“The Time Warrior” is the first adventure of the eleventh season of “Doctor Who” classic series which aired between the end of 1973 and the beginning of 1974. It follows “The Green Death” and it’s a four parts adventure written by Robert Holmes and directed by Alan Bromly.
In the Middle Ages, the bandit Irongron and his band of criminals find a crashed spaceship. A Sontaran warrior offers them help to build a kingdom in return for their cooperation in repairing his spaceship.
The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) are investigating the mysterious disappearance of several scientists. Potential victims are brought together in one building held under maximum survelillance but journalist Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) manages to enter using her aunt’s credentials.
When a scientist is kidnapped despite the surveillance, the Doctor realizes that he was transported into the past. He follows the trail with the Tardis without realizing that Sarah Jane had got in. When the Tardis arrives in the Middle Ages, Sarah Jane thinks that the Doctor is one of the kidnappers.
This DVD has a decent amount of extras. There are typical contents such as production subtitles, Radio Time Billings, a promo of “Doctor Who” DVDs soon to be publushed and a gallery of pictures from this adventure.
There are comments in the adventure alternative audio track by protagonist Elisabeth Sladen, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks.
Beginning the End. Cast and crew members recall the production of this adventure.
Continuity Compilation. A series of original announcements for the episodes of this adventure.
The Doctor Who Annual 1974. The 1974 issue of the “Doctor Who Annual” magazine in PDF format.
CGI Effects. The option to enable the vision of this adventure with 16 new special effects created in CGI. There are no big changes but certainly some scenes are improved compared to the special effects could be produced at the time with the available budget.
There is also an “Easter egg” that contains some trivia on this adventure.
The eleventh season of “Doctor Who” classic series brought several innovations. First of all there was the introduction of the new version of the titles sequence, the first version of the sequence with the tunnel which in the next version during the Tom Baker era was used until 1980 and is considered by many fans the best of the classic series. This new title sequence also included a new version of the logo in a diamond shape.
In “The Time Warrior” a new companion is also introduced, Sarah Jane Smith. In previous years there were some accusations of sexism against “Doctor Who” because companions such as Jo Grant seemed to be included much more for their physical appearance than for their brains.
Producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks decided to include a companion who wasn’t just pretty but had also a strong and independent personality. The actress initially cast for the role of Sarah Jane Smith, however, was discarded after the first rehearsals along with Jon Pertwee gave negative results but the name of the actress remained a mystery until recently.
Eventually, Elisabeth Sladen was the actress cast for the role of Sarah Jane Smith after making a good impression on Barry Letts but also on Jon Pertwee. It was the beginning of a great era for what for many fans is the most beloved companion in “Doctor Who” saga, so much that the actress played the role in one way or another in audio adventures and the spin-off “The Sarah Jane Adventures” until her death.
“The Time Warrior” also marks the introduction of the Sontarans, a warrior species composed of clones. The Sontarans are engaged in an endless war against the Rutans, who in this adventure are only mentioned in a conversation between Linx, the warrior fell on the Earth, and the Doctor.
Robert Holmes was one of the authors who had the greatest influence on “Doctor Who” continuity and in “The Time Warrior” he revealed for the first time in the series the name of the Doctor’s home planet: Gallifrey.
All these elements are part of an adventure for the unusual for the ’70s. Historical adventures were typical of the First Doctor era and were abandoned during the Second Doctor era. “The Time Warrior” is a historical adventure that also includes science fiction elements given the presence of a Sontaran.
Despite those premises, “The Time Warrior” is essentially a comedy. Sarah Jane Smith manages to ease get into a building so guarded that even Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is likely is almost stopped at the gate. Sarah Jane is one of several people who got into the Tardis by mistake and when she arrives in the Middle Ages she thinks she somehow ended in the midst of some kind of costume commemoration.
Sarah Jane takes a while to realize what situation she got into and even more to understand that the Doctor isn’t responsible for the kidnapping of the scientists but instead is looking for the perpetrators. Since the beginning, Sarah Jane’s strong personality is evident, in fact she doesn’t panic and always expresses her opinion.
The bandit Irongron and his band of criminals are ruthless but the actors are a bit over the top in their performances and that gives a lighter tone to their actions. In the prison in which Linx closed the scientists he kidnapped there’s also Professor Rubeish, the only one who escaped the Sontaran’s mental conditioning because without his glasses he can see very little. Again, the actor’s performance, groping his way around the prison, emphasizes the lighthearted tone of the story.
Overall, “The Time Warrior” is a fun adventure and it’s important in “Doctor Who” history. The DVD doesn’t contains many extras but the documentary on the production of this adventure is interesting and the new special effects improve some scenes. For these reasons I recommend buying it, with the possibility if you buy the Region 2 version to choose whether to buy this DVD only or the “Bred for War” box set available on Amazon UK, that includes the various adventures of the classic series featuring the Sontarans.