Mindgame Saga DVD review: bygone Doctor Who

Sophie Aldred stars in forgotten Doctor Who spinoff The Mindgame Saga

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One of the various unofficial spin-offs to be filmed during the Doctor Who 1989-2005 ‘wilderness years’, Mindgame Saga is essentially the show in all but name, minus its lead.

Commencing with the 30-minute short film Mindgame, it sees a Sontaran, Commander Sarg (Toby Aspin), a Draconian (Miles Richardson) and a human (Sophie Aldred) imprisoned together by a mysterious alien.

Essentially comprising them bickering, coming to terms with their predicament and discussing each species’ philosophies before grudgingly deciding to work together, it’s very much a filler Doctor Who episode, replete with poor-quality prosthetics (you can see Aspin’s lips moving beneath the mask), but would undoubtedly have been well received at the time.

Today, it is simply an interesting curio: a peep at a time when this was the closest thing to Who that people could reasonably hope for.

Also included in this set is the Mindgame Trilogy, consisting of three segments following the three characters in separate stories, with each reflecting on how the encounter changed them.

First up, ‘Battlefield’ (penned by legendary Who producer Terrance Dicks) sees a mortally wounded Sarg go through a similar experience, reminiscing about the earlier short, initially regretting his actions before going on to question his race’s entire outlook, wondering whether co-operation is indeed the best policy (“It would be… glorious!”).

Working well as a curtailed insight into one of the Doctor’s most memorable foes, the gut-wrenching yet not unexpected ending makes this the best of the bunch.

Sadly, the rest of the volume isn’t up to the same standard. ‘Prisoner 451’ is nothing short of an ordeal, seeing the condemned Draconian sitting around alternately bemoaning his fate and mangling Shakespeare, while ‘Scout Ship’ is a tad more affecting – mainly due to the always welcome presence of Aldred – but still ultimately unsubstantial.

It’s probably best recommended for old Who completists, but those of a later age will still probably get something out of this, even if it’s just a reminder of what used to be.