.... And we roll on with one-time-only villains ....
PART 2: A "CLUNKER" BADDIE
Doctor Who has been running for so long and has produced so many episodes that it's a simple law-of-averages that it's going to, occasionally, offer up something less-than-stellar. Given some of the comments I see in fan groups, I wonder, sometimes, if there are any stories certain fans are happy with! I find, at least, that even when the show misfires - it still gives us something that's a lot better than most of the stuff that's out there in Television Land.
Creature from the Pit might be the one exception to the rule. That really is just a horrible story that, maybe, we need to all forget. Particularly if you're Jewish!!
What saddens me most about stories that "get it wrong" is that they can have really good elements to them that we overlook. We're so disconcerted by the overall failure of it that we miss some of its successes. My fourth favorite one-time-only baddie is a great example of this.
I've said quite a bit about Timelash during the "Guilty Pleasure" countdown I did a while back (http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-top-five-guilty-pleasures_11.html). Labeling it a Guilty Pleasure, of course, is an acknowledgement that the story is seriously flawed. There are other stories from that era that get maligned like Twin Dilemma or Time and the Rani that I feel are not as bad as some people would have you believe. But Timelash is, most definitely a "clunker". Hidden within all that bad writing, abysmal effects and dodgy acting, however, is a gem of a one-time villain.
Don't worry. I'm not talking about Tekker!!
The Borad is a great villain because he has everything: cool weapons, a fun backstory and a sinister plan that wasn't quite what anyone expected. He's horribly disfigured but he'll tell you all about how that's actually made him better. Thanks to his mustakozene-80 accident, he is now a massive genius with a protracted lifespan. So what if it's given him an ugly face and a flipper?!
He wasn't lying about that genius thing either. I count, at least, three branches of science that he excels at (temporal physics, genetics and android technology). He kinda puts Davros to shame, really. He just built travel machines for mutants - the Borad can do way more than that!
While there are a lot of problems with the plotting of Timelash, the way the Borad is introduced into the story through various "teases" was one of its strong points. We know that the old guy that looks like Salyavin can't really be the same person as the sinister character everyone is meeting in the Borad's private chambers. There's a mystery to be solved and it's a nice build up to his ultimate revelation when the Doctor visits him.
The explanation of his origins is also very well-handled. The central thrust of the story is that it is a sequel to an unseen Third Doctor adventure. The Borad ties into that quite nicely. He has a particular hatred for the Doctor because of the fact that he reported him to the authorities. That's always a nice extra layer to a megalomaniac. Plots of conquest are only so interesting. If there's something personal there, too - that makes the conflict even more enjoyable.
The Borad's Ultimate Sinister Plan is another really cool nuance to him. Sure, down the road, he might sweep out into the Universe and start taking it over. But, right now, he just wants a girlfriend. He's going to destroy all sentient life on a planet to achieve that - but that's still all he really wants. By this point in the show, villains that wanted to conquer the galaxy had become a dime a dozen. So someone with a slightly different agenda was a breath of fresh air. Yes, we could argue that another evildoer lusting for Peri might be tiresome. But, really, which one of us wasn't lusting for her?! Can we really blame them?!
Some compliments must also be paid to Robert Ashby, himself. He does a very good job working through all that heavy make-up to bring the character to life. The fact that he also does some nice stuff with a ridiculous-looking rubber flipper makes him an even more impressive actor. His deep, silky voice is probably his strongest point. Particularly since we do spend a lot of time just hearing the Borad rather than seeing him. It was a very solid piece of casting, that's for sure.
What I like best about the Borad, however, is his Achilles Tendon. He may brag up a storm about how great it is to be half-morlox - but we all know he's just compensating. He is mortified by the way he looks (and, as cheap as the story looks, the make-up department stepped up to the plate nicely with how they did him up). Some pretty obvious clues are on display to give away that he has self-image problems, but it's still a fun way to take down a foe. The Borad's surprise re-appearance at the end of the story only works so well. But when the Doctor shouts: "You obviously haven't read the writing on the wall!" and then smashes away the painting of Jon Pertwee to reveal the mirror underneath - it's still pretty cool. The allusion that he will become the Loch Ness Monster sends fandom foaming at the mouth, of course ("That's the Skarasen!") but I still love how the Borad is defeated. He's not actually killed - he's just sent to a place where people will doubt that he even exists. That's a far worse fate than the death for a creature of his ego.
Hate Timelash all you want. You have the right to. It's got a lot of problems. But, if you claim that the Borad was part of that problem, we may have to step outside...