In premise, this is an exceptional story, especially for 1965. Not only is it the first 'pseudo-historical', it finally pushes "Doctor Who" into doing more than using the TARDIS just to get everybody to a funky planet where they get scared out of their wits by some plastic (or invisible!) monster, and acknowledges that there are others like the Doctor, but who aren't as moral as he is.
The Monk is a delightful character (though I disagree he is an early incarnation of the Master. The Monk clearly has a history of playing with history on a small scale for his own personal gain, the Master has a penchant for seizing power and control whereever and whenever he can.) and well played by Peter Butterworth. Admittedly, it's great fun to watch him manipulate everybody he deals with.
The only problem is that it's slowly paced. The big revelation doesn't come until the end of episode 3. Which is fine, except we're only given small hints at meddling throughout the prior ~65 minutes and everything else happens at a leisurely pace. For first time viewers in 1965, this story is superlative and makes a top-10 story. For repeated viewings or in our supposedly enlightened 21st century, the pace is somewhat slowed. It's still worthy of the top 10 designation, the ideas presented more than make up for the slowness of the plot.
Edith the monk also gets assaulted and almost raped by a Viking. For a 1965 childrens' show, this is strong stuff. (as was the attempted rape of Barbara in 1964's "The Keys of Marinus".)
A pity the source material isn't that good, but that's the BBC's fault for junking the story in the first place. At least it exists and was returned to them so we can all enjoy it.
Definitely worth the rent, at the very least.
However, a monk sees the TARDIS land and watches with intense curiosity. "I wonder..." he says pensively. He also does something extraordinary. He raises the left sleeve of his robe, and stares in bewilderment at his bare wrist. Hmmm...
The Doctor's curiosity is piqued by something and to that end, he goes to the monastery, only to find some things that don't belong there, like a grammophone record, for one. However, he delightfully enjoys the mead offered him by Edith, which he drinks from a horn.
This is Steven's maiden voyage in the TARDIS, and he is skeptical that he has entered a time machine. His question to the Doctor on some equipment on a ship leads to this reply by the Doctor: "That is the dematerialization control. And that over yonder is the horizontal hold. Up there is the scanner, those are the doors, that is a chair with a panda on it. Sheer poetry, dear boy. Now please stop bothering me." Vicki laughs in response to Steven's bewilderment. On finding a Viking helmet, Steven's skepticism is answered by the Doctor's flippant quip: "What do you think it is, a space helmet for a cow?"
This story not only tells the audience that the Doctor's TARDIS is not unique, but also introduces the concept that history can be changed, unlike previous straight historical tales such as Marco Polo, The Aztecs, and The Reign Of Terror. The regulars turn out well, with William Hartnell (the Doctor) his usual crotchety but curious self, eliciting his high-pitched "hmmphs!" and giggles. Peter Butterworth (the Monk) also comes out good in his comic portrayal. With Jacqueline Hill (Barbara) and William Russell (Ian) having left the series in the previous story, it falls upon Maureen O'Brien (Vicki) to be senior companion, and she comes out well, with Peter Purves (Steven) showing some resourcefulness in briefly outwitting the Monk in Episode 3.
Not a bad historical story, even if the fight scenes aren't overly dramatic.
It is the first full episode to feature companion Steven Taylor. Read more