I have only the haziest memories of first catching glimpse of this serial – my dad was watching it on UK Gold, who very helpfully liked to insert ad breaks into the middle of 25 minute episodes. Being quite young I was greatly amused by the sight of what I thought then was a filing cabinet (now know was a massive computer) materialising into the middle of what I took to be Ancient Greece. Later researches of course revealed that the serial was none other than The Time Monster and I felt suitably intrigued.
So when the Myths and Legends DVD boxset finally came down in price I was rather glad to have the opportunity to watch it – indeed of the three serials, I was hoping it would be the best. As evidenced by the fact we have not yet reached Underworld or The Horns of Nimon I was distinctly mistaken in my assumption.
I observed in my Survival review that it really didn’t merit the mantle of worst Master story. I stand by that purely in terms of the storyline – The Time Monster is almost laughable, and it was a travesty to pull an actor of such excellence as Roger Delgado to deliver such a lacklustre story. As with quite a few Pertwee six-part stories (The Sea Devils springs to mind as an obvious example) they seem to follow an odd narrative style of setting the final two episodes with different cast or setting – in this case, moving from a science laboratory in the other place (otherwise known as ‘Cambridge University’ to non-Oxonians) to Atlantis. Yes, as if blowing up Atlantis once in The Underwater Menace was not quite enough, the producers decide to finish it off properly!
At the end of the day, you do have to suspend disbelief and laugh at how silly it is – the Master exhibiting his strange vampire-like inability to choose an alias that isn’t based on his own name (Professor Thascalos – this being the Greek for ‘Master’); Sergeant Benton turned into a child, then reappearing fully-grown in a nappy; the dubious sets and acting of the scientists and Atlanteans alike; the rather unfortunate acronym of T.O.M.T.I.T. for the Transmission of Matter Through Interstitial Time (one imagines Mary Whitehouse choking on her tea when she heard that one) … well I guess all one can do is laugh. It’s certainly not possible to take the serial seriously!
Despite that, I did quite enjoy aspects of the serial. It’s not vintage Pertwee, or anywhere near his best material, but Pertwee and Delgado are such excellent actors that you can almost forgive the farcical material they are asked to work with. As with many of the serials I have ranked so far, one is more disappointed because of prior expectations, and the uneasy sense that with a bit effort it could have been so much better …