Reviewed By: TCar96
Review Date: 9/13/16 5:09 pm
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Warriors Gate, the cynics may say, is undergraduate pretension and nigh-on impenetrable. As an undergraduate, with plenty of time to rewatch and a taste for pastures of Who beyond the Williams / RTD comfort zone - I LOVE Warriors Gate.
Before the light at the end of the tunnel (N-Space), the Doctor, Romana & Adric must first get through the tunnel of 'null space', where they find themselves trapped with another timeship. It's hard to discuss the thematic worth of Warriors Gate without getting into spoilers, if you wish to avoid, stop reading now.
Thematically there's slavery, entropy (obviously, season 18 after all!), meta-elements, departure, arrival, life, death, redemption, recompense and remorse. K9 - out. Romana - out. From start to stop, this is heavy, heavy stuff. Dramatic and eerie synth adds to the jawdrapping model work, splices of castles and Gothic architecture starkly juxtaposed with timeships against a backdrop of nothing. Cutting from past to present, to, well... nothing! There's an absolute wealth of concepts and science fiction here, all gelling together rather than pulling the story apart.
This is all aided and abetted by some awesome direction, cinematography and lighting. Match shots, cso, model work, povs - it has to be the most energetic and frantically directed pieces of Doctor Who up to the early 80's. Performances are all spot on, with the frying of one Tharil genuinely harrowing.
This despite attributing to the mature tone and almost extended universe charm of Warriors Gate, is to its detriment. I believe its possible to query whether Doctor Who ought to ever cross the Rubicon from upsetting to harrowing - but I certainly hold that this cannot be attempted within minutes of a comic double act. The Holmesesque crew gags frankly feel out of place - like throwing Frobisher into the Caves of Androzani. Whilst our leads have subtle jokes, raising the sombre mood of the piece, the guest cast seem to performing a very different interpretation of Warriors Gate. Though not ruinous, the tonal inconsistency is a shade off. Equally problematic is the scale of confusion shrouding the episode. I'm firmly of the camp that a failure for concise clarity is the fault of the production, not the viewer. The recent episode Heaven Sent is a great example of doing this right - high conceptual bizzarro SciFi, easily digestible. Warriors Gate is occasionally a little too hard to follow due to odd choices in pacing exposition, again nothing too ruinous and fairly forgivable given the level of experimentation on display.
Finally, Adric. After State of Decay it's a shame to see Adric so underused, and when used, mischaracterised (i.e. having none). This is even more irritating given Adric is the one regular cast member who is not time-sensitive nor used to such high concept adventuring - a perfect fish out of water character to help us along, woefully under utilised.
These niggles leave Warriors Gate just short of a perfect 10, though nevertheless an essential must watch. As close as televised Who dare to get to Big Finish and VNA levels of brain bending - probably too close for anything more than a very rare treat, and all the more enjoyable and valuable for the rarity!