The Time Warrior: An Important Classic Doctor Who Serial That’s A Bit… Meh

While we to and fro, hither and thither throughout this week’s podKast, on the whole the subject matter in The Time Warrior, the opening serial to the 1974 run of Doctor Who, Jon Pertwee’s last season and Lis Sladen’s first. Oh, and it also makrs the first appearance of the Sontarans and reveals what the original Boba Fett would have looked like without his helmet.

We’ll be honest: The Time Warrior is no one’s favourite, but neither is it as bad as, say, Time and the Rani or New Earth (or, for that matter, Kill the Moon). Instead, it seems to exist in a sort of middle rank of the show’s stories, neither loved nor hated, just sort of ignored, really, as an event episode that is actually a non-event. Is this reputation deserved? Does The Time Warrior have hidden depths? Christian Cawley, James McLean and Brian A Terranova find out…

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57 Responses

  1. Rick714 says:

    Have to say–this one is WAY out of left field. I’ve never heard anything bad about the Time warrior. Mostly because it’s a good adventure. At worst, it’s above average. Time kidnapped scientists, new opening, Sarah Jane and the Sontarans are introduced, very rewatchable and again, never heard a bad thing about it, unlike Time and the Rani, Twin Dilemma, or a host of others. This one was at least in the top half of the class. Are you sure you didn’t mean Time Monster?

  2. Steven Butchart says:

    Oh what a load of Rubeish !!!

  3. Dr Moo says:

    I enjoyed ‘The Time Warrior’ when I saw it. It’s not the greatest of stories but it’s still good. Sarah’s not a great companion yet but we must remember that this is her first appearance so we can forgive that and remember that she has plenty of time to develop in the subsequent serials of that season. The first appearance of the Sontarans is one of their best appearances, significantly better than their later ones (e.g. ‘The Two Doctors’). It’s worthy of 7/10 in my opinion.

  4. Cryer says:

    Couldn’t disagree more. One of the best 3rd Doctor stories. A brilliant and incredibly underrated story.

  5. FrancoPabloDiablo says:

    Sorry, I think I just woke up in a parallel universe where The Time Warrior isn’t a great story. Do people gush over Timelash here??? If so, I want to go home to my own universe 🙁

    • Dr Moo says:

      There may be an infinite number of parallel universes but that one doesn’t exist!

      (NOTE: I do physics and have yet to be convinced that parallel universes are a thing, but go with it!)

      • FrancoPabloDiablo says:

        They DO exist. I seen it with my own eyes when I watched Inferno and Rise Of The Cybermen/Age Of Steel 🙂

        Besides I don’t know why I picked on Timelash. I think it is far less probable there is a universe out there where Fear Her is appreciated!!!

        • Dr Moo says:

          “Fear Her” is actually quite underrated if you can get past the Doctor lighting the olympic torch, the evil scribble, the wooden child actors…… Okay fine, it’s not a good episode at all but it is still a very underrated one. I understand why it’s disliked (I dislike it myself in fact) but it’s far from deserving the dishonour of being the 2nd worst Doctor Who ever made.

          [runs like hell from death mob, screaming in terror]

          • FrancoPabloDiablo says:

            Run faster, Chloe Webber’s scribble is coming to get you 🙂

          • Dr Moo says:

            It’s not helped by being placed in the running order next to ‘Love & Monsters’ (my hatred for which is the stuff of legend in some circles) so that it’s the second weak episode in a row.

  6. Luke Foord says:

    You list Kill the Moon as one of the worst? That was one of my all time faves…

    • Dr Moo says:

      Are you feeling okay…?

      You’re in a definite minority there! Could you explain why you liked that abomination?

      • Ranger says:

        Play nice, Moo. Don’t scare him off with words like abomination…yet!

        • TheLazyWomble says:

          So we can’t mention The Abomination Snowmen?

          • Castellan Spandrel says:

            Never mind the moon chicken thingy. What about Clara’s address to the world on telly? As daft as the much-derided ‘Master holds the universe to ransom with a tape recorder in ‘Logopolis” moment.

            DWM’s Graham Kibble-White nailed it on the head when he asked how Clara can ever travel post-2049. She’ll be instantly recognisable to any human. ‘Hey, isn’t that the “lights-on, lights-off” girl?’

      • Luke Foord says:

        The environment was gorgeous and I loved the supporting cast. Aaaah I just loved it so much, I cannot fathom people not liking it :/

        • Dr Moo says:

          Agreed on those points but the ham-fisted anti-abortion message (Which I agree with!) ruins it as does the stupidly wrong science that could have easily been rectified with a consultation with Wikipedia. Seeing the Doctor spout such nonsense destroyed the credibility for most people. It’s one that the majority of us like to forget but it’s always nice to find someone with a different opinion, I guess some of us have to like it!

          • TheLazyWomble says:

            The crap science didn’t bother me. The two issues I have with it are rooted in the hype, and Mr Moff must shoulder the blame for this. We were told that the Doctor would do something so shocking that it would change the way we thought about him. And then what he did was leave the humans to sort it out for themselves. Clara’s reaction was then excessive. (Though possibly very human)
            I also dislike the fact that they flew out to Lanzarote to film scenes that looked as if they created it on a green screen. At least when JNT went there it appeared on the screen.

          • Dr Moo says:

            Maybe I’d be less annoyed if it had been Lanzarote that had secretly been an egg for millions of years instead…?

            If you’re going to spend your budget going abroad the least you can do is make the most of it!

          • TheLazyWomble says:

            Well exactly. It was a story that seemed to promise so much- and delivered so little.

          • Timothy W Dalbeck says:

            I’m not wondering if they didn’t blow the budget filming series 8?

          • TheLazyWomble says:

            Or maybe jet lag from the flight to and from Lanzarote affected their creativity.

          • Timothy W Dalbeck says:

            That is also somewhat likely. Not highly likely but not improbable.

          • Luke Foord says:

            Abortion what? I don’t remember anything about abortion.

          • Dr Moo says:

            We are talking about the same “Kill the Moon” right? With the unborn innocent child everyone wants to kill?

          • Luke Foord says:

            I genuinely have no idea what you’re talking about. I just looked it up and there was one woman who mentioned something about alluding to abortion but that’s all I got. And actually I’m glad to find that despite being seen as poor (still a shock) others also liked it!

            ‘Kill the Moon is notable for receiving widely polarising reviews from critics and audiences alike. Whilst some labelled the episode an instant classic and one of the show’s very best, others found it poorly written with weak characters and themes.’

          • Dr Moo says:

            That’s part of what makes this show so long-lasting that it can cover all kinds of subject matter. It won’t always work for everyone but if there’s someone for whom it does then that makes it all worth it! I didn’t enjoy that particular episode but many (like you) did and there’s nothing I can or would want to do to take that away from you. 🙂

          • Luke Foord says:

            Good healthy debate anyway!

          • Dr Moo says:

            Most definitely! I rather enjoyed it actually. 🙂

  7. Philip says:

    Okay, so I can finally admit this: The Time Warrior, to me, is overrated. I mean, yeah, it’s good, but good is average for Doctor Who. Well, sometimes, great is average for DW, but that’s beside the point. As much as I love the Sontarans, Robert Holmes, and Sarah, it’s not Robots of Death, The Caves of Androzani, or The Pandorica Opens.

    • Castellan Spandrel says:

      “it’s not…The Pandorica Opens.” – You mentioned overrated, m’lud?

      • Dr Moo says:

        TPO/TBB is a great story! Clever use of Timey-Wimey, satisfying arc resolution, introduced the 11th Doctor’s love of fezzes (I think), excellent witty dialogue and easily the best use of Cybermen since the show returned.

        • Castellan Spandrel says:

          It’s a brilliantly directed story with standout moments, but excellent witty dialogue – like ‘Hello sweetie’? ‘Timey wimey’? No thanks.

          • Castellan Spandrel says:

            ‘Raggedy Man, you are late for my wedding-uh!’

            -No. Just no. A thousand times nay.

          • Philip says:

            Well, to me, The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang is quite possibly the best Doctor Who. I absolutely love it. And yes, the dialogue is great!

          • Dr Moo says:

            I feel a similar way, though for me it’s far from the best it’s still right up there. The best arc resolution since the show returned and the best series finale as well. I watched it again this week (What better way is there to spend a Wednesday afternoon?) and enjoyed it even more than before.

          • TheLazyWomble says:

            Oops. The universe has been wiped out. Never mind: we’ll make a new one with these molecules we happened to have lying around in a big box.
            Not convinced that is such a brilliant resolution. Mr Moff manages to out-deus Russell The Davies.

          • Dr Moo says:

            RTD’s endings always seemed to me like he got stuck and had to come up with something out of nowhere whereas Moffat’s seem to be well thought out in advance. But don’t take my word for it, it’s time for a comparison! (I’m judging arcs by how well they were presented throughout their one or more series and their resolution.)

            Arcs that worked well: Time War. Bad Wolf. Torchwood. “You Are Not Alone”. Missing Planets. “He Will Knock Four Times”. Cracks in time. The Pandorica. “Silence Will Fall”. Pregnant(?) Amy and Eyepatch Lady. “The Fall Of The Eleventh”. Trenzalore. Missy and The Promised Land.
            Final Score: RTD-6 7-Moff.

            Arcs that worked less well: Mr Saxon. The Cult Of Skaro. River Song. The Impossible Girl.
            Final Score: RTD-2 2-Moff.

            If we subtract the number of failures from the number of successes then we have a final score of RTD-4 5-Moff. So it’s very close but it appears that Moffat is just winning at the moment after the same number of seasons under his command.

          • TheLazyWomble says:

            I agree about RTD’s season finale’s. I was expecting better from Mr Moff and don’t feel that we got it. This is why The Big Bang is such a disappointment. He cheated, basically. The only saving grace is that he admits that he cheated and therefore makes a virtue out of it.

          • Dr Moo says:

            While I agree that it might have been cheating I do believe that it still makes a lot more sense than a lot of the others and that the end result still works, in my opinion. I didn’t think of it as much of a disappointment because of this.
            Now “The Wedding of River Song” and “The Name of the Doctor” didn’t live up to the build up but Moffat redeemed himself with “Dark Water / Death in Heaven” if you can get past the Cyberbrig (which I loved at first but on subsequent viewings it has left an increasingly sour taste) and Missy.

          • Castellan Spandrel says:

            I’d say TPO/TBB probably works better if you bought into the whole Amy thing and character (I didn’t; found her irksome). But I enjoy the story on the whole, and it’s certainly far better than Wedding of River Song, which I still find pee-poor.

            No problems this end with Name of the Doctor, however, and I can easily get past the Cyberbrig.

          • Dr Moo says:

            Personally I liked Amy but she definitely got better with time. Sticking with the New Series alone she’s better than most companions but Clara, Donna and Rory all surpass her.

          • Castellan Spandrel says:

            “Oops. The universe has been wiped out. Never mind: we’ll make a new one with these molecules we happened to have lying around in a big box.”

            – Effectively making the Doctor into God. Big mistake. He should never be that powerful a character. Leave that to the Black/White Guardian and whoever else. Our man should be a wanderer in the fourth dimension; makes for more satisfying drama that way instead of people/places being wiped out then brought back to life again.

          • TheLazyWomble says:

            I agree

        • Pantz says:

          Does it make much sense though? I mean, how exactly did the Doctor escape the Pandorica? Their time paradox reasoning is way too weak for me. Also, you’d think the Doctor would be on the search for what caused the Tardis to explode in the next series.

          • Dr Moo says:

            How did he escape? By traveling back in time and freeing himself. It works. And he did search for it throughout the next couple of series. Remember?

          • Pantz says:

            No, it doesn’t work. As I recall, the Doctor is freed from the Pandorica by Rory using the sonic screwdriver which the Doctor gave to him from the future. But how did the Doctor give Rory the sonic in the first place if he’s locked up? It’s all very chicken and egg and it doesn’t really work for me. Also, the Doctor wasn’t actively seeking out what caused the Tardis to explode. He just sort of happened across it in the subsequent series.

  8. Castellan Spandrel says:

    Remembering the story behind The Time Warrior, that Terrance Dicks handed Robert Holmes the story brief, setting it in the middle ages, which Holmes hated. Yet he still came up trumps, as he usually did, with a witty script full of interesting characters and concepts and situations. I’d contend that The Time Warrior is underrated.

    He then got his revenge after he inherited the script editor’s mantle from Dicks by forcing him to write a story set in a lighthouse, which the latter hated. Another top notch story ensued. Halcyon days.

  9. Ranger says:

    I have yet to listen to the podkast – waiting until the delicious weekend. But my initial reaction to the headline was “They’re having a laugh!” So will be interested to listen to the reasoning.

    • Dr Moo says:

      I wonder if they expected such a strong disagreement with their podKast this week. Can’t say that I sympathise with them on this occasion because they said ‘The Time Warrior’ was below average. They’ll be recommending ‘Time & The Rani’ next!!!

  10. Namnoot says:

    Actually, I have to agree to an extent. As a storyline, Time Warrior isn’t all that. It’s a rather modest little historical, and rather low-key for a season premiere. However that is not to say it doesn’t deserve to be considered one of the most important serials of the 1970s eras: it introduced Sarah Jane and the Sontarans, and the name Gallifrey was first uttered (has it ever been said where the name came from?). Cosmetically it also introduced the original version of the opening sequence that would be best associated with Tom Baker and the classic diamond logo. So there is a lot to recommend in Time Warrior. Just don’t expect Day of the Daleks.

    • Castellan Spandrel says:

      “Just don’t expect Day of the Daleks.”

      – I won’t expect the DVD Special version of the Daleks, which is probably better than The Time Warrior. But TW’s as good as – if not better than – the non-special version. 😉

  11. Shawsy says:

    I think this is a great story I love the Sontarans & I think this was a good first appearance, Sarah Jane introduced (with her different hairdo that she said she wasn’t over keen on) I alwaysenjoy watching this it has some good funny bits & it has one of the best Doctors in it,

  12. Andrew G. Dick says:

    You three boys need to re-watch The Time Warrior and re-evaluate your opinions on it. How can James Mclean can be so scathing about it and even deduct a point of his final score, when he hasn’t seen the damn thing in 20 years?

    You really ought to either watch the DVD before the podcast or even broadcast live whilst watching it, and your listeners can join in and give comments during it. I won’t name names, but there is another very popular rival Canadian podcast that does this very successfully.

    Whilst perhaps not quite a classic The Time Warrior stands up as a good example of Robert Holmes turning a historical adventure (which he hated doing), and placing aliens in the story. Correct me if I am wrong but I think this is the first of these types of historical adventures, and for 1974 is I think quite sophisticated.

    It’s a great start for Sarah Jane, being sceptical of the Doctor is different. The chemistry between Pertwee and Sladen is magic from the first scene, has there ever been a more interesting introduction to a companion in the classic series? Sarah also shows her pro-femenist qualities which has highly relevant in the mid 70s and again shows a notoriously non-PC era of British television trying to buckle the trend.

    I recall years ago DWM suggested this being one story that would be ideal to introduce a newbie to classic Who and it’s not hard to see why. Quite a lot of the shows basics are on display here: Why the Doctor is so fond of earth and humans, his alien origins, two of the Doctor’s most important friends and an enemy who have been in NuWho, a demonstration of the TARDIS’s time travelling powers. Also how the Doctor can manipulate and influence people to do his dirty work for him, with that one of the coolest ways of dispatching a monster by showing they have a major weakness.

    • K Doctor Who News says:

      I think as i previously noted on Facebook, this isn’t supposed to be a definitive judgement, merely an appraisal, and like all things, our reaction is transient.

      After all, who would have thought that we’d be so lenient on Timelash?

      As you’ll note from the podKast, Brian and I *did* watch it before recording, although I agree that McLean should have made the effort. He’s too busy watching arthouse and Eisenstein or nuBerlin or something, so I won’t hold that against him.

      As for the “very popular rival Canadian podcast,” well we’re hardly likely to copy another podcast, are we? It’s certainly not as if we need to.

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