Doctor Who: The Mind Of Evil REVIEW

Doctor Who: The Mind Of Evil DVD review.

Doctor Who The Mind Of Evil

The penalty for wearing a velvet jacket was death. Harsh, but fair.


Release Date: 3 June 2013
1971 | U | 147 minutes | £19.99 (DVD)
Distributor: BBC Worldwide
Director: Timothy Combe
Cast: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Roger Delgado, Nicholas Courtney, William Marlowe

The problem with setting Doctor Who in a prison is that it makes for a pretty grey, drab environment. Having all those cells to hand is also a terrible temptation for a series liable to fill the time with rounds of capture and escape. Those are two factors working against six-parter “The Mind Of Evil”, which pits Jon Pertwee’s Doctor against the Master for the second time.

The story mixes more prosaic elements like prison riots with a fantastic device which scares people to death with visions of their worst fears (or, in the Doctor’s case, a bunch of random stills of old foes… who knew the Zarbi made him brick himself?)

The Master’s scheme is somewhat baffling. He’s posing as a professor who’s developed a machine that turns violent criminals into peaceful simpletons (a very long game, this). An alien parasite inside it feeds on evil impulses, and the more it gorges, the more powerful – and hungry – it gets. But he’s also plotting to spark World War III by stealing a nerve gas missile (a real missile, borrowed from the RAF, provides some impressive production value) and firing it at a peace conference.

These two aspects of the plan never dovetail satisfactorily. The Master doesn’t need the machine to take over the prison, and there’s no good reason for the prisoners to help him capture the missile (which is passing conveniently close by) rather than just leg it.

You can get a headache trying to make sense of it all. Best to just sit back and enjoy the characters. Roger Delgado’s Master is wonderfully urbane, puffing on a cigar (held in a leather-gloved hand, naturally) as he’s chauffeured around in a black limo; Katy Manning’s gutsy, have-a-go Jo demonstrates incredible bravery (and more competence than she’s usually given credit for), repeatedly taking on toughs who tower above her, grabbing guns and walloping crims with tea trays; and the good-natured banter and mutual concern shared by the UNIT regulars is a delight – although the way they casually slaughter all opposition as they launch an assault on the prison does make them look a little less cuddly. Nowadays there’d probably be a year-long public enquiry…

The one truly remarkable thing about “The Mind Of Evil” is the restoration job it’s received for this DVD release. Previously the story only survived as a black and white recording and a few poor quality colour clips. It’s now been restored to full colour via a combination of technological trickery and painstaking hand-colouring, and the results are seriously impressive. Someone coming to the story fresh probably wouldn’t guess it’d “had some work” at all.

Extras:

The stand-out bonus only has a slender connection to this story  – brief glimpses of a model TARDIS and some bits of wood with “prison set” scrawled on the back. Behind The Scenes: Television Centre, a documentary from 1971 (24 minutes), spends 24 hours following various BBC departments as they go about their duties, from Helen Mirren rehearsing a costume drama to the tending of wigs for The Black And White Minstrel Show. Lent poignancy by the fact that the building’s now being shut down, it’s a fascinating insight into the day-to-day business of making television in the ‘70s. It’s the sort of thing that’s crying out to be shown on BBC Four.

The commentary track has a rotating cast, featuring the late producer Barry Letts, Katy Manning (Jo), script editor Terrance Dicks, director Timothy Combe, stuntman Derek Ware, and two of the guest cast. Making Of “The Military Mind” (23 minutes) works its way through the shooting schedule in chronological order, providing some interesting insights – Combe went over budget and had to mount a reshoot; he never worked on the series again as a result, and it clearly still rankles. Meanwhile, guest star Pik-Sen Lim reveals that Jon Pertwee’s pronunciation of some Chinese dialogue is diabolical (she should know – she was responsible for translating it from English to Hokkien). The fact that the interviews were shot at the principal location, Dover Castle, gives this feature a lift.

Speaking of Dover Castle, a “now and then” featurette on the locations (seven minutes) will come in handy should you fancy a Who-themed day trip. The usual informative text commentary, a stills gallery, and PDFs of Radio Times listings and a promotion for the cereal Sugar Smacks (which gave away a series of Who badges inside boxes) complete the package.

Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman

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