Five Hundred Eyes

The Time Monster

"Chronivores - time-eaters - who can swallow a life as quickly as a boa-constrictor can swallow a rabbit, fur and all."

The inspiration for The Time Monster was a rather ingenious one. Over the nine years which Doctor Who had run to up to this point in its history, stories about time and its effects had been explored, and truisms made about its nature : The Aztecs, The Time Meddler, The Daleks' Masterplan, to name a few early exampless. However, an exploration of what might lurk "outside space-time" had never been attempted. The Time Monster used this imaginative concept as the main theme. However, the idea behind Kronos and the Chronivores derives directly from the Hellenic legend of Cronos, king of the Titans, notorious for eating his own children. Coupled with this unoriginal exploration of the main theme, The Time Monster turned out to be rather over-long and complicated, and has been described as "the first Pertwee failure".

Although ideas behind the story were solid, they were strained by the six episode format. Padding is obvious throughout the adventure, and especially during the Wootton section. The pace is terribly slow - the action could have fitted into half the time. Indeed, episode two and the first part of three further the plot not at all between the Master's first and second call of "come, Kronos, come". When Kronos does make one of its irregular appearances, its 'white dove' costume looks rather silly - just like "a demented budgerigar on a swing" to quote David Auger from the CMS release. The climax of episode six when Kronos is depicted as a huge yet distant God-like face, proving its asexuality, power and a beauty of its own type, is more effective in realising the potential of the "most fearsome" Chronivore.

The story splits into two segments - one at the Newton Institute, Wootton, in twentieth century England, and one on Atlantis. Both segments are let down in various ways. The structuring of the Wootton segment is curious, as it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Sloman/Letts story The Daemons. (Is this surprising, considering the authors of The Time Monster?) The build-up of part one is practically identical, and the similarities go as far as story details - the splinter crystal cannot be moved; nor the Daemon ship. This must, presumably, have been deliberate. It might possibly have been an effort to re-utilise a proven formula for a story with a similar mixing of mythology and Doctor Who. An unfortunate side-effect is that it draws attention to the clash between the claims of Azal and Kronos to have destroyed Atlantis. Perhaps this is deliberate as well - the Master is twice given the line "nothing can stop me now", a reflection of the end of episode three of that other Atlantis story, The Underwater Menace.

It must be said that the Wootton segment is interspersed with many entertaining moments. The Doctor/Jo interaction is well into its swing by now, as is shown by several enjoyable exchanges, of which this is one (from the first episode) :

(The Doctor is working at a piece of equipment "rather like a table tennis bat" (description © Terrance Dicks))

JO You know, Doctor, you're quite the most infuriating man I've ever met. I've asked you at least a million times. What is that thing?

DOCTOR Extraordinary. I could have sworn I'd told you. It's a time sensor, Jo.

JO I see.

DOCTOR Do you? What does it do then?

JO Well it ... it, um ... detects disturbances in the Time Field.

DOCTOR Well done Jo! You're learning. Yes, exactly what you need if you happen to be looking for a Tardis,

JO It's a Tardis sniffer-outer!

Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning are excellent together - a real Doctor/companion line-up. Their relationship is one of genuine affection and respect for each other. It is no surprise that the atmosphere of this era has often been described as "family". This leads to one of the 'immortal' moments of Doctor Who when the Doctor tells Jo about the 'meaning of life' in the Atlantean dungeon. This is an excellent scene, well directed and highly credible (which is not the case in a similar dungeon scene in Frontier in Space!). The Doctor's "daisiest daisy" emphasises the vivacity and individuality of creation. It might now be called a Green Message! Although Jo seems sceptical, she has taken the point, and so have the audience. The scene also tries to convince the viewer that Kronos is even more of a threat to creation than he already seems to be. Unfortunately the destruction of Atlantis is badly executed - this is the bit with the "swing" - with the result that Kronos loses most of his hard-earned credibility!

Back at Wootton are UNIT, completely superfluous to the plot but, as ever, entertaining to watch. One of the most enjoyable sequences in the story is at the end of part three when the convoy is attacked by anachronisms summoned from the past by TOMTIT. The Brigadier has a few good lines - asking Yates for anti-tank guns, he explains that he feels "as naked as a baby in the bath", foretelling Benton's inane transformation to an infant. This episode is rather odd after the efforts made to prove than Benton is able to do things on his own initiative, twice having the Master at gunpoint.

The Master is the best aspect of the story, brilliantly portrayed by Roger Delgado. There are several subtle touches to his character, one of the best being in episode one when the Master pretends to be "a life-long pacifist" to avoid eating lunch opposite the Brigadier. Although he hypnotises Perceval with ease ("just like the old days"), this is a story when his tricks do not always come off. Benton is not fooled, because the Master calls him "dear fellow" over the telephone when pretending to be the Brigadier. This allows for another superb line :

MASTER Ah, the tribal taboos of Army eitquette. I find it difficult to identify with such primitive absurdities.

This is later reflected when the Brigadier, looking at the flames of the V1 rocket the Master has just dropped on the convoy, vainly tries to get "Mike" to reply. Furthermore, the Master fails to hypnotise Dalios, and, although he controls his ire externally, we can see he is seething inside. Despite these setbacks, the Master is given opportunities to display his magnetism and power as a character. The Doctor has a nightmare - "Welcome to your new Master" - from which he is woken shaken and anxious. Later, the Master is able to exert a non-hypnotic influence over Krasis and Galleia. He uses Krasis's fear of Kronos by demostrating his shaky mastery of the Chronivore and he quickly identifies Galleia's interest in the real power he can offer. Galleia is attracted to the Master, which is something he exploits, offering her empty promises of rule over a renewed Atlantis and power to realise he ambitions. He is thus able to tell the Doctor, "a complete success, our little palace revolution", but he misjudges Galleia's affection for her husband, King Dalios. However, by the time she realises he is dead, it is too late. Ultimately, it is the Master's ambition and confidence which bring him down. Since the operation has been planned by him with meticulous care, he is prone to being too sure of himself. He remains true to form at the end - shoving the merciful Doctor and Jo out of the way and racing back to his Tardis, to the apparent apathy of Kronos. The Master's "infernal courtesy" is on display throughout The Time Monster. His exchanges with the Doctor in the Tardises verge on friendly banter, but both Delgado and Pertwee inject it with an underlying seriousness. Despite his evil, Delgado's Master is a likeable character, and this is at the root of his success.

One of the main differences between the two settings are in their main incidental characters. It might be said that the persons at Wootton rarely rise above shallow caricatures. The feminist trait in Ruth Ingram's personality is exaggerated to an irritating extent, but at least she does get some chances to show her scientific ability. Stuart Hyde is a rather tedious inclusion, crippled by mostly poor lines. However, the leading Atlanteans have more depth - Galleia is interesting, as is Dalios. The latter is at least 500 years old; he can tell the good from the bad, being immediately suspicious of the Master - serving him up with some unappreciated mockery (asking him what Poseidon had for breakfast) - and quickly trusting of the Doctor, with whom he is undoubtedly paralleled. Dalios remembers Kronos' last visit, and the audience sees his prophecy of Atlantis "doomed, destroyed, never to rise again!" fulfilled. The regality of these two is enforced by a very effective flute piece from Dudley Simpson when they first enter their court. Fine acting from Ingrid Pitt as Galleia and George Cormack as Dalios make their characters real. Unfortunately their minions are lower in the character and acting stakes - Donald Eccles makes a complete hash of Krasis, continually over the top, while Hippias is too brief (literally!) to make much of an impression. Susan Penhaligon as Lakis gives a solid performance, but her character is hardly expanded beyond a crush on Hippias.

It is the realisation of the Atlantean culture and society which lets this segment down. There appears to have been a concerted effort to reinforce the classical feel of the setting by enhancing the theatrical elements of the production. This is a neat idea, but the stagey feel of the sets and costumes, and the efforts to inject a classical taste into the dialogue makes the Atlantean segment seem too artificial and false. The population are clad in the most unlikely wigs and skimpy costumes, which hardly helps their credibility. Their dialogue is, on the whole, stale and unmemorable. It is over-stylised and comes out as rather unconvincing. The sets are colourful, but, allied in some cases with uncovincing backdrops, they looks as if they have been staged, having a hollow feel to them, and this is detrimental. The exception to this is the labyrinth, which is quite convincing. However, it is inhabited by the worst part of the tale - the Minotaur. This really is an awful monster - and certainly not the reason Dave Prowse got his Vader r™le in the Star Wars trilogy! Paul Bernard's direction really slips here - the Minotaur, looking understandibly ridiculous, is fully lit by a white floodlight, so the viewer can appreciate all its inadequacies! The Doctor plays the toreador, and, inexplicably, the beast runs on and fatally crashes into the wall, conveniently exposing the crystal. Words cannot hope to sum up the ineptness of this sequence : it has to be experienced.

The Time Monster is an unsatisfactory story. It does have some classic moments which stand out from the rather average surroundings. The plot though can be followe. The only question which might be asked is how the Doctor's Tardis started to work so well. The themes in the story fail to work well enough together, and both settings for the adventure are let down in different ways. The productions is a little lacklustre. Paul Bernard's direction is somewhat ordinary throughout. Only the charging knight of episode three sticks in the memory, while the Minotaur ... The model work is poor as well - when the two Tardises separate in episode five, one can see the strings attached to the police box and computer bank. Furthermore, there is an annoyingly liberal dose of complete fantasy in the story, including such nonsense as Bessie's "Minimum Inertia Superdrive", or the Doctor's interference with TOMTIT by using a wine bottle, a few odds and ends, and some tea leaves. As with so many Doctor Who stories, it might have been better if it had been condensed to four episodes. As The Time Monster stands, it is easy to see why it is rated fairly low by most fans (the editor not included).

DOCTOR ... The point is, that day was not only my blackest, it was also my best.

JO What do you mean?

DOCTOR When I was a little boy, we used to live in a house that was perched halfway up the top of a mountain. Behind our house, there sat under a tree an old man. A hermit, a monk. He'd lived under this tree for half his lifetime, so they said, and had learned the secret of life. So, when my black day came, I went and asked him to help me.

JO And he told you the secret? Well, what was it?

DOCTOR I'm coming to that Jo, in my own time. I'll never forget what it was like up there. All bleak and cold, it was, a few bare rocks with some weeds sprouting from them and some pathetic little patches of sludgy snow. It was just grey. Grey, grey, grey. The tree the old man sat under was ancient and twisted, the old man himself - he was as brittle and as dry as a leaf in Autumn.

JO But what did he say?

DOCTOR Nothing, not a word. He just sat there, silently, expressionless, and he listened while I poured out my troubles. I was too unhappy even for tears, I remember. When I'd finished, he lifted a skeleton hand and he pointed. Do you know what he pointed at?

JO No.

DOCTOR A flower. One of those little weeds. Just like a daisy it was. I looked at it for a moment and suddenly I saw it through his eyes. It was simply glowing with life like a perfectly cut jewel, and the colours were deeper and richer than you could possibly imagine. It was the daisiest daisy I'd ever seen.

JO And that was the secret of life? A daisy? Honestly, Doctor!

DOCTOR Yes, I laughed too when I first heard it. Later, I got up and ran down that mountain and I found that the rocks weren't grey at all. They were red and brown, purple and gold. And those pathetic little patches of sludgy snow were shining white in the sunlight!

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