Doctor Who - The Invasion of Time (open spoilers)

I bought this DVD a couple of weeks ago as part of the “Bred for War” Box set and have only just got around to watching it.

Plot synopsis for those that haven’t seen it.

The 4th Doctor appears on Gallifrey acting strangely and claims the Presidency.

He appears to be acting on behalf of the Vardans who want to conquer Gallifrey.

It is of course a massive deception to find the location of the Vardan’s home planet so that he can “time loop” them.

The Vardans are dupes of the Sontarans, who invade Gallifrey after the Vardans are defeated (in Ep. 4).

Cutting a long story (6 episodes) short, the Sontarans are defeated and many Gallifreyans appear to have died.

Not a bad story overall, although the special effects and sets leave a bit to be desired, especially the tin foil Vardans and the brick corridors of the TARDIS.

A number of things don’t seem to add up regarding the body count.

  1. Why is it that only certain Time Lords seem to regenerate? Several are killed in this episode, not one regenerates on screen. Do all Gallifreyans regenerate or only Time Lords or certain Time Lords?

  2. Is the type of weapon that kills them a factor? As at least one was killed by Time Lord Staser, many more are shot by Sontarans. The former President (killed by the Master in the Deadly Assassin) also did not regenerate and he was shot by a Staser. Even those killed by arrows did not regenerate.

If anyone else has seen it I look forward to your comments and thoughts on this and any other parts of the story.

This contains one of my favorite Doctor Who scenes - a cheesily-costumed Sontaran and the treacherous Castellan are in a corridor of the TARDIS. There are some pictures on the walls. The Castellan replies to “What is this place?” with a crushingly superior “Obviously it’s an auxiliary power station”.

It’s just perfect. They are saying “we know that you know it’s just a corridor, probably in the BBC offices after everybody’s gone home, and that the alien is in a bad rubber suit. But we’re British and we know you understand.”

Got to admit that bit surprised me. I was expecting the “it’s an art gallery” or similar reply.

I also loved the bit with the giant carnivorous plant (being a collector of such myself).

  1. While all Time-Lords are Gallifreyan, not all Gallifreyans are Time-Lords. Being a Time-Lord is a special distinction, and becoming a Time-Lord comes with being granted special powers & abilities, such as regeneration.

  2. It’s been a long, long while since I’ve seen “the Deadly Assassin” (or “Invasion of Time” FTM), but IIRC, the slain President of the Time-Lords was stepping down as he had reached his 12th incarnation - the limit to the amount of times a Time Lord could regenerate. He was therefore vulnerable to folks with murderous intentions.

My personal fav memory of this story:

  1. One of the episode-ending cliffhangers has a security guard entering the TARDIS, whipping out a pistol at point-blank range, and exclaiming “You, Doctor, are a traitor! You must die!” The cliffhanger is resolved by the Doctor sneering “Pshaw! That pistol is useless. No energy weapons can work in the TARDIS! Stun him K-9!” And the robot dog knocks the security guard out with…an energy weapon.

  2. The Doctor takes the female technician (Leela’s friend) aside, glances in her eyes for less than two seconds and states “You are now in a state of deep hypnotic enthrallment! You are now impelled to assist my robot dog K-9 in the construction of a weapon to fight the Sontarans!” The Tech, looking very UN-hypnotized and giving the Doctor a look that says “Um, yeah, whatever”, shrugs and goes about helping K-9 build the weapon. Some time later, the Doctor returns to the lab, snaps his fingers (or something like that) and the technician…comes out of the deep hypnotic trance she was in.

Oh my god that story was so completely full of holes - I remember watching it years ago as a teenager and thinking to myself “Hang on, did they change their mind about what story they were trying to give us half way through the arc or something?”. A few years later I became friends with a die hard Whoie who informed me that, actually yes that is kind of what happened. They had originally planned lots more to happen in that story but ran out of money so were stuck walking around brick-lined parts of the TARDIS.

Yes I noticed that too. I thought the Master was the hypnotist, not the Doctor.

Thanks for your comments on Timelords, I suspect that it was budgetary costs that prevented Timelord regenerations, i.e. they would have to pay two actors.

I know the novels probably aren’t considered canon, but the early Virgin novelisations implied that regeneration was a Gallifreyan trait that Rassilon engineered after the first time war against the Yssgaroth. It also implied that pre-war Gallifreyans were virtually immortal and bred via looms, but this is never confirmed or denied on screen.

All in all though I enjoyed this story. True there are a number of gaping plot holes and the ending is never properly explained; Sontarans are defeated and the Demat gun vanishes off somewhere and the Doctor has no memory (allegedly) of any of the events.