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Nov 19, 2007

A Big Fannish Production

Pudsey Cutaway: Time Crash

O_rion Well, it's no Five Doctors, that's for sure. There's only one scene spanning a whole seven minutes (instead of merely seeming that way when Peter Moffat sets up the camera and slopes off for a quick fag). Nobody is upstaged by Patrick Troughton, and Chris Donald's Pathetic Cybermen have thankfully been left by the wayside since the end of Season Two. And Davison doesn't give us his trademark cliffhanger-gawp like a goldfish doing Frank Drebin impressions during the freeze frame at the end of Police Squad, so it must be an android Dalek duplicate left over from The Chase and not the real thing.

I bet Julian Joolz is spitting blood though.

After this, I'm really, really looking forward to Voyage Of The Damned. It would be corny to say that Peter Davison's performance is so natural and so confident that it's like Davison never left the role, but he's had five years of practice over at Big Finish, so in that sense, he hasn't. But really, which other 'classic' regeneration could carried it off so perfectly? Tom Baker isn't going to play second-fiddle to anyone, and Sylvester McCoy doesn't really have the stature. And while the Big Finish Sixth Doctor is like a matured cheese, a might-have-been look at Colin Baker unencumbered by bad scripts, tinfoil sets, Pip & Jane dialogue and that bloody coat; if you've seen Colin at any conventions lately, you'll know there are some things you can't disguise on television. Even with that bloody coat.

Everyone's latching onto the immediate similarities to Blink, and the timey-wimey paradoxes that Steven Moffat absolutely loves. I can't think why though since to my mind, Time Crash is actually much closer to Moffat's other nostalgia-splurge, The Curse Of Fatal Death (itself sporting its own, much more laboured, temporal running gags); it's equally aware of how intrinsically ridiculous it all is in a 'loving' way, but Julia Sawartha doesn't have to tag along to spell out every punchline for the not-we this time. Which is all to the good, because really, an occasion like this shouldn't have to try to be fannish. Time Crash is smart enough to treat both the old and the new continuity with the same level of reverence, but also to present its past references in a form that the new kids can relate to. Nobody needs to know that 'the TARDIS shorting out the time differential' is word-perfect Peter Grimwade for the line to make sense, just as 'changing the desktop theme' doesn't jar with long-term fans as it tallies with what we know about how the interior TARDIS architecture works. It doesn't matter if the viewers don't know who Nyssa and Tegan are; since it's important to the Fifth Doctor as acknowledged by the Tenth, it's becomes important to them by extension anyway. The continuity doesn't need to draw any more attention to itself than that, and is entirely the same reason that the use of incidental music in Fatal Death was far and away the funniest thing about it.

"That this Doctor, more than any other, was a fan just like us, brings an extra poignant tear to the eye which even School Reunion didn't quite manage"

And the plot, if not the direction (thank God) is more The Edge Of Destruction than anything else. The 'end of the universe' piffle is a bit melodramatic though, don't you think? I mean, why would Time Lord engineers pass an unstable design flaw which ultimately makes it riskier to operate a TARDIS than detonating a star to create an Eye Of Harmony in the first place? Surely a time-ram scenario have been enough? If it was good enough for The Time Monster... (Oh. Sorry I spoke.) And if the Fifth Doctor remembered all the stuff the Tenth Doctor did and said when he eventually became the Tenth Doctor himself, then why was he surprised that the Master showed up again, rubbish beard and all? (Alright, put it down to Eighth Doctor selective amnesia and we'll leave it at that.) And people have a go at me for thinking that Blink was a load of Fortean bollocks.

And the reason why Adric isn't mentioned is simple; in a story celebrating the fond reminisence of old times, this would have been such a colossal downer for the (less-vindictive) sector of the audience at an age for whom Adric was the troubled 'lost boy', always being singled out and put open, as prepubescent ten-year-olds believe themselves to be. Like 1982 viewers such as... David Tennant. Because ultimately, that's the real point of all this. Time Crash isn't 'our' sketch at all; those aren't the Tenth Doctor's sentiments on display at the end, nor even Steven Moffat's or RTD's, but the simple hero-worship of the man himself whose formative Mondays and Tuesdays were spent with the big-brother figure who seeded the desire to be the Doctor himself one day. That this Doctor, more than any other, was a fan just like us, brings an extra poignant tear to the eye which even School Reunion didn't quite manage. There's no monsters, no CGI, just two Doctors at the height of their powers (even 20-odd years after the event) acting their hearts out. If Russell was thinking old-skool, couldn't he have dispensed with all the Season Three fartabouts with the Daleks and the Macra and given us more of this instead?

"You have to be Pudsey Bear with a cataract not to see where this is going with Season Four"

Oh, wait, I forgot. Time Crash is canon, which means you have to be Pudsey Bear with a cataract not to see where this is all going with Season Four. No Sean, I too would like to believe this isn't just your personal pipe-dream, as forty-eight is well within the limits of plausibility; Paul McGann is no older now than Tom was when he vacated the post, and his Doctor didn't make a virtue out of his comparative youth as David Tennant's fannying about the set is wont to. So the elapsed decade since the TV Movie really isn't going to make a lot of difference. And with Davros scheduled to make his own comeback for the Season Four climax, the opportunity to establish once and for all the history and prelude of the Time War between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors is so staggeringly obvious that one wonders what RTD would have to be thinking not to go down that particular route. Plus it would get the fans off his back for a bit, which is always a bonus in Russell's book. Bringing back past Doctors will always appease the fans more than past companions; crossing the Doctor's own timestream is almost inevitable, while popping a fellow traveller back in the TARDIS for no adequate reason other than coincidence is just contrived, and makes the universe feel narrow and closed instead of supposedly infinite (I'm pointing at you, Arc Of Infinity, while the Fifth Doctor is still in the building). We've already had a bellyful of this, and Season Four probably isn't even fully written yet.

Coincidence Department: in page five of The Ten Doctors, David Tennant offers Peter Davison the exact same emotional bond (within the confines of a few panels) about being 'his' Doctor, the one he most identifies with and wants to be again. Not a bad feat of prescience then considering this was drawn some six months ago, before Season Three even started airing. Or is there an untelevised temporal anomaly we should be aware of for Big Finish to wring another trilogy out of?

The Bumper Book Of Made-Up Doctor Who Facts has this to say about Time Crash: BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.


Fantastic summary talking about the Pudsey Bear. An inspiring story.

David, best Time Crash review ever. I couldn't agree more when you said 'There's no monsters, no CGI, just two Doctors at the height of their powers (even 20-odd years after the event) acting their hearts out.'

Five Doctors; Four Doctors, Gallifrey, Cybermen, Daleks, The Master, every companion going, Bessie, TARDIS, Loads of Somethings of Rassilon...

Time Crash; Decent "classic style" title, TARDIS, two Doctors.

Wow, if only JNT were still alive to see what a real story needed. Less, is more.

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