Another trip down memory lane as I re-watch The Time Warrior after a mere forty-two years or so have passed! A Robert Holmes story for the Third Doctor, introducing Sarah Jane Smith, the Sontarans and more, what’s not to like? Add Terrance Dicks as script editor and Barry Letts as producer, and the scene is set…
Things start in the Middle Ages when a falling star is salvaged by local bandit chief Irongron (David Daker) and is found to be a metal ball in which is a warrior from the stars, Linx (Kevin Lindsay), a Sontaran. To repair his ship he needs access to technology and skills, so grabs some scientists from the twentieth century.
The Brigadier (in for only a scene or two) has asked the Doctor to investigate the mystery of some missing scientists. While there the Doctor meets an investigative journalist, Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen). The Doctor follows a lead through time in his battered looking TARDIS, not aware Sarah Jane has sneaked aboard. There follows a sequence of action based heroics as the Doctor and Sarah Jane are captured and rescued by Irongron’s men or by local lord Edward of Wessex (Alan Rowe). There is a sub-plot of exploring the role of women running through the story, and Edward’s wife Lady Eleanor is played as almost more effective than her placid husband. June Brown (aka Dot Cotton from Eastenders) takes on this role and is rather good.
Action comes to a climax as the Doctor masterminds a raid on Irongron’s castle just in time to rescue the scientists and local archer Hal (Jeremy Bulloch who would later play Bobba Fett in the first Star Wars films) kills Linx. Linx’s spaceship explodes, all evidence of time travel is destroyed leaving Sarah Jane to begin her travels in the TARDIS.
The story telling
The story starts from the Middle Ages, rather than with the Doctor; this means we know more than the Doctor from the start. This diminishes the mystery and gives the Doctor less to do. As a companion introduction it isn’t very full on as Sarah Jane sneaks aboard the TARDIS. This makes a change from ‘Doctor this is your assistant’ but I did miss Sarah Jane’s first moments on the TARDIS.
The Middle Ages plot was OK even if Irongron’s men were a bit undeveloped in places. The setting was filthy and the serfs very serf-like. I did like the contrast of women’s roles through history here and there.
Linx the Sontaran is full formed from the first moments and this is an object lesson in how to introduced a new alien to Doctor Who. If only I could bottle it!
Not only is this the first Sarah Jane Smith and first Sontaran episode, it also mentions Gallifrey for the first time. I liked the way Linx comments on the ease with which his people could conquer the Time Lords home world and a nod forward (by chance) to Invasion of Time.
Overall watchable even if some aspects were a little bit painting by numbers – eg the scientists were very one-dimensional apart from eccentric Professor Rubeish (Donald Pelmear).