A brilliant return to the style of Jon Pertwee's first season, with political intrigue and UNIT action, plus the greatest supervillain of them all and a thing of pure evil - and now all in colour again! 5*
It's a terrific six-part story for the final release of the Pertwee era, with superb action scenes, extensive location filming with a genuine missile borrowed from the RAF and great direction by Timothy Combe, excellent performances from the UNIT `family' and the large, talented guest cast, very impressive sets, lighting and soundtrack and a truly evil `monster' that turns its victims' deepest fears against them.
The colour restoration is astonishingly good, re-coloured by merging the surviving mono film with residual colour signal that was left within the mono material - the same `chroma dot' technique as for `The Ambassadors of Death' and with visibly better results. Perhaps the original materials were better, or the technique has been improved; either way the results are remarkable. Apparently episode one had to be restored manually, frame by frame, and it looks the best of all! It must have taken ages to do but the results are certainly worth it and the soundtrack is also excellent.
Cold War tensions and `summits' were never far away in 1971, so UNIT have a lot of topical problems on their plate managing security at an American-Chinese peace conference, a banned nerve-gas missile to dispose of - and the Doctor is worrying about prison reform? Yes, and with good reason, because down at the old fortress that is now Stangmoor Prison, the Doctor and Jo are witnessing the first British test of the `Keller Process', a supposedly humane machine that extracts evil from the mind of a criminal, leaving behind a limited but law-abiding citizen. And the Doctor is right to worry. It seems the Keller machine has a mind of its own - a Mind of Evil ...
Jon Pertwee is on top form as usual, whether facing down the villains, reassuring Jo, bantering with the Brigadier or winning the confidence of the Chinese delegation - naturally, he speaks every dialect imaginable *and* is on personal-name terms with Chairman Mao! The Doctor knows everyone! Katy Manning plays Jo Grant perfectly as an active, capable UNIT agent in a very good script for the character, foiling a prison riot and saving the Doctor from his own fears. Her compassionate `adoption' of the `processed' convict Barnham (Neil McCarthy) is touching.
The story has some wonderful UNIT moments, not just the famous, no-quarter-given storming of Stangmoor Prison (aka Dover Castle) but also the interplay between the characters, anti-espionage on the streets of London with Sgt. Benton in mufti (a good story for John Levene) and the Brigadier organising everything, ticking off the hapless Benton in a good-humoured way and endlessly talking to all and sundry on the phone. Nicholas Courtney has a superb story as the Brigadier, a very well written part and great acting; even the phone scenes are a delight - he really convinces you that there is someone on the other end of the line and *listens* to the other half of the conversation. All the UNIT personnel have well written parts in this story and Richard Franklin sees plenty of frontline action as Captain Yates (including doing his own motorcycle stunt work), but the crowning delight must be the Brigadier tricking `is way inta the prison as a Cockney van driver, wonderful, even if his smart check cap is more `country weekend' than `van man' - he still looks like a posh Army officer, but in overalls!
You don't have to be a Time Lord to work out that Professor Keller, inventor of the evil machine, is actually the Master, gloriously played by Roger Delgado at his most stylish, puffing on a fat cigar as he cruises round London in a black limo complete with shades-wearing chauffeur. His scheme is simple megalomania - start the Third World War, destroy everything and take over the remains. Exactly how he intends to rule the ashes all by himself is never explained (I assumed he meant to use the controlling power of the Keller Machine in some way) and perhaps even he doesn't know - because of course the Master is a genius but also completely mad ...
Some six-parters fade a bit in the middle for lack of material - not this one! Don Houghton's second (and sadly, last) `Doctor Who' (following the superb `Inferno', which is referenced in the cliffhanger for episode one) has more than enough ideas to last the course. The Master has two entirely separate schemes to start Armageddon; it's typical of him to have a backup plan but either strand would have made a good story on its own; the script only fully connects the two strands at the very end so our attention is needed to follow events, but it's all great fun to watch.
Plan One is to spread murder and suspicion at the Peace Conference, by projecting the power of the Mind of Evil, so the Chinese Communist `dragons' and the American `imperialists' destroy the world in their mutual xenophobia. Pik-Sen Lim gives an excellent performance as Captain Chin Lee, as does Kristopher Kum as her new boss Fu Peng, the replacement Chinese delegate (the first one doesn't live long enough to appear on screen!) The American delegate almost goes the way of his earlier Chinese counterpart, but the Doctor's suspicions of the Keller Machine help him make the connection and pull the plug on the Master's link to the conference. Unfortunately, as this part of the story ends, Chin Lee and Fu Peng just fade from the script, which I found disappointing. The Chinese contribution to this story is a very strong part of the first two episodes and I'd been hoping for a joint East-West mission to hunt down the Master, who threatens the whole world.
Plan Two is to free and then recruit the convicts of Stangmoor as a private army to hijack the `Thunderbolt' missile and fire it at the Peace Conference. Each side would blame the other and the final war would begin. Naturally, the Master tells his new allies (lead by smart thug Mailer, a first-rate guest performance from William Marlowe) that he wants to hold the world to ransom, not destroy it. But he has two problems: the Doctor is his prisoner but UNIT are on the way - and the Keller Machine is on the rampage. The Master needs the Doctor's help to control it, but it's too strong - it's hungry, it grows by feeding on evil and it's in a prison full of serious criminals ... you just know it will eventually turn on the Master, and when it does, the sight of what *he* fears most is a brilliant psychological highlight. There's also a superb and most intriguing scene when the Master thinks he has accidentally killed the Doctor - is that concern we see? Surely these two are friends not enemies? The Master's changed attitude doesn't last once the Doctor recovers, but perhaps it's a clue to their past.
THIS PARAGRAPH GIVES AWAY THE ENDING: It all ends with two episodes packed with classic UNIT action and quite tough battle scenes with the HAVOC stunt team hard at work again, complete with another expensive helicopter and a big special effects bang of the `Thunderbolt' missile, which also destroys the Keller Machine. This looks good but was slightly unsatisfying as we'd been told a mere explosion wouldn't end the evil. Obviously the Doctor is using the nerve gas warhead to destroy the Mind of Evil, very appropriate but a line in the script to say so would have been helpful - perhaps the idea of the Doctor using nerve gas was deemed too evil to spell out?
Thanks for reading if you've made it this far - this is a great story for the final Jon Pertwee era DVD and the last `new' (to me) story with *my* Doctor that I'll ever see, 43 years since I saw the first one!
Definitely five stars; to give this fine DVD release any less would seem almost ... evil! 5*
A very good set of Special Features:
On Disk 1: The commentary is enjoyable and interesting right through the six episodes, with director Tim Combe joined by Katy Manning, Pik-Sen Lim, Fernanda Marlowe (UNIT Corporal Bell) and producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks and stunt arranger Derek Ware of HAVOC.
On Disk 2:
`The Military Mind': cast and crew reassembled at Dover Castle in 2009 for this short (23 minute) but excellent `making of' feature. For any `Doctor Who' fan who lived through the UNIT years, it's surprisingly moving
`Now and Then': revisits the locations as they are today - interesting because like `The Military Mind' it uses clips from the unrestored, mono materials - an astonishing feat to produce the excellent colour DVD from that.
`Behind the Scenes: Television Centre': A very interesting 25 minute programme looking at a busy working day at the BBC, at the time that `The Mind of Evil' was made. There's just a passing reference to `Doctor Who' and a model TARDIS dematerialising, but spot the `Doctor Who - Prison Hosp.' label on one bit of passing scenery.
A good `Photo Gallery' including location pictures.
on 3 June 2013
As part of the BBC's misguided policy of destroying the master tapes of Doctor Who and many, many other programs in the 1970's, the colour masters of many Pertwee stories were junked. At one point only eight of the 24 adventures existed in full in colour in the BBC archives.
Things got better over the years. Colour copies of many of his stories were found in Canada and returned to the BBC - although these had been converted to the NTSC format and had lost some quality in the process. Other stories were recorded in the US by someone watching them on TV, and the colour signal from these was matched with the black-and-white recordings which had somehow - fortunately - escaped destruction. That left a few adventures with episodes only in black-and-white. Luckily technological innovation enabled colour versions being created of these, but the process is I believe time-consuming, expensive and requiring a lot of manual intervention.
The Mind of Evil is the last of this group of stories to receive the attention of the Recovery Team - on this occasion it was not individual episodes but all 6 that had no colour copies. And is a resounding triumph. They had to use the chroma-dot recovery technique for episodes 2-6 but for the first episode this was not possible and it had to be coloured by hand. I am pleased to say that the picture quality here is very good indeed. Episode one, surprisingly, looks the best of the lot.
As for the actual content, this is a superb example of early Pertwee. It shows the influence of James Bond, with its international political conferences, world-threatening super villain and cloak-and-dagger manoevering. Pertwee's doctor has really hit his stride by now, with his usual contempt for out-of-their-depth authority figures showing in his treatment of the ill-fated Professor Kettering. His love/hate relationship with the Brigadier is in full swing.
The other characters fare well too. Roger Delgado's Master, in only his second adventure, effortlessly exudes evil, although as usual he realises he's bitten off more than he can chew and has to get help from the Doctor. Katy Manning's Jo Grant was created when the production team concluded - wrongly in my opinion - that the character of Liz Shaw didn't work, but what we ended up with was one of the most memorable and likeable characters in the entire history of Who. Far from being the helpless airhead that detractors would have us believe, she is a brave, resourceful, intelligent, compassionate and loyal young woman - a real asset to the Unit team.
Speaking of whom - the Brigadier as usual plays a key role, marshalling his forces well and personally taking charge of the raid on the prison which turns the tables on the Master and the convicts. Yates and Benton spend the story taking criticism from the Brig, being shot at or attacked by psychic forces. Barnham, the first convict to be "treated" by the Keller machine, is a sympathetic character and I shared Jo's sadness when he dies at the end. The other major character is Harry Mailer, a tough, hard-bitten convict with little regard for the lives of those who get in his way, well played by William Marlowe, who contrary to reports elsewhere was not married to Fernanda Marlowe who played the minor character of Corporal Bell.
The commentary was, once again, recorded a few years ago, before the sad deaths of producer Barry Letts and Nick Courtney who played the Brigadier, and the former is happily part of it. So is Katy Manning, who reveals this is her favourite story, and I can't say I'm surprised at this. Script editor Terrance Dicks, director Tim Combe, Pik-Sen Lim who played the Master's accomplice Chin Lee, Fernanda Marlowe and stuntman Derek Ware (I should mention that his work and that of his Havoc team on this story is impeccable) make appearances too.
The making-of documentary "The Military Mind" features Courtney , Letts and Combe again, along with Lim and Marlowe, and director Tim Combe, but no Manning. It is interesting and entertaining but a little short. I felt sorry for Combe when he said he didn't get any more Who work after this due to the show exceeding its budget. There is a short "Now and Then" showing the many locations used, and a rather generic "Behind the Scenes" which was transmitted around the same time as the show itself.
Coming soon - Spearhead from Space on Blu-ray !!
With the release of this story on DVD, all of Pertwee's stories are represented in variable (but mostly very good) colour for the first time in decades. A true red-letter day.
I cannot recommend this one enough - I can't imagine any Who fan not liking it.
The number of people prior to this DVD release who have seen The Mind of Evil in colour must be pretty small. On its single UK transmission in 1971 the majority of households would probably still have had only B&W televisions. It was sold abroad in the mid 1970's to various US TV stations, but after that only B&W film prints have been available.
It's been a long and winding road, but eventually it's available again in full colour. Episodes 2-6 use the Chroma Dot Recovery system, where the colour information hidden in the B&W print is utilised. Of these five, episode 2 is the poorest, but the other four are very good indeed. This is absolutely the best quality that is achievable at present, and when you consider that the budget for this restoration isn't particularly large then it's even more impressive.
Episode 1 presented a particular challenge. There were no Chroma Dots available, so instead selected frames from the episode were hand coloured by Stuart Humphryes, otherwise known as Babelcolour. In a 25 minute episode of Doctor Who there are approximately 36,000 frames. In total around 7,000 frames were hand coloured and then SVS Resources used these frames to extrapolate the colour signal from the adjacant B&W frames. After about 18 months and thousands of hours of work the final result is quite staggering - without the efforts of Stuart Humphryes and the others working on this project, episode 1 might have remained in B&W, so many, many people owe them a great debt of gratitude.
Whilst it's understandable that the colour restoration will be the main talking point, what of the story itself? Broadcast second during Jon Pertwee's second season, in many ways it feels like a throwback to the previous year. It has a more serious and hard-edged tone, like the stories from Pertwee's debut season.
All of the regulars are on top form here. Pertwee is in his typical early exile mood - namely moody and arrogant. In this story he's not a Doctor you can instantly love, but he does have a few flashes of humour which help to alleviate his bad temper. It was only Katy Manning's second story as Jo Grant, but she's in the thick of the action here. Separated from the Doctor for a few episodes she has to carry a significant part of the narrative, which she does effortlessly.
The men from UNIT are all served well by Don Houghton's script. Nicholas Courtney has some withering put downs for both Yates and Benton, which you can tell he relishes. John Levene gets to do some undercover work and lead the assault on Stangmoor prison at the end of the story whilst Richard Franklin also has his share of the action.
That leaves Roger Delgado as the original and best Master. He too is in his element here, chauffeured in a luxury limousine and puffing on a cigar he is great value in this story and his two-handed scenes with Jon Pertwee are a pleasure to watch.
Like most six-parters it is a little padded in places, but with all the regulars well served by the script, some good location filming and stunt work and with the story back in colour this is an unmissable release.
Given the efforts made to recolourise the story, it's a little surprising that there isn't a documentary on that, a missed opportunity, I think. But there's the usual quality extras package starting with a Toby Hadoke moderated commentary with Katy Manning, Pik-Sen Lim, Fernanda Marlowe, Timothy Coombe, Derek Ware, Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts.
There's a good making of documentary - The Military Mind - which was made in 2009. This is poignant as it gives us one more chance to see Nicholas Courtney and Barry Letts, who both passed away a few years ago.
Production subs, some PDF materials, a Now and Then and an archive feature on Televison Centre round off a strong package of features that compliment a quality story from a period when Doctor Who was going from strength to strength.
on 5 July 2015
This early 70s six parter sees the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee), alongside Jo Grant (Katy Manning), investigate a seemingly new breakthrough in criminal rehabilitation: The Keller Machine, a device that can literally suck the evil impulses out of a person. Meanwhile, UNIT, headed up by the always dependable Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney), are guarding a major peace conference in London, where tensions are slowly escalating with the Chinese. How are these connected, and who is really pulling the strings here?
Essentially, Who's take on espionage and Cold War thrillers, 'Mind of Evil is another solid entry from the Pertwee and one that I find doesn't get all that much respect. It's very tightly paced with a continuous sense of urgency and rising stakes, both at the collapsing prison where the bizarre Keller machine does its deeds, as well as the enigmatic behaviour of the Chinese at the peace conference, and the story is able to go between these two without either feeling less important. Plus its interesting to see the usually domineering and assertive Third Doctor be very much the underdog here, getting caught and experimented on as he tries to unravel the mystery of the Keller Machine and its inventor. Seeing this rather commanding Doctor be afraid only serves to push the stakes higher and make the Keller Machine and its inventor (take a wild guess as to who from the cover art) seem like real threats. Timothy Combe's direction brings this together in a fast paced and exciting package that makes you forget how small Who's budget was, with quite a few sizeable setpieces as well as some very cinematic direction right out of a Bond film.
The cast is top notch, with Pertwee on fun and blustery form here as the commanding Third, while also be able to show moments of genuine doubt and terror as he grapples with the dilemma. Manning comes into her own in this story, proving Jo is not just a ditz and has some initiative of her own, as well as letting her bond more with the Doctor. Delgado returns as the Master in his second story and of course he's marvelous and menacing, bringing a tremendous air of legitimacy and authority to the proceedings, while the UNIT lot (made up of Courtney as well as Richard Franklin and John Levene as his two subordinates, Yates and Benton) are more here for action and comic foils, and they do it well. The strongest guest star here is Neil McCarthy as a criminal devolved to a child-like mentality by the Keller Machine, whom you end up feeling sorry for, and develops a close bond with Jo that is actually quite sweet.
Don Houghton (the man behind another gem, the prior season's finale 'Inferno') delivers a strong script that balances being a tight thriller, social observant science fiction and then even dashes of humour here and there, especially concerning the back and forth between the Brig and The Doctor. From rebelling prisons to stolen missiles to deadly hallucinations with aliens and dragons and raging water wrought on by the Keller Machine, it's just really compelling. The icing on the cake being the interactions between The Doctor and The Master in the prison, which are loaded with tension as the two try to constantly one up and second guess the other, and having actors of the calibre of Pertwee and Delgado only helps cement these scenes as nail biting. Really, the only places this story falls down is that some aspects of the production don't quite live up to potential, such as the tacky dragon hallucination, and the action is not always as impressive as it clearly wants to be and can feel a little staged at points.
But beyond that, I did thoroughly enjoy this one, and I highly recommend it if you want to start sampling the UNIT era of the show.
on 5 January 2014
Yes; another classic adventure. As much, perhaps more, of a political thriller than a science fiction story, though it doesn't suffer from that. It gives the impression of being very much in touch with the real world and the issues facing same, something heightened by the inclusion of genuine Chinese people as characters. In fact it's about as realistic, and as good, as Who ever gets. Timothy Combe was undoubtedly one of the best directors the programme has ever seen, in the same league as Douglas Camfield, and it's a great shame he didn't work on it again after this story. Excellent humorous Doctor/Master and Doctor/Brigadier banter, and Katy Manning proves her character doesn't necessarily come across as a bimbo if in the hands of a good director. There are one or two holes in the plot which I won't mention as it would mean spoiling it for people who haven't yet seen the story. One thing I have to get off my chest, though. Alcott (like many Westerners, probably) is suspicious of China so when the mind parasite plays on his fear of it he sees Chin Lee as a huge menacing dragon. Why then, in both the TV story and the novelisation, does Fu Peng describe the creature as one of the legendary dragon demons of his (Fu Peng's) people? Given that it's Alcott's mind that's being manipulated, isn't it rather one of the legendary dragon demons of HIS people?
on 26 March 2014
This, like Ambassadors of Death, is a good example of how the colourisation process transforms a story. I had a scratchy black and white VHS copy c/o UK Gold. Watching it in colour makes it seem like a completely different story.
Pertwee is on great form and is really put through the mill by the Keller machine. UNIT were just beginning to seem a little cosy by this stage and were starting to become a little cliched ( gormless but loyal Benton, fussy Brigadier and heroic- but also weirdly camp- Yates).
It is the villains who steal this story though. Roger Delgado dominates every scene in which he appears, but William Marlowe isn't far behind him as the utterly evil Harry Mailer. Their scenes together have a strange poignancy, when you realise that Marlowe would go on to marry Delgado's widow Kismet....
The plot wanders a bit, but the direction is brilliant. Tim Combe manages to stage spectacular battle scenes as well as claustrophobic scenes within the prison. Considering that season 8 was intended to be a little "softer" and more family friendly than the adult themes of season 7, the body count in this story is astronomical. The battle scenes and fights are surprisingly vicious and the Keller Machine a wonderfully nasty concept!
on 27 September 2015
Brilliant retro Dr Who for fans of the classic Dr Who. Clunky sets (including the "evil machine" itself!), ham acting, often more TV thriller than sci-fi (the giveaway from most old TV sci-fi is the total absence of any anticipation of computer, microchip and informational developments which have transformed science and the world to a new level). Yet taken as a product of its time, it has a lot of charm. Dover Castle as setting is great. There are some great fight sequences. The use of a real missile was no doubt a coup for a TV show at the time. Jon Pertwee ever engaging - a cross between Margaret Rutherford and Christopher Lee cavorting about in that silk cloak. Roger Delgado THE Master ( although no cigar for whoever suggested he sport a cigar - totally out of character for a ruthless inter-terrestrial time lord). Plus the bonus items were especially interesting and welcome - a talk-through by many of the production staff and surviving actors/actresses (including an elderly Nicholas Courtenay aka Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart who alas! has since died); and, not much to do with Dr Who, but a very revealing mini-documentary behind-the-scenes at the BBC studios in the 1970s. Fantastic!
on 9 September 2014
"The mind of evil" was the second story of season 8, which the story before that was the classic "Terror of the autons" which introduced Jo Grant and the Master. "The mind of evil" is also a classic story in my opinion and I was very impressed with the colour restoration, even though I do like doctor who in black and white. Because if Troughton classics such as "Tomb of the cybermen" or "The seeds of death" were in colour, they just wouldn't be the same in my opinion. The interesting thing with "The mind of evil" is that the first two episodes dragged quite a bit. But after episode 3 I was glued to the seat and found the story overall to be thrilling and entertaining, which Pertwee and the cast are spot on. But the problem I found with the story though was that it was repetive at times, which the endings to episodes 1, 3 and 4 are very similiar which the doctor encounters the kellar machine, which is actually a killing machine. Overall this story is fun and enjoyable to watch and that is what doctor who is all about.
on 5 June 2014
John Pertwee as Dr Who, Katy Manning as his assistant and a superb story, what Dr Who fan could ask for more.
For me Pertwee is the ultimate Dr Who, The Master a Wonderful villain and Katy Manning one of the greatest assistants. What Dr Who fan could ask for more.
on 13 June 2013
This is my 1st ever review. How many years had we hoped this would one day be seen again in colour ?? well here it is !!!! The DVD sleeve artwork is excellent, the DVD extras are very informative. The colour restoration is outstanding especially Ep 1. OK, the colour does phase 'in and out' repeatedly in Ep's 2,3,& 4 but this does not detract from the overall splendour of having this story in full colour at last, so, heart felt congratulations to the recovery team for achieving this. The story is mature and well delivered, this is 'Dr Who' at its best from that era, The Dr and Jo, Unit, The Keller machine and the wonderful BBC Radiophonic music.....and the best Master, dear Roger Delgado (RIP). You might get the impression I love this.....spot on, when I was but a mere 10 years old boy, this was story that frightened me the most and I've never forgotten it, Jon Pertwee's face as he re-lives 'fire' - one of the best cliff-hanger's ever. A 'must' for all Dr Who fans young and older !!! 100% recommended.