078 – The Watcher (The Time Meddler Part 1)

Written by Dennis Spooner
Directed by Douglas Camfield

The Doctor and Vicki discover a stowaway on the TARDIS.  They also arrive in 11th century England and are observed by an odd monk.

It's a cow. He's looking for his space helmet.

“That is the dematerializing control, that over yonder is the horizontal hold.   Up there is the scanner and over there are the doors and that is a chair with a panda on it.”

I like this story.  It is probably my favorite by Spooner.

There is a tender moment in the opening of the episode.  The Doctor and Vicki discuss the departed Ian and Barbara.  It serves to remind the casual viewer of the cast change, but also leads to exploring how The Doctor is processing this change.  He misses them already, but his fear is that Vicki is only staying with him out of some sense of obligation.  If she wants to leave, he wants to take her home.  He doesn’t want her to hold back.  Vicki insists that she has no where to go and is happy with The Doctor.  It is a great scene with The Doctor showing more vulnerability than he will in later incarnations, possibly until the 2005 revival.  Honestly, re-watching and analyzing the Hartnell era has really made me see how it was used as a model for the RTD era (with mixed results).  I’ll explain this in later detail when I get to the RTD era.  If I remember.

The scene is interrupted by a noise from the living quarters.  The Doctor and Vicki discover a stowaway:  Steven and Hi-Fi.  He faints.  After he recovers, The Doctor and Vicki quickly accept him as part of the crew, despite his disbelief that The TARDIS is a time machine.  In these few moments we are introduced to his personality:  a bit skeptical, laid-back, gently antagonistic, but friendly and likeable.  In truth, I think Steven is a great follow-up to Ian.  Plus, he and Vicki get along quite well together, almost like a brother and sister.  This is actually my preferred dynamic for the TARDIS crew:  The Doctor, one man, one woman.  The personalities should be distinct, not so similar as to be carbon copies, and they should not fawn over The Doctor.  There should be room for disagreement between the characters, even against The Doctor if necessary because I do not believe The Doctor should be portrayed as perfect.

Anyway, the TARDIS arrives in England in 1066, before the Battle of Hastings.  We know this because The Doctor will give a history lesson partway through the episode.  However, this is no ordinary historical.  Or, more accurately, it will become the model for the Doctor Who historical.  This is the first historical to feature a threat to a period of time, to an historical event.  Up until this point (and in a few more stories to follow), The Doctor and his companions are witness to events in history.  They watch, possibly become involved.  But The Time Meddler sets up the historicals which will start in The Troughton era and run through the present.  It involves a period of history, possibly an event or historical celebrity is featured, and an alien or time traveler threatens the progression of history.  Here, we have the first story to ever try this, and it sets the mold.  There are even clues to the true nature of the threat in the form of the discussion of how the TARDIS can change form to fit its surroundings and the ring that the Monk wears, which is oddly familiar….

The Doctor accepts the hospitality of a woman in a village.  He fishes for information about the time period (the history lesson I mentioned earlier takes place here).  They make notice of monks singing from the nearby monastery.  The singing plays throughout the scene, and as The Doctor stokes the fire, the singing distorts and slows like a record.  The Doctor changes from giddy to serious before even the audience can process what has just happened.  He heads off to the monastery.  I love how Harnell plays this.

Meanwhile, Steven and Vicki accost a hunter who has found a wrist watch in the forest.

The Doctor arrives at the monastery, explores, and finds a phonograph in a small room.  Bars quickly slam down, and the monk that was seen earlier on the beach steps into the shot and laughs.

Really, this is a great episode.  It re-establishes the format, introduces a new character, and starts a mystery and a new adventure.  Truly, this will be a ground breaking story as we discover more of what is going on.  It is excellently written and paced.  High marks to both Spooner and Camfield.

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