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Doctor Who’s The Time Meddler: review

Doctor Who: The Time MeddlerLate last year there was a flurry of rumours that Patrick Stewart was being signed up to appear in Doctor Who, reprising the role of the Meddling Monk.

The Monk, who only appeared in The Time Meddler and The Daleks’ Master Plan, was the first person other than the Doctor who … well, I won’t complete that sentence in case you don’t know and are going to watch The Time Meddler.

In fact, if you don’t know what happens in this William Hartnell story, make sure you avoid most reviews and the blurb in the DVD box before watching. Nearly all the reviews (this one aside!) give away several of the key twists in the plot – as does the leaflet inside the DVD box, continuing the unfortunate pattern of providing such blurbs which assume buyers of the DVDs either you must already know the plot or that you don’t mind having key parts given away.

It’s still a highly enjoyable story if you know that they are coming, but you do lose that initial sense of mystery and surprise which viewers of the original TV broadcasts had.

As I wrote about The War Games, the fighting is rather stilted and unconvincing. However, whilst The War Games had silliness such as ‘Ha! I’ll shoot you by aiming my gun at the floor several feet away from you’, in The Time Meddler it’s more of a case of people looking like slow moving drunks when fighting. But The Time Meddler beats The War Games hands down when it comes to hiding. Yes indeed – when someone hides in The Time Meddler, they actually hide. Full marks to the Monk for twice hiding properly – once behind a rock and once behind a door.

It does, though, feature the least convincing attempt at an escape. Ever. Fact. The scene: the Doctor’s two companions, sat down with armed hostile people standing around them and looking at them. One companion says out loud that they must escape. He stands up. The hostile people continuing looking at him. He sits down. End of escape attempt. The story also features a “wolf” howl that sounds like a slightly annoyed kitten and surely the silliest (but most fun) ‘to do’ list ever featured in a Doctor Who story.

That aside the acting is generally excellent, with a real sense of interplay between the different characters and some fine acerbic grumpiness from William Hartnell who once again makes the Doctor into a varied, intriguing role. He may be the clever hero, yet he’s also grumpy, old and a bully at times. But the story isn’t just about him, and it is a tribute to the plot and other actors that the long period in which he hardly features (necessitated by William Hartnell having a break from the filming) doesn’t drag or feel artificial.

The extras are a little thinner on the ground than on many other Doctor Who DVDs, though they are still interesting and worthwhile – unlike the motley collection you often get on other DVDs. And breathe easy, the “Stripped for Action” feature is about comics, not naked Doctors.

Thank you, as ever, to Alex Wilcock for having recommended the story to me. His much longer review (surprise!) is over on his blog though, as above, I’d watch The Time Meddler before reading his review. You can buy the DVD from Amazon here.

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