Which One : The Doctor meets a fellow time-traveller.
Cast : The Doctor : William Hartnell
Vicki : Maureen O’ Brien
Steven Taylor : Peter Purves
The Monk : Peter Butterworth
Edith : Alethea Charlton
Eldred : Peter Russell
Wulnoth : Michael Miller
Saxon Hunter : Michael Guest
Viking Leader : Geoffrey Cheshire
Ulf : Norman Hartley
Sven : David Anderson
Gunnar the Giant : Ronald Rich
Written By : Dennis Spooner
Produced By : Verity Lamb
First UK Broadcast : 3 July – 23 July 1965.
Length : 4 x 25 minute parts.
1) “The Watcher”
2) “The Meddling Monk”
3) “A Battle of Wits”
Plot : The Doctor takes Steven and Vicki to 11th Century Northumbria, prior to the events of the Viking Invasions and Battle Of Hastings. Here, they meet a fellow time traveller; who is meddling with Earth history.
Whats good : Introduction of the Doctor’s alter ego. Peter Butterworth’s performance. The historical setting.
Whats bad : Would have been nice to uncover a little more about the Doctor/Monk’s perceived shared race/past – at this point.
Review With Spoilers : The Time Meddler is the 9th and final episode of season 2 and features the 1st of 2 appearances by the proto-Master character, known as the “Time Meddler” or “Monk”.
The Doctor discovers that Steven Taylor has stowed away aboard the Tardis, following the events of The Chase delerious and injured. The Tardis then lands in 11th century Northumbria, England – just prior to the Viking invasion and Battle Of Hastings.
The trio then begin to notice anachronistic oddities, including; a dropped gold wristwatch, a grammaphone playing monk chants and a futuristic cannon trained on the approaching Vikings.
This leads them to “The Monk” – a mysterious time travelling figure; who resides at the local Monastry and possesses a more advanced type-40 Tardis than the Doctor’s machine.
The Monk (played by Carry On actor Peter Butterworth) presents an interesting parallell to the Doctor. As a fellow time-traveller and as a student of Earth history. The Monk is presumed to be from the same race as the Doctor although this is never confirmed.
The Monk is portrayed, as a brilliant – yet bumbling nefarious-clown-type figure. A template for the future (much more diabolical) Master character. Basically a Master character played for laughs.
The Monk wants to destroy the incoming Viking invasion force. With the intended consequence, of giving Saxon King Harold more time to prepare solely for the Norman Invasion and perhaps change the outcome of the Battle Of Hastings – in 1066.
The Monk appears to be a shadowy reflection of what the Doctor could be, if the Doctor chose to intentionally influence events in history for personal gain. However, it does uncomfortably lay bare the thin line between the Doctor and the Monk; in terms of what is and isn’t perceived acceptable – or necessary meddling.
“What are we going to do with this fellow? What can we do with this man? He’s utterly irresponsible. He wants to destroy the whole pattern of world history!” The Doctor
Whilst the Doctor himself berates the Monk for changing/perverting the course of Earth history – for self interest. The Doctor has also himself, meddled Earth events; whether intentionally or not and whether as a result of a fixed point in time – or not.
The Monk also sports a more advanced type-40 Tardis which still sports a working Chameleon Circuit. Rather than the iconic Police Box look that the Doctor’s ship always sports.
It is a shame that we don’t uncover a little more about the then unknown Time Lord race, from this meeting. It is not until Troughton’s; The War Games – in 1969. That we learn about the Time Lords.
It is clear at this stage – in 1965, they probably didn’t have this backstory fleshed out. Whilst Hartnell and Butterworth play off each other enjoyably, it does leave their shared interaction – a bit lacking answers.
The Doctor makes no attempt to uncover/discuss this, other than to establish that the Monk’s Tardis is 50 years ahead of the Doctor’s. Which is fine for keeping the continued mystery going but not for basic character curiosity. Especially upon (potentially) meeting another of his race.
The Time Meddler is a cautionary history tale, which benefits from a less serious take on the Monk character. Hartnell is also on good form here too and his scenes with Butterworth are whimsical and fun.
Some shared backstory is irritatingly left uncovered but the first hint of a fellow time-traveller, is an interesting first-time development in the show’s run. This makes an interesting and worthy finale for season 2.