The Fourth Doctor is back, and this time, it’s slightly different. Instead of having a monthly range that spans eight or nine months, Big Finish have decided to release the Fourth Doctor stories in two batches a year, containing four stories each. With the release of Series 7A, it’s time to review the penultimate story in the set, The Mind Runners by John Dorney.
It used to be fun, Mind Running. Hopping into the heads of total strangers to see what they saw, feel what they felt. But one by one the Mind Runners are dying in a wave of suicides. And no-one on the planet Chaldera knows why.
The Doctor, Leela and K9 arrive in the city that covers all of this dying world as it prepares to evacuate its people, and they immediately find themselves involved in a mystery. Who or what is responsible for the wave of death? Is it the motorised cult known as the Digitals? The enigmatic Mr Shift?
Or did all the victims attempt to run the Night Mind, the demonic consciousness of legend that is so twisted and evil that it drives mad all who touch it?
The TARDIS crew are about to find out.
The Mind Runners, along with The Demon Rises, the second part of this adventure, appears to be one of those John Dorney scripts that is both sci-fi brilliance and humorous enough to make you beg for more. From the opening scene with Mr. Shift and Elton (not Pope, sadly) is so well written and filled with intrigue, it leaves you begging for more. Luckily, you get more, mainly because it’s only the first scene, and only about two minutes long, so that’s lucky for you.
The Doctor, Leela, and K-9 arrive in New York. Or, that was the plan anyway, but both K-9 and Leela believes that the Doctor is, once again, incorrect in his assumption. There’s even a joke about the Blue Man Group in there for good measure, and the Doctor’s hubris is brought into question.
We’re quickly introduced into the concept of Mind Running, something that feels more like it should be in Black Mirror than in Doctor Who. The idea that you can plug in and be in anybodies mind that you desire and see what they see. Doctor Who and Black Mirror should share ideas more often.
Considering the idea of Mind Running could be extremely bleak, it’s a nice contrast to have the Doctor, Leela and K-9 seemingly at their most humorous, the chemistry between the three, both as characters and as actors, is off the charts in this release, and you can tell that all three have had a ball performing this script.
Around halfway through the first episode of The Mind Runners, we get a nice, juicy murder, which happened right in front of the TARDIS trio; the only problem is that the killer was invisible.
There’s a bit of exposition that’s going on during a nice car ride which fills you in with exactly what Mind Runners are, they’re kind of like people who watch Twitch. If Twitch was a first person experience and it was totally random. So, some would argue, not like Twitch at all.
We’re also introduced to the myth of the Night Mind, a mind that, if a Mind Runner arrives in their mind, will quickly drive them insane. The idea that there’s somebody on the planet who is so insane and dangerous that if you Mind Run them, you’ll die from it, is a great one. There’s potentially a killer, somewhere in the world, who’s twisted enough to drive people to suicide, but they have no idea they’re doing it. This really is Black Mirror levels of bleak. And I love it.
The conclusion to the first episode of The Mind Runners is really interesting, it’s not particularly big or climactic, but it sets up the events of the second episode nicely. The Doctor, Leela, and K-9 have acquired the equipment needed to Mind Run, they just need to do a bit of detective work before they’re able to understand it fully…
The second episode starts where the first one left off, and it seems that someone is watching the TARDIS trio and they’re wanting the Mind Running equipment too. It’s surprisingly not too long before the Doctor manages to find the people that they needed to, but it’s not as easy as just finding them and asking them for help.
Surprisingly, it’s not until the second episode of the story that the Doctor and Leela split up; which is a trait that normally happens a lot earlier in a story, allowing the A and B plot to happen simultaneously with one of the TARDIS crew. It’s nicely refreshing, and, I know in a way this is actually a four part story, with the third and fourth taking part in The Demon Rises, but it really allows time for each character to develop more.
Alongside the concept of Mind Running and the Night Runner, we’re also introduced to the idea of Digitals. If you want to know what a Digital looks like, it’s the chap who’s face is in the TV screen on the cover. The Digitals are a cult who believe that the flesh is just a disposable vessel for the soul, which can be digitised; imagine Cybermen with emotions. And more cultish.
The conclusion of the second episode is a typical Doctor Who cliffhanger, with the Doctor in danger and with Leela encountering a new, yet somehow familiar, foe.
Honestly, I’m not normally a fan of the two-release Fourth Doctor Adventures, and I’m not sure why really. But there’s something about The Mind Runners which makes me think that this two-release story will work extremely well. This entire story flew whilst listening to it; even though, if you really think about it, The Mind Runners is basically a lot of world building. Luckily, Chaldera, the world in which The Mind Runners is set, is so interesting and I can’t wait to listen to The Demon Rises and see how this world gets saved.
If you’ve watched Black Mirror or Blade Runner and loved any aspect of them, then I honestly can’t recommend The Mind Runners enough.
Should you want to purchase The Mind Runners, it’s currently available from Big Finish as a single download here for £8.99 or here if you wish to purchase all four releases in Series 7A of the Fourth Doctor Adventures for £25 on CD or £20 as a download.