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Classic Who Review: The Time Meddler (1965) – Part Three

Last time, we looked at the Monk in The Time Meddler, this time we’ll look more into the history in the story and the history of the story.

This serial finds its setting in 1066, which history geeks will recognize as the date for the Battle of Hastings and the Normand conquest of England. Unlike what history says happens and the weakened English forces being defeated by the Normans after having expended themselves already on the Vikings, the Monk’s plan was to destroy the Viking fleet himself, thus keeping the English at full force and able to repel the Normans and change the outcome of the Battle of Hastings. The Doctor upset this plan and kept history on its proper course. This is the first time we hear about the “Golden Rule” of time travel. The Doctor states, “The golden rule about the space and time traveling: never, never interfere with the course of history.” The Doctor is a bit fast and free with this rule himself and down right breaks it on occasion, but he does know it is there and he never intentionally goes out to break it, unlike the Monk who seems to make a rule out of rule breaking.

Alethea Charlton as Edith talking to the Doctor

Alethea Charlton as Edith talking to the Doctor

There are several interesting tidbits about this serial. The acronym for the TARDIS gets changed slightly here through a mistake by Maureen O’Brien (Vicki). The plural gets added to Dimension in Time And Relative Dimensions In Space. In The Unearthly Child when Susan first explains the name of the ship, it is singular, but Vicki adds the plural and, for the most part, it sticks ever since.

The serial does have an actor who makes a reappearance. Alethea Charlton, who played Edith in this serial, was also in The Unearthly Child as Hur, the cavewoman. Another who will reappear later on is Ronald Rich, who Bond fans might recognize as Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s towering bodyguard opposite Sean Connery in  You Only Live Twice. He played the huge Viking, “Gunnar the Giant.”

The Viking fleet seen in the serial was actually taken from BBC Newsreels about a recreation of the Viking fleet off the south of England.

Ronald Rich as Gunner the Giant in the background with the eye patch.

Ronald Rich as Gunner the Giant in the background with the eye patch.

There are also stories about Hartnell throwing a mock temper-tantrum during the rehearsal of this serial to protest a great number of production changes at the time. The film, An Adventure in Space and Time did a lovely job of giving us a peek at the dynamics of the cast and of Hartnell’s physical and mental difficulties the longer his tenure on the show lasted.

One last interesting note with this episode is at the end credits. Instead of the usual, “next time” clip, it features a longer segment of the theme song with the faces of the cast playing through the starfield. This is something later fans will recognize as a regular part of the credits starting with Pertwee and then Baker. This is our first glimce of this effect and it is very startling and must have been very dramatic in the mid-sixties!

Next time, we’ll take a look at the next episode: Galaxy 4.


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