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The Mind Robber
After an emergency dematerialisation, the TARDIS lands in a weird white void. Jamie and Zoe are tempted out of the time machine into a trap, while the Doctor fends off a psychic assault. In a desperate bid to escape, the Doctor tries to pilot the TARDIS somewhere else, only for the time machine to break apart. Suddenly, the three companions find themselves in a surreal world where imagination has become reality, populated by characters out of folklore and literature. They must navigate a series of riddles and deadly encounters to reach the mysterious Master of the realm. But what designs does he have for the Doctor?
Just before joining Doctor Who, story editor Derrick Sherwin and his assistant, Terrance Dicks, had written for the soap opera Crossroads, co-created by Peter Ling. The three men regularly travelled together by train and, one day in late 1967, Ling remarked on the way that soap opera characters could be treated like real people by some fans. Sherwin suggested that this might form a suitable basis for a Doctor Who story and, shortly thereafter, Ling put together a proposal called “The Fact Of Fiction”. On the basis of this submission, on December 20th, Ling was commissioned to write an outline for a six-part story, now entitled “Man Power”.
Early in the new year, the serial's length was truncated to four episodes; the title also underwent a slight change to “Manpower”, although this would be applied inconsistently. Ling was now aware that Victoria would no longer be the Doctor's companion by the time his scripts entered production and so, with little information on her replacement made available to that point, he referred to the female companion in his storyline as “Zoe”. Sherwin and producer Peter Bryant liked this name and, with Ling's permission, it was ultimately adopted for the new character.
In Ling's original version of Episode One, the TARDIS broke up after passing through a magnetic storm. The Master's footsoldiers were monstrous, faceless entities and it was they who posed puzzles to the Doctor. Sherwin suggested that these creatures should in fact look like life-sized toy soldiers, but he wanted to delay their on-screen appearance until the end of the episode. Instead, he posited that children could set the riddles; Ling thought in terms of the juvenile heroes of Edith Nesbit's novels, such as 1899's The Story Of The Treasure Seekers, in revising these scenes. It was also Sherwin's idea that Lemuel Gulliver -- from Jonathan Swift's 1726 satire Gulliver's Travels -- should speak only in the words Swift wrote for him. The story editor further asked Ling to include scenes of the TARDIS crew coming under mental assault prior to the time machine malfunctioning.
The four scripts for “Manpower” were commissioned on January 31st, 1968. It was intended to be the last story made as part of Doctor Who's fifth recording block, although its transmission would be held over to follow The Dominators at the start of Season Six. For the central figure of the Master, Ling drew inspiration from Charles Hamilton, who had created the children's character Billy Bunter under the pseudonym Frank Richards. Ling continued to make use of a variety of literary characters in writing his scripts. These included Rapunzel, a heroine from European folklore popularised in the Grimms' Fairy Tales (1812) collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm; the unicorn, the Minotaur and Medusa of Greek myth; Sir Lancelot, a popular character in the medieval legends of King Arthur; and d'Artagnan, from the 1844 work Les Trois Mosquetaires (ie, The Three Musketeers) by Alexandre Dumas.
In addition, two historical figures appeared: seventeenth-century French satirist Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac, whom Edmond Rostand portrayed as a romantic poet in his 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac, and the eighteenth-century pirate Blackbeard, whose real name was Edward Teach (or Thatch). In the Karkus, Ling sought to lampoon the comic book character Batman, created by Bob Kane in 1939, whose popularity was soaring thanks to a campy live-action television series which had debuted in 1966. Ling's scripts also referenced a variety of other texts, such as the 1883 Robert Louis Stevenson novel Treasure Island and Louisa May Alcott's Little Women (1869). Ling hoped to use the vigilante Zorro, created in 1919 by Johnston McCulley, but the character was still under copyright. A quotation from Walter de la Mare's 1912 poem The Listeners seems to have been excised due to similar concerns.
As Ling wrote his scripts, problems arose with The Dominators, culminating in that story's reduction from six parts to five. Around March 29th, it was decided that the extra episode would be appended to the start of “Manpower”. On April 7th, Sherwin was granted permission to write the new Episode One, with Ling's four scripts now becoming Episodes Two through Five; a formal commission followed on April 19th. Sherwin structured his script such that the only sets needed would be the TARDIS console room and a white void, which could be represented using only a cyclorama. Similarly, the lone supporting characters would be the White Robots, the costumes for which had already been used on The Prophet, a 1966 episode of the anthology series Out Of The Unknown, and which would only need to be repainted. Sherwin also took the opportunity to have The Dominators lead directly into “Manpower” to explain how the Doctor and his friends ended up in the Land of Fiction; Ling's “magnetic storm” element was dropped.
On April 22nd, the serial gained its final title of The Mind Robber. Soon thereafter, Patrick Troughton was appalled to discover that Episode One was effectively a three-hander utilising just the regular cast: as he neared the end of the forty-six-week production block, he was becoming exhausted, and had only reluctantly agreed to remain on Doctor Who for a third season. Bryant was sympathetic to Troughton's concerns and, on May 22nd, it was agreed that all five episodes of The Mind Robber would be cut by five minutes, reducing their running time to twenty minutes each. This decision resulted in a number of minor cuts throughout the five installments.
The director assigned to The Mind Robber was David Maloney, who had been a production assistant on several Doctor Who stories between The Rescue in 1964 and The Ark in 1966. Maloney's first order of business was a single day of location filming on June 9th. During daylight hours, Harrison's Rocks at Groombridge in East Sussex stood in for the Citadel cliff face. There, Frazer Hines was joined by his cousin, Ian Hines, who played one of the Toy Soldiers. That night, the unicorn scene was recorded at the Kenley Aerodrome in Kenley, London. Unfortunately, the horse which was provided for the filming had a light brown coat, rather than the requisite white, and so blanco from a nearby air force base had to be hastily applied.
June 10th and 11th were given over to model filming at the BBC Television Centre Puppet Theatre in White City, London. This was followed by three days at the BBC Television Film Studios in Ealing, London, from June 12th to 14th. Material completed at this time included the scenes set in the white and black voids, and the climactic battle between the fictional characters.
As was the norm for Doctor Who, studio recording for each episode took place on successive Fridays, starting on June 21st. For the two opening installments, the venue was BBC Television Centre Studio 3. No writer credit was provided for Episode One, since it was the practice at that time to discourage story editors from writing for their own programmes. Amongst the castmembers joining the production for Episode Two, taped on June 28th, was Barbara Loft, a fourteen year-old acting student playing one of the children. Amusingly, just a few weeks earlier, Loft's mother had written to the BBC to complain that Doctor Who had become too frightening.
Unfortunately, as rehearsals began for Episode Two, it was learned that Frazer Hines had contracted chicken pox from his nephews, rendering him unavailable for the week's recording. The script already included a puzzle which forced the Doctor to arrange pictures depicting parts of Jamie's face, in order to bring him back to life. Thinking quickly, Sherwin rewrote both Episodes Two and Three so that the Doctor now gave an incorrect solution, allowing a different actor to play Jamie. In the subsequent installment, the Doctor would be given another chance at the puzzle and, this time, he would solve it properly. Hastily cast as the altered Jamie was Hamish Wilson, whose credits included several episodes of The Vital Spark, This Man Craig and The Revenue Men. One of the other faces used for the puzzle belonged to David Maloney.
To avoid having to use the plain set again the following week, the first few scenes of Episode Three were recorded on June 28th alongside most of Episode Two. Hines' only scene in the second installment, on the other hand, was deferred until July 19th, when Episode Five would be taped. Hines returned for Episode Three on July 5th, which marked the start of two weeks at Lime Grove Studio D in Shepherd's Bush, London. On the 8th, Bryant wrote to Wilson to thank him for joining The Mind Robber at such short notice; Wilson would later become a senior producer for BBC Radio. On July 19th, the recording of Episode Five saw cast and crew return to TC3, and brought an end to both the production of The Mind Robber and to Doctor Who's fifth recording block as a whole.
All five episodes of The Mind Robber were scheduled to start at 5.20pm, rather than the usual 5.15pm, to account for their abbreviated duration. The first four parts were followed by a news update and then The New Lucy Show, as was now the norm. For Episode Five, however, The New Lucy Show was preempted by coverage of the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, emanating from Mexico City, Mexico.
|Updated 14th July 2020|
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