Doctor Who #219: The Mind Robber Part 3

"It seems they don't want us to find a way out, only a way in."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Sep.28 1968.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor and Zoe navigate a maze and meet the Minotaur and Medusa. Jamie gets his face back and climbs Rapunzel's hair.

REVIEW: If you've been following my theories about the story's meta-text, then this is where the Land of Fiction takes things up a notch. From blank page (Part 1) to word play (Part 2) now to myths, legends and fairy tales. In other words, to the earliest of fictions, before the notion of authorship was really cemented. Myths serve an educational function (they are fables or else attempt to explain a true event or phenomenon) and do not attempt to present naturalistic characters or places. Perhaps this is why they are so easy to disbelieve and deny. They are still well inside the realm of abstraction, especially compared to later fictions, including the ultimate concrete fiction, the film or television drama. But that's where we're heading. So it's with particular delight that I note how Jamie breaks the rules of the fiction he's in, comically disobeys Rapunzel, and skips ahead to modern meta-text - a teletype machine writing up the episode's script! If deconstructionism is at the other end of this journey, we may come to realize that we're on a loop from abstraction to abstraction.

So Jamie's out on his own, climbing rocks on location, escaping from wind-up soldiers and grabbing hold of a sweet princess' hair, and he's Frazer Hines again. The Doctor's embarrassment re: the first face change is notable, and it's fun to have Zoe discover what other companions have had to live with for the past couple years - he keeps a lot of things from them.

Of course, the bread and butter of the episode is all the mythological creatures and fantastic characters that put in an appearance. The Minotaur is a looming shadow, director Maloney keeping its stiff mascot-like head in a thankfully brief shot. Medusa is a wonderful Harryhausen-esque stop-motion creature with some live action elements. Rapunzel is a cute, argumentative fairy tale character who wishes Jamie were a prince. And the stranger played by Bernard Horsfall is finally identified as Lemuel Gulliver because - and this is neat - the Doctor knows Swift's book by heart, and everything Gulliver says is a quote from the Travels. Gulliver keeps appearing regardless of each episode's theme, but somehow making it work. His use of language makes him a clever part of the word play segment, and he's often been translated into a fairy tale character by those enchanted by Swift's fantastical worlds and/or missing the author's ruthless ironic tone. As we move to proper, authored literature in Part 4, he'll find a place again.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - There's conceptual depth here, and some lovely appearances by mythical and literary favorites. The antagonist of the piece needs to put one in too, now.

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