It’s been a while since we’ve had a historical episode. The middle ages are the setting for The Time Warrior, and the anachronistic arrival of a crashed Sontaran warrior threatens to contaminate history. Luckily, the Sontaran happens to snatch a few present day scientists back through time, which gets the Doctor’s attention.
Few stories lately have dealt with historical events, and even fewer with the consequences of meddling with them, so this one was interesting. Naturally, you get a load of knights saying things like “you speak in strange tongues, star warrior”, and calling the Doctor a wizard, which is fun. But it also asks serious questions like what would actually happen if medieval people had access to weapons that could kill so easily – would we be sophisticated enough as a society to handle that responsibility? The period characters are portrayed as fools, so the answer would seem to be “no”. Fortunately, the Doctor is able to destroy the Sontaran’s ship, and the explosion takes out the castle and the weapons too. Lots of stories lately seem to feature explosive endings, it’s becoming a theme!
I’m familiar with the modern version of the Sontarans, but I was very surprised by how little they’ve changed. The head, the face, the voice and the mannerisms are all basically the same. They’re not evil, as such, just single-minded and amused by warmongering. There is only one of them in this story, but one is enough to provide a worthy foe for the Doctor and his new travelling companion.
Yes, Sarah Jane Smith joins the Doctor’s travels for the first time in this story. A journalist who accidentally stows away on the Tardis, she is a refreshing change from Jo, actually challenging the Doctor and, for a while, even thinking he is the villain of the piece! I already like her, so that’s a good start.
A couple of noteworthy mentions here. Firstly, the Doctor mentions to the Sontaran that his home planet is Gallifrey – I believe this is the first spoken reference of this name (first I’ve noticed, anyway). Secondly, this story features a brand new title sequence with a more familiar (to me) “time tunnel” graphic, and a brand new logo. It’s very nice. Same old music, though.