This is one of the weirdest Doctor Who stories I’ve seen so far, particularly part 1, which concludes with the Tardis exploding!
In an effort to escape from the volcanic eruption at the end of The Dominators, the Doctor has to reluctantly use an emergency function of the Tardis, which pulls it out of reality and into a dimension of thoughts and fiction.
This dream-like setting allows for more than the usual dose of strangeness, since anything can happen. Fictional characters appear and disappear, giant toy soldiers hunt and attack the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe, who get separated, trapped or turned into cardboard cutouts. It has monsters, characters from books and legends, a unicorn, a minotaur, a futuristic comic strip superhero (who helps them) and a Medusa statue, with rather impressively animated snake hair.
I liked this story more when I had no idea what was going on – that sense of mystery is appealing. As the plot progresses over the five episodes and we learn there is a consciousness behind the events, it loses its appeal a little.
The man orchestrating everything calls himself The Master. Although seemingly unrelated to the Doctor’s future recurring nemesis, this is the second time a villain has called himself that, the first being The Great Intelligence from The Abominable Snowmen serial. As an aside, the Master in this story is being controlled by a computer brain containing a disembodied intelligence, although I’m not sure it’s related to The Great Intelligence either. Writers, get some original names please!
Due to illness, the actor playing Jamie is replaced for a couple of the episodes, but this is worked into the plot, as the Doctor tries to reassemble a picture of Jamie’s face and revive him, but picks out the wrong pieces! They could have written Jamie out for a while, or just recast him without saying anything, but they don’t do that here. I like that.
This is another story where the Doctor’s ‘superior mind’ overcomes being controlled, as he manages to re-write the fictional world to his own whims. A bit of a cheap get-out, but it was done in a funny way. The Master is rescued from the machine and they all escape as the universe around them ceases to exist. The exploded Tardis appears to reassemble itself and… that’s it, that’s how it ends.
Kinda weird, kinda funny, kinda creepy. I’m not quite what to make of it… but it was fun to watch.