After four weeks of running on the spot and a week introducing the power politics of Atlantis the final episode wraps everything up slightly too expeditiously to be satisfying. Hippias gets summarily dispatched, and the Doctor plays matador with the late Dave Prowse’s minotaur. Having cleverly seduced her last week, the Master stupidly treats the Queen with high-handed arrogance, over-stepping the mark and bringing their relationship crashing down minutes before Atlantis does the same. This is all much too brief a turn of events to be convincing, and a waste of Ingrid Pitt, who we last see, rather wonderfully, using a sword to free the Doctor as her world crumbles around her.
Then it’s back to the two TARDISes for Chekov’s Time Ram and a trip to the rainbow realm of Kronos, now incarnated as a giant sparkly woman rather than a destructive pigeon man. Kronos sorts it all out, and then everyone goes back in time to see Benton in the nude. And that’s the point of six weeks of story.
The only other bit of the episode that anyone remembers is the ‘daisiest daisy’ scene, which is perhaps the quintessential Pertwee “moment of charm” largely because it’s actually charming, and says something about the Doctor’s attitude of discovery and wonder at life in contrast to the Master’s dreams of ‘dominion over all time and all space’. It gives Pertwee and Manning something to play with. Later, Manning gets to re-enact her self-sacrifice at the end of The Dæmons, and she and the Doctor share a moment of reflection in the TARDIS: ‘It’s so terrible though, when you think about it. All those people.’ The Doctor’s expression at least implies he’s less delighted at the price of his mercy and the Master’s escape than he was during Season Eight. Delgado also gets a bit of interesting material when he suggests the Master will sincerely miss the Doctor, and is quite pleased when he discovers that he hasn’t been killed after all.
But apart from the three of them and Ingrid Pitt, this is really thin stuff. Part of the problem is the production’s complete inability to credibly articulate the threat Kronos actually poses. The Doctor gets a rather majestic line: ‘The whole of creation is very delicately balanced in cosmic terms. If the Master opens the floodgates of Kronos’ power, all order and all structure will be swept away, and nothing will be left but chaos.’ But this is hard to square with a man in a white cape flapping about on wires as some pillars fall over. As a result, the eponymous monster is bathetic in the extreme.
But the biggest issue is the script is entirely topsy turvy in its focus. We get four episodes of bad comedy that undermine characters we’ve come to know and love, which go nowhere and don’t even do anything interesting with Sloman’s original idea of having UNIT under attack from time-travelling soldiers and weapons. Then we get one episode of quite entertaining melodrama in Atlantis. It should have been the other way round, because there is no story in the 20th Century, it’s all just a hook to get the Doctor involved in the Master’s Atlantis heist.
What’s left is a poorly structured mess of bad dialogue and thin characterisation. Again, I’m left wondering whether Terrance Dicks just didn’t bother script editing this as it was Barry Letts’ pet project. Certainly it’s a lot weaker than anything else that has gone out with Dicks’ name on the credits. Which means Season Nine starts well but in its final half deflates like an old balloon. As a whole, it’s probably mildly preferable to Season Eight, because it’s got more diverse settings and Pertwee is back to playing the likeable, charming character of Season Seven. But The Time Monster is the shabbiest production since The Dominators, and easily the weakest colour serial to date.
Next episode: The Three Doctors