Starring: Nicholas Courtney, Deborah Watling, Jack Watling & Elisabeth Sladen
Directed by: Christopher Barry and Keith Barnfather.
Running time: 70mins
Downtime is a unique British 1995 sci-fi movie from the Doctor Who universe (but unofficial) featuring treasured characters and talent from the franchise and only now released on DVD – it’s a must see for fans of the Time Lord.
Retired commander of the United Nations’ Intelligence Taskforce, and long-time associate of the mysterious time traveller the Doctor, Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart faces the toughest battle of his military career when he is embroiled in a plot unwittingly set in motion by university chancellor Victoria Waterfield, herself a former companion of the Doctor, to take over the Earth by an evil alien entity called the Great Intelligence, aided by its ferocious robot Yeti cohorts. Can the Brigadier defeat this menace to the Earth without the Doctor’s help?
To understand Downtime you have to appreciate the time it was originally created; made in 1995 and at a time when Doctor Who was NOT on television (except for repeats on Gold), there was an enormous void left by the Time Lord. Due to licensing loopholes, various production companies made a number of spin-off adventures trying to capitalise on elements of Doctor Who. These mostly focussed on various companions of the Doctor and none were more popular than The Brig and Sarah Jane.
Using elements from the original storyline of The Yeti from the episode The Web of Fear (you are talking about the era of The second Doctor, Patrick Troughton), there is a New World threat using computers and summoning up a most feared enemy that Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart encountered a number of years ago. This time however, he has help in the form of his friend and former companion of The Third Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith. With the fate of the very existence of Earth lying in the balance, these two stalwarts of The Who Universe once again battle to save humanity.
Downtime is a perfect piece in the tradition of “classic” Doctor Who (though sadly The Doctor is not present) and you have all of the elements that fans of the era love. There is a wealth of acting talent such as Nicholas Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen returning to fine form as The Brig and Sarah Jane. Also appearing is John Leeson as Anthony the DJ (John Leeson provided the voice of K-9).
Ok, so the The Yeti are once again guys in furry suits waving their arms in the air, but that’s the way Doctor Who should be; fun, cheeky and mildly scary and relying on good scripts and not CGI to tell the story. Made in 1995, there are a few (not so special) effects added to enhance a certain Character but that just adds to the charm. Regular viewers of this period will be glad to hear there are no wobbly sets, but making a welcome return are U.N.I.T, complete with a battle at the end!
The DVD transfer is incredibly crisp and clear and you can tell that the makers of this drama have indeed tinkered just a little to bring it to the modern era, but thankfully, not that much. The music is typical BBC filler but like the audio of the actors, presented in a crisp and clear manner and none of the sometimes fuzziness that can be heard on other video to DVD transfers.
There were a number of productions released during the hiatus of Doctor Who from our television screens and Downtime certainly ticks a lot of the right boxes. For fans of the new incarnations of Doctor Who and who have never watched the classic series, this will no doubt seem like a lot of silly nonsense. However, for those fans that remember hiding behind sofas from the 1970s onwards and fondly remember The Brig and Sarah Jane, then this is as timeless as the flashing blue light on The Tardis!
4 out of 5 Nerds (For nostalgia purposes only)