“The Mind of Evil” is an adventure of the eighth season of “Doctor Who” classic series, which aired in 1971. It follows “Terror of the Autons” and it’s a six parts adventure written by Don Houghton and directed by Timothy Combe.
The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Jo Grant (Katy Manning) are visiting Stangmoor Prison to witness the demonstration of a new technology that can remove negative impulses from the minds of criminals. The Doctor is skeptical and the process leaves the prisoner in a great state of prostration.
The Doctor tries to stop the use of the machine but Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) can’t support him because he has to manage a very important peace conference. The death of the leader of the Chinese delegation could make the conference fail before it even begins.
This DVD edition contains a good amount of extras, included in a second DVD. There are typical contents such as production subtitles, a gallery of pictures from this adventure, the Radio Times Listings and a promo of the “Doctor Who” DVDs soon to be published.
There are various comments in the adventure episodes alternative audio track by its protagonist Katy Manning, actresses Pik-Sen Lim e Fernanda Marlowe, director Timothy Combe, producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks and stunt coordinator Derek Ware moderated by Toby Hadoke.
The Military Mind. An documentary almost 23 minutes long about the production of this adventure. It was filmed in 2009 and also included actor Nicholas Courtney and producer Barry Letts, who passed away in subsequent years.
Now and Then. A look at various places used for filming as they are today and as they were at the time.
Behind the Scenes: Television Centre. A 24-minute documentary in which presenter Norman Tozer visited the BBC Television Centre during the period in which this adventure was produced to find out how the work is progressing over the course of 24 hours. It’s not specifically about “Doctor Who” so it’s interesting for people who are curious to know how BBC productions worked in the early 1970s.
1971 Kellogg Sugar Smacks Promotion. The reproduction of an advertising flyer for a “Doctor Who” cereal brand.
Writer Don Houghton was appreciated for his screenplay of the seventh season serial “Inferno” and was asked to write another one that included the Master, the villain of the eighth season. Inspired by the movie “A Clockwork Orange” he developed the idea of the Keller machine, used to rehabilitate criminals by eliminating negative impulses from their mind. The serial that was eventually titled “The Mind of Evil” had an scheduled length of 6 episodes so Houghton added several elements to the plot, starting with the peace conference.
The result is that, despite the 6 episodes of length, “The Mind of Evil” has a high pace for an adventure of “Doctor Who” classic series, with many events, lots of action and continuous twists. The consequence is that the audience remain involved in the various parts of the plot and don’t have time to think about possible flaws and inconsistencies. Watching an episode a week there’s the risk of reaching the last episodes forgetting the details of the first ones, watching them all in a short period of time gives way to evaluate the whole serial with greater attention and to realize that the story is of the type that doesn’t hold up well to a scrutiny made with a cool mind.
The peace conference, which initially rightly seems a very important event in a period of international tensions, after the first episodes ends up in the background even if it continues to make sense within the plot. The Master’s plans are typically convoluted but the one in “The Mind of Evil” seems to require so many things at the same time with a curious mix of long-term planning and improvisation with various contingencies in the middle and of course the Doctor’s interference. Despite all these elements in the plot, the cliffhangers are repetitive, almost all variants of the same event.
Despite the doubts concerning the plot, “The Mind of Evil” contains the elements that make it a good representative of the Third Doctor era or at least of its exile on Earth: there’s the Master, even the Doctor has his action scenes and UNIT gives the impression of being a real military corps whose presence is important during the serial. UNIT’s actions are linked to various moments that are quite violent for a family show, so are some linked to the Keller machine. However, there are also moments of calm where we see developments in the relationships between the characters, especially between the Doctor and Jo Grant but also between the Doctor and the Master thanks to the perfect understanding between Jon Pertwee and Roger Delgado.
The episodes of “The Mind of Evil” survived only in a black and white copy that was colored using some color signals recorded in the monochromatic films of the episodes from 2 to 6 and then used as a reference for the coloring of the first episode, which lacked those signals. The result isn’t perfect and you notice it by watching the colorized version but in my opinion it’s more than acceptable for a 1971 serial that also contains some special effects typical of “Doctor Who” classic series that are quite low level.
Overall, I think that “The Mind of Evil” has more merits than flaws, an adventure far from perfect but really enjoyable. Of the extras in the DVD edition, the documentary on its production seems to me by far the most interesting but I think it’s still worth buying it, especially if you appreciate the Third Doctor’s era.