Well, well, well I am at the end of my 30 Day Doctor Who Challenge and I can’t help wonder did I miss a trick in not posting the prompts in a non-liner fashion? Ah well I’ll never know…
Day #30: Whatever tickles your fancy.
I am going to look at nearest thing Doctor Who has gotten to the style of David Lynch: the 2nd Doctor story “The Mind Robber”, in particular episode 1.
This story has a behind the story which is almost as interesting as the program which went out.
Due to scripting issues with the previous story resulting in it being reduced from 6 episodes to 5, there was a gap in the schedule and an extra episode was added to the story which was to become the Mind Robber. Unfortunately this extra episode was to be made with the budget assigned to final episode of a six parter which was significantly less because it was assumed that the episode would be using the sets and costumes already accounted for, so this meant that there was no money for new sets or costumes for the episode. This could be a recipe for disaster but script editor Derrick Sherwin and director David Maloney rose to the challenge, Derrick wrote the script but received no on-screen credit due to policy at the time and David Maloney makes great use of the limited resources. To get around the budget issues what we have is a virtual three hander between Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury mostly set within the TARDIS and a strange white void, plus a disembodied voice and some robots whose costumes had been used in two other BBC Sci-Fi series and repainted for Doctor Who.
Story wise the Doctor has used an emergency unit to take the TARDIS out of time and space due to it being buried in molten lava, and he is edgy about where they are. Zoe is curious as to what is outside the ship and it is not long before both her and Jamie are presented with images of their homes to lure them out into the void. This is some clever foreshadowing of where the story will go once it begins properly, alluding to the myth and legend of the Sirens luring sailors to their doom.
Admittedly the void scenes do suffer visually in this age of HD TV as you can see the join between the studio floor and the white curtains… But having watched the serial in 1992 I can vouch that it wasn’t obvious on that old set and would be even less obvious on an old black and white set.
As the Doctor too is tempted to venture out into the void to save his companions, we are privy to Jamie and Zoe witnessing doppelgangers of themselves tempting them forward.
The episode ends with an incredibly iconic sequence for a couple of reasons…
The story really begins with episode 2 and the surrealism continues throughout, with the TARDIS crew getting lost in a forest of words, Jamie losing his face and having it (incorrectly) rebuilt by the Doctor. Wordplay, literature, myths and legends become a vital part of the story plus some fantastic imagery which build on the nursery based nightmares previously touched on in “The Celestial Toymaker”, but executed in a much better way.
The concepts and ideas of the story would be worth revisiting in the revived series, but I think that it would need a good twist.
In the expanded Universe, author Steve Lyons revisits elements of the story in his novels “Conundrum” and “Head Games”.
The Mind Robber
Written by Derrick Sherwick (Episode 1) and Peter Ling (Episodes 2-5), directed by David Maloney, produced by Peter Bryant.
Starring Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Emrys James, Bernard Horsefell, Hamish Wilson.
Currently available on DVD
Audiobook of the novelisation read by Derek Jacobi is also available.