Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Serial 70: The Time Warrior

Doctor: Jon Pertwee (3rd Doctor)
Companion: Sarah Jane Smith

Written by: Robert Holmes
Directed by: Alan Bromly

Background & Significance: Again, we come back to Robert Holmes for his last Pertwee story.

I know, I know. I mention him a lot. But Doctor Who, as television is, is very writer-centric. Different writers sculpt different types of stories and have different visions of what the show could be. They write slightly tweaked and different variations on particular Doctors and use unique conventions and world views to sculpt their stories.

"The Time Warrior" is a bit of a departure from the typical Pertwee story. Rather than getting some future far-off alien planet or modern-day UNIT story, we see The Doctor go into the past on Earth and solve a big giant story.

What makes this story most interesting, I think, is the insertion of Robert "The God Damn" Holmes. It's not necessarily particularly Holmesian, but his behind-the-scenes input made this story all the more important. Holmes apparently refused to do a straight historical story because he saw that as too much of the "educational" show mission statement of the Hartnell. He would only agree to it if it was the story was rooted in the deep science fiction vision he had for the show.

Luckily, the production team of Letts/Dicks agreed, and Holmes turned around a story that introduced not just fan favourite and long-time companion Sarah Jane Smith but also the occasionally recurring, B-list Doctor Who alien-villains The Sontarans.

Which is awesome. And besides being another very good and compelling story, it's another notch on the belt of contributions by the wonderful Robert Holmes. And what a hell of a delightful contribution it is.

So let's get to it!


Part 1:

We open in Medieval England, in a castle where a powerful Knight named Irongron (more on him in just a moment) is bitching and moaning about how he doesn’t have good enough wine and he’s jealous of his neighbors.

And that’s when his broski, Bloodaxe, notices a star falling from the sky. Irongron gets all excited and picks up his axe and plans to ride out to claim “Irongron’s Star” as his own. But Bloodaxe manages to talk him down (for no real reason), saying they can wait until dawn.

In the morning, Irongron, Bloodaxe, and Irongron’s men ride out to the star and the creature inside emerges. Irongron draws his sword but the alien (of course it’s an alien) shoots the sword out of Irongron’s hand with his laser gun thingy.

Bloodaxe (THE COWARD!) says it’s the devil and urges them run, but the alien proclaims he means them no harm. His name is Linx and he is here to help. Sorta. He claims the planet in the name of the Sontaran Empire.

So…he’s a Sontaran. Badass.

Irongron brings him back to the castle and listens to Linx’s offer. Turns out Irongron pretty much owns this area and everyone pays him tribute, including the king. Not only that, but he totally took over this castle and killed its lord and stuff. All that he’s waiting for is the troops to come back from wars abroad, and then he will go to war against them and see who is the strongest.

He wants to kill Linx (a threat to his power) but Linx offers him weapons and victory over his enemies. All Linx wants in return ends up being a place to repair his ship and materials (metals etc.) and man power to help him.

Irongron says he doesn’t have the metals Linx requires, but that doesn’t bother Linx so much. He should be able to grab these things using his own means.

We cut to the present day where The Brigadier is showing The Doctor “one of the most secure places in the country.” He’s bringing in tons of scientists (head big guy smart people scientists) and keeping them here so they don’t get captured or stolen away or whatever.

Turns out, a bunch of scientists have gone missing/vanished in recent days and this is The Brigadier’s attempt to consolidate them and keep them here. He’s had these living cubicle things made up, with one scientist per cubicle so they can keep track of them.

Back in the Middle Ages, Linx is hard at work with some scientists in the background. One of Irongron’s knights knocks fiercely at the door, but Linx yells at him not to disturb him as the under dweller place is his sanctuary and that was his deal with Irongron.

Also, Linx gave Irongron a gun. “First of the new weapons.”

In the present, The Doctor meets with a Professor Rubeish, who’s put out at the having-to-stay-cooped-up-here-for-days-on-end thing (understandable). He introduces The Doctor (who introduces himself as “Dr. John Smith”) to another Smith, one who goes by Levinia.

But we all recognize her as Sarah Jane.

Sarah Jane is a journalist masquerading as her aunt because she thinks this’ll be a good story. But they get distracted by Rubeish writing on the TARDIS (which is in the room) and The Doctor yells at him to stop and then locks himself inside.

What I wanna know is how they got The TARDIS in this room.

Back in the Middle Ages, we meet the Lord Edward, who is scared of Irongron’s power. He sends an envoy (named Earl) to send a message Irongron, but that dude gets caught and Irongron laughs at him.

Earl refuses to speak to Irongron and Irongron turns to Linx to see if he can get the guy to talk. Irongron also mentions that the boy’s master, Edward, wants to go to war with him, leading Linx to some classic “War is awesome. I am a Sontaran” stuff. So yay that.

Professor Rubeish (who can see nothing without his glasses) tells The Doctor that he knows Sarah Jane is not Levinia Smith, but The Doctor doesn’t seem too concerned.

Rubeish leaves as Sarah Jane enters and she asks The Doctor about the device he’s creating, which is basically an alarm clock that detects Delta Particles.

And this is what I love about Robert Holmes writing for Pertwee. His Pertwee is so much more in the vein of what Holmes is interested in rather than the typical writing of Pertwee. Pertwee is mostly written very stoic, very serious, very centered, but we know from Holmes’s later handling of the character that he likes The Doctor as more Tom Bakery, and when you watch this you can really see the fun and the zaniness and the quirkiness of The Doctor come out. Under Holmes, Pertwee’s Doctor reflects the evolution of the character Troughton created, an older and more mature version, I’d say, rather than the actual Doctor as Pertwee portrays him.

So yeah. The Doctor goes to sleep in that feet-up position, telling Professor Rubeish that it can wait till the morning so long as they’re all still here.

Linx manages to unlock the mind of Earl the Envoy and Earl starts spilling all of Edward’s secrets. Satisfied, Linx makes to leave, but Irongron tries to stop him. And then Linx zaps Irongron’s axe and walks out anyways.

Back in the present, The Delta Particle alarm clock goes off and The Doctor goes in to check on Rubeish. He’s there one minute, but then Sarah Jane comes out (this is unrelated, it’s just a timing thing) and then there’s a clatter and then Rubeish vanishes from his cubicle.

The Doctor grabs a flashlight thing and runs outside to check to see if he sees anyone, but shining his light on a staircase landing, he sees the image of Linx.

He races back into the room and The Brigadier comes in to ask what’s wrong and where Rubeish went. The Doctor tells The Brigadier it’s a bit of a temporal transmit that’s happening and Rubeish got snatched through that. He’s got to leave in The TARDIS and hope that he can track this thing back to its source.

While this is going on, Sarah Jane wanders into the TARDIS and no one notices.

The Doctor heads in and he’s off, landing back in the middle ages, the time of Linx and Irongron. He disembarks from the TARDIS and heads off in search of the temporal transmit.

Sarah Jane, too, disembarks, amazed, and comes across an archer named Hal. He’s about to fire an arrow at someone, but she startles him so much it fires accidentally and he runs off without a word to her. It’s actually quite amusing.

The arrow just misses Irongron and his whole knight brigade races off into the forest after Hal. One of the brigade grabs Sarah Jane and hauls her into the castle. The Doctor notices and follows her in, making it into the courtyard area.

He ducks behind some barrels and watches as Linx emerges and, seeing as no one is around, removes his helmet. And you can just hear all of England go “Ew” as he does.

Part 2:

Linx hears Irongron’s brigade and hastily puts his helmet back on (so he took it off for no reason?). The Doctor also manages to get himself away before he’s noticed.

Bloodaxe brings Sarah Jane before Irongron, but she’s convinced this is all a charade and not real life (can’t say I blame her). And then the brigade, who managed to catch up with Hal, brings him before Irongron.

Hal tells him that Edward didn’t order the assassination. It was his wife, Lady Eleanor. Irongron takes this as an invitation to attempt his takeover of Edward’s castle.

Sarah Jane attempts to convince herself of where she is (which is quite amusing), but Irongron and Bloodaxe don’t get what’s she’s talking about. Linx enters and realizes that (because of her clothing) Sarah Jane is an anachronism.

He unlocks her mind and she starts spilling her guts about the time machine and The Doctor. Linx is most intrigued at the prospect of a scientist and vows to find him. But Irongron doesn’t care about this! MEAT! MEAD! FLAGON! SWORD! (all that). He demands to know about Linx’s new weapon.

Linx brings it in: A steel robot. The ultimate nonverbal killing machine.

The Doctor runs into Sarah Jane, who’s on her way to the dungeon, but she runs off frightened and he’s forced to hide as Hal is brought up to the courtyard to be executed by Bloodaxe.

But Irongron stops him. Hal will instead face the new Robot. If he can shoot down the robot, he is free to go.

Unfortunately, the robot is invulnerable to arrows. They go in and just stay with no effect. And, just as the robot is about to kill him, The Doctor, who is watching on the ramparts, picks up a crossbow and shoots the remote control out of Irongron’s hand.

The robot goes haywire and heads after Irongron who lops off its head. In the resulting confusion, Hal manages to escape with Sarah Jane and the robot collapses, disabled but still functional. Irongron gets PISSED and bursts in to Linx’s basement in a fit of rage, bringing him face to face with the gross lookin Sontaran.

Linx and Irongron head out to disable the robot and The Doctor sneaks into Linx’s workshop to investigate. He finds the guns and Linx’s spaceship and runs into Professor Rubeish, who cannot see a g.d. thing because he’s without glasses.

The Doctor attempts to convince Rubeish to make a run for it with him but he runs into Linx, who disables him with his little magic laser wand thing.

At Sir Edward’s castle, Hal tells Sir Edward about Irongron and the magicks that Hal now knows to be real. Sarah Jane theorizes that the much-rumoured Man From the Stars who is helping Irongron is The Doctor. She tells them they need to get The Doctor away from Irongron and coerce him into working for them. A raid should suffice.

The Doctor wakes up and comes face to face with Linx. There’s some really elegant exposition about the Sontaran’s galactic conflict with the Rutans and how Linx made a crash landing on Earth, which has no significance or strategic value to the conflict, meaning all he wants to do is leave.

Linx asks The Doctor where he’s from and The Doctor proclaims that he’s from Gallifrey and he’s a Time Lord. (Fun fact, this is the first mention of “Gallifrey” in the history of the series).

The Doctor offers to help Linx so long as he lets everyone go and does no tinkering with history, but Linx will have none of it. He places The Doctor under hypnosis and leaves with the rifles he has constructed.

He brings the weapons to Irongron and Bloodaxe, who are most pleased. Sarah Jane and Hal (who are conducting their raid) stand outside the window and watch and hear as Irongron proudly proclaims that he will attack and capture Sir Edward’s castle tomorrow.

The Doctor is left behind to solve some math problems (or something) but he manages to bring over Professor Rubeish (who has not been hypnotized because he’s blindish) to shut off the machine and free him.

And this brings us to the end of the episode, which I find amazing. I love Pertwee’s obsession with The Doctor as a man of action and this is one of those greatness things. Also, I’m pretty sure that for the bit where he’s running around the director told him “I’m gonna do a wide shot and we’re going to do this is one shot and one take, so just run around for a little bit and then land on the hay at the end and it should be awesome.”

And that’s pretty much what happened.

Part 3:

So anyways, just as Irongron raises his axe, Hal the archer fires an arrow at it and knocks it out of Irongron’s hand.

For those keeping score at home, this is the third time in as many episodes that someone has used a projectile weapon to knock something out of Irongron’s hand.

So The Doctor manages to make a run for it and escapes to Sarah Jane and Hal, only to be informed that this isn’t a rescue. It’s a capture!

Irongron retires to his castle where he discusses his anger at The Doctor’s escape. Linx enters and inquires about The Doctor whom he finds has gone missing. Irongron responds by asking who The Doctor is (he knows of the fellow but not his name), citing him as “A long-shanked rascal with a mighty nose”.

And really, this is as good a time to talk about this as any.

I love Irongron. A LOT. No really. You can’t really give him justice by me telling you about him. You just have to see him, cuz he is fantastic. Holmes writes Irongron as ridiculously over the top and gives him some amazing dialogue. Seriously, amazing.

The Doctor is brought back to Sir Edward’s castle and tells Sarah Jane that he’s not, in fact, helping Irongron, nor is he in the business of kidnapping scientists. All he wants is to stop Linx.

Sir Edward enters and The Doctor manages to convince him that he can stop Irongron etc. with his “magicks”. Sarah Jane is RIDICULOUSLY fast to believe that The Doctor is who he says he is. I blame his name dropping of UNIT and such.

Meanwhile, Irongron suits up and prepares to head off to wage war on Sir Edward’s castle. Linx asks to join in because he has a lust for blood (kinky), and Irongron laughs and lets him come with.

Sarah meets up with The Doctor, who’s hard at work attempting to prepare for Irongron’s forthcoming siege. She asks him a lot about where he comes from and what he does and he gives some really pleasant and delightful backstory into himself. None of it is exactly new, but it really is a wonderful scene that just highlights the relationship between the two of them.

But then, just as they’re wrapping up, the horns sound and it looks like Irongron is sieging already.

Irongron, Linx, and Bloodaxe stand outside at the walls of the castle and examine the place, seeing too many men on the walls for them to effectively siege. Irongron decides to retreat and regroup with more men, but Linx demands they continue anyways, recommending the use of rifles, which Irongron seemed to forget all about.

Linx fires at the soldiers on the ramparts and, because they don’t move, he realizes they are but dummies. Irongron doesn’t believe him at first, but then realizes this is a moment of The Doctor’s tricks or whatever and orders the men to bring their scaling ladders.

To stop this, The Doctor throws bags of smelly explosives and such over the wall and induces chemical warfare against Irongron and his men, which scares them enough that they retreat back to Irongron’s castle.

And Irongron gets PISSED. He starts drinking and beating up children and women, saying they’ll try again tomorrow and won’t stop until the castle is taken or all his men are dead.

Linx confronts Irongron and smacks him down for being a total pussy what with Irongron’s retreat and all (it’s badass). He relishes the fact that he won’t be around for much longer and then stalks off to continue his work.

The Doctor and Sarah Jane have a small feast in Sir Edward’s castle (and I’m reminded of all the times the 3rd Doctor has sat around eating. It just feels like a him thing to do). He tells Sir Edward that he plans to stop Irongron’s eventual return to seize Sir Edward’s castle by going out and stopping Irongron for good… and seizing his.

Then we get a delicious scene where Irongron tells Bloodaxe he wants to kill Linx once Linx has provided him with all the weapons he can.

The Doctor and Sarah Jane sneak into Irongron’s castle and enter Linx’s workshop while Linx is out. They meet Professor Rubeish, who has fashioned himself a monocle to help him see. He shows them the workers in the workshop, who are starting to collapse from starvation and exhaustion.

Linx delivers Irongron his weapons and Irongron threatens Linx to finish the robot next lest he have trouble leaving. Linx tells him he’ll have no trouble leaving because Irongron “doesn’t understand the mechanics of interstellar travel”.

Well no sh*t buddy. Haven’t you gotten that yet?

The Doctor attempts to revive some of the downed scientists but Linx returns before The Doctor can complete his work. Linx catches him and The Doctor offers to help Linx leave on the condition that Linx send all the scientists home and stop contaminating the timeline.

And then Linx points his laser wand at The Doctor and Pertwee puts on his cliffhanger face.

Part 4:

Sarah Jane leaps out and manages to push Linx off the laser wand. The Doctor collapses and Linx points the wand at Sarah, just in time to notice another one of his scientists drop from exhaustion.

The Doctor begs Linx to realize that his workers are exhausted and they need rest. Linx laughs at him, saying he only needs them to be around for a bit longer. Really, though, this is a ploy for The Doctor to mention The Sontaran’s greatest weakness: The probic vent on the nape of the neck. Hit that, and the Sontarans are disabled.

Linx then starts to explain how that is a Sontaran strength and then Professor Rubeish bonks Linx on the nape of the neck, rendering him incapacitated.

With Linx incapacitated, Sarah Jane infiltrates the kitchens with various herbs and spices and gets coerced by the head cooking wench into working in the kitchens. This leads Sarah Jane to ask questions about the role of women and gets on her feminist high horse to try and lead a revolution and break women out of their subservient slavery. But really, all that matters is her dumping of sleeping powders into the food and drink.

Meanwhile, The Doctor having sent Sarah Jane off to do that task, stays put in his attempt to free all the scientists. Just then, though, Bloodaxe appears to tell Linx to get his ass upstairs cuz Irongron wants him. The Doctor manages to stall him and then realizes how he plans to take matters into his own hands.

And this brings us to our second youtube. It’s awesome. Basically everything gets better with a swordfight. That’s all I think I’m gonna say about this one. But it’s awesome.

So with Sarah Jane’s mission accomplished and The Doctor freed by her hand, they randomly head back to Sir Edward’s castle for about ten minutes to regroup and then head back when the potion begins to work.

In Linx’s basement, Linx finishes the repairs on his spaceship and prepares to depart. All he needs is for the engines to charge and then he will be ready to leave. The scientists make to rest and wait for The Doctor to return so he can send them home.

Speaking of The Doctor, he pulls this cool gadget out of the TARDIS. I dunno. I just think it’s cool.

With all the soldiers in Irongron’s castle drugged and unconscious, The Doctor breaks back into the basement and attempts to shut down Linx’s spaceship but realizes Linx has locked it such that he cannot. He then sets out to send all the scientists back to the present, which he does using Linx’s remote control.

Linx visits Irongron and his men in the dining hall (who are apparently not asleep) and tells them that he’s pimping out of there. Irongron laughs at him and tells Linx that Linx will leave when Irongron says so. Linx, put out, leaves and then Irongron and his men start to pass out.

Linx returns to his basement to find The Doctor sending all the scientists home. Linx fires his laser wand at The Doctor, but The Doctor fan shield blocks Linx’s attack. Linx engages The Doctor in hand-to-hand combat (awesome) while Sarah Jane and Rubeish attempt to send all the scientists back.

Hal, the archer who was hanging with Sarah Jane, starts to disarm Irongron and his men, but the strong-minded Irongron awakens, incapacitates Hal, and proclaims Linx a treacherous evil sorcerer who should be killed. (Or whatever).

Linx manages to take out The Doctor just as Professor Rubeish is sent to the future. Sarah Jane rushes to The Doctor’s side just as Irongron bursts in to stop Linx.

But he’s killed.

Linx gets into his spaceship and prepares to take off. The door begins to close and Hal rushes in. He manages to see Linx, he pulls his arrow back and—

Takes out the Sontaran once and for all.

Unfortunately, with his last breath, Linx activates that big orange button on the right which starts the ship’s liftoff.

The Doctor awakens and he, Sarah Jane, and Hal all race for the outside world, barely making it out before Linx’s ship takes off into the sky with the huge explosion The Doctor promised, taking out Irongron’s castle (but sparing his men, whom Hal managed to awaken and allow escape before the destruction of the castle).

With the day saved, The Doctor and Sarah Jane return to the TARDIS and depart, leaving Hal marveling at their departure.

Final Thoughts?: This is going to end up as one of my favourite Doctor Who stories of all time. Certainly of the classic series.

In terms of why, I mean... the reasons are numerous. Much like "Androids of Tara" this one is fun fun fun from top to bottom, but even more so.

Specifically, this has more of what I'm looking for in Doctor Who than "Androids of Tara". It has a really, really well thought through, deeply-grounded-in-scifi story. I love Linx the Sontaran and all the extremely thorough mythology behind him and I love the setting of it as a period drama that gives it a big mythic feel.

It's a good introduction to Sarah Jane and you can already feel the really awesome that she's going to be as one of the most legendary companions in the series' run. Her willingness to step forward and be a go-getter as well as her rapport make this a good setup to her eventual years under Holmes himself.

And I know I've gushed over and over again about Irongron, but I can't get over how awesome he is. Or really all the characters. The Double-Act Holmes creates between Linx and Irongron just works for me. I love the Holmes dynamic of the trapped disfigured villain attempting to escape and the eyes-and-ears character helping to free him. We saw it in "The Deadly Assassin". We'll see it again in "Pyramids of Mars" and other stories in the eventual.

But not even Irongron and Linx. I love the silliness of Professor Rubeish and his perpetual blindness.

Finally, I'd be remiss to gush about this anymore without mentioning Pertwee, who is quite excellent as always, but even more so here. I love the Holmes spark that he adds to the already wonderful Pertwee. I love the charm and the wit that gives Pertwee more Doctory qualities (which I find sometimes lacking in Pertwee's portrayal). It just heightens and strengthens an already solid portrayal.

Really, The Time Warrior is another one of those great stories that's just wonderful to give to someone who wants to get into the classic series. It's fun and big and exciting but never sacrificing that for a really excellent and well thought-out story that crackles with life and energy that other stories just seem to lack.

And it makes me want more Robert Holmes. As always.

Next Time!: 1st Doctor! Historical! Crossing stories that never intersect! MILF-lookin Barbara! And some straight up Doctor Who silly silly comedy! Cassandra comes back for next week's talk about "The Romans"!

1 comment:

  1. That story has some of the best dialogue in Dr. Who. A really glorious script.