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12 August 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 224: The Mind Robber, Episode Three

Dear diary,

The thing I'm finding odd about The Mind Robber is that I've got a snaking suspicion I shouldn't really like it. I mean, it feels completely out of keeping with pretty much everything we've ever had in the series before (despite all my comparisons to The Celestial Toymaker - this is weirder!) or since, and it really feels a bit out of place. In some ways, it's almost like they're really scraping the barrel of things to do with the programme.

I wonder if it's just that Season Five has completely altered my perception of what Doctor Who is supposed to be? During the Hartnell era, things were different every four-to-six episodes, sometimes swinging in wild directions (going for high comedy in things like The Romans or pure, educational history in The Aztecs, not to mention odd sidesteps into being an inch high or fighting the Daleks for twelve straight weeks), but the Second Doctor's era has felt far more uniform.

Suddenly, we're plonked down into this strange place, where following the white void and TARDIS behaving erratically stuff in Episode One, we're suddenly in a world of fiction, in which characters such as the Unicorn or Medusa can be perfectly real, and the Doctor can have a chat with Gulliver. It just feels like it's pushing the envelope that bit too far for me, and I really should be talking about how it simply doesn't work, and how it was one of the worst ideas in the show's long history.

And yet… there's just something about it that really, really, works. I'm finding myself genuinely caught up with it, and in a stark contrast to the last story, I can't imagine letting my attention wander - I'm simply glued to the screen. It's all pretty standard fare (the majority of today's episode revolves around the Doctor and his companions wandering through - essentially - corridors), but it really does keep you attached. I wonder if part of the praise needs to be passed onto our three regulars. While there's plenty of other characters in the episode, it still feels as though they're the only ones there. Maybe it's because we know that they're the only ones who can be described as 'real'? All the other characters come and go in the blink of an eye (Jamie clambering through the window to meet Rapunzel, only to find that she's vanished is great), making our heroes the only focal point.

It's great to have Frazer Hines back today, too. I spoke yesterday of how Jamie's face being changed felt perfectly in keeping with the story's theme of tests and surreal images, and the same is true of his return. In some ways, it feels like a shame to have the resolution be identical to the scene we saw yesterday - the Doctor having to put Jamie's face back together - but I think I prefer it to them just arriving somewhere to find that, ta-da!, Jamie is back to normal. Though Hamish Wilson turns in a fair performance as the highlander, no one can ever live up to Frazer - he is Jamie.

And he's back to being perfectly in keeping with the Second Doctor. There's a moment when they've entered the mysterious house, and the door slams shut behind them. In the exact same second, with the exact same Scooby Doo-like move, the pair turn in shock to find the source of the noise. Wendy pad bury also makes the turn, but she's not quite in time with the others. You get the sense that she's still finding her feet a little. That said, she's lovely when she's on screen alone with Troughton, and they way they hold each other close while the Medusa attacks is lovely.

It has to be said though - Zoe just doesn't get it, does she? In the opening moments of this episode, the Doctor manages to stop the charging unicorn by convincing his companions that it isn't real, so can't hurt them. He even explains this to them (and to us). A little later, they use the same trick to face off a minotour - but Zoe don't understand how it's not real when it's right there with them. The cliffhanger today is based on the same premise - the threat is only there because Zoe won't accept that it can't be. I'm hoping they'll slip in a few lines about how she finds it hard to accept because she's so used to dealing with facts, but I seem to recall having the same issue with this on my first viewing of the story.

Oh - and how has no one made a Weeping Angels re-edit of that cliffhanger?

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