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The Time Monster ★★

"Drama dribbles away" when the Doctor goes to Atlantis and the Master tries to control a parrot-like Chronovore...

Published: Wednesday, 6th January 2010 at 11:00 pm

Season 9 – Story 64


"If the Master opens the floodgates of Kronos's power, all order and all structure will be swept away, and nothing will be left but chaos" - the Doctor

A scientific breakthrough brings the Doctor and Jo to the Newton Institute at Wootton. Here the Master, disguised as Professor Thascales, has developed a machine called Tomtit (Transmission of Matter through Interstitial Time) for his own ends: to summon Kronos, a Chronovore or "time eater". He uses Tomtit to thwart Unit via a series of time anomalies and to transport Krasis, a high priest, from Atlantis. Pursued by the Doctor and Jo, the Master flees in his Tardis to Atlantis, where he seeks a powerful crystal to bring the volatile Kronos under his permanent control…

First transmissions
Episode 1 - Saturday 20 May 1972
Episode 2 - Saturday 27 May 1972
Episode 3 - Saturday 3 June 1972
Episode 4 - Saturday 10 June 1972
Episode 5 - Saturday 17 June 1972
Episode 6 - Saturday 24 June 1972

Location filming: April 1972 at Swallowfield and Mortimer, Berkshire; Stratfield Saye, Hampshire
Filming: March/April 1972 at Ealing Studios
Studio recording: April 1972 in TC3, May 1972 in TC4 and TC3

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

Writer - Robert Sloman (& Barry Letts, uncredited on screen)
Incidental music - Dudley Simpson
Designer - Tim Gleeson
Script editor - Terrance Dicks
Producer - Barry Letts
Director - Paul Bernard

RT Review by Mark Braxton
Some story titles just don't inspire confidence, do they? Putting a "monster" in the shop window ought to be a safe bet, but the intangible qualifier ruins the effect. Time and monsters just don't go together. Neither Chronovores nor the similarly motivated Reapers of 2005's Father's Day work well - in concept or in execution - but at least the latter had a heart-breaking story driving it forward.

The Time Monster itself is a squawking annoyance whose design is no better than a Blue Peter Christmas-tree make. Luckily Persil the parrot isn't the be-all and end-all of an admittedly eventful six-parter…

The legendary kingdom of Atlantis is ripe for Whovian treatment, but the writers seem to have forgotten that its destruction has already been explained twice: in The Underwater Menace and The Daemons. Passing over such inattention, as indeed the Doctor Who fan has to occasionally, the early Atlantean scenes in flashback are nicely filmed and Tim Gleeson's sets are imperious. And this is truly exotic territory, with Hammer heroine Ingrid Pitt sitting in a wicker chair stroking a Siamese cat like Emmanuelle essaying Donald Pleasence.

But otherwise the characters' shoddy delineation renders most of the action in the ancient realm dull and unimportant. It's almost a relief when the city collapses, to the squeak of falling polystyrene and the wobble of camera.

Ineptitude and unfortunate comedy also abound in the present-day scenes, however: a temporally enmired Brigadier runs on the spot as if auditioning for Play Away, a model Tardis is whisked away on a chokingly visible wire, and a ham-fistedly scripted battle of the sexes elicits ridiculous lines such as "Boadicea here only wants to creep over to the lab and nobble the Master".

Is this really the same writing team that gave us The Daemons? It's not that we haven't had pseudo-science in the show before, but we almost drown in the stuff here. The Doctor's balancing of household objects on a bottle to counteract Tomtit is arrant piffle. If that's not bad enough, we're told that the reason it doesn't work is the absence of tea leaves!

It's not that The Time Monster is without merit. The barminess has a certain magnificence when, for instance, a medieval jouster forces Unit troops off the road, or in the Escher-esque impossibility of a Tardis within a Tardis. And there are profoundly serious moments . . . but any drama just dribbles away. There should be pathos when the 25-year-old Stuart becomes decrepit.

Much more than mere words should suggest to us that the Time Ram manoeuvre is "appallingly dangerous". And the actual moment when the Doctor, the Master and Jo could be about to die should be "rammed" home with close-ups of their reactions - not a zoom in on a crummy danger-dial prop.

Many poor decisions are taken, then, but there is still light amid the gloom. The interplay between the Doctor and Jo is magical at times. Katy Manning had easily - easily - the most winning smile of any companion (watch episode four again). Indeed, during their discussion about the Tardis as a living entity, it feels as though we have stumbled on a private joke: Manning looks as though she's just inhaled nitrous oxide.

Jo's devotion to the Doctor has been shown before, but not with the economy of two simple words. Following the Doctor's famous Gallifreyan reminiscence about his blackest and best day, he says, "I'm sorry I brought you to Atlantis." With absolute conviction, she replies: "I'm not."

There are two forms of madness in The Time Monster: delightful, almost Lewis Carroll-like absurdity and outright, galloping stupidity, and sadly it tips too often into the latter. It's deservedly fans' least favourite Jon Pertwee story - as voted in a 2009 poll - and despite glimpses of glory, The Time Monster lets the side down in an otherwise sturdy season nine.

What Katy did next…
“Jon had worked with Ingrid Pitt, you see. And there was a little bit of tension. He thought she and I probably wouldn’t get on very well. He said she could be quite difficult. It wasn’t very generous of him. But there’s all that business where as the Queen of Atlantis, she has the cat and is stroking it. And she used to come to rehearsal in this vast leopard-skin coat and after a few days she said, ‘I don’t vohnt a cat. I vohnt a tiger or I vohnt a lion.’ I was thinking, ‘Get a grip.’ I turned round and said, ‘Just fold your coat up.’ She and I bonded at that moment. And when she got the cat, of course, it scratched her right across the boob.”
(Talking to RT, April 2012)

RT's Patrick Mulkern interviews Katy Manning


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