THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Time Monster
Target novelisation
Doctor Who - The Time Monster

Author Terrance Dicks Cover image
Published 1986
ISBN 0 491 03870 4
First Edition Cover Andrew Skilleter

Back cover blurb: Outside the bounds of this world lives Kronos, the Chronivore - a mysterious creature that feeds on time itself. Posing as a Cambridge professor the Master intends to use Kronos in his evil quest for power. To stop him, the Doctor and Jo must journey back in time to Ancient Atlantis and to a terrifying confrontation within the Time Vortex itself. But can even the Doctor save himself from the awesome might of the Time Monster?


Reviews

A book with the power to slow down time... by Antony Tomlinson 4/3/05

I came to Doctor Who - The Time Monster with high hopes. I haven't seen it, but I know that the TV story The Time Monster is generally ridiculed by fans. However, after seeing the striking cover to this book and reading about its contents - a mix of Atlantis, the Master as a Cambridge Scholar, minotaurs, space monsters and UNIT - I decided that perhaps this book would be fun at least. And, maybe, like Doctor Who and the Creature from the Pit or Doctor Who - The Twin Dilemma, this might be a good ambitious story which - ruined on screen only by the limitations of the BBC - ends up forming a good book. Furthermore, it was written by Terrance Dicks who can improve on most TV scripts.

How wrong I was. Most Target books take me a rainy Sunday afternoon to read. This one took me well over a week. Far from being a page-turner, I had to fight to get to the end of chapters. This is one of only two Target books I've ever found a chore (the other being Doctor Who and the Ribos Operation).

There were two main problems with this novel. The first was the lack of an overall plot. Sure, there was the story of the Master trying to get a special crystal that would destroy the universe - but that was all there was to it. No twists, no surprises, no break from what was almost a parody of a "Doctor Who and the Master" tale. Anything that did depart from this basic story acted as a mere delaying tactic to stop the book ending right away. And the ending is ghastly - the Doctor presses a button in the TARDIS to stop the Master. Then a strange force saves everyone.

The second problem with the book is that very little actually happens. Despite all the leaping about through time, most of this story involves the Doctor and the Master sitting in different rooms, speaking to their allies, and occasionally fiddling with machines to stop each other. This must have be nightmarishly boring on TV. Indeed, the first half of the book just seems to consist of the same dull scenes over and over again - the Master activates the machine; the Doctor detects his activities; Benton stops him; the Master gets away; the Master activates the machine; the Doctor detects him; Benton stops him...

So is this book all bad? Oddly enough no. This story is full of wonderful moments of humour and compassion, brought out well primarily in scenes featuring the Doctor and Jo (lovely characters, even [or perhaps better] without Pertwee and Manning to play them). I chuckled to myself as the Doctor made a high tech machine out of an old wine bottle, shamefully displayed his subconscious thoughts to a wickedly curious Jo during a psychic exchange, and enjoyed lines like:

'Can't think of anything to say' asked the Doctor [to the Master], 'how very embarrassing!'
'How about "curses, foiled again"?' suggested Jo, helpfully.
As far as the humanity of the tale goes, the Doctor's speech about a daisy curing him of depression is nice. His forsaking his life to save the universe and his plea for mercy for the Master are also lovely. And the Master here is well portrayed as a genuinely evil character - not just a joke - as he orders that an old man be beaten to death whilst playing with the affections of that man's wife. He's really not a very nice person.

Furthermore, where there is action, the ideas involved are rather interesting. Indeed, in its exciting moments, this tale stands out as an interesting oddity amongst the rest of the "trapped on Earth" Third Doctor tales. For one, the Doctor travels to Earth's (mythical) past - an event rarely seen in the Third Doctor era. The story also features the Doctor bringing about historical events (more reminiscent of The Romans, The Chase and The Myth Makers than anything from the 1970s). And there is the idea of an ancient human civilisation worshipping aliens - a common theme in the gothic Fourth Doctor era, but rarely seen in the Third Doctor's day. And Battlefield and The Awakening came to mind as roundheads and knights attacked UNIT troops.

Furthermore - as ever - Terrance Dicks's small, but potent additions to the basic script (by Robert Sloman) are charming. He brings characters to life, saying of Stuart Hyde, the researcher: "a long straggly moustache - intended to make him look more mature - gave him instead a faintly comic air." At the same time he makes nice asides like: "The Master was handcuffing Jo to the console of his TARDIS. (Just like the Master to have built-in fittings for prisoners, thought Jo)."

However, even Dicks can't save this book, which is definitely a case of the whole being far less than the sum of its parts. For one, its humour and humanity often sit wonkily next to each other - Benton in a nappy moments after the population of Atlantis die is rather tasteless. And although individual chapters might be good, there is no impetus to carry on reading once each is over, for the overarching plot is drivel.

In all then, I can see why it took over a decade for anyone to bother to novelise this unsavable Pertwee tale. I recommend, then, that one only read this if there is absolutely nothing else to hand.