Friday, 3 July 2015

078 The Time Meddler Episode 1: The Watcher

EPISODE: The Time Meddler Episode 1: The Watcher
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 03 July 1965
WRITER: Dennis Spooner
DIRECTOR: Douglas Camfield
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 8.9 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Time Meddler

"You still say this is tenth century England?"

Vicki & the Doctor are travelling together in the Tardis:

VICKI: I shall miss them, Doctor.
VICKI: Ian and Barbara.
DOCTOR: Yes, I shall miss them too. First Susan and now them. Come over here, my dear, I'd like to talk to you.
VICKI: What about the control panel?
DOCTOR: Oh, that's all right, my dear. It's already set. Their decision certainly surprised me, although it shouldn't, I know. But it was quite obvious they intended to take the first opportunity of going back home.
VICKI: Well, they weren't getting any younger, were they?
DOCTOR: It's lucky for you child, they're not here to hear you say that. Good gracious me. You think they're old? What do you think of me?
VICKI: You're different, Doctor. Anyway, we may land in their time one day and be able to talk over old times.
DOCTOR: Well, perhaps Vicki, perhaps.
The Doctor asks Vicki if she wishes to go home too but she says she wants to stay. They hear a noise in the Tardis and are scared it might be a Dalek but discover Steven who had strayed aboard while they were on Mechanus.

The Tardis materialises on a sea shore: a man in Monk's robes observes the event and seems interested in it. Vicki explains about the Tardis to a disbelieving Steven.

Now, my boy, there are two things you can do. One: Sit there until you get your breath back, and two: Don't call me Doc! Now do I make myself clear?
That is the dematerializing control. And that, over yonder, is the horizontal hold. Up there is the scanner, those are the doors, that is a chair with a panda on it. Sheer poetry, dear boy! Now please stop bothering me.
The Doctor believes they have landed on Earth. Outside villagers discuss the blue box found on the beach. The travellers stand on the beach as the Doctor tries to convince Steven that they've travelled in time


DOCTOR: What do you think of that, now, eh? A Viking helmet.

STEVEN: Maybe.

DOCTOR: What do you mean, "maybe"? What do you think it is, a space helmet for a cow?

The monk overhears their conversation as the Doctor explains how they don't know where they're going and why the Tardis doesn't change. When they leave the Monk excitedly examines the Tardis before reaching to his wrist for something he finds is missing. The Doctor has become separated from his friends and visits the village but is caught sneaking around. Returning to his monastery the monk lights a light as the sound of evensong is heard. The villagers find their way to where the Tardis was but it's now under water. The Doctor has befriended the villager, Edith, who found him who explains they live in fear of strangers. The Doctor works out that he is in the year 1066 and it is late summer: Vikings are due to invade soon and encounter Harold Hardrada in battle. The noise of evensong distorts making the Doctor curious. Edith tells him just one Monk has been seen and the Doctor leaves for the monastery to investigate. Steven & Vicki encounter a trapper, alarmed by Steven he drops an item he's just found on the ground. Steven & Vicki discover it's a wrist watch making Steven dubious of the Tardis' time travel abilities. The Doctor enters the monastery and discovers the singing is being played off of a gramophone record before being captured by the Monk, who seems to recognise him.

That was great. Superb stuff from start to finish.

The opening really gives a sense of the loneliness that the Doctor and Vicki are feeling now their friends have departed. The Doctor even goes as far as mentioning it in the same breath as Susan's departure which gives you an indication what Ian & Barbara have come to mean to him.

As The Doctor and Vicki realise they're not alone and prepare to confront their we hear another piece of library music by musician Eric Siday, who's work has cropped up in Edge of Destruction & Space Museum. This time round it's Suspended Animation from Ultra Sonic Perception.

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The arrival of Steven gives the series a chance to restate many of the basics about itself that it hasn't had before: Here's a box that's bigger on the inside than on the outside and can travel in Time & Space. Steven naturally is incredulous, as most are when first exposed to the idea, and indeed is still doubting as the episode goes on. We didn't get this with Vicki, she was just taken into the ship. We won't get it again till Ben and Polly come on board at the start of the Smugglers. There it's used to launch a new series and that's what this feels like, the start of something new. Which in a way it is: Ian and Barbara, who've been there from the very start, are gone. Indeed if you've been watching since the first episode just two things remain: The Doctor & The Tardis.

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Steven's arrived battered and dishevelled but we can see his trip back into the Mechanoid city was worthwhile and he's managed to rescue his soft toy panda HiFi!

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Some stock footage really helps set the scene on the coast with the mysterious figure of the watching Monk.

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-11h13m12s236 vlcsnap-2014-10-15-11h13m05s140 A Monk in itself isn't anything to particularly worry about in 11th century Britain. But when he starts listening to their conversation, accompanied by some nice comedy as they dislodge stones onto his head .....

And then he starts taking an interest in the Tardis, putting his ear to the door to hear the hum we know it makes. There's definitely more to this one than meets the eye!

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Of course it's at this point the Monk realises he's lost something that was round his wrist. Could have been anything. And when Steven & Vicki make their find, the viewer would possibly be associating something out of time with what the Daleks time travelling in the previous story.

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It's only after the Doctor's suspicions are aroused when listening to the Monk's chanting and discovers it's being played off a record player, leading to his imprisonment, does the Monk really stand revealed as more than just a Monk and a very suspicious character. But even then you wouldn't have even begun to suspect the truth about him!

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vlcsnap-2014-10-15-11h33m57s103Since I was on the look out for anomalous things in this episode this sprang out at me: The front door of the monastery has a modern lock in it as well as the bar used to bolt it closed !

Of note is that the Monk doesn't say a thing all episode: he remains mute throughout. Superb performance from Peter Butterworth.

And I don't know if it's Butterworth's presence , or liking his new co-star, or the director who was both talented and familiar, but Hartnell's on top top form this episode. Butterworth and Hartnell had worked on the same projects before: 1950's Double Confession and 1953's Will Any Gentlemen?, also starring future Doctor Who Jon Pertwee and many of the Carry On cast! He gets a lot of time to himself during the episode and after leaving Steven & Vicky the only person he really interacts with is Edith and he'd worked with the actress playing her before too. The conversation he has with Edith, which he uses to establish exactly where and when they are, is fantastic.Maybe it's a combination of all the above. Hartnell really is on fire this week, absolutely magnetic and you can't take your eyes off him. I'd go as far as to say it's the best performance he's given in the series, beating Reign of Terror 2.

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Vicki has a really good episode two: she's no longer the little girl with two school teachers she's behaving a bit older in relation to her new companion a young man closer her age but obviously enjoying he promotion to the more senior of the companions. She also gets a nice call back to the previous episode reiterating that she's not very good with heights.

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You can't see it here but the sky is moving behind the two Saxons, Wulnoth & Eldred played by Michael Miller & Peter Russell as Eldred. Lovely, lovely effect and we can lay responsibility for that at the feet of returning director Douglas Camfield who's done a superb job this episode.

Also returning is writer Dennis Spooner who'd previously written The Reign of Terror & The Romans. He'd served a stint as Script Editor from The Rescue through to the previous story The Chase and continued the tradition set by his predecessor as Script Editor David Whitaker by writing the first story after he departed the role. Replacing Spooner as Script Editor is Donald Tosh.

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And it wouldn't be a Camfield episode without him using at least one person he'd worked with previously: Alethea Charlton who plays Edith was in the very first Doctor Who story an Unearthly Child, which Camfield was the Assistant Floor Manager on, playing cavewoman Hur. Michael Guest plays the briefly seen Saxon Hunter and he'll be back again for The Daleks Masterplan episode 1: The Nightmare Begins where he's the interviewer. Need I say who directed that ;-)

Come back next episode for loads more of that!

Today all four episodes of the Time Meddler reside in the BBC archives but this wasn't always the case. Episode 2 has always been there, it was amongst the 47 black & white episodes found by Ian Levene when he first visited. All 4 episodes were found in Nigeria in 1984 along with all 6 episodes of the Web Planet (which was already in the archive) and all 4 of the War Machines (which only had it's 2nd part) However there was a delay returning these episodes to the UK because diplomatic relations between the UK & Nigeria were severed following the kidnap of a Nigerian politician on UK soil. They eventually found their way back to the BBC in early 1985. it was then discovered that the copies of the Time Meddler & War Machines have small sections missing, which probably means that the prints originated in New Zealand because they exactly match the cuts New Zealand censors made. In the case of this episode the whole sequence at the start where Ian & Vicki discover Steven was missing, nearly 2 1/2 minutes worth of action. In addition the print we have looks a little rough in places: I keep noticing a patched up scratch running down the left hand side of the screen and they're quite grainy throughout.

In the early 1980s Roger Stevens came into contact with a BBC projectionist, termed "Mr Agnew" in Wiped, who supplied him with prints of seven episodes including two missing episodes: The Abominable Snowmen 2 and Invasion of the Dinosaurs 1 (the others were Space Museum 1, Moonbase 4 and three episodes of Carnival of Monsters). Steven's passed them onto Levine who returned them to the BBC (Wiped, v2, p205 & 206). Agnew also came into contact with Ian Sheward (Wiped, v2, p218-221) and passed him complete prints of episodes 1 & 3 of The Time Meddler. Levine kept these a secret for some while, hoping to use them as bargaining chips for obtaining other missing episodes. These copies were eventually returned to the BBC in early 1992 and used to patch the Nigerian copies of episodes 1 & 3 for a repeat showing. This means only episode 4 of this story stands incomplete, missing 13 seconds of a Saxon stabbing two Vikings.

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