Doctor Who – The Mind Robber Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Mind Robber
  • Story #: 45
  • Episodes: 5 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 09/14/1968 – 10/12/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Well, there is an emergency unit but I can’t possibly use that.” – The Doctor
“But this is an emergency!” – Zoë
“But it moves the TARDIS out of the Time/Space Dimension! Out of reality!” – The Doctor
“Well, fine, reality’s getting too hot anyway!” – Jaime

“Presumably we’ve landed. So why isn’t the scanner showing anything?” – Zoë
“Well, because, well, we’re nowhere. It’s as simple as that.” – The Doctor

“Oh, a strip cartoon of the year 2000!” – The Doctor
“But you’ve been in the year 2000, haven’t you?” – Zoë
“Yes, but I hardly had time to follow the strip cartoons.” – The Doctor
“But you had better start following this one, he’s halfway up that cliff.” – Zoë

“The Mind Robber” has long been one of my favorite Patrick Troughton Doctor Who stories and one that I often recommend, because it is just so imaginative. At the end of the previous story (“The Dominators”) the TARDIS is about to be covered by lava from an exploding volcano. And of course, when the Doctor tries to dematerialize – the TARDIS doesn’t cooperate. He uses the emergency unit.

The first episode of the 5-part story, “The Mind Robber” only uses the TARDIS set, a white room, and a few robots who will be seen later. But it just goes to show how much you can do with an imaginative script and good acting, even without sets, really. After the emergency unit is used, the TARDIS is somewhat stuck – Jaime sees Scotland on the scanner and Zoë sees the city. The Doctor warns them not to go out while he checks the power, but seeing home is too much of a temptation. The two young companions do leave the TARDIS and encounter a white room, where they soon become lost in disorienting mist. The Doctor calls them back, but they can’t find the TARDIS. The Doctor is in a mental battle with the same force that tempted his companions outside. He leaves the TARDIS to find Zoë and Jaime – and the TARDIS is all white, as are Jaime and Zoë’s costumes. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS but everything is weird – the TARDIS explodes. Zoë, and Jaime as well, are stretched out on the slowly spinning, falling TARDIS console.

The Doctor and his companions are now in the Land of Fiction, though they don’t realize it at first. They start off in a maze of words and are soon encountering various characters from literature and are required to pass a number of tests (solving riddles and games and such). Toy soldiers seem to be the guardians of the place and Gulliver (of Gulliver’s travels) keeps showing up and creating a distraction.

The Doctor and TARDIS crew are charged by a unicorn (like in Jaime’s earlier dream) and when they shout that unicorns don’t exist – it freezes. They find a creepy stone house, where the first shot is through a spider’s web. Here they find a ball of twine and a maze. This leads to the heart of the maze and a minotaur, which is only seen in shadow. Again, the Doctor and Zoë use “it doesn’t exist” to stop the minotaur.

Jaime meanwhile meets Rapunzel and climbs her hair into the control room where a ticker-tape machine spits out a description of what the Doctor and Zoë are doing – which is running in to Medusa. However, rather than following “the script” and killing Medusa with a sword that has just appeared, the Doctor uses a mirror and Medusa is again turned in to stone. The Doctor and Zoë then encounter the Krakus, a strip cartoon character. Zoë fights him, flipping him over her shoulder five times, and then forces him to submit – he then becomes her servant, helping with difficult tasks. The Doctor and Zoë reach the control room where Jaime is, but Zoë is startled and runs out of the room, setting off alarms. The white robots arrive to take the Doctor to the Master.

The Doctor meets the author. This land has a library of all known works of fiction, and a master brain which needs the creative power, intelligence, and imagination of an author. The current author is getting a bit old and the master-brain wants to replace him with the Doctor. There is quite the battle between the Doctor and the Author. They conjure up various fictional characters (Cyrano de Bergerac, d’Artagnan the musketeer, Blackbeard the pirate, Sir Lancelot etc.) The Doctor has to avoid putting himself in the story because he will become fiction, but he has the Karkus fight for him and other fictional characters. The Author turns Jaime and Zoë into fiction, but the Doctor finally manages to release them. Zoë overloads the computer, and the Doctor orders the robots to destroy the computer. The Doctor rescues the Author, the screen fills with mist and smoke, and the TARDIS reassembles.

“The Mind Robber” is a witty and intelligent script that plays to the imagination. Not only is this a story set in The Land of Fiction – but the sets tend to be fairly minimalistic until later in the story, even then although the stone cottage is impressive, as is the control room and the liar of the Author and the Master-Brain, it’s still not the completely fleshed out alien landscape one would expect – but that works in the story’s favor as the Doctor and his companions encounter various fictional characters, creepy children, white robots, and robotic toy soldiers. Everything plays out like a play with minimal set dressing and because of the imaginative plot – it works. This story also has a clever and quotable script. Highly recommended.

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