Doctor Doctor Who Guide

The Time Warrior' is one of my favourite Pertwee stories, succeeding as it does on many levels. It's funny and well scripted, well acted, and serves as a superb debut story both for one of Doctor Who's most popular monsters and also new companion Sarah-Jane Smith. 

First of all, the script is great. Faced (apparently reluctantly) with a story set in the middle ages, Robert Holmes adopts a cod-Shakespearean style for his characters' dialogue, but takes the opportunity to derive great humour from this. The best lines all go to Irongron, who gets to describe the Doctor as "a longshanked rascal with a mighty nose" and later shouts at his men, "With poltroons like this it would ill work to lay siege to a chicken coop!" Then there's "the wench is crazed", "He is a toad. Who knows what a toad thinks?", "that narrow-hipped vixen", and many, many more. Bloodaxe also gets to say to Irongron, "Yours is indeed a towering intelligence". Even the non-comedic dialogue works well, sounding convincingly suited to the period, even though it probably isn't. 

In addition to the excellent script, there is some fine characterisation. I'll discuss Linx and Sarah below, but Irongron and Bloodaxe almost steal the show. David Daker is outstanding as the former, a brash, almost piratical brigand, who took his castle by force and thinks of nothing but violence. And wine. The character is almost OTT, but remains just the right side to be believable, swinging unpredictably between vicious humour, anger and, on several occasions, complete bafflement. In addition to Daker's spot-on delivery of his lines, demonstrating perfect comic timing, his facial acting adds a great deal more to the role, especially when Linx confuses him with talk of primary and secondary reproductive cycles, and interstellar travel. Bloodaxe, his sidekick, gets less to do, but crucially provides a comic foil, since he's far more stupid than his would-be cunning Captain and John J. Carney's facial expressions find several different ways to express confusion. In addition to his double-act with Bloodaxe, Irongron also has an ongoing double-act with Linx. His relationship with Linx is a key factor in the success of 'The Time Warrior', as the pair of them constantly bicker, both having "much that the other wants", Irongron frequently attempting to bully his "star warrior", which on most occasions doesn't work and on one occasion earns him a humiliating trouncing. 

Linx is a superb villain, easily cementing the success of the Sontarans. He works well for several reasons, not least of which is Kevin Lindsay's great performance, complemented by one of the best monster costumes of the era, with a very convincing latex mask. Linx is not just a great villain, he's a great character; he isn't some stock megalomaniac who wants to rule or destroy the world, he's a stranded warrior whose sole motivation is to return to his war, which we quickly learn is what Sontarans live for. To achieve this end, he is ruthless, showing a callous disregard for the scientists who he has kidnapped, and refusing the Doctor's (genuine) offer of help if he'll just bugger off and leave human history alone, preferring instead to escape on his own terms rather than bargaining with the Time Lord. He's also sadistic at times, especially in Episode Four when he decides to let the Doctor witness Sarah's death before the Doctor is killed in turn. However, he's also a more complex character than that; although he considers humans to be primitive, he seems genuinely concerned with honouring his alliance with Irongron. The construction of the robot warrior is unnecessary given that Linx is also working on the rifles, but he builds it anyway. This is partly because of his fondness for weapons, but he also seems keen to impress his host. He also delivers a full consignment of rifles to Irongron after the abortive raid on Wessex castle, which utterly disgusts him, and at the end he makes several attempts to convince Irongron to leave the castle before it is destroyed, before giving up in disgust. This all suggests a certain warped nobility to Linx, which might boil down to honour between warriors, hence his complete lack of tolerance for the Doctor from the start, given that he considers the Time Lords to lack morale. It is also worth noting that we get a considerable amount of detail from the script about Sontarans in general, all of it fitting naturally into the dialogue without feeling like a forced infodump, another credit to Holmes' talents. 

The story also marks the debut of Sarah-Jane Smith, who makes an immediate impression. Liz Sladen takes to the role with ease, and helps make the character work. It is a good opening story for the character, as she gets to rescue the Doctor several times, leads a handful of Wessex's men into Irongron's castle on a raid, and plays a key role in defeating Irongron and his men by spiking their dinner. I especially like the fact that she initially distrusts the Doctor, which hasn't happened with a new companion since Ian and Barbara first got abducted way back in '100,000BC'. This works well because when she finally starts to trust him, it gives the Doctor an opportunity to explain that he is a Time Lord and generally point out what a splendid fellow he is without it feeling forced; it arises naturally out of the situation and also out of Sarah's inquisitive journalistic nature. The fact that she stows away in the TARDIS and thus becomes embroiled in events by accident also provides a useful mechanism for her becoming the new companion, which makes a refreshing change from Liz and Jo, who became companions as a result of working for UNIT at the same time as the Doctor. Her objection to the Doctor's occasional sexism (which he plays up here in order to wind Sarah up as soon as he notices her angry reaction to his make a "making coffee" joke) also makes her relationship with the Doctor different to Jo's, since she comes across as more independent. Whilst she grows to like the Doctor, she has a more adult relationship with him than Jo, who often seemed to idolize him. Oh, and the scene with Meg, where Sarah tells her she sounds like she's living in the middle ages and then quickly shuts up, is priceless. 

The other characters all work well, from the rough and ready Meg (Sheila Fay), to the dashingly heroic Hal (Jeremy Bulloch), the weary Edward (Alan Rowe), and his devoted wife Eleanor (June Brown), who strives to protect her ineffectual husband by sending Hal to slay Irongron. I also like Donald Pelmear's Professor Rubeish, a stereotypical eccentric scientist who proves of great help to the Doctor (he rescues him from Linx twice) and also provides further comedy (his response to the Doctor's line about going to find a young girl is "Young girl? I would have thought he's a bit old for that sort of thing"). Pertwee is also great here, as the Doctor gets to outfight Irongron and Bloodaxe at the same time, swing to safety on a chandelier, and generally swash his buckle. 'The Time Warrior' shows the Third Doctor at his best, courteously dealing with Edward and Eleanor and supping wine in their castle, cheerfully throwing smoke bombs at Irongron's men with great relish, making quips as they try to shoot him with rifles, and fighting Linx hand-to-hand (unsuccessfully, as it happens). 

Production wise the story is generally OK, although the corridors and "wooden" doors in Irongron's castle are obviously plastic. Fortunately, the location work compensates. In addition, mention must be made of Linx' spacecraft, which is one of the more memorable spaceship designs that the series came up with. 

In summary then, 'The Time Warrior' is a great debut for the Sonatarans, a great debut for the new companion, and generally a hugely entertaining story. And if even takes the time to name the Doctor's home planet.

Filters: Television Third Doctor Series 11