On First View: The Time Warrior

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Guest contributor Antti Björklund continues the series offering a first time view on a Classic story.


The Time Warrior was commissioned by ’Doctor Who’ producer Barry Letts at the beginning of 1973. The writer, Robert Holmes, was not initially interested in writing a story set in the past, but took up the job anyway. He wrote the storyline as if it were a military correspondence between two commanders – Hol Mes and Terran Cedicks, named after Holmes himself and ’Doctor Who’ script editor Terrance Dicks – of a military race he was thinking of introducing called the Sontarans.

In Doctor Who Magazine’s ”Mighty 200” poll The Time Warrior came at number 47. According to the poll, it was the sixth most liked Third Doctor story.

As with the other parts in this series, I will try and evaluate exactly how good the episodes are from the viewpoint of someone generally watching the episodes for the first time. I will try and make note what are the episode’s strengths and weaknesses.

The Characters

The Time Warrior started Jon Pertwee’s final season as the Third Doctor. It also introduced the Doctor’s new companion, the ”investigative journalist” Sarah Jane Smith. Elisabeth Sladen, who was cast in the role on May 3rd, 1973, was actually the last actress auditioned for the role – the role was first contracted to April Walker, who would later have guest starring roles in shows such as Fawlty Towers and Yes Minister. The reason she was dismissed from the role was because Pertwee, who hadn’t been involved in the casting, disliked the choice and therefore there wasn’t any chemistry between the two.

The Doctor

pertwee-time-warrior-sarah-janeThe Third Doctor in The Time Warrior is, in my mind, a curious mix of a ”grandfatherly” figure and a man of action.

I would suggest this story, and the Third Doctor’s era in general, to people who like James Bond movies, as he clearly shares traits with the action hero – an example of this is a scene where he fools some enemies by the use of some force.

As said, the Third Doctor is also somewhat of a ”grandfatherly figure”. I don’t mean ”grandfather” as in an old person, but rather a person of knowledge. The Doctor shows signs of extreme wisdom, especially in his mastery of herbology and chemistry.

The Companion

The-Time-Warrior-sladen-sarah-jane-aIn her first outing as a companion, Sarah Jane Smith immediately comes across as a feisty, self-ascertained person. I know the word ”feisty” has become the go-to word to describe new companions now, but with Sarah Jane it is applicable.

Sarah Jane is quite clearly an independent person, who is not afraid to stand up for herself. She is clearly an inquisitive person, which is evident in her interest in the Doctor straight from their first meeting.

However, she isn’t without fault, as she also makes assumptions that turn out to be wrong. I won’t go into much detail so as to not spoil the plot of this serial, but one such assumption is a driving force in this serial.

For someone watching Doctor Who for the first time, I’d suggest Sarah Jane’s adventures if they wanted female characters that were independent and who want to see female characters that don’t succumb to the stereotypical ”damsel in distress” type

The Monsters and Villains

sontaran-linx-time-warriorThe villain of The Time Warrior is a medieval warlord called Irongron. He is perfectly ruthless. This is shown in the fact that when the story starts he has taken over another lord’s castle and keeps it as his own. He is also shown to be plotting the overthrow of another lord, planning different ways to achieve his goal. He is also very self-centered and rude, which is shown in the way he treats his servants and even those that aren’t his servants but belong to his group of warlords.

Assisting Irongron in planning is a Sontaran called Linx – the monster of the story. He, like Irongron, is ruthless and brutal. In Linx’s case his only goal is to get back to the Sontaran-Rutan war that is going on in the universe. Apart from trying to fix his own ship (with the help of 20th century scientists kidnapped from their own time and used as slave labour), he also supplies Irongron with anachronistic weaponry which Irongron uses against his enemies.

Linx has at least some characteristics in common with Strax, the Sontaran part of the Paternoster Gang. This makes it easier to introduce this story to someone who is relatively new to Doctor Who, and especially to someone who is watching the serial for the first time. This common aspect between Strax and Linx is that they both, in my opinion, are very brave, maybe even imposing – just look at Strax in The Crimson Horror.

Having the Sontarans involved in the story makes introducing the story to someone that watches the story for the first time, in my opinion, easier because then the one that is introducing the story can refer to the Sontarans, as they are most likely known to even those with limited knowledge of the Whoniverse.

The Overall Story

The overall story, is quite straightforward. The story seems simple enough to follow even to someone watching it for the first time. For a newcomer to enjoy the story, only a few things would have to be explained to him or her, which is a good thing. I would strongly suggest you watch this serial if you are interested in the history of ”Doctor Who”, in action or, maybe best of all, in both.

Next time, it’s the Fourth Doctor with Genesis of the Daleks.