Doctor Who
The Master box set
Colony in Space/The Time Monster
Starring: Jon Pertwee
BBC Video
Certificate: PG
Available now

Under the control of the Time Lords, the TARDIS takes the Doctor and Jo to the planet Uxarieus in the far future. There they find human colonists threatened by failing crops, hostile native creatures and the unscrupulous activities of a powerful mining corporation...

The first six-part tale in this Master-themed boxed set marked the Third Doctor's first trip to another planet in the TARDIS (unless you count the parallel Earth visited in Inferno). Colony in Space was the show's first alien setting in almost two years, and also the first such setting to be depicted in colour.

As if to demonstrate how rusty the production team were at realising this type of adventure, the TARDIS door is accompanied by the Dalek door sound effect from the 1960s. And the time machine does not fade in and out of existence as it did previously (and since) but instead appears and disappears instantaneously. Director Michael Briant later claimed that this was because the TARDIS was under Time Lord control - which is pure nonsense, of course, because the Master's TARDIS behaves in exactly the same way during this story!

Malcolm Hulke's plot, slow though it is, makes a nice change from the "alien threat to 20th century Earth" scripts that had preceded it. The concept of a once great alien civilisation now reduced to savagery had never been depicted so fully within the series before, although the idea would be regurgitated several times in later years. The Master's (Roger Delgado) scheme is also rather different this time around - instead of simply wanted to take over or destroy a planet, his stated desire of bringing peace to the galaxy via the threat of a doomsday weapon is almost sympathetic. Despite the alien setting and the absence of UNIT, the production team still finds time for a lengthy shoot-out with old-fashioned weapons in Episode Four!

The production values of Colony in Space are decidedly cheap and cheerful. The TARDIS interior set includes a photographic blow-up wall, as it did during many 1960s episodes. While the series could just about get away with a photographic wall in the days of 405-line monochrome videotape, it definitely can't get away with it in vivid colour (even on a recording converted from the 525-line NTSC format, as this story is). The model Adjudicator ship is also far too small to be even remotely convincing, while the "claws" that the Interplanetary Mining Corporation fit to their robots are laughable.

This is a worthy and sincere story, as one would expect from the moralistic Malcolm Hulke, but rather lacking the fun factor.


UNIT is assigned to monitor the testing of a process called TOMTIT - the Transmission of Matter through Interstitial Time. But the project's brainchild, Professor Thascales, is not all he appears to be. He intends to use TOMTIT to summon Kronos, a dangerous creature that feeds on time itself...

The Time Monster has to rank as Roger Delgado's most camp performance ever as the Master. But what choice does he have when given dialogue such as "I'm sorry about your coccyx too, Miss Grant!" and "Nothing and nobody can stop me now!" The latter line is a variation on the infamously OTT catchphrase of Professor Zaroff in The Underwater Menace, a story which, like this one, featured the lost city of Atlantis - freaky coincidence or what? This adventure also includes the Master's dodgy Greek accent, which Delgado keeps forgetting to use, as well as the evil Time Lord's (unintentionally) hilarious attempts to hide from UNIT personnel by suspiciously keeping his radiation suit on.

References to Jo Grant's coccyx are not the only bits of innuendo, either. The Doctor's time sensor also looks distinctly phallic, while "tomtit" is, of course, a famous piece of Cockney rhyming slang!

Robert Sloman's story is indeed slow (man) and fairly plotless. The rival Time Lords' attempts to delay one another during the middle two episodes are obviously also delaying tactics on the part of the writer. Their excursion to ancient Atlantis towards the end of the story is pretty much a two-part tale grafted on to the four episodes that are set in the 20th century. And the Master's futile attempts to control Kronos are unfortunately similar to his summoning of Azal in The Dæmons, a story that was co-written by Sloman.

This serial does have its niftier moments, however, as when the passage of time is slowed down by TOMTIT, an effect to which the Doctor's Time Lord physiology is immune. The merging of the rival Gallifreyan's TARDISes is another irresistible gimmick (one that was reprised in Tom Baker's swansong story, Logopolis). The redesigned console room set, which sadly made its only appearance here before the previous design was reinstated in The Three Doctors, looks pretty cool too.

This story might not be Roger Delgado's finest hour as the Master (both The Mind of Evil and Frontier in Space are far superior to either of the offerings within this boxed set). Nevertheless, The Time Monster remains good fun and a jolly time waster!

Richard McGinla

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