Saturday, 6 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Time Meddler

The Watcher

"That is the dematerialising control and that over yonder is the horizontal hold. Up there is the scanner, those are the doors, that is a chair with a panda on it- sheer poetry, dear boy."

It's nice that we start with a chat between the Doctor and Vicki about Ian and Barbara. Suddenly the Doctor as well as Vicki is afraid of being alone.

Great to see Peter Butterworth, no less, as the Monk- our only major guest star so far to be heralded by stock footage of some waves.

We now have two companions from the future- and, incidentally, two northerners. Will their both hailing from future times do any harm to viewer identification in the long term, I wonder?

For the first time, the acronym TARDIS is explained by Vicki as "Time and Relative Dimensions in Space".

This is the greatest episode since The Keys of Marinus for lines from Hartnell: "What do you think it is, a space helmet for a cow?"; "I'm not a mountain goat and I prefer walking to any day. And I hate climbing."

Alethea Charlton appears again! Playing a very nice lady, addressed by the doctor as "Woman".

Nice bit of intrigue with the Monk obviously feeling for a wristwatch, followed up by Steven finding a wristwatch later. The Doctor's finding the gramophone ratchets this up even further. A genuine bit of mystery, and at last the sci-fi and historical elements are being mixed.

The Meddling Monk

"I don't think we've been as clever as we think we have."

We start the next morning, and the scene of the Monk making a rather modern-looking breakfast for the Doctor has made me come over all peckish. Bill Hartnell's off on his holidays again, I see!

I do wish everyone wouldn't keep calling it the 10th century! And as this is Northumbria they'd technically be Angles, not Saxons.

Some very nice stock footage of some Vikings there. Even once we get to the scenes shot for the programme it must be said their leader is sporting a rather impressive helmet.

The implied rape of Edith is rather jarring for a programme like this- not for the first time Dennis Spooner, while generally an excellent writer, misjudges the tone. Still, this aside it's all good stuff so far.

A Battle of Wits

"If I know the Doctor it's not going to be as simple as that."

It's Vicki who finds the secret passage in the Doctor's cell- she's great, and I'm liking her more and more. Meanwhile, the Doctor is telling a suddenly recovered Edith the next couple of months' worth of current affairs.

For the first time since the rape we see Sven and Ulf. Because of what they've done we instinctively know they won't finish the story alive.

The monk's chart detailing his plan is priceless, as is the Doctor persuading the Monk that his stick is in fact a "Winchester '73". "Well, as it happens, I happen to be a very curious fellow!"

Vicki's horrified to see the TARDIS submerged by the tide, although surely by now the viewer would have no fears on this score. Once again she's terrified of abandonment.

WHAT a cliffhanger- another TARDIS!


"It's a TARDIS! The Monk's got a TARDIS!"

So the Monk's from "50 years earlier" than the Doctor, and he's got a "Mark 4". No doubt this will all be picked up on in years to come.

Dennis Spooner has clearly changed his mind entirely on the mechanics of changing history since he scripted The Reign of Terror...! It's very noticeable, too, that the Doctor has changed over the last season, being very keen on sorting things out before returning to the Ship for entirely selfless reasons, although of course as the Monk is one of his own people he arguably has more reason to feel responsible.

Nice ending- the Monk gets his comeuppance, Steven's been fully initiated, and once again we end the season with a star field over the credits.

Overall, top stuff. A great central idea, well-executed and acted, with lots of good character stuff and a bit of intrigue as to the Doctor's origins. An easy 5/5.

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