Doctor Who Review: The Mind of Evil – In Color!
Once upon a time, it was thought that people wouldn’t want to watch old TV shows. In the 1970s, the BBC did a pretty good job of destroying bucket loads of episodes of shows such as Dad’s Army and Doctor Who simply to clear shelf space. Roll on the invention of the VHS videotape and suddenly there was a lucrative market for old TV shows. Among the episodes that were lost during the BBC’s Stalin-like purge were all six episodes of the Jon Pertwee Doctor Who story The Mind of Evil. Thankfully, a black and white version of the story survived the cull but it has been 40 years since anyone saw the show in it’s full glory – until now. On 11 June, BBC Worldwide are releasing the color version of The Mind of Evil in the U.S. and Canada. A team of boffins used the chroma dot color recovery technique to restore this classic to its full glory.
I have seen it before and personally regard it as the best Pertwee era story in terms of overall quality. The script was written by Hammer horror veteran Don Houghton. As in his other Who story, Inferno, he created very life-like support characters who overshadowed some of the more one dimensional regulars. Sadly, this was Houghton’s last contribution to Doctor Who. For director Tim Combe, The Mind of Evil also represented the end of an association with Doctor Who that stretched back to the first season of the show. For his part, Combe did a better job than any of the other Pertwee era directors in guiding the lead actor to produce an unusually intense performance. Combe also got the very best out of the cast. William Marlowe as the villain Mailer and Neil McCarthy as the simpleton Barnham put in compelling performances that are unmatched in this era. (Continued below)
Like every story in season eight, The Mind of Evil featured the Master. I like John Simm and Anthony Ainley but neither of them can hold a torch to the magnificent Roger Delgado when it comes to portraying the Doctor’s greatest foe. Unusually for this season, the Master doesn’t enlist the help of an alien race. Instead, he relies on a mysterious machine that can literally suck the evil out of people. Everyone is quite happy with the Master’s new toy until the machine starts to put all of its new found evil to good – or rather – bad use.
OK so how does it look in color? Well it actually looks very good. For whatever reason, the colorization process seems to work really well on inanimate objects. Staircases, brick walls and even Jo Grant’s jacket look much sharper than similar items in the original color versions of other Pertwee era shows. Human faces must be harder to color because everybody has a bit of an oompa loompa look. That being said, maybe the BBC wardrobe just had a lousy make-up lady. In the first episode at least, there is a bit of a drag when characters move around. Their hair and faces seem to be about half an inch behind the rest of their bodies. The longer I watched it, the less I noticed this so either the quality improved or I just got used to it. Overall though, it was very good. The colorization technique seems to have come a long way since the BBC first tried it with The Daemons.
There are a lot of Who stories on the market right now but at $34.98 ($43.98 in Canada) this is the one I would put at the top of my wish list. The six episodes were more than enough to keep me entertained but if you want more the extras include commentary from Katy Manning, the late great Barry Letts, Terrance Dicks, Tim Combe and others. There is also a “making of” segment which is very interesting.