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.)

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.

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 the threat of the Keller Machine getting older and mouldier 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 on both sides of his regeneration.

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.

Episode Two gives us our first glimpses of the Master and Sgt. Benton, each being highlighted well in their introductory sequences. 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 has relatively little to do afterwards, until he takes charge and finally proves his worth late in episode five and throughout episode six.

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 remains the mysterious "other" during episode two, having great influence in stirring the plot from behind the scenes without needing to be directly involved himself. His disguises and aliases make sense in this one, and rather than wait for the climactic conclusion to have a face to face with the Doctor, the two Time Lords 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 last-minute rewrite incorporating traits previously assigned to the original earthly version of Emil Keller.

Also, throughout episodes two and three, 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 of the deadly machine for numerous scenes including no less than four of the five cliffhanger endings. 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 these early middle episodes. "The Mind of Evil" just wouldn't be near as excellent without it, as episodes four and five soon demonstrate.

Episode Three continues to be great stuff, but in hindsight has one serious flaw. The mysterious absence of the Prison Governor in the second half of the story has its explanation in an episode three scene where Mailer apparently shoots him dead as he reaches for the alarm - it is so poorly directed and acted out, however, that it is easily missed and dismissed as just another pointless bit of action involving an "extra". The Governor is far too major a character to be dealt so poor a death scene, and the script is equally to blame in not giving any character a single line of grief for him after the fact, choosing to waste time on silliness instead.

And the silliness mounts quickly in early episode four. 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! The Doctor's energetic escape later in the episode is equally fruitless in relieving his heroic impotence, as he manages to accomplish nothing more than checking on the progress of the villains' plans before getting recaptured, much the same pointlessness that Pat Troughton's Doctor suffered in episode five of "The Power of the Daleks" (story no. 30).

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

The Doctor also winds up spending all of episode five as the villains' prisoner as well, and two and a half back-to-back episodes of a prisoner dynamic spell 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 for episodes four and five, despite the damage done to our interest in the Doctor, for the villains continue to develop themselves and escalate their plans well. The fallible side of the Master is shown, as he struggles to keep both Mailer and the Mind Machine under control. UNIT proves to be a poor excuse for military might in episode four, and Richard Franklin leads the charge in the hammiest of the story's action scenes. Thankfully however, UNIT gets its act back together for episode five, showcasing the power of what it can do when it gets itself good and organized. The battle of Stangmoor prison is one of the most creatively directed and effective of UNIT's shoot-outs, but something else is wrong. It's easy to root for UNIT when they're up against alien monsters, robotic machines, or other fantastic enemies, especially when the fate of the world is clearly at stake. But in this case, they're just shooting up a bunch of frightened real people whose only ambition is to escape the deadly Keller Machine, and the agonized screams and pained faces of dying prisoners, featured often during the shootout, only emphasize the growing disturbing aura surrounding UNIT. And on learning that the missile threatening world peace isn't there, the Brigadier can say little more than "oops". Their heads rolled for your "oops", Brig. Not UNIT's finest hour after all, in my book.

The Doctor has also managed to become part of the prisoner sympathy problem. He tells Jo that the whole point of them hanging around Stangmoor (which leads to their re-capture) is to deal with the Keller Machine, yet when the Master asks him to do just that, he refuses with the excuse that it's only killing off his henchmen. Way to go, Doc. Not only does he become the callous anti-hero in that moment (and look particularly lazy at it), but he has to flip around 180-degrees from his previously stated goals to achieve it. Talk about digging in your heels to drag the plot out to its required length of screen time.

Episode Five's saving grace is the scene of the Doctor and the Master finally working together to confine the Keller Machine to a coil of electromagnetic confusion. It may sound like just another load of techno-babble to some, but there's a lot of real science and terminology behind the theory employed here, making it quite believable to those in the know. Besides this exposition of science is the exposition of a nicer, more intriguing side to the relationship between the Doctor and the Master, and an exposition of the best version (in my opinion) of Simpson's Keller Machine theme. We also see the full set of the Doctor's horrors, and watch him walk through all his fears to achieve his goal. You can actually recognize the Dalek this time around. Great stuff. And even though he may be suffering the prisoner dilemma, 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.

Episode Six picks up tremendously from the previous two, but still has its problems. The Doctor gets right back into problem-solving mode and gets quite crafty with his plans, giving us an exciting ending that pulls plenty of surprise punches. The countdown to the final explosion is a bit of dead air-time, though it's better than that of "The Invasion" (story no. 46).

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 plunge the world into war? He's not exactly all set to make a lot of money and gain financial power on supplying arms to all parties, or on sinking them into his eternal debt from desperate war expenses. If the mind creature came from another planet, and the Doctor had disabled the Master's TARDIS between "Terror of the Autons" and this adventure, then the Master must have brought the creature with him to the circus and had some idea of what he wanted to do with it as far back as then. Now if he still had an army of Autons ready to help him take over the world by force AFTER plunging it into war, that would make much more sense. Mailer's gang just isn't going to cut 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.

So he settles for re-enabling his TARDIS and escaping, the dynamics of which appear a bit contrived, and rather lamely depend on easily forgotten events from the previous story. We don't get to see his take-off, or even get a good look at the interior of his TARDIS when we see him phone from it - the stupid panel behind him here and the one from "Terror of the Autons" episode two make it look like it's just some RV camper on the inside. The Jon Pertwee era has yet to feature a TARDIS interior properly, so the concept is doubtlessly still lost on recently acquired viewers. Shoddy.

"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.

     Final Line:  "He's free to go anywhere in Time and Space, while
                   I'm stuck here on Earth..... with you, Brigadier!"

     Rating:  very mediocre, an attempt at humour that doesn't really work.

International Titles:

Deutsch: "Die Maschine des Bösen"

Magyar: "A gonosz elméje"

Français: (L'esprit du mal)

Русский: "Разум зла"

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 In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Claws of Axos"

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