Doctor Who: The Time Meddler DVD Review: Monk-eying Around with History

Doctor Who is a long-running British science-fiction television series featuring the Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey whose adventures see him travel through time and space. Over the years, different actors have starred in the role, and to compensate for the realities of the television business Time Lords were given the ingenious ability to regenerate their bodies when they die.

The Time Meddler is the 17th story of the Doctor and closed the second season. It debuted in four weekly parts beginning July 3, 1965 on BBC 1. This story is notable for being the first without companions Ian and Barbara, the first to feature Earth astronaut Steven Taylor (Peter Purves) as a companion, and the first to feature a new Gallifreayn and fellow Time Lord (though neither term had yet been named), the villainous Monk (Peter Butterworth).

After the Doctor (William Hartnell) and Vicki (Maureen O’Brien), an orphan from 25th century Earth who became a companion in The Rescue, reminisce about Ian and Barbara, who returned to Earth two years after they left in the previous adventure, The Chase, they discover Steven has stow-awayed aboard the TARDIS. They land in 1066 Northumbria, although Steven doubts they are in the past. The Doctor goes investigating and becomes a prisoner of the Monk. Although heard, he is not seen in Episode 2, which allowed Hartnell to take a vacation. As Steven and Vicki search for the Doctor at the monastery, one of the series better cliffhangers occurs as they discover the Monk’s TARDIS complete with a working chameleon circuit. This must have been a great thrill at the time as viewers hadn’t met anyone else like the Doctor outside his granddaughter Susan.

In this episode, the Monk is mischievous as opposed to malevolent like the Master. He wants to defeat a Viking fleet before the Battle of Stamford Bridge, so King Harold and his forces would not then lose the Battle of Hastings, which led to the Norman conquest of England. But the Doctor is against anyone meddling with time regardless of their intention and works to defeat him.

The DVD extras include:

An Obituary in text and a Photo Gallery (2 min) of Verity Lambert. The Time Meddler is the last Who serial she produced. She is joined on the delightful commentary track by Purvis, designer Barry Newbery, script editor Donald Tosh (his first time on Doctor Who), and moderator Clayton Hickman.

Stripped for Action – The First Doctor (16 min) is look at comics featuring Hartnell’s Doctor. Through surviving audio and the script, The Lost Twelve Seconds (1 min) are recreated. Restoration (5 min) shows footage, before and after. There’s an episode Photo Gallery (3 min), a PDF file of the Radio Times Listing, and Info Text, which presents an enormous amount of information of the making of the episode and those involved.

While an interesting premise, The Time Meddler could have been set anywhere as the location and minor characters are rather forgettable and unimportant to the main plot. The great fun of this episode is watching the Doctor and Monk outwit each other. What’s odd is that the Doctor leaves the Monk behind. Albeit without a working TARDIS, the Monk’s knowledge of events would still allow for an untold amount of meddling on his part. The Monk would return the following season, but it’s unfortunate he hasn’t made other appearances in the classic nor modern series.

Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site.

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