Archive for the Season 06 Category

6.2 – “The Mind Robber”

Posted in Classic Who, Season 06 with tags , , , , on June 25, 2014 by Review The Who

CW Series 6 - The Mind Robber

Escaping from Dulkis, the TARDIS crew are shifted sideways into the Land Of Fiction. Can The Doctor, Jamie and Zoë escape from the Clockwork Soldiers & White Robots, or will The Doctor be destined to become the new Master of the Land?

If any one classic series story could be seen as being New Who in tone, it’s this one. No, wait, hear me out before you join up with the Adric fans and create a lynch mob to hunt me down and do unspeakable things to me like cut my hair short or make me wear tracksuit bottoms. In this story, we see several ideas (albeit in a early form) that several New Who writers would go on to use (especially that virtual unknown Steven Moffat).

“The Mind Robber” is a little bit trippy, even for the 1960’s. The Doctor, Jamie and Zoë escape from a volcanic eruption on Dulkis, the Fluid Link on the TARDIS fails (always the way, eh?), causing The Doctor to use the emergency unit to take the TARDIS out of time/space dimension. This gives The Doctor time to repair the TARDIS yet all is not what it seems. The white void is calling to Jamie and Zoë and tempts them outside where they are met by the White Robots. The Doctor rescues them and moves the TARDIS elsewhere but it is under attack and soon explodes, leaving our heroes to float around in space, only to suddenly disappear into the fog. Split up, The Doctor finds Jamie (who now has a new face due to The Doctor getting a puzzle wrong) and Zoë and find themselves in a land of words, with school kids, a traveller, Greek myths and clockwork soldiers sent to help or hinder their travels in the Land of Fiction. Eventually, all leads to the lair of the Master (no, not that one) who reveals his plans – he wants The Doctor to take over from him so he can take over the Earth with mankind being trapped in the Land of Fiction. The Doctor and the Master engage in a battle of wills using all the literary characters they can muster to fight for them. In the confusion of the fighting, the White Robots attack and destroy the Master Brain Computer that controls the Land of Fiction. This event allows not only the poor writer to go home but also our three TARDIS crew members to escape back to the reformed TARDIS and carry on with their adventures.

So this story, although seeming to be a bit odd compared to the other stories of the era (“The Celestial Toymaker” is the only other story that comes close in terms of sheer bonkersness), it has several iconic scenes that stick in the minds of not only those who saw it in the 1960’s, but of fans who would see it later on in the 1980’s and 1990’s during repeats. The two that are burnt into fandom’s minds are the TARDIS exploding, leaving the TARDIS crew to float in the blackness of space. The other is, of course, Zoë’s bottom. I’ll let you take a moment to think upon that image. Go on, I’ll wait…done now? Good, I’ll continue. This story has several good cliff-hangers, such as Jamie and Zoë being trapped in the book and Medusa reaching out to The Doctor and Zoë. It shows that the writer of the story had a vast imagination and knowledge to fit together all of these disparate characters into one story. The mind who brought us this story is Peter Ling, in his only writing credit for the show.

It’s a shame that Peter Ling did not write any more stories as this one only shows us a glimpse of what he could have done for Jon Pertwee or even Tom Baker. What Ling brought to Doctor Who was something we take for granted in New Who but which was wonderfully imaginative and unique at the time – transforming ordinary harmless things into something sinister. Ling wrote into this story Clockwork Soldiers who relentlessly hunt our trio, Clockwork Soldiers being something a child may have owned as a toy in the 1960’s. This idea pops up again in New Who on two occasions, in Moffat’s “The Girl In The Fireplace” and Mark Gatiss’s “Night Terrors”. Ling also weaves classic icons of literature into the story, such as Gulliver, the Minotaur, Unicorns and others who children of the time would have read about at home or in school. He took what children of the day would’ve seen as normal & safe and turned them into totems of terror that could bring nightmares to their dreams. It’s something that we see Moffat and co doing all the time in New Who with statues, shadows and clocks, but the concept began here. Ling also blended the old of literacy with the new of technology, leading to the machine behind the scenes of the Land of Fiction in the Master’s lair, adding a science fiction element to this fantasy story.

This was the first directorial outing for David Maloney, who would go on to direct many stories from Classic Who and we can see some of his style coming through already. He makes do with the budgetary constraints Doctor Who stories were lumbered with at the time, such as taking the White Robots from another show and having them repainted yellow and grey so that they wouldn’t flair up on the cameras. “The Mind Robber” was originally a 4 parter but was made into 5 parts due to issues from the previous story “The Dominators”. Derrick Sherwin would step in to write a completely new episode 1 to fill the void. This extension of the story would normally make the story feel padded in any other circumstance yet, due to having to re-order the episodes, the timing of each episode was reduced to the 20 minute mark, meaning that the story flows quicker despite being 5 episodes long. It’s also gives us the first purely TARDIS based story with the main crew that we’ve seen since the first season story “Edge of Destruction”.

Now we get to the cast. For the best part of these 5 episodes, it is truly down to our three heroes of The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe to lead the direction of the story. By this point they’ve now worked through several stories together and know how to play off each other; The Doctor and Jamie especially come off like an old married couple by this point. The additions to the cast come in episodes 2 & 3 with Hamish Wilson taking over as Jamie while Frazer Hines was off with Chicken Pox. He play’s his version of Jamie as well as could be expected for someone portraying a character that children (and adults) had grown to know over the previous two years. Also of note here is Bernard Horsfall playing Gulliver. Although the lines of Gulliver are written from the book, Horsfall doesn’t merely read them in a flat way but in such a way that makes you believe him to be Gulliver (or a very well read Chancellor Goth as the books would lead you to believe). Emrys Jones plays the Master Of The Land Of Fiction. His part is a double one, between that of the evil ruler and the old confused man taken from his own time. The others in the story play smaller parts and while they do help the flow, there isn’t much of an impact in their performance to distinguish them from one or another.

“The Mind Robber” is a rather interesting story to say the least, sometimes looked upon as being a bit too “out there”. Although suffering from production issues, the actual story and acting behind the characters is great and makes for some really good viewing. Despite being five episodes long, at no point does it feel padded like the previous story. In the end, “The Mind Robber” gets a solid 8/10 from me.

Written and edited by Alexander James Wilkinson


6.1 – “The Dominators”

Posted in Classic Who, Season 06 with tags , , , , on February 19, 2014 by Review The Who

CW Series 6 - The Dominators

After introducing Zoë to the horrors that could await her travelling with Jamie and The Doctor, the TARDIS crew land on Dulkis. All is not as it seems on this peaceful planet, for the Dominators have arrived with their robot servants the Quarks with the plan of converting Dulkis into rocket fuel. Just how will The Doctor and co thwart this evil plan?

Oh dear. After writing the intro to this story, I feel that anyone who hasn’t seen “The Dominators” will think that it will be an all time classic. However the truth is far from it and that pains me to say given the fact that I am a massive Patrick Troughton fan. The Dominators want to convert the peaceful planet of Dulkis into fuel. Landing on a radioactive island, they absorb the radiation from the area and set to work, despite their differences. The TARDIS crew land and get caught up in the middle with a group of Dulcian scientists who have to warn their leaders of the troubles that lie ahead. It won’t be as simple as it sounds as the Dulcians are a civilisation that have rejected all weapons. Between threats and power play, the Dominators (and their robot servants the Quarks) start their plan to drill into the planet to create a radioactive chain-reaction to power their war fleets by detonating a nuclear fission seed into the planet. Thankfully The Doctor with the help of some Dulcians dig a tunnel (with a little help from the Sonic Screwdriver) to intercept the seed, which The Doctor then runs to the Dominator’s ship with and places inside just before lift-off. With the Dominators realising too late that they have left with the seed still on-board, they are destroyed and Dulkis is saved from being turned into starship fuel.

So while “The Dominators” may look like a good idea on paper, in reality it isn’t so clean cut. The biggest problem is design and execution. The Dulcian outfits look like someone has simply made them from a pair of curtains, without taking out the pleat from the top. The Dominators appear as if someone went way over the top with their armour, leaving them looking like they are seriously over-compensating for a lack of something in the trouser department. Then we come to the Quarks. The idea of robots that are there to kill and to serve is normally something that can be done well in science fiction and in Doctor Who it has been done very well on occasion (“The Robots Of Death” and the Raston Warrior robot from “The Five Doctors” being prime examples). And while being ideal on paper, the Quarks are poorly realised on screen. Cumbersome, silly looking (I have heard somewhere that they look like a sex-aid that went seriously wrong in the design process) with voices that sound like a small child on helium blowing bubbles, they don’t appear to be the threat that they are intended to be, more the comic relief robots that you would see in the original Star Wars films.

Compared to the Daleks, Cybermen and Yeti, the Quarks just seem like a Blue Peter winners entry to a Design The Monster competition. It’s funny that, in the comics of the time, they would be pushed as an even bigger threat, though they would not have the limitations in comic form that they would have on the TV screen. The simple fact is they look boxy, have limited arm abilities (sure, Daleks have sink-plungers but you tell them that and see what happens), and they could be easily defeated by pushing them over, especially if you tie the legs like Jamie does in the last episode. The Quarks are probably the most unthreatening ‘threat’ that The Doctor has ever encountered at close range. Hell, Adric could get into a scrap with one of them and probably win.

What of the writing? Norman Ashby may not seem like a familiar name to Doctor Who fandom, but the writers behind the pseudonym are that of Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln. Both are better known for the introduction of both the Great Intelligence and the Yeti, yet this story does not seem to do their previous stories justice. Originally a six-parter, reduced to five by script editor Derrick Sherwin, I could see that this story would have made a far better and tighter four-parter than the five we got. It suffers from padding and I don’t just mean in the outfits. However the ideas contained within the story, that of a race using the planets core as a source of fuel and another that have done away with war, are good ideas in themselves even if they are not strong enough to hold over the full five episodes. Haisman and Lincoln would leave the project as they felt their story wasn’t faithful to the original (plus other issues with regards to the Quarks), yet I wonder just how far changed it had been from the original version and if this was better or worse than the end result.

The double team of Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines had got to a point by season 6 where they knew how to feed off each other in acting terms, yet with the introduction of Wendy Padbury the team takes a change again. With her first full story as an on-board companion, it takes time for Wendy to get into the swing of things and, in my opinion, she didn’t really have that chance until the following story, “The Mind Robber”. The guest cast is not as impressive as previous stories, but does have some known names who carry the story the best they can. With Brian Cant, Walter Fitzgerald, Arthur Cox Ronald Allen and Kenneth Ives being the main people to watch, each try their best to work with a script that is very padded and with (for the Dulcians at least) dull characters with little expansion through the story. The interaction between Ronald Allen (Rago) and Kenneth Ives (Toba) deserves the most attention here, due to the difference in portrayal that both undertake. Allen takes Rago to a logical conclusion of a cold, calculating leader who is also mindful of killing due to the waist of energy, yet Ives takes Toba into the realms of pantomime villain in some moments of the story, instead of showing us a psychotic man who is determined to gain leadership and power at all cost. He could almost have a crowd in front of him shouting “Behind You!”. This is probably not helped by the Quarks either and the strange voices they chose to use for them.

Of all the season openers for the Second Doctor, “The Dominators” is easily the weakest of the three. It suffers greatly from being a story that struggles to hold onto the viewer over the full 5 episodes. If they had limited this to 4 episodes, it could have been (with it’s ideas) a great opener but, with padding in both story and costume, it can only get a 5/10 from me.

Written and edited by Alexander James Wilkinson