Doctor Who: The Time Monster

"Nobody and nothing can stop me now!"

There's something very Russell T Davies about this season finale. Like many of RTD's season finales, 'The Time Monster' is an epic story that sees the Doctor and his surrogate family working together to stop a recurring enemy from conquering the universe or something. And like so many of Russell's epic finales, it's an overblown mess of a story, remembered more for the emotional scenes between the Doctor and his companion than for anything else.

The plot is just a retread of 'The Dæmons', only with Satanism and pagan ritual swapped out for Greek mythology and scientific gobbledegook. Once again the Master is trying to summon some all-powerful alien creature and use their power to take over the universe. The creature in question is Kronos, some kind of pigeon/spaceman hybrid, played by a bloke dangling from a wire, flapping his wings about like he's having a fit. Even if you were suffering from pantophobia, you'd struggle to be terrified of this monster.

The final two episodes feel like a completely different story. After a filler episode consisting of nothing more than the Doctor running in and out of the same set over and over again while the Master gloats, the action is relocated to the ancient city of Atlantis. While the Master gets to work seducing Ingrid Pitt (the lucky bastard), the Doctor is thrown in the dungeon and later forced to battle a naff looking Minotaur (I wonder if he's related to the Nimon?). At least he gets to tell Jo a nice story about how he used to hang around with a hermit when he was younger.

More than any other story, I think 'The Time Monster' encapsulates everything that was both good and bad about the Third Doctor era. In Jon Pertwee, we have a Doctor who is dashing and fatherly, but also insufferably arrogant and unbearably patronising. A man forever obsessed with giving polarity a right good reversing. There are very few companions who are as adorable as Jo Grant, nor will there ever be one quite so ditzy either. The rest of the UNIT family are all present and correct: the mighty Brigadier, the loveable Sgt. Benton and... Captain Mike Yates (well, two out of three ain't bad). Good chaps, shame they're all made to look like a right bunch of plonkers. And finally there is Roger Delgado as the Master. He’s as brilliant as ever, shamelessly stealing the whole thing from under Pertwee's nose with as little effort as possible. But at the same time his scheme is a load of old bollocks.

Notes and Quotes

--The Doctor is able to make some sort of time gizmo out of a cutlery. Guess he really could save the universe using a kettle and some string. Even while wearing a vegetable.

--The Master's assistant, Stuart and Ruth, are so bloody annoying. Definitely two of the worst characters this show has ever produced. Every line that comes out of their mouths is like nails on a blackboard.

--This story suggests Kronos was responsible for the sinking of Atlantis, contradicting 'The Dæmons' which contradicted 'The Underwater Menace'.

The Master: "Ah, the tribal taboos of army etiquette. I find it difficult to identify with such primitive absurdities."

The Brigadier: "One moment you're talking about the entire universe blowing up and the next you're going on about tea."

The Brigadier: "You'll be consulting the entrails of a sheep next."

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

The Master: "I've never seen a more inept performance!"

One and a half out of four time gizmos made out of a cutlery.
--
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

4 comments:

Katie Hart - Freelance Writer said...

I actually felt this was the best of all the classic Who I've seen so far (one adventure each of One and Two, and everything to this point of Three). Even though a few of the episodes were a bit slow, many scenes matched the humor and danger of new Who. The ribbing between characters seemed more natural, tea (leaves) fixed everything, and we got more affection from the Doctor towards the TARDIS than we have since Pertwee took over. Adding in a childhood story from Gallifrey and the break in military protocol as the Brig calls Yates "Mike" as he fears his friend is dead, and this adventure makes it to the top of my list of classic Who adventures to recommend to newbies.

Anonymous said...

It's not a great story, but there are some nice moments (including Katy Manning's unscripted laugh at Nick Courtney's deadpan delivery of the 'entrails of a sheep' line).
On the commentary for 'Battlefield', Nick Courtney sighed fondly over the memory of "an actress from the Time Monster". Hmm, so who was he was on location with? (No names, no pack drill :-) )

imgraham said...

I enjoyed The Time Monster so much when I was a kid, I wouldn't like to run it down. But these days it does look a little dated, shall we say?

John said...

Copied from my post on Gally Base...

Go ahead and giggle about "Tomtit" - you do know that a tomtit is a real thing, a tiny bird, right?

I picture Robert Holmes, Bob Sloman, Terrence Dicks and Barry Letts all sitting around a big table in the production office, having a brainstorming session...

BL: "I've always wanted to do a story where the Master's TARDIS and Doctor's TARDIS are inside each other..."
RH: "Yeah, and how about a story set in Atlantis!"
RS: "We've already done that."
RH: "No, I mean Atlantis before it sank, and the Master causes it."
BL: "No, we said last year it was the Daemons who did it."
RH: "Yeah, but who's going to remember that?"
BL: "Fair enough."
TD: "Oooh, ooh, we gotta have the Minotaur! And he charges at the Doctor like a bull or something... [Terrence makes some bizarre bull noises]"
RS: "But wasn't the Minotaur from Greece, or Crete or something?"
TD: "WE GOTTA HAVE A MINOTAUR!"
RH: "Let's do one where the Master gets outsmarted by Sgt Benton."
BL: "Oh, Robert, you and your class warfare..."
TS: "Hey, what about the Master mucking about with time, and UNIT gets attacked by Roundheads and/or Cavaliers, and... and... a knight on horseback... and a V2 bomb!"
BL: "...and someone gets aged into an old man..."
RS: "...and someone else gets aged into a baby..."
TD: "...and when he gets back to normal, he's like naked or something..."
RH: "Hey, what if the Master got to have some sexytime with the Atlantean queen!"
TD: "woooooooo..."
BL: "And the Doctor and the Master chase each other in their TARDISes!"
RH: "And the Doctor threatens to Time-Ram the Master, which would mean their mutual destruction!"
BS: "And the Doctor builds some ridiculous device out of a wine bottle, a corkscrew, some forks, a set of keys, and a cup of tea"
TD: "And he installs a super-fast drive so Bessie goes real fast... like VROOOOOOM!"
BS: "Oh, and I have this concept of the Doctor's mentor, an old hermit, who we'll mention in this story and then we meet him in Jon's last story in a few years."
RH: "And let's have a pair of research assistants for the Master... the girl can be all feminist because it's like 1972 and we've got to move with the times, and the guy can be... you know..." [flexes his wrist very camp-like]
BL: "What? We can't have one of those in Doctor Who!"
RH: "Fine, we'll tone it down and just put an Elton John poster in his room. That'll be a dead giveaway."
BS: "Well, gentlemen, this is quite a laundry list of ideas... and it's the end of the season so we have no money to make a decent looking monster... I pity the poor sod that has to assemble all this into a coherent story."
[Everyone stares at Bob Sloman]
BS: "What, ME?!!"
BL: "You've got three weeks."