Thursday, 12 July 2018

Inspirations - The Time Monster

The final story of Season Nine - though not the last to be made in the production block. The final story in production - Carnival of Monsters - will be held over until the beginning of Season Ten.
As you will recall, it had originally been intended that the Daleks would be brought back to close this run, in a story in which they manipulated time, but they were brought forward to launch the season instead. The writer of what would have been "The Daleks in London" - Robert Sloman - was tasked with devising a new storyline, this time featuring the Master. He would be joined in co-scripting this by Barry Letts, following their successful collaboration for the conclusion to the previous season - The Daemons. Once again they wanted to have a vaguely supernatural theme, touching on some ancient Earth mystery. Additionally, Letts and Terrance Dicks had been asked by fans to feature a story set in an historical period, as one of these types of adventure hadn't been done for a long time. They decided on the myth of Atlantis, and Sloman embarked on a holiday around the Greek mainland and islands for inspiration.

Atlantis - the Island of Atlas - was written about by Plato around 360 BC. He used as a source some writings by Solon from around 590 BC, who is supposed to have found Egyptian references to it. Plato claimed that the powerful island state had gone to war against ancient Athens and been defeated - demonstrating how his ideal state was a superior model. The island then fell out of favour with the gods and they destroyed it by sinking it beneath the sea. It was said to have been made up of a number of concentric islands, nestled one within the other, and been located beyond the Pillars of Hercules - our modern Straits of Gibraltar, and hence out in the Atlantic Ocean.
So, Plato was quoting from third hand accounts hundreds of years after they were first recorded. Historians have long sought to look for a real city state which may have provided the inspiration for Atlantis, but rather than look beyond the Mediterranean, they have looked within, or to the Aegean.
A popular candidate is the Minoan civilisation which dominated the region from the island of Crete.
Its power collapsed following the volcanic eruption on the island of Thera to its north. We know roughly when this eruption took place, as it led to a drastic climate change recorded by both the Egyptians and the Chinese, as well as appearing in tree growth rings and ice core samples. The generally accepted date is around 1628 BC (+ / - 65 years). Events of The Time Monster have been dated to 1520 BC, as this was the accepted date when the story was written.
The Minoan capital of Knossos was hit by a double whammy. First, as Thera was almost totally obliterated in the blast, the north facing coast of Crete was struck by a massive tsunami. Ash then fell over much of the island, leading to crop failures and famine. (The global impact of the eruption led to famine in China, and the collapse of a ruling dynasty, as well).
Today, Thera - or Santorini - has actually come to resemble Plato's description of Atlantis, in that from space it looks like a circle, with a smaller island within. The island remaining is merely the remnants of the original crater wall, and the small island at its centre is the growing dome of a new volcano, pushing its way up from the sea bed.

The Doctor and Jo discuss Thera after he has woken from a nightmare in which he has seen the Master towering over him, in an ancient temple. The dream included a trident-shaped crystal and images of volcanic activity. Clearly it is too much of a coincidence that he should have such a dream, so it looks like evidence of the telepathic abilities shared by Time Lords. The Master is concentrating so hard on his plan that the Doctor picks it up, mentally. The Doctor wants to know more about the recent volcanic activity recorded in the newspaper, and so declines the chance to visit the Wootton Institute near Cambridge to witness a demonstration of the TOMTIT device. This stands for Transmission Of Matter Through Interstitial Time. The Brigadier decides to co-opt Benton into accompanying him instead. It is a flaw in the scripting that the Doctor should not put 2 + 2 together, and work out the possible connection between what the Master might be up to and a new Time related piece of equipment. The Doctor wastes time finishing his TARDIS detector - only for it to point straight towards TOMTIT. Meanwhile, over at Wootton, the Master is posing as the Greek scientist Professor Thascales to develop TOMTIT, along with his assistants Ruth and Stu. Again, it seems odd that the Doctor hasn't read any papers on TOMTIT and noticed the name of its creator - Thascales (or Thascalos) being Greek for Master. (There is a Derby based IT consultancy firm called Thascalos Ltd. Has anyone notified UNIT?). Actually Kyrios, or Kurios, would have been a better match than Thascales.

The Doctor isn't the only person being somewhat inattentive around here. Ruth and Stu never comment on the Professor's roving accent, and the Head of the Institute only starts querying how the Master got a job there in the first place after things have gone pear-shaped - describing TOMTIT as nonsense when it has obviously been there taking up space and resources for some time. The Brigadier doesn't bat an eye-lid when the Professor starts shouting "Come, Kronos! Come!" in the middle of his demonstration.
Yes, the Master has a plan. He wants to control a powerful being called a Chronavore, who goes by the name of Kronos. It had previously been imprisoned on Atlantis through the use of a trident-shaped crystal, and he has got his hands on this. His plan initially fails as the real crystal is back in time in ancient Atlantis, in the Temple of Poseidon. Poseidon is often shown with a trident - hence the shape of the crystal.
The mythical Kronos was the king of the Titans, and son of Uranus and Gaia. He overthrew his father and took over the heavens, but was warned that he would one day be deposed by his own sons. To prevent this, he ate all his children. When it came to his sixth son, Zeus, the baby was swapped for a stone, which Kronos swallowed instead. Zeus grew up secretly on Crete and he gave his father an emetic which caused him to disgorge the other children he had eaten, including Poseidon and Hades. The stone - the Omphalos - was deposited on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. The children then ganged up on dad and overthrew him, along with the rest of the Titans - imprisoning them in Tartarus. Kronos, in this story, has a habit of eating people - inspired by the myths - and Chronavore is Latin for Eater of Time. Shame they couldn't have stuck with the Greek theme (or Cretan Jazz, as Jo might have called it).

The Master's Plan B is to bring the High Priest of the Temple - Krassis - forward in time to the 20th Century to learn from him the secret of how to contain the Chronavore. The Doctor has finally turned up at Wootton now, and noticed that the Professor's computer, linked to TOMTIT, is the Master's disguised TARDIS. He has his own TARDIS sent for, to be brought by Captain Yates. He has an eventful journey getting from UNIT HQ to Wootton, as elements of the discarded Dalek story come into play. In messing about with time so that their 22nd Century invasion was a success, the Daleks caused all sorts of temporal anomalies to occur - with people and things being brought to the present day from Earth's past. Yates first encounters a knight on horseback (the filming of which did not go to plan, and the horse was injured). Next he is attacked by Roundhead soldiers, from the 17th Century. Finally, the Master summons up a V1 "doodlebug" flying bomb, to blow up the convoy. This sequence has caused some consternation for fans, as a local farmer (presented as a bit of a simpleton yokel - a recurring problem throughout this era of the show) recalls how a doodlebug fell here back in the war - the implication being that it is the same bomb. But if the Master took it out of time to the 20th Century, how could it have fallen back in the 1940's to be remembered by the farmer?
After three episodes of UNIT / Cambridge shenanigans, we get the fourth part, which is set almost entirely inside the TARDIS - or rather both TARDISes. The Doctor tries to land his ship around the Master's to stop it from leaving, only to end up inside it. And the Master's ends up inside his. (And yes, we will be revisiting this story when it comes to looking at the inspirations behind Logopolis, which Letts also had a hand in).

Earlier, we had a rather nonsensical sequence when the Doctor tried to interfere with the Master's scheme - the building of the time-flow analogue. As might have been guessed, this was inserted due to the episode under-running. The Doctor claims that he and the Master used to build these things at school to upset their respective time experiments. The Doctor takes a number of household items, which Stu conveniently has lying round his bachelor pad, to create something which looks like a trident. Apparently, apart from some tea leaves, the materials themselves are, well, immaterial. It is the shapes and their ratios which count.
Anyway, back to the TARDIS within TARDIS within TARDIS episode. Some fans dislike this, feeling that it is a whole episode of padding, but I have always liked it. The interplay between the Doctor and Master as the former tries to lecture the latter, only for his efforts to be thwarted, are rather fun. It's a whole episode of Roger Delgado getting to be clever and funny.
The last two episodes finally see the action move to the studio-bound city of Atlantis. The designers have also gone for the Minoan look, with costumes and sets clearly based on the discoveries of Sir Arthur Evans during his excavations at Knossos. Unlike the wall paintings Evans uncovered, the ladies of the Atlantean court wear dresses that go above the bosom - though Ingrid Pitt's fights valiantly against this. (Her cat, by the way, was not very well behaved and continually scratched her, and it took a distinct dislike to Delgado).

Some cut dialogue had King Dalios claim that King Minos of Knossos was his cousin. Knossos is raided once more by the script as the crystal in the Temple is guarded by a Minotaur - the legendary half-man, half bull. This one, played by both Dave (Darth Vader) Prowse and stunt regular Terry Walsh, isn't the Minotaur (which means "Bull of Minos"). It's just a Minotaur, created by Kronos when a young nobleman asked for long life and strength. Greek gods were notoriously fickle. The reason two people played him was because Prowse refused to do the fighting, insisting he was an actor and not a stuntman. The despatch of the creature was inspired by bull-fighting matadors, as the Doctor waves his hankie at it and quotes yer genuine Spanish.
If there is one scene from this story which is guaranteed to be picked out for praise, it is the one with the Doctor and Jo locked up in the dungeons, where he tells her of the childhood incident on Gallifrey when he went to see an old hermit. If I were to remind you that Letts was a practicing Buddhist, then you'll realise that the story he tells is lifted from a Buddhist tract - the Lesson of the Lotus Flower.
There was more cut material which would have given us more of a build up to the death of King Dalios. On screen, he just gets thrown into the dungeon and promptly dies. The Master finally gets to release Kronos, having seduced Queen Galleia and seized power. In revenge for its imprisonment, it destroys the city - by dangling from a kirby wire and flapping its wings. Of course, just the year before, and from the same authors, we had an entirely different account for the destruction of Atlantis, which an even earlier story had simply put down to volcanic activity. Steven Moffat would later play with this discrepancy by having all three versions as really having happened.

Ruth, Jo and the Doctor are all making eye contact with Benton - but I can't say the same for the Brigadier...
Did we mention that Benton had earlier been turned into a baby? Best not. Now, there is a lot of talk about the break up of the "UNIT Family" when looking at Season 10. Roger Delgado was killed soon after working on Frontier In Space, and then Katy Manning left at the conclusion to The Green Death. Pertwee then used these, plus the impending departure of both Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks, to reason that it was time for him to relinquish the role of the Doctor and leave as well. This story was produced in such a way as to release Courtney, Levene and Franklin after the pre-filming and first studio recording block. As such, this story was the last time that the entire UNIT Family - if you take it to include Delgado - were all together in the same studio at the same time.
So, lots going on in what is a very bitty and rather clumsily plotted story. If Letts and Sloman hoped that lightning would strike twice, they were very much mistaken.
Next time: it's the story that everyone thinks of as the Tenth Anniversary One - except that it wasn't. We will be talking about Ingmar Bergman and The Wizard of Oz, as we welcome back Bill Hartnell and Patrick Troughton to the show...

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