Doctor Who #329: The Time Monster Part 4

"The TARDISes are telepathic?" "Yes, of course. How else do you think they communicate."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jun.10 1972.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor flies his TARDIS inside the Master's and vice-versa. Benton is a baby.

REVIEW: Once again, not very much actually happens, but a lot is SAID. This serial hasn't just established the time vortex (though at this point, it is interchangeable with the Void between universes), but as of this episode, it's also defined the TARDIS as a living thing (the Doctor also says this of Bessie, or rather, he's probably contrasting his two "girls" as a reference to Bessie's false life in The Daemons by the same authors) and made mention of its telepathic circuits which have a role to play in translating language for its travelers' benefit. Stories as far back as The Edge of Destruction inferred it, but this episode makes it explicit. The Time Monster also features a completely redesigned TARDIS interior, the roundels looking like big bowls or mod lampshades, a "desktop theme" that -thankfully! -lasted for only this one story (see Theories as to why I think the Master's TARDIS suffered the same makeover at the same time). And this episode also has the craaa-aazy recursive element of one TARDIS being inside another, which in turn inside the first. I believe this is where the idea of the TARDIS as a mathematical construct begins (the debt owed by Logopolis is near certain).

And perhaps this recursion justifies the story going nowhere. It's the story's theme! Every time someone acts against someone else, the story basically loops back to cancel that action, whether it's the science team and Benton being unable to free UNIT from a time freeze, or the Master refusing to hear the Doctor's arguments against waking Kronos. The Doctor and Jo going 'round and 'round discussing old Venusian synonyms might be another example. But no, whether the script does this on purpose or not, it's really only a lot of wasted time. That dreadful dialog about Jo's coccyx, what the hell is that? Or Krasis the Atlantean high priest! What's HIS function in the story? He's just the Master's impromptu sidekick, afraid of everything, and mumbling through his dialog. The Master needed a magic seal and got stuck with the useless high priest it came with, looks like.

But I'll still give the episode some points for a few random elements. The buzz-bomb explosion was relatively well handled, but the site afterwards looked very real (could have done without the local yokel, of course). Benton as a baby is mighty cute. Though I still find the feminist rampage dialog somewhat forced - and wrong-headed, there's an awful lot of Dr. Ruth pushing the men to make the decisions - it sometimes provides sincere amusement. I like how Benton is told to stand over there and look pretty, for example.

So why the one-off makeover? Let's remember that the Doctor has put his TARDIS' frequency in phase with the Master's so he can follow it (they're so in phase that it materializes inside and around it). Perhaps that frequency matching has made his TARDIS take on the other's desktop theme. The Doctor's only kind of joking when he says it's just a bit of redecoration, of course. The Master would have changed his TARDIS' look at some earlier point, and the Doctor returned his own to its former look after this adventure because, well, it was never his choice or taste. Yep, I'd think that makes sense if I were someone reading me.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The Doctor throws out a lot of information that builds the TARDIS mythos for future generations of writers, but that doesn't change the fact that the story is at a near standstill.


Mitchell Craig said...

I wonder if the youngster who was cast as Baby Benton ever made any convention appearances later on in his life (Lord knows you get them from the Daleks' tea ladies).

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I think in one of John Levene's convention appearances or DVD commentaries, he mentions that the baby passed away soon afterwards..."but at least he got to appear in Doctor Who".



Siskoid said...

That's a terribly sad story, but I think I remember it now that you mention it.


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