Two weeks ago we watched “The Invasion of Time” on the big screen with a roomful of other nerds. The story, featuring Four, Leela, and K-9, takes place almost entirely on Gallifrey.
The serial aired in February and March 1978. A year and a half earlier television-time, the Doctor abandoned Sarah Jane in Aberdeen, telling her that no humans were permitted on Gallifrey. This time he drags Leela along without a qualm. Does he no longer care? Was he tired of Sarah? Or did writers give little thought to the disposal of companions? The last seems most likely, given the departure of Leela at the end of this story: her relationship with Andred* lacks any foundation or expression on screen, but in the end she gives up everything to be with him. Susan’s romance with David Campbell (“Dalek Invasion of Earth”) has more substance to it, but still she is devastated to be left behind.
Gallifrey itself is an interesting place. The privileged population lives entirely indoors, encased in rules and intrigue. Outside is a place of banishment, where survival is improbable – except by a band of savages with whom Leela quickly identifies. The Doctor has come to claim his Presidency, while secretly working to thwart an invasion. Various bureaucrats battle him, and one another, for leadership and control. Pandemonium, of course, ensues.
After a slow start the story is well-paced and engaging. In spite of its length and the lateness of the hour we were never bored. Necessarily limited and repetitive locations are exploited for their humorous potential. Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor and John Arnatt’s Borusa delight with their mutual discourtesy and unlikely alliance. Overall, it’s good classic DW fun.
* In spite of ignominious beginnings, Leela’s relationship with Andred sparked a whole world of ideas exploited by Big Finish for their licensed audio stories. (See Life on Gallifrey.)