Sometimes referred to as: "The Horns of Nimon of the 80s" (even though part of Horns of Nimon was actually broadcast in the 80s), Timelash comes in just a bit higher in my rankings because I do find it just a bit more fun to watch. Kontron crystals are, basically, a bit cooler than hymetusite!
Like Nimon, Timelash is a somewhat two-dimensional tale. Villains, for the most part, are blacker than black - and the heroes are utterly innocent. We know, within seconds of seeing someone onscreen, which side they are on. While such a writing style does lack imagination, it doesn't mean that it still can't produce something that is largely entertaining.
The Borad, for instance, is a really great baddie. As much as fandom wants to cloud its judgement by talking about tinsel tunnels or an awful turn by Paul Darrow, if you strip away those distractions - you find yourself really loving the Borad. I would even say you could put him in the Gallery of Greatest Who Villains and not bat an eyelash. He's that good. He builds androids as well as Sharaz Jek and twists time as deftly as the Master. On top of that, he's got a terrible self-image problem. Boasting endlessly about how being a Morlox hybrid is so great, he still forbids any reflective substances so that he can never see his own appearance. That's some classic villainy, if you ask me. In a nutshell, the Borad kicks ass.
The Timelash, itself, while lacking visual splendour - is a really well-done plot device. The fact that it captures the TARDIS and drags the Doctor into the story is a nice way to get him involved in the adventure. Rather than use the whole: "Oh look! I just happened to show up on a planet during a period of great political upheaval" method, we get a feasible way of involving our main character and his travelling companion. The Timelash keeps getting used effectively throughout the storyline. It creates a nice plot complication when Vena falls into it with the amulet. It provides us with a good cliffhanger. It even dispatches our antagonist at the end. And, of course, it provides the Doctor with a means to defend himself in battle.
Yes, that last sequence also contains one of the most notoriously cheap effects in the show's history. But, again, if you look past the Christmas tinsel, it's a very imaginative sequence. The Doctor "dangling on the edge of oblivion" works quite well in a theoretical sense. It's only the visuals that let the whole thing down. And, of course, we get a couple of Kontron crystals out of the deal. Which leads to some more fun with the plot.
Long before Moffat gave us the term "timey whimey", Timelash did something cool and non-linear with the exploding android that appears out of nowhere and then gets sent back in time an hour later. As much of a thorn in the side that Glen McCoy might have been, that's a clever way to use time travel in a storyline. The other application of a Kontron crystal also plays out in a very fun way. Particularly as the Doctor faces the Borad down in his lair. These are some clever ideas that not only work out well in theory but are backed by some nice visuals on top of that.
There's also the fact that Timelash is a sequel to an unseen previous adventure involving the Third Doctor and Jo. Yes, this is the era of Who where we all claim the series was getting too self-referential and relying too heavily on its own past (although, coincidentally enough, the Third Doctor era does something quite similar but never gets criticized for it) but I really like it when a story does this sort of trick. It's a nice device that allows the Doctor to get on with what he does rather than getting locked up all the time because people think he's a spy or an infiltrator of some sort. Terror of the Vervoids would pull a similar trick in the next season and get similar results. The fact of the matter is, when a writer uses the "sequel to unseen story" technique, the story flows a bit better. The painting of Jon Pertwee on the wall is also quite nice and the fact that there's a mirror behind it that is used against the Borad at a crucial moment is very effective.
Like Nimon, of course, I have an objection or two with Timelash. Some of which I've already stated. But my biggest bone of contention is, easily, our awful "filler scene" in the TARDIS console room near the story's climax. It does bring the whole pace of the story to a grinding halt and I am frequently tempted to just fast-forward through the whole thing. What makes this piece of filler all the more shameful is the fact that a scene in the console room with the Doctor explaining to Peri how he escaped the Bendalypse Missile would've worked quite nicely. Instead, we are merely given an "I'll explain later" resolution. Yes, the shot of Herbert's card is a great way to the finish off the story, but couldn't the Doctor have shown Peri the card after he explained his escape? It's a remarkably bad piece of writing that finishes off the whole tale and leaves a very nasty final taste in all our mouths. There was hope for Timelash before this sequence. It was still cheap-looking and had some bad acting in it but it was also a lot of fun. But when we get subjected to the filler scene and then an "I'll explain later" resolution - the story becomes legitimately troubled. Which is a pity, really. Because this story would make it much higher on my Guilty Pleasure List if it hadn't ended so poorly.
Or, I might not even call it a Guilty Pleasure. I might actually just call it a pretty good story.
Missed Number 5? Here's the link: