The thing is about Timelash – okay, so it’s a mess, clearly. But, we’re talking about the Colin Baker era here. So let’s just take it as read that it’s shit.
With that in hand, let’s see what it has to offer beyond its inevitable shittery. For one thing, it has a lightness of touch absent from Baker’s era, outside of season 23 – and most specifically Pip & Jane’s nonsense. But whereas Pip & Jane’s writing is adequate at best, twee at all times, and never approaches a thing like ambition, Timelash is… strange. I mean, it’s a really fucking strange story, over-egged with so many inexplicable elements that it’s hard to put a finger on which part most overshoots the production team’s ability or will to effectively implement. It’s bursting with ideas. Most of them are half-baked or not… necessarily good, but the script is really excited to do everything that it’s doing. So, there’s a spirit and ambition to go with the lightness of touch.
And then there’s the cast. This is probably the Colin Baker era at its height here. Baker puts in his best-judged, most genuinely entertaining performance. This is as close as his TV Doctor gets to his Big Finish performance. And Tekker. Good lord, Tekker. Is he the best villain this side of Soldeed? Nearly every line reading, every facial gesture, every shrug of body language is second only in astounding glory to “My DREEAAAMS of CON-quest!!!” Basically, for once and nearly only, the cast seems to be having a fucking blast with this story. It’s so much better, to my mind, to watch people having fun than the awkward-n-icky status quo for this era. It’s a revelation to see everyone gelling as a cast and a company, and doing what it takes to elevate a bewildering script and horrendous production.
But, as far as that production goes, you have to say something for the Borad. The sets are a unique level of awful, and the direction is mostly just kind of there, but the costumes overall are pretty good, and the Borad must be one of the best makeup/prosthetic jobs in the classic series. Not only that; those sequences are shot and lit uncommonly well for JNT-era Doctor Who. The lights are down, shadows are well-employed, and there’s an economy of visual information. It’s not often the show gets a reveal dead-on, in this decade.
So. Yeah, okay. Timelash is an anagram for lame shit. But, considering the context, it’s probably the single most watchable thing in Colin Baker’s oeuvre.
Footnote: the leader’s daughter’s boyfriend character really, really reminds me of Mac from Always Sunny…