MINDGAME SAGA

PrintE-mail Written by J. R. Southall

Director and Reeltime Pictures boss Keith Barnfather’s two independent Mindgame productions hail from that odd period shortly after the Doctor Who TV Movie, when fandom’s hope that the series might successfully return to television, let alone actually in the UK, was at its lowest ebb. Following Reeltime’s success with Downtime, Mindgame once again licenses characters from the parent series (albeit just a couple of monsters this time) in the hope of creating something close enough to Doctor Who that the programme itself might not be missed quite so badly.

The first of the two films, a half-hour piece written on autopilot by series stalwart Terrance Dicks, concerns three individuals of different races who are assembled against their will in a tiny cell and instructed to battle to the death. But for a rather inflexible headpiece, Toby Aspin makes for a credible Sontaran, while Miles Richardson’s Draconian is suitably aristocratic and the pair are tremendous fun. Sophie Aldred, without the comfort blanket that her chemistry with Sylvester McCoy provided, is less convincing as a mercenary, although Aldred commands the screen once she arrives. The weakest element is the creature who has committed the abductions, an unconvincingly cheap-looking creation. Dicks’ script is filled with ideas and dialogue repeated almost verbatim from the characters’ television appearances, but it is a step up in professionalism from earlier independent spin-offs and the resolution, while obvious, is at least neat.

Mindgame Trilogy, the follow-up, comprises three shorts of around twenty minutes each, telling the stories of the three characters subsequent to their escape from the cell. The best of these is Terrance Dicks’ Battlefield, with John Wadmore excelling as a re-cast Sontaran, undergoing a crisis of conscience that genuinely adds to the series’ mythology. Miles Richardson’s self-penned Prisoner 451 is a brilliantly acted vignette about a Shakespeare-obsessed Draconian, a slim but entertaining watch. Scout Ship by Roger Stevens seems to have been designed to put Sophie Aldred through her drama school paces, with Aldred’s human mercenary facing an inevitable death. The unavoidable twist doesn’t stand much scrutiny but at least concludes the saga on a pleasing note.

There’s no disguising that Barnfather’s films suffer due to their budget deficiencies, being far from polished and generally lacking in imaginative ambition. But they do make the most of their meagre resources and are much more engaging affairs than they might have been, painting an impressive picture of the lengths fandom would go to while Doctor Who was in an indeterminate limbo. And the extras are a lovely window into those times, with half-decent contemporary documentaries and a retrospective feature with a number of those involved contextualising their accomplishments. A qualified recommendation for fans of classic Doctor Who.

Extras: Making of Mindgame, Making of Mindgame Trilogy, Retrospective documentary, galleries, script PDF

MINDGAME SAGA / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: KEITH BARNFATHER / SCREENPLAY: TERRANCE DICKS, MILES RICHARDSON, ROGER STEVENS / STARRING: SOPHIE ALDRED, MILES RICHARDSON, TOBY ASPIN, JOHN WADMORE / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 14TH

 


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