The Time Monster

Really, Doctor, you’ll be consulting the entrails of sheep next.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart

Synopsis

The Master, in the guise of Professor Thascalos, has constructed a device called TOMTIT – Transmission Of Matter Through Interstitial Time – to gain control of Kronos, a creature from outside time. The creature is summoned but proves to be uncontrollable.

Review

The Time Monster brings Jon Pertwee’s third season to a close, and unfortunately, it is a bit of a let down, especially considering it follows hot on the heels of The Mutants, a disappointing and dull drag through an alien planet. The Doctor and Jo are back to Earth here, but the story feels like a retread of the far superior The Daemons from the previous season. Critics of the Third Doctor’s era and specifically the UNIT family often accuse it of being a bit too cosy and nice, and this is actually the first story I’ve seen where I think that this criticism might be valid.

This story really shows a lack of budget and smacks of an end-of-season episode. We have only brief glimpses of location filming and this really hits home when we get to see Atlantis, which just feels like a studio at Television Centre. There are some hints of better ideas here, like Dr Percival initially showing some glimpses of being resistant to the Master’s hypnotism but any originality seems to abandon this story at this point. I suppose this does pay off when it is revealed that Dalios is resistant later on in the narrative. There are a lot of ideas being thrown at the wall but the story doesn’t really feel like it moves anywhere with any sense of urgency. The lack of money doesn’t help, but it feels as though this was written with more than a smidge of humour – looking at the rather phallic-looking prop Pertwee spends most of the story carrying and the appearance of Kronos and the Minotaur are laughably bad.

The guest cast are pretty weak here, which is another element that really does not work here. Most glaring of these are the performances of Ian Collier as Stuart Hyde and Wanda Moore as Ruth Ingram who are both truly insufferable. This is not helped by their dance around the lab shouting that they have done it, along with the accompanying score, and the script certainly does Wanda Moore no favours – the writers make this character quite one dimensional with her militant feminism. The majority of the characters we meet in Atlantis, with the exception of George Cormack’s Dalios, who manages to at least give us someone to root for in these bits of the narrative.

I think that the best example of this story’s flaws is in its treatment of Benton. John Levene is possibly an unsung hero of the Pertwee era Sergeant Benton actually gets to do something useful here, showing that he has a brain on him when he realises that the Master is impersonating the Brigadier. This is possibly one of his best moments on the programme, however, it is overshadowed by just how easily the Master is able to outwit him when he gets in the room. Then there’s the sitcom ending when he is reverted to childhood by TOMTIT, before being restored, which feels almost as though it’s waiting for canned laughter to be inserted over the top of it. There is nothing wrong with Doctor Who being fun and funny in places, but this feels like it’s jumped so far over the line that it’s a speck in the distance. John Levene does give his all as always, as do most of the central cast, but they can’t hide the fact that this is the weakest story of Pertwee’s era. There are some lovely character moments in here, possibly most notably for the Brigadier, especially when he takes command of the situation at the Institute, and when Courtney reacts to the V1 at the beginning of Part 4 which feels very personal. Delgado is great as the Master as ever, even though he does degenerate into a typically ranting villain towards the end of the story.

I say this in my reviews of all of the Pertwee stories that I review, but I really like the chemistry between the Third Doctor and Jo Grant, which feels like a warm blanket and helps carry these weaker episodes. Their relationship feels so endearing throughout, and both are clearly working hard to give this story some real heart. There’s a sense that Jo would follow the Doctor into the greatest dangers without a second’s doubt. This is emphasised nicely in their scenes in the Atlantean dungeons, including the daisest daisy speech. Pertwee is great in his confrontation with the Master from their respective TARDIS console rooms, and I love the fact that the Master decides to mute the Doctor rather than argue with him, and the tampering with the TARDIS technology to make the Doctor’s speech run backwards is quite fun.

Verdict: A lack of budget and a derivative plot mean that The Time Monster fails to live up to some of the other great stories from this Season. 3/10

Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), John Levene (Sergeant Benton), Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), Roger Delgado (The Master), Wanda Moore (Dr. Ruth Ingram), Ian Collier (Stuart Hyde), John Wyse (Dr Percival), Neville Barber (Dr Cook), Barry Ashton (Proctor), Terry Walsh (Window Cleaner), Donald Eccles (Krasis), Aidan Murphy (Hippias), Keith Dalton (Neophite), Simon Legree (UNIT Sergeant), Marc Boyle (Kronos), George Cormack (Dalios), Greg Powell (Knight), Dave Carter (Roundhead Officer), George Lee (Farmworker), Ingrid Pitt (Galleia), Derek Murcott (Crito), Susan Penhaligon (Lakis), Michael Walker (Miseus), Melville Jones (Guard), Dave Prowse (Minotaur) & Ingrid Bower (Face of Kronos).

Writer: Robert Sloman

Director: Paul Bernard

Parts: 6

Original Broadcast Dates: 20 May – 24 June 1972

Behind the Scenes

  • The first story to visit the Earth’s past since The Abominable Snowmen. The historical setting came after a suggestion from the Official Doctor Who Fan Club.
  • The volcano stock footage at the beginning of Part One is the same as that featured during the opening credits of Inferno and The Enemy of the World.
  • One of the voices representing the Doctor’s subconscious is female, marking the first occasion on which it is alluded to that the Doctor can change genders as a part of regenerating.
  • Rather tragically, John Levene mentions on the commentary that Darren Plant, the baby who plays infant Benton, died before his first birthday. This gives him the unwanted distinction of being the shortest-lived person to ever appear in Doctor Who.
  • Robert Sloman’s original idea was based on the idea of time slippages, having visions of World War One planes attacking modern aircrafts. Due to the budgetary constraints, this being a main storyline was not possible. Sloman also wrote a story called The Daleks in London to close Season 9, which was deemed to be too similar to The Daleks’ Invasion of Earth.
  • While filming scenes in Bessie, Pertwee and Manning realised that they had gotten lost.
  • Pertwee and Manning improvised the ‘Permission to come on board’ scene, which the composer inserted a small piece from The Sailor’s Hornpipe to complete it.
  • The only appearance of this TARDIS control room, sometimes referred to as the washing up bowl interior, which was designed by Tim Gleeson.

Cast Notes

  • Ian Collier would also play the role of Omega in Arc of Infinity and Omega.
  • Neville Barber appeared in A Girl’s Best Friend, the only episode of spin-off K-9 And Company.
  • Barry Ashton previously appeared in The Moonbase and would appear in Frontier in Space. He also had uncredited roles in The Highlanders, The Evil of the Daleks, Spearhead from Space, The Silurians and Inferno.
  • Terry Walsh is probably best known for being Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker’s stunt doubles, famously standing in for Tom Baker after he broke his collar bone during production of The Sontaran Experiment.
  • Marc Boyle also worked as a stunt man on the show, but doubled for Nicholas Courtney in Terror of the Autons after Courtney suffered a fit of depression before production.
  • George Cormack would appear in Planet of the Spiders.
  • Dave Carter appeared in a number of stories, including The Silurians, Inferno and Terror of the Autons.
  • George Lee had previously appeared in Spearhead from Space.
  • Ingrid Pitt would go on to appear in Warriors of the Deep.
  • Susan Penhaligon appeared in the Big Finish play Primeval.
  • Michael Walker had previously appeared in The Claws of Axos.
  • Melville Jones would play a Cyberman in Revenge of the Cybermen.
  • Dave Prowse is best known for playing the body (but not the voice) of Darth Vader in the first three Star Wars films.

Best Moment

I really love the Russian Doll-like nature of the TARDIS console rooms leading into further console rooms.

Best Quote

Well, when I was a little boy, we used to live in a house that was perched halfway up the top of a mountain. And behind our house, there sat under a tree an old man, a hermit, a monk. He’d lived under this tree for half his lifetime, so they said, and he’d learned the secret of life. So, when my black day came, I went and asked him to help me.

And he told you the secret? Well, what was it?

Well, I’m coming to that, Jo, in my own time. Ah, I’ll never forget what it was like up there. All bleak and cold, it was. A few bare rocks with some weeds sprouting from them and some pathetic little patches of sludgy snow. It was just grey. Grey, grey, grey. Well, the tree the old man sat under, that was ancient and twisted and the old man himself was, he was as brittle and as dry as a leaf in the autumn.

But what did he say?

Nothing, not a word. He just sat there, silently, expressionless, and he listened whilst I poured out my troubles to him. I was too unhappy even for tears, I remember. And when I’d finished, he lifted a skeletal hand and he pointed. Do you know what he pointed at?

No.

A flower. One of those little weeds. Just like a daisy, it was. Well, I looked at it for a moment and suddenly I saw it through his eyes. It was simply glowing with life, like a perfectly cut jewel. And the colours? Well, the colours were deeper and richer than you could possibly imagine. Yes, that was the daisiest daisy I’d ever seen.

The Third Doctor and Jo Grant

Previous Third Doctor review: The Mutants

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