Timelash is the fifth serial of the 22nd season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in two weekly parts on BBC1 on 9 and 16 March 1985.

Doctor Who serial
Directed byPennant Roberts
Written byGlen McCoy
Script editorEric Saward
Produced byJohn Nathan-Turner
Music byElizabeth Parker
Production code6Y
SeriesSeason 22
Running time2 episodes, 45 minutes each
First broadcast9 March 1985 (1985-03-09)
Last broadcast16 March 1985 (1985-03-16)
← Preceded by
The Two Doctors
Followed by →
Revelation of the Daleks
List of episodes (1963–1989)

In the serial, the Borad (Robert Ashby), the mutated leader of the planet Karfel, plots to start a war with the Bandril race which would wipe out both the Bandrils and Karfel's population so that the Borad could repopulate it with his own kind to rule the planet.



The TARDIS is ensnared by a Kontron tunnel (similar to a time corridor) and is drawn to its source on the planet Karfel, which the Doctor has previously visited.

Its population is now ruled by the Borad, a sadistic ruler never seen in person, only via security monitors which reveal him to be an old man. His law is enforced by blue androids; and all rebels are dealt with either by summary execution or dispatch via the Timelash - exiled down a corridor of Time and Space. At the time of the Doctor's return, the neighbouring planet of Bandrils are posed to invade after the Borad rescinds the grain supply treaty which underpinned the relationship between the two civilisations.

Acting as a proxy for the Borad, the Maylin is the most senior of the five councillors of Karfel. When one of these fellow councillors, Mykros, actively plots with Maylin Renis to overthrow the Borad's rule, the Maylin is executed and Mykros sentenced to exile via the Timelash. Before he can be dispatched however, Vena - Renis' daughter and Mykros' lover - intervenes to plead for his life. When this fails, she steals an amulet conferring the power to the new Maylin - a sycophant named Tekker - and accidentally falls into the Timelash herself.

The arrival of the TARDIS presents Maylin Tekker with an opportunity to retrieve the amulet. When the Doctor refuses to help, Tekker explains that Peri has been taken hostage to ensure his co-operation. She has been taken to a cave of Morlox, large lizards indigenous to Karfel, but is rescued by some Karfelon rebels. However, they are soon captured by guards.

To protect Peri, the Doctor follows the Timelash tunnel back to Scotland in 1885. When he arrives he finds Vena with the amulet and a young man named Herbert. All return to Karfel, where the amulet is seized and the travellers rounded up with the rebels to await sentencing. They fight back and seal the chamber doors. The Doctor retrieves two kontron crystals from the Timelash, which he uses to create a time manipulator that allows him to slip out of the Chamber.

Tekker has meanwhile fled to the Borad, and blames the setback on the last remaining loyal Counsellor, Kendron, whom the Borad executes. Tekker remains with the Borad, now revealed to be a hideous amalgam of human and Morlox. They watch on a screen as Peri is brought into a cave and strapped down while Morlox gather to feed. A canister of the chemical Mustakozene-80 is placed nearby, which has the ability to fuse together the tissue of different species. The Borad has taken a liking to Peri and wishes to mutate her like himself. The Doctor arrives to confront Tekker and the Borad, recognising the latter as Megelen, a crazed scientist he encountered on his previous visit to Karfel and exposed to the Council for unethical experiments on Morloxes. Megelen wishes to replicate its effects to create a partner. His plan has been to provoke a war with the Bandrils that will result in their use of warheads which will wipe out all the Karfelons – but leave the Morlox and himself alive – allowing him to repopulate the world in his own image. This revelation prompts Tekker too to rebel, but he is aged to death. The Doctor then uses a Kontron Crystal to deflect Megelen's beam back at him, killing the mutant in his wheelchair.

Herbert helps the Doctor rescue Peri. They return to the Council Chamber where the imminent threat of a Bandril nuclear strike prompts the Doctor to take drastic action. He materialises the TARDIS in the path of the incoming warhead, risking his own life to save Karfel. He does so successfully and returns to Karfel to find Megelen returned from the dead and threatening the Council Chamber – or rather the other one was a clone of this original. Megelen is made unbalanced by the image of himself in a boarded up mirror, revealing the reason he hid himself away, and in this state is pushed into the Timelash by the Doctor, where he may have ended up as the Loch Ness monster (The Doctor says "he may be seen from time to time").

As they depart, the Doctor shows Herbert's calling card to Peri, which gives Herbert's name as Herbert George Wells.



A mural of the Third Doctor's face is revealed behind a section of wall panelling in the Timelash control room, while Peri recognises a photograph of Jo Grant.[2]

In the 2010 The Sarah Jane Adventures story Death of the Doctor, Jo Grant recounts her visit to the planet, explaining, "The Doctor took me to this planet once called Karfel. And they had a leisure garden. And the plants could sing."

Outside references


This serial makes several references to Wells' novels: The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, and The Island of Doctor Moreau.[2]



The music for this story was provided by Elizabeth Parker, who had formerly contributed special sound for Blake's 7.[3]

Cast notes


Paul Darrow had previously appeared in Doctor Who and the Silurians as Captain Hawkins.[4] Denis Carey previously played Professor Chronotis in the incomplete serial Shada and the Keeper in The Keeper of Traken.[2]

Darrow has acknowledged that producer John Nathan-Turner was initially unhappy with his performance, which he based on Richard III, and he was accused of "sending it up". However, he claims Nathan-Turner later praised him, saying: "You were absolutely right to do it that way - the script wasn't that good and you made something of it."[5]

Broadcast and reception

EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [6]
1"Part One"45:009 March 1985 (1985-03-09)6.7
2"Part Two"44:3616 March 1985 (1985-03-16)7.4

Timelash was not well received by Doctor Who critics. Guest star Paul Darrow described Timelash as "the most disliked and also one of the most liked, which is fascinating".[5] Graham Sleight noted that Timelash is "widely regarded as one of the worst series ever broadcast as part of Doctor Who", claiming the story has "a weak script, cheap-looking design, unimaginative direction, laughable special effects and some appalling performances".[7] However, Sleight also praises Robert Ashby's performance as the Borad, claiming Ashby's performance "elevates his menace to an entirely different level to the rest of the story".[7] Tat Wood described it as "a grindingly dull story only memorable for being made as a school panto with belated New Romantic 80s fashion errors".[8] Wood singled out the story's script, production and costumes for particular criticism.[8] Wood also pointed out the H.G. Wells depicted in Timelash is different from the real-life Wells (the Wells depicted in Timelash is not blond, lacks a Cockney/Kentish accent, and is interested in spiritualism).[8]

In The Discontinuity Guide, Timelash was criticised for "tacky sets and some dodgy acting" but was also said to be "nowhere near as bad as its reputation".[2] Doctor Who: The Television Companion noted that the serial was not popular with fans of the show, but was at least "a reassuringly traditional Doctor Who adventure" in a season which contained "derivative, incomprehensible and inappropriately violent stories".[2] In Doctor Who: The Complete Guide, Mark Campbell awarded Timelash seven out of ten, describing it as "an unfairly maligned homage to HG Wells and bad 'B' movies, Timelash is good, old-fashioned entertainment in a season brimming with macho portentousness. It all goes pear-shaped towards the end, but on the way there's plenty of fun to be had."[9]

In 2013, The Daily Telegraph's Tim Stanley wrote of the serial: "The sets are bad, the acting is bad, the script stinks, the effects are laughable and – most importantly – Colin's Doctor is simply unlovable."[10] Den of Geek's Andrew Blair selected Timelash as one of the ten Doctor Who stories that would make great musicals.[11] Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times awarded the serial one star from five, describing it as "a turkey that's also a hoot". In his view, the serial was "codswallop served cold: boring Tardis scenes are intercut with stultifying political machinations on Karfel, a drab planet ruled by a lethargic lizard-man and about to be obliterated by glove-puppet Bandrils".[12]

Commercial releases


In print

AuthorGlen McCoy
Cover artistDavid McAllister
SeriesDoctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
PublisherTarget Books
Publication date
December 1985 (Hardback) 15 May 1986 (Paperback)

A novelisation of this serial, written by Glen McCoy, was published by Target Books in December 1985.

A book length study of the serial, written by Phil Pascoe, was published as part of The Black Archive series from Obverse Books in 2019.[13]

Home media


Timelash was released on VHS on 5 January 1998,[14] and on DVD on 9 July 2007[15] with a commentary provided by actors Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Paul Darrow, and Robert Ashby along with a selection of other features.[16]

It was released as part of the ‘Doctor Who The Collection: Season 22’ blu-ray box set on 20th June 2022.


  1. ^ From the Doctor Who Magazine series overview, in issue 407 (pp26-29). The Discontinuity Guide, which counts the unbroadcast serial Shada, lists this as story number 142. Region 1 DVD releases follow The Discontinuity Guide numbering system.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Timelash". BBC. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  3. ^ Hebblethwaite, Phil (20 July 2018). "BBC Music - Classic photos from the golden days of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop". BBC. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  4. ^ "Paul Darrow, of Blake's 7 and Doctor Who fame, dies at age 78". 3 June 2019.
  5. ^ a b Anderson, Martin (5 July 2011). "PAUL DARROW ON BLAKE'S 7, MINISTER OF CHANCE AND THE STAR WARS MMORPG". Shadowlocked. Archived from the original on 5 May 2015. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  6. ^ "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  7. ^ a b Sleight, Graham (2012). The Doctor's Monsters: Meanings of the Monstrous in Doctor Who. I.B.Tauris. p. 39. ISBN 978-1848851788.
  8. ^ a b c Wood, Tat (2007). About Time 6: Seasons 22 to 26 and TV Movie. Illinois: Mad Norwegian Press. pp. 73–90. ISBN 978-0975944653.
  9. ^ Campbell, Mark (2011). Doctor Who: The Complete Guide. Robinson Publishing. ISBN 978-1849015875. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  10. ^ Stanley, Tim (18 November 2013). "Doctor Who 50th anniversary: Colin Baker – a poetic, dark Doctor with a hideous, bright coat". The Daily Telegraph.
  11. ^ Blair, Andrew (28 August 2013). "Doctor Who: 10 stories that would make great musicals". Den of Geek. Dennis Publishing. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  12. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (6 June 2012). "Timelash *". Radio Times. Immediate Media Company. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  13. ^ Black Archive #35: Timelash https://obversebooks.co.uk/product/35-timelash/
  14. ^ "Doctor Who - Timelash [1985]". amazon.co.uk. 5 January 1998. Retrieved 28 February 2007.
  15. ^ "DVD update". BBC. Archived from the original on 8 September 2007. Retrieved 28 February 2007.
  16. ^ "Doctor Who Restoration Team - Timelash DVD details". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015.



Target novelisation