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Doctor Who story number 17

This is another break-the-mold story: They introduce a character from the Doctor's home planet, with his own TARDIS, changing the way we think about the main character. The story is also considered the first pseudo-historical story (science fiction elements in a historical setting), though one could argue that Marco Polo was a similar story due to historical figures trying to capture and use the Doctor's "flying caravan". Pseudo-historical stories would eventually replace straight out historical settings in a few years - people were always more into the sci-fi stories anyway.

The story is also the first full story to feature the character Steven, and they manage to work in his disbelief at the claims that the TARDIS can travel in time brilliantly - because there are plenty of anachronisms present as part of the plot. Stories in later seasons would neglect this aspect of characters, with companions much more ready to accept the concept of time travel.

One problem with the story is that the villagers and the Vikings are pretty much made out of cardboard. There is one scene where Edith is dragged off into the bushes by one of the Vikings, but she seems quite unphased by this later when she meets the Doctor. The whole story could probably been done without any other characters than the main cast and the Monk, or at least had the time travellers trying to avoid the locals and the raiding party.

All in all this is a pretty good story though, with the main cast and Peter Butterworth putting in good performances. Oddly the Doctor seems quite amused by the whole situation at times, either relishing the battle of wits or knowing full well the monk can't succeed. There's one great scene where the Doctor steps up behind the Monk and jabs a stick in his back and convinces him it's a gun - it's always good to see the Doctor getting by on his wits and what's at hand rather than pulling the exact thing he needs out of his pockets, having instant-expert syndrome or running off some technobabble.

Denis Spooner

This story has 4 episodes with individual titles:

  • The Watcher
  • The Meddling Monk
  • A Battle of Wits
  • Checkmate

Plot Overview
The TARDIS materialises on a beach in England, 1066, at the foot of a cliff. The tide conveniently comes in while the travellers climb the cliff, forcing them to explore. Steven refuses to accept that they have travelled in time, pointing out a wristwatch he finds as proof that they are in his present time.

The travellers are being watched by a mysterious Monk. The Monk is living in an old monastery near a village, and he seems innocent enough, claiming that he is the only monk allowed to deal with outsiders.

The group seperates, as usual, and Steven and Vicki investigate the monastery and find that the Monk is the only person there. He plays a record of monks chanting, and has wired up the Monastery for electric power, and has a supply of nuclear weapons. They then see him appear out of the back of the altar in the chapel. Investigating they find a small door in it which leads into a big room. The altar is bigger on the inside than on the outside. The Monk has his own TARDIS.

Meanwhile the Doctor has been dodging an advance party of Vikings, and then meets the Monk. He is quite apalled at the Monks plans - to alter the history of the earth in inventive ways. The current plan is a big one: Destroy the Viking fleet, and then help Harold defeat William of Normandy. He will then guide the development of England, hoping to get them to the the point of having jet planes by 1320 and having Hamlet premeire on television.

Of course the Monk has to be stopped, and so they sabotage the warheads. Luckily for him he has fooled the Viking scouts into firing the warheads at their own fleet and is not present. While he is coming back to the monastery the time travellers clear out all his modern conveniences while the Doctor performs some sabotage MacGyver style with a peice of string.

When the Monk returns to his TARDIS he finds a letter sitting on top of it from the Doctor, taunting him. He laughs it off and then goes to leave - and finds that the dimensional controller from his ship has been removed. The inside now has to conform to the dimensions of the outside, and there is no way for him to leave.

Cue enraged swearing of vengance. Cut to the season end credits of faces over a starfield, similar to The Reign of Terror.

Main Cast

  • Peter Butterwork - Monk
  • Althea Charlton - Edith
  • Peter Russel - Eldred
  • Michael Miller - Wulnoth
  • Michael Guest - Hunter
  • Norman Hartley - Ulf
  • Geoffrey Cheshire - Viking Leader
  • David Anderson - Sven
  • Ronald Rich - Gunnar
  • Notes

    • The Monk has diary of his previous attempts to alter history - Using an anti-gravity lift to aid the construction of Stonehenge, discussing powered flight with Leonardo DaVinci and most appealing of all, depositing 200 pounds in a London bank in 1968 and then collection a fortune in interest 200 years later. I guess he is pretty cleaver, considering London is a smoking wasteland in 2168 due to The Dalek Invasion Of Earth. Even in the ruins of post-apocalyptic London the ATM's work....
    • The Doctor refuses to admit what model TARDIS he has, possibly because his is falling apart and much older. Later stories confirm that it is probably a vintage model.
    • The Doctor says he left his home planet 50 years before the Monk did. We never hear the phrase "Time Lord" or "Gallifrey" in this story, they were invented later. Given that there are so many contemporaries of the Doctor at large in the universe there must have been a period of instability back home. Good to know even super advanced alien races behave like humans.

    What do you think it is, a space helmet for a cow? - The Doctor on horned helmets.

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