The Time Meddler part 1

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  • #26240
    Craig @craig
    Emperor

    This is the final story of the second ever season of Doctor Who and features the first Doctor, William Hartnell.

    Ian and Barbara, the Doctor’s first companions, left the TARDIS in the previous Dalek story, The Chase. The Doctor and his remaining companion Vicki discover Steven, a space pilot from Earth’s future, survived the Daleks and has made his way onboard.

    They land in England in 1066 and a viking invasion is imminent. A mysterious monk is keeping an eye on them.

    Both the Doctor and Steven feel something is wrong and each find items that are ‘out of time’.

    #26263
    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    I’ll just add for new members – this thread is for discussing episode 1 only. For the convenience of anyone approaching this for the first time, no spoilers for subsequent episodes please.

    #26265
    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    You know, it seems like ages since I had we had a BG/AG double bill set up, so I’ve quite enjoyed cranking up the DVD player for this weeks offerings.

    This episode comes straight after the Dalek serial The Chase in which Ian and Barbara depart. I like the fact that there is a little bit of space in this episode for the Doctor (now the remaining member of the original cast for the audience) to dwell on their leaving. As time went on, companions leaving often seemed to have little consequence. Here the Doctor does seem to miss his two friends. It’s not just with Vicky, the Doctor wishing Barbara was around to enjoy the historical perspective when he’s on his own is well played.

    I’ve read criticism of Vicky in the past, largely dismissing her as Susan v2.0 or two-san. I think it’s fairly obvious the character was developed to maintain a particular dynamic in the TARDIS, but I think Maureen O’Brian benefited from not being told to be slightly cold and alien. There is a certain warmth about her, especially with the early scenes with Hartnell, who has developed that side of the Doctor considerably since An Unearthly Child. I think she also demonstrates a bit more independence as well, with her exasperated chastising of Steven later.

    Steven. With Ian leaving, there was obviously a perceived need for a new heroic younger man, and we got Steven. Peter Purves in OK, but I think he lacks the slightly more laid back heroism and humour that Ian had. Steven started a minor sub-set of companions who stumbled into the TARDIS. We haven’t had one of those in AG Who, so perhaps the tradition should be restarted?

    Hurray – the TARDIS materialises! To be observed by a mysterious monk like figure. Who doesn’t run away screaming about Demons and hobgoblins. Peter Butterworth. I know it’s unfair, but when I first saw this in the 80s I’d already had over a decade of conditioning seeing him in Carry on.. films, and other comedic roles. I kind of automatically assumed he was about to raise his robe and flash someone. Or have a nervous breakdown like his Brother Belcher at the end of Carry on up the Khyber.

    I love a lot of the Hartnell stuff in this episode. I’ve always thought he’s undersold because people tend to emphasise his stern, perhaps authoritative side when talking about him. Here he comes across a bit giddy at times. I like the introductions to the anachronisms. The Monk checking his watch is such a conditioned gesture, and the subtle pause when he notices there is nothing there. The winding down of the recorded voice as well, which grabs the attention of the Doctor.

    Ah – the cliffhanger! Actually, it seems a little underwhelming compared to some. The Doctors trapped, but when has a dank prison ever put a damper on the Doctors day? Nice, solid, maniacal laughter from the Monk at the end though. I’ll put it at 6 nutters out of 10 on the Phaseshift loon-o-meter. That’s above Magnus Greel in Talons of Weng Chiang (for too strained) and below Sharaz Jek in Caves of Androzani.

    Gosh – that went by quick. Role on next week.

    #26266
    Anonymous @

    My only experience of William Hartnell so far consists of ‘The Beginning’ box-set in which, as has been said by others, his portrayal of The Doctor was, to say the least, more grumpy than ‘Captain Grumpy’. Oh my, what a difference! He’s developed a more impish, mischievous nature which has been a joy to watch 🙂

    A Viking helmet! I can understand Steven’s disbelief in the concept of time travel as Vikings didn’t, despite popular belief (started by Wagner), have horns on their helmets (nit-picking? moi?). They, like the Saxons, only used horns for two purposes. One was for blowing (quite obvious really), and The Doctor demonstrates the other, more common use.

    Very mysterious monk. He has a watch and a gramophone player! I don’t think he’s of this time (and I genuinely don’t know so no spoilers please).

    I thought I recognised ‘Edith’. Alethea Charlton also played ‘Hur’ in AUC. As for Peter Purves, he would later go on to make his very own TARDIS (as did I) out of a cereal box, buttons and sticky-back plastic 🙂

    #26267
    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    @fatmaninabox

    I did not realise that you were so Hartnell-deprived! Yes, this story captures the impish (but still determined) side of his Doctor. And there are many more Hartnell stories (such as The Aztecs) that will give you a whole new appreciation of Hartnell’s portrayal.

    It is very hard to talk about this episode in a totally spoiler free way. But suffice to say that there are exciting things coming! I grew up on Hartnell, and as a young teenager I remember the point in this story when I explained out loud to the TV set, “Oh, wow!”

    Enjoy.

    #26273
    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    I’ve seen Episode 1 before, possibly in the States. But I’m pretty sure I didn’t see any later episodes for this story, so I don’t know any spoilers.

    Yes, the history is a bit dodgy. We can forgive the production team for the horned helmets – I think it wasn’t very widely known in the 1960’s that Vikings didn’t have horned helmets. Edith appearing with loose hair in front of a strange man may also be the influence of Mid-20th costume design (which seemed to have an odd belief that the Anglo-Saxons lacked combs); it’s certainly not historical.

    @fatmaninabox – I recognised ‘Edith’ as well. Sadly, Alethea Charlton died quite young

    You can indeed see the humanising effect of Ian and Barbara by this point. The Doctor is far more relaxed, more mischievous and very much the ‘Grandfather’ to the orphaned Vicki. Those who insist that Susan isn’t the Doctor’s biological granddaughter should note that nobody else is ever allowed to call him ‘Grandfather’, even if he’s effectively playing a parental role.

    @phaseshift – the manic laughter on the end certainly tells us that this mysterious monk is a bit of a nutcase (as well as obviously not from this time period). And young Steven seems a bit of a liability, what with leaping on innocent villagers and nicking watches from them. The prison cell does seem a bit like the monk’s just built it; I suspect the record skipping wasn’t an accident.

    Nice story so far. Hopefully the DVD will arrive by next week. 🙂

    #26287
    janetteB @janetteb

    Thanks for the overview @phaseshift. I hoped to watch this in time for the discussion but RL got in the way. I saw this story back when it was repeated on Aus TV in about 2005 and enjoyed it because, like Barbara, I love history though the history is this is dodgy. I think at the time the popular perception of the past was that it was “nasty brutish and short”. I am reasonably sure that archaeology had turned up saxon combs before this was produced but despite the shows mandate to teach history I don’t think too many historians were ever consulted.

    Re Hartnell.  The second first Doctor story I ever saw was “The Romans” which we bought on video in which the playful nature of the Doctor is at the fore. (I would heartily recommend to anyone not overly familair with Hartnell. It also has Barbara and Ian, a big plus. I had forgotten that they were not in Time Meddler. As I recall Steven did not make much of an impression on me at the time. His character did not quite work. I do not know if he improves in later stories as I do not think I caught up with much of his tenure.

    @fatmaninabox. So nice to “watch” with  someone who has not seen the story. Sometimes i wish I could have a Kryton style memory wipe so I could read certain books, watch tv series or films and enjoy that surprise and delight of a first time reader/viewer.

    Cheers

    Janette

    #26292
    wolfweed @wolfweed

    Vicki says of Ian and Barbara: ‘…We may land in their time one day and be able to talk of old times.’

    ‘Perhaps…’, replies the Doctor. It’s very in tune with what’s been discussed about Coal Hill School ‘On The Sofa’ of late.

    Indeed, SJA’s ‘Death of the Doctor’ implies that the Doctor returned for them at some point,  as they never grew old…

    Amusingly, Vicki is convinced that they were becoming too old and decrepit to be companions anyway, whereas she certainly doesn’t consider the Doctor too old to be the Doctor.

    Unfortunately we never get to see Steven’s panda, ‘Hi-Fi’ in a story again. Given that he was his best pal for 2 years imprisonment, it’s surprising that he was probably confined to Steven’s bedroom hereafter.

    Always judge a man by what cuddly toys he possesses… (I myself have a cuddly Frobisher)

    The Doctor may make mockery asking Steven if he thinks the helmet is ‘A Space helmet for a cow’ but in the Whoniverse, that seems to be the most logical explanation. Hopefully the crew will check out this line of enquiry before doing a runner…

    Reminding me of my own childhood (abandoned in cars), the companions are asked to ‘Stay here’, whilst the Doctor goes off for a few days to enjoy himself. ‘I’m just off to break into someone’s house, then get drunk on mead…’ Very responsible.

    Director Douglas Camfield’s use of the Sky Projection is a touch of genius in a production mostly confined to a tiny studio.

     

     

     

    #26299
    Monochrome Dimension @monochromedimension

    ‘The Time Meddler’ is one of Hartnell’s best serials, set up to be a historical, it hints that not is all as it seems near to the beginning. Of course this begins with a new companion, Steven, who was previously met in ‘The Chase’ as a captive of the Mechanoids (Peter also was playing the American tourist on the Empire State in that serial). Wonderful shot of the time rotor at the beginning; it truly is the best looking console from all of Doctor Who. I don’t need my console going up to the ceiling, thank you!

    Ian and Barbara have just left the Doctor, who is indeed still affected by this; they were incredibly important companions, because of them the Doctor is now more ‘human’. He has taken on the grandfatherly role; he still is authoritative, and quite strict sometimes, but now a much more gentle soul, who has a wonderful glee about him when exploring or monologuing to himself about history! Quite the eccentric scientist, the First Doctor can be both stern and fun; and as I have mentioned before… he is my favourite. The moment where the Doctor hears the recording mess up for moment, you know he’s already figured out something is amiss, and is now adamant to find out what’s going on. Interesting he’s drinking mead, in ‘The Gunfighters’ the Doctor says he is not fond of alcohol.

    His moment of finding the gramophone is so sweet, such a cute reaction; strangely enough finding this out-of-time object amusing at first! But perhaps this Doctor likes some mystery to solve, even though something like that surely is a bit worrying! Of course this soon turns to him being trapped by the Monk… so… about this Monk…

    Already there’s something odd about him, he seems to not be alarmed by the TARDIS, in fact he listens to it and obviously wanted to get inside for some reason. Of course there is the aforementioned grammophone, but also notice how he looked at his wrist as to check a watch (a watch is then found by Steven later). Now… what’s a 11th century Monk doing with a wristwatch and grammophone exactly? This obviously isn’t your run-of-the-mill historical serial!

    #72227
    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    Just finished the first episode (again)! So wonderful. At that point, Verity Lambert was in still in charge (and it shows), the writing was brilliant, the actors all worked, and Hartnell was was still at the top of his form. What a wonderful historical episode.

    #72228
    janetteB @janetteb

    @blenkinsopthebrave We watched it recently and it is a good story. It helps that it is a period of history that I have a particular interest in though there were plenty of flaws in the history which were irritating.

    Cheers

    Janette

    #72229
    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    Have now watched parts 2 and 3 (out of 4) of The Time Meddler. This is a really enjoyable story. Part of the reason is that both Peter Butterworth (as the meddling monk) and William Hartnell (as the Doctor) had a background in comedy. So both of them could play their roles with a lightness of touch.

    And the conclusion to the 3rd (penultimate) episode is wonderful, when the companions Vicki and Steven discover that…oh, obviously, I cannot reveal that…

    So, what to do? Well…find it, watch it!

    #72230
    janetteB @janetteb

    @blenkinsopthebrave given that this thread was started many a year ago and there are no threads for subsequent episodes I think it would be safe to waive the spoilers restrictions. Maybe, from these posts down with a warning at the top of the post.

    Cheers

    Janette

    #72231
    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    @janetteb Tempting as it is, I just cannot break the habit of years when it comes to revealing plot details. I can only hope that there might be someone out there who sees a discussion taking place of a Hartnell-era story they have never seen, and whose interest is piqued enough to search it out.

    For me, watching it again was like catching up with an old friend, and reinforced my belief that Hartnell was and remains my favourite Doctor.

     

    #72234
    Devilishrobby @devilishrobby

    I really need to dig into my BritBox subscription and see if The Time Meddler is available, I’ve never actually watched it other than a couple of clips and the impression I got the Meddler is almost a proto-Master like character that may have later inspired the creation of the Master

    #72235
    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    @devilishrobby The Time Meddler is a bit more whimsical than a story involving the Master. I tend to see it as different take on the whole question of whether time should be changed, which was first dealt with in The Aztecs. Good luck hunting on BritBox!

    #72236
    Devilishrobby @devilishrobby

    @blenkinsopthebrave

    Oh I agree the Monk as played by Peter Butterworth (famous for his appearances in the Carry On series of films) as you say was more of a lightweight villain than the Master ever was ( I actually managed to watch  the story on Brit Box after posting earlier) as you said the story appears to be about the dangers of timetravelers intentionally trying to change the timeline, though I would still maintain the concept of there being an “evil” Timelord  may have been sown in the conception of the character of the Monk.

    #72237
    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    @devilishrobby Yes, you are probably right. It is, I believe, the first time in the show that it is revealed that there is another time traveller with similar technology. I don’t think it is until the end of Patrick Troughton’s run in “The War Games” that it is made clear that the Doctor is a Time Lord, and not until Pertwee that Gallifrey is mentioned. So, the meddling monk is really rather important in that sense. And as you say, it is important that when this other time traveller is first introduced, he is an opponent of the Doctor. And I particularly liked that the way the Doctor outwitted the Meddling Monk was to demonstrate the importance of having a time machine that is bigger on the inside!

     

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