The Friday Docback Finds "The Mind of Evil' A Little Dim!! DOCTOR WHO Story #56, More!!
...with a look at The Mind of Evil, a six part Pertwee-era DOCTOR WHO originally transmitted January-March 1971. This episode features Roger Delgado as the Doctor’s longtime nemesis, the Master, in a story which takes far too long to accomplish far too little. Before we proceed, a few quick side notes...
REGARDING THE RECOVERY OF MISSING EPISODES
I’m feeling very much like Ian Levine at the moment.
RE: THE MY ATTENDANCE OF THE 50th ANNIVERSARY CONVENTION IN LONDON
Arrangements are now moving along quite nicely on ALL fronts - BBC included! More to come.
CHECK OUT THIS FAN COLORIZED HARTNELL ERA VIDEO
Looks better than some of the colorization work in The Name of the Doctor! Thanks to MOV for the heads up!
THE MIND OF EVIL
“That is Thunderbolt. It’s a gas missile, nuclear powered. And British, of course.” - the Master, The Mind of Evil Episode 4
In concept, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with The Mind of Evil, although it does smell like a slightly different breed of DOCTOR WHO than one might expect. Merging a ‘hijack the missile/destroy a peace conference’ plotline with a nifty mind control device gag, TMOE is essentially a Tom Clancy espionage thriller mixed with Dagger of the Mind from the original STAR TREK series. But that’s not a problem per se - DOCTOR WHO can and should support all manner of genre bending and mash-ups.
More off-putting than Mind’s charmingly funky collision of conceits is its utterly dour, wholly joyless lack of energy - in both its script and direction. Written by Don Houghton (Inferno - Pertwee, Story #54) and directed by Timothy Combe (Doctor Who and the Silurians - Pertwee, Story #52), there’s nary a smile to be found here (save for one character overtly noting another character’s hotness), and suspense or proactivity is strained at best. In itself, a more serious tone is completely fine and roundly unobjectionable, as DOCTOR WHO is capable of rising to tremendously affecting drama when it so chooses. The bigger problem here is the story’s pacing - or lack there of. In the end, The Mind of Evil feels like a potent two part powerhouse story stretched to run over six installments, and feels it every step of the way. This diffusion hamstrings a perfectly workable tale, and drags the tale to a standstill on more than one occasion. Characters feel like they’re taking forever to accomplish anything, and UNIT feels like its being kept in a box until Mind’s final acts. It’s just not ‘fun’ in the sense of being satisfying storytelling. And, as alluded above, there’s no reason at all this couldn’t have worked with different structuring and packaging.
Delgado once again soars as the Master, although (as they often are) his scheme here is indirect and overproduced. What he’s attempting to accomplish in this episode (the downfall of our planet by fucking up a peace conference with a missile) is rather awesome in a kitchy, James Bondian sorta way - but how he goes about it often recalls SCOOBY DOO logic at best. When one considers the innate characteristics of the Master - who he is, where he came from, and the resources at his disposal mentally and practically - his sneaking around like Snidely Whiplash doesn't make a great deal of sense.
It might be nice to see, at some point in DW’s run, a version of the Master who is wildly and terrifyingly competent and manipulative and fearful. I.e. abandoning his often stealthy trappings and simply brining all of his abilities to bear with a vengeance.
I want to be very clear here, I didn’t ‘dislike’ The Mind of Evil as much as I was extremely frustrated by it. It’s filled with great ideas, lazily conveyed. In a very real sense, Mind is a lovely exercise of our imaginations - watching it may well prompt one to envisage what might have been, in a sharp reaction to the floppiness that actually is.
The Mind of Evil is now available HERE in the US and HERE in the UK. The original master (excuse the pun) of Mind was junked by BBC as part of (what was then) standard organizational and house cleaning practices. As a result, only black and white versions of the episode existed. Through various feats of technical whizbangery, some color information was retrieved - and re-colorization of the entire episode was subsequently achieved through several means.
The result here is highly admirable, but it does wobble and vary...occasionally lapsing into fleeting moments of black and white image (sometimes this is almost imperceptibly fast, but its there). There is also a notable lack of visual crispness afoot - a ‘dupiness’ suggesting the copy being brought to DVD may not have been of the first generation.
All of this aside, the resulting Mind of Evil restoration is very watchable and the efforts to bring it to us are nothing short of extraordinary. Just note, if purchasing, that image quality is not always brilliant. But this is vastly better than not having it available to us at all.
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