Given that there was such a dearth of new Jon Pertwee releases over the last couple years, the classic Doctor Who DVD range has more than made up for the oversight this year. Between the outstanding “Dalek War” box set and the middling “Peladon” stories, it’s been quite the ride for fans of the Third Doctor (although there are numerous great Pertwee tales that have yet to make it to the silver platter). Somewhere in between the aforementioned concepts resides the final story of Season Nine, “The Time Monster,” which, for a series that so heavily relies on both time travel and monsters, is either a brilliant title or a stupid one.
The Master (Roger Delgado) is using the alias Professor Thascalos at the Newton Research Unit at Cambridge University. He’s experimenting with time via an ornate crystal and a machine called TOM-TIT (alright, have you got the giggles out of your system?). TOM-TIT stands for Transmission of Matter through Interstitial Time, which is more impressive than the acronym. What is Interstitial Time you ask? It’s the bit that comes between “now” and “now,” or so the story explains. Somewhere in this hazy netherworld exists creatures called Chronovores – time eaters, an idea which was years later explored by Paul Cornell in the new series episode “Father’s Day.” Apparently, the winged, starkly white Chronos is the strongest of them all, but what does any of this have to do with Atlantis? Quite a bit, or so it seems, since the last two episodes of this six-parter take place in the doomed, mythical city.
There’s an awful lot going on in “The Time Monster” (probably too much) and the entire Atlantean subplot should’ve been scrapped altogether, but then there wouldn’t have been enough story to fill all six installments. Regardless, take the mythical stuff out of the equation, and you end up with one of the series’ more complex meditations on time. Each episode offers up some new zinger or angle through which the ideas are explored. Granted, some of it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and the ride isn’t altogether cohesive, but it’s a ride nonetheless. The team of regulars seems to be having quite a bit of fun at this stage of the Pertwee game – sometimes maybe even too much, as this story has a few unnecessary comedic flourishes, and yet there’s nothing that ever really damages the overall integrity (such as it is) of the goings-on.
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