Sunday, 21 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Time Monster

Part One

“Look, I know I’m exceedingly dim, but would you mind explaining?”

What a very odd beginning. The dream sequence, that is, not the stock footage, obviously. Quite a good beginning too, and not a bad first episode. Of course, UNIT is by now far too cosy an organisation to be taken as seriously as it was earlier this season, and the comedy feminism has dated quite as much as Stuart Hyde’s entire appearance. There’s no way at this point I can avoid quoting the line “May God bless the good ship Women’s Lib and all who sail in her.” Mind you, Stuart’s studenty pseudo-Marxism has dated just as much: “That’s all right, Prof- you go and enjoy your nosh. Leave it to the toiling masses.”

There’s a worrying undertone of sameyness and watering down of the established format though- yet another example of the Master posing under an obvious assumed name, too much silliness (souped up Bessie) and the Brigadier continuing his metamorphosis into a figure of fun.

Part Two

“You know, it’s a long time since I came across a hypnotic subject who turned out to be as good as you are. It’s just like old times.”

The above line, with its postmodern references to the by now established clichés of the programme in its present format, is just one of many examples right through the story. And this is simultaneously a big part of what makes this story both genuinely fun to watch and deeply problematic- the show can only really afford to have that sort of fun with the fourth wall if the core elements are solid. And here they clearly aren’t- the plot is just a series of set pieces and the overall tone is that of a Hanna Barbera cartoon- the Master’s telephone trick on Benton is a case in point.

Part Three

“Get on with it, you seventeenth century poltroons!”

Atlantis, eh? Perhaps this time it’ll be a case of third time lucky. Certainly, one promising sign in that our 500 year old king seems to have the great Ozzy Osbourne as an advisor. And it’s most convenient for the viewer that the king should contrive to explain how he’s 537 years old at this exact point.

We’ve now reached the point where thinking about the plot is a very bad idea, and the Doctor’s tea leaves-powered wine bottle machine is too silly for words. But there’s more- apparently the Doctor and the Master used to make these at school to spoil each others’ time experiments. Such an evocative addition to the show’s mythology.

Just when things can’t get any sillier we get UNIT versus a mediaeval knight, UNIT versus some roundheads and UNIT versus a V2. This is technically an awful episode, as bad as things have ever got, and yet it still manages to entertain, mainly with the humorous dialogue- some intended, some probably not, and the infectious sense of fun.

Part Four

“I’m sorry about your coccyx too, Miss Grant.”

It’s a nice touch that, just before the bomb apparently hits Yates, the Brig calls him “Mike”. But Yates has survived, if not entirely unharmed, as witnessed by a standard Pertwee era comedy yokel. We get more funny lines here to counterpoint the general shoddiness of everything: “Is this a private fight or can anyone join in?”; “I’m Stuart Hyde- registered, card-carrying, paid-up coward.”

We get to see the inside of both the Master’s TARDIS and the Doctor’s, and they both seem to be using the same, rather groovy, never-before-seen desktop theme. I wonder what it’s called. I also notice Jon Pertwee doesn’t know how to pronounce “nanosecond”. Still, this Time Ram thing sounds a cool idea, and I like Jo’s bravery in wanting to accompany the Doctor in full knowledge of the dangers. Awful though it is, this story actually treats Jo’s character rather well.

We get an odd paradox with the Doctor’s TARDIS and the Master’s both ending up inside each other. That’s brilliant. And weird. No doubt we’ll never see anything like this again…

There’s plenty more silliness, of course, Benton as a baby, the Master once again dispensing with the fourth wall as he turns down the Doctor’s sound because he’s “a bore”…

Part Five

“How about ‘Curses! Foiled again’?”

At last, stuff is happening on Atlantis. And we get Ingrid Pitt! Ooh! I was surprised at the scenes of the Master flirting with Galleia, mind- it seems to amount to rather less than fan mythology would have us believe.

Part Six

“It was the daisyest daisy I’d ever seen.”

Oh dear, it’s the Minotaur, and the Doctor’s using his red cape! We get one very nice scene in this episode though- the Doctor reveals a hitherto unknown Zen Buddhist, Barry Letts-influenced side as he recounts a tale of a hermit who lived on a mountain when he was a “little boy”. The rest of it’s some very clichéd Doctor / Master stuff though, very Hanna Barbera indeed. And with the final reveal of a naked Benton we get the most Hanna Barbera ending yet seen.

Well, technically I suppose that was the worst story yet. The plot, the tone, the treatment of the format and the regulars- all were utterly risible, and clearly pitched at the level of a Saturday morning cartoon. And yet, awful as it is, it still manages to be fun to watch. So much so that I haven’t got the heart to give it less than 2/5.

Season Nine as a whole scores 3.6/5, slightly better than Season Eight but still below every other season so far.


The Massacre 5/5
The War Games 5/5
Spearhead From Space 5/5
Fury from the Deep 5/5
The Evil of the Daleks 5/5
The Myth Makers 5/5
The Aztecs 5/5
The Tomb of the Cybermen 5/5
Marco Polo 5/5
The Crusade 5/5
Day of the Daleks 5/5
Inferno 5/5
The Highlanders 5/5
The Daleks’ Master Plan 5/5
The Time Meddler 5/5
The Invasion 5/5
The Power of the Daleks 5/5
The Mind Robber 5/5
The Web of Fear 5/5
The Rescue 5/5
The Reign of Terror 5/5
An Unearthly Child 5/5
Colony in Space 5/5
The Macra Terror 5/5
The Savages 5/5
Mission to the Unknown 5/5
The Ambassadors of Death 4/5
Doctor Who and the Silurians 4/5
The Curse of Peladon 4/5
The Gunfighters 4/5
The Claws of Axos 4/5
The Tenth Planet 4/5
The Moonbase 4/5
The Dalek Invasion of Earth 4/5
The Romans 4/5
Terror of the Autons 4/5
The Krotons 4/5
The Ice Warriors 4/5
The War Machines 4/5
The Smugglers 4/5
The Abominable Snowmen 4/5
The Sea Devils 4/5
Planet of Giants 4/5
The Daleks 3/5
The Seeds of Death 3/5
The Enemy of the World 3/5
Galaxy Four 3/5
The Space Museum 3/5
The Mutants 3/5
The Chase 3/5
The Space Pirates 3/5
The Sensorites 3/5
The Edge of Destruction 2/5
The Dæmons 2/5
The Time Monster 2/5
The Mind of Evil 2/5
The Faceless Ones 2/5
The Ark 2/5
The Wheel in Space 2/5
The Dominators 2/5
The Web Planet 1/5
The Keys of Marinus 1/5
The Celestial Toymaker 1/5
The Underwater Menace 1/5

Season 5: 4/5
Season 7: 4/5
Season 3: 3.9/5
Season 4: 3.889/5
Season 6: 3.857/5
Season 2: 3.778/5
Season 1: 3.625/5
Season 9: 3.6/5
Season 8: 3.4/5

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