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Doctor Who: The Time Meddler (Story 17)

4.4 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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(Aug 05, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The TARDIS seems emptier without Barbara and Ian - at least until the Doctor and Vicki discover that the astronaut Steven stowed away before they left Mechanus. Steven's skepticism toward time travel pushes the Doctor to confront him with living proof. Shortly after landing on a beach in England, they discover a Viking helmet, but Steve remains unconvinced. Instructing Steve and Vicki to wait with the TARDIS, the Doctor seeks further proof. Heedless of the Doctor's warning, Steven persuades Vicki to explore the cliffs above the beach, where they find an abandoned wristwatch. Meanwhile, the Doctor investigates a ruined monastery, where he encounters an electric toaster, a gramophone playing ecclesiastic chants, and a monk who traps him in an alcove. Eventually, the Doctor realizes that the famous Battle of Hastings is only a few weeks away. That should provide ample proof for Steven, but who is this mysterious monk, and what is his interest in the events of 1066?

One of the most popular adventures from the William Hartnell era of Doctor Who, The Time Meddler pits the Time Lord against Carry On star Peter Butterworth in an entertaining, well-written adventure. Set in England back in 1066, on the eve of the Battle of Hastings, The Time Meddler sees the Doctor drawn to a monastery where a single monk resides. So how come the singing of the monks can be heard from far away? And what's the reasoning behind the modern utensils he discovers? All paths lead to the aforementioned Butterworth, whose character's backstory adds a nice twist to the story. The Time Meddler throws in the backstory of Jamie discovering the world of time travel for the first time, but it's the sparring between Hartnell and Butterworth that provides the sparks. And while it's not a perfect adventure, The Time Meddler is very entertaining, and a nice slice of classic Doctor Who. Poignantly, the late Verity Lambert joins an intelligent, interesting commentary track in the highlight of the disc's extras. The Time Meddler was the last Doctor Who story she produced, and her contribution to the supplementary features package is both interesting and a fitting tribute to her work. --Simon Brew

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: William Hartnell, Maureen O'Brien, Peter Purves, Peter Butterworth
  • Directors: Douglas Camfield
  • Writers: Dennis Spooner
  • Producers: Verity Lambert
  • Format: Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English (Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: August 5, 2008
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0017XOFFU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,134 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Doctor Who: The Time Meddler (Story 17)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Grateful Jerry VINE VOICE on May 21, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I've liked this story from the first time I saw it many years ago. This is the last story from the second season. This story picks up where The Chase left off with the Doctor and Vicki finding new companion Steven Taylor hiding inside the TARDIS. Events from that story are also talked about in this one. They arrive on the eve of an invasion between Vikings and the Normans in 1066. The Monk turns out to be another person from the Doctor's home planet. This would be the first time other than the Doctor and Susan, that we see someone from his home planet although The Doctor's planet wouldn't be named until Doctor Who - The Time Warrior (Episode 70). This is also the first time that we get a story that is based on historical events but with a Sci Fi twist thrown in.

The story itself is quite good and the region 2 disc that I've seen, thanks to a friend, doesn't look too bad so I should think that the region 1 disc will look as good. I hope so as that's the one I'm buying. There are still 11 seconds of the fourth episode that are still missing due to overseas distributors' editing it for viewing. One of the special features goes back and uses both telesnaps, off air recordings and the such to recreate this scene as one of the special features.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Never meddle with success, they say. Fortunately the producers of "Doctor Who" chose not to heed this warning in 1965, ending the successful second season with this strange tale of time meddling. It's worth bearing in mind that this was a very different era, one in which season endings weren't felt to require earth-shattering cliffhangers or mega-dramatic climaxes, and indeed there is little to distinguish "The Time Meddler" from its prior stories in terms of tone or pacing. And yet, mainly in retrospect, it's crucially pivotal in the show's history, introducing unprecedented concepts and themes that we now take for granted as essentially "Doctor Who" through and through. And it also succeeds as an entertaining romp of an adventure, to boot.

First of all, "The Time Meddler" shines as the prototypical example of the so-called pseudo-historical story, that delightfully distinctive blending of science fiction elements and past historical settings so typical of Doctor Who. Afterwards, that is. Up until this story, the purely science fiction stories and the purely historical stories had remained worlds apart, alternating with each other in almost lockstep fashion. What an innovative brainstorm it was to fuse the two! And something of the excitement of this unusual new approach communicates itself through the mood of the storytelling: we're pulled along by puzzle upon apparently irresolvable puzzle as the Tardis arrives somewhere along the northeastern coast of England in 1066 and what seems like an onlooking medieval monk seems less mystified than intrigued, as if by an unexpected but familiar sight. A monk, as it gradually turns out, who happens to own a wristwatch, a gramophone record player, an electric toaster, a first aid kit with penicillin, and...a Tardis?!
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When Doctor Who began in 1963, the types of stories it told could be roughly categorized into one of two classifications. There were the science-fiction stories in which the TARDIS crew would visit the future or an alien world and have some sort of adventure there. Then there were the purely historical stories -- adventures where the crew would become separated from their ship, be accused of murder, or something along those lines. These stories would allow children to learn miniature history lessons (one of the original purposes of the show) by showing the regular characters interacting with historical figures.

The important distinction between the two types was that the historical stories contained no science fiction concepts. The villains were regular humans, not evil alien monsters. Fights took place using swords or pistols, not death-rays or blasters.

THE TIME MEDDLER changed all this by combining the science fiction with the historical (pseudo-historicals as they became known in fan nomenclature). Looking back, it's intriguing to see how the production team played on viewer expectations by opening with an adventure set in the 11th century and only slowly dropping clues that a subversion of this story-type is unfolding: a modern wristwatch is found in the woods; a monastery has a phonograph (which apparently broadcasts the "Chant" album across the countryside).

The story is relatively straightforward. Landing in England in 1066, the TARDIS crew are puzzled by the aforementioned anachronistic clues. The one thing they have in common is a monk who has recently appeared in a previously abandoned monastery.
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Part of the idea behind "Doctor Who" was that it was going to be used to teach children a little something about history. Well, that pretty much came to an end once the Doctor visited Skaro for the first time, but the show still tried to do historical stories.

The pure historicals are ones like Doctor Who - The Aztecs, where the TARDIS crew winds up somewhere in the past, runs into trouble and has to get out. This is all done without them having to deal with any kind of monsters or sci-fi peril.

But after a while, the powers that be decided the show needed to have a sci-fi angle to every story, so gradually the pure historicals faded away, leaving behind a beast called the pseudo-historical. These are stories that take place in a historical setting, but feature sci-fi elements to them. Aliens meddling in Earth's past, power-mad time-travelers meddling in Earth's past, robot's meddling in Earth's past or, surprisingly enough, other Time Lords meddling in Earth's past.

The first of these, appropriately enough, is "The Time Meddler", where another Time Lord (though they weren't called that yet), called the Monk, goes back in time to change the outcome of the Battle of Hastings. He's not exactly evil, more of just a problem. Naturally the Doctor has to put a stop to this nonsense.

The story is quite good as is the acting, and the Doctor comes off as something more heroic than the usual anti-hero role the First Doctor had. I loved what he wound up doing to the Monk at the end of the story.

As for the rest of the episode... well, the sets and costumes are good, as one expects for a historical story.
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