Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Doctor Who charity special, Dimensions in time, is a pretty rough experience.  On one hand, this charity episode was released way back when the show was off of the air, so any sort of new material was welcomed by fans.  The main problem was, that somebody over at BBC decided it would be an amazing idea to have this episode as a crossover with a popular soap opera called The Eastenders.  Confusing casting decisions were combined with a few miss-steps like having all of the remaining Doctors appear in the video despite having only the smallest interest of picking the role up.  This is especially prominent with one Mr. Tom Baker who, despite a good performance aside from the fact he is sitting in front of a green screen talking into a microphone, obviously didn’t want anything to do with the 30th anniversary special.  The other actors all tried very hard to salvage what eventually became of this, but sadly it was a losing battle.

The plot, if one can follow it, revolves around one of the lesser used renegade Time Lords, the Rani, as she tries to destabilize time to kill all versions of the Doctor at once.  The Fourth Doctor appears to be in a broadcasting room of some sorts and relays a desperate message to his other selves:

Mayday, mayday. This is an urgent message for all the Doctors. It’s vitally important that you listen to me for once. Our whole existence is being threatened by a renegade Time Lord known only as the Rani. She hates me. She even hates children. Two of my earlier selves have already been snared in her vicious trap. The grumpy one and the flautist too. She wants to put us out of action. Lock us away in a dreary backwater of London’ East End. Trapped in a time-loop in perpetuity and her evil is all around us. I can hear the heart beat of a killer. She’s out there somewhere. We must be on our guard and we must stop her before she destroys all of our other selves. Oh… [gives a pained look] Good luck, my dears.

I’ve included that up there, because it is literally ALL the story we actually get in this episode, the rest is a mess of random appearances and nonsensical babbling.  This whole thing is moved along by use of the Rani’s gun that can alter time, a convenient way to have multiple Doctors show up.  Sadly the way this occurs is VERY jarring as the Doctor phases between identities, sometimes in mid-sentence, and way too frequently.  While it starts out being the Seventh Doctor and Ace talking, every time we hear a noise and the screen flashes we meet another version of the Doctor, sometimes another companion, or someone randomly from Eastenders.  While one can figure out what is supposed to be going on, the whole production looks as if it cost something like a tenner and maybe a drink at a bar.

There are some good things to be seen from this episode, however, as it marks one of the very last TV appearances by Jon Pertwee before he died only a few years later.  He had stopped doing much acting to my knowledge and was touring around on the science fiction convention circuit and doing small roles in dramas and such.  This episode also sees the only meeting between the Sixth Doctor and longtime companion and all around awesome dude – The Brigadier.

Aside from those good things, I can’t explain enough how bad the episode is.  When I had tried to get hold of all of the Doctor Who stuff I presumed would not be released on DVD like missing episode reconstructions and charity specials, I was happy to find an off-air recording of this.  This happiness was surely dashed once I actually watched the dreary mess.  If anything, this special was not a send off for the beloved show that was believed to be laid to rest forever, but a sad remembrance of the crappy state of the show’s production in the later 1980’s.  Doctor Who was to have its day in the sun once again, and come back stronger than ever…sadly it was not on this day!

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