Recap / Doctor Who S6 E2 "The Mind Robber"
Not all unicorns are of the friendly, cutesy sort.
We obey our creator, that is all that can be expected of any character, unless the Master bids us otherwise.
Lemuel Gulliver

To escape from the lava flow at the end of "The Dominators", the Doctor hits the emergency switch, zapping the TARDIS out of space-time and into a featureless white void, where they are attacked by white robots (some "void").

And then things get weird.

They flee back to the TARDIS which promptly explodes, leaving Jamie and Zoe clinging to the control console in space, while the Doctor appears to be dead. Suddenly, they find themselves in what appears to be a fictional landscape, menaced by lifesize clockworks soldiers and meeting characters like Gulliver and Rapunzel.

The Doctor discovers that they are in the Land of Fiction, a realm of a different dimension presided over by The Master of the Land (not that Master, thankfully): an English writer from the 1920s who has been yanked out of his own time and is being controlled by the Master Brain computer. The Master wants the Doctor to take his place and the two enter a battle of wills using fictional characters.

Zoe and Jamie arrive and succeed in overloading the Master Brain, which is then destroyed in the confusion by the White Robots, freeing the Master and allowing the Doctor and friends to escape.

This is the only serial to use episodes of 20 minutes rather than the usual 25. Watch it here.


  • All Just a Dream: Some fans explain some of the unexplained elements of the ending (the TARDIS reforming, the Master of the Land's unexplained fate) as implying that the whole of the story from the point that the TARDIS is destroyed is a shared dream for the Doctor and companions, brought on by exposure to the extra-dimensional void.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Parodied; the Doctor manages to disarm the Karkus by pointing out that his weapon of choice, the "Anti-Molecular Ray Disintegrator" would never work or exist in real-life. Unfortunately that doesn't stop the Karkus from trying to beat the crap out of the Doctor and Zoe.
  • Author Powers: The Doctor discovers that they are in the Land of Fiction, a realm of a different dimension presided over by The Master of the Land, an English writer from the 1920s who has been yanked out of his own time and is being controlled by the Master Brain computer. The Master wants the Doctor to take the writer's place and the two enter a battle of wills using fictional characters.
  • Battle of Wits: The Doctor and the Master battle by telling a story. Complicated by the fact that the Doctor can't mention himself without becoming a character in the story, which would give the Master complete power over him.
  • Bottle Episode: The first episode, which was added at the last minute after the previous serial was shortened.
  • Corpsing: At one point the Doctor and Zoe are attempting to get through a door. Watch Zoe as the Doctor hides her under his cloak and you can just about tell that Wendy Padbury is laughing underneath it.
  • Creative Sterility: The reason why the Master brain needs a human. Or even better, a Time Lord.
  • Fingerless Gloves: The Master wears them.
  • Flynning: Cyrano de Bergerac and D'Artagnan engage in this in Episode 4.
  • Fourth Wall Shut In Story: This is the Master's trap in The Land of Fiction. The Doctor has to defeat him by writing himself into a story as the hero.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: When Jamie is falling victim to the illusions in the white void, Zoe breaks him out of it by slapping him.
  • Historical-Domain Character:
    • The Master identifies himself at one point as the creator of the popular adventure hero "Jack Harkaway". Assuming that the Whoniverse version of Harkaway is the same as the real one, this would identify him as the nineteenth-century pulp writer Samuel Bracebridge Hemyng (1841-1901).
    • Cyrano de Bergerac and Blackbeard are double (triple?) examples: real historical figures who've become this trope in other peoples' fiction, which allows the Master of the Land to employ their images in his storytelling duel with the Doctor.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    Doctor: This world that we've tumbled into is a world of fiction. Unicorns, minotaurs, Gulliver's Travels - they're all alive here.
    Zoe: Well then what are we doing here?
  • A Load of Bull: The Minotaur.
  • Male Gaze: Zoe on the revolving TARDIS console. From the DVD, we learn that one attempt to film this sequence was brought to a halt by a Wardrobe Malfunction. Amusingly, Wendy Padbury apparently considered it a good costume - easy to move in, comfortable, etc.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover
  • The Master: Not the Time Lord, but just an ordinary writer from the 1920s.
  • Mind Screw: The first episode. To an extent, the following four as well.
  • My Car Hates Me: The Doctor had to use the emergency unit to escape from the lava flow because the TARDIS's normal engines chose that moment to break down.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Justified since the computer maintained the fantasy world. Less justified is the fact that the TARDIS un-explodes after the computer is destroyed.
  • The Nth Doctor/Real Life Writes the Plot: Fraser Hines took ill, and Hamish Wilson filled in. Since they don't look alike, Jamie lost his face and the Doctor reconstructed it wrong. It doesn't feel at all out of place in this particular story.
  • Ontological Mystery: The story starts when the TARDIS crashes outside time. Venturing outside, the Doctor and his companions find themselves in a nightmare of impossible happenings and literary characters come to life.
  • Platonic Cave: The Land of Fiction.
  • Puff of Logic: The way the Doctor deals with the various monsters: If everyone present stops believing in them, they just vanish.
  • Railroading: How the Master of the Land tries to coerce the Doctor into taking his place.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Attached to Rapunzel herself, of course.
  • Reality Warper: Anything the Master writes becomes true. In the fifth episode, the Doctor is wired into the computer, giving him the same powers.
  • Schmuck Bait: The Doctor tells Jamie and Zoe on no account to leave the TARDIS. The moment his back's turned, they are both tempted outside with visions of their homes.
  • Shape Shifter Showdown:
    • The Doctor and the Master do this by proxy. The Master conjures Cyrano de Bergerac, the Doctor D'Artagnan. Then the Master changes Cyrano to Blackbeard, and the Doctor counters by replacing D'Artagnan with Lancelot.
    • In a sense, their whole fight can be considered this, with both of them shaping the fictional world towards their goal.
  • Space Brasília: Zoe's vision of her home city.
  • Speaks in Shout-Outs: Gulliver.
  • Superhero: The Karkus is from a superhero comic strip in Zoe's era, although it's not stated if he's an actual hero or a supervillain.
  • Taken for Granite: The unicorn becomes a statue when the heroes disbelieve in it. The Doctor and Zoe are threatened with this fate when Medusa manifests, but she too reverts to inert marble when the Doctor persuades Zoe that she's just acting out a myth.
  • Temporary Substitute: Hamish Wilson taking over as Jamie for an episode.
  • Trail of Bread Crumbs: The ball of thread version, again. This time the circumstances are much closer to the version of Classical Mythology, what with the Minotaur and all...
  • Trapped in Another World
  • Unicorn: Jamie dreams of one, and they later encounter it for real. It's one of the wild and violent sort.
  • Void Between the Worlds: The setting of the first episode.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: The first episode takes place in a white void containing aggressive robots. As soon as the characters escape, these robots have no bearing on the plot of the rest of the serial.
  • Waif-Fu: Zoe versus the Karkus.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never find out for sure what happened to the Master of the Land of Fiction. However, since the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe wound up back where they belong (the TARDIS), he presumably returned to his home in the 1920s.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: After hearing that a man wrote 5,000 words a week for 25 years, Zoe exclaims "but that's over half a million words." Technically, it is though, by 6 million.
  • Written Sound Effect: In the novelization, the Karkus's more violent actions are accompanied by words like "BAM" and "ZAP" appearing in midair.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: it is established that the inhabitants of the Land of Fiction are, well, fictional... unless you believe in them, in which case your mind makes them real and they are able to harm you. Strangely, though, in order to get rid of a menacing fictional character, all present must vocally disbelieve. The Doctor and Zoe are able to make a Minotaur vanish this way, but Zoe's inability to disbelieve in Medusa forces the Doctor to use a mirror to defeat her, even though he knows she's fictional. Later, Zoe is forced to fight Karkus, whom she knows is fictional, because the Doctor has never heard of him and thus cannot disbelieve.