Friday, 12 December 2014
The Randomiser. Has a piece of equipment ever been so seriously misnomered? Introduced in the closing moments of the final episode of The Armageddon Factor, and seeing its final appearance in The Leisure Hive, this particular invention either never worked - or was continually bypassed.
The reason for employing it was supposed to be to prevent the Black Guardian from tracking the Doctor down to wreak his revenge. The history of the show up to this point, however, suggests that it wasn't really needed.
The Doctor spends two years trying to get schoolteachers Ian and Barbara back to the London of 1963. Trying and failing. True, he does get them back to the right country and time-zone once during this period - but unfortunately they are only one inch tall...
When the TARDIS materialises on Dido, the Doctor briefly entertains the idea of making out to the teachers that this was deliberate - until he remembers that he was fast asleep during landing.
Several of the early stories remind the audience that the Doctor cannot pilot his ship properly. When Vicki appears to have been left behind in the funfair "House of Horrors" (in The Chase) only the capture of the Dalek time machine will get her back - it is an impossible task for the TARDIS.
The ship travels randomly throughout the 1960's, which seems to please the Doctor. Note his utter delight at realising they have landed back on Dulkis again. Not knowing where you are going to end up is one of the joys of his jackdaw meanderings. None of the stories in this era relies on the dramatic device of having a controllable TARDIS to resolve any plot points - in the way that today's stories constantly do.
Once the Third Doctor has his exile terminated, he spends ages trying to get Jo to Metebelis III. He succeeds eventually, by physically wiring the co-ordinates into the journey programmer. He returns to that planet a few months later to rescue Sarah Jane Smith - presumably because those co-ordinates are still wired in - but the telepathic circuits also appear to play a part, as far as specific time / location of the landing are concerned.
The Doctor does seem to have a limited amount of control over the ship at times - such as managing to get back to Peladon. However, as it was the Time Lords who directed him there in the first place, they may have been behind this later visit as well.
Which all begs the question - why need the Randomiser?
The first location the TARDIS travels to after it has been fitted just happens to be Skaro - on the very day that Davros is brought back from the dead. With hindsight, knowing that Genesis of the Daleks marked the opening skirmish of the Time War, we can safely assume that the Time Lords are meddling again? Then again, this would be only the second ever landing on Skaro for the TARDIS - so maybe purely random. From this point on, however, the TARDIS is piloted exactly where the Doctor wants to go in every story in which the device is fitted.
It may have been the Randomiser that brought the ship to Paris in 1979 - the Doctor blames the device for the date - but in City of Death we then see the Doctor travel back to 16th Century Florence, return to Paris in 1979, travel to prehistoric times to waylay Scaroth, then back to Paris, 1979.
The next two stories both feature the TARDIS responding to a distress signal - from Erato's shell in Creature from the Pit, and the stricken space liner Empress in Nightmare of Eden. In the former adventure, the Doctor additionally pilots the TARDIS to intercept the neutron star that is on its way to destroy Chloris, then lands the ship back on the planet.
The last story televised, before the Randomiser is taken out to be used in the Tachyon Recreation Generator on Argolis - The Horns of Nimon - sees the Doctor able to pursue the kidnapped Romana to Skonnos. It is specifically mentioned, mind you, that the Doctor has dismantled everything at the start of the story in order to repair the control console - presumably including the Randomiser.
Even the unseen adventure - Shada - would not have been immune to a complete lack of randomisation. The Doctor pilots the ship specifically to St Cedd's College after receiving a message from Prof. Chronotis, and it then travels around throughout the rest of the story - turning up to rescue the Doctor from the mind-sphere, going to the field where Skagra's ship is hidden, and so on.
Finally, let's not forget that the TARDIS was able to travel to Argolis - intentionally - before the Randomiser was eventually removed from the ship.
As much as I love "Nu-Who", there are a couple of things I have never been happy about. One is the over-use of the sonic screwdriver - and the other is the controllable TARDIS. It is frequently argued that such devices are necessary for 21st Century story-telling - 45 minutes, fast paced plotting, etc. An excuse, I think, for a lack of ingenuity on the part of some of the writers.
This little trawl through some of the TARDIS travels has inspired me to concoct a new, occasional, series of posts - a look, season by season, at all of the TARDIS journeys through Space and Time.