Friday, April 15, 2005
The Mind Robber
In with all the excitement of the new series of Who, it can be easy to forget some of the gems that have gone before, and I was delighted to see the release of one of my favourite Troughton adventures, The Mind Robber, on DVD. The Mind Robber is a story that I remember watching when it was first transmitted ... in particular the scene where Zoe is found in the jar (after the riddle: when is a door not a door? When it's ajar.) but also the creepy White Robots which made an eerie creaking sound as they moved. The story is a great blend of SF and fantasy, with the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe becoming trapped in the Land of Fiction as the Land's current master wishes to stand down and wants the Doctor to take his place. The first episode is a tour de force, with only the regular cast, a handful of robot costumes salvaged from an old episode of Out of the Unknown and the TARDIS set, the production team crafted something spooky and memorable and which provides an excellent lead in to Peter Ling's story proper which starts with episode two. Of course that Jamie changes his face is well known, but that Frazer Hines' chickenpox came during the recording of this story allowed his absence to be dealt with in a way which is both imaginative and in keeping with the story as a whole. Hamish Wilson provides a great substitute Jamie for an episode though, and it's impressive that he has been tracked down to be interviewed on the DVD and to contribute to the commentary track. Troughton is on exemplary form here, as is Wendy Padbury as Zoe - and her glittery catsuit gets its first outing here as well, something for the older viewers to appreciate. The story rollicks along throwing in schoolchildren, clockwork soldiers, the Medusa, a unicorn and a comic strip hero called the Karkus (and Christopher Robbie who played him is also interviewed in the documentary) until we finally get to meet the master ... and in a neat post-modern way, this isn't the Master, but a master - nothing to do with renegade time lords and tissue compression eliminators at all. The master here is a somewhat doddery old man who is in thrall to the computer. Of course the Doctor manages to save the day and the White Robots are ordered to destroy everything and so they do ... including the computer. It all ends rather rushed, with our heroes standing in a black void wondering what will happen next ... of course next is one of my all time favourite stories, Invasion ... The DVD is, as with all the BBC's vintage Doctor Who releases, packed with extras. There's a rather good 'making of' documentary, and a slightly unusually placed biography feature on Frazer Hines. More surreal is a lengthy sketch from The Basil Brush Show, included, it seems, as it features a yeti monster comprised of hybrid bits of costume from the two Troughton yeti stories ... odd that it appears on this disc, but I'd rather it was here than nowhere. The commentary on the story this time is provided by Frazer Hines (Jamie), Wendy Padbury (Zoe), David Maloney (the director) and Hamish Wilson (Jamie again). All this release serves really to demonstrate how wonderful and versatile Doctor Who always was, and that what the 2005 series is achieving is in no small part to the format and efforts of the earlier generations of the show.