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The Mind Robber
After an emergency dematerialisation, the TARDIS lands in a weird white void. Drawn out of the time machine, the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe find themselves in a surreal world where imagination has become reality, populated with characters out of folklore and literature. And the mysterious overlord of this Land of Fiction desires the Doctor's company... forever.
Peter Ling had started writing while in the army during World War II, and honed his craft while spending two years recovering from tuberculosis. Success on radio led to him becoming a script editor and Head of Children's Series for Associated-Rediffusion. Ling later cocreated the soap opera Compact and wrote for programmes such as The Avengers before he devised a new soap opera, Crossroads.
Amongst the writers on Crossroads were Doctor Who story editor Derrick Sherwin and his assistant, Terrance Dicks. Just prior to taking up their jobs on Doctor Who in late 1967, they were travelling by train with Ling when the latter remarked on the way soap opera characters are treated like real people by some fans. Sherwin suggested that this might form the basis of a Doctor Who story and shortly thereafter, Ling put together a proposal called “The Fact Of Fiction”.
On the basis of this submission, Ling was commissioned to pen an outline for a six-part story, now entitled “Man Power”, on December 20th. Early in the new year, its 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 serial entered production, and so with little information on her replacement yet made available, he chose to call the female companion in his storyline “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 wanted to hold off their onscreen appearance until the end of the episode. Instead, he posited that children could ask the Doctor the riddles; Ling thought 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 book 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. Assigned the production code Serial UU, it was intended that “Manpower” would be the last story made as part of Doctor Who's fifth recording block. 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 Grimm's Fairy Tales (1812-1815) published by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm; the unicorn, the Minotaur and Medusa of Greek myth; Sir Lancelot, a popular character in the legends of King Arthur; and D'Artagnan, from the 1844 work Les Trois Mosquetaires (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 TV series. 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 this was vetoed for copyright reasons. 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 preceding serial, The Dominators, culminating in that story's reduction from six episodes to five. It was decided around March 29th to append the extra episode to the start of “Manpower”. On April 7th, Sherwin was granted permission to write the new part one (Ling's four scripts now becoming episodes two through five); a formal commission followed on April 19th. Sherwin composed his script with the intention that the only sets necessary would be the TARDIS console room and a white void. Meanwhile, the lone supporting characters appearing 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 time travellers end up in the Land of Fiction; Ling's “magnetic storm” idea was therefore no longer necessary.
On April 22nd, the serial gained its final title of The Mind Robber. Exactly one month later, on May 22nd, it was decided to cut the episodes from the normal Doctor Who length of about 25 minutes down to roughly 20 minutes apiece, resulting 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 and The Ark. After completing the BBC's internal directors' course in early 1968, Maloney had worked on Z Cars. A single day of location filming took place on June 9th, beginning at Harrison's Rocks at Groombridge in East Sussex for the material set on the Citadel cliff face. Frazer Hines was joined by his cousin, Ian, who played one of the Toy Soldiers. That night, the unicorn scene was recorded at the Kenley Aerodrome in Surrey. Unfortunately, the horse provided had a light brown coat rather than white, and so white blanco from a nearby air force base had to be hastily applied to the animal.
June 10th and 11th were given over to model filming at the Television Centre Puppet Theatre. Three days at the Ealing Television Film Studios then followed from the 12th to the 14th (a fourth day had been scheduled for the 17th and then moved to the 7th before being cancelled altogether). 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 now the norm for Doctor Who, studio recording for each episode took place on successive Fridays, starting on June 21st. Unfortunately, during the week between the taping of the first two installments at Television Centre Studio 3, Frazer Hines contracted chicken pox from his nephews and was therefore unavailable for part two. Thinking quickly, Sherwin rewrote the scripts for episodes two and three so that the Doctor incorrectly put Jamie's face back together while attempting to solve one of the puzzles. Hamish Wilson was cast as the altered Jamie. To avoid having to use the plain set again the following week, the first few scenes of episode three were recorded on June 28th as well.
Hines rejoined the production the next week, when the venue switched for two episodes to Lime Grove D. July 19th, however, saw cast and crew return to TC3. This day began with the taping of Hines' material from part two. Subsequently, episode five was recorded on 35mm film instead of videotape. This brought an end to both the production of The Mind Robber and Doctor Who's fifth recording block as a whole; Serial UU would be held over to start Season Six in late summer along with The Dominators.
The Mind Robber was the only Doctor Who story written by Ling. Upon its completion, he discussed another idea with Terrance Dicks, about a land where time ran backward, but this was ultimately abandoned due to its complexity. In the mid-Eighties, Ling and Hazel Adair collaborated on “Hex”, about the queen of the bee-like Hexagorians kidnapping British scientists, but script editor Eric Saward was unhappy with the proposal and it never made it onto the schedule. Ling subsequently published several novels. He died on September 14th, 2006.
|Updated 25th May 2009|
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