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Thursday, 22 January 2004 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

It wouldn't be very original of me to point out that 'Timelash' is an anagram of "lame shit", but I'm going to do it anyway. 'Timelash' is not merely bad; it is so very, very bad that I can't help wondering if writer Glen McCoy was taking the piss. Certainly Eric Saward must have been when he commissioned it. 

So is there anything good at all about 'Timelash'? Erm… well Robert Ashby is admirably restrained as the Borad, and delivers a coldly malevolent performance, which is something of a minor miracle considering the dross that he has to work with. And Colin Baker is as entertaining as ever as the Doctor, especially when he's displaying his exasperation with Herbert. Oh, and the incidental score by Liz Parker is quite good. I also like the much-derided Karfelon androids, whose purple faces, jerky movements and high-pitched voices manage to be quite eerie. And that's about it. 

Anyway, lets be brutally honest; the plot of 'Timelash' stinks. I say plot, but the festering morass of tedious and unbelievable events on offer barely qualifies. The basics of the plot are that the Borad, a nutter, rules the planet Karfel with a grip of iron, randomly turning off the power to hospitals and such like when the fancy takes him. His androids allow him to enforce his will. His eventual aim is to wipe out everything on Karfel aside from himself and the Morloxes, large reptilian monsters one of which he became fused with whilst experimenting with technobabble. Sorry, Mustakozene 80. His intention is to provoke the neighbouring Sock-Puppets into launching a Bendalypse warhead at Karfel in order to achieve this genocidal aim, after which he will repopulate the planet by shagging Peri, whom he intends to similarly transform into a mutant such as himself. The first obvious flaw in this boring and flimsy plot is that two people cannot repopulate a planet, which raises the question of why he doesn't just transform other Karfelons into half-Morlox mutants. Furthermore, he shows no inclination to take a mate from the native population at any point, so it is rather fortunate that the Doctor unexpectedly arrives with Peri in tow at an opportune moment. He clearly hasn't thought this through, and obviously neither has Glen McCoy. He also doesn't seem to have any sort of plan for dealing with the Bandril invasion force that will presumably arrive after they deliver their rocket, in order to harvest the grain that they desperately need. 

In case it hasn't become clear already, the characterisation of the Borad is horrendously bad. He's simply "Mad" in a generic way that makes even the Master's most loony plans seem well-thought out and sensibly motivated. He sits in a chair in a dark room with one big hand (leave it…) and sort of gloats at how evil he is. Oh, and he also clones himself in case anyone actually makes it to his inner sanctum and happens to have a means of dealing with his time weapon, a reasonably convincing special effect that ages people to death. Where the real Borad actually lurks in case he needs to make an unexpected dramatic appearance to make up unused plot time is not disclosed. Indeed, the sudden "resurrection" of the Borad with the crass revelation that the Borad killed previously was a clone is so incredibly bad that I can barely find adequate words to be sufficiently sarcastic about it. It would be the apex of the mountain of shite that is 'Timelash', were it not for the Doctor's unexplained trick with the TARDIS to deflect the Bandril's missile. There is a throwaway line in Episode One about the TARDIS being indestructible for the benefit of casual viewers, but given that the Doctor throws Peri out of the TARDIS because he thinks he's going to die, this isn't very convincing. All we actually get by way of explanation is a line to Peri, which amounts to "I'll explain later" and thus probably provided inspiration for 'The Curse of Fatal Death'. 

As though all of this codswallop were not bad enough, 'Timelash' also has the audacity to be immensely dull. There is considerable padding in Episode One, perhaps best summed up by the embarrassing scene in which the Doctor straps himself and Peri to the TARDIS console. There is also an incredibly tedious scene in which the Doctor arses about inside the Timelash in search of Kontron crystals, which might be slightly more exciting than it actually is if he wasn't surrounded by tinsel. It doesn't help that there is no sense of danger, given that the script gives the impression that Karfel is a planet of about a dozen people, all of whom live in the same small citadel. 

Then there are the characters. 'Timelash' is the only story in which I find Peri to be genuinely annoying, as she moans at the slightest provocation. The initial bickering scene in the TARDIS is actually quite good, as she accuses the Doctor of "aimless wandering", and he responds with indignation; her desire to stay when he offers to take her home is a reminder that however much they argue they remain friends, but this is pretty much the only decent piece of characterisation in the entire story. And whilst I'm on the subject of the Doctor and Peri, it's fortunate that he's had the albums out, since her ability to recognise Jo Grant saves her life. This is so contrived that it speaks for itself and therefore obviates the need for me to use the word "cack". 

Of the supporting characters, only two stand out aside from the Borad, and neither in a good way. Herbert is so irritating that I find myself happily imaging him being dismembered and eaten by a Morlox in order to occupy myself during the ninety minutes of my life that watching 'Timelash' obliterates, and he's clearly only present so that McCoy can nick ideas from H. G. Wells and then try to create the idea that he's being clever. Herbert is also used as an opportunity for some appalling vacuous wit in Episode Two, as he blathers on about dying heroically. David Chandler's performance is noteworthy only for the fact that it makes me want to punch him. Equally dreadful is Paul Darrow as Maylin Tekker. Much as I like Darrow's performance as Avon in Blake's 7, he is incredibly bad here as he hams it up allegedly in revenge for Colin Baker's over-the-top performance as Bayban the Butcher in the rather poor Blake's 7 episode 'City at the Edge of the World'. Given what he is given to work with, I can sympathize with his desire to muck about; Tekker is just as badly characterised as the Borad, and seems to be evil simply because he can. He smirks a lot and says nasty things and has no character motivation whatsoever beyond this. 

'Timelash' also suffers from a script that rivals 'The Twin Dilemma' for atrocious dialogue. Gems on offer include "Avaunt thee, foul fanged fiend!", "microcephalic apostate!", "He's dangling on the edge of oblivion!", and "Soon our planet will rule this corner of the universe with the power of a giant ocean!". The Bandrils, apparently popular with fandom in what I fervently hope is a sort of knowing post-modern ironic way, look like what they are; sock-puppets. They are also supposedly peaceful, although their solution to ending the Borad's refusal to send them grain is to commit genocide. I know they're desperate, but it seems a bit extreme… 

In summary, 'Timelash' is indeed, lame shit. And that's my final word on the matter.

FILTER: - Television - Series 22 - Sixth Doctor