On First View: The Mind Robber
Guest contributor Antti Björklund continues the series offering a first time view on a Classic story.
In Doctor Who Magazine’s ”Mighty 200” poll The Mind Robber came at number 60. According to the results of the poll, it may not be the best-received Second Doctor episode. The story in itself is a deviation of what was then the normal Doctor Who episode. The TARDIS lands in a space that is outside of this world, that is inhabited by characters and beings from fantasy and fiction.
As with the other parts in this series, I will try and evaluate exactly how good the episodes are from the viewpoint of someone generally watching the episodes for the first time. I will try and make note what are the episode’s strengths and weaknesses.
After the first actor to play the Doctor, William Hartnell, left the show in 1966 the role was taken up by Patrick Troughton. By the time The Mind Robber aired, Troughton’s Doctor had seen his original travelling companions leave and was accompanied by Zoe Heriot and Jamie McCrimmon.
Patrick Troughton is quite good as the Doctor. As others have pointed out, he is in some respects quite similar to Matt Smith’s incarnation. This is something I would tell someone who’s watching for the first time.Troughton’s Doctor is kind and respectful, but he can also show how fearful he is of some things. This is shown especially in the serial’s conclusion, where the Doctor genuinely feels fear for himself and his companions.
The companions for this serial are Zoe Heriot, a scientist from the future, and Jamie McCrimmon, a Scottish piper from 1745.
Zoe, based on this serial, feels mostly like the generic ”damsel in distress” type of companion. She does have some merit, as in the scene where she recognizes one of the characters the group encounters as being a comic book superhero.
Jamie, on the other hand, brings some new insight into the story, mainly because of his back story. Being from the 1700s, he hasn’t got the same grip on some concepts that Zoe and the Doctor have. What he does have, however, is common sense.
The Monsters and Villains
The main villain of the serial is the Master of the Land of Fiction – the Master for short. I found this villain and his actions quite straightforward and easy to digest: to save himself from the situation he’s in, and because he’s old, the Master must find someone to replace himself. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
I would class the Master under the category of ”mad scientist”, if I had to explain him to someone watching the serial for the first time. As a sort of police force the Master has robots. To be quite frank, I found these ”monsters” quite useless, as they were quite easy to run away from – unless the story needed for the characters to be caught.
The other monsters of the serial are all legendary and fictional characters. These include a Minotaur, Medusa, a unicorn and a comic book superhero from the year 2000. The setting of the serial – pure non-reality – makes, in my honest opinion, these monsters too easy to beat.
The Overall Story
The story seems, in itself, rather a mixed back. The basic concept – venturing outside this reality – is quite interesting. That said, I personally wouldn’t suggest this story as the first one to show to someone unacquainted with the show, as it is so different to the other stories in the show.
While it has a nice concept and some nice ideas, the story may not be the best story in Doctor Who’s history. Patrick Troughton is good as the Doctor; the villain and his plot are quite easy to understand when it’s finally explained, but the story in itself feels a little padded. The monsters are too easy to defeat, which does begin to feel repetitive after a while. That said, the serial does have its good points. One of these is the way how the change of Jamie’s actor is written into the story – one of the merits of the setting. Due to Frazer Hines contracting Chicken Pox in the middle of filming, another actor had to be got to play the part.
Next time, it’s the Third Doctor with The Time Warrior.