“Timelash” is an adventure of the twentysecond season of “Doctor Who” classic series which aired in 1985. It follows “The Two Doctors” and it’s a two parts adventure written by Glen McCoy and directed by Pennant Roberts.
The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Peri (Nicola Bryant) are arguing when the Tardis is captured by a sort of time corridor. Upon their arrival to one end there’s the planet Karfel, where the Doctor has been a long time ago and where the situation has changed a lot.
The Borad is the dictator of the planet and his opponents are thrown into the Timelash, the time corridor. The return of Doctor can be a danger to the regime but also an opportunity to exploit him. Tekker, the administrator appointed by the Borad, kidnaps Peri to force the Doctor to recover what is considered an amulet after it was thrown into the Timelash.
This DVD is poor in extras. There are typical contents such as production subtitles, the Radio Time Billings and a gallery of pictures from this adventure.
There are comments in the adventure alternative audio track by protagonists Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant and actor Paul Darrow.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. A 25-minute documentary on the production of this adventure in which honest opinions are expressed about the problems of “Timelash”.
There’s also an “Easter egg” but it’s just BBC promos.
Writer Glen McCoy had a little experience as a television writer when he submitted his idea for a “Doctor Who” story which included the Daleks to the show production. Script editor Eric Saward rejected the idea but told McCoy that he would’ve reconsidered if it had been rewritten to exclude the Daleks.
Glen McCoy wrote the screenplay that eventually became “Timelash” that contains elements strongly inspired by various stories by H.G. Wells. Eric Saward made several changes but director Pennant Roberts, who had previously directed a number “Doctor Who” adventures, wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the result and asked for further editing.
One of the problems was that the first episode was too long and the second was too short. Therefore further modifications were made to the screenplay and some scenes were moved during the editing stage. Nevertheless, a certain imbalance remained and some extra scenes had to be shot. Unfortunately, they’re just moments when the Doctor and Peri are arguing, a filler that’s only annoying for the audience.
The protagonists Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant skipped a few days of rehearsals because producer John Nathan-Turner wanted to have them appear at an American convention. A decision that certainly didn’t help to solve the problems of a production that was proving really complicated.
As if that weren’t enough, the budget for “Timelash” was really tight so the sets on the planet Karfel were really spartan. Luckily, they fit well to a society closely controlled by the Borad. After so many negative elements, the mysterious Karfel dictator is one of the main strengths of this adventure.
During “Timelash” the Doctor and even more the audience slowly discover the secrets of the Borad and the reasons for his monstrous appearance. In such a cheap production the makeup of the Borad is really well done and the voice performance by actor Robert Ashby gives depth to a character who can’t have facial expressions.
Another character who gives strength to this adventure is Tekker. Actor Paul Darrow had already had a role in “Doctor Who” several years before in the adventure “The Silurians”. At the end of the ’70s he became famous for playing the anti-hero Avon in the cult series “Blake’s 7”. To play Tekker, Darrow was inspired by Laurence Olivier in the Shakespearean drama “Richard III” but for producer John Nathan-Turner that style was too over the top. The end result is a compromise between their ideas.
Unfortunately in “Timelash” there are more flaws than merits and this adventure has built a very negative reputation, in my opinion beyond its faults. The story certainly has a number of shortcomings and the ending tries to be exciting but ends up being quite confused. Without spoilers for the climax, I’ll just say that the problem is it tries to keep the tension high with some twists that are unconvincing. This probably was crucial to form a negative opinion in many viewers.
The reputation of “Timelash” wasn’t helped by the fact that it aired between “The Two Doctors” and “Revelation of the Daleks”, two adventures that have a high reputation instead. This type of comparison has often emphasized a certain type of reputation, in this case stressing the production problems.
In my opinion, “Timelash” is not so bad. Definitely not among the best “Doctor Who” adventures but I think that the main characters are able to at least partly compensate the script and production problems. I understand that its flaws may annoy the fans but they can also be funny such as the Morlox.
The DVD is in some ways like the adventure, a cheap production. Therefore, I recommend it only to the fans who want to have the complete “Doctor Who” collection.