Doctor Who: The Mind Robber (part five)

The final part of “The Mind Robber” is another lean-n-mean conclusion that script editor Derrick Sherwin hammered through, and I believe that it was the shortest installment of the series until the mid-2000s, when they started doing minisodes like “Time Crash” or the “Night and the Doctor” series. It’s a brisk 18 minutes long, and while it suffers, like “The Ice Warriors,” from a silly case of computer-phobia, it’s really fun. In this case, Jamie and Zoe overload an amazing supercomputer from a void outside time and space by… punching a bunch of buttons. Something similar will happen in the next adventure. TV people in the sixties just did not understand computers at all, did they?

Anyway, our son was much more excited by this episode. With the Karkus and Rapunzel now on their side, they can battle both the toy soldiers and the White Robots, and then Cyrano and D’Artagnan have a swordfight, then Blackbeard and Sir Lancelot show up. Weird how the Master of the Land of Fiction summoned up both Cyrano de Bergerac and Blackbeard, who were real people, though. Anyway, Cyrano and D’Artagnan’s fight is really respectable, not just for this show, but period. Those actors (or perhaps stuntmen) knew how to use swords.

So in the end, away from the horrors of the Minotaur and Medusa, our son enjoyed this conclusion a lot. The “blow up the computer” resolution can’t help but feel like a too-traditional letdown for such a fanciful story, but it’s quite fun overall.

Incidentally, there’s an odd (and slightly laborious) reason why the episode they cut from “The Dominators” had to be appended to this adventure, and not used later in the season instead. Doctor Who‘s sixth season actually started transmission when it did so that they could run ten episodes before being preempted on two Saturdays for the BBC’s coverage of the 1968 Summer Olympics. They originally had hoped to run a six-parter and a four-parter before taking a break. Dropping part six of “The Dominators” and not using it for this story would have meant that on October 12, the BBC would run part one of the next adventure, and not show the second until November 2, which nobody wanted. Nevertheless, the final caption in the closing credits reads, wrongly, “Next week: ‘The Invasion’.”

And that makes me wonder… this episode went out in a twenty-minute slot on Saturday afternoon rather than its traditional twenty-five. Did the BBC ask for a shorter episode so they could start coverage of the Olympics’ opening ceremonies a little earlier that night? I’ve seen an episode guide that suggested that this story’s big unanswered question was who built the computer. I like my unanswered question better.

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