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Doctor Who: The Time Meddler (1965) Review and Blu-ray Preview [BFI Event]

The Time Meddler served as the finale of Doctor Who‘s second season way back in the Summer of 1965, and whilst it’s nowhere close to the kind of epic, explosive season finales we’re now become used to in this day and age, it certainly packed in a shock or two when it first aired. Now beautifully restored and accompanied by a host of new extra features as part of BBC Studios’ upcoming Doctor Who: The Collection – Season Blu-ray boxset, fans can enjoy this popular serial all over again or for the first time in stunning High-Definition.

With a witty and entertaining script by Dennis Spooner and wonderfully paced direction from the legendary Douglas Camfield, The Time Meddler wastes little time in building up the mystery as to who the eponymous Time Meddler is. The First Doctor (William Hartnell), with companions Steven (Peter Purves) and Vicki (Maureen O’Brien) in tow, arrives in 1066 only to discover strange objects out of place in the time period. These anachronistic discoveries lead them to a mysterious Monk (Peter Butterworth), who seems to know both the future and the Doctor all too well.

The resulting serial, whilst slow by today’s standards, is immensely fun, enlivened considerably by the presence of Peter Butterworth‘s mischievous yet charming Monk. William Hartnell is on fine form throughout as well, and especially comes alive in his numerous sparring scenes with Butterworth, who proves a worthy foe for the show’s star on every level. The historical elements are up to the solid standard of this era in terms of depiction, whilst the various revelations about the Monk’s true identity and the subsequent teasing out of the show’s wider mythology are both clever and intriguing, with the result being one of the show’s all-time best cliffhangers at the end of Episode 3.

The episodes sparkle in their new restoration, beautifully cleaned up and looking better than ever on the BFI’s big screen. Even more so, the restoration team have done a cracking job on restoring the episodes to their former glory, including painstakingly recreating 12 missing seconds of shots from Episode 4, which were lost forever as a result of New Zealand censorship (the NZ print being the only remaining copy of Episode 4, found in butchered form in Nigeria some years back). The new shots have been seamlessly inserted into the episode and painstakingly filmed and degraded to match the existing picture – proof once again that the team behind these new Blu-rays go above and beyond to give these beloved stories the best possible treatment on these boxsets.

Fans in attendance at the BFI were also treated to a special preview of the boxset’s numerous new bonus features, including two delightful In Conversation interviews featuring Matthew Sweet speaking to series stalwarts William Russell (Ian) and Maureen O’Brien (Vicki). There were also clips from the new Doctor Who and the Collectors documentary, which sees Journalist Emily Cook speaking to collectors and historians about 1960’s Doctor Who merchandise, and the intriguing Looking For David, a moving film from Toby Hadoke and Chris Chapman that sets out to explore the mysterious life of writer/story editor David Whitaker. Take it from us as gospel – these glimpses of the marvellous new extras are certainly enough to warrant an instant pre-order of the new boxset if you haven’t already done so.

The event was rounded off with some excellent Q&A sessions, including the team behind the recreation of Episode 4’s missing 12 seconds, documentary presenter Toby Hadoke, Tyler Butterworth (son of guest star Peter Butterworth), who shared delightful stories about his father, and star Peter Purves, who was on top form as ever with insightful and candid memories of his time on Doctor Who.

The Time Meddler is early 60’s Doctor Who at its most inventive, free-wheeling and fun. Delightful from start to finish, it delivers on the promise of its premise with aplomb, and the end result is an inventive tale that unknowingly paved the way for Doctor Who‘s enduring future. A must-buy in its own right, it’s inclusion on the upcoming Season 2 boxset will certainly thrill and delight fans all over again. As the Doctor himself puts it in Episode 1: “Sheer poetry, dear boy!”

Pre-order Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 2 from Amazon and HMV in the UK, from Sanity and JB in Australia and Amazon in the US.

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