To date, we’ve had three stories from Big Finish where Rufus Hound plays the Time Lord known as the Meddling Monk, or just the Monk. We’ve had The Black Hole, The Blame Game and The Side of The Angels. In June, we’ll be getting a Fourth Doctor Short Trip entitled How To Win Planets And Influence People, which I can’t wait for. Why? Because we’re getting more of Hound’s Monk! I’ve reviewed two stories featuring this incarnation of the meddling Time Lord, and they’ve both received perfect scores (in fact The Side of The Angels scored better than perfect) but why is this? Today I’m going to be taking a deeper look into why I am in love with Rufus Hound’s portrayal of the Meddling Monk.
First of all, I want to preface this with the fact that I’ve long been a fan of Rufus Hound’s work; probably since I saw him in the lead role of One Man, Two Guvnors when I went to see it with the drama group at my college in Salford. (If Rufus is reading this, he might actually remember our college, because we started a running joke in the show about Nando’s, and you went off script for about five minutes as all the actors started to corpse in the most brilliant way.) Since then, my interest in Hound as an actor has grown, and I now actively try and keep up with his work. (Another side note, any theatre or musical lovers, listen to him as Mr. Toad in The Wind In The Willows, here’s a link to the song Amazing Mr Toad which is incredibly fun.) Anyway, he’s a great theatre actor.
When you look at the Monk as a character, I’d argue that he’s one of the most complex Time Lords that the show has ever given us; he’s not inherently evil like the Master or the Rani, he’s not out for universal domination or destruction; he’s just trying to get by, even if it’s occasionally by nefarious deeds. The Monk, to me, is quite easily the Time Lord the Doctor could have become; people like to draw parallels between the Doctor and the Master, saying that they’re like Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty. I don’t disagree at all, in fact, I think it’s a nice comparison; what I would argue though is that the Monk is more like Mycroft. Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes are both similar in terms of skills and mindset, but they go about it in different ways, Sherlock is more compassionate (even though by contrast to the regular person, Sherlock Holmes is by no means compassionate) than Mycroft, much like I think of the Doctor and the Monk.
If there’s one thing that niggles me is how much of a wasted opportunity Rufus was in The Girl Who Died as Sam Swift; he was a fun character, sure; but he didn’t really give Rufus that much to do in terms of building a memorable character. Especially when you contrast him to the Monk that Hound has portrayed (I promise, I’ll be getting onto why I love him in a minute, and I’m aware this is one of the most rambly tangental articles I’ve ever written, so forgive me). I do think it would be quite easy for the TV show to rectify this, should they ever decide to bring back the Monk (which they should) and they decide to use Rufus Hound (which they should) there’s an easy way to explain this. Sam Swift was somewhat of a blithering fool, and eventually got given immortality (perhaps); now, doesn’t this sound like the exact kind of thing that the Monk would do? “Bump” into the Doctor, have a jape, play a fool, “die” and get given the key to immortality. That is so like the Monk, that you could easily argue it was his plan all along when the Doctor asks “Why do you look like Sam Swift?”
Anyway, onto why I actually like Rufus Hound’s portrayal of the Monk. To me, this incarnation of the Monk that we’ve been given from Big Finish feels extremely like a 21st century take on the character. He’s slick yet slimy, he’s cool yet blithering, he’s cocky and confident and a coward the next. This is who the Monk should be. It also helps that the scripts that have utilised the Monk have been exemplary, and of course an actor can only be as good as their script. In my opinion too, the Monk is a comedic character, but with a lot of depth; if you look at how Nardole was played in The Husbands of River Song, I think you can see how a comedic actor can play a comedic part, not thinking of the long term; once we were reunited again with Nardole in The Return of Doctor Mysterio, we saw a much more mellow version of Nardole that people were much less apprehensive about. This thankfully wasn’t the case with Hound’s portrayal, I personally wonder if Rufus Hound knew he would be returning to play the Monk and so decided to reign himself in, compared to how he could have played the part. For me, the best comedy tends to come from somewhat underplayed performances, and Hound hits the nail on the head.
Also, there’s that moustache. I mean, come on! That’s the best moustache to twiddle that I’ve ever seen. I would love to see Rufus Hound twiddle that moustache. In fact, I would love to twiddle that moustache for myself. Rufus, if you’re ever near West Yorkshire, hit me up and let me have a chat and a twiddle!
I think the main aspect of Rufus Hound’s Monk that I love is that he’s so inconsistent in his motives; he’s willing to spin on a dime to be on the winning side, he’ll help you if he thinks that there’s a personal gain, but he’ll drop you the second a better offer comes along. He’s a lot like a businessman, doing whatever it takes to be the best and to never lose. Sometimes that means playing the fool, whereas other times it means playing with fools. Considering the Monk predates the Master, I’m surprised we’ve not seen the character more; and to me, the Master seems to be more of an absolute parallel to the Doctor, whereas the Monk, in this incarnation at least, is happy to be grey and sit on the fence.
What do you think? Do you love Rufus Hound’s Monk? Let me know your thoughts @GallifreyRchive on Twitter!