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The Time Meddler

The Time Meddler was the ninth and final story of Season 2 of Doctor Who. This story was the first pseudo-historical: a historical story with science-fiction elements other than the presence of the regular characters and the TARDIS. (Although there were science-fiction elements mixed with historical facts in a portion of The Chase, this was the first full story to combine the two.)

The Monk was the first Time Lord other than the Doctor and Susan to appear in the series, although the term Time Lord would not be invented for another four years. The Monk also became the series’ first recurring individual villain.

This story contains the first reference to what will become the Time Lord’s non-interference policy. Although the Doctor never mentions it directly, he clearly shuns those who meddle with time. As in The Space Museum, time is shown to be theoretically malleable, in contrast to the view of time presented in The Reign of Terror. The concept of time would later be expounded upon to incorporate both elements in numerous later stories, including Attack of the Cybermen and The Waters of Mars.

It is evident that this story was produced in the 1960s: all the Monk’s possessions are contemporary with that era, and he refers to the TARDIS as a “modern” police box. Only his gramophone is old-fashioned, and it was intended to be a tape recorder in the script.

Only two months after his last absence, Hartnell takes another holiday, and so does not feature in part two. The story’s historical setting had a particular relevance in 1965 as the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings was only a year away. Production constraints meant Doctor Who could not satisfactorily feature the battle, but nor could it be fully ignored, hence the period was taken for the setting.


Episode 1: The Watcher

A bored Vicki is moping around the TARDIS, clearly missing the company of Ian and Barbara. The Doctor offers to take Vicki back home if she is so unhappy, given he never really gave her much of a choice when they left Dido. This conversation is interrupted by a sound coming from the TARDIS’ living quarters. Convinced it is a Dalek, the Doctor and Vicki prepare themselves for an attack. However, instead of a Dalek, a human form is revealed to the travelers — Steven Taylor, who collapses to the ground.

As he is discovered, the TARDIS materializes on a rocky shore line. From atop a cliff, a monk looks down at the time machine, clearly paying it a lot of attention.

Meanwhile in the TARDIS, Vicki and the Doctor are helping Steven to recuperate. Steven explains that as the Mechonoid City collapsed, he escaped from the rubble and looked for the Doctor. He found his space ship and collapsed in it before the Doctor and his companions left the planet. As Steven starts to feel more normal Vicki begins to explain that the TARDIS is a time machine — Steven is far from convinced and brands the TARDIS an IDBI — “I Don’t Believe It”. The Doctor asks Steven to put his doubts to one side and suggests that Vicki show Steven where to get washed and changed so they may go and explore.

In the outside world two humans, dressed in tunics and living in primitive, tent-like structures, are interrupted when another of their party comes to inform them that a box has landed on the beach — thinking it washed up from a ship wreck. The two men go to explore it.

The travelers have disembarked the TARDIS and are exploring their surroundings. Vicki discovers a Viking helmet that the Doctor dates to the tenth or eleventh century. He suspects this is where they have found themselves. Steven remains skeptical, saying that the helmet may have been left there as the plaything of a child. The Doctor and his friends decide to go exploring. The Doctor goes off alone, leaving Vicki and Steven to make their own way. As the travelers go along, the Monk sneaks from behind a rock and inspects the outside of the TARDIS, trying the door before moving on. He makes his way up the cliff and towards a monastery. Contemplatively, he enters and locks the door behind him. Soon singing starts.

The two men who have gone to look for the TARDIS are disappointed to discover the ship is no longer there due to the high tide. They speculate that the waves have dashed the ship against the rocks.

Later on that day, the Doctor is exploring the area. He stumbles across the homestead of the couple who went to look for the TARDIS. As he snoops around, looking for clues of the time he has landed in, he turns to have a stick pushed against his throat, forcing him to be still. The stick belongs to the wife of the house. She apologizes for her rough behavior, saying that you can’t be too careful with strangers. She soon becomes very hospitable, offering the Doctor mead and chatting with him. From their conversation, the Doctor learns it is the summer of 1066, just before the Viking invasion that preceded the Battle of Hastings. Whilst the woman is fetching more mead the singing, which has continued throughout the conversation, distorts and warps as if it is created by an inhuman voice. The Doctor cross-examines the woman, guessing that the monastery has only just come back into use and no one has seen any of the monks. With this information he goes to explore the mysterious building.

Elsewhere, Steven and Vicki are interrupted in their explorations by another figure. They hide in the undergrowth, waiting for the man to disappear, but he bends and seems to inspect something very closely. Worried that it might be something of theirs, Steven confronts the man, which ends in a scuffle. Steven is hit and the man escapes. Steven has got what the man was looking at. It is a modern-day watch.

By this time the Doctor has found his way to the monastery. Little does he know he is expected by the monk, who unlocks the door for him. The Doctor moves through the building, following the singing. Finally he finds the source of the noise — a gramophone attached to a large amplifying device. The Doctor stops the record, but before he goes any further, bars crash down, trapping him in the room. The monk makes his way towards the Doctor, laughing manically.

Episode 2: The Meddling Monk

The Monk makes the Doctor breakfast with his toaster and electric griddle. He offers it to the Doctor, who petulantly rejects it, throwing what appears to be the contents of a washbasin into the Monk’s face.

Steven and Vicki have spent the night in a clearing. As Steven goes to fetch breakfast, leaving Vicki asleep, the two men who went in search of the TARDIS the previous day stumble across her. Vicki awakes before they can do anything. However, as Steven returns and the two make their way back to the TARDIS, the two friends are ambushed and taken back to the village.

Elsewhere, the Monk is given food by women of the village, which he accepts gratefully. He goes off to wait on the cliff side. Soon, he sees a Viking longboat loom over the horizon, which delights him.

When Steven and Vicki are taken to the Saxon village, an argument breaks out between the two men. They are Wulnoth and Eldred. Wulnoth is the headman of the village and wants to let the travelers go, whilst Eldred is convinced they are spies for the Vikings and should be kept. After a vociferous argument, Wulnorth’s wife, Edith, the woman with whom the Doctor spoke the previous night, intervenes. Eventually it is decided the travelers may leave. Edith gives Vicki provisions for the trip and says the last she saw of the Doctor, he was heading off to explore the monastery. Vicki and Steven head off to join him.

By this time the Vikings have made their way to dry land. The leader gives orders to three others, Sven, Ulf and Gunnar the Giant, to survey the land and sack the first village they come to for provisions. The two men make their way into the wilderness.

Steven and Vicki have arrived at the monastery, only to be told by the Monk that he has seen no one out of the ordinary for the last few days. Steven presses him to go in and ask the other monks. While he is gone, Vicki and Steven become convinced the Monk is lying to them. They devise a plan to see if he really hasn’t seen the Doctor. When the Monk reemerges to say the monks haven’t seen him, Steven asks him to keep a look out and “remember the description I gave you.” When the Monk retorts with a description of the Doctor, Steven and Vicki know he is lying; they did not give a description to the Monk. They propose to break into the monastery that night to free the Doctor.

Late in the night, Wulnoth’s village is sacked by the Vikings and Edith is wounded. When Wulnoth and Eldred return, they find her body. Eldred immediately suspects Steven and Vicki, but Edith struggles to say it was Vikings. Wulnoth and his men follow the Vikings’ tracks and soon catch up with them. This leads to a mighty battle in which Eldred is wounded and Gunnar is killed. The two men make their way to the monastery for sanctuary.

While this is happening, Steven and Vicki break into the monastery and look for the Doctor. As they explore, they discover the Monk’s gramophone and suspect something is awry. The Monk sees them and silently stalks them through the monastery until the arrival of Wulnoth and Eldred at his door soon distracts him. He goes to let them in. As he does, Steven and Vicki arrive at the prison door and break in — only to find the Doctor gone, replaced with blankets to make it look like he is sleeping.

Episode 3: A Battle of Wits

Investigating how the Doctor might have disappeared, Steven and Vicki find a secret passage. They decide the Doctor has used it and elect to follow it. As they leave the cell, the Monk comes to check on the Doctor, only to find the door open and the secret passage breached. Before he has any time to explore further, he is called to the aid of the two Saxons.

After his escape, the Doctor has found his way back to the Saxon village and the company of Edith. She tells him where his friends are. She also informs him of the Vikings’ arrival. The Doctor decides the Monk and the Vikings must be linked somehow and he must face the Monk again. He reassures Edith that this is not the main invasion; he has knowledge of the Vikings from “the places I have visited”. He is aware that they arrive at the Humber and are defeated, but as he leaves he says it is possible that the Monk’s presence might affect this.

Meanwhile Steven and Vicki have emerged from the tunnel and cannot find the Doctor. They decide to go back to the TARDIS, hoping he has done likewise.

At the monastery the Monk uses his knowledge of modern medicine to nurse Eldred back to health. Wulnoth insists that Eldred stay with the Monk until he is well. Reluctant to blow his cover, the Monk consents. In conversation with Eldred the Monk learns that from the looks of the Vikings the Saxons encountered, a full invasion may occur within three days. The Monk seems happy at this news, saying he is on schedule.

Lurking in the undergrowth, the two remaining Vikings, Sven and Ulf, plan their next move. Sven is keen to continue with the mission and report back to their group. Ulf insists that the best thing to do is hide because they are vastly outnumbered by Saxons. At first Sven is hostile to this plan. He calls Ulf a coward and threatens to kill him, but soon relents. They decide on the monastery as the safest place for sanctuary and head towards the building.

In the solace of the monastery the Monk pores over a plan that reads:

  1. Arrival in Northumbria
  2. Position atomic cannon
  3. Sight Vikings
  4. Light beacon fires
  5. Destroy Viking fleet
  6. Norman landing
  7. Battle of Hastings
  8. Meet King Harold.

Points 1 to 3 are ticked on this plan and the Monk ruminates that he must turn to the fourth point shortly. He is interrupted in his scheming by frantic knocking at the door. The Monk answers it only to find no one. As soon as the door is closed, the knocking resumes. Bemused, he goes out to explore, only to be met by the Doctor. The Doctor points a stick in the Monk’s back, saying it is a rifle and he has come for answers. He leads a docile Monk into the monastery.

Steven and Vicki arrive at the cliff edge, above where the TARDIS materialized. There is nothing but sea below. Vicki is left with two options: the TARDIS has been swept off to sea or the Doctor returned to it and left them behind. Steven suggests that they go back to the monastery to seek sanctuary and see if the Doctor is still there. As they make their way back, they come across the Monk’s atomic cannon pointing out to sea. Seeing this as yet another sign of the Monk’s curious place in history, they hurry back to the monastery to put a stop to whatever it is the man is up to. They sneak back in through the secret passage.

Before the Doctor can interrogate the Monk, they are interrupted by more banging at the door. To avoid the Monk using the Doctor’s more modern dress as a way of turning the visitors against him, he demands the Monk give him a spare Monk’s cassock before they answer the door. The Monk relents. This plan backfires when the Doctor, now adorned in the garb of a monk, opens the door to the Vikings. They immediately take the Doctor hostage — their plan is to threaten the other monks to hide them away by threatening the “chief monk’s” life.

In the confusion the Monk slips away. The Doctor is put back in his original cell, where he is guarded by Sven whilst Ulf goes out to look for the other monks. The Monk sneaks up on Ulf and knocks him unconscious and ties him up. He then slips out of the monastery to visit the Saxon village. There he speaks to Wulnoth and informs him he is expecting a boat to arrive shortly with provisions for the monastery. He asks the village’s support in setting the fires on the cliff and keeping them lit. Wulnoth agrees, but when the Monk leaves Edith and he say it may have to do with the Viking invasion of which the Doctor spoke.

Back at the monastery, Sven looks into the Doctor’s cell and sees the door to the secret passage open. He runs in to investigate, only for the Doctor to emerge from behind the door and knock him unconscious. By this time the Monk has returned. He gloats to Ulf about how the beacons are to be lit and all he has to do is deal with the Doctor and his plan will come to fruition. The Monk turns to find the Doctor behind him with Sven’s sword. This time he demands answers.

Elsewhere in the monastery, Steven and Vicki look for the Doctor. They find a power cable emerging from a sarcophagus. They find doors in the side of the sarcophagus and open them. This leads to a TARDIS — the Monk’s TARDIS.

Episode 4: Checkmate

As Steven and Vicki search the Monk’s TARDIS, the Doctor interrogates the Monk on his intentions in 1066. The Monk admits his plan is to destroy the Vikings to allow Harald Godwinson to take the throne. He believes this will aid humankind. The Monk tries to convince the Doctor that what he is doing is altruistic, but the Doctor refuses to agree and orders the Monk show him his TARDIS.

Steven and Vicki have discovered a wealth of historical artefacts in the Monk’s TARDIS and a journal. It records his meeting with Leonardo da Vinci to discuss powered flight and using time travel to collect a fortune in compound interest from a bank. They also find a crate of bazookas for the atomic cannons.

Sven has regained consciousness after his attack by the Doctor. He goes in search of Ulf. Eldred spots them and runs off to warn the Saxon village that Vikings are in Britain.

By this time the Doctor and the Monk have reached the Monk’s TARDIS. They compare machines. The Doctor is critical of the Monk’s TARDIS, even though his chameleon circuit is functional and the machine is a newer model. The Doctor assumes the Monk is from the same planet as he is, but about fifty years in the future. As they enter the machine, the Doctor is reunited with his companions. The companions break the news to the Doctor that their TARDIS has been washed away by the tide, but he assures them the tide will have no effect on the ship’s position. While they talk, the Monk escapes. Steven and Vicki chase after him, but the Monk has run straight into the Vikings. Thinking quickly, the Monk blames the Doctor, Vicki and Steven for the Vikings’ mistreatment and the Vikings tie them up lest they cause more trouble.

Back at the Saxon village, Wulnoth and Edith are holding a meeting of the Saxons. They suspect the Monk is a Viking spy. The meeting is gate-crashed by Eldred, who relates what he saw at the monastery. This confirms the Saxons’ suspicions and they head for the monastery.

Whilst Steven and Vicki try to get their heads around the details of time travel, the Monk is using the unwitting Vikings to sink their own ships. He claims the bazookas are charms to help the Viking ships sail to clear waters. They help the Monk carry these to the ship, but are interrupted by the horde of Saxons. The Vikings and the Monk escape, pursued by the Saxons. Edith stays behind to free the Doctor and his companions. She invites them back to the village for a celebration. The Doctor says they will attend, but he has a few matters to clear up at the monastery first.

As they run through the woods, the Monk leads Ulf and Sven to a dead end. The Vikings are captured by the Saxons, who are led by Wulnoth; he has the pair killed in retaliation for their attack on Edith. The Monk escapes towards the monastery.

Meanwhile, back in the Monk’s TARDIS, the Doctor is tampering with the control panel. He carefully ties string around a device which he eventually yanks on after leaving the TARDIS. He gives this to Steven and leaves a note for the Monk. The Doctor and the companions head back to their own TARDIS.

The Monk returns to the monastery and finds the letter. The Doctor has written that he is sorry he couldn’t stay to say goodbye, but he suspects the Monk will be busy for the foreseeable future, also explaining that to stop any more time meddling, he has tampered with the Monk’s ship, and maybe he will return to free the Monk when he has learnt his lesson.

The Monk is initially scornful, believing his more modern TARDIS is not susceptible to damage. However, when he tries to get back into the machine, he finds the Doctor has removed the dimensional control — the device that lets the TARDIS be bigger on the inside — and has caused the control room to shrink in size to match the outside, stranding the Monk in 1066.


The First Doctor
Steven Taylor