We throw caution to the wind and watch a complete story in a single sitting. It helps that the story in question is one of the very best that 1960s Doctor Who has to offer. But will Sue agree?
Sue likes it when the Doctor pines for his ex-companions. She finds his anxiety about being left alone understandable and strangely humanising.
Sue: If he could just tone down the bloody “Hmm hmm hmm…”s, he’d actually be OK.
When Steven staggers into the console room instead of a Dalek, which Sue honestly believes is a more likely outcome, she is surprised and relieved.
Sue: I’m really pleased. Peter Purves was great in the last episode we saw. I take it he’s in it for the long haul, then? Good.
It didn’t take her very long to forget Ian and start drooling over Steven, did it?
As Steven recovers in the TARDIS, we meet the story’s antagonist, the Meddling Monk.
Sue: He’s looks familiar. Wasn’t he in On the Buses?
Me: No, it’s Peter Butterworth from the Carry On… films.
Sue: Oh, yeah. Still, I was pretty close.
Me: If you say so. Anyway, be quiet, my favourite line of dialogue from the Hartnell era is coming up now.
Sue finds the reference to a panda on a chair to be amusing enough, but she’s much more impressed by the subsequent gag about the space helmet for a cow. In fact, she’s laughing so hard she completely misses one of the show’s most infamous Billy-fluffs (“And I don’t like climbing!”), which seems like a fair trade to me.
Sue: You can tell this is a Dennis Spooner script – it’s very funny. The direction is superb, too.
Me: Any guesses?
Sue: Is it a Camfield?
Me: That’s my girl.
Sue: You can tell. It’s paced better; the lighting is excellent; the camera moves make sense; even the music is appropriate. Oh, and stop patronising me.
Me: At least we don’t have to worry about Richard Martin again.
Sue: Thank god! Please tell me Camfield directs the rest of the series. I mean, just look at that set – it’s the most believable studio environment so far.
It’s a refrain Sue will repeat throughout this story.
Sue: If I didn’t know any better, I could have sworn that the Monk was trying to look at his watch. But that wouldn’t make any sense, would it?
Me: No, that would be silly. He must have dropped a bracelet or something.
Later, when Steven finds a wrist watch, after getting bitch-slapped in the forest (“Ian wouldn’t have rolled over quite so easily”), Sue immediately smells a rat.
Sue: Hang on a minute, he was looking at his watch! What the hell is going on? Are they in the past or not? Is this another theme park ride from the future that’s gone tits up?
When the sound of the monk’s chanting slows down and then speeds up again, Sue automatically assumes it’s a technical glitch with the grams.
Sue: That was a pretty embarrassing error. Even Hartnell acknowledged it – perhaps he was hoping for a retake.
The cliffhanger, where we discover the Monk’s gramophone, is greeted with a delightful, “What the ****?”.
Sue: The last time I was this confused, I was watching Lost. Confused in a good way, though.
Me: That was a pretty strong opening, wasn’t it?
Sue: It was excellent. But I’m not getting my hopes up. All the stories start well but then they fall apart in part two. I’m right, aren’t I? It’s rubbish after this one, isn’t it? I’ll bet you anything.
Me: There’s only one way to find out…top
The Meddling Monk
Sue: So, does the TARDIS sense that someone is interfering with time, and does it choose to land nearby so the Doctor can sort it out?
Me: It’s never stated on-screen but there are plenty of fans who would agree with that theory. It’s either that or they simply don’t televise the adventures where nothing interesting happens, although The Sensorites contradicts this. I actually like your theory better.
Sue: So the TARDIS has a soul and a moral purpose. I like that idea.
Sue is immediately suspicious when Hartnell is seen but not heard as the Monk delivers an incredibly elaborate breakfast to his cell.
Sue: Don’t tell me: Hartnell’s gone to Spain again. That would explain why he got that line mixed up last week, he was thinking about his imminent holiday on the Costa Brava.
Me: I thought you’d be relieved.
Sue: Normally I’d say yes, but he’s really good in this story and I want to see him and this Monk character explain what the hell is going on with the toaster and the record player. Is he a time traveller? Or have these things fallen through a crack in time and he’s simply discovered how they work? Or did he break into the TARDIS and get them from a cupboard? I don’t get it.
These questions will have to wait – a party of Vikings have arrived to rape and pillage. And that’s not an euphemism.
Sue: Well, after all these weeks of watching women get threatened with violence, I suppose someone had to be raped eventually. I almost wish they’d killed poor Edith, then we could just pretend the obvious thing never really happened. I should be shocked by this but I’m used to 1960s Doctor Who being much more adult than it is today. Still, it is a bit shocking, isn’t it?
Oh, and before you ask, Sue did recognise Alethea Charlton from an earlier adventure but she managed to confuse her with Sabetha the Teenage Wench from The Keys of Marinus. And you wonder why she doesn’t recognise Julian Glover.top
A Battle of Wits
Sue loves the Monk’s wall chart that chronicles the progress of his nefarious plan.
Sue: All the villains should have charts like that. It would be so much easier to follow what’s going on.
The rest of the episode passes in relative silence, a sure sign that Sue is totally engrossed in the narrative.
When we eventually come to that cliffhanger, Sue manages to correctly guess the twist five seconds before Vicki and Steven enter the Monk’s sarcophagus.
Sue: The Monk isn’t just a time traveller, he has a TARDIS!
We’ve watched three episodes in rapid succession, a record for this experiment, but Sue wants to go on. If we do this, it will be the first time we have watched a whole story in a single sitting together since 1993′s screening of Genesis of the Daleks.
Sue: Let’s carry on.
Me: Oh, very funny.top
Sue: So, the Monk is another Time Lord from Gallifrey, yes?
Me: Yes. Only they don’t mention Time Lords or Gallifrey.
Sue: How is that possible?
Me: Because the writers haven’t invented those terms yet.
Sue: No, I mean, what about the Time War?
Me: Oh, that. Well, that all happens off-screen. In the new series.
Sue: Oh, that’s disappointing. I was looking forward to seeing them cover it. So, do the Monk and the Doctor know each other?
Me: It’s left ambiguous. If you believe the spin-off novels then the Monk either went to school with the Doctor or he was inspired to leave Gallifrey and become a renegade by the Doctor’s actions. It’s all very mid-90s and a bit hazy, now. I think his real name might be Mortimus.
Sue: Then he can’t be the Master using a different name?
Me: It’s not impossible, and he does bang on about Masterplans a lot. Some fans would agree with you.
Sue finds the Monk’s previous attempts at meddling with time to be very amusing. In his journal, he claims to have drawn compound interest from a bank account in 2168 she can’t believe that the banks are still going strong. She’s right, they would have collapsed under the Dalek occupation, but I don’t think that was what she had in mind.
Sue: On second thoughts. he’s far too nice to be the Master. And if you think about it, he’s only calling himself the Monk because he’s currently based at a monastery. If he ever left that location he’d be forced to change his name to something else or it would look a bit silly, wouldn’t it?
Me: That’s a very good point. I’m not sure about him being nice, though. He’s about to launch some nuclear missiles off the coast of Northumbria; if he had succeeded, we wouldn’t be living here now.
Sue: I can’t tell if he’s a naughty child or a misguided lunatic. Either way, he’s a fun character and Peter Butterworth is playing him perfectly. It’s impossible not to root for him. Hartnell is having a whale of a time playing against him, too.
Luckily for us, and house prices in Northumbria, the Monk’s plan fails, and when he leaves the Vikings to a grisly death, Sue is shocked by the levels of violence on display, which are very distressing, even by the standards we’ve come to expect from 1960s Doctor Who.
Me: If you think that’s bad, there are twelve seconds still missing from that scene: their deaths are even more gruesome and prolonged in the original version.
Sue: Still, I guess they had it coming to them, the raping bastards.
When the Doctor sabotages the Monk’s TARDIS, Sue is impressed but she is also baffled by the effort he goes to to carry out this task.
Sue: That’s a neat trick but why didn’t the Doctor just steal the Monk’s TARDIS? You could tell he was insanely jealous of it, so why not nick it and leave the crap one behind?
Me: Charming! A minute ago you were talking about the Doctor’s TARDIS having a soul and a conscience and now you want to trade her in for a sexier model. It’s a good job I’m not like that.top
The Final Score
Sue: If there was ever a contender for an old story to be remade today, it’s this one. It has a simple plot that’s easy to follow but it still keeps you guessing. The cliffhangers were brilliant and I don’t think Hartnell has been better than this. It’s the most enjoyable one so far – it’s certainly the best directed – so I’ll give it -
Me: Wow. Well, that’s the end of the second season. Hooray for us.
Sue: It was a vast improvement on the first, if you can ignore The Web Planet, that is. They seem to know what they are doing now. If they can keep this level of quality up, I’m sure we’ll sail through the next season in next to no time.
Me: Yeah, what could stop us now…?
The experiment continues…top
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