The time meddler (1965)
About this serial
This is a four-part serial, first broadcast between 3rd - 24th July 1965. The serial was written by Dennis Spooner, produced by Verity Lambert and directed by Douglas Camfield. The script editor was Donald Tosh.
The Doctor, Vicki and Steven travel to England in 1066, where they meet Saxons, Vikings and a monk with a keen interest in the outcome of the battle of Hastings.
I've watched this serial a couple of times now, and it's been growing on me. Some good points:
- The story is smart and entertaining, even if the pacing is slow.
- A great deal of the story is being 'shown' rather than 'told'.
- The combination of studio sets and stock footage of outdoor scenes works remarkably well.
- The Meddling Monk is an excellent villain.
- This is a good story for Steven, who comes on board after Ian and Barbara's departure in the previous serial. He starts off as a yokel with a bad beard carrying a rather silly panda mascot, but by the end of episode one the beard and the panda have gone and he's developed a nice rapport with both Vicki and the Doctor.
The less good news:
- The serial is of its time. It's restored black-and-white footage and the pacing is sedate.
- The fight scenes that we get to see (more of this later) aren't convincing.
- In spite of the efforts to suggest otherwise it's obvious that at one point of the story England is being invaded by five Vikings, who are eventually vanquished without putting up much of a fight.
Some notable bits:
- The Meddling Monk would return in 'The Daleks' master plan'.
- This is an interesting story for the companions. Ian and Barbara, who left the series at the end of the previous serial, were adults who had their own ideas and who often found themselves in real danger. The companions in this story, Vicki and Steven, may be adults chronologically but Vicki is childlike and Steven talks and behaves like someone in their mid-teens. Their story-line is basically children's fiction material. It's low on tension, and the two companions spend most of the time either looking for the Doctor or disputing whether or not to follow his orders. I wonder whether this was a conscious effort by the BBC to make it easier for children to identify with the companions.
- There's some stuff here that you wouldn't quite expect in a family programme. At one point there's a clear suggestion that one female Saxon character has been assaulted and raped by the Vikings. The most graphic part of the subsequent murder of the Vikings by the Saxon villagers has been removed from the extant version of the serial by an overseas censor, though the audio of the missing twelve seconds is one of the extras on the DVD.
The bottom line
One of the more entertaining serials of the Hartnell era.