The Mind Robber

Now this makes a change. A Doctor Who DVD release of a story I’d never actually seen before. Or if I did, I was about five years old and it’s been deleted from long term storage[1]. Anyway, what we have here is a story from 1968 featuring Patrick Troughton as the Doctor, Frazer Hines[2] as Jamie and Wendy Padbury as Zoe. All in glorious black and white[3], and (as usual with these DVD releases) remastered, digitally processed and generally magicked into a remarkably watchable piece. It would still be watchable if the quality was poor, but the restoration work does help…

This was something of an experiment for Doctor Who – unlike the usual pure sf or historical stories of the time, this was more of an exercise in fantasy. It obviously didn’t catch on, as subsequently the series stayed with sf.

Anyway, as the Tardis is threatened with being destroyed in a volcanic eruption, the Doctor activates an emergency device which removes it from normal space and time, and into a strange environment. Stranger than usual for Doctor Who, even. The Doctor and his companions find themselves in a world populated by characters from fiction, such as Gulliver, and some rather dangerous mythological creatures to make things more, err, interesting.

As one might expect, there is a controlling force at the centre of all this, and it has designs on the Doctor. Can the Doctor avoid being turned into a fictional character[4] and so falling under control of the master[5] of the world of fiction? Will he and his companions ever return to normal space and time? Well, of course they will. But there’s a lot of fun and games in the process.

This stands up quite well, despite the limitations imposed at the time – very basic effects, recording time so limited that fluffed lines occur a few times and the general low budget feel. I enjoyed it, and not just as a historical curiosity.

Along with the five episodes of the story, the BBC have included the usual generous selection of extras:

  • The ever-popular production subtitles – lots of on-screen background information
  • A rather good “making of” documentary with contributions from some of the cast and crew
  • Frazer Hines talking about his role as Jamie
  • And, err, a Basil Brush sketch from the 70s, included because it used one of the Yeti costumes used in another Patrick Troughton story. I remember watching Basil at the time. More nostalgia :grin:

All in all, another quality release from the BBC, who deserve a lot of credit for the Doctor Who DVDs.

And of course, the new Doctor Who series starts soon. I’m really looking forward to that!

[1] Funny, it’s usually my short term memory that’s bad :shock:
[2] Perhaps better-known these days for spending many years on Emmerdale Farm
[3] Doctor Who didn’t switch to colour until the beginning of the Jon Pertwee era
[4] Yes, yes, I know :rolleyes:
[5] Not to be confused with The Master, of course