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Recap / Doctor Who S15 E6 "The Invasion of Time"

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"So lemme get this straight, if I help you get rid of the Doctor and his friends and everyone else, then the Sontarans will have their own show?"

Vardan Leader: Congratulations, Doctor. You show great promise in the application of power. You could be a first grade dictator.
The Doctor: Thank you. You're very kind. That's very kind of you.

Production code: 4Z

The One With… killer tinfoil.

Written by Anthony Read and Graham Williams (under the pseudonym David Agnew). This six-episode serial first aired from February 4 to March 11, 1978.

The Doctor is acting strangely. He runs the TARDIS back to Gallifrey, claims the Presidency, banishes Leela to the wilderness outside the Capitol, and lets the Vardan conquerors (floaty bits of see-through tin foil) in. Why is he Not Himself? Is he truly their servant? Is he looking out for Number One nowadays? What's with his sudden new taste in decor?

Being President gives the Doctor access to the Matrix, which contains all the knowledge of the Time Lords. He balances it on K-9's ears and connects it to his TARDIS. Castellan Kelner, meanwhile, is eager to side with the Vardans, readily taking up the position of enforcing their Vichy-like rule.

Leela and a really overqualified Time Lady named Rodan roam about in the wilderness outside, where they meet a group of Outsiders, barbarian Gallifreyans (not part of the Time Lord houses) who are really quite bad at being barbarians.

Naturally, there are wheels within wheels, and the Vardan menace is defeated — with two episodes left in the season. Wait... the cheers have stopped. What the... Uh oh, Sontarans! Kelner quickly sides with the Sontarans and helps them follow the Doctor into the TARDIS. Cue a wild goose chase inside, which gives us quite an extensive view of the interior, its gardens (giant carnivorous plants and everything) as well as its fabled swimming pool.

Leela, meanwhile, feels right at home with the barbarians and assembles them into a Badass Army. As their new Lady of War, she organizes a charge of the Citadel and infiltrates the Capitol to help out the Doctor. He uses forbidden technology to destroy the Sontarans, wiping his memory of events — and of the Matrix — in the process. Kelner, meanwhile, is arrested for treason. Leela suddenly decides she's fallen in love with Chancellery Guard Andred whom she's just met, and remains on Gallifrey with K-9 to go star in her own spinoff.

The Doctor bids a sorrowful farewell to Leela and K-9 and returns to the TARDIS. He then pulls out a large box from the storage room marked "K-9 Mk II" and starts to grin at the camera.


  • Added Alliterative Appeal: The Sontaran Special Space Service. Lampshaded by the Doctor.
    Stor: I am Commander Stor, of the Sontaran Special Space Service.
    Doctor: The SSSS. Isn't that carrying alliteration a little far?
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: Rodan monitors spaceships and casually remarks she sees a battlefleet probably on its way to destroy a planet. When Leela asks her to attack the fleet, she's appalled at the thought of interfering.
  • Aside Glance: The Doctor looks a few times straight into the camera when talking to himself. Adred does it once too, then looks embarrassed for having done so.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: The normally firearms-averse and technically pacifist Doctor has a forbidden Time Lord weapon constructed for him, and uses it on Stor when he's about to destroy Gallifrey's source of power.
  • BBC Quarry: Forget the descriptions of silver trees, auburn skies and crimson grass; Gallifrey's nature actually looks like a sand quarry!
  • Big Bad: Commander Stor. He doesn't turn up until two thirds of the way through but was apparently manipulating events from behind the scenes until then.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Leela & co.
  • Big Electric Switch: There are several in the Time Lord citadel's security control room (which, despite being technically advanced, is whimsically designed to look old-fashioned nearly to the point of steampunk).
  • Bling of War: As part of his coronation as Lord President, the Doctor adorned himself with the giant gold Sash of Rassilon and its accompanying scepter.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Doctor breaks it two times in the story, saying 'Even the sonic screwdriver won't get me out of this one.' in one scene, and then grinning at the camera at the end.
  • The Chessmaster: The Fourth Doctor, funnily enough. You can see early signs of the Seventh Doctor here.
  • The City vs. the Country: Leela being a Country Mouse and Rodan a City Mouse.
  • Decadent Court: After the Crystal Spires and Togas of the first stories, and the pompous but weak depiction of "The Deadly Assassin", this story's powerful but deeply corrupt and self-serving portrayal of the Time Lords became the pattern for most later stories featuring them en masse, both in the TV show and other media. Lampshaded by the Doctor:
    Doctor: I don't know what they teach you at the Academy these days, but if you can't pull off a simple palace revolution, what can you pull off?
  • Deadpan Snarker: K-9 of all characters takes on this role.
    K-9: It will give them a day off school. Blow it.
  • Deflector Shields: Gallifrey is protected by a sort of force field.
  • Don't Celebrate Just Yet: The Doctor thinks he's won again, only to find there's a Greater-Scope Villain, the Sontarans.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The Sontarans threaten to blow up Gallifrey.
  • Easily Elected: The Fourth Doctor becomes Lord President of Gallifrey in the fallout of "The Deadly Assassin" — despite having no experience as a politician, no desire to govern, and the fact that in that earlier story, he was accused of murdering the previous president. It turns out that he won by default because the only other candidate was killed by the Master during the events of "The Deadly Assassin", and he decided to claim the presidency as part of a scheme to defeat a group of Vardans attempting to invade Gallifrey.
  • Evil Chancellor: Kelner. (Chancellor Borusa is not evil here, though he has moments of ruthless pragmatism.)
  • Evil Laugh: Invoked when the Doctor is pretending to be evil. Of course, developing an evil laugh and using it extensively is an important part of this.
  • Fascists' Bed Time: A blanket curfew is instituted within scenes of the Vardans taking over.
  • Food Pills: Rodan's food supplies consist of a few multicoloured pills.
  • Forgot About His Powers: Just like in "The Deadly Assassin", many Time Lords seem to forget they have the ability to regenerate. Other media would eventually come up with the explanation that there's Time Lord weapons that are effective at killing without regeneration. While it won't explain away the guards who were shot by the primitive arrows, perhaps they were just Gallifreyans and not full on Time Lords?
  • Gambit Pileup: The Sontarans are using a Vardan invasion of Gallifrey as a front to invade Gallifrey themselves, while the Doctor is pretending to side with the Vardans so he can uncover the Sontarans as the true force threatening the planet, all the while manipulating his fellow Time Lords, with Kelner aiding both the Vardans and the Sontarans to save his own skin.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    Rodan: Nothing can get past the Transduction Barriers.
    The Doctor: K-9, destroy the Transduction Barriers.
  • Going in Circles: A significant chunk of the story's latter portion involves the Sontarans chasing the Doctor through the TARDIS, looping around multiple times as it turns out that not even the Doctor knows how to find his way around the place.
  • Good Samaritan: The wild Gallifreyans take in the exiled ones.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The Key of Rassilon, which every President since time immemorial has been charged to seek, has been in the office of the Chancellor all along; the Chancellor has a secret trust to keep it hidden so that no President has all Rassilon's powerful artifacts at once. Needle in a Stack of Needles is hinted at — the Chancellor has an enormous collection of keys needed to do his job — then subverted: the true Key is the one stuck in the keyhole of his desk drawer.
  • Hope Spot: Everyone's cheering the Doctor's defeat of the Vardans when the Sontarans turn up. Turns out they're the real invaders and have been playing both the Vardans and the Doctor for suckers.
  • Human Aliens: What the Vardans turn out to be. Somewhat lampshaded when the Doctor acknowledges that this is disappointing.
  • I Choose to Stay: Leela decides to stay on Gallifrey to be with Andred. For some reason.
  • I Fight for the Strongest Side!: As soon as someone is about to take over power, Kelner is there to lick their boots.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: When Rodan suggests that the TARDIS interior could do with some sprucing up, the Doctor complains that he's a Time Lord, not a painter and decorator.
  • Irony: "There's nothing more useless than a lock with a voice print" turns out to be said voice print.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: One of the savage Gallifreyans to Leela. He then goes for Playing Possum.
  • La Résistance: First Andred and his men, against the Doctor; then Leela, Rodan, and the outsiders.
  • Les Collaborateurs: There's a slimy Time Lord who co-operates with both invaders and with the Doctor, who is pretending to be a collaborator himself.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Sontarans are the real invaders, not the Vardans.
  • Man-Eating Plant: A plant in the Doctor's garden is quick to eat a Sontaran.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Leela refuses to believe the Doctor has really gone to the side of evil. Kelner is a more villainous example.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Doctor knowingly collaborates with the Vardan invasion of Gallifrey, confident that he can defeat them. Then it turns out that they were being backed by the Sontarans.
  • Not Himself: The Doctor is initiated as Lord President of Gallifrey and begins acting very cold and megalomaniacal, contrary to his usual jolly and playful personality.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: The Sontarans attempt to locate the Doctor; Kelner attempts to tell their Commander where he is, but each time the Commander reacts angrily to being interrupted, and doesn't let him speak. When he finally succeeds in conveying the information, the Commander of course demands to know why he didn't say so sooner.
  • The Nth Doctor: Borusa is played by John Arnatt, replacing Angus MacKay in "The Deadly Assassin". Borusa being in a different regeneration in every one of his appearances would eventually become a Running Gag.
  • Oh, Crap!: After four episodes, the Vardans have been expelled from Gallifrey through copious amounts of mind-trickery; the Doctor, supremely smug with his success, addresses the cheering crowd with a victory speech. Puzzled at why the cheering abruptly stops, he turns around... and standing behind him is a Sontaran battle squad, who have been playing the Vardans for patsies, and have taken advantage of the weakened Gallifrey defences to stroll in and claim the place for themselves. Tom Baker's boggle-eyes were MADE for moments like this.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Or rather, the voice print is "There's nothing more useless than a lock with a voice print".
  • Playing Possum: One of the savage Gallifreyans does this.
  • President Evil: Subverted; the Doctor is playing the Vardans.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Sontarans, as always, are proud warriors.
  • Put on a Bus: Leela decides to stay behind on Gallifrey because she has fallen in love with Andred.
  • The Quisling: Kelner does everything possible to curry favour with both the Vardans and the Sontarans.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Done comedically at the end of the story. The Doctor bids a solemn farewell to Leela and K9, who've both chosen to stay on Gallifrey, and then immediately digs up a box from storage labeled "K9 MII"; the humor is further accentuated by the Doctor's cheeky smile at the camera right after.
  • Ret-Gone: What the Demat Gun does to its targets, erasing them from time altogether.
  • Scooby-Dooby Doors: Briefly happens when the Doctor, Leela, Andred and Borusa are eluding the Sontarans, as they split up among doors on either side of a corridor and immediately wind up in the same room. Justified by how screwy the TARDIS's internal geography has already shown itself to be.
  • Sequel Episode: To "The Deadly Assassin", featuring the Doctor returning to Gallifrey to claim the title of Lord President. In the earlier serial, he nominated himself for the position to weasel out of a sham trial, and the only other known candidate, Goth, was killed by the Master, making the Doctor the winner by default.
  • Some Kind of Force Field: Rodan's office is protected by the really cheap kind that doesn't even have a flash or a sound effect, just Louise Jameson miming "there's something blocking this apparently open doorway" and then Rodan explaining that there's a force field there.
  • Space Amish: The outsiders don't use technology more advanced then a bow and arrow despite their race having access to time machines.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: The Time Lord president inauguration ceremony consists almost entirely of giving people the chance to object to the new president.
  • Superdickery: The Doctor behaves very much like a villain for the first few episodes. Of course, no one is surprised when there turns out to be a perfectly noble explanation for his behaviour.
  • Theme Tune Extended: The musical bridge known as the "middle eight" is used in several of this story's episodes, making a rare appearance in the Baker era before Peter Howell's arrangement was used.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: Leela is quite insistent that she is Leela and not "madame."
  • Undying Loyalty: Despite everyone telling her the Doctor's gone bonkers, Leela never loses faith in his inherent goodness.
  • Vichy Earth: More like Vichy Gallifrey. Especially eager is Kelner, who, for one, welcomes his new Vardan/Sontaran overlords.
  • Victory-Guided Amnesia: The Doctor suffers some memory loss after the Time Lord superweapon blows up in his face; it's not made clear how much memory was lost.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The Doctor is placed in the role of an important politician, from where he starts pretending to be mad so he can get away with saying outrageous things while investigating the guilt of the corrupt. Danish-style.
  • With Due Respect: Borusa postfixes his comments with "I meant no disrespect". The Doctor sees through it pretty easily.
    Borusa: I meant no disrespect.
    Doctor: Oh yes you did.
  • Wrench Wench: Rodan is quite good with machines.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: The Doctor succeeds in spite of learning the people he was foiling were only the façcade. It's implied that the Doctor knew they weren't the Big Bad the entire time, and only dealt with them in the first place solely so that they would reveal who or what the real threat actually was. The first half of the story actually goes exactly according to the Doctor's original plan.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: The Part 4 cliffhanger: the Doctor thinks he's won by defeating the Vardans, only to find that the Sontarans were actually the ones behind the invasion.
  • Youth Is Wasted on the Dumb: Given that the Doctor is relatively younger than the senior Time Lords of the story, he assures Borusa that his faciliating the invasion of Gallifrey is not this.


Video Example(s):


Farewell, K9. Hello, K9 Mk II.

After wrapping up the plot, the Doctor prepares to go back to the TARDIS with Leela and K9, only to find out that they've both chosen to stay on Gallifrey. The Doctor solemnly bids them farewell and heads off in the TARDIS on his own, then immediately fishes out a box labeled "K9 MII" before giving a cheeky smile to the camera.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / ReplacementGoldfish

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