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Serial 6Y:
Timelash

Plot

The Doctor and Peri arrive on Karfel, which is ruled by an enigmatic tyrant known as the Borad who wields the power of a space-time tunnel called the Timelash. Investigating, the Doctor learns that the Timelash connects Karfel to nineteenth-century Scotland, where a young HG Wells becomes embroiled in the Borad's schemes. Meanwhile, the Borad stokes the fires of war with Karfel's neighbours, the Bandrils. He plans to use the conflict to repopulate Karfel with beings such as himself: a hideously mutated cross between a human and a reptilian Morlox. And Peri will be but the first...

Production

Glen McCoy had written episodes of the TV series Angels, as well as several short stories, when he submitted a storyline featuring the Daleks to the Doctor Who production office in early 1983. Script editor Eric Saward rejected McCoy's idea, but told him that he might reconsider if the proposal was rewritten without the Daleks. McCoy complied, and the revised storyline was commissioned on May 11th under the title Timelash. Saward was happy with the result, and McCoy was asked to script part one on June 24th. At this point, Timelash was intended to consist of four 25-minute episodes.

One of the serial's conceits was that it would feature a young HG Wells, a pioneer of science-fiction in the nineteenth century. (Dialogue would refer to Wells simply as “Herbert” until the end of the story to preserve the surprise.) McCoy included a number of references to Wells' oeuvre in Timelash, most obviously the 1895 work The Time Machine: “Vena” was a corruption of the Eloi name Weena, the monstrous Morlocks became the Morlox, and of course the TARDIS itself owed a great debt to the Wells novel. Other inspirations were 1896's The Island Of Doctor Moreau, which suggested the hybrid nature of the Borad, and the 1897 novella The Invisible Man (with the Doctor becoming essentially invisible using the Kontron crystals).

Glen McCoy included a number of reference to the works of HG Wells in Timelash

McCoy delivered his script in June. However, it was not until four months later that McCoy's agents prompted Saward to follow up with their client. In the interim Saward had apparently developed concerns over the quality of McCoy's script, as well as the writer's limited television experience. On the other hand, producer John Nathan-Turner was reluctant to waste the fees already paid to McCoy, and so the remainder of Timelash was commissioned on November 23rd. By this time, it had been decided that Season Twenty-Two would eschew the traditional 25-minute Doctor Who episode length in favour of 45-minute installments, and so McCoy would have to revise Timelash to suit this new format.

As the serial developed, Saward made a variety of modifications to McCoy's scripts. For example, Maylin Tekker underwent no change of heart in McCoy's original script and was instead murdered by the Borad in the process of shooting the Doctor. Bizarrely, towards the end of the serial, McCoy had the Borad reject his intention to mate with Peri, because he can now make as many clones of himself as he desires; Saward deleted this entirely. The Bandrils were originally called Gurdels, while Maylin Renis was referred to as Maylin Vena (suggesting that Vena was meant to be a family name).

Another hook for McCoy's storyline was the idea that the Doctor had visited Karfel during his third incarnation. In the original scripts, Katz's amulet was to contain a reference to Gallifrey, which Peri identified as the Doctor's home planet in order to gain Sezon's trust. Saward replaced this with a picture of Jo Grant (with a publicity still taken during the making of Day Of The Daleks chosen for the purpose). He took out the scripted explanation for the destruction of the Bandril missile -- that the bendalypse was neutralised via contact with the time field of the TARDIS -- to replace it simply with the Doctor's vague assurance that he will explain it to Peri later (and off-screen). McCoy had had the action unfold over the course of several days, but Saward pruned this down to a matter of hours. And, since Timelash was meant to be a budget-conscious entry in the production schedule, Saward ensured that two androids would never be present in a given scene, so that only one actor would have to be hired for the role.

The director assigned to Serial 6Y (as Timelash had been designated) was Pennant Roberts, who had last worked on Warriors Of The Deep at the start of the previous year. Nathan-Turner hoped that pairing the veteran director with the novice writer would help make up for any of the shortcomings of McCoy's script, but Roberts was dismayed by what he perceived as a substandard offering. He insisted that Saward perform further rewrites on Timelash which the script editor -- then writing Revelation Of The Daleks, the next serial into production -- agreed to undertake.

Pennant Roberts was concerned about the Doctor and Peri's antagonism

Of particular concern to Roberts was the antagonistic nature of the Doctor and Peri's relationship, and the generally mean-spirited attitude of the Doctor; Saward softened much of their dialogue as a result. Both men were concerned that episode one would overrun while episode two would be too short, so Saward attempted to rebalance the scripts to account for the disparity. Meanwhile, Roberts decided to cast an actress in the role of Aram, who had been written as male; the director often strove to find additional roles for women in his productions.

Timelash was recorded in two three-day blocks. The first began on Tuesday, December 4th, 1984 in BBC Television Centre Studio 4, with work on the TARDIS and reception chamber sets. The next two days concentrated on scenes in the inner sanctum and the corridors, plus the detention room on the 6th. A late change was the decision to represent the Bandril ambassador by a hand puppet (voiced by Martin Gower, who also played Councillor Tyheer) as another cost-saving move. The portrait of the Third Doctor hidden in the inner sanctum was painted by an American fan artist named Gail Bennett, who had come to the attention of the production team after creating a series of Doctor Who art cards. Bennett used an image of Jon Pertwee from Invasion Of The Dinosaurs for reference.

Roberts' team relocated to TC8 for the second block, which ran from Wednesday, December 19th. The remaining detention room material was completed on this day, together with sequences in Herbert's cabin, the tunnels, the rebel camp and the power vault. The 20th began work in the Borad's vault, and this continued to the next day. The 21st also saw taping on the tunnel sets again, as well as in the Timelash itself; modelwork rounded off the day's agenda.

Even before taping ended, it became apparent to Roberts that Saward's efforts to correct the lengths of the two episodes had been unsuccessful: part one was six minutes too long, while part two underran by four minutes. Roberts suggested simply shifting the cliffhanger back to the Guardoliers' attack on the rebels, and inserting reaction shots to imply that Peri had been killed instead of Katz. However, Nathan-Turner rejected this proposal.

John Nathan-Turner authorised a remount to record extensions to episode two's TARDIS scenes

Instead, it was decided to move some of the material involving Peri being taken to the Morlox cave to part two. Minor scene cuts would then shorten the first installment to its proper length. To prop up the concluding episode, Nathan-Turner authorised a remount in order to record extensions to its two TARDIS scenes. Saward wrote the additional material and David Chandler, who played Herbert, was rehired. The new footage was taped in TC8 on January 30th, 1985, at the start of the second studio block for Revelation Of The Daleks.

Roberts was unhappy with Timelash, blaming both McCoy's script and the new 45-minute format; it would prove to be his final Doctor Who work. Roberts went on to direct programmes such as Dramarama, the mini-series The Snow Spider, and the telefilm Wycliffe And The Cycle Of Death. A fluent Welsh speaker, he moved to Cardiff in 1994 and worked on The Sherman Plays. Roberts died there following a battle with cancer on June 22nd, 2010.

Sources
  • Doctor Who: The Handbook: The Sixth Doctor by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1993), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 0 426 20400 8.
  • Doctor Who: The Eighties by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1996), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 1 85227 680 0.
  • Doctor Who Magazine #231, 25th October 1995, “Archive: Timelash” by Andrew Pixley, Marvel Comics UK Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #3, 22nd January 2003, “Everything Must Change” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • In-Vision #83, March 1999, “Production” edited by Anthony Brown, Cybermark Services.

Original Transmission
Episode 1
Date 9th Mar 1985
Time 5.23pm
Duration 45'00"
Viewers (more) 6.7m (69th)
· BBC1 6.7m
Appreciation 66%
Episode 2
Date 16th Mar 1985
Time 5.21pm
Duration 44'36"
Viewers (more) 7.4m (79th)
· BBC1 7.4m
Appreciation 64%


Cast
The Doctor
Colin Baker
Peri
Nicola Bryant
Tekker
Paul Darrow
(more)
Mykros
Eric Deacon
Vena
Jeananne Crowley
Maylin Renis
Neil Hallett
Borad
Robert Ashby
Kendron
David Ashton
Herbert
David Chandler
Brunner
Peter Robert Scott
Sezon
Dicken Ashworth
Katz
Tracy Louise Ward
Tyheer
Martin Gower
Aram
Christine Kavanagh
Gazak
Steven Mackintosh
Old Man
Denis Carey
Android
Dean Hollingsworth
Guardolier
James Richardson
Bandril Ambassador
Martin Gower


Crew
Written by
Glen McCoy
Directed by
Pennant Roberts
Produced by
John Nathan-Turner
(more)

Theme Composed by
Ron Grainer
Incidental Music
Liz Parker
Special Sound
Dick Mills
BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Production Manager
Alan Wareing
Production Associate
Sue Anstruther
Production Assistant
Jane Whittaker
Assistant Floor Manager
Abigail Sharp
Visual Effects Designer
Kevin Molloy
Video Effects
Dave Chapman
Technical Co-ordinator
Alan Arbuthnott
Camera Supervisor
Alec Wheal
Vision Mixer
Jayne Beckett
Videotape Editor
Hugh Parson
Lighting Director
Henry Barber
Sound Supervisor
Andy Stacey
Costume Designer
Alun Hughes
Make-up Designer
Vanessa Poulton
Script Editor
Eric Saward
Title Sequence
Sid Sutton
Designer
Bob Cove

Updated 30th June 2015