Timelash was the fifth and penultimate serial of season 22 of Doctor Who. It was notably the last story of the classic era to revolve around an adventure with a historical figure, H. G. Wells, and kept his identity a secret until the very end. Previously, his presence in the Doctor Who universe had been alluded to when one of his books, The War of the Worlds, was seen being read by the Master in Frontier in Space and would later be acknowledged again when the Seventh Doctor and post-regenerative Eighth Doctor read The Time Machine, another of his works, in the 1996 TV movie. Professor Chronotis was also seen reading the latter book in Shada.
The story also gave a nod to the Doctor's past adventures back when he was travelling with Jo Grant in his third incarnation and retroactively addressed that they had been in an adventure off-screen involving the main antagonist of this story. Oddly, the viewers were witnessing a sequel to this as-of-yet unseen conflict; thus, the Doctor could conveniently and reasonably demonstrate a history and knowledge of the alien species and the planet central to the story, and the writers relied heavily on exposition about these past events to carry the serial forward.
Coincidentally, this story aired right after a multi-Doctor story where the Sixth Doctor and Peri Brown had an adventure with his second incarnation and his then-companion Jamie McCrimmon, resulting in two consecutive retrospective looks of bygone Doctor Who eras over the course of the same season.
The Doctor and Peri are arguing over their next destination when the TARDIS is ensnared by a Kontron tunnel, a time corridor in space. After the Doctor fails to free the ship, he and Peri strap themselves in. The TARDIS approaches the corridor and is nearly torn apart by the impact, but stabilises once it has entered the corridor. It is navigated to the source of the disturbance, the planet Karfel, a world the Doctor has visited before. Before they get there, the translucent image of a woman glides through the console room.
On Karfel, the small population is ruled in a rigid hierarchy. At the apex is the Borad, a sadistic and despotic ruler. The Borad has never shown himself in person, only via security monitors which show a dignified old man, but something in his manner does not ring true. Fear is enforced rigidly through the policing of androids. Rebels such as Aram, Gazak and Tyheer are dealt with either by summary execution or despatch and death via the Timelash - a permanent, and ultimately fatal, exile down a corridor of time and space. Below the Borad is the Maylin, in effect a proxy mayor figure, the most senior of the five Councilors of Karfel. These Councillors are more cyphers than people of true council. One of them, Mykros, has grown unhappy with the rule of the Borad. Since the Borad came to power, their people have become disillusioned, rebellious and miserable. Their former allies, the Bandrils, are poised to invade. The Bandrils threaten war after the Borad rescinds the grain supply treaty, which underpinned the relationship between the two civilisations.
Mykros determines to discover the truth and follows the Maylin, Renis, into the Borad's power chamber. The unhappy Maylin is transferring the power supplies of the Karfelons into the Borad's personal system, despite the danger to his own wife, who is recovering from hospital surgery. Renis finds Mykros and gives him his blessing in rebellion. However, the Borad finds out and dishes out the usual punishment: the Maylin is aged to death in a deadly beam while Mykros is sentenced to the Timelash. Before he can be sent in, however, Vena, Renis' daughter and Mykros' lover, intervenes to plead for his life. When this fails, she steals an amulet conferring the power to pervert the energy supply from the new Maylin, the sycophantic Tekker, and accidentally falls into the web of the Timelash herself.
The arrival of the TARDIS presents Tekker with an opportunity to retrieve the amulet. The clever Maylin greets the Doctor and Peri as favoured guests, but the Doctor is suspicious of a Karfelon society that has made huge scientific leaps in a short time and that does not permit mirrors. When the Doctor refuses to venture into the Timelash again, Tekker explains that Peri has been taken hostage to ensure his co-operation in retrieving the amulet. However, while attempting to capture Peri, she escaped into the caves of the Morlox, large lizards indigenous to Karfel, where Tekker hopes she will die. While cornered by the Morlox, Karfelon rebels, Katz and Sezon, arrive and shoot at the Morlox and take her into their company. However, they are soon attacked and captured by a patrol of guards.
To protect Peri, the Doctor returns the TARDIS into the Timelash. He calculates that the normal path of the Timelash would send Vena to 1179 on Earth, but the interference of the TARDIS (which she passed through and the Doctor and Peri had seen earlier) caused her to end up in Scotland in 1885. When the Doctor arrives he finds Vena, the amulet and a justifiably agitated young man named Herbert. All three depart on their return journey to return the amulet – which is all Tekker cares about when the TARDIS arrives back in the Council Chamber. The Doctor, Vena and Herbert are rounded up with the rebels Mykros, Sezon and Katz and condemned to the Timelash. Brunner reports the Timelash is ready for use, and Tekker tells the Doctor to save his breath for the Timelash. The android grabs the Doctor and forces him to move towards the Timelash. Laughing, Tekker tells the Doctor goodbye as the android forces the Doctor closer to the Timelash...
They fight back, killing the toadying Councillor Brunner and sealing the chamber doors, determined to hold out in a siege. This buys the Doctor enough time to hoist into the Timelash on a rope and take two Kontron crystals from the wall of the time corridor. He uses this to create a time ruse, allowing him to slip out of the chamber. Herbert follows.
Tekker has fled to the Borad. He blames the setback on the last remaining loyal Councillor, Kendron, whom the Borad executes. Tekker remains at the side of the Borad, now revealed as a hideous amalgam of human and Morlox. Together they watch on a screen as Peri is brought into a cave and strapped down while Morlox gathers to feed. A canister of the chemical Mustakozene-80 is placed nearby. This can fuse together different tissue as one creature. It seems the Borad has taken a liking to Peri and wishes to mutate her like himself. The Doctor arrives to confront Tekker and the Borad, recognising the latter as Megelen, a crazed scientist he encountered on his previous visit to Karfel and exposed to the Counsel for unethical experiments on Morloxes. It seems one of those experiments has now gone wrong and Megelen wishes to replicate its effect to create a partner. His plan has been to provoke a war with the Bandrils with bendalypse warheads, which will wipe out all the Karfelons — but leave the Morlox and himself alive, allowing him to repopulate the world in his own image. This revelation prompts Tekker to rebel, but he is swiftly aged to death. The Doctor uses a Kontron crystal to deflect Megelen's beam back at him, killing the mutant in his wheelchair.
Herbert helps the Doctor rescue Peri from the Morlox. They return to the Council Chamber where Mykros and Vena have identified a Bandril invasion fleet armed with bendalypse warheads. It is close to Karfel. The Bandrils are suspicious of the Doctor's attempts to intervene and prevent a missile strike. He takes drastic action. He materialises the TARDIS in the path of the incoming warhead, risking his own life to save Karfel. He succeeds and returns to Karfel to find Megelen returned from the dead and threatening the Council Chamber — or, rather, the other one was a clone of this original. Megelen is unbalanced by the image of himself in a boarded up mirror, revealing the reason he hid away. He is thrown into the Timelash by the Doctor, who says the Borad was sent to Loch Ness.
In the TARDIS, the Doctor and Peri prepare to depart Karfel to return Herbert to his own time. Herbert is still outside and the Doctor calls to him to hurry up, before showing Peri Herbert's calling card, which identifies the young man as "Herbert George Wells".
- The Doctor - Colin Baker
- Peri - Nicola Bryant
- The Borad / Megelen - Robert Ashby
- Old Man - Denis Carey
- Tekker - Paul Darrow
- Mykros - Eric Deacon
- Maylin Renis - Neil Hallett
- Vena - Jeananne Crowley
- Kendron - David Ashton
- Herbert - David Chandler
- Katz - Tracy Louise Ward
- Brunner - Peter Robert Scott
- Sezon - Dicken Ashworth
- Gazak - Steven Mackintosh
- Aram - Christine Kavanagh
- Tyheer - Martin Gower
- Android - Dean Hollingsworth
- Guardolier - James Richardson
- Bandril Ambassador - Martin Gower
- Assistant Floor Manager - Abigail Sharp
- Camera Supervisor - Alec Wheal
- Costume Designer - Alun Hughes
- Designer - Bob Cove
- Incidental Music - Liz Parker
- Make-up Designer - Vanessa Poulton
- Producer - John Nathan-Turner
- Production Assistant - Jane Whittaker
- Production Associate - Sue Anstruther
- Production Manager - Alan Wareing
- Script Editor - Eric Saward
- Special Sounds - Dick Mills
- Lighting Director - Henry Barber
- Sound Supervisor - Andy Stacey
- Technical Co-ordinator - Alan Arbuthnott
- Theme Arrangement - Peter Howell
- Title Music - Ron Grainer
- Video Effects - Dave Chapman
- Videotape Editor - Hugh Parson
- Vision Mixer - Jayne Beckett
- Visual Effects Designer - Kevin Molloy
- Lighting Chargehands - Ken Rock, Len Wilson (INFO: Timelash)
- Senior Studio Engineers - Gordon Ashford, Ian McLeod, Chas Seamons (INFO: Timelash)
- Booker - Sarah Bird (INFO: Timelash)
- Floor Assistant - Helen Greaves (INFO: Timelash)
- Visual Effects Assistant - Paul Mann (INFO: Timelash)
- Props Buyer - Al Huxley (INFO: Timelash)
- Production Operative Supervisors - Ray Davis, George Griffith (INFO: Timelash)
- Production Operatives - Harry Greek, Brian Green, John Greenham (INFO: Timelash)
- Costume Assistant - Liz Dawson (INFO: Timelash)
- Make-Up Assistant - Wendy Harrison (INFO: Timelash)
- Design Assistant - Francis Boyle (INFO: Timelash)
- Production Secretary - Sarah Lee (INFO: Timelash)
- Graphic Designer - Ian Hewitt (INFO: Timelash)
- Dressers - Lesley Bingham, Liz Dixon, Alan Hatchman, Stephen Smith (INFO: Timelash)
- The Doctor says that he was contemplating taking Peri to the constellation of Andromeda.
- The Third Doctor and Jo Grant have visited Karfel before this story.
- The Kontron tunnel from Karfel leads to Earth (and the Highlands of Scotland, near Inverness) in the 12th century. When the Borad is sent through it, the Doctor comments he'll have "somewhere to swim for the next thousand years." Peri wonders if he'd be spotted, to which the Doctor replies, "from time to time," implying the Borad may be responsible for sightings of the Loch Ness Monster.
- When the Doctor tells Peri that the Kontron tunnel is a "time corridor in space", she asks, "Didn't the Daleks have one of those?"
- Bendalypse warheads are gas weapons that will kill anything with a central nervous system but not the reptilian Morlox.
- Mustakozene-80 is a chemical producing mutation on contact with human skin.
- The Doctor's TARDIS has colour-coded seat belts.
- The Doctor tells Peri, "You don't seem to realise the effect that time particles colliding within a multi-dimensional implosion field can have."
- Tekker is aged to dust with a time acceleration beam.
- Madric is a Karfelon rebel.
- This serial makes several references to H.G. Wells's novels The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man and The Island of Doctor Moreau.
- The music for this story was provided by Elizabeth Parker, who had formerly contributed special sound for Blake's 7. A selection of this music is on track 64 of the CD 30 Years at the Radiophonic Workshop. The DVD release from 2007 features 8-minutes of her music in stereo (wheres the DVD audio track is mono).
- This story was broadcast in four twenty-five-minute episodes in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United Arab Emirates and Germany. Part one ends with the Doctor and Peri arriving on Karfel and exiting the TARDIS, while part three ends with Peri being attacked by the Morlox.
- This story was originally submitted as a Dalek adventure; it was rejected, but Eric Saward asked author Glen McCoy to resubmit it without them.
- In the original script, it was the First Doctor, along with Ian, Barbara and Susan, who visited Karfel. Some vestige of this remains in the final version, as Tekker inquires about the Doctor having only one companion with him.
- In viewer polls, this story is often very poorly regarded: the serial was voted into the 199th position by readers of Doctor Who Magazine in its 2009 poll, the Mighty 200. It landed in the second lowest spot of the final results, just above The Twin Dilemma.
- No date is given for the scenes set on Karfel. A History of the Universe and AHistory arbitrarily place it in the year 802701, the same year in which H.G. Wells's The Time Machine is set.
- When playing the role of Tekker, Paul Darrow purposely exaggerated his performance as a way of retaliating against Colin Baker's similar portrayal of Bayban the Butcher in the Blake's 7 episode City at the Edge of the World, in which Darrow starred as Kerr Avon. Darrow stated that he felt undermined by Baker's bombastic acting on Blake's 7.
- In the original scripts, Katz's amulet — given to her grandfather by the Third Doctor — was to contain a reference to Gallifrey, which Peri identified as the Doctor's home planet in order to gain Sezon's trust. Eric Saward replaced this with a picture of Jo Grant (actually a publicity still taken during the making of Day of the Daleks).
- The script gave an explanation for the destruction of the Bandril (originally "Gurdel") missile — that the bendalypse was neutralised via contact with the TARDIS's time field — to replace it only with the Doctor's vague assurance that he will explain it to Peri later (and off-screen).
- In the original script, Maylin Tekker undergoes no change of heart and is instead murdered by the Borad in the process of shooting the Doctor.
- The original script had the Borad reject his earlier inclination of mating with Peri because he can now make as many clones of himself as he desires.
- Nicola Bryant hated the story because Peri spent a lot of time being tied up and it seemed like a step backwards. She also named the first TARDIS scene was her worst acting performance. Colin Baker felt that it didn't quite gel with him.
- John Nathan-Turner wanted Paul Darrow to play Tekker as Avon from Blake's 7. Darrow refused and instead played him as Richard III. According to Pennant Roberts, Darrow asked if he could play the part with a hump.
- Eric Saward described Tekker as "a Roman Emperor who's been sniffing glue all day".
- Robert Ashby (the Borad) was given leeway to rewrite his own lines.
- Steven Berkoff, Andrew Burt, Tom Chadbon, Michael Gothard, Ronald Lacey, Patrick Mower and David Warner were considered for the role of Tekker.
- Alun Armstrong, Brian Grellis, Prentis Hancock, Tony Osoba, Carl Rigg, Leslie Schofield and Michael Sheard were considered for the role of Bruner.
- David Allister, Michael Sheard and Robin Sloans were considered for the role of Kendron.
- According to Colin Baker, Pennant Roberts was underwhelmed by the script and was disappointed the bickering between the Doctor and Peri was back, but conceded that such scenes are easier to write.
- According to Eric Saward, it was John Nathan-Turner's idea that this story be a sequel to an unseen Third Doctor adventure.
- It took three hours put get Robert Ashby's makeup on and he couldn't eat anything during the day.
- John Nathan-Turner took Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant out of rehearsals twice to attend a convention and rehearse his pantomime. Eric Saward thought this was unfair on the show and that their performances were sub-par as a result.
- It became apparent to that Eric 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. Pennant 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, John Nathan-Turner rejected this proposal. 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 was rehired. Saward greatly disliked the new scenes.
- Part one - 6.7 million viewers
- Part two - 7.4 million viewers
to be added
- In PROSE: Speed of Flight it is mentioned that the Doctor and Jo are on their way to Karfel, with the reference to the Doctor only having one companion here explained as Captain Mike Yates was joining them on their trip.
- The never-before-seen safety belts attached to the Doctor's TARDIS console would not be used again, though similar belts were used on the console of the Junk TARDIS in TV: The Doctor's Wife.
- The Doctor tells the captain of the Bandril ship that he is Lord President of Gallifrey. (TV: The Five Doctors)
- The Borad is implied to be the Loch Ness monster, conflicting with the Skarasen in TV: Terror of the Zygons; the contradiction is explained when the Borad is killed by agents of the Celestis in The Taking of Planet 5, and the Twelfth Doctor later acknowledges that he is aware of the different monsters he is responsible for in Loch Ness. (PROSE: The Shining Man)
- To smother the Borad's delusion that Peri will accept him as the monster he is, the Doctor tells him, "You can't change the brain in her head". Ironically, Peri did get her brain replaced with the Mentor Kiv's in TV: Mindwarp.
- Before the Borad's cloned body is destroyed, he accuses the Doctor "You have tricked me!", to which the Doctor counters "You tricked yourself." This exchange would be repeated almost verbatim between the Seventh Doctor and Davros when the latter faced the destruction of his mothership by the Hand of Omega which he had launched. (TV: Remembrance of the Daleks)
Home video and audio releases
This story was released as Doctor Who: Timelash. It was a "Super Value Edition" DVD.
It was released:
- PAL - BBCDVD2333.
- PAL -
- Commentary by Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Paul Darrow.
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - A new documentary looking at the making of Timelash. Featuring contributions from Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Paul Darrow, David Chandler, Robert Ashby, script editor Eric Saward, writer Glen McCoy and Paul Lang from the Doctor Who New Adventures novels. Narrated by Terry Molloy.
- Radio Times Listings.
- Programme Subtitles.
- Production Subtitles.
- Photo Gallery with 8-minutes of Elizabeth Parker's music in 24bit 48hz stereo.
- Coming Soon: Time-Flight & Arc of Infinity.
- Easter Egg - Go down to Special Features on the Main Menu and click left; the Doctor Who Logo will turn green, click it and Continuity Announcements for Timelash can be seen.
- Editing for the DVD release was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.
- Timelash at the BBC's official site
- Timelash at RadioTimes
- Timelash at BroaDWcast
- Timelash at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- Timelash.com — Doctor Who fan site named after this episode