First encountered carrying a stuffed Panda called Hi Fi on the planet Mechanus, Steven Taylor was presumed dead. After assisting the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki to escape the Mechanoid City in The Chase, Steven had returned to the City to retrieve Hi Fi just as the Daleks destroyed it. It was great dismay, therefore, that the Doctor and Vicki were confronted by Steven as he stumbled into the Tardis control room before collapsing to the floor. The Tardis had just materialized in 11th Century England however Steven had stowed away in the ship, presumably whilst Vicki and the Doctor were saying their goodbyes to Ian and Barbara on Mechanus. Suffering ill effects from the Dalek blast, Steven assumed that he must have been delirious when he chased after the crew and eventually found the ship.
The spaceship pilot who had spent two years as a prisoner of the Mechanoids was now the Doctor’s latest companion. Notwithstanding his experience with space craft, Steven has clearly not seen a machine as magical as the Tardis before. He doesn’t believe it is a time-machine or that they’ve landed in the 11th Century. The Tardis’s inability to blend into its surroundings, as it was constructed to do, together with the discovery of a modern wrist watch, compounds Steven’s disbelief. Prone to speak his mind, Steven is openly dismissive of Vicki’s assertions about the ship’s capabilities and earns a quick rebuke from the Doctor for calling him “Doc”. Quickly recovering from a state of deep sleep or unconsciousness, Steven shows no ill effects from his previous deprivations on the planet Mechanus. It would not be unfair to assume that a person who had gone two years without human companionship, and has an overt attachment to a stuffed toy, may be suffering some form of psychological distress. Not unlike Vicki, who rapidly regained equilibrium following her trauma on the planet Dido, Steven is promptly able to put the past behind him, leave the panda on a chair, and embrace a new life of adventure with the Doctor.
The Time Meddler affords the Doctor opportunities aplenty for rollicking laughs and gratuitous violence. Upon alighting from the Tardis the Doctor examines a metal helmet with horns. Steven is less than confident with the Doctor’s assertion that he’s found a Viking helmet. Flabbergasted by his new companion’s response of “maybe” the Doctor replies, “What do you think it is? A space helmet for a cow?” Although absent from episode two (William Hartnell was on holidays) the Doctor is nonetheless seen to douse the monk with a pale of water from inside his cell. Episode three sees him poke a stick into the Monk’s back and pretend it’s a Winchester ’73. He also knocks out a Viking by hiding behind a cell door and jumping out at him.
The Time Meddler is a delightful blend of historical drama and science fiction. Hitherto, the historical dramas had been played strictly straight, even if historical accuracy was at times debateable. The Tardis crew’s arrival in the Tardis was the story’s only concession to the sci fi genre. The Time Meddler broke this mould by the insertion of another time traveller into the mix. The monk is from the Doctor’s own planet, although around 50 years after the Doctor. For the first time in Doctor Who we meet another Gallifreyan, although a name is not given to the Doctor’s planet, or his race, until the tenure of the Second Doctor. The monk’s Tardis is in the form of a sarcophagus which the Doctor disparages by claiming it is only sheer luck that the Type 4 machine fits so well into its surroundings. Almost 50 years after the monk’s quip that he couldn’t repair the camouflage unit, or chameleon circuit as it was later to become known, the Doctor’s Tardis still remains in its police box form. The monk’s Tardis is so advanced that it has automatic drift control which permits it to be suspended in space with absolute safety. The Doctor’s banter with the monk about their time machine’s respective features is not unlike a couple of rev heads discussing the relative merits of their cars!
Although the Doctor, and Vicki, maintain that history must never be changed, it’s clear from The Time Meddler that it is nonetheless possible to do. Whilst discussing the consequences of changing history, Vicki advises Steven that a person’s memories would alter the moment time has been rearranged and that history books, which had not yet been written, would be rewritten to reflect the changed history. Why you would need to rewrite a book that had never been written in the first place is a small example of flawed logic. The monk’s diary reveals that he met with Leonardo Da Vinci and discussed the principles of powered flight. He had also deposited two hundred pounds in a London bank in 1968, nipped forward two hundred years and collected a fortune in compound interest. Clearly the monk had never thought of popping forward to find the winning lotto numbers and back again in time to put his numbers in! He alludes to having provided the Britons with an anti-gravitational lift which allowed them to build Stonehenge. The monk’s audacious plan was to rewrite the course of English history by thwarting the Viking invasion. The Doctor is outraged at the monk’s “disgusting exhibition” of a plan and is determined to thwart it. Circumvent it he certainly does, by tying a piece of string around the dimensional control in the monk’s control panel, and once out of his Tardis, gently removing it. The monk’s Tardis then shrinks to a minute size, ruining it completely and preventing him access to it. The monk is stranded indefinitely in 1066.
A rollicking good tale, The Time Meddler was the blue print for future quasi historical adventures . The monk would soon meet the Tardis Crew again in the 12 part serial, The Daleks’ Master Plan. Unfortunately that was his last televised adventure.
©Vivien Fleming, 2013.