19 June 2017: The Eaters of Light review added.
11 June 2017: Empress Of Mars review added.
6 June 2017: Extremis/Pyramid At The End Of The World/Lie Of The Land review added.
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THE MIND ROBBER
"We may be in a place where nothing is impossible."
Buy this Dr Who DVD: US
Spoo-kee. A high concept story that still delivers chills more than thirty years after it was made, it's light years away from the monster of the week stories that Doctor Who can be at its worst. And you don't have to be eight to find that there are some genuine behind-the-sofa moments. (Those creepy toy soldiers make us want to run away and shut ourselves in a cupboard.)
We love the idea that the fictional characters can only speak the dialogue they've already been given, and we're knocked out by the forest of words. "Necessity is the mother of invention" could have been coined for this - the first episode, added to the schedule at the last moment, delivers mondo eeriness with nothing more than a white backcloth and a few left-over robots, and they solved the problem of Frazer Hines's chickenpox with the memorably scary device of him losing his face. Ace stuff.
The Doctor's a panicky little fellow in this, isn't he? It doesn't take much to get him shouting "Oh, my word!" and quivering with fear. A masterly display put on to distract the enemy, you say? We're not convinced.
And the Doctor's behaviour when it comes to saving his imperilled companions is quite a contrast to his later behaviour at Androzani (the other one, that is) - he refuses to take over from the Master even though he knows Zoe and Jamie will be turned into fictional characters if he doesn't. Hmmmm. Well, maybe he had a master plan to save them all along. And maybe he didn't. Pat Troughton has a trick of ducking his chin in times of stress that makes him look like a little boy having a tantrum.
Zoe's pretty annoying in this one - first, she runs out of the TARDIS despite the Doctor telling her what a stupid idea this is. He does say later that this impulse would have been irresistible, so we could almost forgive her except for the fact that she's so stupid later on. The Doctor tells her a million times that the things threatening them aren't real, and she knows this is true by the way the unicorn disappears, so why does she have such a hard time believing that the Medusa is fictional too? And for someone of supposedly high intelligence, it's pretty hard to believe she would have just blundered into the photoelectric cell about three nanoseconds after the Doctor lifted her over the beam. (Jo did it too, of course, but no problems with credibility there.) Still, we love her cool Avengers stuff with the Karkus.
Jamie is as engaging as ever, although we do find it a bit surprising that a 17th-century piper's son is able to read. (Maybe that explains why at one point he's standing on the wrong side of the tape.) The Master guy is a bit ranty, but we love the kids and Gulliver.
A great concept, some genuinely frightening bits and terrific surprises at every turn. We love it.
MORAL: Reality? Overrated.
SEE YA ROUND
When Jamie's looking at "Scotland" on the scanner, it looks as if there's a roundel cover missing behind him.
WHAT THE SEC?!
We love the way Pat Troughton manages to say "Where in time and space am I?" as if he's swearing.
SHUT THAT DOOR
It's a seriously shocking moment when the TARDIS is blown apart, and Zoe and Jamie floating round in the void clinging onto the console is pretty scary too.
It's a bit of a big moment when they start talking about the Master, isn't it?
THE PEN IS MIGHTIER
There's a great visual moment when the Doctor throws up a sword and a book comes down.
BEFORE SHE WAS FAMOUS
One of the girls in the group of children is Sylvestra le Tozel, seen recently in the Simon Nye sitcom Beast.
I'LL WAIT HERE IN CASE THERE'S ANY TROUBLE
Why do the Doctor and Zoe leave Jamie in the maze? It's just crying out for Bad Things to happen.
MEET GEORGE JETSON
We love that the Karkus is a fictional character from the future.
YOU WAIT HERE IN CASE THERE'S ANY TROUBLE
The Doctor tells Jamie and Zoe not on any account to go away. So what do they do? You guessed it. Grrrr!
BECAUSE IT'S THERE
The idea that the intelligence controlling the land of fantasy wants to take over the Earth seems awfully tacked on to us. What would it want with the Earth, anyway? It's not even in the same dimension! We think it's quite scary enough without this.
Buy this Dr Who DVD: US