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Anniversary Apocrypha

Dimensions in Time reviewed

By Paul Scoones

If BBC Enterprises' plans hadn't been scuppered at the eleventh hour, right now I'd be writing up my impressions of The Dark Dimension. As it is, I've had to make do with Dimensions in Time. Inevitably, common factors shared by Dimensions in Time and The Dark Dimension invite speculation on the as-yet unmade story. Reports suggest it would have featured all five surviving Doctors in separate time zones, paired with various companions, made largely on location, and featuring cameos by various monsters - and that's also a description of Dimensions in Time.

Admittedly it is pleasant to watch Sylvester McCoy, Jon Pertwee, Colin Baker and Peter Davison recreate their roles so convincingly; and apparently effortlessly. Sophie Aldred, Bonnie Langford, Nick Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen also all slipped straight back into character, but the others might as well have not bothered. Kate O'Mara as the Rani represents the very worst sort of Doctor Who villain, over-playing the role to the limit. Most cast members clearly took the production seriously - O'Mara quite clearly did no such thing.

Although this was a multi-Doctor story, I doubt many would have noticed if the absence of the First and Second Doctors had gone unmentioned, but instead we are told that they have already been snared in the Rani's time trap, and appear only as disembodied floating heads. I thought this effect lacked good taste. The description of these Doctors as 'the grumpy one and the flautist' did nothing to redress matters.

The one area in which this special scores over its predecessor of ten years earlier is that Tom Baker was persuaded to reprise his role as the Fourth Doctor, albeit briefly and in isolation from the rest of the story. He appears near the beginning in a colourful void sending a distress call to his other selves. Aside from his Season 18 costume, complete with hat to disguise his short silver hair, there seems to have been no attempt to recreate the role that made him a household name. What we have instead is Tom Baker as... Tom Baker. Given that he was to have had the major starring role in The Dark Dimension, I doubt that he could have delivered a credible performance.

Alongside the other Doctors were a plethora of companions, which were more often than not mismatched. Unusual pairings included Mel and later Victoria with the Third Doctor: Nyssa and Peri paired up with the Fifth; Leela and K9 with the Seventh and somehow oddest of all, Ace and Susan with the Sixth. One of the few highlights is that the Brigadier finally gets to meet the Sixth Doctor however unfortunately due to the background roar of a helicopter most of the dialogue between the two is inaudible. A further disappointment is that the Doctors themselves never meet up with each other.

The appearance of some of the older actors is nothing short of astonishing. Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates) looks positively ancient, Sarah Sutton bears little resemblance to Nyssa any more, and Deborah Watling doesn't look much like Victoria either. Carole Ann Ford (Susan) is much the same as she was ten years ago, but unlike her role in The Five Doctors here we are meant to accept that Susan is still travelling with the Doctor, Ian and Barbara!

The story is rather confused in its use of the companions - at times it is implied that just as the Doctor can change at a moments notice, so too can the companions. At one point the Doctor asks Leela what form she was in last, and she replies 'Romana'. One can accept the Doctor possessing a group consciousness in relation to his other selves, but since when did this also apply to the companions?!

The discerning viewer again has to suspend disbelief when confronted with the Rani's menagerie of alien life-forms. The selection was apparently dictated by which ever costumes were volunteered by fans, so the more unusual creatures cropping up in Albert Square include a single Vanir (from Terminus), a Plasmaton (from Time-Flight), a mutant (from Mawdryn Undead), Zog from The Ultimate Adventure stage play and the creature from Dragonfire amongst many others.

Possibly worst of all however was the resolution. The frantic pace at which the story progresses is nowhere more evident than in the closing couple of minutes: the Rani is revealed to have collected the genetic codes and brain prints of every living creature in the cosmos with which to control evolution (Light would be jealous!) and if this isn't enough, is also attempting to locate a time tunnel at the Greenwich meridian to trap the Doctors. No sooner have these mind-boggling plans been revealed than the Doctor has set up an unlikely array of instruments, flicks a few switches and it's all over!

My exposure to EastEnders doesn't extend beyond the first few seconds of the opening credits on several Sunday mornings, so I was unable to appreciate or identify the ten or so regulars from that series who cropped up more often than not simply to provide a clue to the year in which any given segment was set. Indeed it is not so much a crossover story as a convenient ready-made locale with background characters to act as a setting for the Doctor Who adventure.

On an initial viewing the production was nothing short of cringe-inducing but oddly enough it does improve slightly on repeat exposure. I found myself ignoring the awfulness and enjoying the few magical moments scattered throughout the mini-story. The rearranged theme music is a funky sped-up version dubbed over a shortened McCoy era title sequence but despite its brevity, is still in dire need of being fast-forwarded through.

In the final analysis we can rest assured that it is just a curiosity and not as far as the BBC are concerned, part of the official Doctor Who canon. We may never know for sure how The Dark Dimension would have compared in performance terms, but as a story it wouldn't have to try very hard to come out head and shoulders over this. Ironic really, that the BBC have been saying for years that the show will only return when it can improve, and then when it does come back however briefly, what we get is about as far away from an improvement as it's possible to get. Plus factors? It was only 13 minutes long and it won't ever be transmitted again, anywhere.

That's a great relief.


by John Nathan-Turner and David Roden


Duration: 7'38"
Transmitted: Friday 26 November 1993

The Rani's TARDIS hovers at the entrance to a time tunnel in space. She has captured the First and Second Doctors, and these two incarnations are consigned to the time tunnel.

The Fourth Doctor sends out an urgent mayday message to his other selves, warning that their existence is being threatened by the Rani: 'She wants to put us out of action, lock us away in a dreary backwater of London's East End, trapped in a time loop in perpetuity... we must stop her before she destroys all of my other selves!'.

The Rani has collected a menagerie of alien creatures aboard her TARDIS, and only requires an Earthling to complete the set. She fires a bolt of light at Doctor's TARDIS, and it tumbles out of control.

The TARDIS materialises on Earth beside the Cutty Sark exhibit at Greenwich, London. The Seventh Doctor and Ace emerge and are surprised to find that they have not arrived at the Great Wall of China in November. They learn from a newspaper that they have arrived in 1973 - which is also the wrong year. The Doctor says 'If I didn't know better, I could be convinced that someone has taken us deliberately off course!' Suddenly there is a flash of light...

... and the Doctor and Ace find themselves transported to Albert Square in London's East End. The Doctor has regressed to his sixth incarnation. They discover that they have slipped a groove in time and are now in 1993...

...and the Doctor is now in his third incarnation, accompanied by Mel. They are still in Albert Square, but the year is now 2013...

...The Sixth Doctor reappears with Susan in 1973. Susan refuses to accept that the stranger is her grandfather in a later form and the Doctor deduces that the in-rush of time zones is designed to seal his selves off from each other...

... In 2013, Sarah Jane Smith meets up with the Third Doctor in Albert Square.

On board her TARDIS, now with the outward appearance of Albert Square's Queen Victoria pub, the Rani releases her menagerie to capture the Doctor and his companions.

The Fifth Doctor, Peri and Nyssa are hunted through nearby streets by a variety of past foes, including a Cyberman, Ogron, Vervoid and many more. They establish that the East Enders cannot see the monsters as they are in different time zones. They are cornered by the creatures - and the Rani tells the Doctor he and his other selves are going on a very long journey. The Rani raises her gun...


Duration: 5'28"
Transmitted: Saturday 27 November 1993

The Rani summons her menagerie back into her TARDIS, and the Doctor attempts to make mental contact with his other selves...

...The Third Doctor and Liz Shaw face the Rani. The Doctor warns her that he has 'a few more tricks up my sleeve yet, madam! It's time for you to start losing!' Recognising that Liz is an ideal Earthling to complete her menagerie, the Rani summons her forward, but Liz is able to evade capture. Captain Mike Yates drives up in Bessie and shoots the Rani's gun out of her hands. The Rani escapes and Yates drives the Doctor off to a rendezvous with the Brigadier aboard a UNIT helicopter...

The helicopter lands near Greenwich, and the Sixth Doctor bids farewell to the Brigadier, who wishes him luck.

The Rani prepares to move her TARDIS to the Greenwich time-meridian, but still requires an earthling to complete her menagerie.

Romana is searching for the Doctor, in the square without success and is dragged into the Rani's TARDIS, which then dematerialises.

The Third Doctor has been joined by Victoria and returns to the TARDIS across the deck of the Cutty Sark.

The TARDIS rematerialises at the Greenwich meridian, and the Seventh Doctor finds the Rani's TARDIS parked nearby disguised as a monument. Leela emerges from the Rani's craft, and informs the Doctor that his foe has accumulated a menagerie of clones, and also has a computer aboard her TARDIS 'with genetic codes and brain prints of every living creature in the entire cosmos'. The Doctor knows that the Rani is attempting to transfer a massive time tunnel to the Greenwich meridian. He learns from Leela that the Rani has cloned Romana, which means that 'there are two time brains in the Rani's computer' and deduces that it will overload.

Aboard the Rani's TARDIS, there are thirty seconds to full power.

The Doctor has set up a variety of electronic instruments outside his TARDIS, aided by Ace and K9. He is attempting to override the Rani's computer to harness the power of the time tunnel to pull her TARDIS in instead of himself. In addition, he has to free his other incarnations, and makes mental contact once more with his past selves.

At the crucial moment, he throws the switch, trapping the Rani's TARDIS in the time tunnel and freeing his other selves. The Doctor tells Ace 'I - I mean we ... are difficult to get rid of!'

This item appeared in TSV 37 (January 1994).