I think that “The Mind Robber” might just have come at the perfect time in our little viewing. As it must have done in 1968, it’s a good reminder to any of the show’s younger viewers that Doctor Who doesn’t necessarily have to be about fighting sci-fi alien menaces every time. As the TARDIS can go anywhere, this time it’s brought our heroes to a very weird world, with objects and people vanishing and reappearing whenever you’re not looking at them, strangers who talk with lots more dialogue than is necessary, riddle-obsessed schoolchildren, forests of words, human-sized windup toy soldiers, and unicorns. This is a far cry from Daleks and Yeti.
Our son wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. Today, he stacked some pillows for protection and enjoyed peering between them, cautiously. He said that it hurt his brain a little, but he was never impatient with it. The story is confusing, but the episode moves incredibly fast, with each new puzzle and problem, and there are several, handled quickly, rather than lingering for too long on a single large complication like “the computer doesn’t know what to do about the glaciers” or “we need more proof about how a powerful Mexican scientist can predict earthquakes.” In short, it is at least beginning with a much more kid-friendly feel.
Thrown in at the deep end with such an atypical story, this was David Maloney’s first directing job for Doctor Who. He’d shoot eight serials in total, casting Bernard Horsfall, shown above as “a stranger,” in half of them. I think we’ll learn this stranger’s real name next time.
Oh, and I should probably point out that’s not Frazer Hines as Jamie above. Hines came down with chickenpox the week they needed to tape, so he came in to get his picture taken and went home. Fortunately, this story is weird enough that they could bring in an actor named Hamish Wilson to play the character for a couple of weeks. Our son is not worried about Jamie’s face and thinks that he’ll get it back.