A volcanic eruption threatens to cover the Tardis in molten lava. The only way out is to leave reality. Filled with doubt, but the need to rescue his freinds, Zoe and Jamie, The Doctor fires up the engines and his machine dissolves just as the lava almost has it totally submerged.
Reappearing in a white void, the time and space travelers have to find a way out of unreality. As long as they stay inside the Tardis things should be okay. Naturally something lures them away from their only safety. Visions of home tantalize the companions out into the nothingness. Giant white robots surround them. The Doctor manages to get them back into his ship. Again, everything should be safe there.
Moments later, the Tardis is ripped apart, scattering the three of them through the void.
That’s when things gets really odd.
Obviously The Mind Robber wastes no time kicking things off. Part one of the story rolls out the peril and doesn’t let up. The moment the Tardis is ripped apart, all bets are off. We’re thrown into uncharted territory.
That sums up the entire story perfectly. This is the first time, that I know of, that Doctor Who goes into pure fantasy. Nothing here could possibly be construed as even pseudoscientific. The writer doesn’t bother with any gobbledygook dialogue to try and ground it in reality. Since the story takes place outside of reality it makes sense that the events taking place would be utter flights of fancy.
A lot happens in this story. I won’t waste your time with a synopsis. Hopefully you’ve seen it. If not, you should take this as an opportunity to do so. What I will do is talk about things that really stood out to me.
After William Hartnell was getting to ill to continue the series, the show creators devised the concept of regeneration. As The Doctor gets close to death, he has the ability to change his entire biological makeup and live again in a new body.This was the missing element that made the show perfect. The possibilities for stories were already massive because the character travels anywhere and everywhere in time and space. Once it was revealed that he could regenerate, the possibilities became unlimited. The series has lasted this long because the title character can be recast every few years.
Patrick Troughton’s era as The Doctor is when the show started to find its stride. Instead of making The Doctor a reluctant traveller with a penchant for being grumpy, the conscious decision was made to make his latest incarnation into a more impish character. I hear the term used was “cosmic hobo’. A man who travels the universe, never settling down, picking up companions, and having a ball.
William Hartnell may have laid the groundwork for the eleven actors who followed but Patrick Troughton began perfecting it. His performance is fun, funny, exciting, silly, mysterious. The deep lines of his face are able to form into a menacing ancient scowl or a young delightful grin. He disguises his immense intellect with all the jokes and goofiness. You can especially see the lasting impression of his influence on current Doctor, Matt Smith.
Every facet of his endearing personality is present in The Mind Robber. You can’t look away when he’s on screen. The wardrobe that’s two sizes too big for him. His love for Jamie and Zoe. Watching him use his collected knowledge of the universe to think his way through problems. All of it is captivating. It makes me depressed that so few of his adventures still exist.
The relationship between Jamie and Zoe and The Doctor is very entertaining. All three of them bounce off each other perfectly. I don’t know a whole lot about either companion. As I said before, not many of the Second Doctor’s era exist any longer. Still, I get the impression that Jamie and Zoe’s characters are so clearly defined that you get to know them instantly. I look forward to seeing more episodes featuring them, if I can get my hands on any.
To be honest, alost everything about this story stands out as exceptional. Yeah the set aren’t great. Many of the special effects are a mess. What they’re able to achieve with such limitations is admirable. Good sci-fi always triumphs over budgetary constraints. Those working on the series need to rely on strong storytelling. That is always a good thing (The Doctor’s ability to regenerate being one example. Jamie’s face being accidentally changed because the original actor wasn’t available for one episode is another.).
My only complaint is the length. At five episodes this story is about one installment too long. Not that it’s a problem. Everything else going on is gripping enough to make up for it.
If you haven’t watched it, please do.
The next episode on the Netflix list is the introductory story of Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee. Join me next week!