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Recap / Doctor Who S2 E9 "The Time Meddler"

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An alliteration advocate, this Meddling Monk appears to be...

"That is the dematerialisation control, and that over yonder is the horizontal hold. Up there is the scanner, those are the doors, that is a chair with a panda on it... Sheer poetry, dear boy! Now please stop bothering me!"
The Doctor shows Steven around.

The one where a monk has a record player. And a gun. A big gun.

Written by Dennis Spooner. This four-episode serial first aired from July 3-24, 1965.

Episodes: "The Watcher", "The Meddling Monk", "A Battle of Wits", "Checkmate".

With Vicki and still-sceptical stowaway Steven in tow, the TARDIS arrives in early 1066 on the eastern coast of England. Exploring, the Doctor finds a wristwatch and a toaster, and is trapped while investigating the sounds of chanting from a ruined monastery. Quite surprisingly, the chanting was a gramophone record.

Turns out that one of the Doctor's (as yet unnamed) own people is here, complete with his own TARDIS — whose chameleon circuit actually works. He plans to defeat Harald Haadrada's Viking fleet with nuclear bazookas, allowing King Harold to win the battle of Hastings, and then help the English accelerate their development so that they have "jet airliners by 1320" and Shakespeare's Hamlet can premiere on TV.

After thwarting his plans, the Doctor removes the Dimensional Control from the eponymous Meddling Monk's TARDIS, shrinking the interior to the same size as the exterior (a sarcophagus) and leaving the monk stranded.

The story has a number of firsts — the first Time Lord other than the Doctor and Susan (though the race is still not named); the first pseudo-historical story mixing real history with sci-fi elements; and of course, the first story without any of the Doctor's original companions. It also has a second, as in the Meddling Monk being the show's second reoccurring enemy after the Daleks.


  • Anachronistic Clue: Vicki and Steven realize that there is something dodgy going on when they discover that a warrior is wearing a wristwatch. The Doctor likewise reaches this conclusion when he hears the monks' chant slowing down, showing that it's a recording.
  • Ancient Astronauts: The Monk helped the Ancient Britons build Stonehenge and talked with Leonardo da Vinci about flying machines.
  • Arbitrary Scepticism: Steven (who has been rescued by a group of Dalek-tailed time travellers from spherical, apparently sentient robots with flamethrowers, and then stowed away in a huge spaceship that looks from the outside like a tiny Police Box) point-blankly refuses to believe that the TARDIS can travel through time, even though everyone around them dresses and acts like it's 1066, and constantly announces to the Doctor that time travel is obviously impossible and that the joke is over, which the Doctor finds extremely annoying. He later sees a monk wearing a wristwatch, which he takes as confirmation of his hypothesis, but which tips off Vicki that something is badly wrong. Turns out that the monk is also a time traveller.
  • Bad Habits: The Monk is not really a monk.
  • Big Bad: The Meddling Monk.
  • Bowdlerise: The only surviving copies of the story are censored, with the killing of the two Viking scouts Ulf and Sven by the villagers cut (though the audio portion survives from an off-air recording and is included on the DVD release as a special feature). The death of Gunnar is uncut, as Episode Two was still in the archives (albeit as an orphaned episode) when the BBC stopped junking episodes.
  • Brandishment Bluff: The Doctor jabs a branch into the Monk's back and claims it's a Winchester '73. The bluff works till he is interrupted by Vikings.
  • Compound-Interest Time Travel Gambit: The Monk's logbook includes an entry recording his use of this.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The Doctor and Vicki discuss the departure of Ian and Barbara in the previous serial and the Doctor mentions Susan.
    • Vicki mentions that she hopes they've arrived in New York, as she'd like a closer look at it than the brief glimpse they got a few episodes earlier.
  • Crew of One:
    Steven: You know, I'm beginning to like the idea of being a crew member on a time machine.
    Vicki: A crew member? You'll be lucky! He's the crew — we're just the passengers.
  • Early Instalment Weirdness: It's still not quite established that the Doctor is definitely an alien yet, and so it's noticeable that nothing about the Monk contradicts the competing backstory that he and the Doctor are humans from the far distant future. Notably the Monk only seems to want to meddle in Earth's history and never even mentions other planets. They would both become slightly more alien the following year, during "The Daleks' Master Plan".
  • Fakeout Escape: The second time the Doctor gets locked up in the room with the secret exit, he lures the guard in by leaving the secret door wide open so it looks like he's escaped that way.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: A Saxon woman is gang-raped offscreen by Norwegian military scouts.
  • Finale Credits: The season ends with the three time-travellers' faces superimposed over a starfield.
  • Foreshadowing: The way the Doctor and the Monk each independently use a very similar technique to disable one of the two Viking scouts may be foreshadowing of their shared origins.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: The Monk plans to give the English "a few tips" to increase the rate of technological development.
  • Horny Vikings: The Doctor and his friends find a horned viking helmet at the beginning of the story, setting up the famous quip about space helmets for cows. The leader of the Viking scouts who show up later wears an equally-inaccurate helmet with little metal wings.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: The Meddling Monk (who is holding the Doctor prisoner) claims that he hasn't seen the Doctor but gives himself away by knowing what the Doctor looks like without Steven having told him. Subverted because Vicki and Steven soon realise that the Monk made his "mistake" on purpose to lure them inside.
  • Insane Troll Logic: We know the Monk isn't thinking things through when he says that with his help, Shakespeare might be able to televise his plays. It's more likely the Bard would never exist.
  • Jerkass: Steven starts out as one due to his hot temper and his social skills being severely damaged by a long period of imprisonment and isolation. He tends to semi-maliciously forget the Doctor hates being called 'Doc', pick fights with people in normal conversation, and physically attacks a passer-by to get information off them instead of just asking like a reasonable person (which Vicki calls him out on).
  • The Low Middle Ages: The serial is set in the dying days of the period, with the Norman Conquest only a few days away.
  • Matte Shot: The shot of the Monk looking into his miniaturised TARDIS.
  • Meta Twist: Up to now, every story has alternately been a historical story or a sci-fi story. This one tricks the audience into thinking it's the former, since another historical was "due"... right up until the first cliffhanger reveals it's actually the latter.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Monk goes from smug to this when he discovers the Doctor has trapped him in 1066:
    Monk: Ah! Ah! What's he done? He's taken my dimensional control! He's ruined my time machine! I'm, I'm marooned. Marooned! In 1066. Oh, Doctor. Doctor! DOCTOR!!!
  • Plot Hole: At the end, the Monk cannot use his TARDIS, but he still has the bazooka and its ammunition, so could still blow up the Vikings. The novelisation fixes this by having the Doctor place the ammunition in the Monk's TARDIS first, so that he can't get to it.
    • Though given that the whole village had turned against him, demanding his head, and the fact that his two aides were both dead, it’s just as likely the Monk decided to abandon his plan and get away.
  • Projectile Toast: One of the Monk's anachronistic home comforts is an electric toaster, which shoots the finished toast up into the air to be caught by the Monk.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Wulnoth sees vikings in the monastery, and the villagers come to the correct conclusion that they’re in league with the Monk… before coming to the completely reasonable, but also wrong, conclusion that the Monk was The Mole for Hadrada.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Discussed by Steven and Vicki, who wonder whether they'll still remember the old history if the Monk succeeds in creating a new one. While this might seem to exclude the Doctor from this trope, the balance of evidence points the other way, and there's no way for the companions to be doing anything more than guessing.
    • Also averted - apparently one of the changes the Monk has made was to give Leonardo da Vinci some ideas for a flying machine.
  • Secret Underground Passage: The Doctor discovers one in the monastery where the Monk is based, leading from one of the rooms to a thicket outside the monastery grounds, and he and his friends subsequently use it several times to get in or out without the Monk knowing.
    • Vicki tells Steven that "they always have them in case of siege...or fire...or something," clearly grasping at straws to convince him.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: This how the Monk sees his own actions: that by reversing the outcome of the Battle of Hastings, he would ensure that England gets a better king — Harold — than the one it actually got — William. The Doctor, however, is outraged by the sheer recklessness of this action.
  • Sleeping Dummy: When the Doctor finds a way out of the room the Monk has imprisoned him in, he makes one of these to delay the Monk noticing he's gone.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Apart from Vicki, Edith is the only speaking female character in this story.
  • Stick 'em Up: The Doctor sticks a branch in the Monk's back and claims it's a rifle (incidentally gaining further evidence that the Monk is a time-traveller, since he understands the threat). When the Monk finds out it's just a stick, the Doctor keeps him in line a bit longer by pointing out that it's quite a hefty stick and still capable of doing quite a bit of damage.
  • Tap on the Head: The two Viking scouts who take refuge in the monastery are each easily disabled by being whacked over the head with a plank of wood so thin that it breaks dramatically on contact.
  • Temporal Paradox: Also discussed.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: Steven is instructed on how to address the First Doctor.
    Steven: Say, this is quite a ship you've got here, Doc. Never seen anything like it.
    Doctor: Now listen to me, young man. Sit down. Now, there are two things you can do. One, sit there until you get your breath back, and two, don't call me Doc! Now do I make myself clear?
    Steven: Yes, yes, whatever you say, Doc—tor!
  • Too Dumb to Live: The Viking scouts who are supposed to be gathering information for their invading forces, but decide to Rape, Pillage, and Burn at the first dwelling they come across.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The Monk maintains this.
  • Vile Villain, Laughable Lackey: Inverted. The Monk is Laughably Evil throughout, with shades of an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, while his helpers Sven and Ulf are introduced implicitly raping a random woman and intend to pillage and kill on behalf of their King.
  • Wham Episode: The Doctor and the TARDIS cease to be unique, with the appearance of the Monk and his time machine and hints that such machines are not uncommon where they both come from.
  • Wham Shot: Vicki and Steven (and the audience) see the interior of the Monk's TARDIS for the first time.
    Vicki: It's a TARDIS! The Monk's got a TARDIS!
  • What Year Is This?: Averted, The Doctor intentionally didn't arouse suspicion by asking the year. Instead, he asked a few questions about recent events in order to get enough information to deduce the year.