A man never discloses his own character so clearly as when he describes another’s.
- Jean Paul Richter
As we settle down for the next adventure, the menu screen for The Time Meddler has begun its infinite loop. Steven’s not convinced that the muck-encrusted helmet the Doctor’s holding has really been dropped by a Viking.
The Doctor: What do you think it is? A space helmet for a cow?
Him: I like that.
Me: The cow’s an under-represented animal in Doctor Who, even now. And so’re sheeps.
The title screen for the story comes up. Peter Butterworth’s coveting.
Me: Last story of the second season this one.
Him: We’ve nearly done two years then?
And we’re off.
Him: “The Watcher. So, she was Vicki all along.”
Me: Oh, very clever.
Vicki is moping around the TARDIS, looking at things. The Doctor admits that he misses Ian and Barbara as well – and Susan. The two of them have a brief chat about why people leave and age and things. It’s nice seeing the Doctor being grandfatherly again. It’s a Dennis Spooner script and Donald Tosh has just taken over as story/script editor, so the dialogue feels like there’s been some time spent on it. It’s a surprisingly gentle scene – possibly echoing real-life exchanges from around the time - and William Hartnell and Maureen O’Brien play off each other well. The Doctor asks Vicki if she’s sure she didn’t want to leave as well and someone falls over a mop bucket.
The Him makes Zarbi noises for a moment. It would have been quite a twist, to be fair. The Doctor tries ignoring it, but there’s another noise which makes this course of action a bit problematic.
Vicki: It’s obviously a Dalek!
Turns out it’s Hi-Fi (and Steven). They collapse. The scene cuts to Cromer. The TARDIS lands. The landing is observed by a monk who starts stroking his chin.
Me: Did you see the way his ring flashed?
Back on the TARDIS Steven has recovered enough to explain how he stowed away without anyone noticing. He keeps confusing the Doctor with one of Ms White’s diminutive chums which is beginning to annoy the irascible one. The Doctor tells Steven to get his breath back and get his name right.
Steven: Yes, yes, whatever you say Doc. Tor!
Me: Steven’d make a good villain. They could bring him back for the 50th Anniversary. He could be all evil.1
The Doctor and Vicki conclude the initial companion interview and Steven (and presumably Hi-Fi) become official – there’s a badge and a certificate and everything. Vicki teases Steven for missing out the “But… but… it’s bigger on the inside!” stage of his induction.
Him: Steven Moffat gets a mention.
Him: “Come off it.”
Me: Oh. Ouch.
Steven doesn’t believe the whole travelling in time gig. The Doctor describes the things you'd find on the back of a TV - and then what's dressing the set - in order to assert his authority. It works nicely. Vicki gives Steven a rundown of TARDIS trivia, but makes an important mistake.
Me: Vicki got it wrong and that’s where it changed.
Him: ‘Dimensions’ is how I’ve always remembered it.
Me: Well – that’s because it was wrong for about thirty years. They’ve made a point of getting it right in the new series.
Vicki is sent to fetch herself and the Doctor a cloak. Considering the rate at which he’s been collecting them, the, aptly-named, TARDIS cloakroom must be the size of an exhibition centre. Steven is sent to have a shave because, as the companion rule-book states, facial hair is only allowed if it signifies abandonment. Anyway, they’ve landed on Earth. In a nearby village, events are unfolding and we meet a returning actor who isn’t playing a Dalek.
Me: No, it’s Hur.
Him: I knew that. I recognised her.
One of the villagers has seen the TARDIS, but he thinks it’s just cargo. The villagers are a bit jumpy and so decide to go and check the box out. Gulls flap overhead and Vicki has found the aforementioned helmet on the beach. The Doctor guesses the year. The newly scrubbed-up Steven notices that the TARDIS hasn’t blended in with its environment very well. The Doctor puts this down to a technical hitch.
Me: “It’s stolen. And I don’t really know how it works.”
There’s a long conversation over a boulder, behind which crouches the monk we saw earlier. He’s in mild peril as the Doctor keeps throwing stones in his general direction.
Me: Bit of a recap.
Our heroes decide to see if there’s someone about who can convince Steven that he’s become a chrononaut. The Doctor reveals he isn’t a mountain goat and so he won’t be climbing the cliff, but Vicki and Steven will. Both Steven and Vicki are getting some good character stuff to play with. After they’ve left, the monk emerges from behind the boulder and starts eyeing up the TARDIS before seeming to check his wrist for the time, only to discover he isn’t wearing a watch. Seeing as we’re in the tenth (or eleventh) century, this really shouldn’t be coming as a shock to him. Meanwhile, back in the village night has fallen and the Doctor has arrived.
Me: Inside the tent.
The Doctor picks up a stray bow and gives it an inquisitive stretch. A wolf howls.
Him: That’s a really creaky bow.
This remark leaves me in stitches. The Doctor is caught by someone. The Monk has returned to his monastery. Singing is heard. Back on the cliffs the villagers have arrived to discover that the tide’s come in and there’s no sign of the TARDIS. The Doctor has been treated to mead by Edith. The Doctor is trying to get information out of her to work out when he is. Edith heads off to replenish the mead horn and the Doctor, evidently missing Barbara, gives us a run down of the historical events leading up to when he is, which is 1066.
Him: The Battle of Hastings?
Me: It is. Well done.
Him: Are you not going to ask me how I knew that?
Me: I’d expect you to know that.
The Doctor’s on a roll and gives out lashings of back-story.
Me: All got a bit educational there.
As the Doctor prepares to find Steven so he can show off, the sound of monks winds down. The Doctor gets his second wind at this – asks directions from Edith – and strikes out for the monastery. Steven and Vicki meanwhile have reached the top of the cliff and failed to meet the Doctor. A twig snaps. From the foliage a man and a rabbit emerge. The man finds a thing and Steven almost immediately mugs the chap for what turns out to be a wristwatch.
Me: Well. At least Steven’s not a pacifist.
The Doctor has arrived at the monastery. He opens the door and lets himself in for a bit of snooping. Following the singing, the Doctor discovers that it’s been coming from a record all along. He has a chuckle at this, and then bars suddenly descend, trapping him. The Monk uses this turnabout in fortunes for a spot of cliffhanger laughing.
Me: Ah. Nicely put together there – good job Mr Camfield.
Him: I’m just thinking how phenomenal some of these would’ve been if they were in colour and had good effects.
Me: What? Like Invasion of the Dinosaurs?
Him: Oh hush. It feels like a Saturday night.
It’s actually a Sunday afternoon.
Him: Just doesn’t feel like a Sunday.
Me: So, which stories in particular were you thinking of?
Him: The Keys of Marinus. The Sensorites. Planet of Giants.
Me: Hang on – Planet of Giants was pretty good anyway.
Him: But imagine what they could do with it now.
Me: I don’t think it would look as good now. They wouldn’t build the sets – it’d all be CGI.
Him: Alright, The Web Planet.
Me: Yeah, I’ll give you that.
Him: The Space Museum, even.
Me: You could roll it in glitter, but it’s not going to be any better without a new script and a different director.
Him: You just don’t like that one.
Me: I’m not too sure about The Sensorites either. The costumes were fantastic – it’s something fundamental – script and direction again.
Him: The Ark.
Him: The War Machines.
Me: You certainly wouldn’t want to meet one of those down a dark alley.
Him: The Tenth Planet.
Him: You’d be able to see the human hands and they could do the lamps better.
Me: Possibly. But then we’ve seen a remake with lots of money and script changes – not a modern one, I’ll grant you – was that really an improvement?
Him: The Tenth Planet?
Me: No. Dr Who and the Daleks.
Him: No – I didn’t mention that one because the Daleks are fine. They don’t look better in colour because the colour didn’t make them threatening. All that blue and silver.
Me: Right. It’s not going to happen, but it’s interesting to hear what you think about things like this.
Him: Oh – Underworld’s story codes are YYYY.
Me: Very good. That reminds me – The Face of Evil’s out soon.
Him: I think you’ll like this one. Timelash is six Y’s.
Me: Hang on a minute. We’re rehashing a Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre sketch here.
Him: Bwah ha ha!
1. I’ll be returning to this as an idea – even though it won’t happen.
THE MEDDLING MONK
We recap. The Doctor’s still stuck.
Me: Don’t look so grim, Bill. It’s off to Cromer for you.
Morning breaks. The Monk’s cooking breakfast using modern utensils. He pops it on a tray and takes it to where he’s imprisoned the Doctor. The Doctor – from off screen – throws a cup of water over the Monk.
Back in the woods the villagers have found Vicki sleeping. They hide as Steven returns.
Steven: Do you want some breakfast?
Vicki: Oh, yes please.
Him: “Do you like squirrel?”
Signifying an attack is imminent, a twig snaps. Vicki is grabbed by the villagers - Steven too.
Him: I’ve got to admit that Steven’s a lot better in this than the last one. “Humans? Meet Hi-Fi! He’s my panda and he talks to me!”
The Monk keeps trying to check the time on his missed watch.
Him: The Monk looked like Patrick Troughton there. I guess it’s the grumpy face.
I’d have said ‘crumpled’, but he’s right. Edith and another lady arrive with food for the Monk. Following banter the ladies leave and the Monk whips out some binoculars. He climbs to the edge of a cliff.
Me: That’s a good use of the set.
|"LOVELY SPAM! WONDERFUL SPAM!"|
The Doctor is heard banging on a door. Back on the cliff the Monk sights Vikings. He gets quite excited by this as it seems he’s been waiting for them. Steven and Vicki have been taken to the village.
Him: I remember Vicki and Steven as being Ian and Barbara in this one.
Steven still doesn’t believe he’s travelled in time. The villagers are arguing about what to do with their prisoners. Wulnoth, the headsman, is quite a progressive sort and thinks they should be talked to. The opposing view is that they are Viking spies and should be killed right now. This view is being put forward by a gentleman named Eldred.
Me: “Eldred must live.”
Him: That’s Eldrad.
Edith comes to the rescue, but Eldred’s like a panda with bamboo about the whole thing. Steven and Vicki are becoming exasperated.
Vicki: Are you going to stand here arguing all day? Either let us go or do whatever you’re going to do, but make up your minds.
Me: “Very well. Kill them.”
The villagers don’t kill them, but bring out food instead. Steven’s experiencing a bit of time-lag.
Me: It would be hard to get your head around.
Him: What d’you mean?
Me: Well, Steven’s still not totally convinced about this time travel business.
Him: Like I said – you’d go mad.
Me: It’s part of the reason we don’t get a companion from too far in the past for any real length of time – because of all the future stuff they’d be encountering.
Him: What do you mean ‘too far in the past’? Are there any companions from the past – really from the past?
Me: Well, Jamie was recent enough that he coped with it. But – well – we’ll be meeting someo-
Him: If this is just an opportunity to make fun of Adric then don’t take it.
Me: It’s not. Adric fell out of a starliner anyway. No – we’ll be meeting someone a lot sooner who explores the problems of having a companion from ancient history.
Him: Is it Katarina?
Me: Spot on. It is.
The Vikings have arrived and none of them are called Njorl. Vicki and Steven visit the monastery looking for the Doctor. They have a chat with the Monk. He says he’ll ask around.
Me: It must have been quite exciting to watch the first time around.
Steven’s spider sense is tingling (it comes with the badge – Ian had this ability too). The Monk has been listening at the door. Steven asks if the Monk will remember the Doctor’s description.
Him: Did they even describe the Doctor?
No, they didn’t. Steven is quite pleased that his double bluff has worked. Vicki’s not convinced though – what if it’s a triple bluff?
Him: “Shut up, Vicki. I’m quite happy with my deduction of the moment. You don’t want me to set Hi-Fi on you.”
Steven decides he’ll wait until dark and then break in to have a look around. Back in the village Edith is attacked by Vikings.
Me: That was an effective set up.
The villagers return from the fields to find they’ve been raided. Eldred blames the travellers, but again Edith comes to their rescue.
Him: Oh – she’s alive
Me: Yes. It’s a bit grim.
The Villagers follow the Vikings and there’s a fight. One of the Vikings is killed and Eldred is wounded. The Vikings run off one way as Wulnoth carries Eldred to the monastery. Vicki and Steven have broken in. The Monk is watching them when there’s a banging at the door as the villagers arrive looking for shelter. In the meantime, Vicki and Steven find the gramophone.
Me: Now then. Would either of them really know that’s anachronistic?
Him: They both recognised the watch alright.
Me: Fair point. I just wondered. It wouldn’t help the story either.
Following a further bit of browsing, Vicki and Steven find the Doctor. Well, sort of, because the Doctor’s gone.
Him: He was never there.
A BATTLE OF WITS
Me: It’s a bit of a slow burner.
Him: Like The Sensorites?
Me: I think The Sensorites had gone out.
The Monk sets up some straw for Eldred to recover upon. Vicki decides that there must be a secret passage or something. They have a look, and within moments, find one.
Steven: Who’s a clever girl, then?
Him: “Polly want a finger!”
Me: She’s not in it yet.
Him: Tch. “Vicki want a finger!”
The Monk finds that the Doctor’s escaped.
Him: “Why do they always have secret escape passages in the dungeon?”
Vicki and Steven continue making their way out of the monastery. The Doctor, meanwhile, has returned to the village. He’s having a chat with Edith.
Him: Is she alive again?
Me: She wasn’t dead.
Him: She was nearly dead.
Me: I think she was in shock.
Exposition occurs and the Doctor runs through another brief history lecture, including things that haven’t quite happened just yet.
Me: More non-interference.
Him: She could hear all of that.
Me: They’ll be wishing they took the opportunity to burn him as a warlock when they had the chance when all these predictions start coming true.
Steven and Vicki emerge from the tunnel and decide to head all the way back to the monastery. The Monk is tending to Eldred with penicillin.
Him: Who thought the Monk was the Master?
Me: I can’t remember – but he says something in this that proves he can’t be.
Him: But there was a quiz online that said he was.
Me: Oh. Was it that old Mastermind?
Him: I don’t know.
Me: I think it might have been.
It was. If you want a shot at the questions yourself, here are the links to the first heat and the semi-final. Back in the real world, the Vikings we met earlier have an argument and decide that they’ll hide at the rapidly filling monastery as well. The Monk is checking his progress chart.
|"I'm a genius. Yes, I am."|
Me: “Position Atomic Cannon”. That’s going on my to-do list.
Him: Hang on – they can’t be in the tenth century because that says ‘Battle of Hastings’, which was 1066, and that’s the eleventh century.
Me: He’s a cad. I hope he comes back.
Him: The Monk’s a Time Lord isn’t he?
Him: So, he could come back as anyone. Like Susan could.
The Doctor and a stick gain the upper hand. Vicki and Steven return to the cliff. Unfortunately, it seems that the TARDIS has either been washed away or moved. And neither are particular good things.
Me: That might send you mad.
Him: The Doctor would make it back one day.
Vicki and Steven find a massive anachronistic weapon and head back to the monastery. The Doctor and the Monk have been wandering through the corridors for quite some time. The Monk tries to disarm the Doctor, and discovers he’s been the victim of a stick-up. Ahem.
The Doctor: This may not be a gun, but I can still do you a considerable amount of harm.
Me: And will, going on recent evidence.
Banter occurs between the two. There’s a knock at the door which presents a bit of a problem. The Doctor decides to dress up as a monk himself and so needs a cowl. The Monk leads the way.
Him: That’s a great word.
Me: We never find out much about the Monk either.
Answering the door, the Doctor is set upon by the Vikings. They lock him up in the same cell as before, which is a bit careless. The Monk gives the non cell-guarding Viking a bash on the head with a stick.
Me: Ow! That was a bit strong.
Vicki and Steven return to the monastery and crawl back in through the tunnel. The Doctor gives the cell-guard Viking his own – rather robust – bash.
The Monk makes his way to the village and begins enquiring about the possibility of having some beacon fires lit. Vicki and Steven have found an unconscious Viking. The Doctor and the Monk are reunited, but this time the Doctor really is armed. Vicki and Steven find an electric cable next to an altar. They follow it to the cliffhanger.
Vicki: It’s a TARDIS! The Monk’s got a TARDIS!
Me: That’s a pretty important moment and the episode doesn’t look like it’s going to do something quite so huge, quite so quickly.
Me: Nothing else to say?
We recap for the last time this series. The Monk’s still got a TARDIS.
|Iconic Moment #46|
Me: The roundels are transparent.
Vicki and Steven have a look around. The Doctor and the Monk are finishing off the plot. Vicki and Steven admire the Monk’s collection of memorabilia.
Me: Not at all like the Doctor, who picks stuff up everywhere as well.
Vicki finds the Monk’s diary. There’s been some serious monkery taking place - he’s met da Vinci and given him hints as well as putting some money in a bank account and then hopping forward a couple of hundred years to collect the interest.
Him: Would that work? Would they keep your bank account active even if you should’ve died?
The Doctor outs the Monk as a time meddler.
Me: The Monk reminds me of the Doctor.
Him: The Meddling Monk does? Why? The Doctor doesn’t-
Me: Doesn’t what?
Him: I don’t know.
Me: The Doctor basically does everything that the Monk does – except blow up Vikings. He’s even got a 500-year diary. And he writes ‘This Is A Fake’ on the back of the Mona Lisa. All of them.
The Doctor: You know as well as I do the golden rule about space and time travelling. “Never, never interfere with the course of history.”
The Monk reveals he had a hand in Stonehenge which leads to a lovely confrontation. The Monk plans to wipe out the incoming Viking fleet. There’s another brief history lecture.
Me: These two are playing off each other nicely.
Eldred spots a Viking wandering the monastery and scurries off to warn the villagers. The Doctor is reunited with Vicki and Steven in the Monk’s TARDIS. Steven and Vicki tell the Doctor that the TARDIS has gone. He seems surprised.
Us: “I’m not a half-wit.”
It turns out the TARDIS is fine – water can’t affect it. The Doctor continues admiring the Monk’s, significantly newer and improved, TARDIS. It’s even been fitted with the automatic drift control.
Him: What’s that?
The Doctor: Thereby you can suspend yourself in space with absolute safety.
Me: The Doctor must fit one of those to Idris at some point then.
The Doctor's quite vague about his model of TARDIS, but does admit that both versions come from the same place, with a gap of about fifty years.
Me: Doesn’t reveal much though.
The Monk’s plan is explained in complete detail. It’s more misguided than actually evil.
The Doctor: He wants to destroy the whole pattern of world history.
Him: Like Barbara?
The Monk legs it out of his TARDIS and teams up with the two Vikings that are still knocking around. Our heroes are overpowered and tied up. The villagers have rumbled the Monk’s monkery – at that point Eldred and his vital information stumble into camp. Decisions are made.
Me: “Break out the pitchforks, lads. There’s a monastery to storm.”
The Monk and the Vikings head off to welcome in the fleet. The Doctor, Vicki and Steven are having a philosophical debate about what will happen if the Monk succeeds.
Steven: But that means that the exact minute, the exact second that he does it, every history book, every… Well, the whole future of every year and time on Earth will change just like that and nobody’ll know that it has?
The Doctor is furious.
Me: Nice. The break’s done him some good. He’s really on form for this.
The monastery is stormed by the villagers who rescue the Doctor, Vicki and Steven. In the confusion the Monk and the Vikings run off, pursued by bloodthirsty farmers. The Doctor sends Steven into the Monk’s TARDIS to find a pencil and paper so he can write a note. The Monk and the Vikings split up.
Me: This is the bit that’s still missing.
Him: Where does it cut out?
The screen fades to black as the Villagers descend on the Vikings.
Him: Oh. There.
The Doctor has been tampering.
Him: Does Vicki even have a second name?
|Giant Floating Monk Head Sold Separately|
We list companions for a while and decide whilst most of them do have surnames, Vicki doesn’t. The Doctor is rather happy with his mischief. The TARDIS is revealed to be fine, as the Doctor promised it would be. The Monk returns to the monastery and finds the note from the Doctor. It’s not good news. The Monk peers into his TARDIS, which is now only useful as a backdrop for action figures. He’s not happy. The TARDIS dematerialises. Then – stars and faces!
Him: What’s this ending? What’s this?
Me: End of season special treat.
Him: Did the first season have one?
The credits roll.
Him: That’s the last in the present series, but Doctor Who will return in a couple of months.
At the end of the credits comes the caption: Dedicated to Verity Lambert.
Me: Oh – that’s good. Good job. This is the last of her stories that survives in total.
Him: What do you mean?
Me: All the parts still exist.
Him: There must be another one.
Me: No. There’s Galaxy 4 and Mission to the Unknown and that’s it. Verity left after that.
Me: Any thoughts?
Him: I thought it was interesting. It’s only the end of the second series. It seems too early for the story.
Me: Because it opens up a massive can of ants?
Him: No. It’s a strange time to be revealing new stuff about your main character.
Me: Will it not encourage people to tune in for the answers to questions that they weren’t aware had been asked?
Him: I don’t know what you mean. Let’s give up on this conversation.
Me: Alright. I’ll make some food.
For reasons that are far too tedious to explain, there’ll now be another brief gap – with a surprise - before the next proper update on February 16th and then there’ll be a bit of a flurry.
See you then, chums.