With the release of The Mind of Evil, all of the Doctor Who adventures featuring Jon Pertwee as the long-lived Time Lord are available on home video. Pertwee is my favorite actor to play the role during the first run of the show, and the idea of owning all of his appearances on the show still makes me a bit giddy. It's a good story also, featuring his arch nemesis, The Master, and a machine that removes all of the evil from a person, but at a cost. The restoration of this installment was a long and difficult process, and while the results aren't spectacular, it's still a disc worth owning.
The Doctor and Jo have travelled to Stangmoor Prison, a converted castle dating back to the Middle Ages, to witness the newest technological advance in the treatment of violent criminals: the Keller Machine. This device, successfully tested in
Meanwhile back in
Meanwhile back at the prison, people start dying under mysterious circumstances, and always while in the room with the Keller Machine. The Doctor wants the machine dismantled but the warden doesn't have the authority to do that, and when the prisoners riot and capture Jo, it may be too late anyway. To add to their trouble the machine, created by The Master naturally, isn't getting enough â��evil' to feed on and starts searching for a source of food on its own.
This is a show that has all of the elements that made Pertwee's run so enjoyable. Jo Grant (played by Katy Manning) is pretty and perky, and though she does spend a lot of time being a hostage, she manages to help the Doctor at the right time. The Master is conniving yet debonair and his scheme is so grand that you can't help but admire his audacity. The Doctor himself is in fine form, being both aggravated by the humans that he's surrounded by but also very protective of them. This story also ties into some of the political realities of the day and Cold War paranoia and fear in a nice way and avoids overdoing it.
The thing that surprised me the most was that this six-part story didn't drag or feel padded, as is often the case. The plot moves along at a good clip with a new plot twist almost every episode. There are a few competing storylines, but the episodes never feel crowed and the story is never confusing. Overall it's a solid show that has aged quite well and is sure to please fans.
This release is a two-disc affair. The seven-episode story is on disc one while the second one is reserved for the bulk of the special features.
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show just fine. The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the dialog is generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss, distortion or dropouts. There are optional subtitles in English.
I've been a fan of all of the work the Restoration Team has done preserving Doctor Who and making it look better than it has in decades, but this is the first time I've been a bit disappointed. None of the chapters from this story survive in color. Luckily the BBC does have B&W copies, and the Team used the chorma dots â��hidden' in the surviving copies to recreate the color for chapters 2-6 (I'll talk about chapter one in a moment.) The results aren't that impressive. The facial tones are pasty and they don't look quite authentic. The tones shift when the camera pans too, and this can be quite distracting when there's a large background space. In one scene when UNIT troops are storming a castle the sky has splotches of color that are constantly shifting and the same thing happens with the brick walls of the prison. Honestly, I would have preferred that they restored the B&W image and just forgotten about trying to add color.
The chroma dots had been wiped from the first episode, so another method had to be utilized. In this case they colorized it and the results, while not perfect, and very good. The first episode looks better than the rest by a wide margin.
This two-disc set has some nice extras, as always. First off is a commentary track with a large assortment of actors and behind-the-camera crew including Katy Manning, Pik-Sen Lim, Fernanda Marlowe (who played UNIT Corporal Bell in several Season Eight adventures), Timothy Combe, Barry Letts, Terrance Dicks and Derek Ware. The whole thing is moderated by Toby Hadoke. Like the other commentary tracks, this one is fun and engaging and there are lots of amusing anecdotes revealed about the creation of this adventure and the people who helped make it.
The video bonus items include an excellent 22-minute making-of featurette, The Military Mind. In it some of the cast and crew return to the shooting location of
In addition there is a pop-up informational text option which is very informative as always. It does give some dry statistics, like how many people viewed each episode, but there are also some interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background information on the supporting characters. The extras are rounded off with storyboard comparison, a trailer for the story, a photo gallery, and the listing from the Radio Times in .pdf format.
This was a very good story that features many of the traits that made Jon Pertwee's run on the show so enjoyable and fun. There's a cracking mystery, some nice villains, and a threat to the world. What more could you want? The only drawback is the image. Though the Restoration Team did a lot with what they had to work with, the end result isn't spectacular. Even so, that shouldn't stop anyone from searching this out. The disc gets a strong Recommended rating.