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08 January 2015 @ 08:58 pm
The Randomizer: The Time Meddler  
It took us ages to watch our way through this though I think that was more because of circumstances than because it's a particularly difficult story, even though it is a very early Doctor Who story which does entail a leisurely pace and video and sound quality that may not be of the very very best.

The Time Meddler is notable in being the first story in which we meet another time lord, the eponymous Time Meddler and, I think, in being the first pseudo-historical - i.e., historical story with science fiction elements.

The story opens with The Doctor and Vicki attempting to persuade new companion, Steven Taylor, that the Tardis is a time machine. They present evidence that they are in 11th century Britain, while he is finding digital watches. At this remove it is difficult to work out how mysterious this may, or may not, have seemed to an audience which had previously associated historical settings with somewhat earnestly educational tales (and The Romans).

There is a lot of running around between the beach, the local village and the monastery on the hill as the different groups (villagers, vikings, meddling monk, the Doctor and (separately) Steven and Vicki) pursue each other for various reasons. I half suspect you could draw a little diagram of the story and see them all running around in circles like some kind of farce. This isn't so out of place in a story which is dominated by the fun William Hartnell and Peter Butterworth are having as the Doctor and the Monk. I rather like this interpretation of the Time Lords, as a bunch of irresponsible older men, running around rubbing their hands in glee and chuckling to themselves. The show would have been very different if it had pursued the idea beyond the end of Hartnell's run as the Doctor. The comedic air also allows the production to have a lot of fun with its anachronisms

For instance the Monk's progress chart.

The other guest parts are less impressive. The villagers are stoic and dour, somewhat in the mold of peasants everywhere throughout the Doctor Who universe. The vikings hail from a time when actors or casting directors didn't not see much point in hiring actors to play thugs who looked like they could lift anything heavier than a wine glass. Though I would like to pause to admire Sven's hair:

I'm poking fun slightly but the truth is that it is difficult to dislike this story so good-humoured are the two central performances. It's a bit slow and repetitive to modern eyes but I'm glad this one survives intact in the BBC archives. It is well worth watching, if only to recall that there was a time when Doctor Who could be simple fun and the Doctor could enjoy himself in an entirely angst-free fashion.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/135832.html.
londonkds on January 8th, 2015 10:53 pm (UTC)
Re: simple fun - did you notice the heavily implied gang rape?
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 9th, 2015 01:05 pm (UTC)
I know a lot of people think it is heavily implied but watching the scene it was difficult to imagine it was intended as more than smashing up a few of her pots and scaring her a bit. Totally unrealistic in its historical context, obviously, but this is 1960s kids viewing that generally aims for the "mild peril" level of violence*.

Now, that isn't to say that classic Who doesn't have its WTF moments of totally inappropriate content for the tone of the show and its intended audience (cf. Saward's dick jokes in Revelation of the Daleks). So I'm not ruling out the possibility that either Dennis Spooner or Douglas Camfield really thought that implied rape was appropriate tea time viewing, especially since I'm no expert on the way violence against women is treated in 1960s TV. I think if the tone of the rest of the story had been more serious I might consider it a possibility (I've not seen The Crusades but my impression from the novelisation is that this sort of subject would sit more easily there where the dangers Barbara faces are taken seriously). But the story is clearly trying to be light-hearted and it just boggles the mind that they would attempt to introduce such a subject into a light-hearted story. Though again, I'm not going to rule it out, given I know little about the opinions middle-aged middle-class men in the 1960s BBC towards rape.

I was expecting to be shocked by the scene and wasn't. I don't think tame layman even picked up on it. It's easy to treat as a mild peril situation. I think, even if it wasn't, it wouldn't alter my opinion of the rest of the story, although I would want label it with a "Warning contains a weirdly out of place scene implying rape."

*I imagine there are whole treatises written about our strange attitude to violence in entertainment. I'll just note here that I'm aware that what counts as "mild peril" in entertainment is oddly divorced from what counts as "mild peril" in real life.
philmophlegm: Sid Jamesphilmophlegm on January 8th, 2015 11:24 pm (UTC)
I wonder how many Carry On actors played time lords?


There must be more. If Lynda Bellingham had been a bit older, she'd probably have done Carry On, but tragically had to settle for the lesser 'Confessions Of...' series.

Tom Baker would have been great in Carry On.

Peter Gilmore would have made a good time lord.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 9th, 2015 01:07 pm (UTC)
There is a list of Time Lords on wikipedia, but it must be said I didn't have the enthusiasm to click through and start checking up on actors. I do wonder if the shift towards a more ponderous and po-faced Time Lord culture may have robbed of some fun performances though.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on January 10th, 2015 07:17 pm (UTC)
I find it hard to see this one clearly, as it was my first story. I didn't actually like it all that much, but nowadays I think it's great fun, if a little slow in parts. The farce suggestion is interesting, as Dennis Spooner's previous story, The Romans, was fairly explicitly conceived as a farce.

Bottom line: I would watch this just for Peter Butterworth.