Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Out with a Whimper


The Time Meddler

First Doctor  - 17th Serial

4 Episodes, Companions: Vicki, Steven

Summary: following the events of the Chase, the Doctor and company head back to 11th century England just before an historically important Viking invasion. Soon the Doctor finds evidence of Time Travelers, in the form of a phonograph playing monastic chant, and he realizes that this serene countryside is in for worse than a viking invasion!  Forces are at work to change history, and the Doctor must work quickly to put history right!  

The Doctor: I liked the speech about Ian, Barbara and Susan.  Given the change from when he abducted them to now, that he thinks of them as friends and is sad to see them leave, almost feels betrayed, but not quite. And then he consoles himself by asking Vicki if she wants to stay, he is really showing his tender side now.  In addition to being sentimental, he's also clever, though.  And he's enjoying the game of cat and mouse he has begun with the Monk, who spends much of the time thinking he has the upper hand.

Companions: Steven, of course has stowed away aboard the TARDIS, and made the Doctor none too happy.  Vicki is clearly enjoying being the most knowledgeable, and senior, companion.  Steven plays the skeptic well.  He's willing to believe the box is a ship, because they have obviously moved, but the Monk's futuristic paraphernalia have him convinced the time travel bit is a sham.  Steven doesn't stay the background character for long, taking as active a role as any other companion might as soon as the puzzle is revealed.  I'm not sure I like him much, he's smug and always amused, although it's a slightly refreshing change to find somebody enjoying it instead of being afraid.

Continuity: First and foremost, Don't call him Doc.  Secondly, the nods to the previous companions are heartwarming.  The Doctor explains how the TARDIS has the ability to change its shape to match the surroundings, and Vicki reaffirms that several systems have technical hitches, and don't really work very well.  We've heard all this before, but it seems to come up with new companions a lot, and the audience needs reminding why he travels in a blue box.  We meet another time traveler.  He's not introduced as a Time Lord or Galifreyan or anything, simply as the Monk, variously known as the Meddling Monk.  He has his own TARDIS, the second such machine (if you conclude that the Dalek machine in the Chase was a kind of TARDIS) we have seen in as many serials.  We know he is from the Doctor's world, about fifty years after the Doctor left, assuming time has meaning there.

I particularly enjoyed the Monk ribbing the Doctor about the malfunctioning "camouflage unit" and the snide comments about the Monk's TARDIS (which we are told is a MARK IV) not being 'hit or miss' and working perfectly.  The Doctor has finally met a warrior that is his intellectual and technological equal.  The Monk has a brilliant plan, and it works very well within the framework given.  Without the Doctor here, history would be very different... or would it?  See, the Monk's TARDIS is, of course, damaged by the Doctor preventing him from escaping and trapping him in the past.  The only real danger with that plan is, now he's stranded where he can do immeasurable damage to the timestream, having excellent foreknowledge.  He apparently decides to spend his time in this strange temporal exile doing nothing much though, because unless I'm mistaken, he's never mentioned again.
Rating: Enjoy it.  It's got some good moments, and is generally fun, but it's certainly the weakest of the 's I've given.  I came close to giving it a Bear it, to be honest.  It's the slowest four-parter I have seen yet, and paces more like a sixer.  It's still fun to see the Doctor square off against another Time Traveler, and fun to see the historical setting merely be the backdrop for the adventure, where until now the past has been the adventure itself.  I watched this one four times, and liked it more on the fourth viewing than any prior.  I have no idea what that means, but there you have it.