THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
BIG FINISH AUDIO BOOK
"THE INVASION OF E-
SPACE" AND THE TV
STORY "THE KEEPER
'THE E-SPACE TRILOGY'
DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD
1835) RELEASED IN
STILL LOST IN E-SPACE,
THE TARDIS IS HIJACKED
BY A TIME-SENSITIVE
CREATURE. IT BRINGS
THE DOCTOR, ROMANA,
ADRIC AND K-9 TO A
CRUMBLING RUIN A
LONELY WHITE VOID,
WHERE ANOTHER SHIP IS
ALSO STRANDED AND IN
TROUBLE. WILL THE
TARDIS AND ITS CREW
EVER ESCAPE THIS
THE ANSWER LIES INSIDE
THE GATEWAY, BUT AS
THE DOCTOR IS ABOUT
TO DISCOVER, NOT
EVERYONE WANTS TO GO
3rd january 1981 - 24th january 1981
Although “The E-Space Trilogy” DVD box set may not be as exciting or as lavish a proposition as 2007’s “New Beginnings” release or even last year’s “Beneath the Surface”, is certainly more than equal to the serials that it houses. In the case of “Warriors’ Gate” especially, the standard of the special features is unduly high, given the standard of the
For instance, the main documentary, “The Dreaming”, is an exceptionally accomplished piece of work; I could quite easily imagine channel hopping and coming across it on a channel like BBC3. This is largely down to the amount of ammunition this story’s troubled production gave the Restoration Team – we have the writer’s work being hacked apart by the script editor and the director, the sacking of a director part way through… Talk about controversy! And the main protagonists are all on hand to give their two penneth about the making of this one, not just in the documentary but in the commentary too! You really cannot beat a good old post-mortem…
“Warriors’ Gate” was originally commissioned from established science-fiction writer Steve Gallagher following John Nathan-Turner’s decision to drop “Sealed Orders”, a four-part script penned by novelist Christopher Priest. Gallagher’s strong science-fiction background is immediately evident here; set for the most part in a sort of white nothingness (the actual base colour of the universe, if one of the documentaries on the “Full Circle” DVD is to be believed), this serial is perhaps one that original Doctor Who story editor David Whitaker might have classified as ‘sideways’, i.e. not set in the past or in the future, or even on alien world or spaceship, but somewhere else. In fact, of all the stories set inside the level two parallel universe that is Exo-Space, “Warriors’ Gate” is the only one that stands out as being peculiar enough to truly live up to the mantle of being set in another universe. Ironically though, it is also by far the worst because it is so very bizarre.
Any stories that show the graffiti ‘KILROY WAS HERE’ in the establishing shots at the beginning were always going to be a little outlandish, but that is only the tip of the iceberg here. “Warriors’ Gate” is populated with surreal, robotic knights in shining armour and time sensitive aliens that look like lions. Despite the plot being so science-fiction heavy, this serial has the look of a pure fantasy piece; Biroc and the Tharils, for example, could quite happily find themselves at home in the world of JRR Tolkien or CS Lewis.
Perhaps my biggest grievance with this story though is how Romana’s departure is handled. It is deplorable, quite frankly. We get one off the cuff remark to Adric half way through about her and the Doctor maybe going their separate ways and then, after spending half of her final serial chained up, Romana suddenly decides to bugger off. I think on some level I was expecting her and the Doctor to a least share a kiss… Perhaps I have been corrupted by the new series! In all seriousness though, of all the Doctor’s companions, if there was ever one that was more than a friend to the Doctor it must have been Romana. She was of his own race, and the way the acted around each other always suggested that there was more going on – there certainly was between Lalla Ward and Tom Baker in real life!
ROMANA I’ve got to be my own Romana. Goodbye Doctor.
THE DOCTOR You were the noblest Romana of them all.
Do not get me wrong, there is something charming about how in that fleeting, crisis moment Romana decides to just go and strike out on her own, but for me it just falls flat. As with Leela’s departure a few seasons earlier, it feels like too much of an afterthought to really carry any weight. Had Romana’s growing unhappiness been more evident earlier in the
story and then she had decided to suddenly leave I would have been much happier, but as it is Romana’s departure is almost as wacky as the story that is contained within. I did not like how K-9 knew how to build a TARDIS, either. It kind of ruins the magic a bit to think that a robot dog can build (or is it ‘grow’?) one of the most magical ships in the universe.
Thankfully, the DVD release appeases Romana lovers somewhat with a lovely, tongue-in-cheek look at the renowned outfits that Ward wore during her tenure – the outfits that drove many a Dad crazy, back in the day...
However, no doubt to the chagrin of many, Adric is given the same degree of treatment with his own featurette, “The Boy with the Golden Star”, which examines each of his television appearances. If the truth be known though, through this feature – as well as his contributions to the E-Space Trilogy DVD box set in general – Matthew Waterhouse has really earned my sympathies. I could not stand Adric most of the time and that is never going to change, but given all the directions Waterhouse was being pulled in it is little wonder that Adric turned
out to be such a catastrophe. Artful Dodger cum boy genius? I mean, come on.
In “Warriors’ Gate” though, even Adric is outdone in the calamity stakes. Worse than Adric, or the appalling CSO, or the rubbish pretend castle, or even Romana’s rushed goodbye is Captain Rorvik (Clifford Rose). I have never seen such a bad performance in all my puff; his “I’m finally getting something done. Ha ha ha ha” is played with all the conviction of a five year-old kid in a school play. He does not even laugh, he actually enunciates the words “Ha ha ha ha”. It is excruciatingly painful.
There are some good bits though, as always. The two lowly engineers provide some much needed comic relief, and once again Tom Baker gives a splendid performance. I think that by this late stage he had calmed down a bit - he knew that he was leaving and that his gorgeous co-star was in the bag domestically, and I think that this knowledge must have made something just click. His performances in his last three serials were nothing short of outstanding.
On the whole though, “Warriors’ Gate” does not work for me. I do get the feeling though that fans that are really into their science-fiction – I am talking about the type of fans who enjoy losing themselves in Jim Mortimore’s hardcore science-fiction novels – might get on better with this story than I did, but for the rest of you I would have to recommend that this one be avoided at all costs.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007, 2009
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