Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Doctor Who - The Time Meddler

As per usual, here is my old review from the Doctor Who Ratings Guide of this month's DVD release, The Time Meddler:

A strong and sedate tale

The final story of Doctor Who's second season, The Time Meddler is something of a curiosity. This is the first story where we meet another of the Doctor and Susan's people, the first story to combine futuristic and historical events and even the first story where TARDIS is said to stand for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space (previously it was just Dimension). It also completes the introduction of Steven as a companion and takes the TARDIS to one of the most obvious years in history - 1066. This is quite a list of achievements and what is surprising is that the story not only does all this but adopts a relaxed pace which is a welcome change from the hectic tension of previous adventures.

The opening scenes aboard the TARDIS serve as a useful reminder of the basic format of the series. It is reassuring that Steven doesn't immediately accept everything he is told and instead slowly comes round to accepting that the TARDIS is a time machine and this makes for some nice scenes as Vicki tries to convince him. The mystery is established almost immediately after the TARDIS arrives and the strange Monk observes it but does not seem at all surprised.

As the story progresses and a succession of anachronisms are presented the Monk become ever more the key figure. Peter Butterworth's whimsical performance is a wonderful contrast to William Hartnell's Doctor and the all-too few scenes involving them in the final two episodes are a delight as they seek to outwit one another. Whilst the other guest cast are somewhat bland with the possible exception of Edith, portrayed well by Alethea Charlton, this doesn't matter as it means there's more scope for the conflict between Doctor and Monk. With the departure of Ian and Barbara in the previous story The Chase, the Doctor could have been left without a reason for his wanderings but here one is soon clear - he must put things to rights by stopping the Monk rather than just escape to the TARDIS.

The cliffhanger to A Battle of Wits is wonderful as there is no previous clue that the Monk has a TARDIS too. The conflict between the Doctor's and the Monk's philosophies of time travel and history is strong. Although no famous historical characters appear in this story, the threat to history is all-too clear. The one downside is the story's resolution as it's never made clear whether or not the Monk could still fire his cannon to destroy the fleet and a few lines sorting this out would have wrapped that up nicely.

The story, and the second season, ends with a strange sequence showing treated images of all three regulars over an images of stars and bodes well for the future. About a decade ago this story was chosen to represent the Hartnell years in a series of repeats on BBC2. Although it is highly atypical of the Hartnell years it was nevertheless a good strong choice to launch the repeats with. 9/10
The Time Meddler can be purchased from here.

1 comment:

Strawberryyog said...

Tim, I loved this one - I still remember it now and it's DECADES ago! You're right about the amazing sting in the tail, how the Monk had his own Tardis: good stuff.

Unfortunately I then got pretty jolly confused and persuaded myself for the next n years that the Monk was played by Patrick Troughton and that I was on to something rather profound. Doh! He wasn't, and I wasn't. Tsk! :)


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