Doctor Who #326: The Time Monster Part 1

"Look, I know I'm exceedingly dim, but would you mind explaining?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired May 20 1972.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor dreams of the Master, and the Master is building the world's first T Mat.

REVIEW: We haven't really seen the third Doctor like this. He's tired, distracted, forgetful, and requesting UNIT act on his nightmares. This is the most eccentric we've seen this incarnation. It's also quite unusual for us to see his nightmare, as we haven't really been given such access to the Doctor's subjective point of view before (unless the illusion was shared as in The Keys of Marinus, or you know, Keller Machines forcing him to look pictures of old monsters). So quite weird. It's fitting the nightmare begins with the volcanic shots from Inferno, as we know this is a manifestation of his greatest fear. And then the Master shows up, convincing the Doctor he's about to cause trouble again, which leaves the viewer wondering how connected these men actually are. Is there a telepathic link between them? Surely the Doctor isn't adding premonitions to his repertoire. It's enough that Bessie gets a super-drive and inertial dampeners.

The Master is indeed making a come-back, having built some kind of primitive T Mat under the assumed identity of Professor Thascalos. This machine - the rudely named TOMTIT - works by moving objects through interstitial time, what we might now call the Void. What else is in the Void? How about some kind of divine being the Greeks knew as Kronos? It's who the Master shouts for in the cliffhanger, so he's still trying to summon old gods to take their power (as in The Daemons). Tsk tsk. Like the Doctor and UNIT, the Master has surrounded himself with a group (but under false pretenses and accents). He has a director he has to hypnotize (one of the better examples of this, normal conversation turning into the Master's catch phrase naturally), an assistant able to deliver humorous dialog (Stu Hyde), and a smart feminist scientist who does all the work and grumbles at being told what to do by a man. It's the kind of irritating portrayal of feminism only middle-aged men could write, direct and produce. Look for more through the end of this era. The dialog in these scenes is generally fun and sparkly, but at times, the actors can't make it work and it sounds forced indeed. The less said about the window washer who gapes open-mouthed at TOMTIT the better (was he in The Mutants, because I've seen that terrible mugging before).

Back at UNIT HQ, the mood is much the same. Jo is given good banter (see the quote above, where she is either giving an exceedingly honest auto-evaluation, or patronizing the Doctor), Mike Yates is more awkward than ever (we'll put him in the "forced" category), and Benton, ever the scapegoat, is recruited by the Brigadier to inspect TOMTIT (yes, I like typing that) just as he's about to go on vacation. He's the only one in the delegation that understands what the scientists are talking about too. The cast is having fun with it, and not surprisingly, The Time Monster was put together by the same people who gave us The Daemons, which was a similar romp with the Master shouting at ancient gods. It's good to have the comedy too, because we need something to distract us from the fact that the episode is mostly about the Doctor getting to the place he told the Brig he didn't want to go to.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - We're getting nowhere on super drive, but the set-up is done with a fair amount of humor, attempting to end this season like the previous one did, with a celebration of what makes the  UNIT cast fun and lovable.


Mitchell Craig said...

This one brings the goofiness by the truckload. When the Brigadier asks the Doctor if he's going to inspect the entrails of a sheep, I'm surprised no one inserted evine bleating in the background.

Siskoid said...

That's a terrible thing to say about Jo's laugh! ;-)

Anonymous said...

That window washer ... was he perhaps carrying a ukulele? Knowing the Brits, I'm guessing it was George Formby.

This would explain a mysterious verse in the song:

The Master's in his hazmat suit
To use the TOMTIT to recruit
aliens -- will it bear fruit?
When I'm cleaning windows

Formby doesn't often sing that verse in movies and film, because, you know, "TOMTIT".


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