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

Day 225: The Mind Robber, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I’d completely forgotten that the real threat to the Doctor and his companions here was that they could become fictional characters themselves. I could recall their meeting with the Master in the heart of the Land of Fiction, and I knew that he wanted the Doctor to take over running the place, but all the stuff with the ticker tape and the Doctor choosing to take a different course of action had been completely wiped from my mind. It’s a shame, really, because it’s a great idea, and I’m a bit sorry that more hasn’t been made of it: it would have been good to see the Doctor actively having to guess which course of action would help them escape, and which would get them trapped forever.

The thing that really stood out for me today, which I don’t think I particularly appreciated yesterday, is just how well the Medusa effect works. I know the snakes in her hair are all done as stop motion, but it’s pulled off pretty well – certainly it’s one of the better effects we’ve seen from the series. There’s something about the blank, expressionless face (with those huge eyes, too!) which really is quite scary: my joke about turning it into a Weeping Angel doesn’t seem so far fetched the more that I look at her!

We’ve also got the White Robots back, on the hunt for the Doctor and his companions, but I can’t tell if they were always supposed to be a part of the story or if they’re just being used interchangeably with the Toy Soldiers as the Master’s guards. They only show up inside the void during the first episode and inside the futuristic scenes here, while the Toys are the ones on the hunt outside, in the rest of this realm. Could it be that they’re one and the same, but when surrounded by all the fictional characters they take on a more whimsical appearance.

While I really like the design of these robots, I can’t help but wonder if it may have been even better to have the Toy Soldiers in the story right From Episode One. All that stuff in the void is brilliant – but how much more memorable would it be if the robots that surround them from nowhere are the Toy Soldiers, looming over them with their headlamps flashing? It’s that perfect type of surreal image that the programme is so good at delivering, and it’s a bit of a shame that it didn’t happen. I imagine it’s because they had almost no budget for that first week (which is why these White Robot costumes were taken from stock), and thus weren’t able to get the tall chaps built until the following week. Still, a shame!

Today’s addition to the growing cast of fictional characters comes in the form of the Karkus, a slightly bizarre superhero in the guise of a Mexican Wrestler (the Doctor’s impression of the character allows us a brief return of Salamander). He’s from a series of comic strips published in the Year 2000, and over the years, I’ve often seen Zoe’s knowledge of him used to signpost that she’s obviously from the same year. It strikes me, though, that the implication is expressly that she isn’t. Having established that the Doctor isn’t aware of the character, she has to ask, ‘you’ve been to the year 2000, haven’t you?’ as though she doesn’t know for sure. The biggest issue this causes is that we see a reversal of the Doctor/Zoe dynamic from the last episode - she’s the one trying to convince her companion that the wrestler isn’t real, and he’s the one unable to believe it – despite just making his gun disappear because he doesn’t believe it’s possible!

Then there’s the Master’s on-going work of fiction: The Adventures of Captain Jack Harkaway. I think most fans have those little things which they believe in their own mind whether it’s stated on screen or not – and this is one of mind. Surely this series is based on the adventures of a certain Captain Jack Harkness (his name changed by the publishers to be more enchanting), as he recounts his tales of battling aliens through time and space? I’d love it if one of Jack’s stories made reference to a battered old police box and an ageless traveller, which brought the Doctor to the attention of the Land of Fiction in the first place from his place in this man's mind!

(Mind you, Zoe’s not quite on form when she hears of these tales. He claims to have written 5000 words a week for 25 years, and Zoe is shocked to announce that it would total ‘well over half a million words!’

Well, yes. It would. It’d total six and a half million words to be exact!)

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