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11x1. The Time Warrior
Writer: Robert Holmes
Director: Alan Bromly
Script Editor: Terrance Dicks
Producer: Barry Letts

Synopsis: The Sontaran warrior Linx, after his spaceship crashes in medieval England, has kidnapped some 20th-century scientists and stolen their equipment in order to repair his ship. The Doctor, who is investigating the disappearances, is accompanied by Sarah Jane Smith, a journalist who snuck into the TARDIS. Upon arriving in the medieval era, the Doctor must contend with Linx and his dangerous ally, a warlord named Irongron who has given Linx room to work in exchange for advanced weaponry, as he tries to free the scientists and return them to the 20th century.

Review: Robert Holmes continues down his post-Autons comeback trail with "The Time Warrior," a fun four-parter that cleverly uses the UNIT setting as the springboard for a medieval story. It's not quite on the level of "Carnival of Monsters," if only because it's less ambitious -- "Carnival" was an audacious satire that was full of subtext underneath all the antics, while "The Time Warrior" is really just a romp. But it's a good romp, and one that effectively introduces both a new companion and a new alien race.

The new companion is, of course, Sarah Jane Smith, who went on to become one of the series' most popular characters. Unlike Jo Grant, who had a sort of student/teacher relationship with the Doctor and accepted her role as second fiddle, Sarah is a tough-minded feminist who doesn't mind telling the Doctor to shove off if he's being condescending. She arrives in the story as an enterprising journalist who has gotten wind of the disappearing scientists and sneaks into the facility where the Brigadier is keeping the others under watch; after stowing away on the TARDIS, she initially becomes convinced that the Doctor is responsible for abducting the Middle Ages. She immediately makes her mark as an impressive and realistic character here. She does not break down into panic upon realizing where (and when) she is, she quite sensibly deduces that, since the Doctor is capable of time travel, he must be the one responsible for kidnapping the scientists, and she quickly takes action by making contact witih Sir Edward and convincing him that they have to stop the kidnappings.

"The Time Warrior" is also the debut of the Sontarans (well, one of them), one of only a few alien races to make recurring appearances on Doctor Who. The idea of an alien race that lives only for war and destruction is not very original in and of itself, but Holmes injects some variety by placing Earth at the far fringes of the Sontaran/Rutan war. Linx makes some weapons for Irongron as part of their deal and doesn't much care if his activities result in a lot of deaths, but he doesn't seem to view it as a likely target for the Sontarans; he simply wants to get his ship fixed and get back to the war. Irongron is seen as sort of a human counterpart to Linx (at one point each of them mutters that he wishes he could just kill the other) in his complete lack of morality and his enthusiasm for violence. Neither of them are especially deep characters, but they work in this context. Actor Kevin Lindsay effectively portrays Linx as a dangerous individual growing increasingly impatient with Irongron and with the human scientists -- you really get the sense that he might kill a whole lot of people at any given moment. David Daker, meanwhile, engages in some spectacular scenery-chewing as Irongron (and though I mean that figuratively, I don't think it would have been out of character for Irongron to start eating the table or part of the wall), and Holmes' dialogue -- "With poltroons like this it would ill work to lay siege to a chicken coop!" -- proves a perfect vehicle for such a performance. Irongron gives the impression of dangerous unpredictability in a slightly more light-hearted way, especially when he's playing off his companion Bloodaxe, who is so dense that he actually comments on Irongron's "towering intelligence" at one point.

The only other characters of note -- and really, the main appeal of "The Time Warrior" is watching these characters interact -- are Professor Rubeish and the Doctor himself. Rubeish is another slightly clichéd character, the absent-minded professor, who nevertheless proves entertaining; his best scene is probably when he is informed by the Doctor that he is now in the Middle Ages and appears distinctly unfazed, even refusing to leave the underground laboratory because he's so fascinated by it all. The Doctor is also written with a slightly more comedic bent than usual, particularly when he fends off Irongron's army by throwing stink-bombs at them. I was a bit puzzled, however, by his sexist comment about making coffee when he first meets Sarah. I'm sure it was written partly to establish Sarah's character by her indignant reaction, and I suppose it's possible he was just trying to get a rise out of her, but it feels incongruous for someone as intelligent and knowledgeable as the Doctor. Still, the typical Pertwee humanitarianism shows through as well. He's deeply concerned about how human evolution might be affected by Linx giving Irongron firearms (an echo of "The Daemons"), and he also does his best to make sure that even Irongron and his men escape alive when Linx's ship takes off and destroys the castle.

There's really not too much more one can say about "The Time Warrior." It's not as interesting or as sophisticated as some of the best Pertwee serials, but it's a well-paced adventure with entertaining characters and the right mix of suspense and humor.

Rating: *** (out of four)

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