Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Time Savers (part two)

The story so far.

The Doctor and Peri are taken to "a large, brightly-lit laboratory."

One entire half of the room was filled with a complex mass of wires and electrical equipment which the Doctor stared at with interest.

They also meet Professor Thomas, who the Doctor recognises as "Earth's most famous scientist". Professor Thomas thinks the Doctor is responsible for the "ghosts", by which he must mean the appearing and disappearing mannys - the description of them as "ghosts" has shades (lol) of Day of the Daleks.

The Doctor tries to pass himself and Peri off as "psychic investigators", a callback to last time's mention of "Aly-sia Jenkins, President of the National Union of Psychic Investigators" but Professor Thomas doesn't buy it.

"All right, all right," answered the Doctor, sighing and sitting down. "I'll tell you what I know if you'll answer one question. What is that machine you are building?"
Professor Thomas shrugged. "I don't suppose there's any reason why I should not tell you now - when it's so near completion. There have been rumours in the papers already. It's a time machine. It will make it possible to travel into the distant past and the far future."
"But that's impossible!" burst out Peri.

Mew, I hope that is meant to be quick thinking on her part, or else she has not been paying attention for the last eight pages, to say nothing about the previous four stories in this book with her in them and however many TV stories (at least two more) precede The Time Savers.

At this point the story manages to get sillier and yet somehow better at the same time:

The professor looked at her, puzzled. "It was difficult, I admit. First I had to accept some totally foreign amendments to the concepts of time and space we have known for so long . . ."
"Ah . . . these amendments," interrupted the Doctor, picking up a metal plate gingerly. "Where did you first get these revolutionary new ideas from?"
"From me, Doctor."
The Doctor turned round to see a familiar figure in the doorway. "The Master! Of course!" he breathed.

The revelation that the Master is involved manages to instantly move this story up a notch in terms of dramatic stakes. There is no picture of the Master accompanying this story, and no description of him either (though he is a "him") so we are left to guess at who is playing the Master here. I think this is the most appropriate option:

"I prefer to be known as Professor Masterman here, Doctor. Surely you are not surprised to see me? Why, you yourself confined me to this planet when you stole the time-matter adjustment valve from my Tardis. That is why I am using my knowledge to benefit humanity."

This is a clever subversion of the usual trope regarding the Master - his obvious pseudonym is only revealed after we already know it is him. The last time we saw the Master was back in The Greation of Gamelot, so either the Master has been hanging around on Earth for a very long time or else there has been another, missing Master story since then.

The Master wants Professor Thomas to invent time travel so that he can travel to the future and "obtain the necessary components" to make his Tardis work again. The Doctor, who it seems is accidentally responsible for setting in motion these events, tries to talk the Master out of giving time travel technology to mannys, but he never listens does he?

The Master finishes making his time machine and is about to turn it on when the Ipsilon Foundation mannys turn up and capture everybody. They have a lot of exposition to deliver, and so want a captive audience for it.

"Professor Thomas, we cannot hope that you will understand what we are going to do, but we will explain it to you. It is only fair. You are working on a system of time travel. You may therefore be able to accept that we ourselves are time travellers from 327 years in your planet's future."
"You can tell me then!" interrupted the Professor, excitedly. "My plan - does it work?"
"Yes," replied the first man, heavily. "Yes, it works, and for a while you are the most celebrated scientist that the world has ever known. For a while," he repeated softly. "But then your invention is turned to evil uses. People plunder the future and the past for knowledge and for material wealth. By the time the authorities realise what is going on there is no future left for Earth. It has all been used up by men greedy for wealth and knowledge. Time, as you know it, had ceased to exist by the time we were born, and your name is an evil one, synonymous with the destruction of Earth. There was only one thing left to do," he continued. "Four volunteers were sent back through the chaos - it was not easy; we had difficulty locating the exact time and place - to stop you inventing your time machine, to give the Earth a chance to survive."

This exposition is lengthy but it is evocative, reminding me of a cross between the future in The Terminator Franchise and, again, Day of the Daleks, when Monia gives the Doctor exposition about the war and Dalek invasion. The Master tries to convince them that changing this event will cause a paradox and erase them, but they don't care. However Professor Thomas is convinced.

"No! I understand what you do and why you do it. Take my notes and destroy the machine - I would not be responsible for the destruction of my race. I am a scientist - a creator, not a destroyer."

The Master gets halfway through his next sentence of counter-argument before Professor Thomas ignores him and hands over his notes to the Ipsilon mannys, so
With a sudden movement the Master flicked the switch on the time machine and vanished.

He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own, and hoping each time that the next leap would be the leap home.

In the same instant the Ipsilon men fired their weapons at the massive metal device and it melted into oblivion.

I don't doubt that, had this been a TV story, the Master's escape would have been kept ambiguous - did he really escape using the machine, or was he killed when it was destroyed?  His escape would only be confirmed the next time he returned to the series. Either this ambiguity was too difficult for the writer to portray in text form, or else they were for a second time cleverly subverting a typical Master trope. The consequent ambiguity as to which of these it is is nomably ironic.

The Ipsilon mannys vanish for the final time when the machine is destroyed, because they have erased themselves from history.

"But the Master," said Peri. "He escaped!"
"Yes," replied the Doctor, "into the future somewhere, and with-out his Tardis. He's certainly exiled now, and he's only got himself to blame!"

The Doctor is being very dim today - he has already forgotten that travelling to the future was the Master's objective all along. Professor Thomas and his guards are too confused to stop the Doctor and Peri leaving, although the Doctor does have to ask Professor Thomas one last question before they go.
Now then, as one scientist to another . . . could you tell us how to get out of this place?"

That comedic moment is effectively the end of the plot, but as this is a longer than usual story it has the luxury of an extra final paragraph back at the Tardis.

Peri opened the Tardis door. "Where now?" she asked. "The time disruption has been corrected, although we didn't actually correct it . . ."
"Oh, I don't know!" said the Doctor modestly. "I think our presence probably delayed the Master long enough for the Ipsilon men to get there.

This feeble final attempt to cover up the fact that this is another story where the Doctor didn't really affect the course of events at all, something that happens a bit too often in these stories.

That said, The Time Savers is an enjoyable story despite its many silly bits - it has a more sophisticated take on time travel than is commonly seen in Doctor Who; borrowing from Day of the Daleks is borrowing from the best. And the presence of the Time Lords and then, especially, the Master manage to raise it to another level in the way that a more generic baddy somehow would not.

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