Doctor Who #480: The Invasion of Time Part 5

"Dereliction of duty's pretty rife around here, Chancellor. Hadn't you noticed?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.4 1978.

IN THIS ONE... The Sontarans invade Gallifrey seeking the Great Key. The Doctor and Borusa play keep-away with it.

REVIEW: Out with the lame Vardans, in with the cool Sontarans. Well, that's the idea anyway. In reality, Derek Deadman plays Stor as if he were an Ice Warrior, whispering every line in a halting manner. Villains who speak. Very. Very. Slowly. Annoy the heck out of me, and there's not reason for Deadman to do so after Kevin Lindsay's previous performances as various Sontarans. The Sontarans are more visually striking than the Vardans, to be sure, but they play exactly the same role. One might even wonder how these brutes can be the actual power behind telepathic energy beings when the latter seem the more powerful species. The switch is apparently only useful to the plot because it nerfs the enemy to something the Doctor and Leela can actually handle.

And handle violently. If the Doctor's implied endorsement of Leela's killing in Part 4 was ambiguous, here it is undeniable. He comments most sincerely on her amazing knife throw at a Sontaran probic vent (or is it okay to kill Sontarans because they're proper aliens and/or clones?). The Doctor himself is rather violent too. For example, he threatens to kill Borusa with a staser, rather than let the Great Key fall into enemy hands (and there's no immediate risk of that happening). That scene goes on a bit too long, with the Great Key not very well hidden after all, and looking like an old iron key from Earth (part of the "ordinarization" of Gallifrey authored by a mix of cheapness and laissez-faire comedy in this serial). Once Borusa and the Doctor trust each other, things get more lively and interesting, the two of them sharing some great chemistry and quick banter. Borusa as an aged action hero, wearing a personal forcefield, making arch quips, and running in "most undignified" fashion almost reminds me of his younger pupil, the first Doctor. I enjoy his interactions with the Doctor more than I do the Doctor's with K9 or Rodan, which seem obsessed with incomprehensible technobabble.

Leela has her own team too, continuing to command Gallifreyan outcasts (and now Andred) even after the Vardans have gone. Though I worry about the Doctor encouraging her violent streak, I do like the moment when he entrusts her with the Great Key. She makes a much better moving target than the Doctor or any of the Time Lords, but it also rewards her for her faith in him. It's nice to see, here at the end of her journey, that their trust is mutual.

VERSIONS: The CGI option on the DVD makes the corridor battles much more exciting and coherent. I didn't dislike the Sontaran weapon video effects at times, but they weren't always well done. I AM surprised, however, that the ghastly shot of the Sontaran battle fleet (as an arrowhead shape floating in space) wasn't redone. Seemed like a no-brainer. Ah well.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Concerns about the Doctor's violent streak and the lackluster Sontarans, but there's a lot to like as far as the Doctor-Borusa relationship goes.

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