Doctor Who Sunday: The Time Meddler
Before this: The Chase
Season 2, Episode 9: The Time Meddler
The Time Meddler is the last serial of the second season of Doctor Who, and comes in four parts. It is set in 1066 and is the first appearance of the Meddling Monk (Peter Butterworth)
Sometimes modern television is just too serious. Between your Game of Thrones and your Walking Dead, you just want something entertaining and not filled with sex and violence. And this episode is a perfect example of good, and family friendly fun. Or maybe I’m just getting old.
After the events of The Chase, the Doctor and Vicki are in need of a new companion, and of course, they find one in Steven (Peter Purves), who has stowed away on the TARDIS. This is another great moment for Vicki (assuming Daleks have managed to sneak on board the TARDIS, she takes the lead and threatens them with her shoe). Vicki is quickly becoming one of my favourites, and it’s easy to see why – she’s brave and fiery, but also sweet and with her flaws. On top of that, she’s fiercely loyal to the Doctor, who is lovely.
The Time Meddler sets up another Time Lord, the first we meet outside of the Doctor and Susan. While the Time Lords are usually stiff and rule-bound, this one is similar to the Doctor in that he travels for fun. Unlike the Doctor, however, he’s far more destructive, breaking the rules of time in order to profit from them. His time in 1066 (close to the Battle of Hastings) is going to significantly change the course of time, however, and the Doctor, Vicki and Steven have to stop him. An interesting sidenote: the Doctor figures out what year and time it is based on information he gets from some villagers – I wonder how in depth the Time Lord Academy’s Earth history classes are?
This episode is a fun one, with some very funny moments and a few very tense ones too. The great thing about the First Doctor being quite old is that there is much less action and running (as in all of New Who as well as a few of the old Doctors), and much more puzzle solving. This could easily be a turn off for a lot of viewers, which is fair enough, but there’s still plenty of fighting! Perhaps not as much as you’d expect with the episode being set in 1066, but still some action-y moments.
The Doctor and the Meddling Monk have some great interactions, and while the plot isn’t the most complicated (in fact, it’s quite simple), its simplicity works in its favour, with a great ending.
When in doubt, it is always good to have a light-hearted story. It ensures that a show doesnít get bogged down in soul crushing angst, whilst at the same time livening up characters and plots no end. A real golden story of course is one that combines humour with some deeper questions – which is what The Time Meddler does very, very well. This story features the first possible glimpse into the Time Lords (though they wouldn’t be named until the end of the 2nd Doctor’s era). Not only do we get an enjoyable and interesting story, but we also get to witness some amazing banter between the Meddling Monk (Peter Butterworth) and the Doctor, which was quite amusing. All in all, a strong story, and definitely worth watching – if only to have Vicki and the Doctor attempt to bludgeon poor Steven with a show and a jacket!
The plot was oddly quaint, yet at the same time not childish at all. Unlike later Doctors (not just Modern Who, but even later Classic Who Doctors), there are no universe shattering monsters, no aliens seeking destruction of reality, no evil creatures from before time itself seeking wanton destruction. The main antagonist, the Monk, manipulates history to suit his own selfish agenda – not to destroy the fabric of reality, but for entertainment, and material gain. He is a vile man, masquerading as a monk and manipulating the local English villagers into giving him whatever he wants, sometimes at their expense. As he is a time traveller, he knows what should historically occur, but for reasons of his own wants to alter its course. What a dastardly villain!
The premise is interesting, and it’s Doctor Who’s first sci-fi/historical combination ñ the previous “historical” episodes being just that – an expedition into “history”. This was much more a sci-fi story (time travel, altering history, the whole shebang), but set in Dark Age England.
One of the best parts of this entire story was the banter between the Monk and the Doctor. It was evident that the actors were also having a blast – the two of them obviously were getting along like a house on fire. And it showed in the dialogue – in the dialogue, the Doctor gets TARDIS envy, which is a delight to anyone who has watched a lot of the show, because he so dearly loves his TARDIS. The other characters also had some awesome moments – Vicki’s first lines are essentially wondering if there are still Daleks on board the TARDIS, then promptly threatening them with her shoe. It turns out to be poor old Steven (who managed to get on board at the end of The Chase), but still, her loyalty to the Doctor is certainly adorable. Steven himself cleans up quite nicely ñ from the scruffy survivor of a crash at the end of the last story to a much more respectable action hero in fact. He manages to quaff his hair and everything. All in all though, the characters certainly make it an engaging story.
In conclusion, a fun story worth watching. So long as you can put aside the horrendously fake “Viking helmets” that is. Alas, my poor inner historian!