Friday, August 20, 2010

"The Meddling Monk"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo and MiniSpoo (smaller group this week!), bringing you this second episode in the last story of the second season of Doctor Who. Before moving on, I'll ask you all to do us a favor and pay special attention to the request at the end of this post. Thanks! Now, let's get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 10 July 1965. Chuckling to himself, the Doctor lifts the needle on the phonograph. The chanting stops and he continues to laugh. But, as he turns to leave the doorway, a barred wooden gate drops from the ceiling, blocking off the doorway and trapping him inside! The monk emerges from the darkness, laughing at his new prisoner....

The next morning, the Monk uses a toaster and camp stove to prepare breakfast for his "guest." Humming to himself as he walks the deserted and decaying corridors of the monastery, the Monk reaches a door. He opens a small hatch in the door and looks in. Smiling, he unlocks the door and slides the breakfast tray in, then locks the door again. He yells through the hatch that breakfast is ready....and gets the tea from the cup he'd prepared thrown back in his face as the Doctor's voice replies that he'll "come out when he's ready."

In the forest, Wulnoth leads a band of villagers. Peering through some branches, he and Eldred see Vicki, wrapped in her cloak asleep. The villagers begin to circle the clearing. Vicki, hearing something, awakes with a start, but sees nothing...until Steven comes out of the forest, bearing what breakfast he could find. ("Blackberries...or blackberries!") The two decide to head back to the TARDIS. When Vicki wonders what time it is, Steven brandishes the watch and, again, challenges the idea that they're in the tenth century. [They're not--they're in the eleventh century! --The Historian] Vicki wonders if it might be the Doctor's, but Steven reminds her that she had said he hadn't had a wristwatch. Just then, they hear a branch breaking...and the Saxons are upon them! Overpowering the two, Wulnoth orders them taken back to the village.

The Monk exits the monastery. He begins to climb a small hillock, removing something from around his neck...when he hears someone coming. He immediately climbs back down, sits and takes out a cloth scroll. Edith and another woman arrive, carrying a basket of food which they offer to the Monk, who tells them that he has been meditating over a text. When they apologize for the poorness of their offering, he ungraciously suggests that he must make sacrifices and accept it anyway, which baffles them. He then apologizes, saying he needs solitude this day for contemplation. They leave and he climbs the hillock again, taking out the object hidden under his robe. It is a small pair of binoculars and he trains them out over the ocean. Apparently not seeing what he's looking for, he climbs down, disappointed.

Inside the monastery, the Doctor's voice is heard behind the locked door. He demands to be let out immediately!

The Monk arrives at the cliffs, overlooking the sea. He attempts to take a pinch of snuff from a modern looking tin, but it blows away in the wind. Exasperated, he pulls up his hood and manages to shelter his hands enough to sniff a pinch. He looks out to sea and starts, then grabs his binoculars and looks again. A Viking longship is sailing off the coast! The Monk is clearly delighted; this is what he has been waiting for!

Vicki, Steven and the Saxons arrive at the village. Steven's finally convinced they're back in time--it's all just too elaborate to be some kind of fancy dress or theme park. Meanwhile, Eldred and Wulnoth are discussing what should be done with (or to) the travellers. Wulnoth is for letting them go, but Eldred believes that Vicki and Steven are not as innocent as they appear. He accuses them of being spies for the Vikings! The discussion between the two men begins to escalate and Eldred makes for the prisoners with a knife. Steven grabs a stick and Wulnoth draws a dagger...and Edith emerges from the hut and stops them. She asks Steven and Vicki if they are friends with a man with long white hair, wearing clothes like theirs. She tells Wulnoth that the old man had been there last night, but left. He, too, had said he was a traveller. Eldred says that he must have been lying. Wulnoth, however, decides to trust them. He tells Edith to give Vicki food for their journey and lets them go. Edith tells Vicki that the Doctor went to the monastery and offers to take them there, an offer Vicki quickly turns down. Vicki and Steven leave with Wulnoth and Edith's good will...and the Saxons go off to work in the fields.

The Monk arrives back at the monastery, unlocking the door and entering.

At the cliffs, two grappling hooks find purchase and men climb up over the cliff. They are a group of Vikings from the longship! The group splits in two, their mission to scout the countryside, finding out strengths and how well provisions can be taken when King Harald's force lands. They must be secret, though, and if found, they must fight and try to make sure no one knows of their coming. Three Vikings, Sven, Ulf and Gunnar, are sent south, towards the area of the village.

Vicki and Steven arrive at the monastery. Steven notes how overgrown and ruined it looks. The Monk greets them and attempts to lead them away from questioning him. In response to Steven's asking after their "friend," he says the monastery has not had any visitors for some time. Vicki asks if any of the other monks might have seen someone and it takes a moment for the Monk to realize that, yes, there should be others. He offers to go and ask and shuts the door on the travellers. Steven, suspicious, tells Vicki he wants to try something and she should follow his lead--and keep quiet. Unknown to the other two, the Monk has had his ear up to the closed door and has heard the conversation. He opens the door again, apologizing for the delay, and tells them that no monk has seen anyone. Steven asks if the Monk will keep an eye out and then asks if the Monk remembers their friend's description. Yes, the Monk answers, a man with flowing white hair in a cloak and checked trousers. He then takes his leave. Vicki realizes--they'd never given the Monk a description of the Doctor! Exactly, says Steven patiently. Vicki, thinking for a moment, wonders if fooling the Monk wasn't too easy. Perhaps he has tricked them into thinking he'd fallen for Steven's trap. Doesn't matter, says Steven. The Doctor's got to be in the monastery and they should break in after nightfall.

Back at the village, it is getting dark. Hearing something, Edith emerges from her hut and grabs a spear. Cautiously, she moves into the clearing...where she is grabbed by Gunnar as the Vikings emerge! They drag her off towards the hut...

At the monastery, Steven and Vicki look to see the best place to try to break in...

Back at the village, Wulnoth arrives home to see everything in chaos, pots and other implements thrown everywhere. He calls for Edith, clearly terrified for her, and discovers her lying catatonic on the floor of their hut, eyes open and staring at nothing. Eldred enters and Wulnoth tells him to gather the men of the village. He turns back to his wife.

The three Vikings wander off through the wood, eating and drinking what they had stolen from the village. Though they look around them, they don't seem to be disguising their trail at all.

Back at the hut, Wulnoth and the other women we'd seen earlier try to help Edith as best they can. She is beginning to come round, but is in a very bad state. Wulnoth gently asks her who did this and she murmurs that it was Vikings. Eldred enters to tell the headman that the village men are ready and Wulnoth rises, in anger. The men head off, following the obvious trail.

In the woods, the Vikings are, slightly drunkenly, making their way when the Saxons leap out at them! A fight ensues where Gunnar is killed, along with most of the Saxons. Wulnoth is unhurt, but Eldred has been cut badly. Wulnoth decides to take him to the monastery for help.

Inside the monastery, the Monk walks down a hall with a knowing smile on his face. When he is out of sight, Steven's head appears in an open window and he and Vicki climb in. Each says to the other, "Follow me!" and they go in different directions. With a stifled expostulation, Steven returns and follows Vicki. Meanwhile, in the alcove, the Monk sets the phonograph going again and makes sure that his trap is reset. With a smile, he retreats to behind a pillar and waits, but not for long. Steven and Vicki, following the voices, come towards the alcove and enter. The Monk is about to emerge and trip the trap...when he hears a banging knock at the monastery door. Frowning, he goes to see who it might be. Outside, Wulnoth pounds on the door. Eldred is looking even worse. Meanwhile, Steven and Vicki find the phonograph and are surprised, not to say baffled. Rather than picking the needle up, Vicki turns the volume down slightly and they leave to continue their search. Reaching a closed door, they open the hatch and peer in. It looks like they have found the Doctor! Steven takes out a penknife and goes to work on the lock as Vicki looks around anxiously. At the door, the Monk reluctantly allows Wulnoth to bring Eldred in...only to discover that the headman has already done so while the Monk had been talking. Steven finishes picking the lock and he and Vicki enter the cell. But the Doctor, apparently lying on a bed and covered with his cloak, does not answer Vicki's call. She pulls the cloak back to reveal only a piled up bunch of furs! The Doctor has gone....


Transcript/Paraphrase time!

H: Historian
K: Ketina
R: Ronelyn
Sc: Schmallturm
S: Spoo
MS: MiniSpoo

K: And once more, I must say, it's better when William Hartnell is there.
H: I disagree completely, in this case. I thought this episode was strong on it's own.
R: I thought the off camera interaction with Hartnell was pretty funny.
H: Obviously, the Doctor's lines were pre-recorded.
R: I thought the Monk did some good entertaining quiet little slapstick.
H: Peter Butterworth, the actor who played the monk was a well known comic actor.
R: "Durruprupdoodoo" *mimicing the monk's singing when he brought the breakfast in*
H: THe whole breakfast scene was fun.
R: Catching the toast was cute. Sneaking it into the door was ultimately stagey, but throwing the water through the window made up for it.
Sc: So I take it the Monk is a Norwegian patriot from the future who's come back to help Hadrada win at Stamford bridge.
H: I suppose that's a...possible theory. Stay tuned...
R: They have gone with stranger plots before.
S: Ah.. bloody Vikings!
H: This episode also had one of the most disturbing implied scenes ever in Doctor Who.
K: You mean the snuff?
H: NO!
K: Yeah, I know that's not what you mean...
Sc: But the snuff was kind of disturbing too.
S: Yeah, because he lost a good pinch of it in the wind.
Sc: My other thought was that they did not specifically build a Viking longship for this episode.
H: Stock footage!
S: But the costumes were well done. Lots of furs. And a MAGIC HELMET!
H: Sutton Who this ain't. It was a fun helmet. And we can see a difference between how Richard Martin used the stock footage used in The Chase and how Dougie Camfield used it here, how it was integrated so well in this episode.
Sc: It was much better footage.
H: I think it was taken from a BBC costume drama of the Vikings.
SC: I was definitely having Holy Grail flashbacks seeing those peasants. They were just the right level of dirty.
H: How about Steven attempting to be clever. And almost succeeding.
S: That was a nice bit of subterfuge, by THE MONK.
R: (As the Monk) "I wonder if I could retool my 'coot' trap into a teenager trap?" I liked that unlike the Doctor, Vicki didn't give the game away and turn the phonograph machine off.
H: She just turned the volume down. And the monk was distracted anyway.
S: She was in full-on "Velma" mode from Scooby Doo.
R: I loved the scene when Steven and she were like "go this way," go two different ways and then he ends up following her.
Sc: Of course, the history isn't really right, I mean the Saxons are far too poor even by the standards of the time, I think...
H: Yeah, and there's the Viking helmet...
Sc: But it all works!
H: Yeah, this is sort of like mythic history.
Sc: Like this is what regular people would think things would be like.
H: Perhaps they're in the subconscious of the British mind... [This was a joking reference to the haunted house episode of "The Chase," which I don't think Ketina quite got... --H]
S: Are you saying that Shaggy is archetype?
H: Ketina, you don't have to type up all that Scooby Doo stuff.
K: But I love Scooby Doo!
H: Anyway, this episode is just as good as I remember it being.
Sc: Fast paced.
R: And not too many "dur" moments.
K: I got one. The fight choreography was TERRIBLE!
H: Oh yeah, I agree.
S: Yeah, that choreography was...non-existent.
Sc: It was drunk Vikings verses in-bred peasants
S: Guy took an axe to the kidney and then was like "my arm is bleeding heavily!"
H: They should have had axes, not swords and sticks!
Sc: Like I said, they were impoverised even compared to other tiny little villages.
H: A big historical inaccuracy is that the villagers called them "Vikings." They would have been called pirates, or Danes, or maybe just invaders. But, again, this is mythic history.
Sc: It's fun.
S: Oh, one other gaffe. The grappling hook that was used with such mighty force that he could unhook the styrofoam rock.
Sc: I liked the way they used the cliff to justify not actually showing the long ship.
H: Dennis Spooner understood just how much budget they had.
S: The forest shots were well done, especially given how tiny the sets were.
R: I liked that Edith (peasant wife) didn't just sit at home and wait when she heard something moving outside. She picked up a spear and decided to go out and stab something.
K: She might have been better off staying at home.
H: Not necessarily. The Vikings would have just broken inside anyway.
MS: *from the other room - clearly oblivious to the specifics of what we were talking about* Well, I liked it!
H: Was there anything you liked in particular?
MS: Almost everything.
S: Did you miss the Doctor?
H: He wasn't in a whole lot of it this week.
MS: Ah... no.
H: Did you like Vicki and Steven?
MS: Ah... yes.
H: Did you like the Monk?
MS: Ah... no.
H: Well, he was a bad guy.
H: I liked the Monk's little subterfuge when the women showed up, using the excuse of "meditating," And I'd like to point out that he was looking for Viking ships specifically.
Sc: As I said, he must be a Norwegian patriot from the future! That's my theory and I'm sticking to it!
R: Yes, if they conquer England now, they will never win the Eurovision Song Contest!
Sc: Does England ever win that?
K: *blink blink*
H: Anyway.
Sc & S: I think we're done?
H: Anything else?
S: More Billy, please!
H: As for William Hartnell, everyone needs a vacation sometime, and I think he needs a vacation more often than most of the rest of them...He wasn't all that happy at this point...
K: And we get one after the end of this story. :D [More about that in a couple of weeks! --H]


Hello everyone, the Historian here. After the discussion, Ketina and I talked for a bit. I mentioned that the bad part of the "transcript" format is that she's so busy typing, she often doesn't get to say much herself! We both also agreed that there's a big plot point that we kind of skimmed over in the discussion above that deserved a bit more. So I suggested that she write a little thing of her own to be appended here. So, take it away, Ketina!

K: I just have some additional thoughts about Edith, and other general comments.

I think it's very daring of Doctor Who, especially in the 60's, to show the aftermath of Vickings raping poor Edith. When we first see Wulnoth discover her, I had the initial impression that she had been killed. The actress is just lying on the bed, completely motionless with her eyes wide open. The way Wulnoth picks her up, I thought the actress was playing dead with her eyes open, which did seem unusual too me, but not unlikely. Then, later when she actually moves and speaks, I realized what must have happened to her. She was completely tramatized. They could have had her screaming in terror, but I thought this reaction was much more effective and disturbing. And also, given the nature of Doctor Who, more likely to go over the kids heads regarding the specifics - I certainly didn't remember that's what happened to her when I saw the episode when I was younger.

Then the Villager justfiably take off after the Vickings. Which is following by an incomprehensibly TERRIBLE fight sequence. I mean, if that fight scene wasn't the worst in Doctor Who, it should definitely make it near the top of the list of awful Doctor Who fight scenes. It completely ruined the seriousness of what had just happened to Edith, at least for me, destroying any suspension of disbelief that I had.

Adding to the bad - Terrible beard and wig on "confrontational villager", Eldred. I don't know if it was just the bad hair, but I thought that actor was terrible. All big wide eyes and no actual acting. Great scenes with the monk, or Eidth, or Vicky and Steven, complety ruined by the over the top acting of the "in your face" villager. And completely wooden acting for most of Wulnoth scene's too - the only time he seems to emote is when he's comforting Edith after the rap.

Oh, and the Vickings... okay, I already mentioned the terrible fight choreography during the discussion. They were pretty random and scenery chewing as well. Although, with the exception of the mighty helmet, they did have impressive costumes. And the blond guy, Sven I think it was... at least he had a fun terrible wig with the braids and what not. They acted like a bunch of drunken frat guys. And I don't mean they were acting like drunken frat guys, I mean their acting was like that of drunken frat guys.

The good - the monk was excellent. Edith was well done (loved her shoes!). Steven and Vicky continue to be entertaining. And I was intreged by the monk's 20's century stuff. But if he is some kind of time traveller, why doesn't he have any future technology?

Thanks... it tough to get in my comments when I'm typing up everyone else's. :)


The Historian here again with that announcement/request I mentioned way up at the top. Since we're almost to the end of the season, I've once again posted a survey requesting feedback and comments from our readers. So, sometime in the next few weeks, please take a moment and leave a comment or send us an e-mail. (Details in the survey post.) Thanks! Until next week, I remain



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