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

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.

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 Kronovore "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. He gets an excellent pair of characters as foils in the early episodes: 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 by a quest to gain the power of a kronovore and the means to control it, and he successfully 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. Hypnotism still works on some people such as incoming Cambridge director Dr. Percival. For the more strong-minded, other tactics are used. Fear and mysticism work on Krasis, while the Master is also seen to be capable of charming women on opposite sides of the spectrum - through intellect and respect for the women's-lib-minded Dr. Ingram, and in a more classically romantic style with Queen Galleia. Even so, sometimes his manipulative charms don't work at all, as evidenced by King Dalios and his 537 years of wisdom, 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. The Doctor is (rather uncharacteristically) disinterested in the TOMTIT time experiment that has the attention of every other character, and goes off on his own tangent. In fact, this disinterest plays out for many topics before TOMTIT takes over, beginning with a cup of tea offered to him by Jo, followed by some newspaper reports on Atlantis archaeology. Then the Doctor goes off on his usual chase through the English country-side, following his lead on the Master, and only just arriving at the scene of all the action just before the cliffhanger. Formula by the book.

The Doctor is actually at his most effective right around episode two. Among the good guys, he alone understands the complete workings of the TOMTIT time apparatus and the crystal, and after a brief investigation, he puts all the clues together and solves all the mysteries. His monologue introducing the Kronovore time monster is key to the unfolding tale. And he seems to be the only one who knows how to run into and out of a time-field without getting "stuck".

But he's pretty much a weenie for the rest of the story. He does nothing for Stuart Hyde, who has to rely on blind chance to have his time-problem solved. The wine-bottle merry-go-round he makes looks exceedingly silly and is not a quality use of screen time. Then the Doctor pretty much spends the rest of the story 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, but Pertwee's Doctor manages to be so ineffective throughout that he still comes out of it with a very low rating on the hero meter. At least he and Delgado remain charming and witty throughout.

The Doctor remains ineffective in Atlantis. Although he earns the respect of fellow doomsayer King Dalios, Dalios is suddenly deposed with ridiculous ease. And even though the Doctor and the Minotaur are really on the same side, trying to protect the great Crystal of Kronos from power-seekers like the Master, they fight against each other instead and wind up delivering the crystal to their enemies. No points for wise and peaceful cooperation there.

Episode Six is far too late in any story for the Doctor to be playing prisoner, but that's what we get. Meanwhile, Dalios builds up the audience's expectations that the Doctor will pull off some amazing heroic feat to save the day. Not so, for the Master gets his prize and escapes, leaving Atlantis in ruins, while the Doctor is barely freed in time to go chase after him again and run the broken doomsayer record several more times. The time-ram idea is pretty stupid, about as spiritually wise as a manipulative dictator throwing an apocalyptic tantrum when he can't get his way (and this might not have been so important if Dalios hadn't also built the Doctor up to be such a wise philosopher either), but even then the Doctor hasn't got the guts to carry out the time-ram plan, and Jo has to save the day again, just like in Sloman's previous Who script, "The Daemons" (story no. 59). Following that, the Doctor manages to let the Master get away again, showing up empty handed in front of the disappointed Brigadier. 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. It is interesting to note how many effects shots require actors to stand perfectly still while a TARDIS comes or goes. The kronovore works best when you can't see enough of it to recognize it as a birdman on wires - when just a wing flashes in and out of the frame leaving an overlit afterglow flaring on the screen. In fact, if it had only manifested as the same kind of hungry superimposed effects blob that appears 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 Minotaur can attest to. The jump-cut effects during the "Face of Kronos" sequence also leave something to be desired, and the CSO wasn't keyed in as accurately as they probably would have liked, but the colourful background makes the whole thing quite surreal and, well, "groovy" as Jo put 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 the Doctor's explanation of a kronovore 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 the bits where Benton and the Master shuffle around trying to outwit each other. Most memorable is the Atlantean Fanfare, 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 attempt at heroics, the story is a lot of fun - an enjoyable celebration of the later Pertwee era, and Roger Delgado's Master in particular.

International Titles:

Deutsch: (Das Zeitmonster)

Magyar: "Az időszörny"

Français: (Le Monstre Temporel) ou (Le Monstre du temps)

Русский: "Временной монстр" или (Монстр времени)

The first Russian listing gives us a problem here, as the usual formula they use seems to have produced the title "Temporary Monster". Well, that's not right at all... The second attempt at a Russian translation is my own, which should point more closely towards the right idea...

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 In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Three Doctors"

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