I must confess that on viewing The Mind of Evil again, I found it to be something of a disappointment. This doesnt mean that I think its rubbish; it just isnt as good as I remembered. It does have several things to commend it, but Ill get my criticisms out of the way first.
When I reviewed Terror of the Autons, I said that it represents a dumbing down of the series and the start of UNITs decline into farce. This continues here, although not uniformly throughout the story; most of the problems are confined to the first half. Firstly, it is here that the Brigadier is first made to look like a buffoon. The scenes with the Doctor and Fu Peng are mildly amusing, but they reduce the Brigadier to the role of comic foil and he looks like an idiot, unable to get a word in edgeways and the subject of contempt from Fu Peng. Suddenly, the intelligent, commanding and diplomatic military leader of Season Seven is a bumbling fool. Fortunately, he regains some credibility in the second half of the story, as he leads the assault on Stangmoor Prison, and in one of his finest moments shoots Mailer just in the nick of time to save the Doctor. UNIT also continues to suffer from the presence of Mike Yates, who remains an unconvincing character. In Richard Franklins defense however, Yates also benefits from the last three episodes, and doesnt fare too badly in an action man role that sees him tracking the missile to the airfield and defiantly confronting the Master whilst tied to a chair. Finally, the thoroughly irritating Major Cosgrove further cements UNITs newfound reputation as a slightly camp and silly organization.
Another major weakness of The Mind of Evil concerns UNITs transport of the Thunderbolt missile, which has a ridiculously light escort. The script bravely attempts to address this issue, but with even the person Yates discusses the escort with on the telephone in episode two expressing disbelief at the feeble security measures, this attempt is doomed to failure. Im also rather dubious about the explosion at the end. The Thunderbolt is referred to as a nuclear missile with a nerve gas warhead throughout, and the Doctor further adds that it will take a nuclear explosion to destroy the Keller Machine. Now Im no nuclear physicist, but the explosion at the end seems pretty small for a nuclear explosion, destroying as it does one aircraft hanger. And nobody seems remotely concerned about any nerve gas being released.
My final criticism of The Mind of Evil is that it feels padded. Given that the three seven part stories in Season Seven seldom felt stretched out, this is particularly disappointing. The Mind of Evil is repetitive; the Doctor undergoes several attacks by the Keller Machine, for example, and then theres Mailers initial, unsuccessful attempt to take over the prison, which is no sooner foiled than the Master arrives to organize a more successfully attempt. Consequently, this is one of only a few six part Doctor Who stories that I think would have benefited from being two episodes shorter.
On the other hand, there are several things to recommend The Mind of Evil. Firstly, and most significantly in my opinion, it showcases the rivalry between the Doctor and the Master superbly. During Terror of the Autons they only met on screen during the last episodes, but here they get far more scenes together, and it reveals something rather interesting. When I reviewed Terror of the Autons, I noted that the Master tends to allow himself to find an excuse not to kill the Doctor rather easily. Here, the impression is given that the Master desperately needs to let the Doctor see him win. It is interesting that he almost seems to be trying to impress the Doctor, and certainly has a degree of respect for him; after all, although as he says at one point, they are both Time Lords, the Master lacks the ability to deal with the Mind Parasite, whereas he clearly believes that the Doctor is more than capable of doing so. Even before he resorts to threatening Jo, he seems confident that the Doctor is underestimating himself. Of course, the revelation that the Doctor ridiculing him is his greatest fear speaks volumes about their relationship and it is also here that we get the first hints that the two of them used to be friends. One of their most interesting scenes together is when the Doctor lashes together his electronic loop to temporarily trap the Keller Machine; for a brief couple of minutes, they seem to forget their enmity, both discussing the scientific problem in hand, with the Master seeming genuinely interested in the Doctors solution. Even more interesting is the fact that whilst the Master often thinks twice about killing the Doctor, when the Doctor gets the chance to blow his enemy up at the end, he has no hesitation about doing so. In fact, the Master seems keen to show off and generally gloat in front of the Doctor throughout, whereas the Doctor seems genuinely angered by the Master. Given that he quite rightly blames the Master for bringing the Mind Parasite to Earth and given that the Keller Machine indisputably terrifies him, this is entirely understandable, but is an interesting contrast with his attitude in later stories. In summary, the Master seems to need the Doctors recognition of his achievements, whilst the Doctor appears to really actively dislike the Master throughout this story.
Another good aspect of The Mind of Evil is Jo. Despite the criticism that I heaped upon here in the previous review, she undergoes something of a transformation here and becomes a capable, useful assistant, rather just an empty-headed companion. She shows considerable courage in dealing with Mailer and the Master, compassion in looking after Barnham, and the complete trust in and loyalty to the Doctor that tend to characterize here. In fact, shes generally more forthright than I remember her, not afraid to speak her mind, and proving ready to fight when necessary (she holds Mailer at gunpoint in episode two for example, and doesnt seem particularly scared by him) I still dont find her convincing as a UNIT agent, but she does at least prove that she has potential as a Doctor Who companion. Jon Pertwee continues to satisfy as the Doctor. His increasing frustration at being trapped on Earth comes through well; he is even more irritable than in Terror of the Autons, frequently bad-tempered, and very entertainingly rude during Ketterings press conference. This is topped off by the Doctors impotent fury in the last scene, when the Master telephones him to taunt him about his exile. Oh and full marks to Pertwees acting when attacked by the Machine; after gurning in Spearhead From Space, he manages to seem convincingly frightened here.
The direction of The Mind of Evil is excellent, so much so that the Keller Machine, essential a box with a phallus, seems genuinely menacing, as it teleports around and sucks the life from its victims. In addition, Puff the Magic Dragon, potentially absurd, also looks quite good at the end of episode two and the start of episode three. The action sequences are also exceptionally good, especially the pitched gun battle between UNIT troops and the convicts in episode five. Overall, The Mind of Evil is far from perfect but contains some memorable sequences and is well worth watching in spite of being slightly disappointing overall.
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This is one of the last of three throwbacks to season seven (the other two being The Sea Devils and Invasion of the Dinosaurs) and in my book it is the most successful in capturing what was so gripping about that first year for Pertwee. For a start it is filmed and performed with total conviction, you never doubt any of the material because it is treated in such a serious and dramatic fashion. It is blessed with a fantastic budget, which allows for some breathless action sequences. And it contains a genuine threat and one that that manages to scare effectively without resorting to rubber masks and messy deaths. Oh yes this is a powerful story all right.
There is one scene in Mind of Evil that guts me every time I watch it. It takes place at the end of episode three; the Doctor is re-captured by the Master is tied into the Keller machine by Mailer. It is a combination of the imagery and the ideas. The Keller machine has already been demonstrated as a mock electric chair torture device and seeing the Doctor manhandled by such a thug with a bloody great shotgun is terrifying. The clinical setting and the Masters casual enjoyment of the situation added to Dudley Simpsons forceful musical score combines to create a truly chilling moment and one that sticks in the mind.
I have always been a firm believer that the real world has no place in Doctor Who (my disgusted reaction to rape/abortion/bestiality in Warlock) or if it must be involved it should be used only as a backdrop to highlight the fantastical elements. In my book Doctor Who is escapist fiction and helps provide a release from the terrors of the real world. Watching it is like hugging a comfy blanket when you are ill. Who wants to be reminded about terrorists/rapists/incest, the sick underbelly of society that festers out of control? Not me. But then a story like The Mind of Evil comes along which deals with nuclear weapons, prison riots and evils of the mind and it reminds me that the real world can be utilised effectively, it can push terrors to the surface that we would like to forget about. It is great television, scary and thoughtful and it almost makes you ache to think what other dramatic stories there are to be told in the hellish land we live in. Doctor Who with little imagination sounds a dire prospect but when illicit elements can be used this well I am willing to forgive.
There is a hell of a lot of gunplay in the story, the action quota being much higher than your average Doctor Who. Given the era it is set in you can be sure that the stunts will be successful and several sequences, the raid on the missile and the attack on the prison are breathtaking. Doctor Who violence never feels that real to me but this, criminals and soldgiers gunning each other down, strangling, punching, shooting at point blank range, it is painfully realistic. UNIT is still being treated as a vicious organisation, gone is the we dont actually arrest people from The Invasion and now they are taking control of deadly missiles, protecting peace conferences and killing anybody that prevents them upholding the Queens peace. They scare me frankly, despite idiots like Henderson and Yates (both seem right nancy boys) because they have the right to take lives if necessary. Even Lethbridge Stewart takes a few of them out, posing as a provisions driver and storming into the prison grounds, he shoots somebody right in the chest on top of a building. I get that this is kill or be killed but it is still frightening.
Brr that damn Keller room, could they have designed it any scarier? Its like some high tech dentist room, cold white tiles everywhere. When Barnham is strapped to the chair and the camera zooms down from above as the machine throbs into life you cannot fail to see the death penalty similarities. The Keller machine itself is a brilliant idea, an evil intelligence that feeds on the evils of mind and uses your fears against you now there is a chance to get inside your characters head and see what makes them tick. During one of several heart racing attacks by the machine the Doctor is confronted by the parallel world he saw destroyed last year in Inferno and it is touching to see it stills play heavy on his mind. Even better is the Masters fear, a truly surreal moment where the Doctor appears as some laughing phantom, taunting the Master and suggesting his deep fear of losing to his foe. Once the machine becomes mobile it really takes on a life of its own, eating up brains aplenty and turning the screen a horrible crackly white colour that, combined with the victims deathly screams makes quite an impact. Maybe it was a mistake to make the machine so phallic looking but the ideas are what count and the performances, especially Jon Pertwees make the thing far more frightening than it really deserves to be.
Ahh yes Pertwee, the least impressive actor of the lot you say? I say rubbish and watch this story as an example of what he was capable of. His turn as the terrified Doctor is unforgettable, for the usually arrogant and insulting Time Lord to be so helpless and petrified and yet still maintain his dignity was not an easy job but Pertwee is superb, his achingly tired, almost drugged reaction to the Masters abuse is haunting. To know that one of his hearts stopped suddenly makes the threat very real, even the Doctor cannot fight against this monster and it will never stop coming. I realise Pertwee enjoyed playing the dashing dilettante and he certainly impresses in his action sequences in other stories but this is his star turn, showing the Doctor at his all time weakest and yet still managing to fight. When he says, How on Earth am I going to stop (the machine) now? you know that things are bad.
The story even compromises the Master who made his debut in the previous story as a intergalactic showman, deadly certainly but with a knowing smile that informs us he will always be beaten in the end. Here there are no such pretences and when he infiltrates the prison with bombs and guns to release the inmates all that cuddly villainy drops away. Suddenly he is torturing the Doctor in the most perverse manner and stealing missiles to fire at a peace conference. In these post 9/11 days his plans seem more terrifying than ever, this may be elaborate fiction but there are some shocking reminders of some of the worst atrocities humanity has seen. There is a sinister edge to the Master in this story that we never saw very often (The Deadly Assassin, the end of the Keeper of Traken, Survival) but should have been exploited far more. Brought to such a deadly serious level the Master is quite the gripping villain, one you never doubt when he threatens, Ill put a bullet through both your hearts.
If all people can rant on about is the co-incidence of the Keller machine and the Thunderbolt being dealt with in the same story then we should consider ourselves lucky. Come on Doctor Who thrives on bloody co-incidences like this all the time! The only trouble I have with the plotting is the repetitive nature of some of the events; the cliffhangers do feel very samey when there were some ripe moments to choose from (driving off with the missile for one!). But even these faults can be looked on as strengths when you realise how much more striking each machine attack is to the last, the way the familiar events build in tension ensure that the climax is very potent indeed.
Timothy Coome is a much-undervalued director and his work here maintains his flawless track record that began with the equally impressive Silurians. He manages to capture a scene as vividly as possible and create an atmosphere of terror as good as any of the celebrated Who directors. Touches like the cage rattling inmates during each Keller process, the phantom Doctor looming over the Master, the close up of the bubbling creature with Summers disgusted reaction in the background, prove he is milking the story for every nightmare. He somehow manages to make the machine disappearing from a room the most alarming of moments, some fast zooms, drunken angles and fades he convinces the machine is bloody well pissed off and wants out! He handles the action with a nice touch of realism, laying off on the music so we can hear the men screaming their last screams.
This sort of thing would have put me off ever watching the show again when I was a kid so I can only imagine what the youth of then had to say. How Terror of the Autons managed to escape the 70s as the biggest scare fest when this shocker was nestled next door is beyond me.
It remains one of my favourite Pertwees to this day mainly due to its clinical realism and unflattering glimpse at the real world. There is a remarkably polished feel about the show aided by the fact that it only exists in black and white helps immeasurably (no gaudy colours to get in the way of the scares!). I cannot reconcile how this is compared to James Bond as not one of those camp classics comes close to capturing the cold flavour of this story, yes they both enjoy plenty of action but in terms of atmosphere and terror the Mind of Evil wins hands down.
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The Mind of Evil. In colour. Yes, that which would have been unthinkable a few short years ago is now a reality – and a triumphant and vibrant one at that, with last Sunday's BFI Southbank première of the sterling, painstaking work done by those dedicated souls on the Doctor Who Restoration Team being the perfect place to celebrate their magnificent achievement.
The frisson among the audience in NFT1 was unmistakeable, the countdown to the start of this significant event almost unbearable – and we weren't let down in the slightest.
Celebrating Jon Pertwee's era as the Doctor, this was the third in the BFI's insanely popular Doctor Who At 50 season, and co-curators Dick Fiddy and Justin Johnson started it off nicely with Fiddy putting things succinctly in context, reminding us that the adventure hadn't actually been seen in colour anywhere in the world for 37 years or in the UK for 42 years. Indeed, no doubt many - if not most - of the audience who had watched it when it was first shown in the UK in 1971 would only have seen it in black-and-white, since colour TV sets were still a luxury back then, so this was a true treat.
Johnson then introduced Phil Ford, who spoke of Pertwee's background in naval intelligence, thereby putting the seal of authority on the actor's 007 persona as the Doctor.
With six episodes of this action-adventure to get through, the organisers wisely broke the screening down into two-episode chunks, and with anticipation now at fever-pitch the house lights were dimmed and that wonderfully evocative theme music boomed out, with Pertwee's reassuring, smiling face swirling into view and beaming at us in oh-so-glorious colour – just how it should be.
And what a joy it was to behold and luxuriate in – on a 50ft screen too – offering what was, for most people, a refreshingly new perspective on a much-loved adventure. The Mind of Evil. All six episodes in colour once again! Although the evidence was staring me in the face, I had to keep metaphorically pinching myself to be sure that what I was seeing was for real.
The importance of what has been achieved by the Restoration Team really can't be overstated. It has to be remembered that they had their hands tied by the fact that episode one had no hidden "chromadot" colour information to work on - hence that particular episode has been "colourised" - while all six episodes were on 16mm black-and-white film, so what they have achieved is nothing short of miraculous. Showing it on such a massive scale when the story was only made for a 26-inch screen tops did, of course, mean that any slight imperfections would be more than evident, so huge allowances have to be made for that fact. The story was made to be watched on small-screen TV and that's how it should be judged. Not that it was ever on trial, of course, but the verdict remains that it is a resounding triumph.
During his introduction, Ford had also teased the second series of Wizards vs Aliens - it seems viewers could be in for a surprise as regards who they've got writing for it - and following the first two dazzling episodes of The Mind of Evil it was time for some real wizards to be introduced and to take a well-earned bow, as Restoration Team members Peter Crocker, Stuart Humphryes, and Mark Ayres related how they had managed to achieve such a technological marvel. Truth be told, I couldn't understand much of what they said (my general technical inability undoubtedly to blame here, rather than their ability to explain) but I'm darned grateful that there are people out there with the capability, willingness, dedication, and perseverance necessary to put right what once went horribly wrong. Sirs, I salute you all!
Death To The Daleks and Series 7 Part One as prizes followed episodes 3 and 4, and as soon as the end credits had rolled on episode 6 (rapturous applause for all of them, needless to say), tables and chairs were swiftly placed on the stage for the panel interview session with guests director Timothy Combe, script editor Terrance Dicks, plus surviving "UNIT family" members Katy Manning, Richard Franklin, and John Levene.
All were in sparkling form, with the actors' rapport still strikingly evident more than 40 years on, and memories were fondly - and at times poignantly and touchingly - recalled as tributes were paid to Pertwee, Barry Letts, Roger Delgado, and Nicholas Courtney. The panel session should be available on the BFI's YouTube channel in due course, but highlights included Dicks recalling how Pertwee would get cast members to repeat the name "Harry Roy" (a dance band leader) as a voice exercise before recordings - until Combe came along, and "Harry Roy" was usurped by "Tim Combe" as the ideal vocal warm-up! The director, meanwhile, recalled how technical problems led to a reshoot of certain scenes, but only production personnel could be used as there was no money for actors, extras, or even walk-ons - he was killed three times and he also shot his PA!
From start to finish, this première was a real feather in the BFI's cap, so full marks to the organisation for pulling out all the stops to give the audience a truly magical experience.
And finally, if you've been one of those many, many people wanting a ticket to these BFI events but have been left maddened and frustrated by the "Sold out!" sign that you are invariably met with on the information and booking page, don't despair! Returns are not unknown - a few tickets to this event suddenly became available again the preceding Tuesday evening - and there is always the possibility of stand-bys on the day to mop up complimentary tickets that don't get claimed, so do keep persevering. As the Restoration Team have so superbly shown, determination and dedication can reap handsome rewards.
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