Thursday, 22 January 2009

Doctor Who - Timelash

Ah, Doctor Who, that finest of all vintage programmes... that show that keeps on winning award for best tv programme year after year... that establishment of British sci-fi that has seen fans of lesser shows grit their teeth and snarl.

Of course, the problem with vintages is that it's so easy to create some cork-ridden puddle of vinegar.For every good Who story there is its opposite - A Twin Dilemma for every Caves of Androzani; a Revenge of the Cybermen for every Genesis of the Daleks... in the Tom Baker era, there were many, many classic stories, with few duds.

The duds were saved up especially for Colin Baker.

I'm a Who fan, but just like Dr Crippen, there are some things impossible to defend.

Ladies and gentlemen... I give you...


TIMELASH
Oh dear... where to begin. Perhaps I shall start by pointing out that the title is an anagram of 'Lame Shit'. That gives you some indication of the quality to expect

The problem with the Colin Baker era was the sheer amount of bloody padding. Not content with giving the audience anything remotely plot-related, the writers instead conspired to treat us all to numerous scenes of the Doctor and his companion Peri shouting at each other. Of course this isn't helped by the fact that the Doctor at the time wore a massive, eye-meltingly gaudy jacket, shouted a lot and was generally a violent git.

As we begin the story (story - he he he he) we find the Doctor looking at a map... of what seems to be the universe (he's lost, you see). Of course, having a budget of exactly 12p, the map is precisely the same sort of thing you can buy at the local cheapy shop. Oh, and it's blatantly a map of the night sky as seen from Earth. USEFUL!

Anyhow, Peri, his whiny companion, enters, and so begins a seemingly improvised 10-minute (I'm not kidding you) argument over where to go on holiday. It seems that the Doctor wants to go to Andromeda. Now, according to both previous and next-season Who stories, Andromeda is the home of both a group of vicious alien insects hell-bent on implanting their eggs in humanoids, and a race at bitter war with the Doctor's people.

Way to go Doc!

Of course, before we can view this sado-machistic holiday, the Doc is caught in a time corridor! In order to extend this scene several thousand times beyond its natural life span, the Doctor pulls out a box of colourful objects, and out come... the TARDIS seatbelts!

God, this is really desperate.That's the Doctor out of the plot for 20 minutes. What's been happening in the meantime though?

Well, as per classic Who, we have some rebels chased by guards down a grey corridor. Of course, these are no ordinary guards; they are an elite squad of...

... beekeepers

Hmm. Anyway, the rebels are captured, and taken towards this massive grey triangle. Everyone is frightened of this... they weep and wail and say "no... not the TIMELASH." So of course, this titular Timelash must be pretty damn impressive...
...or it could be just a cupboard full of tinsel.

So we have evil beekeepers chasing rebels down corridors. But what else is happening here, on the planet Karfel? How do we know what it's called? Well, basically because the inhabitants have nothing better to do than slouch around in their grey corridors, wearing grey curtains, and spouting expository dialogue at each other. Hence the following gems:

"The Borad, our leader..."

"We are in imminent threat of invasion from our former allies, the Bandrils..."

And the all time classic:

"What, all 500 of us?"

Genius!

It gets better - the stupendous council, who sentence prisoners to the Timelash is made up by a couple of chaps wearing curtains and sitting on cheap patio chairs. And even greater than that - the amazing actor, Paul Darrow, is playing one of the council members, Tekker. You remember, Paul Darrow, he played Avon in Blake's 7. The man people sent money to the BBC to in order to pay for him to get acting lessons.
 
He's the VILLAIN, if anyone's interested. He's so evil that whilst all the other actors stand around looking bored and staring at the studio clock, waiting for the time when they can pop off to the bar, Tekker is strutting around karate-chopping prisoners and laughing evilly.

Of course, he isn't the main bad guy, oh no. Doctor Who has a long-standing tradition of having the most... weird weirdoes as the chief villains. And Timelash is no exception... it has the Borad!The Borad is a villain. He has a chair that zooms everywhere (with a high back so we can't see his face); a button that does everything, from changing channels to imprisoning captives; an evil booming voice that goes "bwa ha ha ha..."; the works...

Oh, and he has android servants. You know the way that by the 30's it was generally decided that painting peoples faces and calling them androids no longer worked? Well, this is the 80's.
Uh-huh.

But these are no normal androids - they're musical ones! They speak in extremely high voices (like they've been castrated) and in the pitch of those spaceships from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

Oh dear oh dear...

The Borad has also got a weapon in his multi-purpose chair - it's a ray that turns people into fake-looking skeletons - the fiend!

Has the Doctor arrived yet?

No

There's still more!
We now meet the worst actress in the world - the woman playing Vena! Look at her, the freak! Someone (probably the director) has obviously been punching her repeatedly in the face. Upon hearing that her father has died, she smiles while saying how miserable she is! And she's one of the good guys!

She steals this magical amulet off Tekker and leaps into the Timelash. Now, Tekker doesn't try to karate-chop her or anything, just stands there and waves his arms about... That'll work, mate.

Anyway, at last the Doctor arrives! The utter stupidity of this story really takes hold at this point. Here are a few examples:

1 - The Flowers. Peri is looking at some flowers when an android walks past and casually steals her medallion. If this isn't bad enough, it is then revealed that the plants are in fact, acid-spraying ones. Yeah. They put acid-spraying plants out on public display for all the little children to look at. Grief - these people deserve to be ruled over by an evil megalomaniac.

2 - The Bandrils. Now, it turns out that the Bandrils ("our former allies" remember?) are having a little disagreement with the Karfelians. Apparently Karfel has been supplying food to the Bandril's homeworld. But wait a minute... in earlier shots, Karfel was shown to be a desolate, cratered wasteland... and all the plants were imported from Bandril. Of course, you don't expect the Bandrils to be sharp - they're freaking socks!
Well, Tekker can't take being threatened by a load of socks seriously, so he laughs them off and confidently announces to his aide that the Borad can easily wipe the Bandrils out. In fact, he says that they will "rule this portion of the universe with the power of a giant ocean."

A giant ocean, folks.

3 - The Morlox. Upon escaping from the plot, Peri is confronted in the caves by what can only be described as a giant penis. It lies on the floor, and then raises itself... no legs or anything. This happens a lot, Peri being threatened by giant penises. Get used to it.
Anyway, the Doctor is convinced to recover the amulet by following Vena through the Timelash. We then realise why it is so feared. This terrifying time vortex, the TimeLASH (lash = terrifying, pain) sends its victims to...

Scotland.

Mmmm

Nasty.

Just as you think this couldn't get any more stupid, the best character of all is introduced - Herbert!
Herbert is a fey English fop holidaying in nineteenth-century Scotland. He's the kind of chap who thinks that staying in a cottage on his own is great fun. You know the type. Vena enters from the time vortex, and the Doctor is not far behind. Confronted with this multi-coloured maniac, Herbert does the only thing he can - he holds up a cross! Strangely, Colin Baker neither screams in pain nor melts. Herbert should ask for his money back.

All three go back to Karfel, and with a quick "bwa ha ha ha" Tekker orders them all thrown in the Timelash. The horror of this causes the end of the episode - a suitably dramatic cliffhanger in which the Doctor is pushed in, heading once again to Scotland!

Re-editing however, shows that the good Doc was nowhere near the Timelash entrance, and so he survives, destroying an android with a mirror. Yes, he waves a mirror in its general direction, and the android has a fit... ah, those shoddy mechanics.

I think the audience is meant to be happy at this...

To cut a long, long story short, the Doctor and the rebels (remember them? No, Timelash has melted your brain, you say?) take over the room. The Doctor, for no apparent reason, decides he needs to climb inside the Timelash. Hmmm

Given that people actually disappear when flung into the Timelash, this may seem a little bit impossible, but the Doc manages it with a rope.
If you ever wondered what was inside a time corridor, here's a peek:
Yes - polystyrene and more tinsel.

The Doctor's sheer weight is too much for the four rebels (and Herbert) who are holding the rope upon which he dangles. In a startling leap of logic, Herbert and a rebel who was holding the rope also climb into the Timelash and help pull the Doc out. So obviously five people can't hold the Doctor, but three of them can easily pull up the Doc and two others.

Great!
 
What was the point of that madness, you may ask. Well, it seems that the Doctor's plan was to nick some crystals from the Timelash. These are MAGIC crystals, and so the Doctor uses them to turn himself invisible. In order to show off his new power, the bastard jabs everyone in the stomach.

See this fat rebel here? He's my favourite, he is. A gruff northerner who seems pissed off at having to act in this, he mumbles his lines and stares at the ceiling. Of course, he's the first to get shot when the Borad's men decide to actually do something and retake the room. For some reason, the Doctor fiddled with another crystal so that it would absorb energy and fire it back with a 10-second delay.

The battle's over in 9 seconds - well done Doc!

The fight won, a painting of the Doctor's third incarnation is uncovered behind a wall. What's weird is that fact that it's at floor-level. Perhaps it's the custom on Karfel to view paintings whilst lying on your belly?

With this important crap sorted out... the Doctor goes off to battle the BORAD!

Herbert tags along of course, but only to do... nothing.

The Borad's true face is revealed...
Yes - half man, half-penis. Obviously he's rather bitter about this, and tells the Doctor that he will kill all on Karfel and repopulate it with his own kind. Tekker does the old "bad guy turns good" routine and dies for his trouble. Which goes to show - if you're a bad guy, keep on being bad!

The Borad whizzes about his chamber like a man who's just discovered that his office chair has wheels, but when the Doctor absorbs the rays the Borad shoots out with his 10-second crystal thingy, the Borad just stays in one place and goes "no...no...no!" for 10 seconds before getting fried. For heavens sake - he had 10 seconds to get out of the way and shoot the Doctor! Cool bad guys always slip up somewhere...
So the Doctor has brutally murdered the villain, but there's still 20 minutes to go before the end of the episode! Thankfully, there are many lame devices to keep it moving.

1 - Peri's in danger!
COME ON - we've all forgotten about Peri by now! Apparently the Borad tied her up with a canister of mutating gas in the hope that she too will become half a penis. Luckily Herbert is able to rescue her in about five seconds. Which leaves time for...

2 - Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah - missile!
It turns out that the sock puppets have decided to blow up Karfel with a giant missile, and only the Doctor can stop them by putting the TARDIS in the way to intercept the missile (luckily, the ship is indestructible). However, this whole thing is padded out to five minutes by first the Doctor beating up Peri in the console room (true!) and then Herbert trying to unconvincingly hide under the console. Of course, the Doctor wins. Which leaves room for the unconvincing, tacked on ending...

3 - Ha ha ha you fools - I was alive all along!
It is revealed that the Borad didn't die (after blatantly being fried and turned into a skeleton) but instead takes Peri hostage. (He mumbles something about the Borad that does die being a clone. That in itself is more scary than anything. I kept having nightmares about numerous Borads all popping up one after the other and waiting their turn to die before the episode ends) Fortunately we are spared from that horror after the Doctor, for no reason at all, smashes the portrait of himself. A mirror is revealed to be underneath, which defeats the Borad, who falls into the Timelash.

Right.

First of all, why the hell is there a mirror under the painting? Secondly, why doesn't the Doctor seem concerned that an evil alien warlord is currently wandering about Scotland?

Ah, its only Scotland.

Since Herbert was the only good character in this whole mess, he isn't kept on as a companion. Instead, the Doctor reveals Herbert's card - he is H G Wells!!!

Genius!

Herbert is a right plonker. You know the way that most people's cards have both their names and their job written on them? Well, the only thing written on Herbert's card is his name. That's all. What possible use is that?

HERBERT: Hey, my name's H G Wells. Here's my name (gives card)

Of course, this is also a good excuse for the writer ripping off ideas from all H G Wells' stories - homage, do you see?

No?

Someone must have liked this, since the writer, Glen McCoy now works on the BBC's other weird and wacky science-fiction drama - Eastenders.

2 comments:

  1. I read somewhere that they meant the Borad to end up being the Loch Ness Monster. I don't really get this, since Nessie's supposed to be long and serpentine, and the Borad (I nearly wrote Borat there) isn't.

    Also, they already established that Nessie was a cyborg space dinosaur thing which looked awesome. I hereby declare that the Borad was eaten by the already established monster.

    ReplyDelete
  2. If you firstly watch Eurovision while also imbibing large amounts of booze before putting on Timelash circa 1am it is transformed into THE MOST PROFOUND EPISODE OF TELEVISION EVER MADE. EVER.

    ReplyDelete