DW: The False Guardian / Time’s Assassin Review

DW The False Guardian Time's Assassin

When is using existing continuity going too far? That’s what question was on my mind while listening to this story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very fun story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but I do have to wonder about… well, the continuity it uses. Want to know more? Then by all means skip to the “Spoilers appear from here on out!” part of the review and find out!

Synopsis:

Ann Kelso doesn’t like mysteries. Keen to investigate the trail of the Sinestrans, she sets the TARDIS on a new course… but flies into danger.

Arriving on a desolate world that the Doctor finds somehow familiar, the TARDIS crew discover that something is wrong with time. The inhabitants of an unusual complex are experimenting at the command of their enigmatic director… somebody who has quite a strong grudge against the Doctor.

Facing an old foe who was presumed dead, the travellers are soon trapped in a diabolical scheme. But is it just the tip of the iceberg?

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

The Doctor (Tom Baker) – The trail of the Syndicate has gone cold, but The Doctor wasn’t that bothered about them in the first place. Still, he indulges Ann’s want to find a planet associated with the Sinestrans and therefore possibly the Syndicate, but he has no idea its a planet he’s already familiar with…

Ann Kelso (Jane Slavin) – Ann is still obsessing over The Syndicate, but The Doctor seems less so. Still, she follows up on a clue and takes the TARDIS to a new planet… full of danger from the outset. Sound about right, even without Ann’s guidance!

K9 (John Leeson) – K9 is The Doctor’s robot dog who has a vast databank of knowledge. That being said, The Doctor will have more knowledge about their new planet than he does…

The Director / Zephon (John Culshaw) – Zephon, son of Zephon, from the great Zephon empire of Zephon, wishes to get his revenge on The Doctor, whose actions lead to his father’s execution at the hands of the Daleks. Can he get his revenge and a seat in the Syndicate?

Nigel Colloon (John Shrapnel) – Nigel has suffered a major mental breakdown after his family was killed by gangsters due to his own mistakes. The breakdown has led to him forming the idea that he is Mavic Chen, the Guardian of the Solar System…

Elmore (Blake Ritson) – Elmore is the mad scientist employed by Director Zephon to create various biological weapons to sell on to various races for profit. He sees his work as eco-friendly killing, and has no problem ignoring all criticism…

Brox (Anna Action) – Brox works directly under Zephon, and claims that it is her smarts that has given Zephon all his riches…

The Varga Plants (Various) – Thanks to Elmore’s meddling, the Varga Plants of Kembel have started to gain more intelligence, and more thirsty for the lives of non-Varga life…

Plus more!

The Good:

DW The False Guardian Cover

I love how a lot of these covers are starting to really use entirely original CG creations. Adds a lot to the stories.

This script is absolutely bonkers, and what’s great is that the actors know it and act accordingly. Tom Baker’s Doctor is delightfully teasing and sarcastic, John Culshaw delivers a villain straight out of a 80s cartoon show, and holy crap, Blake Ritson’s Elmore is so over-the-top that you can’t help but listen to the performance with a huge smile on your face. I can’t help but think about how I disliked recent 13th Doctor TV story “The Witchfinders” because one of the guest characters was too over the top, though that was due to the script not reflecting that kind of performance, where as this script was very much designed to be completely off-the-wall…

I think the main thing people will take away from at least the first half of the story is the bizarre idea to have it be a straight up sequel to The Daleks’ Master Plan, especially as the big reveal of who the Director is at the end of “The False Guardian” was one of the delegates from said First Doctor serial, Zephon, or more accurately Zephon’s son Zephon… from the planet Zephon. I admit I couldn’t remember which delegate it was, though as soon as I saw the picture online I realised it made sense given some of the dialogue in the story. As mentioned above, Zephon is a straight up cartoon villain, complete with cheesy lines and getting angry at foolish underlings…

That isn’t the only connection to Master Plan, oh no, and while I’ll get to that in more detail later, I did enjoy Nigel Colloon, who was suffering from the delusion that he was Mavic Chen, Guardian of the Solar System. It was unnecessary (other than because they were doing a sequel to Master Plan) but again, amusing. Nigel was all about giving orders and expecting respect, but he was just some regular guy who got into trouble and had such a horrible experience that he created this persona for himself as an escape. Later in the story he starts arguing with his actual self during the few times he “gets out”, but in the end the Guardian persona is the one that wins out. It’s actually quite a serious plot line, if it weren’t played for such laughs, in a story so light-hearted and crazy…

I haven’t talked about our new companion Ann yet, have I? Well, she’s once again a fun character, spending a lot of the time with K9 and other guests, but we do get a big reveal, and a reveal that isn’t to do with Master Plan! Instead it’s revealed that Ann is a sleeper Time Agent (so a bit of continuity from Talons of Weng-Chiang instead!) whose mission is to find the Syndicate. It came out of nowhere and hearing her gun down Zephon and his second-in-command was quite shocking. Should be interesting to hear where that goes in the next few stories…

The last few moments include Elmore’s hellish mish-mash genetic monsters getting let loose on a bunch of more-self-aware Varga plants, and even though it was only audio, it was quite the odd sight to picture! Elmore is hilariously scenery-chewy to the very end though. A torture sequence between The Doctor and Elmore is probably the highlight of the story, for the record…

Overall it’s a really fun four-part story, and sets things up nicely for the finale…

The Bad:

My only real complaint is that you could have just had Zephon as the villain reveal for a laugh, there wasn’t really any need to set it on Kembel, with Varga Plants, a false Mavic Chen and have a dangerous time storm created partly due to the Time Destructor. Just because it’s a sequel to Master Plan doesn’t mean you have to put literally every bit of the original in it!

Actually I forgot about the time storm-thing. It was an interesting idea, but in the end it only really seemed to exist to give a reason for The Doctor’s TARDIS to vanish at the start of the story. It just sort of happened at the start of Episode 1, the reappeared to tie up a loose end in Part 4…

The Continuity:

DW Time's Assassin Cover

There is so much to like about this cover, but I can’t help but focus on how Tom Baker’s head doesn’t quite fit his body…

Well, it should be obvious by now, but this story and pretty much all its parts are all references to the First Doctor 12-part epic “The Daleks’ Master Plan”.

Ann being a Time Agent is calling back to the Fourth Doctor TV classic “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”, though Ninth Doctor onwards character Captain Jack Harkness is probably more associated with the concept.

Overall Thoughts:

The False Guardian / Time’s Assassin was a fun story, full of crazy, over-the-top performances and storylines, all tying into the Daleks’ Master Plan, which (if memory serves, it’s been a good decade…) was a great story, even if it’s mostly missing… It also sets things up well for the future, though we have one more “basic” story to go before the big finale…

4 Star Listen

One thought on “DW: The False Guardian / Time’s Assassin Review

  1. Tony Jones February 20, 2019 / 5:05 pm

    Good review – you capture the important points. I decided I really liked this set, even with the Ann K storyline and its ending

    Like

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