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Doctor Who: The Time Meddler

1/12/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Doctor Who: The Time Meddler in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: The Time Meddler in the UK

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region 2 DVD: pub: BBC DVD 100 minutes 4 black and white episodes with extras. Price: GBP 5.99 (UK) if you know where to look). Stars: William Hartnell, Maureen O'Brien, Peter Purves and Peter Butterworth.

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In many respects, ‘The Time Meddler’ is a very toned down affair despite the significance of meeting another member of the Doctor’s own race and another TARDIS.

Arriving in 1066, several weeks before the Battle of Hastings but in Northumberland, the Doctor (actor William Hartnell), Vicki (actress Maureen O’Brien) and new companion, Steven Taylor (actor Peter Purves) who is still getting his head around the fact that he is now a time traveller. Their TARDIS appears at the bottom of a cliff and to get to the top, the Doctor takes a leisurely walk while Vicki and Steven climb the more ragged cliff route. Of course, as with all of these early ‘Doctor Who’ stories, dividing them up in different combinations allows for taking on the same problem from two different directions.

The Doctor after visiting a Saxon village goes on to the monastery where he is imprisoned by a solitary monk (actor Peter Butterworth) who has access to, shall we say, more modern equipment. Escaping, the Doctor has to work out just what the Monk is up to, especially as a reconnaissance Vikings team have arrived to look the place over. Is the Monk aiding the Vikings or King Harold and significantly change a key point in human history that should be left well alone.

Although this might be deemed spoiler zone, the significant of ‘The Time Meddler’ has had repercussions that have been raised by both recent regenerations of the Doctor. Logistically, I’m still a bit puzzled why the Monk was marooned there. Granted he hasn’t got access to his own TARDIS but he still had all the things outside and that includes something that looks like a howitzer and the ammunition that the two Vikings took towards the cliff for him. Getting past the Saxon villagers might be a problem but a man with such advanced knowledge could still be a threat.

Peter Butterworth, although he is now more well-known for his many parts in the ‘Carry On’ films, was an excellent choice as the Monk, not only looking the part but also with a subtle underplay to what he was about to do. When I was watching this, I did keep an eye on him as a possible early regeneration of the Master but have now decided against that. The Master would not want to manipulate history and be a kingmaker or rather a king preserver in this instance, he would want to be in charge. Earth in the eleventh century would have been too primitive for his ambitions.

In many respects, the Monk wasn’t doing his meddling from evil intent. As he pointed out to the Doctor, keeping Harold as king would have saved lives by not having the Crusades that the future king, Richard, would have organised. However, a lot history is made on the blood of others and certainly couldn’t have been avoided in this time period. The repercussions by deviating from what Earth history was supposed to run would have had problems for the entire reality so no wonder the Doctor got involved to end it. The repercussions of which have been reminded of in recent ‘Doctor Who’ stories which still raises a question about the Doctor’s own involvement in his various journeys. Is he correcting to prevent things not going as they should or modifying details which won’t have any future repercussions? When you consider that the Time Lords were coercing the Doctor to prevent the start of the Daleks in ‘Genesis Of The Daleks’ which would have drastically changed the future, it does tend to show no one is above being corrupted by manipulating events.

‘The Time Meddler’ was released in 2007 and the audio commentary included producer Verity Lambert shortly before she died and this was also her last story she produced back in 1965 so it’s an interesting closure. The commentary gives a lot of insight into production and budgetary conditions at the time from both her and designer Barry Newbery with story editor Donald Tosh and actor Peter Purves, this time moderated by Clayton Hickman.

There is obviously a lot more emphasis on Verity Lambert’s obituary and a stills gallery of her as well as one for the story itself. There is also a documentary looking at the early ‘TV Comic’ and ‘Doctor Who’s first comic strips. Although it isn’t said, I suspect that the reason that they didn’t have access to the Daleks was cos Terry Nation had made a deal with ‘TV21’ around the same time. After all, why have characters as occasional villains rather than the stars of their own strip?

A significant story for your collection.

GF Willmetts

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