After a few years of no new Doctor Who, fans of the show would have been tickled to watch Tom Baker read from the Gallifrey dictionary for 2 hours. Instead, they got a 15-minute crossover with the “Eastenders” as part of the Children in Need charity telethon. While quite flawed and illogical, the short is still fun to watch.
The plot, overly complicated for a 15-minute short, involves a renegade Time Lord known as the Rani, who plots to control galactic evolution by collecting a specimen of every known creature and sending them on a time stream through the Greenwich Prime Meridian. Because only the Doctor can stop her, the Rani traps him in a 20-year time loop at Prince Albert Square, where the Doctor’s previous incarnations interact with various “Eastenders” characters, all the while trying to thwart the Rani’s plan and get back to the Tardis.
Although flawed, there’s a lot about the short that does work. The performances of Jon Pertwee, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Peter Davison and the various companions are terrific in what amounts to their series swan song. It’s even nice to see the Cybermen and K-9, although they haven’t much to do here. A nice touch is the crossover with another beloved British show, “Eastenders”. Even though the characters mostly seem to just appear to pose with the Doctor, its nevertheless neat to see them appear in the same scene.
Then again, there’s also plenty that went wrong. Tom Baker’s appearance, although fantastic, is a completely wasted effort. He gives a desperate and heartfelt warning to the other doctors, but they don’t seem to get the message since it takes them half the show to figure out what’s going on. Why waste a Dr. Who legend on what amounts to a pointless scene that has no bearing on what follows?
Speaking of pointless, what was writer David Rodan on when he penned this? Sadly, the short makes little, if any, sense. How is the Rani going to control the evolution of the universe with a sample of every species sent specifically through the Greenwich Meridian? And what could she do if she succeeded? Why does she use her precious samples to attack the Doctor if they’re so vital to her plan? Why exactly does she need a hunky assistant when she can clearly do the work herself? The title itself doesn’t make much sense; although it sounds great, what does “Dimensions in Time” actually mean?
Another problem is Stuart McDonald’s direction, which tends to whiz by so fast you’ll need repeated viewings to catch important plot points. While he never allows the short to sport a single dull moment, the pace is such that viewers can miss some vital details. A slower pace would have made the show a lot more coherent, not to mention more enjoyable, to fans.
“Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time” is flawed but still enjoyable. It’s like an old friend — you’re happy to see them despite all the faults they’ve acquired since you last met. While the plot and direction are a mess, it’s a joy to see Dr. Who’s of years past in one last spin in the roles that brought them fame. “Doctor Who” and “Eastenders” fans will undoubtedly want to check this one out, and forgiving viewers will probably want to join them.
Stuart McDonald (director) / David Roden, John Nathan-Turner, John Frank Rosenblum (screenplay)
CAST: Sophie Aldred …. Ace
Tom Baker …. The Doctor
Colin Baker …. The Doctor
Nicola Bryant …. Peri