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Doctor Who: The Mind of Evil

Review by: 
Black Gloves
Release Date: 
1971
Studio: 
BBC Worldwide
Genre: 
Sci-Fi
Format: 
DVD
Region: 
1 NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 
1.33:1
Directed by: 
Timothy Comb
Cast: 
Jon Pertwee
Katy Manning
Roger Delgado
Nicholas Courtney
John Levene
Movie: 
4
Extras: 
4
Bottom Line: 
4

 “The Mind of Evil” was screened from January through to March, 1971, very much at the peak of one of those experimental periods that mark out various epochs in the history of DOCTOR WHO; in this case, one that emerged from the recently minted form first showcased by the series during its 1970 run, creating a new dynamic that had seemed to put many of the previously unquestioned core constituents of the series newly up for grabs. This period of transition was initiated by producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrence Dicks very soon after they’d inherited stewardship of the programme -- along with a new leading man in Jon Pertwee, who was newly cast in the role of the third Doctor. Although certain elements of that first colour 1970 season had been pre-determined by outgoing producers Derek Sherwin’s and Peter Bryant’s decision to exile the Doctor on Earth and feature less stories per season but more episodes per story (both ideas implemented as cost cutting exercises during a period when the series was on the watch list for cancellation after poor viewing figures had marred Patrick Troughton’s final season), Letts and Dicks took this brand new, revamped Earth-based series, which had a much more dynamic Doctor at its core in a “Quatermass” imitating set-up, but with the army task force known as UNIT injecting an action series structure to it, and emphasised those elements of the resulting format which best lent themselves to appreciation by a much older audience than had hitherto been targeted by the series.

Although it had always been made by the BBC Drama Department rather than the Children’s Department, and was officially thought of as a family orientated show, DOCTOR WHO was starting to find itself trapped by its increasingly entrenched reputation as the sort of throwaway afternoon telly that was primarily aimed at younger children. Letts and Dicks challenged that perception during their first season at the helm, which features several stories that, while not dispensing with them entirely, downplayed men in rubbery monster suits, and instead sought to build on possibilities suggested by past serials (such as the Douglas Camfield directed Cyberman story “The Invasion”) for the inclusion of more hard-hitting action content and slightly more adult cultural and political themes woven into the plots. The season bowed out on a particularly hard-hitting, dystopian tale of apocalypse -- Don Houghton’s “Inferno” -- which brought the contemporary horror of a zombie-werewolf plague to the English home counties amid a series of tense disaster movie stand-offs which take place between some desperate characters during an ill-fated drilling project intended to mine cheap energy, bringing with it the ever-present prospect of nuclear annihilation -- albeit mostly playing out in a parallel world inhabited by evil fascist alter egos of the UNIT family regulars. Houghton was asked back the following year to write for the show again, and contributed the following six parter for Jon Pertwee’s second series. But by now the programme was again evolving, as Letts and Dicks continued to tinker with the inherited format to mould it to their particular preferences. More changes were made for season eight which took the new Earth-based format in a direction that was intended to make the series slightly less harsh, scary and adult-orientated. Although the production team wanted DOCTOR WHO to continue to appeal to the older viewers who had helped the 1970 series to recapture the viewing figures that had begun to desert the show during the latter half of Troughton’s tenure, Letts in particular was mindful that the series had a responsibility to its younger viewers to temper its scarier elements by offering a strong moral centre.

Over the course of the 1971 season, UNIT would come to be based more and more around a number of recognisable, constantly recurring faces, who each are given a clear-cut role to fulfil in the family structure that now increasingly surrounds the Doctor as the season progresses. Caroline John was the first casualty of this process, replaced in the role of the Doctor’s female assistant, scientist Liz Shaw, by Katy Manning taking the part of the younger and less experienced character Jo Grant, who was intended to be much more of an audience identification figure than her predecessor (because 1970s audiences presumably couldn’t identify with unapologetically intelligent women) and someone who could hero worship the Doctor while asking all the questions about the plot that the viewer also required answering. Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart also began to soften and drift away from being the militaristic authoritarian who often had an antagonistic relationship with the Doctor during the first UNIT season (a quality which always threatened to make him seem less likable) to encompass a more conciliatory, wryly comic aspect which Courtney was able to flesh out in his characterisation, and ran with over the course of the next few years while he was a regular on the show. Richard Franklin and John Levene were also to become regular faces in the series as the dashing action man and the slightly put-upon workhorse of UNIT respectively. Initially Fernanda Marlowe appeared also to be a regular member of the team, appearing first in “The Mind of Evil” after being cast in the role of Corporal Bell by director Timothy Comb, and the adventure that immediately followed it “The Claws of Axos” before being written out along with other short-lived UNIT personel also glimpsed in “The Mind of Evil” such as Patrick Godfrey’s Major Cosworth.

Three stories in and Letts finally allowed the third Doctor his first trip off world on a special mission for the Time Lords, setting a precedent for the Doctor to be allowed occasional trips in the TARDIS whenever his race required his special intervention on other planets, mitigating the somewhat limited story options Letts and Dicks always felt they had been lumbered with as a result of their predecessors’ cost cutting measures. By the end of the season, Letts and Dicks had firmly established a much cosier, lighter tone than they’d started out with when they’d overseen the production of much tougher Cold War-influenced dramas such as “The Ambassadors of Death” and “Inferno”, but still one of the most important and defining elements of the Pertwee era was also introduced at the start of season eight, with the casting of Roger Delgado in the role of the Doctor’s evil Time Lord nemesis The Master. The character appeared in each and every one of the stories that make up this second run of Pertwee adventures, as a kind of dastardly Moriarty-like foil to Pertwee’s dandified Sherlock Holmes-influenced know-it-all Doctor, after first being introduced in “The Terror of the Autons”; and he would continue to be a regular enemy for Pertwee’s Doctor for the next three years, up until Delgado’s tragic death in a car accident in 1973 brought this particular relationship too suddenly to an end. For the manner in which Delgado developed his role in the series was eventually to make The Master seem every bit as much a part of the Doctor’s surrogate ‘family’ as were his colleagues at UNIT HQ!

“The Mind of Evil” came on the scene before that ‘cosiness’ had fully set in on the show, when the UNIT family was just beginning to establish itself and both Jo Grant and The Master were new additions to the fold -- this being only their second respective adventures to be screened. Consequently writer Don Houghton’s scripts retain that hard-hitting grittiness which made “Inferno” stand-out so, and is full of large-scale HAVOC stunt set-pieces and performances by guest cast members such as William Marlowe which strike the same sort of tone as would have been common for a kind of drama that was then considered more adult in style, such as “Callan” or “The Sweeny”. Director Timothy Combe’s description of the style aesthetic at work in the serial and how it was designed to make use of ‘a realistic setting to tell a fantastic story’ is the most succinct description of what appears on-screen here: the main setting is a maximum security prison, and apart from guest appearances in some hallucinated fantasy sequences it is completely free of the usual rubber-suited monsters -- the main threat in the story coming from a combination of institutional malice and human corruption, with the Master manipulating the strings with the aid of an alien parasite that lives inside a machine and feeds by draining evil impulses from its victims.

With its violent prison riot scenes and a sprawling plot that involves psychic espionage at a World Peace Conference, as well as the hijack of a Surface-to-Air missile, “The Mind of Evil” took DOCTOR WHO farther down a road  more commonly associated with real-world action adventure drama with a serious edge, than it has ever ventured since. But at the same time The Master was never more reminiscent of a stereotypical Bond villain than he is here, fully playing up to that image in scenes where he gets chauffeured about in the back of a limousine, usually with a cigar clenched between his teeth. His ultimate aim, as usual, is to destroy the world, and he seems pretty determined here since he has about three plots on the boil at once, just to make sure of success should either one fail.

Stage one involves sabotaging a Peace Conference in London and using the ensuing chaos and mistrust to try and start a conflict between The People’s Republic of China and the West; the second stage has him masterminding the hijack of The Thunderbolt -- an outlawed nuclear missile with a gas warhead that is about to be disposed of under the supervision of UNIT -- with intent to launch the device against one of Britain’s Cold War ‘enemies’. Both of these plots are integrated with yet a third dastardly scheme, based around control of the inmates residing at HM prison Stangmoor (a fictional establishment, presumably a conflation of Dartmoor and Strangeways) and the groundwork for which has been laid almost a year in advance and involves the British state’s recent introduction of a new way of dealing with violent criminals who cannot otherwise be reformed by subjecting them to ‘the Keller Process’ -- a means of emptying their minds of all evil and thus ‘curing’ them of anti-social behaviours.

This rather convoluted and almost random collection of plot elements was the result of the usual pressing need to fill up six episodes rather than any overall design, but by chance the rather incoherent plotting contributes to a general theme about the tension between freedom and control when behaviour is medicalised, and the role the concepts of good and evil play in the maintenance or otherwise of a civilised order. The theme of the medicalization of criminality kicks off the story in an opening segment that seems based on the central conceit which also motivated Anthony Burgess’s novel “A Clockwork Orange”, in scenes that were screened on British television several months before Stanley Kubrick’s controversial film version of that novel was premiered, indicating that such concerns must have been ‘in the air’ in the early 1970s. Ray London’s multi-tier prison set looks no less authentic than the kind of thing that might have been seen in any adult drama in the ‘70s, and it is notable how the studio lighting is often turned down low at many key atmospheric moments throughout this serial; flat, evenly lit studio lighting being one of the major blights of ‘80s DOCTOR WHO which seems not to have been a problem during this era, when the multi-camera and production gallery set-up was presumably just as common a method for making drama as it was for sitcom.

The story begins with Jo (Katy Manning) and the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) attending a demonstration of the Keller Machine being laid on for officials and the press, in their capacity as UNIT observers. The Keller process is intended as a replacement for Capital punishment, and the prison ritual which precedes the treatment echoes that which was once associated with the moments that came immediately before an execution being carried out, as would have probably been recognised by many viewers of the day, since Capital punishment had only been officially abolished a little over a year before broadcast of the serial, in 1969, after having been suspended in England, Wales and Scotland since 1965. The Chaplin who would have been in attendance in the event of an execution is here replaced by white coated medical official Dr Summers (Michael Sheard), as hardened criminal George Barnham (Neil McCarthy) is led from the condemned cell to the Process Theatre, while his fellow inmates rattle tin cups against bars, as they would have done during a condemned man’s final walk from his cell to his place of execution. After having being informed of his sentence by the suited prison Governor (Raymond Westwell), McCarthy finds himself strapped to a chair beneath a dome with electrodes placed at his head, in a set-up that mimics the iconography associated with the  Electric Chair -- a method of execution originating in the United States.

But instead of a sentence of death being carried out by an prison executioner, here the machine’s operator is a scientist: Professor Kettering (Simon Lack), who introduces this demonstration by explaining the workings of the machine -- invented by Swiss genius Professor Emil Keller -- to the assembled party of observers, and how its operation is governed by the principle that criminal behaviour is instigated ‘by negative or evil impulses’ which the machine is able to extract, collect and store to allow the subject undergoing treatment to subsequently take his place ‘as a useful if lowly member of society’. McCarthy, previously seen to be an unruly, violent individual, is left placid but child-like after being subjected to the process -- his violent nature now indeed neutralised, his ordeal having turned him, in Dr Summers’ words, into ‘either an idiot or a saint’. This result is judged to be a success by Kettering, despite McCarthy passing out in distress during the process due to ‘an excess of negative particles’; but, of course, the Doctor begs to differ, pointing out how the machine is in effect acting as a repository of concentrated evil and is therefore extremely dangerous. Sure enough, while McCarthy recuperates in the medical wing, one of the observers is found dead in mysterious circumstances after having been left alone with the Keller Machine.   

The clinical, hospital-like ambiance of the Process Theatre and the many scenes which take place inside the prison’s medical facility, close to where the Keller machine contraption is stored (which looks, ironically enough, like a metal box with a blinking police constable’s helmet on top), are a constant visual reminder of the story’s preoccupation with issues of punishment through medical intervention. But there is a dubious conception of evil at work, here, which is characterised by the concept being reified as a physical substance or collection of particles which can be gathered and then added or removed from the mind in order to manipulate human behaviour and personality. At first the story appears as though it’s going to develop along the familiar path taken by so many other plots from during the Jon Pertwee years, where the Doctor is routinely pitted against arrogant, bureaucratic officials and hubristic scientists -- roles clearly fulfilled here by the prison Governor and Professor Kettering – who refuse to acknowledge the dangers they are unleashing upon society by their crackpot experiments which tamper with nature. One of the defining features of Pertwee’s characterisation of the Doctor was his talent for belittling such unpleasant characters, turning the tables on them by subjecting them to the same haughty superior attitude as that which they routinely use against the minions who usually surround them as they bully their way through life. In fact Kettering soon himself becomes a victim of the machine, and the prison Governor seems to disappear from the story as soon as the Master ventures in on the scene, masquerading as the machine’s inventor Professor Keller, and taking over the organisation of a prison breakout that’s organised by a group of inmates who are led by the man who was next in line for the Keller process, a brutal hard case called Harry Mailer (William Marlowe).

The Keller Machine is really merely the container for an alien parasite, found at some point by The Master, that lives by draining minds of evil impulses and which uses its victims own fear against them in order to destroy anyone who threatens it – an additional fact suggesting an intimate connection  between fear and the concept of evil that ties the criminal impulse to the human tendency to turn to violence in reaction to the experience of fear. The fact that Stangmoor prison has been built from a medieval fortress associated, of course, with warfare, only adds to this thematic suggestion, although it comes about merely as a result of the Home Office refusing the show permission to shoot inside or around a real working gaol, thus requiring Dover Castle – a twelfth century medieval structure built on the Kentish coast – to stand in for the prison exteriors. Nevertheless, this striking location connects the main prison-centred part of the story to the World Peace Conference subplot which dominates the first few episodes of the six parter, and introduces UNIT as they become embroiled in the Master’s scheme to destabilise peace-keeping relations between the participating countries. The Master does this by using a hypnotised delegate from the Chinese Embassy called Captain Chin Lee (played by writer Don Houghton’s then wife Pik-Sen Lim)  as a telepathic amplifier who can unleash the malign influence of the Keller Machine in order to dispose of both Chinese and American officials, thus putting both sides at loggerheads with the aim of hopefully starting a war -- which the Master hopes to escalate by hijacking and launching the outlawed Thunderbolt missile.

John Levene’s role is expanded when Benton gets to don a dark mackintosh and do some undercover espionage work, here -- on the autumnal streets of Cornwall Gardens in Kensington -- after he’s sent off to trail Chin Lee when the Brigadier begins to suspect that she might be involved in the theft of missing papers from the Chinese Embassy. But the Master is tapping the phones of UNIT HQ and is one step ahead of both UNIT’s security arrangements at the Conference and the details of its escort of the missile along country back-lanes, which just happen to take the convoy past Stangmoor.

The Peace Conference subplot is clearly filler, intended to take up some air time during the first few episodes so as to stretch the Keller Machine storyline out for six episodes; but it does give Pertwee some enjoyable scenes in which the Doctor gets to show off his language skills while smoothing things over with the Chinese delegate Fu Peng (Kristopher Kum) by speaking to him at length in the delegate’s native Hokkien dialect when he and the Brigadier go to visit him at his Embassy rooms – scenes in which Pertwee had the benefit of some language coaching by Pil-Sen Lim . Meanwhile, Jo is left holding the fort at the prison, just as a full scale prison riot breaks out! This adventure is exhibit A in any defence of the character of Jo Grant against those who bemoan her years as the Doctor’s companion for diminishing the status of that role by becoming more of a ditzy dolly bird in comparison to the much more overtly intelligent, worldly and sophisticated Liz Shaw and Jo’s replacement, Sarah Jane Smith. Although it’s true enough that in later stories the character might have been short changed,  was often to be found dressed in unsuitably short skirts and trendy glam gear during freezing winter location shoots and was often written as a liability, continually having to be rescued or ticked off by Pertwee’s bossy patrician Doctor (whom she continued to hero worship to a sometimes rather sycophantic extent) this adventure catches her well before any less sexually enlightened attitudes began to play a role in the way she was written. It’s possible that Houghton still partially had Liz Shaw in mind while writing the part, since he wouldn’t have had too much to go on in terms of previous stories featuring the character at this early stage in her development. Whatever the case, the soft, kindly, sympathetic Jo – the one who visits the previously violent lifer George McCarthy during his recuperation in the prison hospital wing, and brings him a box chocolates as a present; or who nurses the stricken Doctor in one of the cells after he is exposed to the Keller Machine’s psychic mind drain – is balanced by the UNIT-trained soldier side of the character (the one we never really get to see too much of again), who is able to single-handedly disarm Mailer (William Marlowe),the ruthless thug in charge of the riot, and hold back the rest of the freed prisoners with a pistol, and who hands Mailer back to the Prison Governor after the prison is secured once again with the immortal line: ‘here you are guvnor … he’s all yours!’ When the Doctor recovers from his ordeal enough to stage an escape from the cell he and Jo are later imprisoned in after the Master takes control of the failed prison breakout attempt, she again proves fully able to look after herself, taking on their guard in a physical wrestling match while the Doctor finishes his resistance with a swift clout to the head with a tea tray! In this story Jo, probably more than anyone else in it represents the well-balanced mind: less prone to harm from the machine than almost anyone else including the Doctor. In fact, the Doctor and the Master are explicitly represented as two different sides of the same person for the first time during this story, in a symbolic dissolve from the Doctor to the Master, just after each of them has been left physically and mentally exhausted by their joint attempt to tame the rampaging Keller Machine, which has by then gained the ability to teleport itself to different parts of the prison in search of evil impulses to gobble up.

The juxtaposition of evil and innocence is one of the themes director Timothy Combe picked up on from the way in which the post-processed McCarthy becomes a harmless but sympathetic man-child to whom Jo develops an almost maternal attitude in the latter half of the story. The director emphasises this dichotomy in man’s nature by setting the exterior Embassy scenes during the earlier peace Conference subplot outside a children’s playground, setting up the later plot development when McCarthy’s purity and innocence is revealed to be the key to combating the machine’s malign powers.   

“The Mind of Evil” is a fascinating but ultimately over-ambitious attempt to expand the action-orientated aspects of the new Pertwee era, which significantly overstretched the resources of the production and led to director Timothy Combe never being asked back to direct for the show again, even after previously having being involved with it from its earliest years. The Keller Machine is an interesting concept, but there is some degree of incoherence in its conceptual execution since there is no real reason given for why a device that drains the mind of its evil impulses should also seek to destroy its victims by subjecting them to manifestations of their worst phobias. It has to be said as well, that the sight of a metal box contraption with a series of flashing lights, that merely appears and disappears in various sections of the prison throughout the serial, doesn’t make for exactly one of the most visually stimulating foes the show has ever devised (we later get to see the creature inside the machine, and it turns out to be the usual mound of Swarfega -doused jelly with a large fake eye in the centre). This idea does result in one interesting revelation about the respective psychologies of both the Doctor and the Master, though: for while the Doctor’s exposure to the Keller Machine results in him being subjected to the illusion of being burned alive in a fiery conflagration (ostensibly a reference to his traumatic experience of the destruction of an entire world in the parallel dimension he was trapped in during the course of Houghton’s previous story for the series “Inferno”; but also imagery suggestive of the idea that he fears an evil side to his own nature which leads him to imagine himself being consumed by hellfire) and later, to encounter a mixed horde of some of his previous enemies, such as Daleks and Silurians; the Master’s greatest fear is revealed to be a giant, physically dominating image of Pertwee’s Doctor, who towers above him and laughs at him!

With its extremely high body count, numerous action scenes and choreographed set-pieces such as those involving UNIT raiding the castle while its under siege from the rebelling prisoners, and the impressively arranged hijack of the Thuderbolt (a real surface-to-air Bloodhound missile, loaned by the RAF and supervised by them both on and off screen), all demonstrating some of the HAVOC stunt team’s finest work -- “The Mind of Evil” comes across as one of the grittiest and most adult stories of the Pertwee era, while pointing the way to the more formulaic side of the series at the same time, a side which would start to take over as the UNIT family vs. the Master theme increasingly emerged as the default scenario for each and every adventure. Although some of the realisation of the story comes across as a bit clumsy (the dreadful pink quilted dragon costume that was supposed to represent the American delegate’s fear of Chinese Communism for instance, which the cast and crew derisively nicknamed Puff the Magic Dragon!), it’s remarkable how assured and hard-hitting this production looks -- with its use of RAF personnel as extras, real black maria police vans and  a real missile with one of the RAF’s aircraft-hanger locations borrowed to house it, as well as the use of a helicopter to fly Jo and the Doctor to safety after they thwart the Master’s last ditch attempt to launch the missile with the help of McCarthy’s influence over the Keller Machine – “The Mind of Evil” holds up extremely well, especially  given the many travails and cock ups that occurred behind the scenes, all of which contributed to the story going significantly over its allocated budget.

This DVD has been held up for some time by the extent of the restoration work needed to bring the surviving materials up to scratch. All six original PAL colour videotaped episodes had been wiped during the BBC’s purge of its archive sometime between 1973 and 1976 (given the amount of expense and the extensive location work involved in the making of this story, it beggars belief that the BBC could be so cavalier with its library in this case), but 16mm black-and-white telerecordings were retained by BBC Enterprises for sale abroad. Naturally, these were nothing like the quality of the originals, as can be seen from the clips of the unrestored black-and-white copies shown throughout the accompanying Making Of documentary, which was shot back in 2009 when it looked as though the technology might never reach a standard able to cope with the amount of restoration and colourisation needed. Thankfully ‘chroma dot’ technology has since been developed which is able to retrieve colour  from productions that have been transferred to black-and-white, using spurious colour information still retained by the film. This was used to restore the original colour signal from episodes 2 to 6 while the colour from episode one (which had been filtered to remove all colour information) was painstakingly constructed using the newly restored episodes as a reference. Combined with other techniques that are able to reconstruct the video-like feel of the studio material (as well as significant sound restoration by Mark Ayres), “The Mind of Evil” now looks astonishingly like its original incarnation.

The fact that the extras for this story were made so long ago means that many participants who have since passed away, such as Nicholas Courtney and Barry Letts, were able to contribute their recollections of their involvement with the production to the DVD. The commentary track features a revolving door approach with cast and production personnel entering and exiting as their contributions to the six episodes become relevant or otherwise. Toby Hadoke moderates the contributions of actors Katy Manning, Pik-Sen Lim and Fernando Marlow – the latter making the first of her two appearances as the short-lived deskbound UNIT member, Corporal Bell. Also included is series producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrence Dicks, director Timothy Combe and stunt arranger Derek Ware. Pik-Sen Lim reveals how she was already familiar with the script before she was even cast in the role of Chin Lee (although she still had to undergo a lengthy audition process) since she was the one who had to type it up for her husband, writer Don Houghton, to start with! The casting of non-English ethnic parts proved to be a headache for the production, since back in 1970 it was hard to find suitable actors of sufficient skill able to play the roles. This led to one of the production’s many overspends when the actor originally cast in the role of Chinese delegate Fu Peng had to be recast, and a whole section of film involving the original actor which was shot at the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington had to be scrapped because the Chinese actor cast in the role was not good enough. Letts and director Timothy Combs reveal how “The Mind of Evil became one of the most expensive DOCTOR WHO serials ever, due to a whole list of problems encountered during the story’s transition from script to screen, ranging from recasting of roles, filmed material having to be dropped because episodes were significantly overrunning, scenes having to be remounted because of failed special effects, an extra day of location filming at Dover Castle having to be scheduled because there was not enough time to shoot cutaways and close-ups during the original two days allocated for the complex action scenes, costumes having to be rushed without enough time to check them over before use (hence the dodgy Dragon costume) and the last minute hiring of a helicopter because no-one had bothered to figure a way of getting the Doctor and Jo out of the immediate vicinity of the missile after the Doctor repairs its self-destruct mechanism and uses it to blow up the Keller Machine at the end of episode six.

Detailed production commentary subtitles on the making of the serial use access to Terrence Dicks’ annotated notes for Don Houghton’s original story breakdown, his initial draft scripts and the subsequent revised scripts, to chart in detail how the story developed from first outline proposal to its eventual screen incarnation. They also quote from the BBC’s weekly programme review meetings, which reveal areas of concern the top brass at the Corporation might have had with that week’s episode, as well as those aspects of the episode they felt had worked well. Disc one features all six episodes with subtitles for the hard of hearing, with commentary and the on-screen production note subtitle commentary providing a compressive overview of the development, production and reception of the story.

Disc 2 is headed by a Making Of featurette shot back in 2009 at Dover Castle, narrated by Cameron McEwan. “The Military Mind” uses the location to reunite various members of the cast and crew such as Barry Letts and Terrence Dicks, Timothy Combs and Nicholas Courtney and actors Fernanda Marlowe and Pik-Sen Lim for a chance to recall the sometimes fraught circumstances surrounding the making of the show. Most prominently highlighted by this 23 minute documentary is director Timothy Combs’ sadness at the fact that he was never asked back to direct for the series again, and his belief that this was down to a series of misunderstandings surrounding his failure to shoot all the material that was needed during the UNIT assault on the prison, thus requiring an extra day being hurriedly scheduled at great expense, to film extra material for close-ups on a production that was already over-spending. It seems like Barry Letts might have thought at the time that the failure to gain adequate coverage during the initial shoot was down to the director’s oversight, while Combs is adamant that the problem was entirely due to the fact that two days didn’t leave him with enough time to shoot an action sequence of that complexity during late autumn, when the days were already significantly shorter. To back him up, the documentary displays a letter sent to Combs from Jon Pertwee, praising the director’s handling of the production and the camaraderie and high spirits that were maintained on set throughout.

Augmenting the main Making Of documentary is a 7 minute “Now & Then” featurette which revisits all the main location filming spots, including those that were cut from the finished story for lack of time and particularly those locations at Dover Castle, which were used for the UNIT storming of the prison; and the stretch of Archers Court Road near Whitfield, Kent used for the hijack sequence.   

“Behind the Scenes at Television Centre” is an invaluable BBC archive documentary, originally screened back in 1971 at around the same time “The Mind of Evil” was in production. Presenter Norman Tozer visits the now defunct BBC Television Centre to take a look at what goes on there over the course of twenty-four hours and witnesses production meetings; rehearsals (for “Blue Peter” and a mini-series called “Cousin Bette” which starred the young Helen Mirren and a certain Colin Baker!); the construction of scenery and the erection of sets, and the preparation of one of the studios for an episode of “Z Cars” among many other aspects of life at the BBC which also get explored, such as the activities of the costuming department, the make-up rooms and the famous BBC canteen facilities. This was probably a fairly routine puff piece for the BBC at the time it was screened but with this aspect of the BBC’s history now being confined firmly to the Corporation’s past, this early 1970s behind-the-scenes footage from an era when the BBC really could claim to be one giant television programme-making factory is incredibly poignant.

A photo gallery and Adobe PDF formatted files featuring Radio Times listings and the 1971 Kellogs Sugar Smacks promotion round off this double-disc set, along with a coming soon trailer for the Blu-ray release of “Spearhead From Space”.

“The Mind of Evil” was one of the most ambitious productions of its day, commissioned back when Barry Letts  possibly still hadn’t got a full handle on the limitations the show was forced to work under, but all the stronger for not being held back by such concerns, despite the difficulties this clearly threw up for Director Timothy Comb. The story undoubtedly suffers in places, but the commitment shown by the support cast (who treat their involvement in the series utterly seriously) and the freshness of the Doctor/ Master dynamic during this early example of what would soon become the standard story formula for the series, help it stand out overall as one of the Pertwee era’s finest, now available to be appreciated in a form that represents as closely as possible how it was always meant to be seen for the first time in living memory for many of us. A great presentation of a much-anticipated release.

Read more from Black Gloves at his blog, Nothing but the Night

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