Maybe there’s something about Atlantis that makes everyone forget how to make Doctor Who? The Time Monster gives us a glimpse of the place, which is populated by a child, a young man with copious eye make-up, and a bewigged old queen in a pink cape waving his arms about. It’s not as if this episode is struggling to meet its campness quota: you have Ian Collier declaiming ‘It happened just after the cup and saucer appeared… Like a tongue of flame… All my body was on fire… All my energy was being sucked out of me’ , Richard Franklin simpering down the phone and Wanda Moore playing every scene like she’s in Acorn Antiques (mind you, what can you do with lines like ‘So that’s what you meant when you talked about terrible danger’?)
Maybe this explains why Pertwee is back to being incredibly furious: he’s not used to being the straightest thing on screen. He brutally interrogates the prematurely aged Stu, angrily hushes Jo, and generally plays this as if it’s the most terrible threat the Doctor’s ever faced. Like every Dr Who, he has to deliver absurd dialogue with total conviction, and wins a star prize for his shocked reading of the line, ‘Kronos! Yes, of course. I should have known.’
But the Doctor and Jo are largely sidelined, as Sloman gives more of the script over to the wider ensemble. Nicholas Courtney gets a nice scene where he demands more troops at the double as ‘I feel as naked as a baby in his bath’ (presumably foreshadowing the hilarious tag scene at the end of Episode Six) before giving a hint of the Brigadier’s old piss and vinegar when he puts the pompous Dr Cook in his place by quoting legislation at him. John Levene also gets to carry a chunk of the episode as Benton proves harder to fool than the Master expects – although not that much harder.
Delgado is brilliant, as always. There’s a hilarious moment of the Master struggling with his sums while Percival witters at him, juxtaposed with Doctor and Dr Ingram having a similar discussion. As in The Mind of Evil, he’s in a business suit and tie, puffing a cigar, and enjoying posing as another professor (his preferred disguise – see also Keller and Yana). He’s also taken to giving acting notes to his puppets: ‘I’ve never seen a more inept performance,’ he snaps at John Wyse. Which is unfair, given he’s also seen Wanda Moore’s.
I’m not hating The Time Monster, but it requires more allowances than almost any other Doctor Who story to date. The acting of some of the guest cast implies they think this is all a bit beneath them and want to nod to the audience that they’re in on the jokes. The script is garbling up various Pertwee era clichés of race memories, myths based on truth and crystal mysticism. So far this has none of the style of The Sea Devils, the scale of The Mind of Evil, or the atmosphere of The Dæmons.
Next episode: The Time Monster – Episode Three