Review [DW]: “Timelash”

22×5. Timelash
Writer: Glen McCoy
Director: Pennant Roberts
Script Editor: Eric Saward
Producer: John Nathan-Turner

Synopsis: The Doctor and Peri are drawn to the planet Karfel through a time anomaly, where the reclusive Borad rules as a dictator through a subservient “Maylin” and plans to depopulate the world by provoking a war with a species known as the Bandrils.

Review: You know that a Doctor Who serial has a bad reputation when an online commenter suggests – as one recently did regarding “Timelash” – forcing British politicians to watch it on a loop until they come up with a solution for Brexit. While I’m not sure if even that would manage to break the Brexit impasse, I’m obliged to report that, yes, “Timelash” is a pretty poor effort. In terms of worldbuilding, there is no context supplied for how the Borad came to power, why the population is so subservient to his dictates, or the history between Karfel and the Bandrils. The characters are a similarly thinly drawn bunch: Maylin Tekker (played by Paul Darrow of Blakes 7 fame) is just a run-of-the-mill sadistic autocrat whose about-face when he learns of the Borad’s real plans does not register as anything but writer fiat, the rebels are stock caricatures, and the involvement of a young H.G. Wells feels like the script trying too hard to to be clever. The serial’s conclusion is especially weak: first the Doctor appears to sacrifice himself by materializing the TARDIS in the path of an incoming missile, but survives through what he describes only as a “neat trick” that he promises to explain to Peri later, and then the apparently dead Borad is revealed to have cloned himself and tries to abduct Peri, at which point the Doctor literally resorts to taunting him about his physical appearance. There just isn’t much here that functions at any but the most superficial and perfunctory level, and in the context of an already mediocre season, “Timelash” is a misstep that the program really couldn’t afford at the time.

Rating: *1/2 (out of four)

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