The TARDIS leaves the space-time dimension into a place where anything is possible. "We're nowhere, it's as simple as that." Jamie and Zoe enter nowhere, represented by a blank opaquely white background. The TARDIS breaks up, and they find themselves in a strange land full of life-size toy soldiers, a forest of words, unicorns, a Minotaur, Medusa, Rapunzel, and other characters.
They constantly encounter a British sailor who speaks in a well spoken but extraordinary manner, and the Doctor deduces his identity later.
Riddles and intuition are helpful in this land. And the Third Doctor's explanation to Jo in The Mind Of Evil, "we believe what our minds tell us to," is also apropos here. When Jamie and the Doctor try to rescue Zoe, they hear her voice behind a door without a handle. "When is a door not a door? When it's ajar." The door vanishes, and guess what they find Zoe trapped inside?
Wendy Padbury stands out as Zoe. She is cute as a button, in a glittering black catsuit, hanging for dear life on the disembodied TARDIS console like an exotic ornament. Another time, she has her turn as Emma Peel, using martial arts to overcome the Karkus, a Teutonic comic book superhero. Christopher Robbie (the Karkus), would return in Revenge Of The Cybermen as the Cyberleader. Zoe's inquisitive as the Doctor, while Jamie, protective of her as he was with Victoria, is more cautious. Keirsey would see it as a classic example of a Rational paired with a Guardian. Her analytical mind and memory comes in useful, as she detects an arithmetic progression in the labryinth.
Bernard Horsfall (the British sailor) would appear in two other Who stories (Planet Of The Daleks, The Deadly Assassin).
Debits: the Medusa could have been more convincing, i.e. more frightening (q.v. Clash Of The Titans) and the villain isn't exactly effective. Still, one of the series' greatest moments.
This is a good tape for parents worried about the empty junk that makes up so much of today's children's televison. Other good kids'/family shows we've found include: the Jeremy Brett-acted Sherlock Holmes' film, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Secret of Roan Inish, The Sand Fairy (this is the classic children's tale Five Children and It retitled for the American market), The Chronicles of Narnia, Postman Pat, Noddy, William's Wish Wellingtons, Brum and the Baby Carriage, Fireman Sam, the Adventures of Mouse and Mole, Darby O'Gill and the Little People, Percy the Park Keeper, Paddington, the Avenger's story The House That Jack Built (another great British series that, with a little parental pre-investigation, can yield good family viewing).
As other reviewers have alluded to, this is a surreal story set in the land of fiction with some humorous and novel moments - finding a cardboard cut out of Jamie with a blank face, the Doctor discovers some facial feature pictures nearby, places them on the blank face and has a different looking Jamie for a while, or when Jamie climbs up atree in a wierd forest to discover that the forest is actually made up of words!
The fascination of Doctor Who has always been a combination of things. On a basic level there is the science fiction story which of course, the BBC wanted to turn into a semi-educational thing so it included the latest scientific developments which were becoming popularised. There are other levels too. Doctor Who was often played in a pseudo-Shakespearian style as part of the BBC remit to bring Drama to the masses. However, one of the great things about the show was the constant trying out of new approaches. This is one of the finest examples of those attempts.
Although this appeared in the heady, revolutionary days of 1968, this tendency had always been around in Doctor Who viz. the whole concept of the Daleks in 1964 (when teenagers had not long been invented!). This story is full of surrealism and novelty. At the same time it's central concern with books is a strong signal to young people about the importance of learning in cultural transmission as well as being enjoyable and how easily characters can be brought to life.
The ending is a little flat because the 'Master' is found to be a kidnapped English author and of course all of the books are English. This is of minor importance and does not detract from the story. One can only imagine what could be done with such a concept in today's terms with the special effects that are out there.