Who Review – The Mind Robber

Posted by Richo On June 6, 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Welcome to the Twenty-First instalment of Who Review, my ongoing quest to watch and review all available episodes of SF’s longest running television series, Doctor Who. This week, The Doctor and his companions embark on their most bizarre and surreal adventure as they encounter The Mind Robber.


The Mind Robber (5 Episodes)


14 September – 12 October 1968


Patrick Troughton


Jamie McCrimmon

Zoe Heriot


Escaping from volcanic explosions at the end of The Dominators, The TARDIS is enveloped in lava, causing a fluid leak that forces the Doctor to use the emergency unit to take the vehicle away from danger and out of reality itself.

It lands in a white void of nothingness. As the Doctor attempts to repair the damage, Jamie and Zoe are lured outside, where they are confronted by white robots. The Doctor manages to get them back inside, but as they attempt to return to reality, the TARDIS explodes.

The destruction of the TARDIS at the end of the first episode is a powerful and enduring visual image. It’s one of the strongest cliffhangers to date and definitely has you excited for the next episode. Little did I realise just how strange things were going to get…

The Doctor and his companions awaken to find themselves separated in a forest where trees form letters when viewed from above. The Doctor deciphers a series of riddles and finds Jamie, who has been transformed into a cardboard cut-out with a blank face. The doctor is forced to choose from a series of facial components to try to reconstruct Jamie’s face, but he chooses the wrong components. When Jamie is returned to life, he looks completely different.

Well, this is certainly a creative way to replace one of your lead actors for an episode, and it certainly fits in with the surreal nature of the storyline. Frazer Hines was suffering from chicken pox at the time, forcing him to miss two episodes, hence the truly surreal means of writing him out of the story. His replacement, Hamish Wilson, does a serviceable job of capturing the adventurous spirit and loyal nature of Jamie.

The Doctor and the new Jamie reunite with Zoe and encounter Lemuel Gulliver, the fictional protagonist from Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. He gives them a life sized toy soldier that leads them to the edge of the forest, where they are attacked by a unicorn. They stop the mythical creature by loudly declaring “it doesn’t exist”, thus turning it into a statue.

Continuing on their journey, they reach a house that is actually the entrance to a vast labyrinth. Here, the Doctor is charged with completing the Jamie face puzzle again, and this time he gets it right, restoring Jamie to normal.  Leaving Jamie to recover, The Doctor and Zoe continue into the maze, where they encounter both a Minotaur and Medusa, defeating both.

Meanwhile, Jamie is pursued by a soldier and escapes by climbing a rock face with the help of Rapunzel’s hair. He enters a citadel at the top of the rock face and discovers computer banks monitoring The Doctor and Zoe’s activities. He accidentally sets off alarms that draw the white robots to his location. He avoids capture and finds Gulliver, who is blind to the presence of the white robots.

Exiting the labyrinth, The Doctor and Zoe encounter the Karkus, a cartoon character from Zoe’s home era of the early 21st century. The Karkus carries an “anti-molecular ray disintegrator”, a weapon that the Doctor accidently dispels by declaring that no such weapon exists. Angered, the Karkus attacks him. The Doctor cannot dispel the cartoon character, as he has never heard of him before and cannot declare that he doesn’t actually exist. Fortunately, Zoe beats The Karkus into submission with her martial arts skills and the cartoon figure agrees to aid them.

The Karkus is absolutely ludicrous in appearance, sporting a body suit designed to give the appearance of a heroic physique. Actor Christopher Robbie depicts him in an over the top manner that makes the character a little annoying, so much so that I wanted Zoe to continue beating on him.

The Karkus leads them to the citadel where they reunite with Jamie. Zoe accidentally sets off the alarm and they are captured by the White Robots, who take them to the citadel’s control room. They are brought before the Master, the creative source for The Land of Fiction, the other-dimensional realm the TARDIS crew have been trapped in.

This is, of course, not the same Master as the renegade Time Lord who will appear two seasons later, and who will go on to become one of the greatest Doctor Who villains. Although not identified as such in the storyline, the Master from The Mind Robber would eventually be identified as the Master of the Land to distinguish him from the more well-known Time Lord villain.

The Master explains that he was prolific English writer from 1926 who was kidnapped by The Master Brain and brought to the Land of Fiction. The Master Brain is a powerful computer seeking to invade and conquer the Earth, but needs to be attached to a creative mind, implying that it feeds of creative energy. The Master is getting old, however, and a replacement is desperately needed. The journey the Doctor and his companions have been on has been a test designed to find a suitable replacement and the Master believes the Doctor is that replacement. The Doctor refuses his offer and escapes through a skylight.

Zoe and Jamie, meanwhile, have wandered off. They sneak into a library where they encounter the white robots again and become trapped in a giant book.  The Master hypnotises them and forces them to set up a trap for the Doctor.

Captured, the Doctor is linked to the Master Brain. A battle of the mind begins, as The Doctor and the Brain summon various fictional characters to battle one another on their behalf. The Doctor prevails, releasing Jamie and Zoe and allowing them to overload the Master Brain. This causes the white robots to randomly attack one another. The Doctor unplugs the Master from the Brain and they retreat into a side room as the white robots destroy the Brain.

With the Brain destroyed, the Land of Fiction is apparently destroyed and reality resets. The TARDIS reforms and reality is restored.

Well, that was certainly…strange. At 5 episodes, The Mind Robber is overly long and drawn out. Originally intended as 4 episodes, a 5th was added to the production schedule when The Dominators was cut from 6 to 5 episodes. The 1st episode of The Mind Robber had to be cobbled together quickly and feels a little sparse. Still, I give credit to the sheer surreal creativity that went into this storyline. While not one of the all-time great Who stories, it’s certainly one of the more creative.


The focus in this storyline is on the Doctor’s deductive abilities and superior willpower. Both skills play pivotal roles in the story and give Patrick Troughton to highlight these aspects of the Doctor’s personality.


Zoe is a martial arts expert as well as an astrophysicist and librarian! It’s good to see that she can handle herself in a fight and adds another layer to her developing character. She’s already shown herself to be the Doctor’s intellectual equal, although she lacks his experience and intuition. Now, we’re seeing how she can match Jamie in physicality.


The Master Brain is an interesting concept, but his failing as an antagonist lies in the fact that his plans and motivations are ambiguous and ill-defined. There’s no real understanding of how the Brain will conquer the earth or why he would want to.

The world he inhabits, the Land of Fiction, is also a fascinating idea that needed to be fleshed out more for the storyline to really work.


The Mind Robber is easily the strangest Who storyline to date and is relatively entertaining despite its flaws. It’s a little sparse and long at times, especially early on, detracting from the overall quality.

2.5 Lukes


The Doctor and his companions return to modern-day Earth as The Cybermen launch their latest attack in The Invasion.

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