Wednesday, September 21, 2005

'The Mind Robber'

5 episodes

Now, this is my kind of story. Mysterious, fantastical, whimsical, freaky... It covers the same sort of bases as 'The Celestial Toymaker' but has the great advantage of being available to watch in its entirety, Season 6 having been spared the worst ravages that so denuded its two predeessors of surviving footage. The first episode was tacked on at the eleventh hour due to the scripts of 'The Dominators' being edited down from six to five episodes, bumping this adventure up to the same length, and for the first time since 'Inside the Spaceship' we see what the Doctor Who production team can do with no budget for sets or additional cast but a whole heap of imagination - here, creating a featureless white void that is a suitably surreal entry to the Land of Fiction. Contrary to what I thought about the end of the last story, the shenanigans with the lava were not just to allow a funny closing gag, but actively tie into the start of this adventure and lead to the TARDIS being stranded outside of time and space in this bizarre 'other' place. After 'escaping' the void, the crew are threatened by further strange images before the TARDIS blows up, leaving Jamie and Zoe (took a good minute to remember her name there...) spinning off into blackness atop the console. They emerge somewhere else altogether, in a forest of giant letter 'trees' and encounter all sorts of odd folk, from Lemuel Gulliver (who in an incredibly clever bit of scriptwriting only speaks using lines that he was given in Gulliver's Travels) to Rapunzel, Medusa, a unicorn, a Minotaur, an unnerving bunch of man-sized toy soldiers and a comical cartoon superhero known as Karkus. The strange but strictly-adhered to laws of this land means nothing is quite what it seems, only existing in some parody of life as defined in the fiction each character has sprung from. Throwing everything at the tale and seeing most of it stick, the writing and direction are excellent - and even the fact that Frazer Hines came down with chicken-pox for a couple of episodes didn't so much derail as escalate the weird brilliance, as Jamie's face is twice rearranged on a life-size cardboard cutout by the Doctor to explain his temporary morphing into a different appearance!

I have to say, I got a brief shock when the lord of this domain was named as 'The Master' - but then realised that it couldn't be that one as he hadn't been invented yet. Still, it gave an interesting frisson to each mention of his name, up to the point where the malevolent dictator was revealed as a really quite avuncular puppet of a greater Master Brain. Weird and wonderful ending, too, as the whole dimension blows up, the TARDIS spirals back together again, and the credits roll with no further explanation at all! Marvellous.


Episodes watched: 118
Episodes still to watch: 604

That's more like it - ten episodes today, and I'm only eight behind my schedule now with two days off coming up!!

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