Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Mind of Evil

Coloured again - episode one thanks to Babelcolour
If I loved Don Houghton’s first Doctor Who story, ‘Inferno’ (which I did) he was going to have a lot to live up to in his second story, ‘The Mind of Evil’, and he didn’t disappoint! ‘The Mind of Evil’ is a cracking tale that never lets up over six episodes. Recently returned to colour, the DVD is fantastic. The colour results on this one are far superior to that of ‘Ambassadors of Death’, and episode one was re-colourised from scratch by the incredibly talented ‘Babel Colour’.

Firstly, it is probably the most adult-orientated story I have seen in Doctor Who. Some stuff is pretty
confronting and pretty ‘real’ for want of a better word. Much of the story is set in a prison, and the sets are superb, and the director, Timothy Coombe, achieved a genuine feel of a prison, rather than a pantomime ‘don’t scare the kids to much’ feel that they might have gone for a year earlier.

The direction on this one is absolutely top-notch, and I was saddened to find this was Coombe’s last contribution to Doctor Who. Having overspent and having to remount a day’s filming, Producer Barry Letts decided not to re-engage the director and was clearly not happy. Personally I think it was worth it. The scenes when UNIT storms the prison are excellent, but hey, so is the whole story.
The Doctor is subjected to the Keller Machine.
Houghton very cleverly ties three strands of story together – the prison, the peace conference and the moving of a gas missile. He weaves the Master into the plot wonderfully and has created the Keller machine that sucks evil out of people, and then uses that evil to attack others. But my favourite bit of scripting is the use of the character ‘Barnum’, played by Neil McCarthy. The prisoner receiving the Keller process at the start of the story is only in the periphery for the next five and a bit episodes, displaying a child-like understanding of the world with ALL his evil impulses removed. Then suddenly it turns out he is the key to controlling the Keller machine in the last fifteen minutes. Wonderful use of re-incorporation, although a sad ending to the story.
Mailer (left) with Doctor Summers at gunpoint.
Which is fine – in fact the gravity and sadness of what has gone on through the story dictates that it’s not going to be all smiles and happiness when the machine is dealt with, and it’s nice to see the Doctor and Jo (especially) aggrieved over the death of Barnum, as so many on-screen deaths in Doctor Who are somewhat glossed over.
There’s a fair bit centred around the Chinese delegation at the Peace conference, and it’s interesting that back in 1970-71 they considered China to be such an important player on the world stage. Consider today they are pretty much the most powerful country on the Earth, it’s a good piece of prediction. The only downside to the
scenes in the Chinese delegate’s rooms is the dragon which isn’t so convincingly done, but they worked hard to use authentic language and had people who were actually Chinese playing the Chinese parts. Something else they are to be commended on.
Don Houghton, I have found out, never wrote another Doctor Who story which is truly a pity. His scripts presented real characters in unreal situations, but not situations outside the realms of imagination. ‘The Mind of Evil’ is less apocalyptic than ‘Inferno’, but is still confronting and frightening.
Pik-Sen Lim 

The casting was spot on too. Barnum I have already mentioned, but the casting of William Marlowe as Mailer couldn’t have been more perfect. He was able to portray a believable character that was easy to hate and fear as an audience member. Coombe did well to find good Chinese actors, with Don Houghton’s wife, Pik-Sen Lim, perfect for Captain Chin Lee. Benton has a tough time in this story, but John Levene does an excellent job of collapsing and getting hit on the head. Mike Yates is given some dynamic stuff to do as well, Richard Franklin must have enjoyed this one particularly and nice to see him return and become a regular cast member.
It’s probably Pertwee’s best story to date, as the actor delivers a wonderful monologue to Jo in episode four or five, and all the regulars get a good go. Finally, I must mention Michael Sheard as Doctor Summers, he’s been in everything (and regularly scored roles as Hitler), and this is his second Doctor Who tale – his first ‘The Ark’. Fine piece of acting and casting. Loved this story.


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