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Recap / Doctor Who S9 E5 "The Time Monster"

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There's "facing your fears," and then there's this.

"One moment you're talking about the entire universe blowing up and the next you're going on about tea."
The Brigadier, being 100% authoritative, can't take the Doctor's passive attitude in a grand crisis

Production code: OOO

The One With… a naked Sgt. Benton and the one-time "washbowl" TARDIS interior.

Written by Robert Sloman and Barry Letts (who had to be uncredited as he was also Producer). This six-episode serial first aired from May 20 to June 24, 1972.

The Master has a new alias - Professor Thascalos (Greek for "Master" - which even Jo realizes immediately), and he is about to switch on his wonderfully-named TOMTIT (Transmission Of Matter Through Interstitial Time) device. The device will give the Master control over Kronos, a "creature from outside time".

It works, but the Master can't control it, and runs away. The Doctor arrives and deactivates the machine, but the Master then switches it back on again, using it to first kidnap an Atlantean high priest and then to trap the UNIT forces in a time-freeze.

Travelling to Atlantis in his TARDIS, the Master hopes to steal the Kronos Crystal and with it gain control of Kronos. The Doctor follows with Jo (who's been pleasing the Doctor by being exceptionally smart on two occasions this story!), but the Master has already seduced Queen Galleia and staged a coup. However, the queen discovers that the Master is responsible for the King's death and turns against him.

The Master unleashes Kronos, destroying Atlantis and taking Jo captive in the process. Both TARDISes escape the destruction and the Doctor and the Master confront each other in the Time Vortex. The Doctor threatens to "Time Ram" the Master, destroying both ships, but can't bring himself to do it. Jo can, though, and presses the button on the Master's TARDIS console. The ram, however, releases Kronos, who rescues the Doctor and decides to punish the Master with eternal torment. The Doctor pleads for the Master and Kronos agrees to release him... only for the Master to take the opportunity to flee instead.


  • At Least I Admit It: The Master's reaction to being called mad and paranoid.
  • Beast in the Maze: The Kronos crystal is guarded by the Minotaur at the heart of a maze in ancient Atlantis. Jo is duped into the maze by Krasis, and the Doctor must venture into the maze and confront the Minotaur to rescue her.
  • Big Bad: The Master.
  • Blessed with Suck: Atlantis, last time Kronos paid a call.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Kronos.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: The Master is able to perfectly impersonate the Brigadier's voice while trying to summon Benton, but Benton sees straight through him because the Master doesn't get the military terms of address correct.
  • Bullfight Boss: The Doctor fights the Minotaur with a combination of bullfight techniques and Venusian karate.
  • Butt-Monkey: Sgt. Benton falls for the oldest trick in the book and is de-aged into a baby. He shrinks out of his clothes and ends up in a makeshift diaper being spoon-fed. Then he gets returned to his original age and finds himself confused and very naked in front of the lab scientists and his UNIT colleagues.
  • Continuity Nod: The Doctor once again goes on about grey, grey things, which bore him. In "The Mutants", it was 30th century over-polluted Earth cities. This time, it's rocks.
  • Conveniently Coherent Thoughts: Somewhat subverted - when making telepathic contact with Jo Grant, at first she hears a cacophony of voices. But the Doctor gets her to concentrate on the "main" one and we get a clear conversation about how to save the day. note 
  • Cool Car: Bessie has to qualify. An Edwardian roadster with a overdrive that allows the Doctor to drive it at 200 mph, with brakes that absorb inertia allowing the car to stop in about two seconds flat without throwing the Doctor and Jo through the windshield. Awesome.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dalios, particularly after The Master tries to mesmerize him.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Galleia is ruthless and ambitious, but she still regards Dalios as a true king and has no desire to harm him.
  • Fanservice:
    • Besides the already mentioned Queen Galleia's prominent cleavage, there's also Jo in yellow go-go boots. In Atlantis she's put into a very cleavage-baring outfit.
    • For those of a different inclination, there's also naked Benton, though only from the back.
    • Several of the Atlantean men wear not much more than a skirt, including the Minotaur.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The reason the Doctor refused to let Kronos punish the Master. This is also because he sympathizes with a person who used to be his old friend.
  • Game of Chicken: The Master acquires an artefact that will allow him to control an almost omnipotent transdimensional being; the Doctor initiates an overload of the Tardis's systems that will destroy them both unless the Master hands over the artefact, while the Master insists he'd rather perish than surrender absolute power. The Doctor caves first, but companion Jo triggers the overload. Fortunately they all get better.
  • God Guise: Averted when the Atlantian king sees right through the Master.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Jo, of all people, flips the switch to ram the Doctor's TARDIS into the Master's, knowing it will kill them all but save the universe from destruction. They all end up surviving due to the crystal teleporting them into Kronos's realm, but she had no way of knowing that would happen.
  • Humiliation Conga: The Master's God Guise fails, the king laughs off his attempt to hypnotise him, he's arrested by guards and led off only to encounter Jo and the Doctor whom he last saw in his inescapable Death Trap — making the Master so speechless with fury Jo has to provide his dialogue. "How about: Curses! Foiled again!"
  • Imposter Forgot One Detail: The Master does a flawless impression of the Brigadier's voice, but Benton catches on to the ruse when the Master accidentally dips back into his own wordplay and says "my dear fellow".
  • Insult Backfire: When Jo calls what he's done despicable, the Master thanks her.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: The Master tries his favourite line on the 500-year-old King of Atlantis - who laughs at him.
  • Liquid Assets: Benton is turned into a baby and aged into an adult at the end with no ill effects, although his dignity is worse for the wear. Stu also goes through the aging process with no ill effects.
  • Literal Genie: Kronos lets the Master go when the Doctor asks for it, but doesn't seem to understand he wasn't supposed to escape.
  • Locked in a Room: Three and Jo are held captive in an Atlantean cell. It leads to one of the most heartwarming stories the Third Doctor ever tells:
    The Doctor: Well, the whole of creation is very delicately balanced in cosmic terms, Jo. If the Master opens the floodgates of Kronos' power, all order and all structure will be swept away, and nothing will be left but chaos.
    Jo: Makes it seem so pointless really, doesn't it.
    The Doctor: I felt like that once when I was young. It was the blackest day of my life.
    Jo: Why?
    The Doctor: Ah, well, that's another story. I'll tell you about it one day. The point is, that day was not only my blackest, it was also my best.
    Jo: Well, what do you mean?
    The Doctor: Well, when I was a little boy, we used to live in a house that was perched halfway up the top of a mountain. And 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 he'd 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?
    The Doctor: Well, I'm coming to that, Jo, in my own time. Ah, 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. Well, the tree the old man sat under, that was ancient and twisted and the old man himself was, he was as brittle and as dry as a leaf in the autumn.
    Jo: But what did he say?
    The Doctor: Nothing, not a word. He just sat there, silently, expressionless, and he listened whilst I poured out my troubles to him. I was too unhappy even for tears, I remember. And when I'd finished, he lifted a skeletal hand and he pointed. Do you know what he pointed at?
    Jo: No.
    The Doctor: A flower. One of those little weeds. Just like a daisy, it was. Well, 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? Well, the colours were deeper and richer than you could possibly imagine. Yes, that was the daisiest daisy I'd ever seen.
    Jo: And that was the secret of life? A daisy? Honestly, Doctor.
    The Doctor: Yes, I laughed too when I first heard it. So, later, I got up and I ran down that mountain and I found that the rocks weren't grey at all, but they were red, brown and purple and gold. And those pathetic little patches of sludgy snow, they were shining white. Shining white in the sunlight. You still frightened, Jo?
    Jo: No, not as much as I was.
    The Doctor: That's good. I'm sorry I brought you to Atlantis.
    Jo: I'm not.
    The Doctor: Thank you.
  • Look Behind You:
    • "You see, Sergeant, the whole point is - Doctor! What a very timely -" (punch) "You're wrong, Sergeant Benton. THAT is the oldest trick in the book!"
    • Later, Ruth tells the Master to look behind him and he assumes she's playing the same trick on him, but Benton is really behind him.
  • MacGyvering: The Doctor makes a time jammer out of kitchenware, a wine bottle and a cup of tea.
  • Made of Indestructium: Both the TARDIS and Kronos' crystal.
  • The Master: Shows up as usual.
  • Meaningful Name: Thascalos. The Doctor lampshades this.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Benton is brought back to his normal age — but has no clothes. Cue "Everybody Laughs" Ending.
  • Non-Human Non-Binary: Kronos has different appearances, including a giant woman. Speaking about their gender, Kronos says, "shapes mean nothing".
  • Noodle Incident: The Doctor and the Master apparently used to build time jammers while at school together in order to mess up each other's experiments. Presumably Borusa was not amused.
    • We never learn just why the Doctor was so miserable that day on Gallifrey.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Averted. Turning off the machine does nothing to unstick the Brigadier et al., Stu remains aged until he is restored by a second time disturbance, etc.
  • No-Sell: The Master's hypnosis doesn't work on King Dalios.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: The Master, as Professor Thascalos, attempts a very slight and intermittent sort of Greek-ish accent.
  • Otherworldly and Sexually Ambiguous: The Sufficiently Advanced Alien Kronos is referred to by male pronouns, as was his counterpart in Greek Mythology, and depicted in a masculine paper bird costumeinvoked... er, humanoid bird form. At the end of the story she appears as a sort of massive shining woman and explains to Jo that she is whatever she wants to be.
  • Our Minotaurs Are Different: With Atlantis being based on Minoan culture, of course the Minotaur had to appear.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: The Master impersonates the Brigadier in a telephone call to Sergeant Benton. He imitates his voice perfectly but Benton is not fooled because brigadiers don't call sergeants "my dear fellow".
  • Overnight Age-Up: Stuart Hyde loses 55 years as a result of TOMTIT’s activation. He gets better.
  • Parent Service: In addition to Jo, there's Ingrid Pitt as a sexy Atlanean queen with very displayed and precariousinvoked cleavage, who spends most of her screen time trading unsubtle double entendres with Roger Delgado's Masterinvoked.
  • Rapid Aging: Researcher Stuart Hyde is aged to eighty when he is caught in the time dilation field of the Master's experiment. He is restored to his correct age when the field reverses itself.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The King of Atlantis is at least 500 years old.
  • Rebuilt Set: This story introduced a completely new TARDIS console room set (used for both the Doctor's and the Master's). Unfortunately it was universally hated at the time and damaged in storage (which may possibly have been related to the hatred), so never used again. Jo brings up the fact the TARDIS looks different and the Doctor says he's been re-decorating.
  • Reverse the Polarity: Ruth and her assistant try to release the folks frozen in time by turning part of the TOMTIT device upside-down. It doesn't work although it does de-age Sgt. Benton into an infant.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: The eponymous time monster is identified as 'Kronos' and 'the titan who ate his children'. And, while that's a fine description of Kronos, he doesn't have very much to do with time: that's the responsibility of a different god named Chronos.
  • Ship Tease: Ruth and Stu's bickering seems a lot like Belligerent Sexual Tension.
  • Stock Footage: During the Doctor's vision, the volcano stock footage used in the title sequence of Inferno is re-used.
  • Straw Feminist: Who ironically is one of the serial's more sensible characters.
  • Taking You with Me: The Doctor is willing to destroy himself and the Master by initiating a Time Ram- two TARDISes materialising in exactly the same place and time as each other- to prevent the Master taking control of Kronos, greatest of the Chronovores.
  • This Is My Name on Foreign: Thascalos, being Greek for Master.note 
  • Timeshifted Actor: Benton is regressed by a time-manipulating alien goddess into an uncredited baby. Sadly, the baby 'actor' died before his first birthday, as John Levine points out on the commentary track.
  • Time Stands Still: TOMTIT makes time stand still in an area around the apparatus.
  • Totally Radical: Jo calls a few things 'groovy'.
  • Trash Talk: Dalios doesn't just No-Sell the Master's mind control attempt, he outright mocks the Master for claiming to be an "emissary from the gods."
    "Tell me then, what of great Poseidon? What did he have for breakfast? Fish, I suppose."
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: The aged king of Atlantis has a younger and much more attractive wife. No wonder she tossed him over for the much more attractive Master!
  • Voice Changeling: The Master possesses the ability to perfectly imitate another person's voice.
  • Vulnerable Convoy: It's attacked by a knight, a group of roundheads and a bomber plane. The TARDIS it was protecting emerges unharmed, though.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Hippias: a young, good-looking Atlantean man who wears eyeliner and walks around shirtless and in a skirt with a split up to his hip.
  • When Things Spin, Science Happens: The jamming device that the Doctor builds.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: When Captain Mike Yates and his battalion are bombed by the V-2, the Brigadier tries to contact him on the 2-way radio. After several failed attempts where the Brig addresses him as "Captain Yates" only to get static for a reply, he finally asks, with an unusual note of desperation in his voice, "Mike?"
  • You're Insane!: The Doctor calls the Master "mad, paranoid!" — he takes this as a compliment and replies "I'm just a little more honest than the rest!"