- Actors: Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Milton Johns, John Arnatt, Stan McGowan
- Directors: Gerald Blake
- Writers: Graham Williams, David Agnew, Anthony Read
- Producers: Graham Williams
- Studio: BBC
- VHS Release Date: 13 Mar. 2000
- Run Time: 140 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 109 customer reviews
- ASIN: B00004R837
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 245,098 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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Another adventure for the intrepid space/time traveller. The Doctor (Tom Baker) has returned the TARDIS to his home planet of Gallifrey, but why has he forbidden Leela (Louise Jameson) to accompany him? Why, upon claiming the Presidency, does he expel every senior Time Lord to the outer wastes? And what plan is he hatching with the hostile Vardans? The only people he seems to have taken into his confidence are K9 and Chancellor Borusa, but whatever game the Doctor is playing, he has reckoned without the return of an old foe... This story marks the departure from the series of Leela and K9 Mark 1.
Crystalline aliens lurk in their ship in the vicinity of the shield which keeps Gallifrey safe from its enemies and the Doctor, in his Tom Baker incarnation, is engaged in highly suspicious negotiations with them. As he takes his seat as President of the Time Lords' Council and displays ever-increasing signs of paranoia, expelling Leela (Louise Jameson) to the barren area outside the Time Lords' Citadel, could it be that he has turned to the dark side? Or is this all a cunning plan?
This is one of the most inventive of the Doctor's adventures back home on Gallifrey, with nicely judged portrayals of the senior Time Lord bureaucracy, some suspenseful journeys through the further reaches of the Tardis' interior and a surprise appearance by particularly unpleasant old enemies. The real point, though, is Tom Baker's performance, more barnstorming than ever before, at times blazingly angry and at times even more terrifying when soft-spokenly whimsical; this is a story line that reminds us that the various incarnations of the Doctor are impressive as well as charming. --Roz Kaveney
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But the Vardans are a huge letdown when they turn out to be sub-Grand-Moff-Tarkin types, and the story is only rescued by the arrival of the Sontarans. They liven things up a bit but many of their scenes is running down corridors, and though it is an interesting idea to have the TARDIS corridors be as chameleon like as the outside of the ship, its not very inspiring to see characters running down the same old places time after time.
Looking at the deleted scenes there is one that would really make sense of a thread, where the auxiliary control is described as an art gallery. Without the deleted discussion it is a Huh, What?! moment but the deleted discussion about hiding utility as beauty would have made it make far more sense.
All in all, it is a story comprised of a mishmash of pieces, some of which work together, others of which grate badly. K9 has an understated role and the romance between Leela and Andred more or less appears out of nowhere, though it is not too surprising, for who knows what they have been up to off-screen?
But while I give it 4 stars, it is a 7 at best out of 10, and whilst it is full of many interesting parts they don't really make a workable whole.
** NOTE: You can buy this story as part of the Sontarans four story box set 'Bred for War', which offers good value if you don't already have the four individual DVDs.
This is a tale of not one, but two sorties by invading aliens attempting to conquer the very heart of Time Lord power on Gallifrey. It contains both Tom Baker at his best and a `Doctor Who' story struggling to exist at all.
To make sense of `The Invasion of Time', you need to know it is actually two stories - a four-parter followed by an attached two-parter. The first story is very good indeed, at times it's brilliant; the second story has good moments, but also some very obvious flaws. However, `Invasion' is well worth watching, because at its best it is excellent. The production notes and special features make clear it was written in immense haste as a last-minute replacement, the normal BBC studios were partly unavailable because of strikes (again) and the money was actually running out. Given all that, it's amazing this story is as good as much of it is, and also no surprise it strains our belief to incredulity at times.
NOTE: This DVD is one with new CGI effects available from the `Special Features' menu. On some DVDs these are just `nice to have' but for this story they are practically essential so it would be best to turn them on for a first viewing.
Sortie One: Light - The Vardans
`The Invasion of Time' is a loose sequel to Robert Holmes' magnificent political thriller `The Deadly Assassin' and it begins at the same excellent level. At the end of the previous story, the Doctor had (unexpectedly) become the last surviving candidate in the election for President of the High Council - here he returns suddenly to Gallifrey to claim his rights.
The first two episodes are first class. Tom Baker gives a stunning, electrifying performance, playing a side of the Doctor we've never seen before - a barely controlled, shouting egotist on the edge of megalomania and mental collapse. There are also two bizarre, childish moments but, as Lord Borusa says, the Doctor must have been under a great strain. He seems to be in league with the mysterious Vardans and to have schemes of his own - can our hero really be a traitor, or is his treachery really heroism?
This part of the story is superb, even though we know perfectly well that the Doctor is *always* "a good man", the mystery here is strong and the clues cleverly hidden among the pageantry of the Doctor's rapid inauguration as Lord President. There's a conversation between Lord Gomer and Lord Safran that hints at the Vardan peril, though neither of them realise it. But there are some inconsistencies in the depiction of Gallifrey: Time Lords have a High Council, not a Supreme Council and there's obvious confusion over `The Great Key'.
The Doctor's forced rejection of Leela (for their collective safety) is quite painful viewing (though she never loses faith in him for an instant) and he must turn to K-9 - the only `mind' he can trust in these circumstances. Trust, openness and character are key ideas in this story and explored very well; Leela's instinctive honesty that makes her personality so attractive, here becomes a serious danger because of the Vardans. Louise Jameson and John Leeson both have important roles in this story and play them excellently as always; Leela is forced to act independently of the Doctor and K-9 becomes his main companion.
John Arnatt is superb as Lord Borusa; he's the Doctor's former tutor and perhaps the only Time Lord the Doctor respects - which makes some scenes here all the more shocking! Borusa is a brilliant, intellectual statesman and almost deduces the Doctor's plans some of the time, but closer still is head of security Castellan Kelner (Milton Johns, also excellent). He's clever, sly and obsequious, but where Castellan Spandrel (in `The Deadly Assassin') was a tough-but-honest cop, Kelner is at hearts a Time Lord version of the KGB, eager to enforce any oppression to further his own power.
Episode 2 ends with the first of two massive cliff-hangers (that I never forgot from 1978) and the situation seems still more desperate as Leela is banished from the Citadel, taking officer of the watch Rodan (Hilary Ryan) with her into the wilderness. However, they aren't alone and soon meet up with what look like a typical tribe of `Doctor Who' savages - but (cleverly) turn out to be Time Lord `hippie' drop-outs in reverse; tired of peace and non-interference, they have gone into the wild to get in touch with their inner warriors!
Most of the sets and model work are really good, but the Vardans did have severe issues in the original production, where they looked like shaking tinfoil (because ...) The new CGI effects solve this, brilliantly, but although disembodied shapes, they still have unconvincing voices that make them sound like men in silly hats (because ...) I won't reveal exactly how the Doctor defeats the Vardans, but the nature of their threat to him and Gallifrey and their defeat are clever, if unspectacular to watch. Leela isn't convinced: "but we only fought a few guards!", though as the Doctor tells her, it can't always be a huge battle.
So episode 4 ends with victory over the Vardans - and then a humungous, stonking cliff-hanger that was one of the great `reveals' of classic `Doctor Who'. Back in 1978 this was an incredibly impressive moment and raised my (and no doubt millions of others') expectations for the final two episodes to maximum. And unfortunately, those super-high expectations were partly dashed because of the ultimate problem with this story: it had two more episodes to fill and lacked the time and resources to do it as everyone would have wished.
Sortie Two: Darkness - The Sontarans
There is a very good story almost buried in these final two episodes, after four Sontarans dramatically appear on the steps of the Panopticon, but I'll get the criticisms out of the way first.
Only Sontaran leader Stor takes his helmet off here, but that's one too many. If you ever wondered where the `potato-head' nickname comes from, this is it; they should have re-used the superb head design from `The Time Warrior'. The performances have been criticised too but I think they are good, though not comparable with original Sontaran actor Kevin Lindsay.
The final episode degenerates into a tedious run-around through miles of shabby corridors, supposedly inside the TARDIS, in probably the least impressive location filming in any `Doctor Who'. That was obviously down to the drastic shortage of studio and writing time, but there is no way the interior of the TARDIS looks like that! Unfortunately the episode also degenerates into comedy (partly unintended by the writers) which destroys the tension of a good and too-hidden storyline. Criticisms over (mostly).
The Sontarans are invincible warriors (actually they aren't, Leela and another Gallifreyan have already offed two by a knife in the probic vent in the approved manner, but the story now needs them to be invincible.) So the Doctor needs the ultimate Time Lord weapon to defeat them - the De-Mat Gun. It's so powerful that Rassilon (who designed it) hid the secret in the Matrix where only the Lord President can access it, but also hid the Great Key needed to make it work.
This idea of the separation of powers is clever and well played out between the Doctor and Borusa, and their scenes are the best part of this `second story'. Borusa is finally able to trust his old student again - but can he trust him with ultimate power? John Arnatt is excellent to the end and plays the (successful) comedy as well as the thoughtful dialogue.
Of course the Doctor gets the weapon he needs, in a way which is ingeniously done to ensure that nobody else learns the secrets of its terrible power, and finishes off the Sontarans just in time. Stor is threatening to use a Sontaran grenade to blow up the podium in the Panopticon, which will take Gallifrey with it. Unfortunately the story doesn't explain WHY that would happen and so loses all tension from the final confrontation. Thinking back to `The Deadly Assassin', we know the `Eye of Harmony' that powers Time Lord civilisation is hidden under that floor, so I *think* that's the intended explanation - but it isn't given in the script.
There are two twists at the end; the first is very clever. Rassilon had one last trick up his sleeve to ensure that knowledge of the weapon of last resort stays hidden - and only Borusa realises what has happened, a nice touch.
The final twist was and is a huge let-down. Leela leaves. Just like that, without a word of preparation (although the actors did work in some non-verbal clues) she is off to live happily ever after with Guard Captain Andred. Chris Tranchell plays the character well, but he and Louise Jameson needed scenes and dialogue to set up a budding romance and there are none at all, which was a serious mistake (and I thought aliens weren't allowed on Gallifrey anyway?) `Doctor Who' *could* do this well, such as when Katy Manning left in `The Green Death', but not here.
Oh and K-9 stays on Gallifrey too, but at least the Doctor can just build a new model of him - in fact, here's one he prepared earlier ...
Thanks for letting this lengthy review invade your time ... 4*
DVD Special Features:
The commentary is excellent and interesting through all six episodes, with Louise Jameson, John Leeson, co-author Anthony Read and effects designer Mat Irvine. Very informative about exactly what happened to this story and why.
`Out of Time' (17 min) - a short but really good `making of' feature with Louise Jameson, John Leeson, Anthony Read, Milton Johns, Chris Tranchell and Colin Mapson (effects).
`Deleted Scenes' (6 min) - from episodes 5 and 6. More corridors! However, the lengthy final scene of the Doctor and Stor, armed to the teeth and hunting each other through the corridors, is tense and well-directed and should have been included in place of some of the `comedy' moments.
`The Rise and Fall of Gallifrey' (10 min) - a good short feature looking at the series' changing view of the Time Lords. The opening `galactic chart' titles are great and filled with fan-pleasing details.
`The Elusive David Agnew' (5 min) - if you still don't know who wrote this story, this carefully researched piece will tell you - eventually. (It's a spoof and quite funny.) Incidentally, the DVD insert says that this story replaced `The Killer Cats of Geng Singh', but the production subtitles explain this `title' comes from a mishearing of producer Graham Williams' comments at a convention - pity, it's a great title! The real `lost story' was apparently called `The Killer Cats of Darkness'.
Photo Gallery (7 min) - the highlight is Tom Baker with a potted plant on his head!
An interesting Easter Egg.
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