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Timelash

Production Code: 6Y

First Transmitted

1 - 09/03/1985 17:20

2 - 16/03/1985 17:20

Plot

On the planet Karfel a high ranking official, Maylin Tekker, uses threats against Peri to force the Doctor to go to Earth and bring back a young woman called Vena who, while holding a precious amulet, has accidentally fallen into the Timelash - a time tunnel through which the planet's tyrannical ruler the Borad banishes all rebels. The Doctor also inadvertently brings back Herbert, a man from the 19th Century, who stows away aboard the TARDIS.

The Borad was once a Karfelon scientist but accidentally sprayed himself with an unstable compound called mustakozene-80 while experimenting on a Morlox - a savage underground reptilian creature - and consequently became half-Karfelon, half-Morlox.

The Borad plans to bring about the deaths of all the Karfelons by provoking a war with their neighbours, the Bandrils, and repopulate the planet with creatures such as himself, starting with Peri. The Doctor uses a kontron time crystal to defeat a clone of the Borad and makes peace with the Bandrils. He then defeats the real Borad by banishing him through the Timelash to 12th Century Scotland.

Episode Endings

Tekker tricks the Doctor into parting with the amulet and orders an android to throw the Time Lord into the Timelash. The android grasps the Doctor's neck and pushes him forward.

The danger over, the Doctor and Peri enter the TARDIS to take Herbert home. Herbert is still outside and the Doctor calls for him to hurry up. He shows Peri Herbert's calling card, which identifies him as H G Wells, the famous novelist.

Roots

H.G. Wells finally gets a story of his own. Direct references include The Time Machine (the Morlox, Vena), War of the Worlds (the Bandril/Karfel war), The Invisible Man (the Doctor experiments with crystals) and The Island of Doctor Moreau (transformation of men into animals).

'To be perfectly frank, Herbert' was Colin Baker's nod to the Dune creator.

The android's line 'Yes indeed she was' is in the same pitch as the communication music in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Dialogue Triumphs

Herbert : "Avaunt thee, foul fanged fiend."

The Doctor : "I can assure you I'm not that long in the tooth, and neat blood brings me out in a rash."

Herbert : "Back from where you came, spirit of the glass."

The Doctor : "Not just yet, if you don't mind."

Tekker : "The stories I've heard about you. The great Doctor, all knowing and all powerful. You're about as powerful as a burnt out android."

The Doctor : "The waves of time wash us all clean."

Dialogue Disasters

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

The Borad : "Choose your next words carefully, Doctor. They could be your last."

Continuity

The Kontron tunnel from Karfel leads to Earth (and the Highlands of Scotland, near Inverness) in the 12th Century.

Bendalypse warheads are gas weapons that will kill anything with a central nervous system (but not the reptilian Morlox). Mustakozene 80 is a chemical producing mutation on contact with human skin. The TARDIS has colour coded seat belts.

Location

Karfel; Scotland, 1885.

Links

Untelevised

Timelash is the sequel to an untelevised third Doctor/Jo Grant story. On that occasion, the Doctor visited Karfel where he saved the planet from some unspecified disaster and reported the scientist Magellan to the presidium for unethical experiments on the Morlox creatures. (There is also a suggestion that he may have had more than one companion, Tekker saying 'Just the two of you this time?' [Was he taking Yates or Benton for a spin?].)

Trivia

A major source of inspiration for this story were the works of novelist H G Wells.

Paul Darrow, better known as Avon in Blake's 7, plays Tekker.

Denis Cary plays the face of the Borad. Cary had previously played Professor Chronotis in the abandoned season seventeen story Shada and the Keeper in season eighteen's The Keeper of Traken.

A mural of the third Doctor's face is revealed behind a section of wall panelling in the Timelash control room; this painting, supposedly a legacy of a previous visit by the Doctor to the planet Karfel, was actually the work of American fan artist Gail Bennett.

Technobabble

The Doctor tells Peri 'You don't seem to realise the effect that time particles colliding within a multi-dimensional implosion field can have'.

Goofs

In the power room, Maylin Renis, whilst adjusting some control dials, pulls one of them off and hurriedly replaces it.

The Timelash is full of tinsel.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Colin Baker

Peri - Nicola Bryant

Android - Dean Hollingsworth

Aram - Christine Kavanagh

Bandril Ambassador - Martin Gower

Borad - Robert Ashby

Brunner - Peter Robert Scott

Gazak - Steven Mackintosh

Guardolier - James Richardson

Herbert - David Chandler

Katz - Tracy Louise Ward

Kendron - David Ashton

Maylin Renis - Neil Hallett

Mykros - Eric Deacon

Old Man - Denis Carey

Sezon - Dickon Ashworth

Tekker - Paul Darrow

Tyheer - Martin Gower

Vena - Jeananne Crowley

Crew

Director - Pennant Roberts

Assistant Floor Manager - Abigail Sharp

Costumes - Alun Hughes

Designer - Bob Cove

Incidental Music - Liz Parker

Make-Up - Vanessa Poulton

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Jane Whittaker

Production Associate - Sue Anstruther

Script Editor - Eric Saward

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Henry Barber

Studio Sound - Andy Stacey

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Peter Howell

Visual Effects - Kevin Molloy

Writer - Glen McCoy

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'It's science... fiction!' Timelash, like all good Doctor Who has a beginning, a middle and an end. Unfortunately it's also got another end tacked on, seemingly with little thought as to believability. Tacky sets and some dodgy acting add up to a mess, although it's nowhere near as bad as its reputation.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Timelash is not a popular story amongst Doctor Who fans. The following assessment by Antony Howe in A Voyage Through 25 Years of Doctor Who, dated December 1988, is fairly representative: 'Timelash was the cheapest production [of the season]. The tinsel sets were tawdry and the "seat-belts" on the TARDIS console were laughable. The actors [apparently] made little effort - Herbert was so bad I thought he might be Adric's elder brother, and why was Paul Darrow allowed to ham it up so outrageously? The squeaky-voiced, blue-faced android was painful... The plot was childish and yet another alien wanted to marry Peri! The pseudo-science to explain the Borad's plan was trash, as was his magical escape after having been shot by [the Doctor]... As for the Doctor using the TARDIS as a missile deflector - yawn.'

It is difficult to disagree with any of these criticisms, and yet Timelash does have one thing going for it: in the midst of a season that has more than its fair share of derivative, incomprehensible and inappropriately violent stories, it stands out as being a reassuringly traditional Doctor Who adventure. Andy Lennard, writing in MLG Megazine No. 12, dated March/April 1985, found this extremely welcome: 'A simple tale, told simply, with a beginning and an end, full of traditional Doctor Who elements... This is why it succeeded. It made a refreshing change from the other stories of this season, especially as it had no old foes on show (well, none that we'd seen before, anyway).'

This last comment is a reference to the fact that the Doctor is revealed to have visited Karfel once before, during his third incarnation, when he was travelling with Jo Grant and one or more other unknown companions. This could be seen a nice twist on the idea of the Doctor revisiting the scene of a past adventure - here he is doing just that, and yet the viewer knows nothing about the earlier encounter. It is, on the other hand, yet another instance of the series looking back to its own past, and casual viewers will no doubt have regarded it as simply one more confusing continuity reference to a story that they had not seen.

Timelash's 'monster' is conceived along tried-and-trusted lines: a misguided scientist, scarred by his own experimentation, enslaving a whole planet to his will so that he can destroy it and recreate its people in his own image. The Borad is effectively realised on screen by way of some good make-up (although it is a pity that the reptilian half of his face was not better aligned with the humanoid half so that the eyes were on the same level), and Robert Ashby steals all the acting honours with his brilliantly chilling vocalisation of evil.

Another character of note is Paul Darrow's Tekker. Apparently, despite director Pennant Roberts' attempts to dissuade him from doing so, Darrow insisted on approaching this part as an over the top pastiche of Olivier playing Shakespeare's King Richard. Lennard liked the end result: 'If it cost a lot to hire Paul Darrow then, as far as I'm concerned, it was worth it. Okay, so he was over the top, but not enough to make you wince every time he spoke. His characterisation of Tekker was perfectly cold and evil, owing more than a little to the nastier side of Avon, just as Jacqueline Pearce became a cipher of Servalan in The Two Doctors. Darrow also got some of the best dialogue; an example being his farewell to the Doctor.' The trouble is that Darrow doesn't just speak his lines, he positively declaims them, and it is rather too obvious that he is having a whale of a time sending up this pompous, self-opinionated character.

The only other character to make any real impression (the remaining Karfelons being uniformly bland and lifeless) is Herbert. Actor David Chandler does his best with the material, but playing a young and boundlessly enthusiastic H G Wells was never going to be easy and the character suffers through being given too much prominence. It might have been more effective to have had Wells as an older man realising that his works were perhaps not fictions after all.

Peter Owen, writing in TARDIS Volume 10 Number 2, dated June 1985, gave a nicely balanced summation: 'This was a good traditional story, if a little disposable, and a pleasant filler between the two much-vaunted epics of the season. The script was rather basic, and peppered with rather silly ideas, some of which came off well, and some of which did not... On balance I think I preferred this to The Two Doctors, mostly because it was so unpretentious.'

< The Two DoctorsSixth DoctorRevelation of the Daleks >

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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