Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Time Monster (Episode 1)


Originally Broadcast 20th May 1972
Written by: Robert Sloman

In a nutshell: Suffering from a precognitive dream, the Doctor learns of the Master’s new threat, something to do with a time experiment and the ancient city of Atlantis.

Review: We start off with a huge explosion courtesy of the BBC’s stock library; it’s all very exciting before turning out to be a Pertwee nightmare. The Master was in it though, which is brilliantly new, making the audience aware Delgado is in it from the start rather than telling us there’s an examiner who reveals himself in episode four as a ‘shock’. The Doctor and Jo get some really nice ‘married couple’ styled arguing as Pertwee thinks his dream was a warning from the future.

Delgado’s back already (with more grey hair than I recall and a sexist approach to business), throwing his charm and elegance across the screen instantly. We’re switching to and fro stories here, with Jo being rather inept (as usual) by not figuring the relevance of telling the Doctor about Atlantis sooner. The episode seems to be moving at a much brisker pace than the norm for the Pertwee era, we already know it’s something to do with the Master, Atlantis and some strange crystal and it’s only five minutes in! Jumping away from this, the Brigadier is here! And Courtney is acting fantastically; this is one of his finest performances so far, especially when he’s trying to get someone to accompany him to the TOMTIT demonstration.

Now Delgado finally gets his standard yet mesmerising performance as he hypnotises for the first time this serial. Despite him doing this in pretty much every story, Delgado somehow makes it feel fresh and gripping each time. I’m really not keen on Sloman (and uncredited Letts) writing for the two amateur scientists. Stuart is just irritating and full of crap lines whereas Ruth’s feminist approach is forced on the audience so hard even Germaine Greer would shy away.

The Doctor has created a time-sensor that’s has the most phallic look about it possible, but at least Jo gets a moment to shine and this is a touching paternalistic scene between the Doctor and Jo. The time-sensor gets terribly worse as Jo holds it out in front of her; I’m trying not to notice. This is inter-cut with the two scientists starting an experiment with some poor dialogue and irritating acting as Ruth reads out numbers in a monotone voice.

The time sniffer-outter (and possibly something else)
This episode started out fantastic but it’s slowly falling into annoyance and some stereotypical plotting. A window-cleaner just happens to choose a window on the second floor to clean first, which just happens to be the one the experiment is occurring in. And just when that appears bad, the most cringe-worthy scene in Doctor Who is played as Ruth and Stuart dance around singing “We’ve done it”. At least Delgado’s returned to sort it out, but it appears even he’s falling flat when dealing with Ruth. I hope she gets killed off before the sixth episode, preferably taking Stuart with her.

Apart from the initial precognitive dream, this episode is flatly directed by Paul Bernard and the script is getting a tad better as I watch the Master’s reaction to UNIT arriving at the scene of TOMTIT.  Even Courtney’s Brigadier is getting naff lines now, I feel sorry for the late Nicolas Courtney here, he got such great material at the start of the episode.

Diverging from the events of TOMIT, the Doctor’s dildo has sprung into life as he discovers the Master is behind the 2pm operation. Cue unneeded static shot of a clock showing us the time is 1:45pm. The operation is about to begin, after some great interaction between two high-up boffins but now Ruth is trying to explain science to the Brig. I love how Sergeant Benton understands the experiment, having to explain it to Lethbridge-Stewart.

The episodes picking up as Bessie races toward the location of the experiment, which has returned to giving monotone voices for everything. The music hideously ruins the cliffhanger which feels a bit forced from Delgado here, chanting “Come Kronos, come!” but lets hope episode two picks up from the dull climax of episode one.

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