The Time Meddler
|017 – The Time Meddler|
|Doctor Who serial|
Vicki, the Doctor, and Steven examine a Viking helmet
|Directed by||Douglas Camfield|
|Written by||Dennis Spooner|
|Script editor||Donald Tosh|
|Produced by||Verity Lambert|
|Incidental music composer||Stock music with percussion by Charles Botterill|
|Length||4 episodes, 25 minutes each (material missing from part 4)|
|First broadcast||3 July 1965|
|Last broadcast||24 July 1965|
Set in 1066 Northumbria, before the Battle of Stamford Bridge, the serial has the time traveller the First Doctor (William Hartnell) and his travelling companions Steven Taylor (Peter Purves) and Vicki (Maureen O'Brien) attempting to outwit the time traveller the Monk (Peter Butterworth) from plotting to change the course of European history by wiping out King Harald Hardrada's invasion fleet with neutron bombs before the fleet faces King Harold Godwinson at Stamford Bridge.
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The Doctor and Vicki find Steven Taylor aboard the TARDIS after he stumbled in during a disorientated state on Mechanus (The Chase). The TARDIS lands on a rocky beach and the Doctor establishes the century from a discarded Viking helmet and heads off to the village. Steven and Vicki explore the cliffs above, witnessed by a Monk. The TARDIS is soon after spotted by a Saxon villager, Eldred, who runs to tell the headman of his village, Wulnoth. The Doctor encounters Edith, Wulnoth’s wife, and convinces her he is a harmless traveller while probing for more information. He finds out it is 1066, since Harold Godwinson is on the throne and has not yet faced Harald Hardrada at Stamford Bridge let alone William the Conqueror in the Battle of Hastings. At a nearby monastery, monks are heard chanting. The Doctor finds a gramophone playing the chant, and heads off towards a nearby monastery. While there, a mysterious Monk traps the Doctor in a cell.
Steven and Vicki encounter Eldred and notice he has a wristwatch that the Monk dropped earlier. They spend the night in a clearing and the next morning are ambushed by the Saxons and taken to the village council. They convince Wulnoth they are but travellers and are given provisions to travel on. Vicki is heartened to hear from Edith that the Doctor passed by her hut on his way to the monastery. Steven and Vicki visit the monastery, where the Monk tries to dissuade them from entering but gives himself away by describing the Doctor too accurately. Steven and Vicki decide he must be prisoner inside. They break in after dark.
The Monk sees a Viking ship on the horizon. The Vikings land and two small groups are sent to search the area. A Viking finds and attacks Edith, and the Saxons go hunting for the invaders. The Vikings are drunk and the giant that attacked Edith is cut down. His companions, Sven and Ulf, flee. Eldred has been badly wounded and Wulnoth takes him to the monastery for help.
While the Monk is occupied with the Saxons, Steven and Vicki find the gramophone. They then leave the monastery via a secret passage. Steven and Vicki have found that the TARDIS has been submerged beneath the incoming tide. They resolve to return the monastery to look for the Doctor.
The Doctor has escaped by the same passage himself and returns to the Saxon village. He soon hears of the Viking scouting party and decides to head back to the monastery to track down Steven and Vicki. The Doctor has the upper hand when the Monk answers the door and believes he is being held at gunpoint. The Monk is being questioned by the Doctor when they are overpowered by Sven and Ulf. In the ensuing confrontation the Monk slips away, leaving the Doctor the Vikings' prisoner. The Doctor knocks out Sven and elsewhere the Monk does the same to Ulf.
The Monk uses his freedom to persuade the villagers to light beacon fires on the cliff tops, telling them that he is expecting materials by sea, when in fact he wishes to lure the Viking fleet to land. Wulnoth agrees to light the fires, but does not do so as he realises the danger.
Steven and Vicki return to the monastery via the secret passage and investigate the crypt, where a heavy power cable emanates from a sarcophagus. Looking inside, they discover that it is the Monk's TARDIS and that he must have come from the same place as the Doctor. The Monk has returned to the monastery and is once more under the Doctor’s control. He reveals his plan is to lure the Vikings to the coast and destroy the fleet. This would shore up King Harold to such an extent he would not then lose the Battle of Hastings. The Monk is a Time Meddler. The Doctor denounces the Monk for seeking to alter history and forces him to reveal his TARDIS, where they find Steven and Vicki. Together the time travellers piece together the Monk’s plot, which the Monk insists is intended to stabilise England and benefit Western civilisation.
Ulf and Sven have formed an alliance with the Monk and have tied up the Doctor’s party while the three of them take the neutron bomb shells down to the cannon on the beach. The scheme is foiled however when Wulnoth and the Saxons arrive and engage the fleeing Vikings in a nearby clearing, killing Sven and Ulf in battle.
The Monk hides while the fighting rages, little knowing that the Doctor and his friends have been freed by Edith and are tampering with his TARDIS. With his scheme in ruins, the Monk decides to leave and returns to his TARDIS, though the Doctor left a note assuring the Monk his meddling days are ended. When the Monk looks inside he realises the Doctor has taken the dimensional control and the interior of his ship has shrunk beyond use, leaving him stranded in 1066. The tide having gone out, the Doctor and his friends are free to leave.
The working title for this story was The Monk. The Time Meddler is the first example of what is known in Doctor Who as the 'pseudo-historical' or 'ahistorical' story, which is one that uses the past as a setting for a science fiction story, as opposed to the pure historical stories, which are set in the past but have no science-fictional elements attached to them besides the presence of the regular characters and the TARDIS.
During production of this story, new producer John Wiles began taking over production duties. William Hartnell, displeased at the number of changes undergoing the production, play-acted throwing a temper tantrum during the rehearsal of this story.
Footage of the Viking ship was taken from a BBC Newsreel item about a Viking recreation on the south coast of England. In the remastered DVD version this footage is restored from the original film, and the complete item appears on the DVD extras.
Episodes 1, 3, and 4 were reported missing from the BBC Film and Videotape Library following an audit in 1978 (see Doctor Who missing episodes). Edited telerecordings of all four episodes were returned to the BBC from Nigeria in 1985, and complete copies of episodes 1 and 3 were returned in 1992. 12 seconds from episode 4, depicting an act of violence, remains missing from the otherwise complete prints of all four episodes, as it was removed by censors. The 2008 Region 2 DVD release includes as an extra, called The Missing 12 Seconds, the audio for this missing sequence with original script excerpts and explanatory text – it appears that the two Vikings were seen on screen to be run through by the sword-wielding Saxons via the use of dummies.
William Hartnell does not appear in episode 2 as he was on holiday. A pre-taped recording of his voice is played when the Doctor is locked in a cell.
Alethea Charlton also appeared in An Unearthly Child (1963) as the cavewoman, Hur.
Broadcast and reception
|Episode||Title||Run time||Original air date||UK viewers|
|1||"The Watcher"||24:05||3 July 1965||8.9||16mm t/r|
|2||"The Meddling Monk"||25:17||10 July 1965||8.8||16mm t/r|
|3||"A Battle of Wits"||24:10||17 July 1965||7.7||16mm t/r|
|4||"Checkmate"||24:00||24 July 1965||8.3||16mm t/r|
The serial was repeated on BBC2 in January 1992 on consecutive Fridays – 03/01/92 to 24/01/92 at 7.20pm/6.50pm, as part of a season of stories to represent each of the (then) seven Doctors adventures. The repeat achieved ratings of 2.37, 2.79, 2.58 and 2.63 million viewers respectively.
Reviewing the serial in 2009, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times described it as "an utter delight", praising Butterworth and the direction. The A.V. Club reviewer Christopher Bahn was positive towards the concept of the Monk and the introduction of Steven. He also noted that it "keeps things moving despite its relatively simple plotline, a testament both to Dennis Spooner's script and Douglas Camfield's direction". Johnathan Wilkins, writing for Dreamwatch, described The Time Meddler as "an often forgotten gem" with good performances all around. However, he did note that the "weakest element" was perhaps the "stereotypical" local villagers. IGN's Arnold T Blumburg gave the serial a score of 7 out of 10, highlighting the chemistry between Hartnell and Butterworth, the competency of Vicki and Steven, and the visual atmosphere. Despite this, he noted that there were a few clichés in the plotting and, unlike Bahn, felt that it was "definitely a slow-paced story". Simon Brew of Den of Geek gave The Time Meddler a rating of three out of five, feeling that it "really hits its stride" with the sparring between the Doctor and the Monk, but ultimately the story was not enough to cover four episodes.
|Cover artist||Jeff Cummins|
|Series||Doctor Who book:|
|15 October 1987 (Hardback) March 1988 (Paperback)|
The story was released on VHS in November 2002. On 4 February 2008, it was released on DVD. The quality of the surviving prints of the later episodes was deemed low enough that the typical VidFIRE process was not applied to the story. The DVD was dedicated to the late Verity Lambert.
- "Earthbound Timelords: "By Any Other Name"". Homepages.bw.edu. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
- "The Time Meddler". BBC. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- "BBC – Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide – The Time Meddler – Details". www.bbc.co.uk.
- "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
- Shaun Lyon; et al. (31 March 2007). "The Time Meddler". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 10 April 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
- doctorwhonews.net. "Doctor Who Guide: broadcasting for The Time Meddler".
- Muklern, Patrick (21 January 2009). "Doctor Who: The Time Meddler". Radio Times. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
- Bahn, Christopher (4 March 2012). "The Time Meddler". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
- Wilkins, Johnathan (31 January 2008). "Doctor Who: The Time Meddler". Dreamwatch. Archived from the original on 12 September 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
- Blumberg, Arnold T (10 November 2008). "Doctor Who: The Time Meddler Review". IGN. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
- Brew, Simon (25 January 2008). "Doctor Who: The Time Meddler Review". Den of Geek. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
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