Surrealism is a fairly rare commodity in Doctor Who, although when it is used it usually seems to work. Episode 3 of The Deadly Assassin certainly qualifies, and The God Complex also used surrealism well, but the best, and probably most experimental example of surrealism in action is #22 in our countdown, The Mind Robber.
An all-white TARDIS, a TARDIS which explodes (long before the Moff teased the same idea), Wendy Padbury spinning and screaming on the TARDIS console, the original Master (of Land and Fiction) in Doctor Who. Robots that look like toy soldiers. It goes on and on. Frazer Hines contracted chicken pox and was hurriedly replaced by Hamish Wilson, his cousin, for episode 2. Problem? Not for this story, in fact it just adds to the oddity of The Mind Robber, but also works in context with the larger themes of storytelling, literally, as the plot for the story.
One odd thing about The Mind Robber is that it ran five episodes when the production team cut down the previous story The Dominators from six episodes down to five (and as anyone can attest even at 5 parts it’s at least one episode too long) and allocated the extra episode to The Mind Robber. As a result episode 5 ran, more likely sprinted in at just over 18 minutes making it the shortest episode in Who history. The story feels and plays more like a four-parter anyway.
This isn’t the most accessible episode to intorduce the invariably curious to Troughton (The Tomb of the Cybermen is better for that) but as an example of the blinding (all-white) versatility that Doctor Who can offer, it should be part of any serious fans must-see list. — DSW
21 might be lucky in blackjack, but which story in our lucky number countdown is it lucky for? Find out next week.