33 Cool Things about
“The Mind Robber”
(And 17 Stupid Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)
By Fiona Moore and Alan Stevens
Previously published in Celestial Toyroom issue 515
1. How did the Doctor fail to see the giant river of lava pouring towards the Tardis at the start of Episode 1?
2. The lava effect is another example of the Troughton Era's obsession with the many and fun things people can do with soap suds.
3. The fluid links are clearly the weakest part of the Tardis, and the most likely to break down.
4. Jamie is induced to leave the Tardis by watching Peter Watkins' controversial 1964 documentary Culloden, or so it appears.
5. While Zoe grew up inside a matte painting.
6. And the implication to be drawn is that Jamie and Zoe both want to leave the Tardis.
7. The idea of the Tardis scanner showing a sequence of images to induce the crew to action, dates back to "The Edge of Destruction", but has also reappeared more recently in "Wheel in Space". With "The Mind Robber" though, it's not the Tardis itself, but an external force that acts on the scanner to lure Jamie and Zoe out.
8. Then again, maybe it is the Tardis: sick to death of their antics and wanting them gone.
9. The featureless void has big scratches on its floor.
10. "I've got this feeling we're being watched." Well, yes, Jamie, by 6.6 million viewers.
11. This is the second time the Troughton Doctor talks to himself in voiceover, the first being in "The Moonbase" Episode 3.
12. "There was this big white horse with a horn right in the middle of his head." "A unicorn?" "Aye, probably." Well, what else could it be?
13. The main reason for this serial's popularity is not its postmodern innovativeness, nor its mind-blowing Sixties psychedelia, but a certain shot of Wendy Padbury in the Episode 1 cliffhanger.
14. Jamie should really complain about the bad pasting job they've done on his life-sized cutout.
15. There's a suggestion of the Great Intelligence in the Master of the Land of Fiction's changing voice. Indeed, the Doctor even asks "What is this intelligence you serve?"
16 Apart from sound effects and the music that's part of the fictional narrative (such as Jamie's imaginary bagpipes, or the thrilling music under the sword fight in Episode 5) there is no other incidental music at all.
17. People who joined Doctor Who later on may find it something of a mind-frack that the villain of the story is the Master, but isn't the Master.
18. The children not being explicitly referred to as the Bastables may well be for copyright reasons, since creator E. Nesbit had only been dead for 44 years by then.
19. "Alice Bastable" is played by Sylvestra le Touzel, who you can also look out for in The Boy From Space, Between The Lines, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and The Thick of It.
20. During the wordplay section of Episode 2, one might suspect that the Doctor has wandered into a children's annual. He's lucky it's not The Dalek Outer Space Book.
21. One set of eyes, nose and mouth that provide a possible face for Jamie clearly belongs to the director David Maloney.
22. Hamish Wilson, who was cast as the alternative Jamie, was a genuine Scot born in Glasgow, whereas English actor Frazer Hines was from Horsforth, Leeds.
23. It's a fan myth that Hamish was related to Frazer, although Frazer's cousin, Ian Hines, did appear as a Toy Soldier.
24. "That's not a horse!" "No, Zoe, it's a brown horse painted white!"
25. When the Doctor is first presented with the face puzzle, Fraser is missing from the board. The second time around, the jumbled parts that made up Hamish's face have been exchanged for Frazer's.
26. The restored Jamie looking in the mirror during Episode 3 provides a Chekhov's gun, or perhaps Chekhov's mirror, for how the Doctor and Zoe will escape Medusa at the opening of Episode 4.
27. Evidence of Doctor Who's ongoing unhealthy obsession with Minotaurs: "The Mind Robber", "The Time Monster", "The Horns of Nimon" and "The God Complex".
28. The Doctor's insistence that the "Minotaur is a mythical beast" (and therefore doesn't exist) is some-what undermined by the above list.
29. Although, in truth, none of the Minotaurs who appear in Doctor Who are in fact the Minotaur, who was the offspring of Queen Pasiphaë of Crete and a sacred bull.
30. Photoelectric cells, such as the one in Rapunzel's Castle, were invented around 1883 and instrumental in the development of early television, such as the "scanning" technology that records the image. Quite possibly the "lamps" in the helmets of the Toy Soldiers, which allow them both to "see" and transmit images, are the same thing.
31. "This world that we've tumbled into is a world of fiction. Unicorns, minotaur, Gulliver's Travels, they're all alive here." "Then what are we doing here?" Well, Zoe, I've got some possibly disturbing news for you...
32. And later, the teletype on which the Doctor and Zoe's adventures are being written is entitled "Work In Progress." So-- fictional they are, even in the story itself (at least, as the Doctor notes, up until the moment when they don't follow the Master's script).
33. The re-use of the robots, from the 1967 Out of the Unknown episode "The Prophet", might suggest that Out of the Unknown is also a recognisable fiction in this universe (well, we've had books and comics, why not television too?).
34. Out of the Unknown returned the compliment by featuring the Daleks and the Tardis in "Get Off My Cloud", a story about an SF writer driven to delusions, recorded in August 1968 (less than a month after "The Mind Robber" finished filming). So both series are fictional in each others' universes.
35. Those rocks that Jamie climbs up, Harrison's Rocks, would later appear leading to another Doctor Who fictional castle: Castrovalva.
36. "This doesn't look like the inside of a princess' castle to me!" How would you know, Jamie?
37. We really like Medusa. It's the snakes.
38. The designer on this story is Evan Hercules. Doctor, is he also mythical?
39. The Doctor can't say with certainty the Karkus is a fictional character, because he'd never heard of him before. That's rather metatextual.
40. In Zoe's universe, the newspaper-equivalent of the year 2000 is The Hourly Telepress, and carries strip cartoons. In ours, online news, with at least hourly updating rates, was indeed a thing in the year 2000, and web-comics were also freely available.
41. "The Yahoos... A cursed race of inferior creatures!" Well, that's what they're saying at Google Headquarters.
42. The Master wrote exciting fiction about an adventurer named Captain Jack Harkaway. That's close enough.
43. "And only an Earthman type creature has the power to create fiction. The power to imagine." While zillions of intelligent and creative aliens mutter, "Well thanks, you speciesist."
44. Even less forgivable is the Master's assertion that what is required is "a man of boundless imagination" to create fiction. Although "the intelligence" is happy enough to rip-off Louisa May Alcott and Edith Nesbit.
45. "You, Doctor, are ageless. You exist outside the barriers of time and space." At which point Doctor Who Showrunner Chris Chibnall reaches over to his keyboard and starts to script "The Timeless Children".
46. As Jamie and Zoe are pressed between the pages of a giant book, at the cliffhanger to Episode 4, we see the chapter title "Un Renard-- Pris Au Piege", which means "A Fox-- Caught in a Trap." Presumably, the fox is the Doctor and the trap is the bargain the Master offers to release them.
47. Cyrano de Bergerac and Blackbeard aren't fictional characters. Just saying.
48. "Jamie and Zoe realised at last that the Doctor was in fact the most monstrous and cunning villain. There was no punishment too severe for the crimes that he had committed." This may be the origin of all the Doctor Who stories revolving around that very idea.
49. It has got to be said that, to judge by what he writes here, the Master is an appalling hack.
50. According to the Doctor Who Transcripts page, the writer of the adventures of Captain Jack Harkaway for The Ensign was Frank Richards, a pseudonym of Charles Harold St. John Hamilton (1876-1961). So the Master is either a real person who has been turned into a fiction, or, very possibly, the pseudonym itself is a fictional character.