Monday, March 18, 2013

The Invasion of Time

Dear Gary—
Any way I look at it The Invasion of Time is a disappointment.
First, The Invasion of Time takes place on Gallifrey and I just do not find the Time Lords as a whole very interesting. The Doctor knew what he was doing when he fled this staid and stratified society and he would do well to stay away. Every time the Doctor does go home again we learn more details about this grand and glorious race that just makes them more pathetic.
In The Invasion of Time we learn that the Time Lords never step foot out of doors. They spend their entire lives (every year of their multiple generations) in the Citadel. The outside world scares them, “it’s all so . . . natural.” However there are a handful of former Time Lords who have decided to drop out and return to nature. But really, these grand and glorious Time Lords with all of time and space before them elect to roam around in small, primitive hunting bands with nothing but makeshift spears and bows? No houses, no farms, no civilization? You’d think they would have at least taken a few books with them when they left.
As for the surface of Gallifrey, there is no evidence of the burnt orange sky and silver leaved trees. It all seems a barren and inhospitable wasteland.
An obviously bored Rodan sums it up best: “Do you know, I’ve passed the Seventh Grade and I’m nothing more than a glorified traffic guard?”
All that power, all that knowledge. Nothing more than glorified traffic guards and galactic ticket inspectors.
And for a pacifistic race, why the need for all those guards? I do believe there are more guards running around than Time Lords. There also seems to be no ordinary civilian life within the Citadel. What do these Time Lords do with themselves for all their multiple generations shut up in this antiseptic world? I wonder if this isn’t hell, or at least purgatory.
It is to this sterile world that the Doctor brings Leela, never mind that he claimed he couldn’t take Sarah Jane there back just a few short stories ago. And then—he leaves her there?! Leela deserves better. She should have left at the end of The Sun Makers, gone to Earth with Cordo, Bisham and the rest. That would have been a far greater lure for her than the static life on Gallifrey. There certainly was no buildup for a romance with Andred. Andred did do his share of ogling the scantily clad Leela and seemed to admire her defiant nature, but there was absolutely zero evidence that Leela returned the feeling. No, if Leela had to leave it would have been much better if the Doctor took her in the TARDIS to join the re-colonization effort of the Earth, and maybe taken Rodan along as well.
Now let’s turn our attention to the Doctor. When first we see him he is making a deal with some unknown aliens. We of course know that he has something up his sleeve. He is not selling his soul, he is signing this pact with the devil for some good reason and we’re sure he has his fingers crossed behind his back as he finalizes the contract. But the thing is, Gary, we never do get a good explanation for the Doctor’s actions. His rationale is lame at best. He doesn’t know who these aliens are, so why exactly does he think they are such a threat that he has to go to these great lengths? What show of power have they made to him? I can’t imagine the Doctor is being blackmailed into this role. There is just no logical reason why the Doctor would think these unknown aliens would pose a serious threat to Gallifrey, especially since they are entirely dependent on the Doctor for their invasion scheme. So why does the Doctor play along? Simply say no and warn the Time Lords to be on their guards.
But he does play along, resulting in a Doctor who is not very likeable for the first few episodes of The Invasion of Time. Yes, we know he is playacting, but it is a bit unnerving to see the Doctor as the villain when we don’t have a very sound understanding of his motivations. And seeing as this is Leela’s last serial, it is disappointing that we get very little of the Doctor/companion camaraderie as a result.
“Prognostication impossible in matters concerning Doctor,” K9 tells Leela, and in The Invasion of Time this is never truer. The Doctor’s actions are inexplicable, and they result in complications and danger that could well have been avoided.
Because the aliens are pathetic. Just as pathetic as the Time Lords, only in their own way. About the only thing the Vardans have going for them is the fact that they can travel along any wavelength. But what do they do when they get to the end of that wavelength? They shimmer. Why do the pathetic Time Lords bow down to these few shimmering aliens who have invaded their Citadel? Because the Doctor, Lord President of the Time Lords, tells them to. To their credit, some of the Time Lords resist, but they are expelled by the guards, who are acting under the orders of the Castellan who inexplicably is toadying to the Vardans.
The guards themselves have factions of resistance. If Andred truly wants to be worthy of Leela, can’t he turn his gun on one of those shimmering Vardans and laugh in his face? So you can read my mind? Well, read this . . . .
What exactly are these few shimmering aliens going to do to an entire Citadel of Time Lords and guards? And when they do reveal their true nature, well, they are simply humanoid creatures, as vulnerable as any. The Doctor really needed to go to these elaborate lengths to get them to reveal themselves? Just so he can throw their planet into a time loop? Seems rather a drastic measure for such a puny threat.
But wait . . . that’s not all. The Vardans were only a red herring. Now we get the real threat. The Sontarans have been using the Vardans who have been using the Doctor.
Disappointment is building on disappointment.
The Sontarans, one of my favorite Doctor Who monsters, are not themselves in The Invasion of Time. Stor is no Linx and he is no Styre. Stor is rather corpulent and wheezes as though he were an old man on oxygen. These are watered down Sontarans and their motivation is as murky as the Doctor’s. The Sontarans are a proud and militaristic race, facing their opponents on the battlefield. This complex stratagem of invasion is not their style, and then they act like sulking schoolboys who, when they can’t get their way (control of the Time Lord power), throw a tantrum (blow up the planet).
And again we have a mere handful of invading Sontarans walking all over the Time Lords. Rather than running around in circles in the TARDIS building an ultimate weapon, the Doctor might have been better off gathering up some of the guards and a Time Lord or two and overpowering Stor and his crew. A few good whacks on the back of the neck and all would be over. Fix the transduction barrier (which he never should have dismantled in the first place) and the Sontaran fleet is repelled.
Leela and some of her outside buddies have the right idea and do knock a few Sontaran heads together, but this simple solution is abandoned for a labyrinth of confusion.
As always, there are some bright spots in this six part muddle.
“Discussion is for the wise or the helpless and I am neither,” Leela tells Rodan. I do agree that Leela is not helpless, but I can’t agree that she is not wise. She doesn’t have book smarts but she has intelligence and common sense, and she is the only one who seems to show any sense in The Invasion of Time.( At least, up until the end when she abruptly makes probably the worst decision in her life.)
Leela knows the Doctor. She knows he has a plan. She trusts him. Leela’s mind can grasp what no all-powerful Time Lord and no mind reading Vardan can.
Rodan: “Reason dictates the Doctor is a traitor.”
Leela: “Never!”
Rodan: “Reason dictates.”
Leela: “Then reason is a liar.”
Rodan: “And if I am right?”
Leela: “Then I am wrong and I will face the consequences. Are you coming?”
Leela needs to take these Time Lords in hand. Even the drop outs are nothing more than rabble until Leela whips them into shape. (A lifetime of that, though, is going to wear on her.)
The TARDIS and K9 always come through as well. “You are a very stupid machine,” K9 tells the TARDIS when attempting to communicate with it. The TARDIS, for its part, is revealed to the greatest extent it ever has been. From its indoor swimming pool, to its art gallery disguising an ancillary power station, to its work room, to its miles and miles of brick lined service tunnels that seem to lead in circles (“Doctor, we’ve been here before”).
“What nobody understands is,” the Doctor explains, “the advantage of my antiquated TARDIS is that it’s fully equipped and completely reliable.” (“Well, almost completely.”)
Finally, we have the Doctor.
Andred: “But you have access to the greatest source of knowledge in the universe.”
Doctor: “Well, I do talk to myself sometimes, yes.”
Despite his uncharacteristic bone-headedness in this story, the Doctor is still the Doctor, and like Leela we call reason a liar if reason dictates otherwise. Even at his most dictatorial nastiness we defy reason and say with Leela, “Never!” and we enjoy the show he is putting on and admire his cleverness (even though it ultimately leads to preventable tragedy).
Doctor: “People are dying out there. Men, women, Time Lords even have died in that battle.”
Borusa: “I know that.”
Doctor: “Isn’t that important to you?”
Borusa: “Should it be?”
Doctor: “It leaves you unconcerned. That’s the difference between you and me, Chancellor. I’m very concerned.”
Borusa: “Then you should remember your training in detachment.”
Doctor: “I’d rather care.”
The Doctor cares. Through it all, the Doctor cares. Bone-headed and making disastrous decisions, but he does care.  “His hearts are in the right places.” And so in a way, Gary, The Invasion of Time illustrates the true heroic nature of the Doctor. Born and bred in this detached, do-nothing society he manages to live a life (multiple lives) of caring and compassion.
The Doctor struggles at times with this detached nature of the Time Lord, but all in all he has found a balance that is truly noble. He needs to leave Gallifrey behind once and for all. But did he really need to leave Leela there? At least he left K9 to keep her company (not to worry—he has K9 Mk II on hand).
“I’ll miss you too, savage.”
I am so glad that I can leave Gallifrey and The Invasion of Time behind, but I send this forward regardless, hoping it finds its way to you somehow dear Gary . . .

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