Vardan threat banished, the Doctor announces to Leela, Andred, Castellan Kelner and the others assembled in the Panopticon that the future of Gallifrey is assured. Realising that they are not looking at him, he turns to see four Sontarans standing on the steps behind him. The foremost Sontaran raises its gun and aims it at him.

As the Sontaran fleet approaches Gallifrey, Castellan Kelner, now cooperating with the Sontaran leader Stor, reverses the stabiliser banks and initiates a process that will throw the Doctor's TARDIS into a black star.

The Doctor leaves Leela to stay with Andred, and K9 to look after her. As the TARDIS dematerialises, Leela wonders if the Doctor will be lonely. Inside, the Doctor produces a large box with 'K9 MKIII' printed on the side. He stands at the console, looks into the distance and smiles broadly.


Duck Soup.

The Mikado.

Juvenal ('who guards the guards?').

Monty Python's Deja Vu sketch.

Dialogue Triumphs

Guard : "The Castellan will have me shot!"

The Doctor : "That's all right. I'll have him shot."

K9 : [[To the TARDIS]] "You are a very stupid machine."

Leela : "Discussion is for the wise or the helpless and I am neither."

Borusa : "You have access to the greatest source of knowledge in the universe."

The Doctor : "Well, I do talk to myself sometimes."

Stor : [[About the TARDIS]] "This machine is a load of obsolete rubbish."

Stor : "If we cannot control the power of the Time Lords then we shall destroy it."


The Capitol is a section of the Citadel. The Castellan states two Time Lords are absent from Gallifrey 'on unauthorized business', noting that such use of time capsules carries 'only one penalty'. (Since The Deadly Assassin Castellan has changed from a senior 'policeman' with few dealings with Time Lords into a minister of state.) The Castellan is a Time Lord, as is Nesbin, who was once a guard. [If the guards aren't actually Time Lords, then this is a gift on promotion.] Castellan is a good position for those hoping to be president.

The Doctor signs his treaty with the Vardans with a red biro. He again refers to K9 as 'my second best friend', and (at the end) replaces the departed K9 with a box marked 'K9 M II' [which he must have built]. Borusa taught the Doctor telepathy.

The TARDIS interior includes a swimming pool, an ancillary power station disguised as an art exhibition (the paintings include 'The Fighting Temarere', Van Eyck's 'Jan Arnolfini and His Wife' and Chagall's 'Snail' - the Doctor also has the Venus de Milo), a sick bay, and various brick walled storage areas. Borusa suggests the Doctor should stabilise his 'pedestrian infrastructure'. The Doctor removes a 'primary refraction tube' from the TARDIS' 'fail safe' preventing Stor from operating his sensor device.

The President gains access to the Matrix [of which the APC net is only a small part: The Deadly Assassin implies it's the other way round] via a coronet. He becomes part of the Matrix and it part of him. [This may be one reason why the Doctor seems to be more knowledgeable afterwards than in his earlier incarnations. This knowledge came back intermittently, the majority of it returning after the sixth Doctor's regeneration]. Gallifrey has transduction barriers and a quantum force field to prevent attack. Dematerializing things is forbidden (cf. The War Games).

Andred notes Rassilon died 'aeons ago'. Gallifreyans living outside the Capitol are referred to as 'The Outsiders' [not Sheboogans: see The Deadly Assassin]. Nesbin says they are Time Lords who rejected the Capitol's effete life. From the design on the cover to the Eye of Harmony [rebuilt since 'The Deadly Assassin] Gallifrey seems to be one of six planets circling a single sun. Gallifrey's sky is orange (cf. The Sensorites]). Food pills are a source of energy.

The Vardans can travel along any broadcast wavelength and are telepathic. Their planet has the co-ordinates 3052 alpha 7, 14th span. The Doctor uses modulation rejection patterns to defeat them and plans to 'jury rig' a time loop for their planet (cf. Image of the Fendahl]).

The Sontaran army 'reckons its numbers in hundreds of millions'. The Doctor says they can multiply at a rate of a million every four minutes. They once again have six digits rather than ten.

The Doctor discusses Quasar Five, Riga, Sinian Empire second dynasty and Earth 073 period architecture with Kelner. Iridium alloy is used in the D-Mat Gun.


Sontarans and Rutans

Temporal Grace





The TARDIS contains a swimming pool sized bathroom.


Robert Holmes and Terrance Dicks were involved in the writing of this story. (They weren't, although it was on Holmes's advice that Graham Williams and Anthony Read structured it as a four-part segment followed by an effectively separate two-part segment.)

The story was originally to have ended with a scene in which the Sontarans deferred to the Doctor and knelt before him. (This myth arose when early publicity stills for the story showed the Sontarans apparently kneeling before the Doctor. These were in fact taken from a scene in Part Five in which Chancellor Borusa blasts the Sontarans with sound and they fall to their knees, clutching their helmets.)

Although three Sontarans are seen to enter the TARDIS, only two are killed, meaning that there is still a Sontaran lost in the TARDIS somewhere. (Only two Sontarans, Stor plus a trooper, are seen to enter. The trooper is killed with the de-mat gun, and Stor is also eventually killed with the same weapon, but outside the TARDIS.)

The characters living outside the Time Lords' Citadel are the Shabogans, as mentioned in The Deadly Assassin. (There is nothing to link the two. In The Deadly Assassin, the Shabogans were mentioned by Spandrell as being responsible for vandalism around the Citadel. In this story, the outsiders are clearly described as Time Lords who have left the Citadel for varying reasons, and it seems unlikely that they would have returned to carry out acts of petty damage.)


Silly names paradise. Cyclic burst ratio, encephialographic barrier, a winklegruber and crimps are all mentioned. The Doctor tells Rodan that 'after I feed in the doppler effect and eliminate the red shift then the invasion will succeed.'


In episode one, the Doctor is wearing his scarf when he meets the Vardans, but it's on the hat stand when he returns to the TARDIS and he's not wearing it. [He has a superfluity of scarfs and left it behind.]

When the TARDIS lands its exterior light remains shining.

Stor has a cockney accent.

What happens to the rest of the Sontaran fleet once Stor is killed?

Leela and Andred fall in love despite barely having looked at one another before.

Why was Leela allowed to go to Gallifrey (and stay there!) and Sarah wasn't? [A new regime, perhaps?]

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Tom Baker

Leela - Louise Jameson

Voice of K9 - John Leeson

Ablif - Ray Callaghan

Andred - Christopher Tranchell Christopher Tranchell was credited as 'Chris Tranchell' on Parts Three to Six inclusive.

Bodyguard - Michael Harley

Borusa - John Arnatt

Castellan Guard - Eric Danot

Gold Usher - Charles Morgan

Guard - Christopher Christou

Jasko - Michael Mundell

Kelner - Milton Johns

Lord Gomer - Dennis Edwards

Lord Savar - Reginald Jessup

Nesbin - Max Faulkner

Presta - Gay Smith

Rodan - Hilary Ryan

Sontaran - Stuart Fell

Stor - Derek Deadman

Vardan - Stan McGowan

Vardan - Tom Kelly


Director - Gerald Blake

Assistant Floor Manager - Terry Winders

Assistant Floor Manager - Romey Allison

Costumes - Dee Kelly

Designer - Barbara Gosnold

Film Cameraman - Ken Westbury

Film Editor - Chris Wimble

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Maureen Winslade

OB Cameraman - David Goutier

OB Cameraman - Alan Hayward

Producer - Graham Williams

Production Assistant - Colin Dudley

Production Unit Manager - John Nathan-Turner

Script Editor - Anthony Read

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Mike Jefferies

Studio Sound - Anthony Philpott

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Colin Mapson

Visual Effects - Richard Conway

Writer - David Agnew This was a pseudonym for Graham Williams and Anthony Read

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'It's just a matter of time!' A work of desperation, The Invasion of Time stands up reasonably well, although its basis in Gallifreyan lore requires the viewer to have seen (and remembered) The Deadly Assassin. The main negative element is the Vardans (whose appearance, both assumed and real, is ludicrous). A knowing, post-modern feel is created when Tom Baker looks into camera and notes 'Even the sonic screwdriver won't get me out of this one'.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

After the previous season's acclaimed The Talons of Weng Chiang, viewers could have been forgiven for expecting something rather special from the now-traditional closing six-parter. What they got with The Invasion of Time was something of a mess. To be fair, Graham Williams and Anthony Read had been obliged to write the scripts in record time as an emergency measure when the story originally planned to fill this slot fell through, and the production had been beset by problems - including near cancellation due to industrial action - throughout. It is just unfortunate that all these behind the scenes difficulties were reflected in the end product.

Keith Miller, writing in Doctor Who Digest Number 8, dated April 1978, hated the story with a vengeance: 'The Invasion of Time was a complete and utter disaster... The whole six episodes was such a waste of time, actors and expense. The first four episodes were unbelievably bad, and the last two worse. The "special" effects were shabby ("Look, mummy, pieces of bacofoil with Glasgow accents have invaded Gallifrey!"), the script so confusing... and the acting... pathetic.'

Nick Pegg, on the other hand, argued in Spectrox VIII in 1990 that the story's detractors are rather missing the point: 'If people dismiss The Invasion of Time for devaluing or debunking the Time Lords, surely they're being rather selective in their appraisal of what is after all a clear, phased debunking of the Hinchcliffe [and] Holmes team's debunking of what had gone before. Gallifrey is certainly at its most complex and fascinating; its torpid evanescence, which Holmes and Maloney were content to image a season earlier as a series of (wonderfully evocative) gothic/haunted house signifiers, is reinvented for The Invasion of Time in accordance with Williams' equally rapacious but rather less one-track eclecticism, alongside a playful sense of art-house intellectualism - the atmosphere of seedy decline is still there, but the dusty shadows and cloistered galleries of The Deadly Assassin... give way to the sort of modern symptoms of cultural decline which are part of our immediate postmodern experience of life - the vaulted cobwebby cloisters are replaced by equally impractical diagonally-slashed corridors that probably seemed like a good idea to some piss-bored Time Lord architect; horrid one-coloured moulded plastic chairs appear with chunderous regularity.'

The changing depiction of the Time Lords was also of interest to David Fychan in Oracle Volume 2 Number 2, dated November 1978: 'This was a controversial [story]. It was clearly an attempt both to please Doctor Who fans and to cure the continuity errors made in The Deadly Assassin. To me it failed, and was therefore wasteful of an otherwise sound story... Where [the writers] tried to correct The Deadly Assassin (such as over [the lack of] female Time Lords), they [only] complicated matters. Just as we were working out that female Time Lords did not exist, we were presented with one... The Time Lords were made slightly more powerful, but still rather naive - and we saw very few of them about...'

The plot - such as it is - involves the Doctor wanting, for reasons best known to himself, to trap the Vardans in a time loop and failing to realise that his actions will leave Gallifrey open to invasion by the Sontarans. Like season thirteen's six-parter The Seeds of Doom, it can be subdivided into two distinct sections. The first, consisting of Parts One to Four, involves the Doctor acting strangely and appearing to help the Vardans invade Gallifrey, while the second, consisting of Parts Five and Six, features the Sontarans in what appears to be a tacked-on run-around.

Howard D Langford, writing in TARDIS Volume 3 Number 3, dated May/June 1978, felt that: 'The saving grace of the story [was] the appearance of the Sontarans en masse and the restatement of their own personal philosophy.' Deanne Holding, however, took the opposite view in Baker's Best in 1981: 'The first four episodes were intriguing, exciting and for the most part quite original in concept. Unfortunately, their promise was let down by [Parts Five and Six] as the drama lost its grip and the elements of surprise and tension evaporated.'

One of the story's main problems is a lack of good characters. Of the Time Lords, only John Arnatt's shrewd, dignified Chancellor Borusa and Milton Johns' conniving, obsequious Castellan Kelner hold the viewer's interest. The 'outsiders' are bland and vapid, and Rodan and Andred are hopeless. The Vardans meanwhile are one of the most pathetic alien races ever to be featured in the series. Initially they appear to be large pointy-headed creatures, but the viewer then realises that it is only the backs of their chairs that have been seen! When they finally show themselves on Gallifrey, they seem to consist of sheets of tinfoil that crinkle in the breeze - which raises the question why they need to sit in chairs in the first place; how does a formless creature 'sit' anywhere?

Finally they transform themselves into rather boring humanoids with silly uniforms like something out of a Flash Gordon serial. They could perhaps have been improved had they been played by actors with authoritative voices, but this was not the case; Stan McGowan in particular sounds as though he is simply reading his lines, and there is no power therein.

The Sontarans, too, fare badly, mainly due to Derek Deadman's variable performance as Commander Stor. Their motivation seems to be to obtain the secrets of the Time Lords, but all they do is run around a lot, get lost in the TARDIS, and finally attempt to blow the place to smithereens.

Even Tom Baker is somewhat below par at times here as he - or director Gerald Blake - allows his usual madcap humour to descend into silliness in scenes such as the one where the Doctor plays hopscotch in the Citadel corridors, or where he continually trips as he passes a certain point within the TARDIS - although it must be acknowledged that his performance in some of the scenes where he is pretending to be the Vardans' ally is very intense and powerful. Perhaps the ultimate disappointment is the frankly unbelievable conclusion wherein Leela opts to stay with a man she hardly knows.

On a more positive note, the story does boast some very good special effects. The opening shot of the Vardan ship is reminiscent of the opening of Star Wars and imparts a similar sense of wonder, and the later shots of the Sontaran ship approaching Gallifrey are excellent. It is just a shame that the rest of the production is not up to this standard.

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This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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