The Mind Robber
The Quantum Archangel
The Time Monster
|Dates||May 20, 1974 -
Jun. 24, 1974
With Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning,
Nicolas Courtney, Richard Franklin, John Levene,
and Roger Delgado as "The Master".
Written by Robert Sloman. Script-edited by Terrance Dicks.
Directed by Paul Bernard. Produced by Barry Letts.
|Synopsis: The Master summons the Titan Chronos from outside of time itself, and draws the fate of the Doctor and UNIT with Ancient Atlantis.|
A Greek Tragedy by Paul X 7/9/98
The Time Monster capped off season nine with John Pertwee as the Doctor with some interesting ideas borrowing similar devices from The Daemons, but undoubtedly it is one of the 3rd Doctor's worst. From heavy padding to dreadful characters to shoddy effects, this story ranks up there with Invasion of the Dinosaurs in poor execution. The major fault is the story lacks direction, which attempts to combine many elements but never manages to mesh.
The idea of linking the ancient gods to a race of alien supernatural beings is strong, as seen in The Daemons. Here, though, the connection between the Chronoveres (sheesh) & the mythological gods of ancient Greece & Atlantis is weak at best. Unlike The Daemons, the fusion of science fiction & fantasy is unconvincing. The Chronoveres' origins & powers are never fully explained nor is the connection & origin of the trident-shaped crystal. Plus it seems highly unlikely such an all-powerful creature such as Kronos could be manipulated solely by a piece of silicon. It would have made more sense using some relic more steeply based in Greek mythology instead of a pretty crystal the Master seemed to pick up somewhere along the way.
The scenes set in Atlantis are all studio bound, lacking any feel of being on an island in the Mediterranean/Aegean Sea. There isn't one shot of a beach, coastline, or ocean current. In attempting to explain the sunken city of Atlantis, there is no mention or connection to the legends. The Greeks come across very flat & dull with very proper prose. The inclusion of the Minotaur is ludicrous. The scenes with the creature are embarrassing, especially when Pertwee uses his cape like a matador.
The episodes set in modern times aren't much better. Unlike the Nuton Power Complex in The Claws of Axos, the Wooton facilities fail to evoke any semblance of scientific or technical sophistication. The scenes demonstrate how little money the show actually had, which is sad considering that throughout its history the show has overcome these restraints.
The scientists Dr. Ruth Ingram & Stuart Hyde are two of the worst supporting characters ever seen on the show. It's hard to believe the Master would recruit two dolts like this. The humorous tone is distracting & out of place within the context of the story. The whimsical scenes with Sgt. Benton have to be some of the worst of this era.
As for the acting, the edge from earlier stories is lost. Jo is absolutely awful. Katy Manning overacts along the lines of Mel. Such lines as "That's my job, remember?" when the Doctor explains the seriousness of the situation to Jo in the Tardis & "Curses! Foiled again!" when confronting an astonished Roger Delgado, take away from the integrity of the story & relegate it to tongue-in-cheek sit-com humor. Pertwee's performance is pretty bad as well, only conveying the cozy relationship that had developed amongst the regulars. Aside from the daisiest daisy speech in Atlantis, there is no conviction in his portrayal. It seems like he's just going through the motions, especially with the oversimplified explanations. Thankfully, UNIT spends half of this story frozen in interstitial time. By this point in the show's history, they were more of a distraction than an integral part of a story.
And the padding.... The viewer is treated to an unrelated, unexplained dream sequence involving a giant Master, which takes all the surprise out of who the villain will be. There are countless scenes at Wooton running back & forth from the lab to Stuart's apartment that the viewer just doesn't need to see. Either this story should have been compressed to a four parter or edited differently to better realize the Atlantis/Wooton scenes, strengthen the mythological connections, & better explain the origins/powers of Kronos.
Well, there you have it. This one's a stinker. I hate to be so negative about a story, but there's nothing to redeem this one. The ideas behind the story never gel. The mood/tone of the story is never established: one minute it's comedic banter, the next it's sci-fi/fantasy fusion, the next it's a pantomime bullfight. Being a fan of the third Doctor, I would rate this the worst story of the era.
But does it stand the test of time? by Marcos Sullivan 13/9/98
The Doctor: "You're mad. Paranoid."
The Master: "Who isn't! The only difference is that I'm more honest than the rest."
The Time Monster is a minor classic, albeit one for those who enjoy the camp side of Doctor Who.
The first couple of episodes, in which UNIT investigate an experiment which has accelerated a man's ageing process, are rather slow. Dr. Ruth Ingram (Wanda Moore) stands out as a feisty female scientist (a sharp contrast with wimpy Jo Grant).
The story really gets going when it's revealed that the Master (again!) is trying to control Kronos, a godlike creature vital to the structure of the universe. In one of several hilariously naff special effects sequences Kronos is summoned... he looks suspiciously like Big Bird from Sesame Street.
The interplay between the Doctor and the Master in this story is fantastic, especially when the Doctor lands his Tardis inside that of the Master, seen here for the first time (a classic sequence revisited in Logopolis).
The last part of the story, set in Atlantis, makes for an enjoyable coda. The culture clash between Jo Grant and this ancient civilisation creates lots of nice comic moments, especially when she gets to dress up as Princess JoJo.
Queen Galleia (Ingrid Pitt) adds a bit of sex appeal. She plots with the Master to gain control of Atlantis, but really it's his body she's after! There's definitely a bit of sexual chemistry there: no wonder Roger Delgado seems to be enjoying himself so much!
So many ideas, such little sense, so much fun. 8/10
A Haiku by Finn Clark Updated 3/5/20
Unlike The Mutants,
The first four episodes stink.
(After which, it's good.)
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 27/7/00
This certainly garners enough attention to be decreed the worst Pertwee story. I, however, think that accolade goes to The Monster Of Peladon. What the basic problem with The Time Monster is that although the ideas are there, the plot isn`t jumping about from place to place and is ultimately inconsistent. The scenes set in Atlantis, while atrociously acted, (with even Roger Delgado going into overdrive) are a nice touch, as are those with UNIT battling the Roundheads in modern day England. It is the "silly science" which lets the story down; the Doctor constructing a gadget from various kitchen implements and his turning The Master`s TARDIS against him (whilst being a clever examination of their feud) is actually pointless and was parodied much better in The Curse Of Fatal Death. Which just about says it all. The Time Monster is a (poor) comic strip version of Doctor Who made for television.
The Time Waster by Tim Roll-Pickering 6/4/02
Few Doctor Who stories are as tedious as this one. Full of cliches, formulaic methods and reused ideas there is virtually no originality at all in this story. Matters are only made worse by the story being stretched out to six episodes, far beyond its natural length. The result is a mess, with the Episode One going painfully slowly and dominated by pointless bickering between Ruth Ingram and Stuart Hyde, whilst Episode 4 is little more than an extended battle of wits between the Doctor and the Master as their TARDISes drift through the vortex locked together. None of the other episodes come across as especially exciting either.
The opening sequence is one of the poorest ideas ever seen to bring the Doctor into the story. Dream warnings are just a convenient plot device rather than a genuine attempt to initiate events and the dream itself is reminiscent of a poor pantomime. It is a strong indicator of how the story is going to progress, with the sets for the laboratory at the Newton Institute looking extremely unrealistic, whilst Atlantis complete fails to convince, giving no indication at all that the city is able to fall into the sea. As has often been noted the story directly conflicts with the version of Atlantis shown five years earlier in The Underwater Menace and no acknowledgement at all is made of the earlier tale. Atlantis is populated by a collection of poorly acted characters wandering around in standard ancient Greek costumes and only Ingrid Pitt makes any impact as Queen Galleia. The scenes of the Master charming (and presumably seducing her) are well acted but it seems highly doubtful that a queen would prove so susceptible. By taking the theory that Atlantis was the city of the Minoan civilisation there is a crude attempt to work in the legend of the Minotaur in order to provide both a monster and a memorable cliffhanger to Episode Five but the whole segment comes across poorly.
Equally bad is the story's treatment of UNIT. More than in any previous story they are here reduced to a bunch of buffoon soldiers, written to generate laughs and providing primarily spurious action sequences. This story is the last in which the so-called 'UNIT family' (Pertwee's Doctor, Jo Grant, the Brigadier, Benton, Yates and the Master) all appear in the same tale and it rivals The Claws of Axos as their weakest combined appearance. The poor treatment of UNIT is a sign of how the series has moved strongly away from the hard edge of earlier tales such as Inferno and The Mind of Evil. It also sets off alarm bells about the amount of life left in the series before another radical change is needed.
On the acting side few of the cast give memorable performances, with even Pertwee and Delgado seemingly disillusioned by the script. Production wise the story is let down by some poor sets, costumes and effects, with none of the appearances of Kronos coming across especially well. The Time Monster is thus left with nothing at all to recommend it and is ultimately an entirely dispensable adventure. 1/10
Naff by Joe Ford 20/10/02
I haven't seen The Time Monster in over five years. I can remember when I first saw it. I was already a mental Doctor Who fan but at seventeen I didn't have the cash (or the satelite dish) to see all of the televised stories. I was enjoying the rare few I had on video, delights such as Pyramids of Mars, Terror of the Zygons, Vengeance on Varos... that sort of story. When my friend invited me over to watch a six part Jon Pertwee epic I was delighted! Until I arrived and was forced to watch six of the most painful half hours of my life. My brain may very well have been permanantly disturbed during that evening.
Now, five years on I have every video, DVD, book and CD. I have the foresight on knowing where every story fits in to the grand structure of Doctor Who, where the bad patches are, where the unexpected gems pop up. I understand Doctor as a series rather than individual shows. And in some ways that's a pity because viewed in isolation, away from Curse of Peladon, Carnival of Monsters and Frontier In Space (classics that linger nearby) The Time Monster actually quite a lot of fun.
Please don't get me wrong, it is crap. The scientific ideas are a contradiction in terms, the acting can be hammy and the effects border on Blakes Seven badness. It's seriously overlong and it seems to sprout set pieces that have NOTHING to do with the story out of no-where to cover up the fact that this would be much more suited to two or three episodes.
However, this springs from a period of Doctor Who that was very confident with its status. Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks had won viewers over with the new format and the ratings were often highly respectable. The show wasn't in danger of cancellation (like most of the eighties!), it wasn't unpopular and the writers and actors had pretty much free reign to produce what they wanted.
The Time Monster may be crap but it's confident crap and it knows how to win you over. For every diabolical effect such as the Kronos creature there is a wonderful twist like the Brigadier freezing and Benton turning into a baby. For every horrible set like the science centre there is an exquistely detailed one like the sets of Atlantis. For every wince inducing line to escape Jo's mouth there is Katy Manning at the helm who shines with a confidence. It's never dull, the story twists off at tangents (the sudden introduction of Atlantis, the Doodlebug!, the claustrophobic SF of episode four) and it's six episodes. If nothing else, it's so cluttered you are kept interested until the end.
I have to agree with Finn Clark, the second half is definitely superior although I don't think the first half is quite without merit as he suggests. Roger Delgado is at his charming best and sets the story alight whenever he's on screen. Pertwee is on drama-drugs and delivers every line with sincere effect. Those two idiots Stu and Ruth may be irritating but they seem to fit in well with the UNIT crowd and hysterical scenes such as the Doctor's time jammer/sensor (I never could work out what it was supposed to be!) made out of kitchen equipment work because of their bubbly interaction. The story starts off with a serious first episode but seems to trade in that direction for laughs later on (the knight on horseback!) and it quickly becomes obvious that the story isn't going anywhere so it's best to just sit back, relax, turn your analytical brain off and just enjoy Doctor Who at its most campest fun.
Any threat the Master may have posed is now gone, his ramblings about taking over time and space and the world (what? all that and more!) are just ludicrous. While The Sea Devils and The Daemons seemed to want to place the Master in realistic surroundings and suggest he was a dangerous criminal, a true threat to earth, this story seems content to portray him as a complete nutball, a raving idiot who just wants, wants, wants! Of course Delgado plays down these scenes and still retains his dignified position as the best actor to play the Master but this is proabably as bad as his character was written for during this era. To its credit, it's still a lot of fun though. It makes me laugh not vomit (like The Kings Demons, Time-Flight).
Episode four is really clever in spots and easily the best part of the story. The TARDIS inside TARDIS is dealt with well (and the new design is just fab!) and to just have the Doctor, Jo and The Master trade insults for an episode is actually very enjoyable indeed. Their performances shine and you can tell they all love each other really and their chemistry glows.
The Atlantis scenes are better than they deserve to be. Despite some poor acting (go away Hippias!) you can't help but get swept away with the Master's seduction of Gallia and the Doctor and Jo's quiet conversation when they are locked up. Even the Minotaur doesn't look that bad, and those bits are shot on film to give them a sense of urgency. And don't you just love it when the Doc can't time-ram because he cares to much for Jo? Awww, that's so sweet.
Okay, okay, no more excuses. I don't love The Time Monster and I wouldn't put it in even my top one hundred BUT watching the story today I just can't find it in my heart to hate it. It's poorly written true but it's just fizzing with energy and the actors are so confident in their roles you can just relax and let them entertain you.
Am I mad? Probably, but watch it again without thinking about the rest of the series and tell me you can't find a little bit of affection for this camp classic.
Chronic by Andrew Wixon 30/11/02
Season 9, as we all know, was one of those times when the series seemed to be content to rest on its laurels and chew the cud a bit. Certainly it lacks the innovation of the two previous seasons: all the stories bar one feature a returning villain of some sort (even if that villain has changed his spots somewhat in the Curse of Peladon). But nowhere is this complacency and willingness to coast more visible than in the final story of the year, The Time Monster.
It goes without saying, but I'll repeat it anyway: this is blatantly a knock-off of the previous year's The Daemons. It covers the same hippy-drippy pseudoscientific territory, it has the same villain, it features some identical plot points (the Master uses a stupid, self-evident alias, and the Brigadier is kept out of the action by a time/heat barrier), and the end is fundamentally the same - Jo's self-sacrifice makes omnipotent, Atlantis-destroying nasty reconsider its options.
But where The Daemons made a certain amount of sense and was populated by real characters, and basically moved fast enough to hide most of the joins, this doesn't - it's absolutely riddled with elementary plot-holes, it's full of stereotypes, lots of it (eg, the Doctor's DIY time jamming thingy) is insultingly childish and simplistic, and the plot doesn't make sense - for example, what relevance has the Doctor's opening vision to what's going on? This is when things aren't utterly becalmed - episode four adds nothing to the plot, and the final episode's pacing is torpedoed by the ridiculous, self-indulgent, 'Jonny Bignose gets to emote' daisy scene.
It's actually quite an enjoyable challenge trying to think of a single element of this production that isn't hackneyed, slapdash or actually annoying. The only very slight saving grace here is Ingrid Pitt's all-too-brief appearance as Galleia - she's not Meryl Streep, but she has presence and there's a definite chemistry between her and Delgado (who, by the way, clearly can't be bothered to act in his final scene).
Well, anyway. Probably the single weakest Pertwee story. Lessons for future producers (ha ha) of the show to take to heart - possibly best not to mention Atlantis. Probably best not to put the word 'Time' in the title of a story. And certainly best not to cast Ingrid Pitt, given her track record in Who is consists of this and Warriors of the Deep...
"How about, 'Curses, foiled again.'" by Terrence Keenan 13/3/05
"Like viewing Silver Nemesis the lingering question revolves around drug intake, as in 'If the cast and crew were on drugs, then why weren't they shipped off to rehab, and if they weren't on drugs, then how come the cast and crew weren't forcibly medicated?'"Harsh words from me.
The first time I ever saw The Time Monster, it was the first Pertwee tale that made me say, "Well, that was complete bollocks." And I'm not a Pertwee basher in any way.
From the get go, you can see that Robert Sloman and an uncredited Barry Letts are trying to capitalize on the "success" of Season 8's The Daemons. Similar setup, in terms of both overall plot and specific plot beats, including the ending.
The major failing of The Time Monster, is the scripts. They're pretty horrible. Some of the dialogue is cringeworthy, especially the banter between Ruth Ingram and Stuart Hyde. And I'm utterly convinced now that someone else came in and ghost-wrote the only great bit of dialogue in the story -- the "daisiest daisy" sscene.
The other problem in The Time Monster is the acting. You know the story is in deep doo-doo when Big Roger Delgado hits the screen and the stench of ham comes out of your telly. It's not as bad as his performance in The Daemons, but Big Rog mostly sucks, only hitting his stride in the scenes in Atlantis. In fact the only person who gives a consistently good performance in The Time Monster is Katy Manning, despite getting the worst of the dialogue and once again being written as a child instead of an adult. The only guest who distinguishes himself is George Cormack, who gives King Dalios some gravitas. Ingrid Pitt seems more interested in flashing her cleavage than actually acting. Of the rest of the cast... UGH!
Alas, The Time Monster really is properly awful, on all ends. Best viewed with you on drugs, as then you might be able to appreciate it from a point of altered body chemistry.
Oh dear God, make it stop... by Joe Briggs-Ritchie 25/12/06
When The Time Monster was released on video in 2001, the BBC rather irresponsibly failed to include the following notice on the cover;
WARNING! The contents of this video cassette will likely prove extremely offensive to those with any degree of taste and may also be deleterious to mental health.Hopefully they will bear this in mind for the DVD release.
Where do I begin? The script? Or the travesty that passes for a script. Many of the characters are given truly awful things to say but Jo is the worst offender. Why, in all sanity, is she spouting such complete and utter shite? Pippin? Cretan Jazz? "Oh Doctor, you really are the most infuriating man I ever met!" But she's not the only one. The Doctor states that Kronos can swallow a life "as quickly as a boa constrictor can swallow a rabbit". Not very quickly then, as any herpetologist will tell you. And the Brigadier's line about feeling "as naked as a babe in its bath"... No. No no no. And quite why is the Brig so enthusiatic about TOMTIT to begin with, considering he is usually allergic to anything scientific? But as soon as he claps eyes on the machine, he's back to his usual 'scientific mumbo jumbo' self. Hooray for consistency. TOMTIT? TOM fucking TIT? Oh, please. Even the Master isn't his usual entertaining self and his little hypnosis theme is starting to tire.
Stuart and Ruth. Aaaarrrgghhh!!!!! Double act? Double trouble. These two gormless cretins must be the worst guest characters in the history of the programme. There was certainly no need for that silly little dance. Nor was it necessary to perpetually rattle on about Women's Lib with all the subtlety of an atom bomb in a corner shop. I'd like to boil them both in cheap sherry. And while we're on the subject, the government observers are eligible candidates for the same treatment. Dr Cook. Stuck up, pompous oaf. Dudley Simpson is having a very rare bad day; I have no wish to insult him further.
The Atlanteans. Aaaaarrgghhh! Atrociously acted bunch of effeminate ponces. In dreadful clothing and make up. And what of the mighty Kronos? Yes, well... He's very mighty is he? Flying around on that wire like a pigeon and making silly bird noises. And people have the nerve to insult the magma creature. At least that looked and sounded convincing. The scenes with people running on the spot as time slows down are hardly scintilating either.
So, I hear you ask, was there anything about this story I liked? Well, the sound of the slowed bell was quite good, I suppose, and the Master's line to Percival about inept performances raised a smile. Other than that, however, the only story which I find even more excrutiatingly painful than this is Delta and the Bannermen. But I don't know if I can bring myself to review that one.
As the Doctor says of his (insanely stupid) time-flow-analogue device, "it was fun while it lasted." I'm afraid I can't say the same.
A waste of Jon Pertwee's talents. It should be sealed in concrete and dumped in the North Sea.
A Review by Matthew Sorflaten 12/9/07
The opening scene of The Time Monster promises a great deal. It shows a world in which the Master has god-like power, with the Doctor at his mercy, and hell breaking loose all around, a world in which the Doctor's arch-enemy has taken over the whole of creation and now truly is the Master of All Things. Such a scene is worthy of any feature-length fantasy film and it seems to be the start of an exciting, epic adventure in which the Doctor has his ultimate battle with the Master, with a major quest at hand that is essential to complete, and will provide thrills for all the family. As soon as the first scene comes up, it would seem that a great adventure is at hand.
Because of The Time Monster's infamous reputation, fellow Doctor Who fans will probably now be assuming that I'm going to say the story fails in every possible way to deliver that promise, to say how dire the acting is, how the plot is a mess and that the whole thing is chock-full of unfunny humour. However, I am going to disappoint you. You see, I am, it seems, the only person in the world who thinks that The Time Monster is a masterpiece, that it is a fantastic, epic story that rivals The Daleks' Master Plan and, overall, that it is thoroughly enjoyable.
The story is one of the most epic in the series' history. The Master seeks to unleash a demon of Greek legends in order to become King of Atlantis. A simple plot, but really, you can't get anymore epic than that, can you? The whole story takes you from Earth, to the Time Vortex, to the Master's TARDIS, to Atlantis and the climax set in a kind of Limbo world, and the Doctor faces not only his arch-enemy, but an evil Greek god, misguided Atlantians, warriors from the past and even the Minotaur! All of this, in one six-part story! Of course, with all these ingredients, this could easily come out as a mess (which many consider it to be) but really, if you look at it as a television programme, intended to entertain, then it's all great fun.
It has an all-star cast, with all of the UNIT family getting their own things to do. Mike Yates discovering the time slips, Benton tracking down the Master and the Brigadier being his usual pompous self. All the UNIT action, in my opinion, adds more to the adventurous aspect of the story; they really do get proper action scenes, worthy of any James Bond movie, and they don't come across as a bunch of massive buffoons - as they do in other stories, hardly relying on the Doctor at all - and truly seeming like major characters in a film, gaining their own personalities and having some very funny moments to themselves.
Jo Grant also has one of her best appearances, asking intelligent questions, screaming to the bare minimum, using her own resourcefulness when the Doctor is not present and attempting to sacrifice herself to save Atlantis. Here she does not seem like a ditzy, slow-witted imbecile, but a selfless, intelligent, brave, worthy companion of the Doctor's.
The Doctor himself is good too, coming across as a real action hero, battling a whole bunch of enemies using his intelligence alone and very little Venusian karate is used; he seems like a sharp, quick-witted individual whom the viewer immediately has total faith in and never for a second do you believe that he'll make any blunder, but that he'll thwart whatever the situation is. He truly seems suave and sophisticated, unravelling the Master's plan and discovering the most ingenious ways of escaping the traps and monsters that are put in his way; the fact that he seems unbeatable is impressive, seeing as he is facing an impossible foe in Chronos.
Then there is the Master, who has one of his greatest appearances ever here. I do feel that this is indeed the ultimate battle between him and the Doctor, due to the fact that he now has incredible power, with the ability to control a demon of Greek legends and mess up time whenever he chooses. For once he's a virtually indestructible opponent and a real match for the Doctor, because his intelligence, has, after much hard work, given him the power of a god. It genuinely seems like he does have the power to conquer the universe, whereas in other stories, it just seems far-fetched. He comes very close to destroying the Doctor many times here, and the whole adventure essentially focuses on the eternal battle between the two of them, bringing their rivalry to the very peak. I have heard accusations of Roger Delgado being hammy in this episode, but I think that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I think this is one of his best performances. Here, he really does switch from charming to vicious in a matter of seconds. Sometimes he looks so angry and ferocious that it's almost animal-like and when he is trying to sway people to his side, he genuinely does seem trustworthy, so you can see why several people believe what he says. I find it interesting to see him working with a "companion" for once and I had been dying to see him seduce a woman to achieve his ends, merely because I could see that he was charming enough to do so; I feel he could have done this in a few more episodes. The Master's plan to rise to power is perfectly in character and the fact that after all he has done, the Doctor chooses to spare him eternal torment, reflects their relationship very well. I object to anyone saying the scene where he begs for his freedom is dire. I imagine that's what anyone would be like if they heard they had been sentenced to a life of never-ending torture and especially the Master, seeing as he's so power-hungry and selfish.
As for the monsters, well, Chronos may not look too convincing, but the sound effects, with the savage squawking, does sound very horrific. The Minotaur does look quite ridiculous, but thankfully his role is minimal.
There are several unintentionally amusing moments, such as the Master imitating the Brigadier's voice and the Doctor talking backwards, but I feel these moments add to the story's charm and, really, there are a lot of these moments in the entire Doctor Who universe.
There are things I dislike about this episode, but very little. There are some moments that are almost unbearably crass e.g. the Master's Greek accent and TOMTIT. I mean, what were they thinking, calling it TOMTIT? I literally cringed every time that was said. But really, that would be all. I can't think of anything else that's bad about this episode.
We learn a bit about the Doctor's past, we discover a fate worse than any other (living forever in a world of nothingness), we get an epic storyline complete with a quest to Atlantis and one of the greatest versions of Atlantis' destruction ever. What more could you want?
Many, I'm sure, will disagree with me. Perhaps I am deluded, but I would instantly put this in my top ten Doctor Who episodes.
A Review by Brian May 3/11/08
The Time Monster is fandom's favourite Pertwee era whipping boy, usually lumped together with the preceding story The Mutants, which I happen to like a lot. However, my tolerance doesn't extend a fraction as much for the closer to season 9 - of which I can enjoy or defend very little.
An Earth-based UNIT adventure that shifts into a pseudo-historical is structurally feasible, but this attempt falls short in so many ways. The build-up is one of the slowest I've ever seen; all of episode two and most of three are superfluous and dull. I used to like episode four - the change in pace, the TARDISes inside each other - but upon last viewing it left me cold. It finally dawned on me that it isn't that good after all; it's just as padded as the previous instalments, especially the backward speech nonsense, and the Doctor is at his most stupid when he thinks he's actually going to persuade the Master to stop what he's doing.
There is some dreadful dialogue: I refer you to The Discontinuity Guide for the prime examples. Every exchange between Stuart and Ruth is painful, and these two are dreadfully written caricatures. The latter is one of the most cliched and cynical feminist stereotypes in the show's history; poor Wanda Moore doesn't have a hope. From his later performances as Omega, Ian Collier has proved himself a very good actor, but here he's stuck playing a complete twit. The majority of the Atlantean actors are awful - Susan Penhaligon is an exception, making the most of a thankless role - with Donald Eccles (Krasis) and Aidan Murphy (Hippias) especially bad. Even George Cormack overdoes it. She might be an icon of British horror, but Ingrid Pitt can't act to save her life. The "I knew a Galleia once" soap opera moment between her and Hippias gets my vote as the most embarrassing Doctor Who scene ever. However it could possibly tie with Stuart and Ruth's "We've done it!" dance. Or the squirm-inducing forced laughter ending.
From the regulars, only Katy Manning and Nicholas Courtney distinguish themselves. Jo is still very much the subordinate, dizzy blonde assistant, but at least she's not made to do anything overly stupid this time round and Manning defies some woeful lines with a dignified performance; her passionate speech in the Master's TARDIS just before Time Ram is one of her finest moments. The Brigadier, while still essentially the straight foil for the Doctor, gets to shine because his wisecracks and sarcastic retorts are actually valid and don't make him look like an idiot. Plus he gets the story's best lines - the few good ones there actually are - and once again The Discontinuity Guide has done all the hard work in listing them. He gets a great moment at the end of episode three - a great cliffhanger, by the way - calling out "Mike!" humanises him greatly.
Benton gets a bit more to do, but isn't done much justice. His resourcefulness in foiling the Master's fake telephone call is instantly negated by his stupidity in falling for the oldest trick in the book. Then he's stuck bickering and bitching with Ruth and Stuart - and John Levene struggles with such rubbish. Jon Pertwee is either bored or overly melodramatic, getting only one good scene (the deservedly memorable "daisiest daisy" monologue) while Roger Delgado hams it up quite a lot. It's easily the worst of his eight outings as the Master, but thankfully he's also allowed one bit of glory - his seduction of Galleia. For perhaps the only time he's allowed to be sexy, suggestively enough for adults to appreciate, whilst chaste enough for kids' television.
The direction is pedestrian, the design poor. The TARDIS interior is very garish, and in terms of continuity it's a bit far-fetched that both the Doctor and Master would have redecorated their control rooms identically. From the Doctor's perspective, his craft still isn't working properly, so he's got more important things to do than renovate! The appearance of Kronos as a squawking budgie is awful, but I actually don't mind the Minotaur; we've seen much worse. Dudley Simpson's music is very ordinary, the Bessie tune is particularly irritating, while the UNIT/action theme from episodes three and four is a poor shadow of the marvellous piano and flute piece from The Ambassadors of Death.
The oft-derided "UNIT family" cosiness is at its peak in this story. Now I quite like these characters and their era, but I must admit it irks me here, in episode one especially where there is a veritable sitcom feel. I can easily imagine the following scene, when the Brigadier needs a UNIT member to accompany him to the TOMTIT demonstration, with a laugh track:
BRIGADIER: Well, somebody's got to come!All the family members were much better served and characterised in The Daemons. And given the overall similarities this is obviously an attempt to cash in on the success of that tale. I was never a huge fan of that story, but at least it had some atmosphere, especially in the first few episodes. That's totally absent here: no suspense, no anticipation, no thrills or fear. We're expected to be concerned at a danger to "the entire created universe", but there's no dramatic impetus for a viewer to remotely care. It's very hard to be worried when you're bored listless. 1.5/10
Enter BENTON (audience laughs at the comic timing; possibly a clap or two)
BENTON: I'm just leaving, sir.
BRIGADIER: Ah, Sergeant Benton, the very man!
BENTON: But I'm just off on a 48 hour pass, sir!
BRIGADIER: Oh no you're not, Sergeant, you're coming for a little trip to the Newton Institute!
BENTON: Yes, sir (slumps in resignation and disappointment, a sympathetic "Aawwwwww!" from the audience)