Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Story 64 - The Time Monster

In which the Doctor has a nightmare involving the Master, a glowing crystal, and a volcanic eruption. Whilst he tries to work out what this all means, the Brigadier takes Benton with him to observe the TOMTIT device being demonstrated at the Newton Institute near Cambridge. This stands for Transmission Of Matter Through Interstitial Time. TOMTIT's inventor - Professor Thascalos - is really the Master. The Doctor develops a machine that will enable him to detect if a time machine is in operation - so that he can find out when the Master is next active. It registers the TOMTIT operation and so he and Jo rush to the Institute in Bessie. Thascalos has two assistants helping him, oblivious to his true identity - Ruth Ingram and Stuart Hyde. After one run of the machine, Stuart is turned into an old man.

The Master is trying to forge a link with ancient Atlantis in order to obtain a great crystal from the temple there. This will enable him to control a powerful creature called Kronos, which is a Chronovore. At one point the creature is summoned, and appears as a white, winged creature. The Doctor endeavours to hamper the Master's work. Stuart is returned to his normal age. The Master brings the Atlantean High Priest Krasis forward in time to help him. The Master and Krasis depart for Atlantis in his TARDIS, and so the Doctor and Jo give chase - the Doctor's ship materialising within the Master's. TOMTIT has been used to bring characters from history into the present day to stop UNIT, and the Brigadier and his men are frozen in time. Efforts by Ruth and Stuart to free them inadvertently cause Benton to become a baby. The Master has the Doctor cast out into the temporal vortex and heads for Atlantis. The TARDIS brings the Doctor back onboard his own ship.

In Atlantis, the Master seduces Queen Galleia, young wife of the aged King Dalios. Dalios is more than 500 years old and can remember when the great crystal was used to trap the destructive Chronovore. The crystal is guarded by a Minotaur. The Doctor and Jo are captured and find themselves locked up with Dalios, when the Master takes over. The old king dies. The Master releases Kronos - and, in revenge for its long imprisonment, it destroys the city. The Master flees, taking Jo as his hostage. The Doctor follows and threatens to initiate a "time-ram" - colliding his TARDIS with the Master's, which will destroy them both. Jo forces the issue, but instead of being destroyed they find themselves in a strange void. They are greeted by Kronos, this time appearing as a beautiful woman, who threatens to punish the Master. The Doctor pleads leniency and the evil Time Lord escapes. The Doctor and Jo return to Newton where Ruth and Stuart finally manage to deactivate TOMTIT. The Brigadier and his men are freed - and Benton reverts to his real age.

This six part adventure was written by Robert Sloman, and was broadcast between 20th May and 24th June, 1972. It is the final story of Season 9. Whilst credited to Sloman, the story was actually co-authored by producer Barry Letts, as with the previous season's The Daemons.
If they were hoping to replicate the success of that earlier serial, they were to be disappointed. The Time Monster suffers from too many plot elements, some of which lack any story logic, and some poor performances and effects.
Why does the Master go to such convoluted efforts to get the crystal? Why not just travel to Atlantis and steal it?
Why does the Doctor not know about Thascalos (Greek for "Master") and TOMTIT when UNIT have an invite to observe the demonstration? Why does the Doctor not take an interest in it, considering it involves time transference?
Why is his "TARDIS detector" calibrated in Venusian miles? Why does the Master release Kronos when he has no hope of controlling it - and why does he want it anyway?
After being unmasked, how is the Master able to hide out right under UNIT's nose? Why no search of the Institute?
I could go on.
There are some positives. There are some nice sequences in the middle part of the story - with the Master bringing historical characters (and a V1 rocket) into the 20th Century to prevent Captain Yates bringing the Doctor's TARDIS to the Institute, and the scenes set in the two inter-joined time machines. The interplay between the Doctor and the Master in the latter is wonderful. There is also a beautiful scene set in a prison cell where the Doctor talks about his childhood on Gallifrey.

The "battle of the sexes" interplay between Stuart (Ian Collier, who will go on to play Omega in The Arc of Infinity) and Ruth (Wanda Moore) is woefully clich├ęd and simplistic. John Wyse's institute director, Dr. Percival, gives the impression he hasn't got a clue what the script is about. Aiden Murphy's Hippias, who is supposed to be a young firebrand, comes across as rather camp and a bit of a wimp - so no wonder Ingrid Pitt's Galleia would rather hang out with the Master. Pitt was never strong as an actress. A couple of performances that do manage to stand out are George Cormack's noble Dalios, and Donald Eccles' Krasis.
Episode endings for this story are:

  1. After successfully transporting a cup of tea from one room to another, the Master ignores Stuart's call to reduce power. He boosts it instead and calls on Kronos to come to him...
  2. The Master re-activates TOMTIT and brings a bewildered Krasis into the 20th Century...
  3. A V1 rocket crashes down onto the UNIT convoy - and the Brigadier can't raise Mike on the radio...
  4. The Doctor has been cast out into the vortex, leaving Jo helpless and alone in the TARDIS...
  5. Krasis throws Jo into the crystal chamber, where she is threatened by the Minotaur...
  6. In the TOMTIT lab, everyone is surprised to see Benton emerge from behind the machine wearing only a nappy and a bewildered expression on his face.

Overall, a bit of a dog's dinner of a story. The UNIT regulars are all ill-served (except possibly for John Levene who gets a little more to do than usual). The TARDIS scenes are good, but it is probably the worst of the UNIT stories - a great shame when you consider that it is the last of the Master / UNIT tales.
Things you might like to know:
  • The Minotaur was played by future Darth Vader, Dave Prowse. The original mask was too cow-like, Letts dubbing it "Daisy".
  • Susan Penhaligon as Lakis came onboard at the very last minute after the actress Ann Michelle was forced to pull out.
  • Tim Gleeson redesigned the TARDIS interior but it proved unpopular with the production team and so this is its only appearance. The same set, with a different time rotor design, is also used as the Master's ship.
  • The Greek word for "Master" is Thascalos - not Thascales. The latter was used in the second edition of the Terrance Dicks / Malcolm Hulke book The Making of Doctor Who and stuck, unfortunately. Dicks corrected this in his novelisation.
  • Talking of Greek, Chronovore is a hybrid Greek-Latin word.
  • The prison cell scene prefigures events in the Third Doctor's last story, also written by Letts / Sloman. The old hermit will prove to be K'anpo - coincidentally played by George Cormack.
  • Regarding this being the third on-screen mention of the destruction of Atlantis, I argued earlier in my post on The Underwater Menace that they don't have to be contradictory if Atlantis refers to both a city and a state.

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