I'm now convinced that talking about timing during kata training is much like talking about when to turn the car when the car is stopped. You can do so, but I believe the value is minimal, because during kata training everything is defined --- the attack, the response, the roles --- everything.
Here's some food for thought Paul. Basically what you are saying is that uke is wired to fail from the beginning, not as a result of successfully completing the equation of the kata, but because they don't hit you, they are not a threat in any way. Change that relationship and see if the emphasis on timing in kata changes. I practice in a system where uke can knock your butt on the matt if your timing isn't very good, or at the very least, your kata will not work. At the yudansha level, missed timing can result in counters. They are not trying to keep you from doing the kata, they are actually promoting proper understanding of the kata, trying to keep you DOING the kata. Alive, functional, and motivated uke are an integral part of a dynamic kata practice, and it sounds like that is what you are missing more than anything. I can see why you feel the way you do.