Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Spoo, MiniSpoo, MisterMother and Photobug. We're starting the last story of season two this week, so, without further ado, let's get to the summary!
Episode summary: First aired 3 July 1965. In the TARDIS, Vicki and the Doctor discuss how much they will miss Ian and Barbara. The Doctor again makes sure Vicki does not want to go home, but she replies that she has nothing to go home to. Suddenly, they hear a noise coming from behind the closed doors to the living quarters. Believing it could only be a Dalek who had snuck onto the ship, the Doctor and Vicki ready themselves as best they can to fight it. Suddenly the doors open, and out falls...Steven Taylor, the astronaut who they'd believed died on Mechanus!
Waves pound a rocky beach, surrounded by cliffs. Suddenly, the TARDIS materializes on the beach, a short distance from the ocean. The only witness is a monk (in full habit), looking down from one of the cliffs. Instead of looking surprised by the ship's appearance, he looks curious. "I wonder," he murmurs, "Oh, I wonder..."
Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor and Vicki are helping Steven recover. He is impressed by the ship, which he stumbled into back on the planet, but he doesn't actually remember much about it. As the Doctor moves off to check the controls, Vicki tries to explain about the TARDIS, it's relative size and the fact that it is a time machine. But Steven believes none of this; he's willing to grant that it looks like a very advanced ship, but a time machine? That's impossible, he says. The Doctor is merely amused; Steven will find out the truth soon enough! Now, he says, Vicki should find some clothes for Steven, who should clean himself up, and then they'll leave. It looks like they've landed on Earth!
In front of a hut in the woods beyond the cliffs, a woman, Edith, tends a pot over an open fire, A young, bearded man, Eldred, approaches. He asks Edith if her husband, Wulnoth, is there. The older man emerges from the hut and Eldred tells him that something has appeared on the beach--a box, perhaps fallen off a ship. The two men go off to the beach to investigate.
Outside the TARDIS, the Doctor has found what appears to be a rusty viking helmet. But the rust is recent, he says, and suggests that they might have landed in tenth or eleventh century England. Steven continues to be sceptical, even when confronted with the horned viking helmet. "What do you think it is," retorts the Doctor, "A space helmet for a cow?" Steven points out that if the TARDIS is a time machine--and he admits that the ship is pretty amazing--shouldn't its instruments tell the Doctor where and when they are? The Doctor says something about having a technical hitch at the moment and wanders away. Vicki explains to Steven that they never know where they'll land! Steven then asks the Doctor why the ship looks like a "Police Telephone Box." The Doctor tells him that its outer appearance will change to blend in with their surroundings. Vicki quickly explains that there's another technical hitch which the Doctor will fix someday! Steven remains dubious. They return to the TARDIS. Nearby, the monk crouches, hidden behind a rock and listens. The Doctor suggests that he walk further down the beach and look for an easier way up. Steven and Vicki should wait by the ship and then meet him (as they can climb) when he appears at the top. He strides off and Steven immediately suggests they just climb up instead of waiting. Vicki isn't sure; shouldn't they wait for the Doctor? But Steven has his way and they go off towards the cliffs. After they leave, the monk emerges from hiding and walks up to the ship. He pushes against the doors, which are locked, and then leans his head against the ship and listens. He smiles and nods, as if a suspicion has been confirmed, then pushes back the arm of his habit as if to check something on his wrist. But it is bare--and he looks around in panic!
It is getting dark as the Doctor approaches Wulnoth and Edith's settlement. He enters the hut. Finding it empty, he begins to examine the possessions scattered around, possibly looking for clues as to precisely where and when he has landed. Chuckling, he makes he way out of the hut--only to be stopped by someone who holds a stout staff against his throat...
The monk approaches a group of mostly decrepit buildings--an old monastery. He walks up to a door, removes a key from his habit and lets himself in. Inside, the walls are draped with ivy; it is obvious that these buildings had not been used in some time. The door closes behind the monk. In a few moments, a light clicks on suddenly--far too suddenly for candle or firelight--in one of the windows and the sound of chanting monks is heard. But inside, the corridors still look completely deserted.
From the top of the cliffs, Eldred and Wulnoth look down on the pounding surf. The tide has gone in and the "box" is either trapped underneath or--as they believe--washed back out to sea or crushed against the rocks.
Back at the hut, Edith pours some mead into a drinking horn for the Doctor. Hearing the monks chanting (and thinking it sounds a bit too loud and clear, perhaps), the Doctor asks if the monastery is nearby. Yes, says the woman, just at the top of the hill. She apologizes for her rough welcome, but a woman must be cautious out here. Travellers, though, are always welcome. She suggests he stay the night and rejoin his friends in the morning. The Doctor probes her for information by mentioning the vikings. There have been no raids this year, Edith tells him, but there was a battle last year nearby. Hmm, thinks the Doctor, and he mentions that the king must have helped. But Edith scoffs. Harold Godwinson offers no help to them! By some more careful questioning, the Doctor discovers that Edward the Confessor had been laid to rest that past January. He realizes he has landed in the year 1066--in summer, if he can judge by the leaves. Edith confirms that they are indeed in Northumbria and then goes inside to prepare things before Wulnoth returns. The Doctor muses to himself...if this is summer 1066, a viking invasion is coming! King Harold will fight Hardrada and win, then march south to defeat by William the Conqueror! As he muses, the monks' chanting continues to be heard...but then slows down, like a slowed recording, before speeding back up again. Shocked and intrigued, the Doctor again asks Edith where the monastery is. He apologizes for leaving and then makes his way towards the monastery. Edith has no idea what to make of this stranger...
Steven and Vicki are making their way through the forest. Suddenly, Vicki hears someone coming and insists that they hide and watch to see who comes. Steven, still very sceptical, wonders why they can't just talk to whoever it is, but Vicki insists. They hide and, a few moments later, a hunter (carrying a rabbit) appears. He stops and sees something, bends down and picks it up. Thinking it might be something Vicki dropped, Steven breaks away from her and walks into the clearing. The hunter, scared, starts to run, but he and Steven fight. The hunter punches Steven in the gut and runs. Vicki runs up and Steven holds up the object the hunter had found--a wristwatch! "You still say this is tenth century England?" he asks.
The light in the window is still shining and the monks are still chanting as the Doctor approaches the monastery. He approaches the door and tries it, discovering it locked. He backs off to think a moment. On the other side of the door, a hand reaches out and unlocks it...the Doctor is surprised to see the door open by itself. He cautiously enters and immediately looks for who opened it...but the corridor is empty. Outside, the light goes out, although the chanting continues...the Doctor walks through deserted, ruined corridors and, following the sound of the chanting, he walks through a doorway. In the next room he finds...an old phonograph playing a record of chanting monks! Chuckling to himself, he lifts the needle. 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....
R: Yes, yes. The night's not the only thing that's balmy.
H: I'll start by saying that this is one of my favorites stories. And those of you who know me well, probably know why.
K: You are the Historian.
H: The medieval English Historian, in fact.
M: Mead from a drinking horn even
H: Well, their portrayal of the Saxons wasn't spot on. And the horns on the Viking helmet were not historical. But it lead to a great joke "What do you think this is, a space helmet for a cow?"
M: It's not accurate, but the horns are iconic. Everyone recognizes it for a viking helmet.
R: I thought it was nicely written and very well acted. With the exception of Steven's fainting bit, which always seems ridiculous. The jokes were funny, the presentation was mysterious.
M: Walking into the monastery with everything going on, and it was "yes, this is the stuff!"
P: I thought the sound was excellent. Very well done.
H: I agree.
P: When the sound sucks you notice, when it's good you don't. But in this case it was great.
M: I just want to say that I thought this was really fun and I can't wait until the next episode.
K: Well, you're going have to wait... ;)
H: Since Schmallturm isn't here to point it out, I wanted to make sure we mention that when the Doctor enters the hunt, he immediately looks for stuff he can steal. Although, admittedly we could just say he was looking at things to try and figure out when and where he is....nahhh.
M: Is this the first time we've seen this sort of trope, where he goes to an historical time and notices something isn't right?
K: Like every other episode first season.
M: But, it's an archetype that the Doctor lands in a village, and something shouldn't be there.
R: For most of the first season it was the Doctor and his friends being the thing that was out of place. Oh crap, we're going to give the cave men fire. Oh crap, we're stop the French Revolution too soon. Oh crap, I don't think Marco Polo should be allowed to fly.
H: The reason this was so shocking with this story, is that it plays with the viewers expectations. This is the first story of a type that came to be called "pseudo-historicals". Initially you're expecting a straight historical. Then you see the watch..
P: I assumed the watch was the Doc's.
M: It seemed likely that something was going on with the Monk, as he seemed to have a sort of air of what was going on. It certainly wasn't the usual reaction of what you see when someone sees the TARDIS.
P: I didn't pick that up. I thought maybe he had vowed silence or something like that.
K: But the monk looked for his watch on his arm.
H: But we didn't know what he was looking for. Once the Saxon has the watch then you might be able to put two and two together.
K: Spoo, you haven't said anything yet...
S: This was incredible. The production values overall...night and day. Wasn't like anything we've seen so far. The acting, the writing, the sound, the pace. It's nothing like anything we've seen so far.
H: Well, there's an interesting point. This story was written by Dennis Spooner, who had been the story editor for most of this season. In fact, this is the first story after he left the job. It's like when David Whitaker left that job and then wrote the next story. Spooner had worked with the characters for nearly a year, doctoring scripts and helping create and shape characters like Vicki and Steven. He knows them inside and out, thus we get the great characterization, real sounding dialogue, banter, jokes...
S: Setting a precedent for the series known as spoonerisms.
M: It was a scood gripped from Spooner.
*groans from the peanut gallary*
S: Anyway, the production values were awesome. It felt like a whole new series.
M: Like a television show that would last for years and years.
S: And they got a new kind of companion. Crazy compulsive guy. Vicki's trying to hold him back. Quite rightly, as evidenced by the... SAXON VIOLENCE!
P: (exasperated) Sadly, I just got that joke.
K: And you're normally the king of the puns
H: Well, Photobug is on vacation.
S: This is the beginning of the third season, right?
H: No, this story is the end of the second.
S: Wow, It felt like the beginning of a season, or even a new serious. It had a fantastic "we had to catch you up, pace and everything," like we were seeing a new series.
P: And we saw some new parts of the TARDIS too.
S: The chair with the Panda in it!
H: One of the best lines ever. "That's the horizontal hold, that's the scanner, those are the doors, that's a chair with a Panda in it, and now if you don't mind I'm quite busy." But that panda mascot brings up a question: The panda mascot is named "HiFi", and who from the future (where Steven is from) is going to know what HiFi is?
S: And a man from the future who's going to have a skipping record player.
P: I thought at first that (the slowing and speeding monk chanting) was the soundtrack.
M: The ones who don't have perfect pitch are the ones who make vows of silence.
P: So, about the episode...
S: Yeah, Steve is..
S: Yes. He's quite the loose cannon.
P: I have a problem with the Doctor telling them to stay by the TARDIS, but he had the key, so they are SOL if something bad happened. And second of all, we don't know how high the tide was going to go. They might have lost the TARDIS.
H: I'm pretty sure there have been episodes where the TARDIS wasn't accessible for much of the story.
M: Marco Polo.
K: Dalek Invasion of Earth.
M: Keys of Marinus.
H: But the idea of it being potentially lost... there are others as well.
K: So it's a Doctor Who trope, is what we're saying.
H: Yes, definitely.
K: There was a line from Vicki "We're going to miss them, Doctor" and he says "Who". I love that.
H: They do that a lot. Common joke where you hear "Doctor.. Who" a lot. He's either being absent minded or is missing them and doesn't want to think about it.
K: Or the writers just wanted to get in the line "Doctor Who"
S: How many times have we seen the Doctor puzzle out when he is at this point? Here he's delighted when he figures it out.
H: Barbara figures it out in the Aztecs. It takes them a while in the Reign of Terror...
S: This seems unusual. It seems like more detective work that other times. Doesn't he usually just look at the console and know?
H: Not yet in Doctor Who. I believe the console actually displaying the right date and time comes much later.
P: So at one point Vicki is really exerting herself onto Steven and is like "Do what I say" and then follows him. I don't know if it has to do with the portrayal of women in the 60's or her age or what?
R: He grabbed her by the wrist and pulled.
S: And she's not a natural leader.
H: Tee character is supposed to be 15 or 16. And the actress, when she left the show for years and years she wouldn't talk about it. She felt that being the Doctor Who girl was ultimately demeaning. They established her as a strong character and then did nothing with her. I never thought she became as much here as a "Stand here and scream" as Susan and other future female companions. But I can see where it would be an issue.
P: It certainly bothers me. I totally noticed.
H: It was certainly a continuous issue in Doctor Who for a very long time. Heck, he had to rescue Leela at one point. It does remind me that there's a point where she's playing the young girl when the Doctor sits in the chair and she kneels down next to it in the granddaughterly way.
P: There was another chair too.
H: It's interesting that she also did that with Steven. In this story that there's a clear age difference that's being played out and the teenager is trying to be the responsible one and the alleged adult--Steven's got to be in his 20s--is the impetuous one.
P: Yeah, the stuffed panda was pretty ridiculous--maybe they wanted us to think he had a mental age of 5!
H: No, it made sense. Fighter pilots did have mascots like stuffed animals, which they often got very attached to.
R: But basically that's what Steven could salvage. In a city where all you have to talk to is giant D20s, the Panda is a good thing.
P: There's a part where the Doctor is sitting with the woman, who has no name, which I guess in the 10th Century sure. The Doctor is talking to her, and then she goes away, and then he's talking aloud to basically explain things to the viewers. He doesn't do that so much today.
R: Oh, yes, the Doctor always talks to himself.
P: But you could break this episode into pieces. And I think that was a well done piece. But the scene where the Doctor tries to open the door and then it opens. I think he should have figured it out.
H: That it was a trap?
H: Oh, he knew it was a trap.
M: He was looking around like he expected someone to be there.
R: The Doctor jumps into danger all the time.
H: Lead him into a trap and he jumps in.
P: When he lifted the needle though, he gave himself away to whoever was actually there.
R: Smart, but not wise. "I have uncovered your ploy! Come here, so that I may shame you!"
P: If he really wanted to do that, he would have broken the record player.
H: No, he's more elegant than that.
K: I don't think he would have broken it, because he doesn't know what it's being used for.
P: He still manipulated it.
M: He was there trying to find out what was going on.
H: Hey, MS, Did you like it?
H: Anything in particular?
H: Did you like the Monk?
H: Was he scary?
S: I think that's about all he has to say this week.
H: As you all know, I love this story.
S: You love all the stories.
H: Yeah, but this has always been a particular favorite.
R: Let's see.. I really like the whole joke "I'm so sorry Doc... Tor!". And when the monk comes out and looks ominous and I'm like "Wow, suddenly we're in The Seventh Seal." And finally when he walked into the monastery and saw the victrola and the cage came down and I thought "yeah, perfect 'old guy' trap."
P: And the title "The Watcher" and they show Vicki watching the clock.
R: That's the whole episode, Vicki watching the clock.
P: And finding the watch.
H: I thought it was the monk watching from the cliff, but those are interesting observations too.
H: My silly comment was when Steven holds up the watch and is like "So, 10th century" and I muttered, "No, 11th Century!"
K: But why 1066? Dundundun!
H: I guess we'll find out next week!
*everyone talks about how they're looking forward to that!*
And that's it for this week! I'm really thrilled that it looks like the Project team are enjoying this story as much as I did!
One note: It's almost the end of the season! What does that mean? Well, for now, it means it's almost survey time! Yes, just like last year, I'm going to write a post (should go up sometime this week) where I ask for reader comments. What do you like, what don't you like, etc. Look for it soon! And we'll be back next week for our next exciting episode! Until then, I remain
NEXT WEEK: "THE MEDDLING MONK"