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13 May 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 498: The Invasion of Time, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I’ve been so looking forward to this one. Oh, I can’t begin to tell you. I’ve been excited - partly - for Emma’s reaction to the Sontarans turning up in the closing moments, and also for The Doctor’s reaction to their arrival. Heck, if I’m honest, I’ve just been excited by the prospect of them arriving on the scene. If there’s one thing that people know about The Invasion of Time, it’s that the story takes a sudden twist in the closing moments of Episode Four, as Sontarans invade Gallifrey! Now, I knew the shot of them on the stairs, overlooking the great hall, I knew there was the moment of the leader raising his… stick, I guess? I knew that it was the first time you see more than one solitary potato making up the invasion force…

But I didn’t know they were revealed in a shot of the Doctor… looking to his left. How rubbish is that? In my head, there was much frivolity over the defeat of the Vardans, the Doctor and Leela ready to depart in the TARDIS as is usual for the end of a story, before BANG! An entire wall is blown apart and four Sontaran troopers come marching out of the smoke, standing proud atop the steps, as they declare Gallifrey to be under their control. In fact, in my head, that’s still how they invade. So there.

When the moment came, I turned to Emma’s reaction. ‘Where did they come from?’ she mused, but there wasn’t a huge glimmer of interest in there. I think she’d been somewhat let down by the story when the shimmering Vardans suddenly reveal themselves to be… some rather bland humanoids in dull uniforms. After that, her attention had certainly started to wane. I think when our favourite potato heads turned up, it simply felt like the reveal we should have had fifteen minutes earlier. Here’s hoping that the warrior race are used well in the next couple of episodes to make up for it.

One of the nice things about being back at ‘home’ while watching this story is that my **Doctor Who Magazine* collection is all to hand. Issue 290 is a ‘Fourth Doctor Special’, in which a number of key Doctor Who writers (including Lance Parkin, Alan Barnes, and Steven Moffat) give their own analysis of various Tom Baker seasons. Reading through them in the last few days has been really interesting (though I’m saving the entries on Seasons Sixteen, Seventeen, and Eighteen until I reach them myself), and I’m especially struck by the article on Season Fifteen, written by Gareth Roberts.

He describes The Invasion of Time as “probably the best story of the season”, and goes on to make some rather nice points about the story, which I hadn’t really considered before:

” [*The Invasion of Time *is] the only story I can think of where the Doctor is motivated, alongside his altruism, by a deep-seated personal desire - not to take a holiday on the peaceful planet Whatnot, but to get revenge. To engineer the biggest schadenfreude he ever could get. To go back to school more or less, pretend to sell out to the Vardans, and then save all his peers and his elders and say; “clever old me planned it all along…” The appearance of the Sontarans at the end of Part Four is not only shocking and thrilling, it’s also a restatement of the series’ most basic theme - people who plan ahead (your Daleks, your Master) always come unstuck.”

It’s in reading this description that I realised - this would be a really nice regeneration story. I’ve always been a fan of the idea that when the Doctor goes too far, that’s when the time is right for him to be reborn as a new man. It’s a theme played with during the Tenth Doctor’s demise, and would work rather well here, too. The Doctor has been very clever in this story. He’s stage-managed the whole thing up to this point, and then, suddenly, he’s taken by surprise. He’s not got every last detail planned out to a tee. He’s not considered that opening a hole in Gallifrey’s defences would allow someone to come through and invade. It’s that kind of instance which then marks the right time for him to go.

Here, at the end of Baker’s fourth season, I’m still really enjoying him in the role. Right now, it still feels like a reasonable amount of time for him to stay in the role. I don’t know how I’m going to be feeling in another three seasons time, but it has to be said - this could have been a great way for him to go.

Roberts also goes on to discuss the idea that this story serves to examine the Doctor’s relationships with his current companions, especially highlighting the idea that Leela is the only one who believes in the Doctor’s ‘essential goodness’, even after the Doctor has been so brutal to her, cast her into the wilds outside the Citadel, and apparently gone over to the wrong side. It’s this which succeeds more than anything else in the story for me - I love the way that Leela refuses to give up on her friend, and it makes for some of the most powerful drama on display. Once again, and fittingly for her last story, it’s Louise Jameson who really sells this to me, and it’s another one of those instances where I tell you just how good her performances in this programme have been. The closer we get to the end of her time, the more saddened I am to be losing such a true talent from the series. 

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