The Time Monster
"Chronivores - time-eaters - who can swallow a life as quickly as a
boa-constrictor can swallow a rabbit, fur and all."
The inspiration for The Time Monster was a rather ingenious one. Over the nine years
which Doctor Who had run to up to this point in its history, stories about time and its
effects had been explored, and truisms made about its nature : The Aztecs, The Time
Meddler, The Daleks' Masterplan, to name a few early exampless. However, an exploration of
what might lurk "outside space-time" had never been attempted. The Time Monster
used this imaginative concept as the main theme. However, the idea behind Kronos and the
Chronivores derives directly from the Hellenic legend of Cronos, king of the Titans,
notorious for eating his own children. Coupled with this unoriginal exploration of the
main theme, The Time Monster turned out to be rather over-long and complicated, and has
been described as "the first Pertwee failure".
Although ideas behind the story were solid, they were strained by the six episode
format. Padding is obvious throughout the adventure, and especially during the Wootton
section. The pace is terribly slow - the action could have fitted into half the time.
Indeed, episode two and the first part of three further the plot not at all between the
Master's first and second call of "come, Kronos, come". When Kronos does make
one of its irregular appearances, its 'white dove' costume looks rather silly - just like
"a demented budgerigar on a swing" to quote David Auger from the CMS release.
The climax of episode six when Kronos is depicted as a huge yet distant God-like face,
proving its asexuality, power and a beauty of its own type, is more effective in realising
the potential of the "most fearsome" Chronivore.
The story splits into two segments - one at the Newton Institute, Wootton, in twentieth
century England, and one on Atlantis. Both segments are let down in various ways. The
structuring of the Wootton segment is curious, as it bears more than a passing resemblance
to the Sloman/Letts story The Daemons. (Is this surprising, considering the authors of The
Time Monster?) The build-up of part one is practically identical, and the similarities go
as far as story details - the splinter crystal cannot be moved; nor the Daemon ship. This
must, presumably, have been deliberate. It might possibly have been an effort to
re-utilise a proven formula for a story with a similar mixing of mythology and Doctor Who.
An unfortunate side-effect is that it draws attention to the clash between the claims of
Azal and Kronos to have destroyed Atlantis. Perhaps this is deliberate as well - the
Master is twice given the line "nothing can stop me now", a reflection of the
end of episode three of that other Atlantis story, The Underwater Menace.
It must be said that the Wootton segment is interspersed with many entertaining
moments. The Doctor/Jo interaction is well into its swing by now, as is shown by several
enjoyable exchanges, of which this is one (from the first episode) :
(The Doctor is working at a piece of equipment "rather like a table tennis
bat" (description © Terrance Dicks))
JO You know, Doctor, you're quite the most infuriating man I've ever met. I've asked
you at least a million times. What is that thing?
DOCTOR Extraordinary. I could have sworn I'd told you. It's a time sensor, Jo.
JO I see.
DOCTOR Do you? What does it do then?
JO Well it ... it, um ... detects disturbances in the Time Field.
DOCTOR Well done Jo! You're learning. Yes, exactly what you need if you happen to be
looking for a Tardis,
JO It's a Tardis sniffer-outer!
Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning are excellent together - a real Doctor/companion line-up.
Their relationship is one of genuine affection and respect for each other. It is no
surprise that the atmosphere of this era has often been described as "family".
This leads to one of the 'immortal' moments of Doctor Who when the Doctor tells Jo about
the 'meaning of life' in the Atlantean dungeon. This is an excellent scene, well directed
and highly credible (which is not the case in a similar dungeon scene in Frontier in
Space!). The Doctor's "daisiest daisy" emphasises the vivacity and individuality
of creation. It might now be called a Green Message! Although Jo seems sceptical, she has
taken the point, and so have the audience. The scene also tries to convince the viewer
that Kronos is even more of a threat to creation than he already seems to be.
Unfortunately the destruction of Atlantis is badly executed - this is the bit with the
"swing" - with the result that Kronos loses most of his hard-earned credibility!
Back at Wootton are UNIT, completely superfluous to the plot but, as ever, entertaining
to watch. One of the most enjoyable sequences in the story is at the end of part three
when the convoy is attacked by anachronisms summoned from the past by TOMTIT. The
Brigadier has a few good lines - asking Yates for anti-tank guns, he explains that he
feels "as naked as a baby in the bath", foretelling Benton's inane
transformation to an infant. This episode is rather odd after the efforts made to prove
than Benton is able to do things on his own initiative, twice having the Master at
The Master is the best aspect of the story, brilliantly portrayed by Roger Delgado.
There are several subtle touches to his character, one of the best being in episode one
when the Master pretends to be "a life-long pacifist" to avoid eating lunch
opposite the Brigadier. Although he hypnotises Perceval with ease ("just like the old
days"), this is a story when his tricks do not always come off. Benton is not fooled,
because the Master calls him "dear fellow" over the telephone when pretending to
be the Brigadier. This allows for another superb line :
MASTER Ah, the tribal taboos of Army eitquette. I find it difficult to identify with
such primitive absurdities.
This is later reflected when the Brigadier, looking at the flames of the V1 rocket the
Master has just dropped on the convoy, vainly tries to get "Mike" to reply.
Furthermore, the Master fails to hypnotise Dalios, and, although he controls his ire
externally, we can see he is seething inside. Despite these setbacks, the Master is given
opportunities to display his magnetism and power as a character. The Doctor has a
nightmare - "Welcome to your new Master" - from which he is woken shaken and
anxious. Later, the Master is able to exert a non-hypnotic influence over Krasis and
Galleia. He uses Krasis's fear of Kronos by demostrating his shaky mastery of the
Chronivore and he quickly identifies Galleia's interest in the real power he can offer.
Galleia is attracted to the Master, which is something he exploits, offering her empty
promises of rule over a renewed Atlantis and power to realise he ambitions. He is thus
able to tell the Doctor, "a complete success, our little palace revolution", but
he misjudges Galleia's affection for her husband, King Dalios. However, by the time she
realises he is dead, it is too late. Ultimately, it is the Master's ambition and
confidence which bring him down. Since the operation has been planned by him with
meticulous care, he is prone to being too sure of himself. He remains true to form at the
end - shoving the merciful Doctor and Jo out of the way and racing back to his Tardis, to
the apparent apathy of Kronos. The Master's "infernal courtesy" is on display
throughout The Time Monster. His exchanges with the Doctor in the Tardises verge on
friendly banter, but both Delgado and Pertwee inject it with an underlying seriousness.
Despite his evil, Delgado's Master is a likeable character, and this is at the root of his
One of the main differences between the two settings are in their main incidental
characters. It might be said that the persons at Wootton rarely rise above shallow
caricatures. The feminist trait in Ruth Ingram's personality is exaggerated to an
irritating extent, but at least she does get some chances to show her scientific ability.
Stuart Hyde is a rather tedious inclusion, crippled by mostly poor lines. However, the
leading Atlanteans have more depth - Galleia is interesting, as is Dalios. The latter is
at least 500 years old; he can tell the good from the bad, being immediately suspicious of
the Master - serving him up with some unappreciated mockery (asking him what Poseidon had
for breakfast) - and quickly trusting of the Doctor, with whom he is undoubtedly
paralleled. Dalios remembers Kronos' last visit, and the audience sees his prophecy of
Atlantis "doomed, destroyed, never to rise again!" fulfilled. The regality of
these two is enforced by a very effective flute piece from Dudley Simpson when they first
enter their court. Fine acting from Ingrid Pitt as Galleia and George Cormack as Dalios
make their characters real. Unfortunately their minions are lower in the character and
acting stakes - Donald Eccles makes a complete hash of Krasis, continually over the top,
while Hippias is too brief (literally!) to make much of an impression. Susan Penhaligon as
Lakis gives a solid performance, but her character is hardly expanded beyond a crush on
It is the realisation of the Atlantean culture and society which lets this segment
down. There appears to have been a concerted effort to reinforce the classical feel of the
setting by enhancing the theatrical elements of the production. This is a neat idea, but
the stagey feel of the sets and costumes, and the efforts to inject a classical taste into
the dialogue makes the Atlantean segment seem too artificial and false. The population are
clad in the most unlikely wigs and skimpy costumes, which hardly helps their credibility.
Their dialogue is, on the whole, stale and unmemorable. It is over-stylised and comes out
as rather unconvincing. The sets are colourful, but, allied in some cases with uncovincing
backdrops, they looks as if they have been staged, having a hollow feel to them, and this
is detrimental. The exception to this is the labyrinth, which is quite convincing.
However, it is inhabited by the worst part of the tale - the Minotaur. This really is an
awful monster - and certainly not the reason Dave Prowse got his Vader rle in the
Star Wars trilogy! Paul Bernard's direction really slips here - the Minotaur, looking
understandibly ridiculous, is fully lit by a white floodlight, so the viewer can
appreciate all its inadequacies! The Doctor plays the toreador, and, inexplicably, the
beast runs on and fatally crashes into the wall, conveniently exposing the crystal. Words
cannot hope to sum up the ineptness of this sequence : it has to be experienced.
The Time Monster is an unsatisfactory story. It does have some classic moments which
stand out from the rather average surroundings. The plot though can be followe. The only
question which might be asked is how the Doctor's Tardis started to work so well. The
themes in the story fail to work well enough together, and both settings for the adventure
are let down in different ways. The productions is a little lacklustre. Paul Bernard's
direction is somewhat ordinary throughout. Only the charging knight of episode three
sticks in the memory, while the Minotaur ... The model work is poor as well - when the two
Tardises separate in episode five, one can see the strings attached to the police box and
computer bank. Furthermore, there is an annoyingly liberal dose of complete fantasy in the
story, including such nonsense as Bessie's "Minimum Inertia Superdrive", or the
Doctor's interference with TOMTIT by using a wine bottle, a few odds and ends, and some
tea leaves. As with so many Doctor Who stories, it might have been better if it had been
condensed to four episodes. As The Time Monster stands, it is easy to see why it is rated
fairly low by most fans (the editor not included).
DOCTOR ... The point is, that day was not only my blackest, it was also my best.
JO What do you mean?
DOCTOR When I was a little boy, we used to live in a house that was perched halfway up
the top of a mountain. Behind our house, there sat under a tree an old man. A hermit, a
monk. He'd lived under this tree for half his lifetime, so they said, and had learned the
secret of life. So, when my black day came, I went and asked him to help me.
JO And he told you the secret? Well, what was it?
DOCTOR I'm coming to that Jo, in my own time. I'll never forget what it was like up
there. All bleak and cold, it was, a few bare rocks with some weeds sprouting from them
and some pathetic little patches of sludgy snow. It was just grey. Grey, grey, grey. The
tree the old man sat under was ancient and twisted, the old man himself - he was as
brittle and as dry as a leaf in Autumn.
JO But what did he say?
DOCTOR Nothing, not a word. He just sat there, silently, expressionless, and he
listened while I poured out my troubles. I was too unhappy even for tears, I remember.
When I'd finished, he lifted a skeleton hand and he pointed. Do you know what he pointed
DOCTOR A flower. One of those little weeds. Just like a daisy it was. I looked at it
for a moment and suddenly I saw it through his eyes. It was simply glowing with life like
a perfectly cut jewel, and the colours were deeper and richer than you could possibly
imagine. It was the daisiest daisy I'd ever seen.
JO And that was the secret of life? A daisy? Honestly, Doctor!
DOCTOR Yes, I laughed too when I first heard it. Later, I got up and ran down that
mountain and I found that the rocks weren't grey at all. They were red and brown, purple
and gold. And those pathetic little patches of sludgy snow were shining white in the
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