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15x6. The Invasion of Time
Writers: Anthony Read & Graham Williams (as David Agnew)
Director: Gerald Blake
Script Editor: Anthony Read
Producer: Graham Williams

Synopsis: The Doctor pretends to cooperate with an alien race called the Vardans, who are planning to invade Gallifrey, and to this end he claims Gallifrey's Presidency and appears to betray his people. But upon stopping the Vardan invasion, he discovers that the Sontarans are also planning an invasion, and they use the opportunity to launch their own attack.

Review: "The Invasion of Time" is perhaps most interesting for showing the Doctor as a more deceptive and manipulative character than we're accustomed to seeing. He makes a convincing show of betraying Gallifrey to the Vardans, going so far as to shun and eventually banish Leela while treating those around him in an arrogant and bullying fashion. While the impact is somewhat lessened by knowing (to us repeat viewers) that it's an act, it's still the first time we've seen the Fourth Doctor carry on this sort of ruse for such a long time, and it isn't until Episode 3 that the script clearly lets us see him drop the pretense in order to let Borusa in on the plan. The portrayal of Gallifrey as a corrupt, declining aristocracy isn't as striking as it was in "The Deadly Assassin," but it's still effective in showing the Doctor's home planet as powerful but largely complacent and ineffectual. Leela, in what turns out to be her swan song, has a strong role in mounting a resistance against the Vardans while still trusting that the Doctor must have some grand plan underneath his apparent betrayal.

Unfortunately, there are some very questionable storytelling choices along the way, notably:

1. By K-9's own estimate, the Vardan invasion would have been more likely to fail than not, if not for the Doctor's sabotage...so why is the ruse needed in the first place? Couldn't he have just gone to Gallifrey and warned them about the impending attack? After all, several people do end up getting killed during the course of his faux-collaboration.

2. Leela exits the series on the basis of some sort of romance with the Gallifreyan guard Andred, despite having little significant interaction with him until the end, and the Doctor is still calling her a "savage" at the end, implying that he thinks she's really learned very little from her travels with him.

3. While I don't want to wade too deeply into the whole "the Graham Williams era is too jokey" debate, at least not yet, most of the sixth episode consists of a weirdly lax and flippant chase through the TARDIS that undermines the idea that this Sontaran invasion is really a matter of any significant concern.

4. The Doctor eventually finds the Great Key of Rassilon and uses it to build a "demat gun" with which he stops the Sontaran attack. Okay, so this vitally important relic of Gallifreyan history has remained hidden for all this time because whoever has it might be able to...build a really big gun with it? Seriously? That's it?

What this amounts to is a story that announces itself as a Really Big Deal but fails to establish itself as such in the details of the plot and the style of storytelling. I'm aware that the script was apparently written in a hurry by the relatively new producer-script editor team of Graham Williams and Anthony Read due to behind-the-scenes difficulties. However, that may just be a lesson that it's unwise to throw everything and the Gallifreyan kitchen sink into a script when you're working under a tight deadline. "The Invasion of Time" gets points for attempting some interesting things, but it has too many flaws to be considered a success.

Rating: **1/2 (out of four)

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