Kevin Lindsay, David Daker, Jeremy Bulloch, Nicholas Courtney
The Time Warrior
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Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
n a recent review of “Robin of Sherwood,” I wrote that it was “like attending the greatest renaissance festival of your life.” If so, then watching “The Time Warrior” is akin to experiencing the cheesiest ren-fest of your life – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for those who don’t care how such material is presented, as long as it’s with conviction. “The Time Warrior” overflows with conviction, and the cheese has aged quite nicely over the past 35 years. If you’re mostly familiar with the new series, this classic entry is worth checking out for two reasons.
First, it features the debut of the Sontarans, who played a big role in a two-part story in Season Four of the new series. The Sontarans figured into four classic “Who” stories, but this first outing was their strongest, despite the presence of only a single Sontaran. Linx (Kevin Lindsay), a Sontaran warrior with limited resources, is stranded in the Middle Ages on Earth. He enlists the help of Irongron (David Daker), a thuggish pillager who’s claimed a castle that doesn’t belong to him. The relationship is forged on muscle, and little more. Irongron gives Linx shelter and space to conduct his dirty deeds, which amount to kidnapping scientists from present-day Earth to fix his ship and get him back to his warlike brethren. In return, Linx promises Irongron sophisticated weaponry. It’s a simple “What can you do for me?” exchange. There are loads of priceless dialogue exchanges between the brute from the past and the alien from the future, and the dynamic is the perfect example of writer Robert Holmes’ oft-praised character double acts. Linx in particular was a genius invention, and probably holds the distinction of being the first character-driven alien villain on “Doctor Who” (aside from the Master). Linx’ machinations aren’t really malicious - they just don’t bother to take mankind’s fate into consideration.
But even more important than the Sontaran, it marks the introduction of Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), who has not only featured prominently in the new series, but also has her own spin-off, “The Sarah Jane Adventures.” When she first meets the Doctor (Jon Pertwee), the journalist is impersonating her Aunt Lavinia in order to investigate the missing scientists. He promptly busts her, as he’s familiar with the aunt’s work, and knows Sarah Jane is too young to have written such books and papers. Later on, she stows away in the TARDIS and ends up in the past (amusingly, she at first thinks it’s some kind of renaissance festival), and attempts to enforce her feminist agenda on various serving wenches, all while believing the Doctor is behind the kidnappings. Due to the somewhat dated drawing of Sarah Jane, it’s probable that in the hands of another actress, she would not have become the iconic character she is today. It’s a fascinating look back at the origins of Sarah Jane, contrasted with where she is now, which is not nearly as heavy-handed. Regardless, she’s a solid presence coming out of the gate.
It’s up to the Time Lord to foil Linx’ time mucking, stop Irongron’s reign of terror, and prove to Sarah Jane that he’s a pretty stand-up gent. Guess how many missions he completes? Add into the mix Jeremy Bulloch (who played Boba Fett, and also happens to be a big player in “Robin of Sherwood”) as Hal the Archer, and you’ve got all the makings for some effortlessly enjoyable “Doctor Who.” Be sure to make use of the optional CGI effects feature – even though there are only a handful in this story, the one’s that are replaced make for fine additions, including Linx’ ship plummeting toward Earth at the beginning of episode one. Useless trivia: “The Time Warrior” marks the first time the Doctor’s home planet, Gallifrey, was given an actual name.
Special Features: There’s a brisk, informative commentary track with Sladen, producer Barry Letts, and script editor Terrance Dicks that amounts to good, clean fun. “Beginning the End” is a nice 30-minute doc about the story, which opened Pertwee’s last season as the Doctor; it discusses the winding down of that era of the series in addition to the story itself (for you Fett enthusiasts, Bulloch is present here, too). There are also the usual continuity announcements, Radio Times billings, photo gallery and production subtitles to round out the disc.