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4.0 out of 5 stars Mind Over Matter, 30 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Doctor Who - The Mind Robber [1968] [DVD] (DVD)
Allegedly inspired by TV viewers that believed that Crossroads was real (God help us) though I'm bound to suspect it being inspired by LSD.

It's good; admittedly not fast, with every idea wrung dry of every drop of worth, and often used twice, but they're generally good ideas and (a big plus) it looks good too, from the white void of Episode One (20 minutes of drama created from 'Shall we or shall we not?') to the Forest of Words to the White Robots and Toy Soldiers (these last look particularly good).

The overall plot is a touch insubstantial; the bloke in charge is apparently the writer of the Captain Jack Harkaway Penny Dreadfuls, and he got kidnapped by an alien entity (that we never see) and forced to make up stories in perpetuity. Why? And he wants the Doctor to take on his burden. Again why? Not Dickens, Hardy, Trollope? He could get a whole creative team together.

But that's the twaddle that David Maloney (directing Dr Who for the first time) got given to work with, and he did a very good job. The 'Suchathing doesn't exist!' gambit is over-used, and the minotaur will be over-used in a couple of later stories, but Princess Rapunzel is funny, and Bernard Horsfall does a good job as Lemuel Gulliver, a character with really very little to him.

Jamie's face is a lovely idea - it's a pity, in a way, that they had to wait until Frazer Hines was ill before thinking of it - and his cousin, Hamish Wilson, makes a good fist of standing in for him.

I don't get the Karkus at all - surely they could have found a better use for Christopher Robbie than a super hero that nobody's heard of - what about one that they have heard of, or a classical hero, or Polyphemus...

The denouement of trying to turn the Dr into fiction is rather more convoluted than my brain is comfortable with, and I strongly suspect that Peter Ling was finding it hard work to think his way out of the scenario he'd created. Jamie and Zoe as baddies work well though.

There is always an inherent danger in starting from the premise of 'the characters in this story are not real', and it's all to Peter Ling and David Maloney's credit that this does work as well as it does - stylish and satisfying, in spite of its shortcomings.

(Blackbeard - Edward Teach - was real, not fictional; ditto Cyrano de Bergerac).
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