The Invasion of Time picks up where The Deadly Assassin left off, with the Doctor exploiting Gallifrey’s ridiculous legal system again, this time to become President of the Time Lords. Why would he want to do that? Well, that’s where the mystery lies.
It’s clear from the start that the Doctor is not behaving his usual self. This is the most crazed, absent-minded and bizarre he has ever been portrayed. Tom Baker’s ability to perform a masterful display of confusion, anger and misdirection is used by the writers here as an important plot point, since he must shield his true intentions from the invading Vardans. He does it brilliantly.
Sadly, the Vardans are not well developed villains. Aside from learning they can transmit themselves across energy waves and read minds (while appearing as shimmery tinfoil apparitions), it is later revealed that they are in fact human (what?). Once defeated, it’s as if the story ends and a new one begins, as they were actually being used by the Sontarans. It’s a tacked on ending, culminating in a chase through the corridors of the Tardis, which look like an old school or a warehouse and not in the least bit alien.
The writing is witty, with plenty of funny lines from the Doctor and others, but it can be a bit too light-hearted for the situation. While the mystery lasts, the early parts of the story are quite good. I always enjoy some universe-building in sci-fi, and seeing the capital city of the Time Lords is a pleasure. We even see the wastelands arounds the city this time (albeit this is just some plains filmed through a red filter), and meet the Doctor’s old mentor, Borusa. For a season finale, it’s a suitably “big” storyline. What could be bigger than the Time Lords’ own planet threatened? But sadly it’s not very well thought out and doesn’t end well. Stor, the Sontaran captain, threatens to destroy the entire galaxy with a grenade he’s holding. Just think about that for a second: the entire GALAXY? Did someone tell the writer “quick, make up the biggest threat you can think of for the ending, don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense!”.
Finally, another sad note is the departure of Leela. I actually saw this coming, but I had expected her to remain in the wastelands and help the savages outside. Instead, these are quickly forgotten about and instead she falls in love with Andred the guard and stays behind with him. So stupid, and what a waste of a meaningful exit. She also keeps K-9 with her, which might actually mean something, except the Doctor leaves with a box with the words “K-9 Mk.II” written on it. Oh dear.