THE TIME MEDDLER
Well, this was a pleasant surprise indeed... I'd seen this story before, a while back now, but didn't remember it particularly well - and clearly I'd been underrating it as it doesn't put a foot wrong. The atmosphere of Saxon Northumbria in 1066 just before the Viking and Norman invasions is terrifically rendered through some good location work and fine (monastery, cliff, forest) sets. The story is deftly scripted and intriguing, with the mystery of the 'Monk' and how incongruous modern artifacts are lying around in the 11th century allowed to spiral towards the conclusion, and perfectly paced, with the disparate elements - Monk, Doctor, Vicki and Steven, Saxons and Vikings - not all coming together until the final reel. The Monk, with his deliciously anachronistic wristwatch, gramophone, toaster, binoculars, wallchart (with tick-boxes for each stage of his dastardly scheme) and atomic cannon, is wonderfully played by Peter Butterworth with a wicked sense of humour - he seems much more troublesome than actually evil, and you almost sympathise with him by the end, as so many people come and go at his previously isolated monastery hideout he might as well install a revolving door, frankly. This is the first time in the series thst we meet one of the Doctor's own (unnamed as yet) people with another TARDIS, and it is a delight to witness the verbal sparring in the final third as a mischievous Monk and inquisitorial Doctor finally lock horns. William Hartnell turns in another fine performance, particularly enjoyable in the sequence where the Doctor has his stick jammed into the Monk's back to make him believe he has a gun! He exacts fitting yet not punitive retribution upon the Monk by removing the 'dimensional control' from the latter's TARDIS, rendering the interior tiny and the meddler stranded in 1066. Vicki and new stowaway companion Steven hold their end up well, with Peter Purves' effortlessly charismatic performance instantly endearing the latter to the viewer as he is first sceptical of the whole time travel phenomenon before later getting into the spirit of charging around the countryside from one danger to the next. The Saxons get some nice group interaction, and while the Vikings have less to do on the whole, there is the charming saving grace that one of them is played, entirely inappropriately, by someone named Norman.
All told, an unexpected gem.
Episodes watched: 70
Episodes still to watch: 652
Four down before breakfast! Day off today, so should be able to catch up with the schedule a bit...