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The Time Meddler is an oddity in the William Hartnell era of Doctor Who. It was a story set in the past like so many other stories of the era...only this time, with a science fiction twist. You see, instead of it being a straight historical primarily made to educate rather than entertain this serial was the first in Doctor Who's history with a historical event setting to feature a villain other than one from that time period for the Doctor to defeat.
The plot sees a member of the Doctor's own race the Meddling Monk (Peter Butterworth) attempt to change the course of Earth history during the year 1066: the Battle of Hastings. This is a serial that was clearly ahead of its time; nowadays not only are we used to seeing a historical period invaded by an alien menace but we also tend to see a lot of plots that involve changes to time. Steven Moffat most notably uses this frequently as a plot point in the series; The Wedding of River Song in particular sees a fixed point in time changed when River refuses to kill the Doctor.
Unfortunately in The Time Meddler it doesn't quite live up to its potential. Due no doubt to the shoe string budget of the time, it never really feels like you see time changed in any major or significant way. You see the Monk has access to technology in his monastery which doesn't belong to 1066 such as toasters and a gramophone but you never see anything particularly big happen to alter the course of history. The Doctor (William Hartnell) says that the Vikings are defeated at the Humber but it would have been cool to see the Meddling Monk change this so the Vikings win and I'm pretty sure had this been a modern Steven Moffat two parter this is what would have happened. Instead we are only offered hints as to what the Meddling Monk has changed, via a check list that includes things such as 'Position atomic cannon' ticked. The serial ultimately drags and would likely have been one of those stories that would have worked better in the new series than it does in the classic era of the show.
I'm not entirely convinced by Steven Taylor as a companion either. He joined at the end of the previous serial The Chase and something about him just feels a bit too rough and ready for a companion for the first Doctor. Peter Purves isn't the best of the Hartnell era main actors either; he's no William Russell, that's for sure. The chemistry that William Hartnell, William Russel, Jaqueline Hill and Carole Anne Ford is missing too; they will always be the definitive first Doctor TARDIS crew for me.
Seeing the Monk's TARDIS is unbelievably cool though; the interior is the same as the Doctors but it is fun to see them enter a TARDIS through one that looks something other than a police box:
Also, there is a nice effect by the production team when the Doctor messes with the dimensional controls, causing the control room to represent the size of the object the TARDIS is disguised as:
It doesn't stop the story from being a bit of a drag though and it would probably have worked better as a fun two-part diversion inbetween serials rather than a four parter. This is a story that would have been more suited to the Steven Moffat era of the show rather than the William Hartnell period. In fact, I'd like to see the Meddling Monk return in series 10 as I think he would fit in nicely now the Doctor has found Gallifrey in Hell Bent. This story just didn't do a lot for me, even if it did have a cool effect with the Monk's TARDIS. You've got to give credit to the writers though: they were ahead of their time.