Before I even started doing this marathon, The Time Meddler was one of my favourite William Hartnell stories. And now having rewatched it in context with the surrounding stories, my views haven’t really been altered too much.
To backtrack, the story opens with a saddened Doctor, after Ian and Barbara departing at the end of the last story. I love seeing the Doctor convey so much emotion. And it really shows that even at this early stage in the show’s life; it always had heart.
Steven then stumbles into the console room, having found his way on board almost accidentally. He spends a large period of the story not believing that the Tardis can time travel but ends up being quite an action hero.
The Tardis lands on a beach in 1066 where the Doctor finds a Viking helmet. This leads to one of my favourite exchanges in the history of Doctor Who.
After the Doctor gets split up from Vicki and Steven, he finds his way to a Saxon house where he makes friends with Edith. The way that they connect throughout the story did put me in mind of when the Doctor met Cameca in The Aztecs, and accidentally got engaged. Oh that was so sad! The Doctor must think about her still, surely. Anyway I’m getting side tracked.
The story features another Time Lord known as the Monk. He is not content with observing history, like the Doctor. However instead of helping people in need, the Monk wants to accelerate the course of history. He wants to destroy the advancing Viking army with atomic bazookas, in turn allowing King Harold to win the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The Doctor, Vicki and Steven then have to stop him from succeeding. What follows is a little bit of cat and mouse chasing, with Vicki and Steven trying to reunite with the Doctor and then catch the Monk.
Although the Monk is the main antagonist of this story; he does come across as more childish and petulant than evil. This is perfect characterisation, since the Doctor is also these things, but they differ in ideals. The relationship the two characters have, made me think of similar relationships between the Third Doctor and the Master; with each knowing and respecting the other’s power.
The cliffhanger to part three is another of my favourites. It shows Steven and Vicki stumbling upon the Monk’s Tardis which is disguised as a sarcophagus. Nothing like this had been done in the show before this point. Viewers must have made the connection that he was from the planet of the Doctor. Up until now, viewers knew nothing about the Doctor, they didn’t know the planet he was from, or what species he was, or that he had the ability to regenerate. They just knew he was known as the Doctor. And now they were encountering somebody who had a Tardis just like his. A massive moment in Who lore.
We know that the Doctor’s Tardis is a Mark 40, type 2; although I’m unsure if viewers knew this at the time. It is revealed to the Doctor that the Monk’s Tardis is only a Mark 4. This must be an ancient ship compared to the Doctor’s. I also love the way that the Monk teases the Doctor about not being able to fix his Tardis disguise system (Chameleon Circuit).
The way that the Doctor foils the Monk’s plan is so delightfully simple. He damages and removes part of the dimension circuit, meaning that his ship ends up being a lot smaller on the inside. He effectively strands the Monk in 1066 without a Tardis, and says that if he learns his lesson, he might come back and rescue him.
Now I seem to recall that the Monk does reappear a few stories later. However I haven’t seen The Daleks’ Masterplan, and so can only assess his character from this story. It seems a shame that he hasn’t returned anytime afterwards. His character is more innocent and childlike than the Master or the Rani. I feel that if he returned, he could offer more storylines about playful meddling with time, rather than desire for destruction, like the Master.
As the story ends, the closing titles do something special again. It shows space with Vicki, Steven and the Doctor’s faces appearing briefly in the stars. It is a little something that cements to the viewers, that this is the new Tardis crew.
Being one of my favourite 60’s Doctor Who stories, I already had rated this quite highly. But after watching The Chase and The Time Meddler back to back; the opening scenes of the Doctor missing his first companions has more weight. Although it contained a bit too much of the Doctor and companions playing runaround, I can forgive the story due to the exploring of a small part of the Doctor’s background. A first for the show. I award The Time Meddler nine cow space helmets out of ten.