Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Time Monster

Last night we had a friend to visit and watched The Time Monster, because the wife loves it so much. You just have to laugh at it, because it's so woeful at times and none of it makes sense. If you keep going until the end though, you are rewarded by the much better episodes set in Atlantis.

At six episodes there's a lot of obvious padding. You could probably do away with episodes 2 and 3 entirely, pick out a few salient points and put them into either episodes 1 or 4, making it a four parter. Episode 2 has a lot of running around, then with the reveal of the Master the Brig calls up UNIT and a wealth of heavy artillery which does nothing but allows for some extended scenes in which the Master calls up various things from the past, a medieval Knight, some Roundheads and a V-1, to attack them. Then the Doctor builds a thing out of old junk (see photo above) which does absolutely nothing to stop the Master. What's the point of it all? Episode 4 does some good stuff with the TARDIS, but Logopolis does it all better in later years.

Speaking of which, this is the one and only appearance of the 'washing-up bowl' interior for the redecorated TARDS but is also conveniently used for the Master's TARDIS. In retrospect it might have been nice to use a normal set for the Doctor's TARDIS and the new one for the Master's, just to differentiate them more. Perhaps they thought they would be getting more use from this set and shifting material for two different sets is asking rather a lot of the production.

That said the sets for Atlantis are actually very good and seem wasted on barely two episodes worth of material. In fact, perhaps they should have set the entire story in Atlantis and dumped all the TOMTIT stuff on Earth. Not that it makes much sense, but all the talk of the crystal 'not really being there' or actually 'being in Atlantis in the distant past' seems to suggest the Master should have just gone there in the first place and not bothered with the complicated research programme and false aliases.

Strangeness abounds. The relevance of the Doctor's dreams are never explained nor the eruptions in modern day Thera, but both lead the Doctor to jump from one conclusion to the next to implicate the Master in all of this. You have the preposterously named TOMTIT and the Master's convoluted plan to push things through the cracks in time. The crystal does all sorts, and can make people older or younger, but this is always rubbish. Why doesn't hair grow and if you are subjected to accelerated time wouldn't you quickly starve to death? Chronos looks bloody ridiculous swinging around on it's occasional appearances, the powerful god idea is far better conceived at the end of episode six.

There's the window cleaner who picks the moment of testing an important government project to wash the windows, pull a big "oooh" face before falling off the ladder. Having worked in a government funded research institute I don't know what's less likely, the fact that someone would even be paid to wash the windows or that an injured man is left left lying around for quite some time before anyone notices, apart from the Master who doesn't care. Maybe it's a weekend, because there only appear to be a couple of people working in the place. When he is found it's left to the Brigadier to sort it out because the government bods seems bored by the inconvenience of a crippled or dying man.

Fortunately all this is swept aside in the second half of the story, after an episode mostly set in the TARDIS involving threats of time rams and the Doctor being ejected into the vortex and saved, we get to Atlantis for the final third of the story. Which is clearly the best bit of all of this but many fans might have given up by the first 90 minutes. This is a shame because the best sets and acting are all present in this part. Ingrid Pitt is very memorable as Queen Galleia and there are some good performances from several of the other Atlanteans. The bit with the Minotaur is pretty bad but thankfully short. Roger Delgado is loving it in this part of the story, the Master oozes evil charm; seducing Queen Galleia and snapping his fingers when wearing gloves.

Atlantis doesn't last so long though and is destroyed with the Master trying to escape with Jo held hostage. But she causes a time ram with the Doctor's TARDIS. They are saved, by Chronos, who in it's own CSO environment appears as the massive face of a woman. So much more impressive than its previous manifestation. Chronos wants to keep the Master in torment, but after the most pathetic begging display from the Master the Doctor puts in a good word for him, but then the Master escapes! The review from the The Television Companion by David Howe and Stephen James Walker calls this overacting 'woefully' on Delgado's part, but I don't think so, it's obvious the Master is not being sincere and is pulling the Doctor's strings.

There are some great moments scattered throughout the story. The Master declining a lunch with the people from UNIT claiming to be a vegetarian who abhors violence is a lovely way to avoid blowing his cover. I love the Masters's line "You're wrong, Sergeant Benton. That is the oldest trick in the book!!" There are some great moments with the Master and Queen Galleia, and the Doctor's 'Daisiest Daisy' story is wonderful. That's probably the best way to look at this story - it's very easy to focus on the negative when so many rate it poorly but overlook the good bits and how funny the ridiculous bits are. It's not the complete write-off that some make out, there's a good story trying to get out here but it's just swamped in padding in the first half.

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