Doctor Who: Timelash Revisited

In 1985 I was a ripe young age of 14. At that time, Doctor Who was being played twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays on TV Ontario PBS station, and Saturday nights on an American PBS station out of Boston. That station edited the parts together like it was one long movie episode, which I liked, because it was less editing involved by me on my beta machine player. There were no spoilers back then, so I heavily relied on the TV Guide for a description of what the next Doctor Who was either going to be called and hopefully there was a Description of the episode. The week before, The Two Doctors had wrapped up, I was still beaming at the end of that episode. How exciting was it to see one of the earlier Doctors again on screen, played brilliantly by Patrick Troughton (The 2nd Doctor).

I waited eagerly for one of my parents to buy the TV guide since I yet didn’t have a job. That won’t come for another year. Every Friday, the next weeks Guide would be put up the on the Store shelves and I eagerly awaited it’s arrival. Sometimes, my parents waited until Saturday to pick up the TV guide for the week. On those days, I would grow impatient and walk down to the nearest department store, which for me at that time was across the street at Towers department store. I walked up to a closed cash register isle where magazines were on display and

flipped through the pages until I reached Tuesday and it read:

Timelash: The Doctor: Colin Baker. Part One. The people of Karfel are terrorized by the sinister Borad.

Then I turned the page to Thursday, same description.

Then I flipped the pages to Saturday night and the Description read. The Carnival of Monsters. 90 minutes. Doctor Who (Jon Pertwee) and Jo Grant become trapped in an alien peepshow.

It was a good time back then to be a Doctor Who fan, I had three nights a week to watch my favorite program! My mind would race after reading those descriptions, I couldn’t wait for Tuesday, Thursday nights to happen and then Saturday nights! Saturday nights were the special one. Not only did I get to see previous Doctors, I was able to stay up late and watch one long movie version of it. Tuesday and Thursday episodes aired at 7pm, Saturday nights would air at 11pm.

So here I am, after dinner sitting in my room waiting for Doctor Who to start. Laying on my bed, looking at the TV descriptions again before the episode would start then, the opening TV Ontario episode reminder would prep me:

“Coming up next, Doctor Who: Timelash.”

I scooted to the edge of my bed and waited. After a couple of station programming adds, the title music would play, then with a whoosh, the Doctor Who logo would appear then the name of the episode. It’s hard to describe the amount of excitement I had back then growing up on Doctor Who. I needed that escapism, that excitement. I needed my hero. They were the fastest 25 minutes on TV, only one other show would seen shorter in that same time limit, and that was the Muppet show.  Saturday nights. Went fast as well, but not as fast. Especially the 6- or 7-part stories that would start at 11pm and finish around 2:30am sometimes 3am. The War games was a marathon watch. That one I will tell on another podcast.

At this point, I should admit, that I wasn’t a Colin Baker fan at this time. I found his portrayal brash and cruel, especially towards Peri. I thought he was too violent towards his adversaries. A huge departure from my favorite Doctor Tom Baker, and even more so from the 5th Doctor. I also found it hard to take him seriously with that outfit that he wore. But I faithfully watched because it was Doctor Who.

I do remember liking the episode. I was thoroughly entertained; the cliffhangers were excellent. Upon original watch it was shown in 4 parts. It wasn’t until I was older and started to collect all the episodes on DVD when they became available, that I found out it was shown in two 45-minute episodes. I much preferred the shorter parts.

It wasn’t until I purchased the DVD and watched it 10 years ago now, that I finally saw some issues with the show. The biggest issue for me was, when did the 3rd Doctor and Jo Grant visit Karfel? The bickering the Doctor and Peri did was a huge turn off and took away from the story for me.

Fast forward to this week, I just watched the episode for the first time in 10 or so years in preparation for an upcoming Script Doctors live stream on YouTube. I have been re watching a lot of old classic episodes lately, and they still give me joy just like they did all those years ago.

Yes, the bickering still bothered me, but it didn’t take me out of the story. Yes, the 3rd Doctor reference still bothered me, but didn’t take me out of the story. I found myself enjoying Colin Baker’s performance.  There is some of aspects of the 1st Doctor in his attributes. I found myself paying less attention to his outfit and more to the story. Nicola Bryant was brilliant as Peri and did the damsel in distress perfectly. I enjoyed the banter between the Doctor and Herbert as well.

I found myself chuckling throughout the story. Especially when the characters were taking the piss out of each other. Especially Herbert towards the Doctor. I really enjoyed Paul Darrow”s performance as Tekker. He was brilliantly over the top evil. It was the little things in the episode I was enjoying. I enjoyed the story. It was simple. It entertained.

Most people hate this story, but I enjoyed it. Maybe it’s my age now, I don’t know, but I was able to see past the things that bothered me 10 years ago. I was able to sit back with my hero for some nostalgic escapism fun.

At the end of the day, that’s all we really want, right?

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