Doctor Who #707: Dimensions in Time

"Feeding time at the zoo?" "And the companions went in two by two."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired as 2 short episodes (13 minutes total) in 3D Nov.26-27 1993 as part of the Children in Need telethon. Cast and crew deferred their salaries to make this, and part of the agreement was that it would not later be retransmitted or commercialized, so it's not on any DVD. It IS on You-Tube, however.

IN THIS ONE... In a charity crossover with the EastEnders, the Rani screws with time so as many Doctors, companions and monsters can show up on set.

REVIEW: A naff bit of fluff, to be sure, and the EastEnders stuff goes right over this Canadian head. The return of Doctor Who, in any form, even as a comedy romp, should have been enough to get viewers interested during Children in Need. All the living Doctors and a dozen companions and JNT (here co-writer) still thought he needed the cast of the popular soap opera. Couldn't have just used the set if that's all he needed? And he had to make it 3D, so the camera's constantly swirling around the characters, which either looks very modern, or is completely nauseating. So... worst Doctor Who ever, right? Well, not exactly. It's not to be taken seriously, clearly, but it can still be a fun curiosity. You can play spot the monster with it at the very least, and not knowing the soap stars might actually help, removing the irritating notion that one show might be in the other's continuity.

Not that it's a good story, you understand. The Rani, while the perfect choice for a soap opera crossover, is basically written as the Master, motivated only by revenge, screaming at her boytoy companion and enacting an incomprehensible plot. The effects are just awful, with Hartnell and Troughton's posthumous participation relegated to wax heads floating around the time vortex. Hardly the tribute that was required. Unlike The Five Doctors, Tom Baker does participate, but he's not interacting with anyone, trapped inside bad effects and calling all Doctors on a microphone. This strangeness just makes the story even less coherent. And while I can just about take the time slips in Albert Square switching Doctors and companions around, and connecting the latter off in the same stream of consciousness - we've seen weirder things in Doctor Who, after all, and the time differential making people older than they ought to be is an old trick too - there's no real consistency. Usually, the companion switch is one for one, but then Peri and Nyssa are seen together, Romana appears without benefit of any Doctor, and K9 just pops out of nowhere. Some are wearing costumes reminiscent of what they wore on the show, but Nyssa's in Earth attire. The monsters in the Rani's menagerie include odd choices like a Time Lord, a denizen of Terminus and Helen A's pet Fifi. It's anything goes, with no attention to the details.

And yet, I do appreciate parts of it. The seventh Doctor and Ace are the ones who show up in Albert Square first, and are the ones to finally defeat the Rani's scheme. That gives it a lot more credence than otherwise. Liz Shaw and Mike Yates getting in on the action quite literally, rushing the Rani and shooting guns at her. The sixth Doctor finally getting a scene with the Brigadier. An older, tamer Leela who seems to have learned a few things about science since she was dropped off on Gallifrey. The bizarre moment that takes place in 2013 (apparently, they shouldn't have tried to predict the soap's future, because one of those characters died earlier). Pertwee getting a good share of the spotlight; he may just be the only actor having fun on this. But what's with the brutally cut freeze-frame ending? Why in such a hurry to get out of the show, especially since Part 2 was so short? Every time Dimensions in Time builds a little good will, it immediately tries to destroy it with some miscalculation.

THEORIES: I won't try to explain what's going, especially where the fourth Doctor is concerned. The New Adventures novel First Contact refers to it as a recurring nightmare the Doctor is having. That's as sound an explanation as any.

VERSIONS: Deleted from the broadcast program, according to Doctor Who Magazine, were Daleks (the Terry Nation estate refused to let them use it), footage from the 60s, and a longer ending with a cute joke about the TARDIS' accuracy (sounds much better than the way they actually ended it). As part of the Children in Need fundraising, viewers were asked to call in after Part 1 to decide which EastEnder would help the Doctor, and while Mandy Salter won, they of course filmed a similar sequence with the other choice, Big Ron.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Look at it as a silly, non-canon celebration of Doctor Who, spot characters from across the program's history, etc. Just don't expect it to make sense or have any depth.


Madeley said...

This broke my heart when I was 13. I remember really looking forward to seeing Doctor Who again, and then getting this. It's a bloody miracle it didn't kill Who off once and for all.

Although, rewatching it recently, I was really taken with Pertwee's performance in the introductory "Noel's House Party" scene. You watch him, and he just IS the Doctor, in a way that some of the others (well, Tom Baker) couldn't manage. He hadn't been the principle Doctor in twenty-odd years, and it was like he'd never been away.

CiB said...

You should watch this with the DVD production notes, here:

It's much better with those.

Siskoid said...

Madeley: I can imagine the disappointment at first run, but it would probably not come even remotely close to the real thing. My first-run Wilderness Years disappointment would wait for the TV Movie.

But you're totally right, Pertwee appearing in character is the awesome, and why I didn't go looking for a You-Tube that didn't trimmed it out...

...though CiB's got a pretty good version there, with a parody of the Doctor Who production notes geared to EastEnders fans.

Bill D. said...

Ever since I saw this for the first time years ago, I've always had the same question: does Tom Baker have a giant bruise on the side of his face or is that just the badly chroma-keyed 3D effects reflecting off of him?

Siskoid said...

Dog keep attacking Tom Baker's face!


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