I’m still pinching myself. To spend the afternoon sitting in the BFI with my oldest friend Richard Marson on one side and my newest pal and childhood heroine Katy Manning on the other, watching a classic piece of early 1970s Doctor Who, starring my all-time favourite Time Lord Jon Pertwee. Well, it doesn’t get much better than that. Except it does…
This is the first time I’ve seen The Mind of Evil in colour since I sat on my granddad’s knee at Saturday teatime in 1971. For many years, all six episodes have only existed as black-and-white film prints – the BBC wiped its original colour videotapes. But now a group of dedicated and ingenious fans have restored the episodes to their former glory.
The first instalment has been colourised from scratch by Stuart Humphryes and Peter Crocker – and is arguably the most impressive. On the other five episodes, the team were able to decode colour-dot information still present on the monochrome film copies – it’s quite a science, which I can’t hope to explain. Admittedly, episode two is a bit shaky with noticeable colour flaring, but the remaining four look fine on a huge, unforgiving cinema screen. They’ll look stunning on a domestic TV set. It’s a remarkable achievement.
So a premiere of sorts for the BFI of a tightly directed, action-packed serial, which holds up well after four decades. It has all my beloved elements: the first and finest Master (Roger Delgado), the stalwart Brigadier and his Unit sidekicks Yates and Benton, a grave and commanding performance from Jon Pertwee – I love a bit of urgent Pert – and Katy Manning as Jo Grant, who will always be the number-one Doctor Who companion for me and many of my chums. She just has it all, in one adorable package.
On the day of the screening, Katy hotfooted it down from Crewe – she’s been on tour in A Murder Is Announced – determined to revisit The Mind of Evil. She says this was always one of her and Pertwee’s favourites although she hasn’t managed to watch it since it was made. She remarked on the violent content (lots of cold-blooded shootings in a men’s prison), the fact that for once she was allowed to wear trousers, and remembered being allowed to work the controls of a helicopter in the finale.
The event was introduced by Phil Ford, long-time fan and writer of The Sarah Jane Adventures and Wizards vs Aliens. Members of the restoration team were on hand to elaborate on their painstaking efforts. And, as well as Katy, the guest panel line-up featured director Timothy Combe, actors John Levene (Sgt Benton) and Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), and writer/script editor and general Doctor Who legend, Terrance Dicks.
To everyone’s dismay, Dicks insisted that he would refuse any offer to write for modern Doctor Who – even if his friend Steven Moffat were to invite him. C’mon, Uncle Terrance, you can’t mean that!
The BFI’s Justin Johnson revealed that the guests for The Robots of Death (20 April) will be Tom Baker (the fourth Doctor), Louise Jameson (companion Leela) and producer Philip Hinchcliffe.
Later this week, the BFI will announce which story featuring fifth Doctor Peter Davison they’ll be screening in May.
(With thanks to the BFI’s Justin Johnson and Liz Parkinson)
See photos from the Mind of Evil screening below