Who Review – The Time Meddler

Posted by Richo On April 6, 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Welcome to the Fourteenth Instalment of Who Review, my ongoing quest to watch and review all available episodes of SF’s longest running television series, Doctor Who. This week, the Doctor finds himself in England during the Norman Invasion of 1066 in The Time Meddler.


The Time Meddler (4 Episodes)


3 July – 24 July 1965


William Hartnell



Steven Taylor


Having departed Mechanus without Ian and Barbara, The Doctor and Vicki are surprised to find that Steven Taylor has survived the Mechanoid/Dalek battle and stowed away on the TARDIS. They’re happy that he was able to escape and invite him to stay with them.

The TARDIS lands on a rocky beach on the coast of Northumbria. Their arrival is watched by the Monk, who is in no way shocked by their sudden appearance. They are also soon discovered by a Saxon villager called Eldred who reports their arrival to Wulnoth, his chieftain in a nearby village overlooked by a monastery.

There’s a nice character moment early on as the Doctor tries to decipher what year he and his companions have arrived in. He laments the loss of Barbara and her knowledge of history, which has proven invaluable in the past. It’s a brief but refreshing reminder of the departure of one of the show’s mainstays.

Leaving Vicki and Steven to explore, the Doctor heads to the Saxon village where he meets Edith, Wulnoth’s wife. From the information she provides him he is able to determine the year of his arrival is 1066, not long before the arrival of William the Conqueror. He also learns that the monastery has recently become active again, although the villagers have only ever met one of the monks. They are convinced others must be in residence due to the regular chanting that emanates from the building.

Fascinated by the monastery, the Doctor makes his way there, where he meets the same monk who witnessed the TARDIS’ arrival. The Monk allows him to enter and the Doctor soon discovers that the Monk is the sole resident of the monastery. The chanting is actually from a record played on a gramophone, an item completely out of place in this setting. The Monk has other modern utilities as well, including a toaster and a teapot. Before he can react to his discoveries, the Doctor is led into a trap by the Monk and imprisoned.

Unlike previous historical episodes, The Time Meddler has a greater science fiction element to it as well as a strong mystery for the Doctor to uncover. These two things add an extra element to the storyline, elevating it above the usual “educational history” episodes, while still imparting a great deal of information about the historical event in question.

Meanwhile, Vicki and Steven encounter Wulnoth, who is wearing a wristwatch that was dropped by the Monk. After some confusion, they manage to convince Wulnoth that they are merely travellers. They also learn from Edith that the Doctor passed through the village on his way to the monastery. They head to the Monastery where they encounter the Monk, who tries to persuade to leave. Convinced that the Doctor is a prisoner in the monastery, Steven and Vicki decide to break in that night and free him. Little do they realise the Monk has prepared the same trap for them that he used on the Doctor.

Meanwhile, the Monk surveys the seas using binoculars and is pleased to see Viking ships on the horizon. The Vikings soon land and terrorise the local villagers, traumatising Edith. In response, Eldred and Wulnoth track down the Viking invaders. After a brief struggle, they manage to kill the Viking that assaulted Edith, but Eldred is badly wounded. Wulnoth takes him to the monastery.

As night descends, Vicki and Steven break into the monastery. Unfortunately for the Monk, he is unable to spring his trap due to the arrival of Wulnoth and the injured Eldred seeking aid. This enables Vicki and Steven to find the Doctor’s cell, but it is empty as the Doctor has escaped through a hidden passage. Vicki and Steven take the same passage to freedom.

The Doctor makes his way to the village, where he learns from Edith that Steven and Vicki have travelled to the monastery. He resolves to head back there to find them. Meanwhile, Vicki and Steven make their way to the TARDIS, only to find it submerged by the incoming tide. Searching around, they find an atomic bazooka pointed out to the ocean. Confused, they also head back to the monastery.

With the Doctor, Vicki, Steven, the Saxons and the Vikings all descending on the Monastery, the Monk’s plans are finally revealed: he is a time traveller like the Doctor, who is attempting to disrupt time and ensure that King Harold does not lose the Battle of Hastings to William the Conqueror. He is a native of the Doctor’s home planet, a Time Meddler who stole a TARDIS and uses it to change time in his favour.

This is our first introduction to a Time Lord outside of the Doctor and his granddaughter Susan. The term Time Lord is never actually used, nor is the Doctor’s home planet named, but the origins of the Meddling Monk are fascinating and reveal much about the Doctor’s culture. To manipulate time for your own benefit is immoral, so the Monk was forced to steal a TARDIS to serve his ends.

Meanwhile, the Viking and Saxon forces confront one another at the Monastery, forcing the Meddling Monk to abandon his plans and flee. He makes his way to his TARDIS, only to find that the Doctor has taken the dimensional control from the time machine. The interior of the ship has shrunk beyond use, leaving the Monk stranded in 1066 with an angry mob of Saxons descending upon him.

With the tide now subsided and the TARDIS free, The Doctor and his companions depart.


It’s always a benefit to the series to see the Doctor presented with a genuine mystery he has to solve using his wits, incredible intelligence and vast knowledge. The Meddling Monk presents the Doctor with one of the better mysteries to date, heightened by the presence of one of his own race as the villain.

The presence of the Monk also reveals much about the Doctor himself, providing us with some interesting insights into the Doctor’s world and his history. We learn that the Monk departed their planet with his stolen TARDIS 50 years after the Doctor left, providing the viewer with a greater understanding of how long the Doctor has been travelling through time.


Steven is an invaluable addition to the TARDIS crew, fulfilling the man of action role previously occupied by Ian, but with a charismatic flair that Ian was lacking. In hindsight, it’s clear that a change was needed, as Barbara and Ian had grown a little stale. Steven is the perfect replacement and really adds to the series.


As the first villainous Timelord seen in Doctor Who, The Meddling Monk is a fascinating addition to the Who mythos. He establishes that not all Timelords are as altruistic as the Doctor and sets a precedent for later villains such as the Master.

The Monk is not truly evil, but he seeks to manipulate time for his own amusement, or in ways that he feels benefit others. His list of achievements is impressive: aiding in the construction of Stonehenge, advising Leonardo da Vinci on aircraft design and using time to exploit compound interest.

Actor Peter Butterworth plays the Monk with a wonderful sense of comedic timing. Butterworth, a known comedic actor, is at times threatening, but comes across more as a relatively well-meaning but bumbling villain who doesn’t realise how serious his meddling actually is. In some respects, he’s more like a child, believing himself to be far cleverer than he actually is.


The Meddling Monk  is a highly entertaining storyline, the perfect end to Doctor Who’s second season. For the first time, the series manages to find the perfect balance between SF concepts and historical settings.

3 Lukes


The lost episodes of Doctor Who hit hard in the Doctor’s third season, with the first five storylines missing. As such, we take a leap forward, meet a new companion and take a journey on a generation ship in The Ark.

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