Episode 078 – “The Watcher”

And now we start this, the first of the so-called “pseudo-historicals”. These were stories that took place in a historical setting, often with historical characters, but feature elements of science fiction. In this case…well…you’ll see.

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William Hartnell, pondering his role in the revival of “What’s Opera Doc?”

We open with the Doctor and Vicki discussing the departure of Ian and Barbara, which I rather like. As they talk, there’s a strange noise, and we see that Steven has stowed-away, becoming the first, but by no means last, companion to do so.

We then cut to a cliff side where the titular watcher is, well, watching. Given what we later find out of the character’s origins, one can imagine the level of internal panic he felt upon seeing the TARDIS arrive.

I do like how relaxed the Doctor is at this point. He’s quite comfortable kidding around with Vicki, and even seems very welcoming toward Steven. This is a nice bit of character evolution, given where we started with him.

The “space helmet for a cow” line is hilarious, as always. Of course the vikings didn’t actually wear such things, but perhaps it was a ceremonial helmet that washed ashore.

We spend a few moments watching the watcher (the Monk), creeping about and trying to interact with the TARDIS, then attempting to check the watch he suddenly remembers he isn’t wearing. I like the way the show is fairly subtle about what’s going on here.

The little scene of the Doctor and the Saxon woman is quite lovely. He’s very good at turning on the charm when he really needs to.

So the Doctor then heads off to the local monastery after hearing the chanting of the monks skip a beat or two. Those of us who have seen this story know what to expect, but I can only imagine what a surprise it must have been to the audiences back in the day!

I do rather love the scene toward the end where Steven and Vicki are trying to follow the Doctor and she takes charge. It was nice to see, as was the lovely anachronism that Steven finds, though that isn’t nearly as interesting as what the Doctor finds…

Next time: “The Meddling Monk”

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