Monday, July 27, 2009

UU5 - The Mind Robber 5

Not only a surrealist piece of brilliance, The Mind Robber was also a landmark story for the future of the show behind the scenes, as it signaled a change for the way the series would be produced for the rest of its original run. This situation actually has its roots in the production of the previous serial, The Dominators. When that story was truncated from six episodes to five, the orphaned episode was adopted by The Mind Robber for its first episode, with the understanding that no further money could be spent on it. Thus, only the main cast could be used, along with any existing sets and props that were at the crew's disposal. Also, the increasing luxury of location filming was beginning to eat into the regulars' rehearsal time, as well as into their days off.

This didn't sit well with Patrick Troughton. Dismayed that, towards the end of an already long production block, the workload for not only him, but of his fellow regulars Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury, led Troughton to complain bitterly enough that each of the episodes in The Mind Robber were shortened to roughly 20 minutes in length, down from the usual 25 minutes. (Episode Five would be the shortest episode of Doctor Who ever made, clocking in at just over 18 minutes).

But further changes would be more evident in the subsequent production block. Instead of cranking out 42-45 episodes during the course of one production block, the sixth production block in the series' history would be just 34 episodes long (eventually spanning five stories), with time allotted before the rehearsal period of each story for location filming. It would signal the transition towards the more slick (yes, classic Doctor Who could be slick!) productions of the 1970s, as the rest of the Troughton stories to come would utilize pre-filming a lot more than any time in its history.

With that in mind, watching The Mind Robber is the unofficial end of 1960s Doctor Who in the way that it was produced. It's also a one-off shot at surrealism that was seldom tried again, and one that stands out and apart from the slicker, yet slightly less imaginative, stories to come.


Anonymous said...

"The Mind Robber" is a contender for my favorite Who story ever--I love the surrealism, the wordplay, and the peformances. Simply splendid.

Steven said...

I enjoyed it a lot more this time around than I have in the past, I have to say. It, like a few other Troughton stories, have grown on me!

Robert Konigsberg said...

This was just great. It's also an interesting comparison to The Keys of Marinus, which I watched yesterday. Here's an example of a story that throws in a wide variety of scenarios at once, yet manages to keep it cohesive and interesting. This is one I'll definitely watch again.

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