The Mind Robber

Region 1

Region 2
VHS Video
(Doctor Who Story No. 45, starring Patrick Troughton)
  • written by Peter Ling (episodes 2-5) and Derrick Sherwin (episode 1)
  • directed by David Maloney
  • produced by Peter Bryant
  • featuring library music tracks
  • 5 episodes @ 18-22 minutes each
Story: Desperate to escape an erupting volcano, the Doctor takes the TARDIS out of space/time reality. He and Jamie and Zoe find themselves in a bizarre struggle to maintain their identity and their control over their own minds, as they are confronted by all-too-familiar people, creatures, and settings that shouldn't really exist....

DVD Extras include:

  • Audio commentary by actors Frazer Hines (Jamie), Wendy Padbury (Zoe), Hamish Wilson (Jamie 2), and director David Maloney.
  • "The Fact of Fiction" making-of featurette (35 min.) adding writers Peter Ling and Derrick Sherwin,
    designer Evan Hercules, and actor Christopher Robbie (The Karkus).
  • Frazer Hines' Doctor Who career retrospective interview (22 min.)
  • Photo Gallery music and sound effects montage (7 min.)
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • "Who's Who" text biographies (may feature on Region 1 discs only)
  • Basil Brush Yeti segment (10 min.)

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.

The season six story that I originally looked forward to viewing least actually turns out to be one of the very best of the year,
and one of the very best of its particular "candy-horror" genre, for that matter.

Episode One - by Derrick Sherwin

Script Editor Derrick Sherwin plays Robin Hood, stealing an episode from "The Dominators" (the previous story) to give to "The Mind Robber" and thus making the Whoniverse a better place. The TARDIS is introduced quite well here, particularly the relationship between the interior and the exterior. No dissolve effects for the TARDIS this time, nor does it make a proper landing anywhere, but with it specifically being scripted that way, and with it being buried in lava, caught in other dimensions and turned inside-out, we really can't complain.

Jamie does manage a complaint against Zoe's appearance in her eye-sore Dulcian outfit which sizes it up pretty accurately. Thankfully, as soon as common sense and continuity allows, she swaps it for something much more practical and better looking, and sticks to better fashions for the rest of her travels.

Episode one focuses on the three regulars, and is a fair demonstration of their relationships with each other and their life aboard the TARDIS interior, something that Doctor Who rarely gives us enough of. In scripting and in execution, this episode is by far better done than "The Edge of Destruction" (story no. 3), which basically attempted to do the same: fill a hole in the production schedule with in-TARDIS only scenes and characterizations. Here, the masterful use of white space, robots, the villain's voice, and the growing mental seduction/battle add much in the way of menace, anticipation, and believability to the rest of the "Mind Robber" story. I wouldn't have this adventure any other way.

Episodes Two through Five - by Peter Ling

"The Mind Robber" continues to be excellent all the way through, leaving reality behind and taking up residence in a mental dimension that is perfect for hosting a "candy-horror" story. The believability factor is thus pretty much on-par with "The Celestial Toymaker" (story no. 24), but dramatically speaking "The Mind Robber" is miles ahead. Once again the bizarre takes shape in the mind first, and then in print, before becoming physically tangible. Although mystery surrounds this mechanism at first, its discovery is one of the key elements which the plot is based around, and many of the story's best scenes are of our three travellers exploring the idea.

Bernard Horsfall's Gulliver is very enjoyable and watchable all the way through, particularly the very humorous exchange he has with Jamie as they try to agree on who they are hiding from. One of season six's best moments, for my money. Emrys Jones succeeds in bringing out several interesting personas from the almost schizophrenic character of the poor old story editor slaved to the master computer, including a sneaky schemer, a harsh commander, and an absent-minded likeable old fogey. Rapunzel, the Karkus, and the rest of the odd assortment of characters also get well-done, their crisp fresh dialogue keeping the story both light and interesting all the way through.

This is director David Maloney's first work on Doctor Who, and although he doesn't attract as much attention as a spectacular director as Douglas Camfield, he knows how to turn in solid work, and seems to be able to turn any story with a good script into something extremely appreciable. The number of all-time classic Doctor Who stories that he has helmed is extremely impressive. "The Mind Robber" is no exception, being perhaps the very best example of this style of story in Doctor Who.

Sudden illness for Frazer Hines throws an interesting twist into episode two, where Hamish Wilson takes over the role of Jamie for, basically, that episode. Wilson does not fail to do the role justice, and this has to be one of the all-time best, and funniest, companion "absences" that there is on Doctor Who. The extra scenes inserted to take care of this are excellent and enhance the strangeness of the setting extremely effectively: another unexpected bonus for the story. The episodes threaten to under-run the usual time-limit, but thankfully no unnecessary padding was added anywhere - only good stuff. The pace remains good all the way through. Even though a basic pattern emerges for the central conflict of the middle episodes, threatening to get repetitive, exploration and discovery rule the day, and the simple odyssey plot moves quickly and steadily ahead to the revelations, satisfying confrontations, and exciting conclusion in the castle. A lot of twists are thrown into the final battle of the minds between the Doctor and his adversary, achieving a great deal of humour without losing dramatic realism or impact. The final scene works, but wraps up just a little too quickly and enigmatically for my taste, serving of course as a bit of a cliffhanger between the fifth and sixth recording blocks. Although it may benefit the television stations to bring viewers back, it doesn't do much credit to this story or the next.

Episode Lengths:

  • Episode 1: (21:19)
  • Episode 2: (21:36)
  • Episode 3: (19:26)
  • Episode 4: (19:07)
  • Episode 5: (18:00)

"The Mind Robber" is extremely good, the most unusual gem of season six.

International Titles:

Magyar (Hungarian): "Az elmerabló"

Français (French): (Le voleur d'esprit)

Русский (Russian): "Вор разума"

Italiano (Italian): "Il ladro di menti"

Available with Italian and English audio tracks in this 3-story DVD Box set:

Region 2 Italy

"Il ladro di menti"
(The Mind Robber, story no. 45)

is bundled with
"L'invasione" (#46 - The Invasion) and
"I semi della morte"
(#48 - The Seeds of Death)

Original English: "The Mind Robber"

This story has become available on DVD and VHS video:
DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
VHS Video
NTSC A in the U.S.
NTSC B in the U.S.
NTSC in Canada
PAL for the U.K.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Invasion"

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