Tag Archives: The Mind Robber

Day 29 of 50th Anniversary Countdown – The Top 5 Second Doctor Stories

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Even with the recent recovery of nine missing episodes from The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear, Patrick Troughton’s tenure as the Doctor still has 54 missing episodes, including four serials in which not a single episode is held – The Power of the Daleks, The Highlanders, The Macra Terror and Fury From the Deep. William Hartnell’s Doctor has 44 of his episodes missing, including six serials without a single episode – Marco Polo, Mission to the Unknown, The Myth Makers, The Massacre, The Savages and The Smugglers.

In the absence of so many stories, making an informed choice on the Top 5 serials for the First and the Second Doctors is both difficult and hypothetical.  A brilliant soundtrack could mask poor visual representations, whilst a boring audio may hide a visually stunning masterpiece.  Without seeing the moving pictures one can never be 100% certain that a story is as good as its reputation. All that being said, here’s the Doctor Who Mind Robber’s humble opinion of the Second Doctor’s Top 5 stories.

Is The Space Pirates really as bad as its reputation?  Only the moving pictures can show for sure

Is The Space Pirates really as bad as its reputation? Only the moving pictures can show for sure

5. The Enemy of the World

The recovery of five episodes and release of all six parts of The Enemy of the World on iTunes recently quickly lead to a reappraisal of this story’s worth. Previously only episode three had been held in the BBC Archives and released on the triple DVD set, Lost in Time. That episode was somewhat unrepresentative of the other five and caused many to underestimate the serial’s true worth.

The Enemy of the World was the only Season 5 story without monsters and not of the “base under siege” genre.  Patrick Troughton’s dual role as the Doctor and the evil would-be world dictator, Salamander, allowed him to show another side of his acting skills, notwithstanding the rather dubious Mexican accent. Enemy was also Barry Letts’ Doctor Who debut and heralded the show’s first action scenes involving helicopters and hovercraft.  Such adventures would become second nature during the tenure of the Third Doctor.

Patrick Troughton plays the evil would-be world dictator, Salamader, in The Enemy of the World

Patrick Troughton plays the evil would-be world dictator, Salamader, in The Enemy of the World

4. The Faceless Ones

This will undoubtedly be a controversial choice however it’s one of my personal favourites. Only episodes one and three are held in the BBC Archives.  The last story of Ben and Polly’s tenure as companions, The Faceless Ones is set in the ‘present day’ and features excellent location filming at Gatwick Airport in London. Pauline Collins appears as Samantha Briggs, a young woman from Liverpool who is searching for her brother who did not return from a package holiday to Rome. A psychological thriller about identity loss, it was sure to have heavily influenced Mark Gatiss’ 2006 episode, The Idiot’s Lantern.

The Faceless Ones influenced the  2006 story  The Idiot's Lantern

The Faceless Ones influenced the 2006 story The Idiot’s Lantern

3. The Evil of the Daleks

One of the most highly regarded Sixties Dalek stories, The Evil of the Daleks was the first and only serial to be repeated in the UK during that decade.  The repeat was written into the script of the Season 5 finale, The Wheel in Space, and the Season 6 premiere, The Dominators. The new companion Zoe was to view the Doctor’s thought patterns, presumably during the season break, and decide whether she wished to join the TARDIS Crew.

Yet another missing story, only episode two of The Evil of the Daleks is currently held in the BBC Archives.  The story introduced the Dalek Emperor which was a direct spin off from the Whitaker penned Daleks cartoons in TV Century 21 magazine. The Dalek “human factor” is intriguing and like The Faceless Ones, undoubtedly influenced New Series Doctor Who. Robert Shearman’s Series 1 story, Dalek, has several nods to The Evil of the Daleks, whilst Gareth Roberts’ short novel, I Am a Dalek, revives the “human factor” in more than mere words.

The Evil of the Daleks was the first Doctor Who serial ever repeated and the first and only repeat to be scripted into serials

The Evil of the Daleks was the first Doctor Who serial ever repeated and the first and only repeat to be scripted into serials

2. The War Games

Patrick Troughton’s last serial as the Second Doctor, The War Games is a 10 part epic which forever changed the history of Doctor Who. Although the name of his home planet is not yet disclosed, the Doctor is revealed to be a Time Lord. A renegade Time Lord, the War Chief, has given the secrets of time travel to an alien race which seeks to conquer the galaxy.  In their quest to build the best fighting force, human soldiers have been transported from Earth to fight a number of simultaneous wars. These discrete battle zones see engagements from the First World War, the American Civil War, Russo-Japanese War, English Civil War, Boar War, Mexican Civil War, Crimean War, Thirty Year War, Peninsula War, and Roman and Greek war zones.

Being unable to return all the War Games participants to their own time and space, the Doctor reluctantly calls in the Time Lords. Having himself been a renegade since stealing a TARDIS and taking to the universe, the Doctor is at last compelled to face justice for breaching the Time Lords’ Non Interference Policy. Jamie and Zoe are returned to their own times, with all but the memories of their first adventure with the Doctor wiped, and the Doctor is sentenced to exile on Earth.  His knowledge of the TARDIS’s time travel functions is denied him, and he is forced to change his bodily form. The term “regeneration” has not yet been coined.  So ends the monochrome era of Doctor Who and Patrick Troughton’s three year tenure as the Doctor.

Only in the 1960s could you get something as trippy and psychedelic as this

Only in the 1960s could you get something as trippy and psychedelic as this

1. The Mind Robber

An almost psychedelic trip through the land of fiction, The Mind Robber is just about as good as Doctor Who gets. This five part serial sees the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe caught in the world of children’s fairytales. They encounter Lemuel Gulliver, brilliantly portrayed by Bernard Horsfall, Princess Repunzel, Medusa, a Unicorn and a cast of Who created characters.  Far from being what it seems, nothing is reality.  Zoe and Jamie are transformed into fictional characters after Jamie had earlier had his physical appearance altered. The TARDIS explodes for the first time and the Doctor and his crew find themselves drifting in space. Zoe shows that being small in stature is in no way detrimental to fighting a 21st Century cartoon superhero, and Repunzel’s hair really is the strongest and most effective way of quickly scaling rocky cliff faces.  It’s all brilliant stuff!

The Doctor, Zoe and the re-faced Jamie meet up with wind-up tin toy soldiers in The Mind Robber

The Doctor, Zoe and the re-faced Jamie meet up with wind-up tin toy soldiers in The Mind Robber

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

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Day 48 of 50th Anniversary Countdown – The Top 10 Cliff Hangers of the Sixties

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One of the most frustrating aspects of 21st Century Doctor Who is the almost complete absence of cliff hangers.  Very few stories have extended beyond one episode.  In a clear nod to William Hartnell era stories, the Series 7 story The Crimson Horror ended with a direct lead-in to the next story, Nightmare in Silver. Arriving back in present-day London, the companion Clara meets with the children she babysits, Angie and Artie, who blackmail her into taking them on her next adventure in the TARDIS.

Clara is blackmailed by Angie and Artie in the conclusion of The Crimson Horror

Clara is blackmailed by Angie and Artie at the conclusion of The Crimson Horror (2013)

In celebration of the great cliff hangers of Classic Series Doctor Who  this article will briefly examine the Top 10 Cliff Hangers of the Sixties.  So as not to reinvent the wheel, The Doctor Who Mind Robber has directly quoted the episode ending summaries from David J Howe and Stephen James Walker’s seminal book The Television Companion. No copyright infringement is intended.

David J Howe & Stephen James Walker's The Television Companion was published in 2003 by Telos Publishing

David J Howe & Stephen James Walker’s The Television Companion was published in 2003 by Telos Publishing

10.          Fury From the Deep – Episode 3

“Maggie Harris and Robson, both infected by the weed creature, meet on the beach.  The former tells the latter that he will obey his instructions.  Then she turns and walks straight out into the sea, eventually becoming completely submerged beneath the waves”.

The horror of this cliff hanger is the apparent suicide of Maggie Harris, the wife of one of the base employees.  It is not until several episodes later that it becomes evident that Mrs Harris is still alive.  Incidentally, Fury From the Deep is one of the few Doctor Who serials in which no one dies.

Unfortunately all episodes of Fury From the Deep have been lost, however the soundtrack, telesnaps and Loose Cannon’s excellent reconstruction brilliantly convey the horror.

In the cliff hanger to episode three Maggie Harris walks into the water, as if to commit suicide

In the cliff hanger to episode three Maggie Harris walks into the water, as if to commit suicide

9.            An Unearthly Child – Episode 1

“The TARDIS arrives on a Palaeolithic landscape, over which falls the shadow of a man”.

This is the cliff hanger to the very first episode of Doctor Who and it’s the first time that the television viewers see the TARDIS materialize.  The ominous shadow of a man in the barren landscape is both frightening and unexpected.

The ominous shadow of a man approaches the TARDIS in the cliff hanger to An Unearthly Child

The ominous shadow of a man approaches the TARDIS in the cliff hanger to An Unearthly Child

8.            The Mind Robber – Episode 1

“The TARDIS is in flight, the travellers having apparently escaped from the void.  A low, throbbing hum is heard which grows in intensity until it is unbearable.  Suddenly the TARDIS explodes.  The Doctor spins away through space while Jamie and Zoe are left clinging to the console as it is engulfed in swirling mist.”

The end of the first episode of The Mind Robber is absolutely brilliant.  This is the first time in Doctor Who that the TARDIS explodes and the crew is left floating perilously in space. The image of Zoe clinging onto the TARDIS console has become iconic for all the wrong reasons.  Her tight sparkly cat suit clings to her body as the camera focuses on her bottom.

Wendy Padbury in the scene for which, unfortunately, she is perhaps best known

Wendy Padbury in the scene for which, unfortunately, she is perhaps best known

7.            The Massacre – Episode 3

“The Abbot of Amboise lies dead in the gutter, a crowd of angry Catholics gathering around his body.  When Steven protests that the Huguenots were not responsible, Roger Colbert incites the crowd against him.  Steven flees for his life through the Paris streets …”

The Massacre sees William Hartnell play two roles – the Doctor and the evil Abbot of Amboise.  Both characters are absolutely identical in appearance however the audience and companion Steven are unaware if the Doctor is masquerading as the Abbot, or if the Doctor and the Abbot are two different people.  It’s for that reason that this cliff hanger is so powerful as it is not clear if it is the Doctor or the real Abbot who is dead.

The Massacre is another of the serials which unfortunately has  all episodes missing.  As discussed in Fury From the Deep, this does not distract from the potency of the ending.

Steven with the body of the Abbot of Amboise

Steven with the body of the Abbot of Amboise

6.            The Tenth Planet – Episode 4

“The Doctor returns to the TARDIS, closely followed by Ben and Polly.  The ship’s controls move of their own accord and the Doctor collapses to the floor.  His companions enter and, before their astonished eyes, the Doctor’s face transforms into that of a younger man”.

This episode ending is of course Doctor Who’s first regeneration. The First Doctor, William Hartnell, collapses and with exceptional special effects for the era, his face is transformed into that of the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton.  The audience must wait until the next episode to see all of the new Doctor’s body and to experience his personality.  There was no precedent for a change of the lead character in such a manner, and the audience was left stunned as they anticipated the new Doctor’s personality and physical appearance.

Episode 4 of The Tenth Planet has been lost however an amateur film was taken of a television screen during the broadcast of the episode.  The episode has also been recently animated and will be released on DVD next month.

5.            The Dalek Invasion of Earth – Episode 1 and Episode 6

“The Doctor and Ian, menaced by a group of Robomen, prepare to escape by diving into the Thames. As they turn, they see rising slowly from the water the familiar shape of a Dalek.” (Episode 1)

“The TARDIS dematerialises and, comforted by David, Susan moves away.  Her TARDIS key lies discarded on the ground, with an image of a starscape superimposed …” (Episode 6)

The cliff hanger of episode 1 derives its force from both the iconic background of the Thames River and the emergence of Doctor Who’s first return monsters, the Daleks. Having been so well received in their first story, the return of the Daleks was eagerly anticipated by fans.  As was the common practise in early Doctor Who stories, the monsters rarely appeared on-screen until the end of the serial’s first episode.

The episode six ending marked the first departure of a companion in Doctor Who. Just prior to the episode’s end the Doctor gave an impassioned oration to his grand-daughter Susan whom he was effectively deserting on the 21st Century Earth.

A submerged Dalek emerging from the Thames River

A submerged Dalek emerging from the Thames River

Susan talks to the Doctor through the Tardis's PA system

Susan talks to the Doctor through the TARDIS’s PA system

4.            Planet of Giants – Episode 2

“After cleaning Farrow’s blood from the patio stones outside, Smithers goes into the laboratory to wash his hands, unaware that the Doctor and Susan are hiding in the water outlet from the sink.  As a helpless Ian and Barbara watch, he fills the sink with water, washes, and then pulls out the plug”.

The brilliance of the episode 2 cliff hanger of Planet of the Giants is that it successfully made the mundane frightening.  Watching a plug pulled from a sink and water cascading down a drain would ordinarily be exciting as watching the kettle boil. Our heroes, however, have been shrunk to less than an inch in height and are as vulnerable as an ant is to the heavy boot of a human.  The companions Ian and Barbara, together with the audience, are left paralysed with fear at the imminent drowning of the Doctor and Susan.

The Doctor and Susan before descending into the sink drain

The Doctor and Susan before descending into the sink drain

3.            The Daleks – Episode 1

“Exploring their apparently deserted city, Barbara encounters one of the Daleks and is menaced by its telescopic sucker arm.”

As outlined in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, it was standard practice in early Doctor Who for the monsters not to emerge until the cliff hanger of the first episode.  This absolutely iconic ending sees Barbara pinned to a wall in fear as a Dalek’s sucker arm menaces her.  The audience has not yet seen the rest of the Dalek’s body however the expression on Barbara’s face paints a picture of a horrifying spectacle.

Barbara is pinned against the wall in fear during the Daleks' first appearance in Doctor Who on 21st December 1963

Barbara is pinned against the wall in fear during the Daleks’ first appearance in Doctor Who on 21st December 1963

2.            The War Games – Episode 1 and Episode 10

“In the First World War zone the Doctor has been found guilty of spying against the English forces and is tied up before a firing squad.  Captain Ransom brings his men to order, tells them to present arms and opens his mouth to give the order to fire.  A shot rings out and the Doctor grimaces” (Episode 1)

“A still protesting Doctor spins away through a dark void to begin his sentence of exile on Earth with a new appearance.  His face is shrouded in shadow …” (Episode 10)

By the time the first episode of The War Games was broadcast Patrick Troughton’s decision to leave the role of the Doctor had been made public.  Whilst history had shown that the Doctor always escaped serious harm, the audience could not be certain that his luck hadn’t finally ended.  Perhaps he would be killed by the firing squad and regeneration was imminent?

Episode 10 is perhaps my all-time favourite as so many mysteries about the Doctor’s past are answered. His forced regeneration at the episode’s end is chilling but perhaps not as sad as Jamie and Zoe’s departure earlier in the episode.  The monochrome era of Doctor Who was at an end and things would never be the same again.

The Doctor grimaces as a shot rings out

The Doctor grimaces as a shot rings out

1.            The Invasion – Episode 6

“The Cybermen emerge from the sewers and march through the streets of London as the invasion begins.”

The Cybermen’s emergence from the sewers of London and their march down the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral is justifiably iconic. By placing the monsters in an easily recognizable London landscape genuine fear would have been instilled in the audience.  Although the Daleks had visited tourist spots such as Westminster Bridge in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, the Cybermen were in current day London.  This wasn’t one of the Daleks’ futuristic tales but rather a genuine invasion in our own time.  As Jon Pertwee said,  there’s a “Yeti on the Loo in Tooting Bec”.

Perhaps the most iconic cliff hanger in classic series Doctor Who.  The Cybermen on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral

Arguably the most iconic cliff hanger in classic series Doctor Who. The Cybermen on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral

TOMORROW – DAY 47 – The 10 Greatest Billy Fluffs 

YESTERDAY – DAY 49  – The 10 Least Remembered Monsters of the Sixties

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Seeds of Death

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The Doctor had long shown himself to be adept at time travel, however it was not until the 1969 serial The Seeds of Death that he was seen to man a more conventional form of space transportation, a rocket.  That the Doctor and his friends should find themselves on a rocket to the Moon should come as no surprise given that this serial was broadcast in early 1969 and the Apollo 11 landed the first humans on the Moon on 20 July 1969. What is more astounding is that in the world of Doctor Who rockets are perceived to be outdated and an anachronism.  In The Seeds of Death Professor Eldred is the curator of a space museum who spends his spare time secretly working on a rocket.  All transportation is now carried out by T-Mat, otherwise known as transmit, a form of instantaneous particle matter transfer. Even motor cars have become redundant and the T-Mat system is used to transport people and produce throughout the world.  There is a T-Mat relay on the Moon and it is from there that the Ice Warriors intend to commence their conquest of the Earth.

Jamie, the Doctor and Zoe arrive on Earth following their adventures with The Krotons

Jamie, the Doctor and Zoe arrive on Earth following their adventures with The Krotons

The Doctor is covered in foam as he attempts to gain entry to the Weather Station

The Doctor is covered in foam as he attempts to gain entry to the Weather Station

That there is no alternative transport to T-Mat is extraordinary, particularly as the sustenance of the whole world is dependent upon its operation. This extreme example of “putting all your eggs in one basket” was what led the Doctor and his companions to risk their lives in an untested experimental rocket.  It appears that together with world famine, local stock-piling of goods has long since ended. Although the details provided in The Seeds of Death are sketchy, it appears that the T-Mat system is operated, if not wholly owned, by a corporation named Travel-Mat.  What Travel-Mat’s relationship is to the governments of the world is not specified. Perhaps Travel-Mat is the world government? Travel-Mat certainly has some relationship with the United Nations as Professor Eldred describes Sir James Gregson as the United Nations Plenipotentiary.  Radnor clarifies this by saying that Gregson is the Minister with special responsibility for T-Mat. I suspect that the climate change sceptics with whom I frequently debate would revel in declaring The Seeds of Death to be an accurate prediction of their New World Order conspiracies. Come to think of it, most climate change deniers know so little about science that they’d probably think the mistaken “science” of The Ice Warriors is correct.  Distinguishing fact from fiction can at times be difficult for some, hence the premise behind The Mind Robber!

T-Mat employees wear an unfortunate uniform with their underpants on the outside

T-Mat employees wear an unfortunate uniform with their underpants on the outside

Arguably the most powerful person employed by Travel-Mat is Miss Gia Kelly, the Assistant Controller, who inexplicably is the only person who completely understands T-Mat.  Again the question arises as to what would happen to this world-wide transport system, on which the distribution of all Earth’s food is dependent, if Miss Kelly suddenly became indisposed. It’s a pleasant development in Doctor Who to have a women in such a powerful role and not be denigrated for her gender by fellow on-screen workers. Kelly even managed to escape the sexism inherent in the UNIT soldiers’ praise for Zoe in The Invasion, when they said that she was “prettier than a computer”.  That being said, I’m at a loss to understand why Kelly was portrayed as so officious and unable to smile.  What does this say about our perceptions of powerful women? Do women that attain the giddy heights of success necessarily relinquish all vestiges of humanity in the minds of others? Even a casual observer to Australian politics in recent years would be cognisant of sexist vitriol thrown at our former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Being “deliberately barren” was perhaps the most offensive of them all.  I would posit that the writer Brian Hayles’ portrayal of Kelly is an example of this offensive stereotyping of successful women.

Miss Kelly is the only person who truly understands T-Mat.  She is pictured here with the rocket countdown reflected onto her face

Miss Kelly is the only person who truly understands T-Mat. She is pictured here with the rocket countdown reflected onto her face

Gia Kelly is arguably the most powerful person working for Travel-Mat

Gia Kelly is arguably the most powerful person working for Travel-Mat

Unfortunately I have a concern with the Doctor’s ethics in The Seeds of Death. At the serial’s end the Doctor sent the Ice Warriors’ rockets onto an orbit close to the Sun by transmitting a fake homing signal.  When the Warrior Slaar told the Doctor that he has destroyed their whole fleet, the Doctor’s response was that “you tried to destroy an entire world”. Given that the Doctor believed these Warriors to be the only survivors of their species, he was effectively committing genocide. Whilst we all now know that the fleet didn’t comprise the last of the Ice Warriors, that’s not the point.  The Doctor acted in a similar manner to the Daleks in The Evil of the Daleks and to the Drahvins in Galaxy 4. In my review of Galaxy 4 I discussed in some detail how the Doctor’s apparent genocide of a race was at odds with his classic moral deliberations in The Genesis of the Daleks.

The Doctor kills the first of many Ice Warriors

The Doctor kills the first of many Ice Warriors

Akin to Brian Hayles’ problems with science in The Ice Warriors, The Seeds of Death is similarly tainted.  Remarkably, whilst the Ice Warriors collapsed when the temperate reached 60 degrees Celsius, the humans exhibited no ill effects at all.  Not a bead of sweat was seen to develop on a single brow. This story did, however, again exhibit Hayles’ apparent concern for things environmental. The plant consuming foam which emerged from the Ice Warrior’s seeds would eventually result in the removal of all oxygen and the death of humans as the atmosphere became more akin to that of Mars.

The Doctor discovers that water destroy's the Ice Warriors' seeds

The Doctor discovers that water destroys the Ice Warriors’ seeds

Technology had also caught up with Doctor Who by the Ice Warrior’s second appearance. Filmed inserts for episodes were by then being produced during the recording of the previous stories.  Because of the 1968/1969 Christmas/New Year break, some inserts were filmed up to six weeks prior to the recording of the episodes. It’s for that reason that careful observation will show that within the same episode the Doctor can at one point have particularly bushy side-burns, and the next moment has none.

The Doctor discusses retro rockets with Professor Eldred

The Doctor discusses retro rockets with Professor Eldred

When Jamie suggested that the Doctor should use the TARDIS to travel back to the Moon the Doctor was quick to advise that “the TARDIS is not suited to short range travel”.  It’s a shame that the Eleventh Doctor  didn’t remember that  when he decided to take the TARDIS for a quick hop to the Moon to run her in during The Eleventh Hour (2010).  He didn’t come back to Amy until two years later!  The Doctor also seemed to have forgotten exactly how much of an unpleasant time he’d had when last he visited a space museum (The Space Museum). Quite naturally Zoe knows how to pilot a rocket so she necessarily went up in my esteem, yet again.  She also has a photographic memory.

Clearly the Eleventh Doctor had forgotten that the TARDIS is not suited to short range travel in The Eleventh Hour (2010)

Clearly the Eleventh Doctor had forgotten that the TARDIS was not suited to short range travel in The Eleventh Hour (2010)

Amongst her many skills, Zoe can pilot a space rocket

Amongst her many skills, Zoe can pilot a space rocket

With the conclusion of The Seeds of Death we say goodbye to the last monster story of Patrick Troughton’s tenure.  Not only is it the final monster serial of the 1960s but also of Doctor Who’s monochrome era.  Troughton’s penultimate adventure, The Space Pirates, has no aliens although it does have a space cowboy who is almost as bad, in a frightening sort of way!

The Seeds of Death was originally broadcast in the UK between 25 January and 1 March 1969

The Seeds of Death was originally broadcast in the UK between 25 January and 1 March 1969

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Mind Robber

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It’s not often that the opportunity affords itself to write a review of a story that is as close to perfect as Doctor Who can get.  So good, in fact, that it’s after this serial that my blog is named.  The Mind Robber is the epitome of all that is innovative, experimental and surreal about Doctor Who when it’s done correctly. With the addition of a last minute opening episode and Frazer Hines’ sidelining by chicken pox in episode two, The Mind Robber could easily have become an utter shambles. It’s to the credit of the writer Peter Ling, Script Editor Derrick Sherwin and Director David Maloney that it didn’t.

The Doctor was lucky to have not turned himself into fiction

The Doctor was lucky to have not turned himself into fiction

Myth has it that Peter Ling’s inspiration for The Mind Robber was the inability of soap opera audiences to distinguish fact from fiction.  Ling, who had never previously written for a science fiction programme, was well known as a writer for the British soap operas Compact (1962-1965) and Crossroads (1964 onwards), amongst others. It was on Crossroads that incoming Doctor Who story editor, Derrick Sherwin, and assistant story editor, Terrance Dicks, had also been engaged.  This soap, which centred on a motel, was filmed in Birmingham and it was on a train trip to that fair city that Ling, Sherwin and Dicks first discussed an idea that would eventually evolve into The Mind Robber script.

Rapunzel and the children of the Land of Fiction

Rapunzel and the children of the Land of Fiction

The Master of the Land of Fiction is a different character to the renegade Time Lord we meet in Season 8

The Master of the Land of Fiction is a different character to the renegade Time Lord we meet in Season 8

The inability of some viewers to comprehend that television dramas are fictional and not fact is not uncommon. Comedian, author and actor Toby Hadoke takes great delight in ridiculing such people in his stand-up comedy show, Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf. Hadoke, who starred as a Vicar in the soap Coronation Street in December 2000, was gobsmacked to actually receive letters from viewers asking if he might officiate at weddings.  “And these people can vote” he quipped!

Toby Hadoke - Stand-up comedian, actor and author of "Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf".

Toby Hadoke – Stand-up comedian, actor and author of Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf.

The fiction of children’s stories and classic mythology permeate The Mind Robber. Lemuel Gulliver, wind-up tin toy soldiers, Rapunzel, the Medusa, a Unicorn, Sir Lancelot and Blackbeard are amongst the characters which confront the Doctor and his crew.  Gulliver, who is originally named only as “A Stranger” is brilliantly portrayed by Bernard Horsfall, who only passed away in January 2013. Horsfall went on to appear in another three Doctor Who serials, all of which were directed by David Maloney – The War Games (1969), The Planet of the Daleks (1973) and The Deadly Assassin (1976). Tall and imposing, yet always polite and obliging, the fictional character from Gulliver’s Travels spoke only words and phrases taken directly from Jonathon Swift’s 1726 novel. The juxtaposition of Gulliver’s archaic but lyrical language with the Doctor and his companion’s modern English was superb. It was only in the final episode that Ling permitted Gulliver to speak lines other than those from the novel, however his language form remained Middle English.

The Doctor is initially menaced by Gulliver

The Doctor is initially menaced by Gulliver

The seamless transition of Jamie from Frazer Hines to Hamish Wilson was an imaginatively simple idea that meshed themes common to  both The Mind Robber and its preceding serial, The Dominators. When Hines succumbed to chicken pox early in the week of episode two’s shooting an immediate solution was required.  During the course of the 60s each episode of Doctor Who was filmed at the end of a week’s rehearsal. Save for sparse location shoots, material was not pre-recorded.  Recording was almost live, with only an hour and a half allocated for each 25 minute episode.  Given that only three video cuts were permitted for each episode, this necessitated the filming of scenes in their correct order and performances in a play-like fashion. Filming scenes from different episodes on the one day was unheard of.  Moreover, episodes were often filmed only two weeks prior to airing.  This meant that when episode one of a six part serial was broadcast the production of the final episode could still be a month away.

Hamish Wilson played the role of Jamie in episodes two and three

Hamish Wilson played the role of Jamie in episodes two and three

As a consequence of these production limitations the absence of a cast member presented extraordinary difficulties.  The luxury of filming out of order and six months in advance of screenings did not exist, so there was no means by which the ill actor could film their scenes at a later time. Hence the extraordinary decision to retain the character of Jamie in episode two but have him played by an altogether different actor. The fictional nature of the story, in which the Doctor and his companions were constantly confronted by challenges, afforded the opportunity for Jamie’s identity change to become part of a game. Having been turned into a life size cardboard cut-out, Jamie’s face was removed and he could not be animated again until the Doctor put the puzzle pieces of his face correctly together.  On a board where three or four photographs of eyes, noses and mouths.  In a flustered state the Doctor chose the wrong pieces and Jamie was reanimated with a different face.  When Hines returned in episode three Jamie was again transformed into a cut-out. The Doctor was successfully able to complete Jamie’s face puzzle, this time with the assistance of the very attentive Zoe. In the interim Wilson had superbly perfected Jamie’s mannerisms.

The Doctor and Zoe put Jamie's face back together

The Doctor and Zoe put Jamie’s face back together

The Doctor’s initial inability to correctly choose Jamie’s eyes, nose and mouth was reminiscent of his feigned stupidity in The Dominators. In an attempt to appear an imbecile in the previous serial the Doctor had intentionally failed a block test similar to one that a normal three year old would complete with ease. He was unable to match the wooden blocks with their correct holes and suffered electric shocks to his arms as a consequence.  No longer considered a threat, the Doctor and Jamie were subsequently released by the Dominators.

The Doctor with Rapunzel and the Karkus

The Doctor with Rapunzel and the Karkus

The Mind Robber contains the only episode of Doctor Who not to feature a writer’s credit.  Originally written as a four part serial by Peter Ling, the story was expanded to five episodes after the production fiasco that was The Dominators.  Having no budget for guest cast or additional props the production crew were faced with a very similar predicament to that in the season one story The Edge of Destruction. Having access only to the three main cast and the TARDIS console, Script Editor Derrick Sherwin wrote the opening episode to accommodate these restrictions. Akin to The Edge of Destruction, these constraints resulted in a minimalist masterpiece.

Wendy Padbury in the scene for which, unfortunately, she is perhaps best known

Wendy Padbury in the scene for which, unfortunately, she is perhaps best known

The TARDIS Explodes in the cliff hanger to episode one of The Mind Robber

Many of the most memorable scenes in The Mind Robber were Wendy Padbury’s.  The cliff-hanger of episode one featured a shiny cat-suited Zoe hanging onto the TARDIS console as it plummeted through space. That much of the scene focussed on Zoe’s bum must have been a cause for great delight amongst male viewers.  Zoe also enacted a wondrous pantomime fall and proved herself proficient in martial arts when she easily defeated the cartoon book character, the Karkus, in a fight.

Zoe fights the Karkus

Zoe fights the Karkus

Zoe and Jamie cling to the TARDIS console after the Ship explodes

Zoe and Jamie cling to the TARDIS console after the Ship explodes

The Mind Robber was almost certainly the naming inspiration for the New Series Doctor Who character Captain Jack Harkness.  The Master of Fiction had written 250,000 words of fiction as editor of the boys’ own magazine, The Ensign.  Captain Jack Harkaway  was one of the Master’s characters which like all others in the story, with the exception of the Karkus, was a fictional character in the real (non-Doctor Who) world.  The Master of The Mind Robber, however, is a completely different character to the renegade Time Lord that the Third Doctor first encounters in Season Eight.

The fictional character, Captain Jack Harkaway, was undoubtedly an inspiration in the naming of the new series character Captain Jack Harkness

The fictional character, Captain Jack Harkaway, was undoubtedly an inspiration in the naming of the new series character Captain Jack Harkness

Captain Jack Harkness is not to be confused with The Mind Robber's Captain Jack Harkaway

Captain Jack Harkness is not to be confused with The Mind Robber’s Captain Jack Harkaway

I could inevitably extol the virtues of The Mind Robber for several thousand more words however I’ll bother you not with more reading.  Instead I earnestly implore you to legally acquire a copy of the story and take in its pleasures yourself.  Watch Jamie and the Doctor climb Rapunzel’s hair, the snakes animating in the Medusa’s hair, and the Unicorn charging at our heroes.  I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

The source of many a nightmare - the Unicorn

The source of many a nightmare – the Unicorn

The Mind Robber was originally broadcast in the UK between 14 September and 12 October 1968

The Mind Robber was originally broadcast in the UK between 14 September and 12 October 1968

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Dominators

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Almost universally condemned as one of the worst Doctor Who serials ever, The Dominators was the serial Patrick Troughton personally requested be screened at the convention he was attending at the time of his death. Perhaps Troughton could see something of merit in The Dominators that fans and critics were unable to discern. But then again, in 1987 there weren’t many extant Second Doctor serials available. There aren’t many more accessible today. That’s probably reason enough to at least try to detect something favourable about the serial.  Thankfully the good contributors to Celebrate Regenerate have come to our rescue and said this about The Dominators:

The Quarks were less than convincing as monsters

The Quarks were less than convincing as monsters

I think I knew The Dominators was the weakest of the bunch.  But I still loved it: it was funny.  It’s the only Doctor Who story I know of that’s based on a clash of household furnishings.  Guys wearing sofas invade a world of people dressed in curtains.  The natives immediately surrender to them despite the fact that they’re incompetent (those other ten galaxies must have really been pushovers).  And then there are the Quarks.  Small, slow, waddling, penguin-esque with squeaky voices and very low-capacity batteries.  But at the end of the day , I love the Dominators …

Edited by Lewis Christian, Celebrate Regenerate is a fan produced chronicle of every Doctor Who episode

Edited by Lewis Christian, Celebrate Regenerate is a fan produced chronicle of every Doctor Who episode

Save for its slowness and distinct lack of plot, the principal criticism directed at The Dominators is the writers’ reactionary premise that pacifism is abhorrent and pacifists gullible and unintelligent. In their third and final outing as writers for Doctor Who Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln took a direct swipe at the growing anti-war movement. The Dulcians are pacifists and presented as unquestioning morons. Although they have two hearts they are physically weak and not use to manual labour.  When forced to labour as slaves to the aggressors, the Dominators, they are next to useless and are seen to struggle under the burden of moving heavy rocks.  The Dulcians’ education system appears to prioritize rote learning over intellectual enquiry and they accept any statements as fact until they are otherwise proved false. It isn’t too hard to envisage what Haisman and Lincoln’s perception of anti-war protestors were.

The Dulcians are not use to physical labour

The Dulcians are not use to physical labour

The Dominators was not Doctor Who’s first anti-pacifist adventure.  That dishonour goes to Terry Nation’s The Daleks in which the gorgeous Thals are pilloried for their being unprepared to fight .  In my review of The Daleks I examined Nation’s contempt for the 1930’s British policy of Appeasement.  Unlike the Thals, Haisman and Lincoln do not afford the Dulcians any redemption. They are portrayed in an unfavourable light throughout the whole of the serial. Given that Doctor Who has generally taken a more liberal view on political issues this contempt for pacifism is all the more extraordinary.

The aliens with perhaps the most inept name ever, the Dominators

The aliens with perhaps the most inept name ever, the Dominators

More than 40 years later such distain for pacifism was again evidenced in Toby Whitehouse’s Series Six story, The God Complex (2011). This time, however, a reactionary political message was veiled in humour. When the Eleventh Doctor asks Gibbis, a native of Tivoli, how he arrived at the “hotel” his response was enlightening – “I was at work.  I’m in town planning. We’re lining all the highways with trees so invading forces can march in the shade. It’s nice for them”.  Tivoli is the most conquered planet in the galaxy and its residents have resigned themselves to being constantly overrun. Accordingly they welcome invading armies and their national anthem reflects the ease with which they accept domination – “Glory to <Insert Name Here>”.

Another pacifist portrayed in an unfavourable light was Gibbis in The God Complex (2011)

Another pacifist portrayed in an unfavourable light was Gibbis in The God Complex (2011)

What I also found disturbing about The Dominators was the patriarchal nature of the Dulcians’ society.  Only men, and old ones at that, are members of their governing council.  Certainly there are numerous other Doctor Who serials which are guilty of not positively representing women, however The Dominators totally disenfranchises them.  I would hope that this says more about the writers’ views than those espoused by the producers of Doctor Who.  That being said, the decision to give the Quarks childish female voices is bizarre, to say the least.  Hitherto all monsters, without exception, have had masculine voices even if their bodies are not specifically gendered. The one and only time that a woman is used to voice a monster, the voices are clumsy and laughable.  It left me wondering if this was some form of bad joke in which women, in general, were being ridiculed.

Only men are members of the Dulcian ruling elite

Only men are members of the Dulcian ruling elite

Unfortunately the Quarks proved to be appalling monsters.  Small in stature, school children were encased within them for the filming. They shuffled around, always looking as though they were about to tumble over, and had arms that were even more impractical than the Daleks’.  They were easily defeated, at one stage by a conveniently light boulder pushed from a hill top by Cully, the only resident of Dulkis to rebel from their pacifism. Created by Haisman and Lincoln specifically for their marketing potential, the Quarks were almost the subject of legal proceedings between the writers and the BBC. Relations between the writers and Doctor Who deteriorated further when the serial was cut from six episodes to five and substantially rewritten.  Haisman and Lincoln sought to have their names removed from the credits and accordingly a pseudonym, “Norman Asby”,  which was taken from the first names of the writers’  father-in-laws, was adopted.

The marketing rights to the Quarks almost resulted in legal proceedings between the writers and the BBC

The marketing rights to the Quarks almost resulted in legal proceedings between the writers and the BBC

Although the Quarks were never again seen on TV they were encountered in comics

Although the Quarks were never again seen on TV they were encountered in comics

The Doctor’s ethics in The Dominators are also questionable.  He is responsible for the deaths of the two Dominators after he places their atomic seed-device, intended to destroy the planet, onto the aggressor’s own space craft.  This is plainly an example of lazy writing as it was the easy option for disposing of the bomb quickly. Surely the Doctor could have diffused  it rather than acting as judge, jury and executioner.

The Doctor and Jamie hold hands again

The Doctor and Jamie hold hands again

Despite its many failing I surprised myself by actually enjoying The Dominators.  Perhaps I was just relieved at watching the first complete serial since The Tomb of the Cybermen or maybe, just maybe, I could see in the story the good that Patrick Troughton evidently saw.  I really don’t know, however I am sure that our next story, The Mind Robber, lives up to its reputation as Troughton’s favourite serial.  Please join me for my next review as we enter the land of fiction.

The Dominators was originally broadcast in the UK between 10 August and 7 September 1968

The Dominators was originally broadcast in the UK between 10 August and 7 September 1968

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.