Thursday, March 31, 2011


[1982, Season 19, Serial 6]

Spoilers, I guess.  This is one of the most famous of all Doctor Who stories, particularly for two elements - its villains and its ending, and it is, of course, those aspects that everyone talks about.  If, by some chance, you haven't watched Earthshock and don't know either the identity of the antagonists or the finale of the story, it's worth trying to see it without knowing anything in advance.  The first episode is carefully constructed to avoid the identity of the villains, and the ending will have a much greater impact if you don't know it ahead of time.  Of course, it's near impossible to avoid those, but hey, just in case you're that one person who is unfamiliar with it, this is one of the most important Doctor Who stories, and in most ways an excellent one, and has two strong surprises.

You have been warned.

With Earthshock, producer John Nathan-Turner, writer Eric Saward, and director Peter Grimwade set out a hugely ambitious goal: to essentially make a spectacular sci-fi action movie on a few hundred thousand bucks and six days of filming.  And, amazingly, they pretty much pulled it off.

Earthshock doesn't feel like most other Doctor Who stories from its era.  It's much tighter and more quickly paced, first of all.  Doctor Who tends to be a bit slower, which is generally fine, as that allows for more characterization and world-building.  But having something so taut and thrilling particularly in a season with quiet stories like Kinda and Black Orchid makes a huge impact.  After the first episode, which is an excellent piece of suspense-building, the story rarely slows down; even scenes without violence are tense with the omnipresent threat of violence.  There's not as much action as there seems to be, but the intense feeling of constant action is what counts.

The first episode doesn't give away the villains until the final two shots; in the meantime, we're stuck in claustrophobic caves, alternating between the TARDIS crew and a group of soldiers finding their body counts steadily increasing as they look for missing comrades.  These are atmospheric, eerie scenes, particularly when the characters run across the remains of some of their fellows reduced to horrific puddles of liquids.

After some searching, they discover the culprits: mysterious black androids.  These are simple but creepy creations, and add even more to the escalating suspense of the story, but they're just a decoy to keep us busy until the real villains appear:

Part of the intensity comes from Saward's portrayal of the Cybermen.  It's easy to criticize where he failed: he gives them none of the overriding creepiness of the central concept, of humans who have essentially replaced their entire beings with robotics.  Nor does he make them emotionless; as he points out, it's very, very difficult to make conflict dramatic and interesting when the antogonist lacks emotion, and while it isn't impossible, Saward goes for a different approach.

But what he gets absolutely, stunningly right is making them genuinely threatening, more threatening than perhaps they've ever been.  They may not have the elements that make them really unique in place, but taken simply as unstoppable killers, they're truly frightening.  Sure, they could be any overly emotional robotic army, but that doesn't make them any less threatening.  These are violent, vicious metal creatures intent on and capable of all manner of murderous assaults.

Their redesign does them credit, as well.  In many past appearances, they looked cheap and silly; here, they look much more convincing than before.  JNT's concept of their mouths being semi-visible does give the one indication of their former humanity that works.

David Banks' performance as the Cyber Leader adds a lot to their menace.  Saward's dialogue for him is silly and over-the-top, but Banks plays the hell out of every word, and exudes power and evil.

Saward structures the story superbly, keeping things constantly moving and filling the story with action and incident.  He also does a good job giving Davison strong material as the Doctor; good lines, nice touches of eccentricity, and an awesome scene where he gets a Cyberman literally stuck inside the atomic structure of a door.

"I want to announce my PRESENCE!  And see what the reaction is."

Adric gets some of the best material he ever got.  He had an unfortunate run of stories where he was more a hindrance than a help, and he can easily get annoying, but here, he's at his best: a kid trying as hard as he can to really be helpful.  He's also a lot less obnoxious than usual, and is actually rather likable.  Matthew Waterhouse is pretty appealing with material this solid.  And it's a good thing, too, because there's a real payoff for all that...

Tegan is also well used.  Early on, of course, she mostly just complains and such, but this is the story where she finally decides to be more than, as she so accurately describes, "a mouth on legs," and jumps into the fray, picks up a gun, and starts blasting the hell out of the Cybermen.  It's the height of her character.

For all the material he gives to the lesser companions, though, Saward, drops the ball on the useful one.  Early on, Nyssa is both cool and kind-hearted, but after about an episode and a half, Saward can't think of anything else to do with her (including, I don't know, give her a gun, too?), and just sticks her in the TARDIS doing nothing for the last two-thirds of the story.  That's sort of the problem with having three companions; unless you're extremely clever, one of them is going to get shunted to the side.  Of course, in the '60s, they usually stuck Susan to the side, which worked out just fine since she was the least helpful.  For some odd reason, though, in the early 80s, it's Nyssa who gets screwed over more than anyone despite actually being far and away the best companion of the group.  That said, she does get a few good moments here and there, including a good moment at the end.

It's mostly just this, though.

Still, that aside, Saward creates a gripping piece of episodic television, ramped to full power by Peter Grimwade's direction.  The action is well-directed, the atmosphere extremely tense, and the production vastly more expensive-looking than it actually is.

Davison is predictably excellent.  He's never anything less than terrific in the role, always pouring everything he has into it.  Davison makes his bad lines good, his good lines great, and his great lines works of wonder. 

Waterhouse, again, is unusually good.  Janet Fielding is at her zenith as Tegan.  Sarah Sutton... well, her material's pretty lousy.  She's good in the first episode, where she gets to do stuff.  She's pretty flat in the rest, but you really can't blame her. 

The supporting actors generally do good jobs. Beryl Reid is a bizarre choice for the role of a hard-nosed spaceship captain, but she gives such a good performance it's hard not to have fun.

The story rockets along through its second and third episodes, with successively awesome cliffhangers.  I've said before and I'll say it again, Cybermen make for terrific cliffhangers.  The fourth episode slows just a bit on the action for the sake of tense stand-offs.  The conflict between the Doctor and the Cyber Leader is melodrama slammed across with conviction.

And then, of course, there's the ending, which finishes the story with a tremendous emotional punch.  Adric's death is superbly handled by Saward: it's heroic, yes, but it also comes from Adric's personality, both good and bad.  He's self-absorbed and invicible-feeling, like any teenager, and is, of course, a genius at math.  And he wants desperately to be helpful.  All these lead to him making a fateful decision that, ultimately, leads to that final tragic moment.

All in all, Earthshock is a gripping, thrilling, horrifying, and ultimately powerful thrill ride both dramatic and exciting, and earns its place as a Doctor Who classic.

... but even for Doctor Who, there are a lot of plot holes.  These aren't too noticeable until the last episode, when the overall plot is revealed, but even a moments thought and the entire story falls to pieces.  If the Cyberman could sneak a bomb onto Earth without it being noticed for weeks, why would their back-up plan be such a ridiculously convoluted scheme to steal a freighter for a suicide bombing?  The cliffhanger at the end of episode 3 is tremendous... but why would they put an army of ten thousand Cybermen on a suicide bomb?

Once it's all out in the open, the plotting is completely incoherent.  It's like Saward dashed off an awesome rough draft, and then decided not to read over it or even spell-check it, probably.

My heart tells me that this is a terrific yarn, full of drama and action, and one of the great Doctor Who stories.  My brain tells me it's 90 minutes of incoherent, senseless fury, done with low-budget style.  I guess, in the end, I'm listening to my heart and saying this is great stuff, but not without some massive flaws.


* * * ½

  • The alternate CGI effects on the DVD are brilliant; they fit in so well you wouldn't even know they were there if you hadn't seen the original versions.  The laser beams are vastly improved, but still look like the product of 80s television.  But the big difference is during the climax, as the freighter hurtles toward the Yucatan.  First off, it actually is the Yucatan.  But it's much better than that: in the original, we just saw a quick model shot of the ship blowing up.  Here, we see it falling toward the earth and the giant explosion that ensues.  The Earth looks very similar to the original, and the effects honestly don't look like anything that couldn't have been accomplished in 1982 with just a little more time and money.  For any of the CGI alternate effects that I complain about, I hold these ones in the highest regard.
  • Okay, one thing I'm really not clear on: why, exactly, does the freighter fly back in time?  There's so little technobable explanation that the actual reason seems kind of in the air.  I'm pretty sure that it's the Doctor himself who sets all this up, for several reasons.  First, it's way, way too big a coincidence for the ship to just happen to travel back to the very conversation the characters were having at the beginning.  Second, the Doctor really does seem to have a plan going, and while it doesn't go perfectly, I'm pretty sure from Davison's performance and the way the scene is set up that it really is the Doctor himself turning the Freighter into the K-T Extinction Event.  Third, otherwise it just doesn't make any sense.  But the thing is, it's never explicitly stated, and this isn't a script terribly strong on subtlety.  I like my theory a lot more than anything else, but I do wonder if it is just me throwing a theory where it doesn't belong.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Hand of Fear

[1976, Season 14, Serial 2]

Eldrad must live!

The TARDIS lands in a quarry.

No, really a quarry, not a quarry pretending to be a distant planet.  Awesome.

The Hand of Fear is the final regular adventure for Sarah Jane Smith.  It's clear right from the beginning how far she's come.  Her relationship with the Doctor is totally smooth and relaxed; their jokes flow completely out of affection, not confict; and even when they do argue angrily, it comes from the depth of their relationship.  But more telling is Sarah's costume:

She's been traveling with the Doctor so long that she has completely lost touch with reality.  No more smart business suits or pretty dresses; it's pure self-expression - and the self-expression of a devil-may-care wanderer out for nothing in the universe except fun.

Sladen was wonderful from the very beginning, but her performances have actually improved over the years.  For comparison, look at the scene in The Time Warrior when she's hypnotized.  It's a solid, convincing portrayal.  Then look at her similar scenes in Hand of Fear: her possession scenes are genuinely unnerving and creepy.

Sladen gives Sarah such boundless joy, mirth, and humanity that only a grinch could fail to love her.

The relationship between the Doctor and Sarah is the best Doctor/companion relationship ever, and will remain so.  Even though she's a human, he treats her as a total equal - and she earns it.  There are unacknowledged hints of love here, but they remain unrequited.  Still, their friendship is simply wonderful.  Her sense of humor and adventure match his perfectly; she also shares his eternal sense of wonder at the universe.  When he needs to be taken down a notch for his smugness or immaturity, she does so with great humor.  Of course, they argue like any friends do, but deep down is pure affection.  There's a lovely moment when the Doctor walks by Sarah's hospital room and flips around the "Do Not Disturb" sign to face out, and smiles at his friend getting rest and peace.

One of their finest scenes comes in episode three, when the Doctor, characteristically, tell her to stay behind for her safety, and she, equally characteristically, totally ignores him and catches up.

Sarah: I worry about you.  Anyway, who found that thing?
Doctor: You did.
Sarah: Right.  So, I'm involved...  And besides, I'm from Earth, and you're not.
Doctor: That's true.
Sarah: Exactly.
Doctor: Yes, but...
Sarah: Ah, but what?
Doctor: I worry about you!
Sarah: So, be careful!
Doctor: We'll both be careful.
Sarah: Fine.

At the end of the serial, after the story has been wrapped up, they have an argument, which I imagine happens quite regularly, and she pretends she's going to get off immediately, while he ignores her various insults and threats (which I also imagine happens quite regularly).  But then he gets something he didn't expect - a summons to Gallifrey, his homeworld.  Outsiders aren't allowed there; he can't take her with him.  So he tells her he has to leave her.  Sladen and Baker play this scene brilliantly; it's incredibly sad and moving, all the more so because neither of them cry; in character, they try to come to terms with their separation, and really can't, but go through with it anyway.

Even here, there are moments of gentle humor, coming from these two characters trying to deal with this.  It's a wonderful finale and as good an exit as any companion could ever get.

There's also a hint that there's something more to the Doctor leaving her behind, which Sarah Jane's reappearance in School Reunion thirty years later confirms: the summons to Gallifrey isn't alone what makes him leave her behind.  He leaves her behind because he loves her, and he can't stand what that means: he's a Time Lord who, as he once said, "walks in eternity," and doesn't really die; he simply regenerates and moves on.  Even here, he's over 700 years old, and will live for hundreds or thousands more years.  Sarah has less than a single century.  She'll grow old and die, while he remains the same.  It's something he can't bear, with her more than anyone else.  When he leaves her behind, it's his final expression of both love and a sort of selfishness.  He says he'll return for her, but he never really does.  They meet again, of course, but not because he was looking for her; she was looking for him, and after thirty years, managed to find him.  But that's another story, another quite wonderful story to follow up this lovely yarn.

But even without that wistful, moving coda, The Hand of Fear would be an excellent addition to the series.  It's a beautifully-structured story, opening with a bang as the quarry literally explodes.

Buried in the rubble, Sarah grabs onto a strange hand, at which point she screams and falls unconscious.

The Doctor, along with a fellow scientist, Dr. Carter (Rex Robinson), examine the hand and find that despite being buried in the strata for 150 million years, it's alive - but it's not a carbon-based lifeform: it's silicone-based.  I should make a sidenote here about just how great Tom is throughout this story.  When he plays things seriously, it's truly dead serious, and absolutely riveting.  When he has comic moments, he plays them perfectly.  This is the Fourth Doctor at his zenith.

Meanwhile, a possessed Sarah flees the hospital and heads to the nearest nuclear power plant, where she places the hand near the radioactive core, exposing both her and the hand to the radiation.  And the hand starts using the radiation to renew itself into a complete body, while Sarah sits quietly by the core and the station begins to go into shutdown from the interference.  The Doctor rushes to the hospital, desperate to save her... and figure out just what that hand really is.

 Besides the hand and its eventual body, there are only two major supporting characters - Dr. Carter and Professor Watson (Glyn Houston), the head of the nuclear plant.  Fortunately, both of them are superb.  Robinson makes Carter an intelligent and likable character in only a few minute of screentime, making his possession and eventual fate far more gripping than it would otherwise have been.

But it's Houston who really stands out.  The role could have come across as a total cliche - the authority figure stupidly standing in the way of the hero.  The writers, Bob Baker and Dave Martin, avoid this: while Professor Watson doesn't always help the Doctor, he's intelligent enough to work with him when it makes sense, and when he does work against the Doctor, it's understandable from his point of view.  But the character's centerpiece is a moment in the second episode where, believing the reactor is soon to meltdown and that he will very likely die soon, he calls his wife to say goodbye.  Touchingly, he doesn't tell her what's happening, just calls as though it's a casual conversation saying he'll be late for work.  Houston plays the scene perfectly, resisting the urge to play it for melodrama and underplaying the scene beautifully.  It's a genuinely moving sequence.  He's every bit as good in his final scene, where he has to some extent snapped from the pressures of all the insane things going on around him, and yet holds it somewhat together, entirely in character.  It's a really terrific performance.

It's also a very well-produced serial.  During the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era, many of the stories look and feel more like modestly-budgeted films rather than a low-budget TV show, and this is no exception.  The location filming in the power plant adds tremendous scale to the story:

But the studio sets are excellent as well, completely convincing as both a hospital and as the smaller rooms of the plant.  The otherworldly sets of Kastria are atmospheric and work well, though they aren't quite as strong as the earthbound scenes.

The structure and pacing are superb.  The first episode builds its mysteries and ideas carefully, interweaving the intriguing notions like a silicon-based lifeform with the creepy possession scenes.  The second episode doubles the pace as the danger increases.  And then, ten minutes into the third episode and 2/3 of the way through the story, we finally meet the antagonist, Edrad.

"Can this be the form of the creatures who have found me and now seek to destroy me?"

Judith Paris' performance as Eldrad is astonishing: she seems truly, completely alien in every aspect, yet elegant and even somehow seductive.  Her voice is unforgettable.  But she also has a lot to work with.  It helps that we have to wait an hour to actually meet her, of course, but she absolutely pays off the build-up.  Further, Baker and Martin make her a genuinely interesting character; though she's certainly the antagonist and her actions do result in a pair of deaths, it's highly ambiguous just how evil she actually is.  She may be more oblivious than malevolent; after all, she also spares lives and doesn't seem to desire the killing of the human race.  It makes her all the more mysterious and creepy, and Paris plays all this to the hilt.  And the makeup and costuming finishes the character, making her one of the finest villains of the entire series, and maybe the best one to only appear once.

Or at least she is until the climax, when everything falls apart.  They return Eldrad to Kastria, the Doctor reasoning that whatever her moral position, she's better there than on Earth, and it'll be far easier to deal with her in that environment.  They find, however, that their pathway has been booby-trapped, and Eldrad is badly wounded.  They bring her to a chamber where she is apparently to be renewed again, but the Doctor appears to kill her.

Up until this point, it's a brilliant story, and it's really too bad the next ten minutes sink so low.  Bob Baker and Dave Martin come up with probably the least interesting and least satisfying way to wrap up the story that could conceivably have worked in any way.  More importantly, Eldrad returns to her regular form, which is apparently that of a male.  Unfortunately, despite his stunning voice, Stephen Thorne isn't anywhere near as interesting as the male Edrad.  Much of that is Baker and Martin, though, who reduce her/him from a complex, morally ambiguous, and eerily intelligent antagonist to a ranting, monologuing bad guy who's just evil without anything resembling shading or even interest.  The finale is a dull, disappointing conclusion to an otherwise great yarn.

But after that, of course, is Sarah's goodbye, and the story not only returns to greatness, but elevates itself to another level entirely.  The involving science fiction mystery has become the gripping thriller, which has become the moving drama of the pain of goodbye, tempered by the memories of joy and happiness.

Farewell, Sarah Jane Smith.


* * * ½

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Time Warrior

[1973/1974, Season 11, Serial 1]

The Time Warrior stands at an interesting point in Doctor Who's history, and is an important story.  First off, it has an awesome new title sequence, created with the slitscan technique from 2001: A Space Odyssey and introducing the logo that would become synonymous with Tom Baker's era.

It's the opening of the 11th season, which producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks decided would be their last.  It's clear even here that their era is coming to an end.  With Roger Delgado tragically killed in a car accident, the Master was no longer the kind of recurring character he had been, and wouldn't be seen again for several seasons.  Jo Grant, who had been the Doctor's companion for three years, had exited at the end of The Green Death the previous season.  UNIT no longer carries the importance of the previous four seasons.  The Brigadier gets a few good exchanges with the Doctor at the beginning, but disappears before the end of the first episode.

The Time Warrior is also one of the earliest "pseudo-historicals", the tales set in Earth's past but with a sci-fi plot.  It had been done a few times before - The Time Meddler is probably the best example - but in general, it was still a fairly rare concept.  Nowadays, it takes up about a third of every season...  It also introduces the Sontarans, a race who define themselves entire through war.

But none of that is what makes this episode really important.  No, what truly makes this one of the turning points of the show is the companion: Sarah Jane Smith.

Sarah Jane is the perfect template for a companion.  She's strong, brave, resourceful, and independent.  She gets captured in this story, but she always breaks herself out; she doesn't need the Doctor to rescue her.  In fact, she rescues the Doctor on more than one occasion.  She shows supreme self-confidence, and is more than willing to cut the Doctor down to size.  Here, in her first adventure, she spends much of the story believing the Doctor to be the villain, and takes a long time (understandably) to fully trust him.  It's a blast to watch her carry so much of the story through her own strength.  And she abjectly refuses to make coffee for the Doctor.

But she can also be vulnerable and scared when necessary.  Elizabeth Sladen is wonderful throughout.  She was cast for her ability to show both fear and courage at the same time, something she does superbly, but Sladen pours herself into every moment of the role.  Her first scene, meeting the Doctor, is terrific.  He almost immediately sees through her cover story for sneaking into a top secret science complex, but she just as quickly figures out that he probably won't give her away; her knowing smile when she asks him why he won't give her up is a perfect touch.  Later in the story, I love the scene where she meets Irongron, and is so fiery that he decides not to throw her in the dungeon and just leaves her standing around for awhile so her antics can amuse him.  She's funny, wistful, and just totally charming.  And she has great chemistry with Pertwee; it's just a blast to watch them together.  She's completely engaging and full of personality, and single-handedly elevates the tale. 

Not that it isn't good anyway.  It's a Robert Holmes script, and as expected, it's more dialogue-driven than anything else, but what awesome dialogue!

The Doctor: A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting,

Sarah Jane: You're serious, aren't you?
The Doctor: About what I do, yes.  Not  necessarily about the way I do it.

Linx: What is this?
Irongron: Oh, just a girl, taken in the forest.

Linx: Girl?  You have two species on this planet?!
Irongron: How say you?
Linx: The girl is not of your kind, Irongron.  The hair is finer, the thorax of a different construction...
Irongron: Oh, Hell's teeth, have you no girls beyond the stars?  No women to do the lowly work?
Linx: Ah, I understand.  You have a primary and secondary reproductive cycle.  It is an inefficient system.  You should change it.

Sarah Jane: Oh, I could murder a cup of tea.

He does a nice job with the medieval dialogue - it's wordy enough to sound convincingly old-fashioned but not so much it's ever confusing or distracting.  More importantly, it has as much wit and style as the more modern dialogue.  And as you'd expect from Holmes, The Time Warrior has a gallery of great characters.

The villains are a blast together.  The arrogant Irongron thinks he's far, far smarter than he really is, and keeps trying to undermine the technologically and intellectually superior Linx, and gets by with a couple minor victories in their verbal sparring through sheer persistence.  David Daker is hilarious as the bandit, but manages to be intimidating and threatening as well when need be.

Linx is the more memorable of the two, though, as the first Sontaran to show up in Doctor Who.  Despite a few rough edges, the makeup design is excellent, and makes him one of the most convincing aliens on the show.  And the race itself is interesting: a clone race of warriors, inherently tough physically anyway, but with the addition of their armor, incredibly difficult to kill except for a small vent on the back of the neck.  They prefer it that way, so that they're always forced to face forward in battle, and can never retreat.  Very cool.

The third villain, Bloodaxe, is Irongron's right hand man, and thinks he's pretty much the coolest guy in the entire world, and remains completely oblivious to what an idiot his boss really is.  John J. Carney is highly amusing in the role.

Irongron: I'll chop him up so fine not even a sparrow will fill its beak!
Bloodaxe: [in awe] Yours is indeed a towering intelligence!

There are two other major supporting characters.  The first, Rubeish, is a charming, witty variation on the absent-minded professor.  He's so near-sighted that, because he doesn't have his glasses, Linx can't hypnotize him, allowing him to help the Doctor to what little extend his near-blindness allows.  Mostly, though, he just adds to the overall sense of fun.

Rubeish: I haven't seen my wife and family for three days.
Doctor: Well, I'm sorry to hear that.
Rubeish: Ah well.  Just shows there's always a silver lining.

The other is Hal the archer, played forcefully and charismatically by Jeremy Bulloch.  He's likable and engaging enough that he might have even made a pretty good companion, though with Sarah Jane around, he wasn't really needed.

The less important characters are also good - the Lord and Lady of the nearby castle, despite only having a few scenes, have a well-developed relationship and personalities.  You get a real sense of who they are in just a handful of lines.  Even minor one-sceen characters are interesting individuals - they all have interesting things to say and do and add to the setting.

And, of course, there's the Doctor, who's as brilliant as ever.  Pertwee is at the top of his game, swinging from chandeliers, passionately decrying evil, wittily cutting down his opponents, and just generally being the dashing, heroic figure he so perfectly created in his version of the character.

Director Alan Bromly generally does a good job giving a dialogue-dirven script plenty of energy and capturing the midieval atmosphere well enough.  Unfortunately, though, while it's a perfectly adequate approach, he doesn't bring any passion to his storytelling.  In particular, he doesn't seem terribly interested in the action scenes - they're competantly staged but indifferently shot and edited, and as a consequence, exciting enough but nowhere near as thrilling as they should be.  Barry Letts tells a story that for the climax, which called for a castle to be blown up, he told Bromly that they could, in fact, blow up a model castle (and it's worth noting here that blowing up models is the one special effect that Doctor Who consistently does well) ... and Bromly turned it down, saying he would cut it together in a way that would work.  He spliced in two seconds of a quarry blowing up.

Bromly should have been ashamed of himself.  NOTE TO ALL DIRECTORS OF ANY AND EVERY FILM OR TELEVISION MEDIUM: If your producer tells you that you have the resources, money, and time to film the massive explosion your climax calls for, don't turn him down.  That may just be the worst decision every made by any director in the history of television, possibly excepting the entirety of the Star Wars Christmas Special.  Seriously, what was Bromly thinking?

Point being, the climax, while not unexciting, isn't the thrill ride it should be, despite big stunts, various acts of derring-do, treachery, archery, and a castle blowing up (or what was supposed to be a castle blowing up).  But, to be fair, Holmes doesn't come up with a perfect conclusion. (though the castle blowing up was an excellent idea, Bromly) It's satisfying enough, but the Linx/Irongron double-act doesn't fully pay off, and there's nothing particularly memorable about the way he wraps up outside of those few elements Bromly botches.  Really, though, it's more Bromly than Holmes; with a Douglas Camfield or David Maloney or Graeme Harper directing, I'm sure it would have been terrific.  Heck, if Letts himself had directed it like he originally planned, it would have been great.

Ultimately, The Time Warrior has all the elements of a classic, but falls short due to Bromly's lack of adventurousness and Holmes not quite figuring out how to wrap things up.  But it's a total delight nonetheless, consistently entertaining and a lot of fun, and is a must-see for the introduction of the greatest companion the Doctor ever had in Sarah Jane Smith.


* * *


  • Jeremy Bulloch is probably best known for playing Boba Fett in the original Star Wars films, but he also played another character in Doctor Who about ten years earlier in The Space Museum, although that role mostly just asked him to stand around with his arms akimbo.  He's much, much better here with an actual role.
  • The DVD is one of the occasional releases where the Restoration Team added CGI effects to try to make up for the low-budget old ones.  While I certainly appreciate their efforts, I've always found these to be a bit hit-or-miss.  When they work, they lift the story to an even higher level - Dalek Invasion of Earth and Earthshock come to mind.  But too often, they're jarring because the CGI often looks like CGI.  This, unfortunately, is one of those cases.  Yes, it's nice to see the castle blow up, but they're too obviously CGI flames.  Yes, it's nice to see the spacecraft flying toward the earth, but it looks just as cheap as the original shots, even if they are a tad more dynamic.  But hey, you can't get it right all the time, and I'm really glad for the times when their additions work. (and I'm really looking forward to their version of Day of the Daleks) And I'm especially glad that they consistently make the original version the default way of watching, and their altered versions in the special features.