The Invasion of Time

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097 – The Invasion of Time
Doctor Who serial
The Sontarans invade the Citadel of the Time Lords
Writer "David Agnew" (Graham Williams and Anthony Read)
Director Gerald Blake
Script editor Anthony Read
Producer Graham Williams
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Dudley Simpson
Production code 4Z
Series Season 15
Length 6 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast 4 February – 11 March 1978
← Preceded by Followed by →
Underworld The Ribos Operation

The Invasion of Time is the sixth and final serial of the 15th season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in six weekly parts from 4 February to 11 March 1978. This serial features the final appearance of Louise Jameson as the companion Leela.


The Fourth Doctor returns to Gallifrey after meeting a group of aliens in space, bringing Leela and K-9 with him. He is behaving very strangely and when the Chancellory Guard under their Commander, Andred, arrive at the Panopticon Chamber to interrogate him, the Doctor demands to be taken to Chancellor Borusa, who is now in charge of the Time Lords. The Doctor claims the vacant Presidency of Gallifrey having previously been a candidate and, after the demise of Chancellor Goth, is now automatically elected. Under law this request cannot be refused. The Doctor then chooses a Presidential chamber and asks it be decorated with lead lining throughout. Shortly afterward a ceremony is held to swear him in as President of Gallifrey and he is presented with the various trappings of office. However, when the circlet connecting him to the Matrix, repository of all Time Lord knowledge, is placed on his head, the Doctor collapses in pain.

The Doctor is taken to the Chancellory to rest and recover. When he regains consciousness he reminds the Time Lords that no aliens are allowed on Gallifrey and instructs that Leela be expelled from the Capitol Citadel, where she will have to fend for herself in the wastelands. She tries to avoid banishment, but the Doctor is serious about enforcing it. The Doctor now retreats to the TARDIS where he shares a secret plan with K-9, but is obviously very concerned about the situation he has found himself in. He is planning to aid an invasion of Gallifrey itself and to this end sets about destroying the transduction barrier that defends the planet from external threat. K-9 sets about this task while the Doctor returns to the Panopticon, the great hall of the Time Lords, and laughs cruelly as three alien beings start to materialise.

The invading beings are known as Vardans. They appear as shimmering manifestations who made an alliance with the Doctor some time ago, and the Doctor advises the Time Lords, including the stubborn Borusa, to submit to their new and powerful masters. The Doctor then asks Borusa to meet him in his office, where he explains he has had the lead walls installed to prevent the Vardans entering the room on thought waves and reading his mind. He sent Leela away to protect her, he explains, and is now able to work with Borusa to defeat the Vardan threat. A new problem has emerged, however, with the ascendancy of the obsequious and compliant Castellan Kelner, who is being far too co-operative with the Vardan occupation. The toadying yet ambitious Castellan soon has Borusa placed under house arrest and starts a process of expelling trouble-making Time Lords from the safety of the Capitol.

Leela has meanwhile kept her faith in the Doctor and reasons that if he wishes her to leave the Capitol it is with good reason, so she departs for the wastelands. She is accompanied by Rodan, a Time Lady who previously maintained the transduction barrier. They are welcomed warily by a tribe of outsiders who have rejected Time Lord society and live in the wastelands. Their leader, Nesbin, explains some of the background to his tribe. Back in the Capitol, however, things are looking grim for the Doctor when Andred corners him and decides to execute him in the name of liberty.

K-9 helps the Doctor overpower Andred, and then explains the danger and abilities of the Vardans to Andred, with his TARDIS providing a shield to his thoughts. The Doctor is hoping to persuade the Vardans to reveal their true form so that he can time loop their planet. Leela has also organised her own resistance movement in the wastelands, comprising Nesbin’s people and the exiled Time Lords, all of whom are drilled into a fighting force which soon launches an assault on the Capitol.

The aliens and Kelner have meanwhile decided the Doctor is behaving in an untrustworthy manner. The Doctor reaffirms his loyalty to them by agreeing to dismantle the final force field protecting Gallifrey from attack. He does not fully disable it, but rather places a large hole in it. The Vardans use the hole to properly invade Gallifrey and appear as humanoid warriors. Their manifestation enables K-9 to track down their home planet and supply the Doctor with the correct co-ordinates. He uses this to beam the Vardans back to their home world and then traps it in a time loop. At about the same time Leela and her warriors reach the Panopticon, but celebrations are short-lived when a group of Sontaran warriors appears in the chamber.

Gallifrey has now been invaded by the Sontarans, led by Commander Stor, who finds Kelner ever ready to pledge support, even if the other Time Lords remain resistant. It is revealed that the Vardan invasion was simply a means to lower the shield in order for the Sontarans to gain control of the Time Lords' power. The Doctor and his party escape and the Doctor uses his freedom to try and pressure Borusa into revealing to him the location of the Great Key of Rassilon, a missing item of the Presidential regalia. They then regroup at the TARDIS where Rodan is put to work using the TARDIS’ controls to repair the hole in the forcefield. However, Kelner imperils their resistance when he manipulates the stabiliser banks of the Doctor’s TARDIS to try and destroy the resistance force within by hurling them to the heart of a Black Star.

The Doctor manages to override the threat, so their enemies change tack. The Sontarans, assisted by Castellan Kelner, gain access to the Doctor's TARDIS and try to hunt down the President and his friends, pursuing them through the labyrinthine corridors. Stor is after the Great Key too, knowing the Doctor has now persuaded Borusa to yield it to him. The Doctor uses distractions to buy time while Leela and the outsiders kill the remaining Sontaran troopers. On the Doctor’s instruction, a hypnotised Rodan and K-9 construct a special forbidden Time Lord weapon: the Demat Gun. Powered by the Great Key, the Demat Gun erases its victims from time itself. The Doctor takes the Gun and confronts Stor in the Panopticon. Stor intends to destroy the Eye of Harmony with a bomb, but the blast is cancelled out by the Doctor with the Demat Gun, which obliterates Stor, wipes the Doctor’s mind of recent events, and also destroys itself. Kelner is arrested and Borusa begins the process of rebuilding Gallifrey.

The Doctor is ready to leave, but Leela decides to stay on Gallifrey because she has fallen in love with Andred. K-9 decides to stay behind to look after Leela, and they both watch as the TARDIS dematerialises. Inside the TARDIS the Doctor pushes out a box labelled "K-9 MII." He then breaks the fourth wall by grinning mischievously into the camera.


Although Leela left the Doctor in this story, her character would return in the Virgin New Adventures Novel Lungbarrow by Marc Platt, and encounter the Seventh Doctor. During the course of the book it is revealed that Leela is pregnant with the first child to be born on Gallifrey for millennia. Louise Jameson also returned to play Leela in the Gallifrey series of audio plays by Big Finish Productions. In the episode Gallifrey: Insurgency, Leela gives a lecture about the Sontaran Invasion. In his next on-screen visit to his home planet in Arc of Infinity, the Doctor asks after her: "Tell me, what of my former companion Leela?" He is informed that she is "well and happy".

In one of the few times in the series that the Doctor directly kills anyone, he uses the de-mat gun to disintegrate the Sontaran warriors. This is unusual given that the Fourth Doctor has a particular and stated aversion to firearms. Stor is briefly seen as one of the Fourth Doctor's enemies just before his regeneration in Logopolis.[1] The Vardans also appeared in the Virgin New Adventures novel No Future by Paul Cornell, in which Bernice Summerfield refers to this story by dismissing them as "the only race in history to be outwitted by the intellectual might of the Sontarans". In the Virgin New Adventures Novel, Timewyrm: Genesys, it is revealed that during the events of the episode the Doctor uses the Matrix to send a message to his future self about the Timewyrm, a recurring villain from the novels.

Footage of the Fourth Doctor walking through a corridor is used in the 2013 episode "The Name of the Doctor".[citation needed] The footage is digitally altered to include Clara Oswald and The Great Intelligence, both of whom enter the Doctor's time-line during the events of that episode, trying to save and kill him respectively.


The script is credited to David Agnew, a pseudonym often used by the BBC for work produced "in house" by contracted production team members. On this occasion it masks the authors Anthony Read (the series' script editor) and Graham Williams (series producer). This story was written as a replacement for another story, The Killers of the Dark by David Weir, which was considered too expensive and complex to shoot. The script was written in just two weeks, with four days for rewrites. Additionally, when asked about the unused script at a convention, Graham Williams, having forgotten the exact title, made up the name "Gin Sengh", as in The Killer Cats of Gin Sengh (or Geng Singh — the spelling being indeterminate), resulting in the fan myth that this was the original title.[2] It was Robert Holmes who suggested to Graham Williams that this story be split into two segments, the first four episodes being based around the Vardans and the final two episodes being based around the Sontarans who come into the story at the end of episode 4.

Louise Jameson, who had already announced her departure from the show, reportedly wished for her character, Leela, to be killed at the end of the series, and was disappointed that Leela instead opted to stay behind on Gallifrey with Andred, even though nothing in the script suggests a romance between the two characters. The producers decided that killing off her character would be too traumatic for younger viewers.

An industrial strike, which was eventually resolved before production, forced the studio sets to be constructed within St Anne's Hospital in Redhill as the BBC's Christmas holiday specials were given priority in the regular studios.[2] As a result of the industrial strike, Graham Williams was given the option of not producing the final six episodes of the season and have the money rollover into the next season. Williams rejected this because of the additional problem of inflation that year and didn't want the budgeted money to depreciate even further.[2]

In addition to St Anne's Hospital, location filming also took place at British Oxygen, Hammersmith and Beachfields quarry in Redhill, Surrey.[3]

The Sontaran costumes were cumbersome and limited the field of vision of the actors wearing them, so much so that they are often seen tripping through and over props. At one point, a Sontaran (played by the actor Stuart Fell) nearly takes a fall after missing a short jump and landing on a pool chair. As the aliens originate on a planet of notably high gravity, however, their clumsiness is easily explained.

The closing credits of episodes three, four, and six feature the return of the section of Doctor Who theme commonly called the "Middle Eight", this sequence not having been heard since the early Jon Pertwee era.

Cast notes

Milton Johns had previously appeared as Benik in The Enemy of the World and Guy Crayford in The Android Invasion. Christopher Tranchell had previously played Roger Colbert in The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve and Jenkins in The Faceless Ones.


Writer and journalist Matthew Sweet has compared the Doctor's strategy of feigning madness in this story to Hamlet.[4]

Broadcast and reception

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Part One" 4 February 1978 (1978-02-04) 25:00 11.2
"Part Two" 11 February 1978 (1978-02-11) 25:00 11.4
"Part Three" 18 February 1978 (1978-02-18) 25:00 9.5
"Part Four" 25 February 1978 (1978-02-25) 23:31 10.9
"Part Five" 4 March 1978 (1978-03-04) 25:00 10.3
"Part Six" 11 March 1978 (1978-03-11) 25:44 9.8

Following transmission of the story, producer Graham Williams met with Head of Serials Graeme MacDonald, and they agreed that the story had contained too high a level of humour, resulting in a lack of credibility in Stor, and a lack of dramatic tension, and that in future any humour in the programme should counterpoint and strengthen the story rather than undermine and weaken it. Memos to this effect were to be issued to future directors of the show, in order to preserve a level of seriousness that both men felt to be necessary; however, the humorous trend continued until Williams' tenure came to an end in 1979.

Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping wrote in The Discontinuity Guide (1995) that the serial "stands up reasonably well", though the Vardans' appearances were "ludicrous".[8] In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker wrote that the story was "something of a mess". Although there were good special effects, they stated it had a lack of good characters, found Baker's performance to be "below par", and criticised the "pathetic" Vardans.[9] In 2010, Mark Braxton of Radio Times was also disappointed, finding many "inept sequences". He also criticised the way Leela was written in the serial, as well as her sudden departure.[10] DVD Talk's John Sinnott was more positive, giving the serial four out of five stars. He acknowledged that it was "a flawed and uneven adventure" with issues in plot logic, but it succeeded in "goofy fun" with a good performance by Baker.[11] Charlie Jane Anders of io9 listed the cliffhanger to Episode Two - in which it appears the Doctor is evil - as one of the greatest cliffhangers in the history of the programme in 2010.[12]

Commercial Releases

In print

Doctor Who and the Invasion of Time
File:Doctor Who and the Invasion of Time.jpg
Author Terrance Dicks
Cover artist Andrew Skilleter
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
21 February 1980
ISBN 0-426-20093-4

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in February 1980.

Home media

The Invasion of Time was released on a two tape VHS set in March 2000. It was released onto DVD on 5 May 2008. The DVD has optional brand new CGI effects. The NTSC Region 1 version was released on 3 September 2008. It has also been released in a DVD boxset titled Bred for War, along with The Time Warrior, The Sontaran Experiment and The Two Doctors. This serial was also released as part of the Doctor Who DVD Files in Issue 118 on 10 July 2013.


  1. Christopher H. Bidmead (writer), Peter Grimwade (director), John Nathan-Turner (producer) (28 February – 21 March 1981). Logopolis. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Martin Wiggins (2008). The Invasion of Time DVD Information Text. 2entertain.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Sweet, Matthew (2008-07-20). "Who is Hamlet: Playing the Time Lord is perfect preparation for David Tennant's new role". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-07-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Shaun Lyon; et al. (2007-03-31). "The Invasion of Time". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2008-08-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "The Invasion of Time". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "The Invasion of Time". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "The Invasion of Time". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Braxton, Mark (7 December 2010). "The Invasion of Time". Radio Times. Retrieved 1 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Sinnott, John (19 September 2008). "Doctor Who - The Invasion of Time". DVD Talk. Retrieved 1 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Anders, Charlie Jane (31 August 2010). "Greatest Doctor Who cliffhangers of all time!". io9. Retrieved 1 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links


Target novelisation