Here’s a round-up of my Timelash II on Season 18. I was holding this (and some of the stuff about Seasons 19-21) back because I was going to rework it into something bigger, but that isn’t happening (too much else to do), so…
The Leisure Hive
Bidmead’s script tinkerings somewhat dilute the essential idea of a leisure planet in favour of wannabe-big-conceptual stuff… which is pretty dull and lumbering, if we’re honest.
The planet fails to convince as a leisure resort, which kind of undercuts all the lengths they go to to stress that the whole race have become employees of a going concern. All that boardroom stuff where they discuss investments suddenly looks redundant. What’s it there to contextualise?
The stylistic overhaul is huge, ambitious and largely successful. There’s a new willingness to try stuff out. They’re happy to go all dark and quiet during the scene where Timson is stalked by the West Lodge Foamasi. I particularly like the slow, melancholy opening.
Mind you, the seeds of the later-80s problems are already visible. The Doctor is now wearing a uniform, etc.
The politics is weird. The war was about… what? Argolin militarism? So, their response to their catastrophic defeat was to become capitalists specialising in leisure? Umm, okay… And their enemies, who now want peace, are apparently statists who have outlawed “private enterprise”… apart from a kind of mafia faction… er… Y’know, it’s potentially good stuff but, somehow, it fails to fit together.
It’s darn good as a first attempt at an overhaul of the basic dramatic and aesthetic values of a show in decline… but we’ll have to wait until ‘Full Circle’ before they get it to work.
You wouldn’t think this was the start of one of my absolute favourite seasons, would you?
This is daft. But I have to confess to having a seriously soft spot for it.
There are some good ideas buried in there. The Dodecahedron makes me think of Kepler, and his obsession with the perfect shapes that he thought contained the secrets of the universe… which was a conflict within him between science and mysticism which he sought unsuccessfully to reconcile… the problem is that the nearest thing to such a character in the story is Zastor, who’s hardly there at all.
Some of the music is great. The Screens have an impressive monumentalism to their design. They suggest (to me anyway) some ruined statue of Ozymandias lying rusting in the silicon desert of the real.
Sadly we have a silly jungle planet too. And someone who wants to run the universe for no particular reason.
Also, we have casual racism in the casting: the Gaztaks are multi-racial because they’re a band of criminals. Of course, I realise this happens because they’re pirates… and pirates were supposedly (I know next to nothing about the actual history of pirates) a multi-racial bunch… but this also explains why there are no black Tigellans… which underlines the fact that, in this story, normality is civil society and civil society (i.e.…