Friday, February 4, 2011

The Mind of Evil

The Mind of Evil is one of my favourite Third Doctor stories even though the Doctor spends a chunk of the story being rude to the Brigadier (again) and Jo Grant.

UNIT look like a proper military outfit, the Brigadier talks and sounds like a soldier who knows what he's doing and both Sergeant Benton and Captain Yates get properly involved. There's some nice comedic stuff between the Brigadier and Benton towards the end of the story when the Sergeant finds himself appointed 'Acting Governor' of the Prison, although I'd forgotten quite how much of a 'Rupert' Major Cosworth (Patrick Godfrey) until this re-watch.

Although no one ever talks about UNIT's 'shoot to kill' policy, which might be something that came up following the shoot-out at Stangmoor Prison. Between the dead prison staff, UNIT soldiers and prisoners it would probably get noticed by someone, somewhere. But I fear I am in danger of taking this all a little too seriously.

Once more The Master has an over-complicated plan and as usual, needs the Doctor to bail him out before it all goes horribly wrong. You can see why The Master rushes through his regenerations if this is the kind of plan he regularly puts together.

However, there are - again - some nice scenes between The Master and The Doctor. The concern The Master shows for The Doctor after the latter has had his second run-in with the Keller Machine makes you wonder how serious The Master's threats to kill the Doctor actually are. It's like their playing some Timelord game with the Earth. (Or playing at being God and the Devil having their bet over Job).

I haven't said much about Jon Pertwee's performance as The Doctor yet. The one advantage to watching Doctor Who in broadcast order is I have got a feel for the rhythm of the programme making and performances in a way that I haven't when dipping in and out of stories.

The Third Doctor does have a tendency to be a little patronising and clearly, his mind is on getting the TARDIS sorted out so he can go off gallivanting around the Universe again. Pertwee plays all that well. Yes, he's got a few trademark gestures: neck rubbing etc that are short-cuts to showing us what's going on in the Doctor's head but what I have been impressed with is Pertwee's ability to play the serious stuff dead straight.

I'll probably have more to say as I carry on through the era.

A couple of other things I noticed. There's another silent black actor, playing The Master's chauffeur to follow Roy Stewert's appearance in Terror of the Autons and one of the technicians in Inferno. I think watching 'Race Against Time' the excellent documentary about non-white actors in Doctor Who (and British television in general) on The Mutants DVD release has made me pay closer attention to these parts. The fact that Chin Lee is played by Chinese actress Pik-Sen Lim made me wonder why six years or so later they couldn't find a male Chinese actor to play Li H'Sen Chang in 'The Talons of Weng-Chiang'. But I digress.

The Mind of Evil is pretty good. There's hardly a duff performance from any of the guest stars but William Marlowe's Mailer should be singled out for special praise for being a nicely underplayed thug. He's probably the most 'realistic' villain in Doctor Who's history.

Also a quick 'Hurrah' for Michael Sheard as Dr Summers. There's something reliably good about Michael Sheard in Doctor Philip Madoc, John Abineri or Norman Jones.

I think perhaps I damn this with faint praise, which is wrong as I mentioned it is one of my favourite Pertwee stories. It has issues - mainly the design of the Keller Machine itself - but there's a real solid tension throughout.

The Master is magnificent. Also, if you're looking for signs of the close friendship between the Master and the Doctor before Missy then this is the story for you, which is more fuel to my theory that this is all some kind of game.


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