The Mind of Evil

Region 1

Region 2
VHS Video (BW)
(Doctor Who Story No. 56, starring Jon Pertwee)
  • written by Don Houghton
  • directed by Timothy Combe
  • produced by Barry Letts
  • music by Dudley Simpson
  • 6 episodes @ 25 minutes each, now re-colourized
Story: The Doctor and Jo investigate a new method of reforming criminals at Stangmoor Prison, whilst U.N.I.T. has the unfortunate task of disposing of a decommissioned missile while also providing security for a peace conference. Where will the Master's next target be? And what is the dark secret at the heart of the Keller Machine?

DVD features include:

  • All six episodes restored to full colour.
  • Audio commentary by director Timothy Combe, producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks, actors Katy Manning (Jo Grant),
    Pik-Sen Lim (Captain Chin Lee / wife of writer Don Houghton), Fernanda Marlowe (Corporal Bell / wife of William Marlowe [Mailer] ),
    and stunt arranger Derek Ware. Moderated by Toby Hadoke.
  • Making-of featurette (23 min.), with Letts, Dicks, Combe, Lim, Marlowe, and Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart). Shot on location at Dover Castle in 2009.
  • "Now and Then" location featurette (7 min.)
  • Behind the Scenes - 24 hours in the life of Television Center (from 1971, 24 min.)
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery (5 min.)

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

This is the one that blew the budget on season eight, providing us with all the location footage and action that makes a great UNIT story, but forcing preceding "Terror of the Autons" and following "Claws of Axos" to make do with more Colour Separation Overlay (the BBC's version of chromakey / blue screen) and cheaper, smaller sets. The first half of the story gives us some of the best of what season eight has to offer, but the second half, while still delivering a lot of good stuff, has lost the ability to trigger the audience to anticipate it, what with the Man of Sleep and his assistant playing prisoner for most of it, and many of the threats becoming more repetitive by the minute.

The cast members get their best introductions of the season in this one, starting with the Doctor and Jo discovering the prison castle and exploring its people and concepts thoroughly in a number of witty scenes. A few lines from Jo neatly lead into the appearance of the Brigadier, where he and Captain Yates and Captain Chin Lee are all easy to get to know and understand, and the issues and plots that will occupy the UNIT portions of the story are laid out as clear as a bell. Clear as a Corporal Bell in fact.

The Brigadier's office in this story is about the best office he ever gets on the program, much nicer than the Doctor's lab from the previous story. It's a pity, and a budget curiosity, that UNIT never seems to live in the same rooms from one story to the next, always moving and/or redecorating. The only exception I can really see happens between "Planet of the Spiders" (story no. 74) and "Robot" (story no. 75), where the Doctor's lab is carefully laid-out in the same fashion.

Episode One works extremely well. The dialogue is rich, and the dual mysteries work well, with hints of interconnectedness thrown in to make the juxtaposition of scenes flow smoothly. Also the sci-fi element of the Keller machine is fresh and satisfactorily explored here, combined with the social aspect of the issue of reforming criminals.

When we catch our first glimpses of the Master and Sgt. Benton, each is highlighted well in his introductory sequence. Thus, "The Mind of Evil" turns out to be the best story around to introduce the main cast of six regulars for the middle Pertwee Era. Benton gets great exposure for his first scenes, but doesn't always get a lot to do afterwards.

The Master gets some of his best character development in this story, much better than that of "Terror of the Autons" (story no. 55). He and the Doctor get to square off together quite often all throughout the story. Some scenes still bleed old worn-out "prisoner vs. captor" routines, but even those scenes are still more believable than the "Terror of the Autons" confrontations. Additionally, the cooperative side of the Doctor's relationship with the Master comes out, giving credence to the rumour that they were old friendly rivals back in the Academy on their home planet. "The Mind of Evil" rounds out the Master's character; he just wouldn't be the same without this adventure.

Also, here Dudley Simpson completes the composition of an entire suite of music for the Master which will follow him throughout the season. His famous theme, based on bits from the previous story, comes together here for the first time, along with many more soon-to-be-popular Master tracks. The "hypnosis" track returns in a new and slightly reworked version, and his stylish sting from the previous story is about the only bit of unaltered music used. The electronic style this time around is held back and more subdued, concentrating more on recognizable musical harmony and less on strange new sound.

The sound of the Keller machine is a unique and recognizable contribution, and Simpson complements this with an equally memorable theme for the Keller machine, the two working together to maximize the suspense for numerous scenes. Simpson also brings back his UNIT theme from "The Ambassadors of Death" (story no. 53) to good effect, although the rendition of it here is far more primitive and cheesy. All these elements combine to give "The Mind of Evil" the most influential score of the entire Pertwee Era, but it has its share of flaws - tracks like the very first one in episode one that sound very silly and distracting.

Music by Dudley Simpson, sound by Brian Hodgson
"The Master's Theme",
"Dover Castle",
"Keller Machine Theme", and
"Keller Machine Appears/Vanishes"
are available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who at
the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Volume 2

More info & buying options

All of the above tracks, plus
"Hypnosis Music" are also available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who
50th Anniversary Collection
4-disc version

More info & buying options

The contributions of Pik-Sen Lim are also very much worthy of note. Not only does she play Captain Chin Lee to near perfection, her position as the writer's wife allowed her to suggest the whole idea of the peace conference, and supply dialogue and pronunciation coaching in several Chinese dialects. These elements are the icing on the cake for an enthusiast of cross-cultural bonding like myself, and the peace conference angle gives Jon Pertwee's Doctor an unparalleled opportunity to be a proactive peacemaker and heroic investigator during the better episodes. "The Mind of Evil" just wouldn't be near as excellent without it.

But silliness mounts quickly in the poorer episodes. Not only is Jon Pertwee's Doctor reduced to his weakest state of "Man of Sleep" yet on the program, but Jo is given nothing more to do but blubber over him, while the audience is forced to either watch or abandon the show in disgust. "Blubber" scenes like this are the lowest quality recurring dynamic in Doctor Who stories, even worse than missing Doctor episodes, so "The Mind of Evil" earns some huge minus marks here. We all know the main character isn't going to die in the middle of his adventures, so writers be warned: Don't waste our time! Idle threats bore! Other portions are equally fruitless in relieving his heroic impotence, although I'll have to save my detailed dissection of the story's structure and all its entailing SPOILERS for the In-depth Analysis version of this review.

"If that's the best you can do, Doc, it really ain't good enough."

The quantity of prisoner dynamics here spells doom for the story, cancelling out its plus marks for the peace conference / Chinese angle and bringing the story as a whole back to average level for a season eight adventure. No wonder that the chap who made himself a colour copy later wiped all but five minutes of his tapes, thinking the story was not very good.

All is not lost during such sections for the villains continue to develop themselves and escalate their plans well. And though UNIT proves to be a poor excuse for military might at first, it gets its act back together before long, showcasing the power of what it can do when it gets itself good and organized. This story features one of the most creatively directed and effective of UNIT's shoot-outs, but something else is wrong. ...And I'll only let on what that is in the In-depth Analysis version of this review.

Episode Five also contains a great sequence with our hero coming to grips with the essence of this story, but I'll say no more about that for those who have yet to see the story. Great stuff. And, his tale about Sir Riley's potatoes and the Tower of London, combined with a choice piece of medieval-sounding music ("Dover Castle", available on CD above), bring yet another stylish touch to the story.

The conclusion picks up tremendously from what has gone before, but still has its problems. We get an exciting ending that pulls plenty of surprise punches, although it includes a bit of dead air-time as well.

The Master's motives are still a bit on the grey and fuzzy side of things here. Exactly why is it good for him to make all the plans that he does? At times it looks like the poor Master played his cards in the wrong order or something. An epic 10-part story combining the previous one with this one, and re-sequencing the order of some of the events, might also have solved a lot of motivational problems for his character as well. This adventure's coda appears a bit contrived, and rather lamely depends on easily forgotten events from the previous story.

"The Mind of Evil" is a good story, but sadly most of the best bits are in the first half, so a viewer's lasting impression of it may easily be a disappointing aftertaste.

This story is available in colour on DVD, or in black and white on VHS video.

The VHS video also features a short sequence explaining the necessary ingredients for the colour restoration process, with approximately five minutes of recolourized footage from "The Mind of Evil".
DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
VHS Video (black and white)
NTSC A in the U.S.
NTSC B in the U.S.
NTSC in Canada
PAL for the U.K.

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "The Claws of Axos"

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