Monday, June 02, 2014

Jaunting around time and space with The Mind Robber

Remember all that advice about not jumping about and watching Doctor Who consequentially? Yeah? Well, sod it. The Doctor didn't bother with such nonsense, why should I?

Okay, the truth is that as much as I'm enjoying them, too much Hartnell is a bit of a slog. With Susan having left the TARDIS this felt like the perfect point to go for a jaunt elsewhere in the show's history. So I'm going to make a minor jump to the end of the Troughton era. With War Games already under my belt I'm going to watch the only two serials in my list that feature Zoe, and then move onto Pertwee. From there I'll watch up to Daemons, another serial I covered last year. After that, well my plan right now is to pop back and do more Hartnell, but we'll wait and see.

The first of the two Troughtons was The Mind Robber, another one of the often recommended serials. I can see why. It's not your typical serial, and certainly not a base under siege. No, in a desperate attempt to escape from lava (interestingly the Doctor isn't sure the TARDIS can withstand it, something today we know it can) the Doctor throws an emergency escape button on the console and the TARDIS ends up somewhere, but nowhere at the same time. What follows is pretty damn trippy.

The first episode is a bit sparse, mostly taking place in a white room, but I think it nicely sets up what is to follow, since it's so out there. Somehow the Doctor has ended up in a world of fiction, and things get a bit out of control. Gulliver is wandering about, and only speaks in lines from the books. We have the awesome visual of Jamie's face disappearing and the Doctor putting it back together wrong. As a result a different (and more Scottish) actor plays Jamie for one part of the serial. Unfortunately the putting him back together again is a handwave as he just freezes again and the Doctor does it right the second time. Might have worked better if Zoe had to point out what should have been done. Speaking of Zoe, she gets a pretty epic fight with a cartoon superhero. Well I say epic, the fight choreography is pretty rubbish, but to see a female companion in the sixties doing the fighting is a genuine thrill, especially after so much Susan. Somebody had clearly decided to channel The Avengers (That's Steed and Peel, not Captain America and co) with Zoe.

So how did we get to this strange place? Turns out the TARDIS was dragged here so The Doctor can take over the role of writer, partly because of his imagination and breadth of experience, and with the upshot of him being nearly immortal, at least compared to most species out there. This obviously backfires and we get the cool moment of the Doctor and the Master (not that one, he still doesn't exist) battling it out by creating imagery out of thin air and fighting with words. Which is about the most perfect representation of the Doctor you could ever give. It also leads to epic battles such as D'Artagnan versus Cyrano de Bergerac and Lancelot against Blackbeard.

It's kind of brilliant. While I personally feel that either Tomb of the Cybermen or The Web of Fear are better, that's because I'm not a huge fan of stories that are overly surreal. That I enjoyed The Mind Robber speaks volumes, and if I watched more of Troughton's era I'm sure the Base Under Siege storylines would start to grate.
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