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29 October 2014

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The Time Meddler

Production Code: S

First Transmitted

The Watcher - 03/07/1965 18:55

The Meddling Monk - 10/07/1965 17:40

A Battle of Wits - 17/07/1965 17:40

Checkmate - 24/07/1965 17:40


The TARDIS arrives on an English coastline in the year 1066. Exploring, the Doctor discovers that one of his own people, the Monk, is conspiring to wipe out the Viking fleet and thus allow King Harold to face the forces of William of Normandy with a fresh army at the Battle of Hastings. The Doctor succeeds in thwarting the Monk's plans and leaves him trapped in England.

Episode Endings

The Doctor explores the ruined monastery he has seen and finds that the sound of monks chanting is coming from a record player hidden in an alcove. As he stops the player, metal bars descend from the ceiling to trap him in the alcove. The Monk appears outside, laughing at the Doctor's plight.

Vicki and Steven explore the monastery looking for the Doctor and also discover the record player. Eventually they find the cell in which the Doctor has been placed, but when they enter, he is not there: beneath his cloak there is just a pile of furs.

Stephen and Vicki return to the monastery, still in search of the Doctor. Vicki finds a cable leading to an ancient altar and then a door leading into the altar. They pass through and find themselves standing inside a TARDIS.

The Doctor's TARDIS dematerialises and leaves England.


A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

Dialogue Triumphs

Steven Taylor : "I've seen some spaceships in my time, admittedly nothing like this, but... what does this do?"

The Doctor : "That is the dematerialisation 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 : [The Doctor finds a Viking helmet, but Steven still doesn't believe that they have time travelled ] "What do you think it is, a space helmet for a cow?"


It is hinted that the TARDIS' landings are almost entirely random: Vicki says that if the Doctor were to move the TARDIS to escape the rising tide 'he couldn't get back'. (The TARDIS is unharmed by the water.) When Vicki explains the TARDIS to Steven, the 'D' is said to stand for dimensions. The Doctor attributes his inability to tell where they have landed to 'a slight technical hitch at the moment'.

The 'stuck' exterior is also something that the Doctor will get around to repairing 'one day'. He refuses to tell the Monk what type of TARDIS his is ('Mind your own business'). The Doctor and the Monk are said to come from the same place, although the Doctor says that he is '50 years earlier' [the Doctor left Gallifrey 50 years before the Monk did]. They have never met before [so he isn't the Master].

The Monk loses a simple analogue watch, and also has a toaster, a pair of binoculars and a gramophone and record of monks chanting. He enjoys a pinch of snuff, and has a 'private collection' of art treasures from 'every period and every place' The Monk's cunning plan is laid out on a roll of parchment, complete with little boxes to tick. According to his diary, he met Leonardo Da Vinci and discussed with him the principles of powered flight. He also put 200 pounds in a London bank account in 1968, and then collected a fortune in compound interest 200 years later. [The Daleks are occupying Earth but presumably the electronic banking system remained intact.] He also helped the ancient Britons build Stonehenge using an anti-gravity lift.

The Monk - unlike the Doctor - has control of both the landings of his TARDIS and its exterior. His TARDIS [or perhaps its dematerialisation circuit, cf. 'Terror of the Autons] is a Mark IV (Vicki suggests that this is a later model than the Doctor's, but he doesn't confirm this), but it has been modified (for example, an automatic drift control has been added, allowing the machine to be 'suspended in space [in] absolute safety'). [This 'hover control' seems to have been added to the Doctor's TARDIS later.]

The Monk's plan is to save Harold's army from having to attack the Vikings by destroying them with an unspecified weapon, ensuring that William is defeated at Hastings and thus bringing a period of peace to Europe. With the Monk's help, he hopes that the British will have jet propelled airliners by 1320 and that Hamlet will premiere on television ('I do know the medium,' says the Doctor). Vicki and Steven postulate that if Harold defeated William at Hastings all the history books and even their memories would change instantaneously (see Carnival of Monsters).

The Doctor takes the Monk's dimensional control unit out of his TARDIS, thus shrinking its interior and leaving the meddler marooned [another name for the Time Vector Generator: see The Wheel in Space. However, the effect here isn't quite so drastic: perhaps the Monk has a failsafe.] The Doctor's handwriting is very different from that seen in The Sensorites [although this might not have been his].


Northumbria, late Summer, 1066.



When asked what 'TARDIS' stands for, Vicki says that it is 'Time And Relative Dimensions In Space'. This is the first instance of the acronym being explained since the series' debut episode, and the first of the 'D' being said to stand for 'Dimensions' (as would then become the norm) rather than 'Dimension'.

The interior of the Monk's TARDIS utilises the same set as the Doctor's except that the central control console is stood on a dais.

The closing credits of the final episode are played over images of Steven, Vicki and the Doctor superimposed against a starscape and, for the first time in the series' history, there is no 'Next Episode...' caption giving the title of the following instalment.

The Doctor's appearance in The Meddling Monk, the second episode, is limited to the filmed reprise from the end of The Watcher and a prerecorded voice-over as William Hartnell was on holiday during the week when it was recorded.


Peter Butterworth was chosen for the part of the Monk on the strength of his appearances in the Carry On films. (He had yet to appear in any of the films at the time The Time Meddler was made in May 1965. Butterworth's first Carry On film was Carry on Cowboy, filming for which started in August of that year.)

The Doctor's race are identified in this story as Gallifreyans. (They aren't.)


In episode one Steven, on finding a wrist watch, asks how they could possibly be in the tenth century (the Doctor has already told him they are in the eleventh).

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - William Hartnell

Steven Taylor - Peter Purves

Vicki - Maureen O'Brien

Edith - Alethea Charlton

Eldred - Peter Russell

Gunnar the Giant - Ronald Rich

Monk - Peter Butterworth

Saxon Hunter - Michael Guest

Sven - David Anderson

Ulf - Norman Hartley

Viking Leader - Geoffrey Cheshire

Wulnoth - Michael Miller


Director - Douglas Camfield

Assistant Floor Manager - Gillian Chardet

Costumes - Daphne Dare

Designer - Barry Newbery

Fight Arranger - David Anderson

Film Cameraman - unknown

Film Editor - unknown

Make-Up - Sonia Markham

Make-Up - Monica Ludkin

Percussion - Charles Botterill

Producer - Verity Lambert

Production Assistant - David Maloney

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Story Editor - Donald Tosh

Studio Lighting - Ralph Walton

Studio Sound - Ray Angel

Studio Sound - Brian Hiles

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Writer - Dennis Spooner

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

An atmospheric story populated by cheesy Saxons and Vikings called Sven and Ulf. Despite the limp fight sequences and slow pace the story actually heralds a massive change of emphasis for the programme: the Doctor's TARDIS is no longer unique, and time can be changed by interference, a contrast to previous ('straight') historicals.

All the actors - Hartnell and Peter Butterworth in particular - give it their best, and there's another lovely season end, the theme music beginning before the credits, showing an expanse of stars superimposed with the faces of Steven, Vicki and the Doctor.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

'The Time Meddler [contains] a number of "firsts" for Doctor Who,' pointed out Graham Howard in TSV 33 dated April 1993. 'It is the first "pseudo-historical", i.e. a historical that contains science-fiction elements (aside from the Doctor and his companions...). It is the first time that the viewer is introduced to another person who is a member of the Doctor's own race (although...the name of that race is not revealed... ). [It] is also the first full story in which Steven Taylor appears, having secretly entered the TARDIS at the end of The Chase. Indeed one of the more interesting parts of this story is Steven's bafflement and the Doctor's and Vicki's bemusement as Steven attempts to grapple with the capabilities of the TARDIS and the concept of time travel.'

The 'pseudo-historical' aspect of the story was one that drew considerable comment, and most of it very favourable, from viewers whose reactions were recorded in the BBC's Audience Research Report on The Watcher: 'It was apparently the intriguing discovery of a wrist watch, a gramophone and electric light amongst the Saxons of Northumbria in 1066 that made this episode particularly fascinating for many of the sample who looked forward to learning the explanation of this mystery next week; it had certainly given an interesting twist to the "time travel theme" and, they said, promised exciting new developments to come; a housewife's comment, for example, indicates the speculation that went on amongst a sizeable group: "We can hardly wait for the next episode to find out if there are more time travellers around, and if the Monk is one of them, and if the Battle of Stamford Bridge will be seen". Several remarked that it was rather a relief to get back into history in order to have a change from monsters and Daleks and they also welcomed the addition of Steven, the new passenger in the TARDIS ("a fresh face adds interest to the series").'

Steven does indeed show a lot of promise. He is teamed with Vicki for much of The Time Meddler, and their verbal sparring is lively and interesting. Previously, exchanges of this sort tended to be between the Doctor and Ian or Barbara (or sometimes both), but now there is a new dynamic for the writers to play with. The success of this character interplay is fortunate, as it manages to keep the viewer entertained during what is fundamentally quite a dull story. The BBC's Audience Research Report on the second episode, The Meddling Monk, recorded a much more mixed reaction than that on the first:

'"I still can't understand this new Doctor Who story. I was completely baffled after last week's episode and am even more so after this, with its mixture of Saxons and Vikings, electric toasters and electric frying pans. The sooner he gets back to the future the better - these historical stories are a bit of a bore."

'This comment reflects the majority, somewhat dissatisfied reaction to this particular Doctor Who adventure, and it is quite clear that most reporting viewers are finding this excursion into the past a rather uninteresting and uneventful affair so far. Certainly there was much speculation as to how various electrical gadgets and other twentieth century refinements came to be in use in [eleventh] century Britain, but this seemed to irritate rather than intrigue many viewers ("Vikings and electrical toasters! What rubbish." - "Can't understand what a gramophone etc has to do with early Britons. It seems just silly.") who in addition complained that the story lacked incident and excitement and seemed to them "very tame and slow"...

'However, there were plenty like a dental surgeon who considered this "A most intriguing and interesting story, with plenty of action and very mysterious incident to keep you guessing - particularly the puzzle of electrical gadgets turning up in early Britain. All very odd.", while others, no less enthusiastic, remarked that the introduction of science-fiction into this particular historical adventure certainly seemed to supply the element they had felt was missing in previous historical episodes. Be that as it may, they were certainly finding this story very interesting and exciting.'

Despite these positive comments from some of those surveyed by the BBC, it has to be acknowledged that nothing very much happens in the story. Steven and Vicki spend practically the whole four episodes running around trying to find the Doctor, while the Doctor, in turn, gets captured, escapes and then gets recaptured. The resolution is absurdly simple: the Doctor just removes the dimensional control from the Monk's TARDIS so that he can't use it. There is no apparent concern as to what havoc the Monk might wreak left stranded in 1066.

Peter Butterworth's Monk is, however, an excellent addition to Doctor Who mythology. The actor gives a deft, understated performance and imbues the character with a wicked sense of humour. His scenes with the Doctor are a particular joy to watch (especially the one in which the Doctor uses a stick to convince him that he has a gun poking in his back). 'The meddling Monk himself, wonderfully played by Peter Butterworth with just the right amount of humour, is actually a rather likeable character,' noted Howard. '...One of the story's appeals is the verbal double act between the Doctor and the Monk which indicates that the Doctor does not view the Monk as a serious threat - more like an irritating child.'

The Vikings and Saxons, on the other hand, are sketched in merely as caricatures, and the scripts give them next to nothing to do except fight each other. Even the implied rape of Edith is glossed over, and when the Doctor arrives at her home she serves him a drink as though nothing has happened.

Douglas Camfield's direction is very polished and features some nice touches, such as the back-projection shots of the sky with moving clouds which are, for the mid-sixties, very innovative. The use of stock footage also adds to the impression of times past, convincing the viewer that the action really does take place by the sea, that seagulls do fly overhead and that a Viking fleet is approaching the coastline.

There are in fact some reviewers who rate this story very highly indeed. 'The Time Meddler is a classic Doctor Who and a brilliant, entertaining piece of television,' asserted John Pettigrew in DWB No. 100, dated April 1992. This was an opinion shared by Paul Mount, who wrote in Doctor Who - An Adventure in Space and Time in 1982:

'It was another of those drastically under-rated and often-forgotten stories which tends nowadays to be overshadowed by some of the more spectacular and lavish space serials which surrounded it... With a perfect blend of subtle humour and strong, tightly-directed drama, The Time Meddler... served as a very satisfying end to the second season of Doctor Who.'

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This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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