Chapter 125. Doctor Who – The Time Meddler (1988)

Synopsis: New arrival in the TARDIS Steven Taylor cannot accept that he’s travelled in time, even when confronted with a Viking helmet in the year 1066. Landing on a beach, the Doctor and his friends explore the coastline and find themselves in a village near a monastery where the only inhabitant is a very furtive, very secretive monk. The Doctor immediately recognises him as one of his own people, but unlike the Doctor, he has no concerns about changing history, in fact, that’s what the Monk is determined to do.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1 The Watcher
  • 2 The Saxons
  • 3 The Monastery
  • 4 Prisoners of the Saxons
  • 5 The Vikings
  • 6 An Empty Cell
  • 7 Unwelcome Visitors
  • 8 The Secret of the Monastery
  • 9 The Monk’s Master Plan
  • 10 A Threat to the Future
  • 11 A Parting Gift
  • Epilogue

Background: Nigel Robinson adapts scripts by Dennis Spooner for a story from 1965.

Notes: A prologue offers a scene from The Chase not shown on TV as Steven Taylor flees the burning City of the Mechonoids and the ‘strange alien creatures who had come to this planet in search of four mysterious space travellers’. Clutching his stuffed panda and avoiding the Fungoid plants, he runs for hours in pursuit of the four travellers, who had helped him escape. Eventually, he finds a blue box in the jungle and makes his way inside before passing out. And a generation of fans cheer!

The Doctor has ‘sharp blue eyes’ [as we’ve established, the actor who played him had brown eyes]. Vicki is ‘little more than five feet tall’ and she has ‘elfin good looks and a mischievous little-girl smile’. The TARDIS control room contains a Louis Quatorze chair and an ormolu clock, which has stopped. We’re reminded that Vicki came from the 25th Century and that she is an orphan. She had assumed that Steven had died in the flames. 

Edith and Wulnoth have been married for 15 years, though it’s said that she has aged considerably more than her thirty years (a little harsh on actress Alethea Charlton there!). The Monk’s carefully prepared breakfast for the Doctor is a masterpiece in time-trolling: Using a ‘Baby Belling stove’, a non-stick frying pan and a steel spatula, he cooks bacon, sausage and fried eggs; charred toast is delivered from a rusty toaster, served up on a plate with a bottle of tomato ketchup and a mug of instant coffee; and as he approaches the Doctor’s cell, he whistles a tune that won’t be written for nine hundred years (so, around 1965; later, he returns to the monastery whistling a Beatles song, so maybe it’s Ticket to Ride, which had appeared in the previous story, although reading this after 1988, Yesterday would be funnier).

The Doctor spells out for Steven and Vicki the consequences of the Monk’s ‘master plan’ – that as they are both English (new information, by the way!), the chances are that somewhere in their lineage is someone of Norman blood, someone who might die because of the Monk’s interference, thereby wiping out their descendants. It’s a tidy way of making the Doctor’s role much clearer to his young friends and to the reader. After taking the dimensional stabiliser from the Monk’s TARDIS, the Doctor also ensures that the atomic cannon is removed from the clifftop (and Steven has to lug it back to the TARDIS). The Doctor’s line about not being a ‘mountain goat’ (which he so beautifully fluffs on TV) is moved to the end of the book. In the epilogue, we discover the ridiculous effort the Monk puts into messing up time: Fearing some kind of reprisals from his ever-growing list of enemies, the Monk decides to leave his TARDIS in the chapel and cross England on a stolen horse to keep his plan on track; he reaches the infamous battle too late and sees William of Normandy declared the victor; the Monk heads north again to find the Doctor has stranded him in 1066 with a broken TARDIS.

Cover: Jeff Cummins makes his final contribution to the series with a haunting portrait of the Monk lighting beacons on the cliff tops. The image was flipped for the 1992 reprint, for some reason, accompanied by a ‘NOW BACK ON TELEVISION’ exclamation to tie in with the repeats on BBC 2.

Final Analysis: I’m growing rather fond of Nigel Robinson. He’s taken Terrance Dicks’ approach of transferring the script faithfully to the novel format, just adding additional information and tidying as he goes. There’s a charming significance to the way he captures Vicki by pulling in a detail of Maureen O’Brien’s performance, in that she pacifies the Doctor the same way the actress had quelled the fractious temper of her co-star. That he’s also choosing to cover the less favoured stories himself really underlines the mission to create a complete library of adaptations.

3 thoughts on “Chapter 125. Doctor Who – The Time Meddler (1988)

  1. Hartnell had hazel eyes, so they’re sort of between blue and brown, but look brown on certain photos under certain lighting conditions. I thought they were brown for ages but was corrected, and the photos taken on the Galaxy 4 TARDIS set show the colour quite well. Looks like Nigel Robinson was going on Hurndall! And then there are those books which give the second Doctor “green” eyes… what the heck? I suppose it works for Poirot in the Agatha Christie books. His even glowed…

    Liked by 1 person

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