Aired 20 May – 24 June 1972
In a series of stories filled with quite memorable villains such as the Daleks, Ice Warriors, and Sea Devils, Doctor Who tries to up the menace in ‘The Time Monster,’ a tale that has an incredible amount going for it on paper but, like ‘The Mutants’ before it, fails to live up to its intriguing premise.
The story wastes no action in setting the scene as the Doctor has a nightmarish vision of the Master and links it to Jo’s news of recent volcanic action on the island of Thera. As events shift to the Newton Institute, the Master and the amusingly-acronymed TOM-TIT, Transmission of Matter Through Interstitial Time, experimental machinery take centre stage. This equipment allows for the transportation of matter but with several time-related side effects within its vicinity that include both advancing and reversing the aging process and freezing others in time. Regardless, the equipment brings the Master a powerful crystal from the lost city of Atlantis, giving him control of the powerful time-devouring Kronos as well as the ability to summon others form the past to help him achieve his goals and to protect the Institute from advancing UNIT forces.
Unfortunately, the budget once again cannot meet the ambitious nature of the script and production, and though the exact threat that Kronos presents is never really explored in depth, the costume and effects employed to realize this creature do significantly lessen the credibility of the menace. Sadly, whereas Jon Pertwee was able to elevate the threat in ‘The Daemons’ when the costuming let the production down with superb work in convincingly conveying the true danger at hand, he is unable to do so here. Likewise, the rather stark nature of Atlantis as the story shifts locations does little to exude any sense of imperial or mythical majesty, failing to meet even the present-day Institute in terms of interesting environments.
On a more positive note, the Atlantean cast is generally quite strong, and Ingrid Pitt does particularly wonderful work as the regal Queen Galleia, rising above the bizarre outfits and sometimes cringe-inducing dialogue that plague all of her character’s race. The concept of the Chronovores existing outside of time and space and having a significant influence on Earth’s mythology is also genuinely intriguing, but the strange noncommittal discussion on interstitial time that results is vague at best and the forced presence of the minotaur to belabour their importance in Earth’s history- though enjoyable enough to watch- is one of many examples of excessive padding that fill this six-part story.
As enjoyable as Pertwee’s Third Doctor is during ‘The Time Monster,’ though, it’s Jo Grant that becomes the true hero as she both rescues the Doctor initially and then performs the time ram of the TARDISes to save the universe when the Doctor simply can’t. Roger Delgado is again at his charismatic best as the Master even as he once again gets in over his head and employs motives that don’t necessarily make the most sense, and the usual UNIT cast of the Brigadier, Benton, and Yates are all equally enjoyable with good moments as well. Somehow, though, despite a strong cast and very interesting core ideas, there’s a general sense of weariness about nearly every aspect that creates the strangely disorienting feeling of the overall result being much less than the sum of its parst. The concepts are quite high-brow and very ambitious, but ‘The Time Monster’ as a whole is sadly average at best with nothing fully explored or realized.