I’m getting pretty sick of the 45 minute episodes now. It’s come at a bad time – the show’s not on form, and the longer running time only emphasises its faults. For both parts of this story, I found myself enjoying them to begin with, but there’s so many small annoyances that all added up until I eventually lost interest. Even a ropey 25 minute episode usually has the good grace to finish before that happens, but in this season there’s nowhere to hide.
Elements of it were pleasingly old school; I don’t know whether it was just the unexpected mentions of Pertwee and Jo Grant that did it, but it put me in mind of their brief travelling era – The Doctor and his companion turning up on a distant planet, acting all superior over the natives and getting involved in the politics was very Peladon. They’ve done the sequel-to-a-story-we-haven’t-seen thing a few times now, and it was handy here as a way of skipping a few of the usual steps where The Doctor finds out how the civilisation works and persuades the locals that he’s a time traveller.
Elsewhere, the idea of a secretive leader in hiding, communicating via a fake video link, reminded me a lot of The Macra Terror, except here the fake persona was an exact cross between The Demon Headmaster and Jeremy Corbyn. I quite liked the Borad, with his big half-dolphin, half-Alastair-McGowan face. The make-up was far from life-like, but it was passable, and the performance sold it. Your man from Blake’s 7, on the other hand, was a bit much for me.
The rest of it was largely inconsequential – it wasn’t an unpleasant way to spend my time, but like I say, those little niggles started adding up. Some consistency in what the Timelash actually was would have been nice, other than it being an early prototype of the Stars In Their Eyes set. Depending on the scene, it would either destroy people, dump them unharmed in ancient Scotland or merely provide The Doctor with a handy source of magic crystals, which despite some clever and pleasing uses, came completely out of nowhere. And while they’d previously tried to make a virtue of the dodgy sets by dialogue referring to them being intentionally drab, the set for this bit was just woeful.
Then there’s the smaller things. Like wondering how Peri knows so much about Jo Grant in the first place, or why she knew that the Daleks had previously used a time tunnel, precisely one story before she turned up. The over-indulgence in whatever Quantel effects came to hand. The sudden presence of a brand new Adric. And The Doctor constantly shouting at Peri. Dramatic scenes are being paused in order for them to argue, and it’s just a horrible, horrible trait that the show’s picked up.
The ending was several annoying moments of silliness all piled up. The Doctor and the TARDIS have been blown up! Oh no, here they are, but we’re not going to tell you how. The Borad is back from the dead! Oh no, he can clone himself, so he doesn’t actually need Peri as a mate any more, but let’s not acknowledge that. Surprise, that annoying bloke turned out to be H.G. Wells all along! Give a shit. Oh, and the Borad is not Nessie. Nessie is a big robot built by the Zygons.
I’m being harsh, because this season is proving a slog and it’s frustrating. Maybe one day I can go back and enjoy some of these serials in isolation, but currently I’m just facing an endless stream of episodes which veer only between mediocre and rubbish. What’s more, they’re all twice the length, and what’s even more the Doctor and his companion both irritate the shit out of me. I’m looking forward to the return to 25 minute episodes, and I’m hoping that the Daleks will be enough to end this failed experiment on something approaching a high.