Story 017: The Time Meddler

Now this is more like it. A historical/educational story meets a science fiction story with great intrigue. The Time Meddler was a great story to end the season with. And at 4 episodes, it was just the right length. It gave us a proper introduction to Steven, some more “goodbye” to Ian and Barbara, we met someone else from the Doctor’s planet, and featured what I felt were good performances all the way around, especially from Vicki, with maybe the exception of the bumbling Vikings. Jules was right in his comments, this one was good.

A space helmet for a cow?

The TARDIS lands in Northumbria in 1066 days before the Viking invasion. Steven, refusing to admit that he has indeed been travelling through time and relative dimensions in space, seems like a great companion and complement to both the Doctor and Vicki. I like him much more than I ever liked Ian, although I suppose one story isn’t quite long enough to form a firm opinion of him. He is skeptical, but nonethless adventurous. He is very anxious to explore the modern-ish items that they find in the monastery. So much so that Vicki has to hold him back. He seems smart but not annoying, enthusiastic but not ridiculous, and skeptical and grumpy enough to keep the Doctor from getting out of control. He also seems to have beeter chemistry with Vicki. I wonder if that’s why we saw so much of Vicki and the Doctor together separate from Ian and Barbara….maybe she just didn’t mesh with them very well.

At any rate, the Doctor notes sadly at the beginning that he misses Ian and Barbara, even noting his loss of Susan. Vicki comforts him. It’s the kind of scene we should have had at the end of The Chase.

The Monk

We meet a monk who is looking suspiciously at the TARDIS, and we soon learn that he is the only monk living at a recently re-opened monastery near by. He’s the only one living there because he’s…..wait for it…..not actually a monk! He has things like phonographs and other more modern conveniences, which is all very intriguing. It turns out that he is also from the Doctor’s planet and he travels around (he can control his TARDIS) changing the past. His goal for this trip was to destroy the Viking fleet so that William the Conqueror could better be held at bay by Harold’s army. I suppose his intentions were noble enough, but as the Doctor told Barbara repeatedly, meddling with time can be disastrous. Even Vicki and Steven, both Earthlings, discuss the implications of changing time. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I love time paradoxes and to see a potential paradox discussed in practical terms was good.

Of course, there are some instances of being taken prisoner and some escapes and a couple of battles. They were pretty typical Dr. Who fare. Although it was pretty funny that the Vikings were knocked out for seemingly hours after a blow from what looked like a piece of paneling. And the idea that the Doctor could convince the monk that his stick was a Winchester rifle was also a bit absurd. All that aside, however, getting inside the monk’s TARDIS was great. It was pretty much the same as the regular TARDIS, of course, lthough the Doctor marveled at the monk’s “Mark 4” model. HA! Multiple TARDIS models…..but going along with that is the implication that there are multiple travelers from the Doctor’s planet out there. All traveling around, apparently abiding by some rules, although the monk has chosen to disobey. The Doctor notes that monk’s time is about 50 years later than his own.

Vicki in the Monk's TARDIS

Some Questions: Why are they traveling? How many are out there? Was the planet destroyed so they left? Like Superman? Or when they travel is it like going on vacation? Except for the Doctor, whose TARDIS is broken? Is TARDISing like RVing?

In the end, the Doctor steals some device from the monk’s ship, stranding him in 1066 Northumbria. The device makes the TARDIS small on the inside, presumably the same size inside as outside. This is a brilliant move, although I’m not sure why the Doctor didn’t also steal the device he needs to be able to control the TARDIS or to camouflage his ship. Those would have been smart to steal. Now he’s going to have to continue with the broken TARDIS although, I suppose that’s all part of the adventure.


The story and season ended with sillhouettes of the three characters over an image of space. It didn’t have the thoughtful voice over of season 1, but the concluding story itself was far more satisfying than Reign of Terror, so the monologue wasn’t necessary. I think they ended with the best story of the season.


4 Responses to “Story 017: The Time Meddler”

  1. 1 Jules
    16.January.10 at 7:37 am

    Glad you enjoyed this, Jacob; sorry to hear about The Chase, though. Think I’ll give that one a wide berth or at least put it low on my wish-to-see list.

    Hartnell is at his absolute best here; I love how he first looks at the monk with daggers when he discovers he’s locked in – if looks could kill! But I also loved his anger and petulance on confronting the monk, and the way in which he mocks himm: “I was hoping to improve things”. “oh really, improve things!”. And even though he may not be a physically energetic doctor, I love his passion and determination to hold true to his principles when he tells Vicki that the monk refuses to listen to reason and must be stopped.

    And the ending – how that had me in stiches. It’s the little details that matter – the way he asks Vicki to find pen and paper in the Monk’s Tardis and the way he places the envelope on the Tardis. There’s something so elegant and refined in the way he teaches the Monk a lesson and the reaction is priceless. I agree that camouflage or control over the Tardis would have been a more practical solution, but the sequence plays out beautifully – the Monk being so overconfident that the Doctor could not or would stop him, then takes a look and discovers the interior is a doll house! I really don’t see how the Doctor could return the dimension to its normal size, as he would not be able to get inside to replace the part, but then I suppose that raises a whole new set of questions: how much does the Doctor know? Does he know more about the functions of Tardis’ more than the Monk could ever know? Even with its potential shortcomings, I loved the end of this and I don’t think such a TV ending has given me such pleasure for quite some time.

    I have only seen one other Hartnell story – The War Machines. I suggest you lower your expectations on that one Jacob – the enemy is not too dissimilar from one we already know, the story resolves itself a little too easily for my liking and the companions are not as likeable as the ones here. Having said that though, Hartnell seems to be having more fun, particularly in the last two episodes.

    I’ll comment later on when you’re a bit further along; keep the good work up.

  2. 2 jacob1480
    16.January.10 at 12:21 pm

    Yes, the interaction between the monk and the doctor are great. The Doctor (or at least Hartnell’s version of him) is definitely at his best here with the grumpy one liners. One of my favorites is “What do you think it is? A space helmet for a cow?” He has an old man’s playfulness and plays it perfectly. I think this story is the best this season, maybe the best so far. That’s a good question about how the Doctor could get the part back into the Monk’s TARDIS. I hadn’t thought of that. Apparently either did the writers. I do recommend giving the Chase a wide berth, although quite a few of the other reviews I’ve read of it enjoyed it, so maybe it’s worth it. Thanks for the comments and for reading!


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About These Adventures

This blog exists to document my trip through over 30 seasons of the British science fiction television show Dr. Who. Prior to beginning, I had never seen a single episode of Dr. Who and will be learning the show's mythology and experiencing it all for the first time. I began sometime in July of 2009. Hopefully it doesn't take me over 30 years to reach the end.

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