The Time Monster

Region 1

Region 2
Box Set
VHS Video
(Doctor Who Story No. 64, starring Roger Delgado, with Jon Pertwee)
  • written by Robert Sloman
  • directed by Paul Bernard
  • produced by Barry Letts
  • music by Dudley Simpson
  • 6 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: Under the alias Professor Thascalus, the Master and his university researcher colleagues Ruth Ingram and Stuart Hyde are using a large crystal to conduct time experiments, which attract the attention of the Doctor and UNIT. Why does each experiment produce greater anomalies? What is the crystal's connection to the destruction of Atlantis? And what sort of creatures and dangers will the Master let into the world in his quest for power?

DVD Extras include:

  • Audio Commentaries by actors John Levene (Sgt. Benton) and Susan Penhaligon (Lakis), producer Barry Letts,
    production assistant Marion McDougall, moderator Toby Hadoke, and fan writers Graham Duff, Phil Ford, Joe Lidster, and James Moran.
  • "Between Now... and Now!" scientific background featurette (24 min.) with Letts, Katy Manning (Jo Grant),
    Richard Franklin (Mike Yates), and Professor Jim Al Khalili.
  • "Restoration Comparison" Before and After featurette (3 min.)
  • Photo Gallery
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

This is another fun story featuring all six regular cast members of the Pertwee era - the only time all of them are together outside of season eight. It might easily have been in contention for top spot among the season's stories if not for two nagging problems: the Doctor's heroics grow as impotent as the realisation of the "Time Monster" itself.

This story is really all about the villain, however, and Roger Delgado's Master is at his absolute best in this one. To start off with he gets an excellent pair of characters as foils: Dr. Ruth Ingram (Wanda Moore) and Stuart Hyde (Ian Collier), who act as pseudo-companions for the rogue Time Lord and offer the viewers some enjoyable and high-quality scenes. The Master is superbly motivated this time around, and he tackles every obstacle in his path and rises to the challenges in manners worthy of our attention. The Master also has his finger on science, physics, archaeology, and a host of other skills and talents. His hypnotic and manipulative charms adapt considerably depending on whom he interacts with and what works best with each of them, completing a good range of believability for the story as a whole.

Indeed, the Master becomes the primary explorer in the narrative, essentially taking over the most important function of a lead protagonist in the science fiction genre. He is fully rounded in this story, and fans of Roger Delgado should put this one at the top of their Doctor Who wish-lists.

Perhaps unintentionally, Jon Pertwee's Doctor is severely short-changed by comparison in this adventure. Episode one's structure is typical of Robert Sloman scripts, but as this review is written for those who haven't yet seen the story, we'll save our dissection for the in-depth analysis version.

The Doctor is actually at his most effective right around episode two, and gets a lot of enjoyable story beats in this section. But he's pretty much a weenie for the rest of the story. He eventually spends a lot of time chasing after the Master in one way or another, nattering on and on in Doomsayer mode like a broken record. Again, not a great use of a hero's screen time.

One bonus of this story is its exploration of the interior/exterior relationships of both Time Lords' TARDISes, and what can happen when the two machines get wrapped up together too closely. TARDIS interior scenes are a bit of a rarity in the Jon Pertwee era, so these should be enjoyed when they are found. The new roundels on the walls are not so hot compared with what will eventually become standard in Season 15 and onwards, but it looks nice for this story. The "Battle of the TARDISes" is one of the more memorable sections of the story that I always enjoy, with Pertwee and Delgado remaining entertaining and witty throughout this section.

Again, I'll save my lengthy dissection of the story's later sections, with all its plot spoilers, for the in-depth analysis version of this review. Suffice it to say, this story is not Jon Pertwee's Doctor's finest hour by any stretch of the imagination.

Of the three Doctor Who stories directed by Paul Bernard, he does his best work here in this one, where the focus is more on character and dialogue than action. The "Time Monster" works best when you can't see enough of it to recognize how they did it. In fact, if it had only manifested in a similar fashion to the initial antagonistic force in the next story, it could have been truly excellent. Action is still Paul Bernard's weakpoint, as the ridiculous fight with Darth Vader... er, Dave Prowse's character can attest to. The editing and mixing finesse during one of the final sequences also leaves something to be desired, but this portion still earns many points for being suitably surreal and, well, "groovy" as Jo puts it. In the end, I like it.

It is with great relief that I welcomed Dudley Simpson's return to the series in this story. The music is full of interesting bits, and hits the mood of the story spot on - the piece behind some of the Doctor's key exposition in episode two is one of my favourites. Most nostalgic of all are the tracks for the Master that debuted back in "The Mind of Evil" (story no. 56), often mixed in with new material to a much more wonderful effect than was attempted back in "The Daemons" (story no. 59). There seem to be some completely new variations as well, during some of the interaction with Sgt. Benton. Most memorable is one of the later fanfare pieces, which might have worked a bit better if it hadn't been quite so high-pitched.

In the end, if you can excuse a few of the least effective effects, and the Doctor's pitiable attempts at heroics, the story is a lot of fun - an enjoyable celebration of the later Pertwee era, and Roger Delgado's Master in particular.

Season Nine Rankings:

Best Story:

  1. The Mutants
  2. Day of the Daleks
  3. The Curse of Peladon
  4. The Time Monster
  5. The Sea Devils

Best Writers:

  1. Bob Baker & Dave Martin
  2. Louis Marks
  3. Brian Hayles
  4. Robert Sloman
  5. Malcolm Hulke

Best Director:

  1. Lennie Mayne
  2. Christopher Barry
  3. Michael Briant
  4. Paul Bernard

Best Music:

  • Dudley Simpson (The Time Monster)
  • Dudley Simpson (The Curse of Peladon)
  • Dudley Simpson (Day of the Daleks)
  • Malcolm Clarke (The Sea Devils)
  • Tristram Cary (The Mutants)

This story is currently available on DVD and VHS video:
DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
"Myths and Legends"
Box Set
VHS Video
NTSC for North America
PAL for the U.K.
(bundled with "Colony in Space" [story no. 58] in The Master Tin set,
only in the U.K.)

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "The Three Doctors"

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