or “built like a brick shipmaze

… being a show-by-show TARDIS-esque (ie in effect random) exploration of Doctor Who Soup to Nuts, begun at LJ’s diggerdydum community, and crossposted at FT.

Massive epochal 1978 six-parter THE INVASION OF TIME, in which FOUR aka BadBaker aka BB makes himself COMBINATION TIMEH!TLER AND TIMEJUD4S on his absurd august homeworld Gallifrey, faffs around with the constitutional separation of powers established by the legendary RASSILON, uncovers imcompetence, corruption and twee idiocy among the upper layer of his own people, and an INVASION PLOT from — WHO COULD IT POSSIBLY BE FROM? The one tiny clue is a picture on the DVD! Viz a maximum-spoilers REVEAL of the sekrit invaders.

i: If there is any invasive entity actually more stupid and useless than the fkn SONTARANS, it has to be the fkn VARDANS. Twerpy and adenoidal where the militaristic potatohead clones are oafish and counterproductively whispery, the Vs are at their BEST when manifesting as trembling veils of double-exposure bacofoil. Their telepathy doesn’t seem to be any more plot-fruitfully effective than listening through a wall with a drinking glass — still, it’s not as massively annoying as the kill-me-here vent that the S’s build into their warsuits. And what’s with sub am-dram voice-acting of the various lead invader-aliens? The Gallifreyans are an RSC masterclass by contrast.
ii: All BB’s maddening gurning-at-camera tics and show-offy “counter-intuitive” inspiration-improv business actually for once WORK WITH THE PLOT hurrah. He is simultaneously playing a self-chosen role in which he’s maybe gone insane — the viewer isn’t meant to be sure for a while — and been driven insane by various pressures including having to watch The Matrix trilogy access the Matrix. Since BB behaves like this ALL THE TIME, it’s a welcome change for the shtick actually to have dramatic purpose. Ditto — for a wonder — K9, who is much more tart roboworkdoggy here than he is cute pet.
iii: For a pretty LONG story the pacing and tension is surprisingly good — in effect the viewer has five eps of not knowing wtf is going on, then one of Escher-esque runaround through the endless self-similar passageways, underground car-parks, sickbays and vivariums of the TARDIS. Plot confusion is achieved by a) BB’s habit of never telling anyone his plans*, combined with b) a multiple crisscross of social groups, inc, TWO sets of invaders, and THREE gallifreyan political parties (the old-skool feat.Chancellor Borusa, the moderniser-appeasers feat.,Castellan Kelner and haha the GREENS who wear animal skins and live in a sandpit).
iv: The decadent ramshackle goofiness of Gallifrey — silly costumes, silly rituals, everyone suspicious of one another — is I think the story’s best aspect. Yes, a lot of it’s semaphor, and it’s hardly profound commentary on political economy, but the idea that this is a fractured and confused culture with a history, a politics, a political mythos, and little clue which bits of itself work and which don’t, this is a HYUUUGE advance on most whovian strawfoe sketches. Yes I’m looking at YOU, o very lame potato-people of Sontar.
v: Leela starts the story swimming naked in the TARDISpool — actually she’s not but she’s filmed to suggest she is — and barely dresses thereafter, in a final SOMETHINGFORtheDADS spasm. As usual when she’s at large in overevolved and overcivilised societies, her impatient uneducated bloodthirsty bluntness, which ought to feel overused and one-note, is a tonic (“don’t call me MADAM!” and waving her knife around). Possibly because she’s never baffled or downcast, no matter how out of her depth she ought to be.** The big farewell scene is surprisingly unmawkishly handled: her trust and care for the doctor met with his usual arrogant public contempt; and barely better private concession to himself — “Yes, I’ll miss you, savage”
vi: i blinked and missed the mechanism by which BB blew up only the Sontarans and the gun he wasn’t supposed to have made ftb TIMEH!TLER — everything went to whiteout, then he sauntered back all memorywiped. Actually there’s quite a lot of intricate plotstuff in this story that they hurry through a bit. I doubt we’re missing anything. Some writers like to get this kind of stuff pinpoint neat: but I don’t think these ones gave a tuppeny stuff. How is BB just allowed to wander off if he’s president?
vii: yay for the TARDIS and its extensive labyrinthine whitewashed brickwork basement! I suddenly realised — as the poolroom scene&gag turned up — that this was an ep and an idea I’d watched and loved as a teen. I continue to think it’s neat and funny. Actually so is the fact that Gallifrey’s forcefield is run from a smashed-up lumber-room full of seemingly broken or discarded machinery. Gallifrey is basically Gormenghast.

**Actual favourite exchange, between likeable Gallyfreyan nerdgirl RODAN and Leela:
R: But reason dictates…!
L: then reason is a LIAR!

I was warned that this ep is undermined by massive SFX cheapo crapness and endless fannydangle runaround. But I loved all that: esp. when the Great Key of Rassilon turns out to be a rubbishy rusty old shed key. Any time ever watching a Sontaran is time wasted — even when you’re enjoying that they can never get their helmets on straight — but they’re not around much, and there’s a terrific unremoved blooper at one point, where one of them msjudges how robust a poolchair is going to be if he jumps on it, and very nearly brains himself as he stumbles, HURRAH! Basically the plot is as inexplicably windingly labyrinthine as the lower floors of the TARDIS, and all the better for it — the tension comes from the fact that Leela and K9 utterly trust BB, and his old teacher Berusa sorta kinda does too, or DOES HE? Is entertained by his pupil, anyway. And somehow this is enough to pull us in and chivvy us through.