Season 8 – Story 56
“This machine has the power to affect men’s minds, Governor… and it’s growing stronger” – the Doctor
Visiting Stangmoor Prison, the Doctor and Jo witness a demonstration of the Keller Machine, which supposedly extracts criminals’ wicked impulses and thus their desire to offend. The Doctor’s suspicions about the process are strengthened when the prisoner used as a guinea-pig collapses and is rendered a simpleton. And they are confirmed by his discovery that the inventor, Professor Emil Keller, is in fact the Master. (His machine is merely a container for an alien organism that amplifies fears and feeds on evil.) The Master is also intent on sabotaging a World Peace Conference – for which the Brigadier is overseeing security – and he hijacks a banned Thunderbolt missile with the help of convicts from Stangmoor. His aim: to kickstart World War Three…
Episode 1 – Saturday 30 January 1971
Episode 2 – Saturday 6 February 1971
Episode 3 – Saturday 13 February 1971
Episode 4 – Saturday 20 February 1971
Episode 5 – Saturday 27 February 1971
Episode 6 – Saturday 6 March 1971
Location filming: October 1970 in Kent at Dover Castle; Alland Grange, RAF Manston; and Archers Court Road, Whitfield. November 1970 at Cornwall Gardens, London SW7
Studio recording: November/December 1970 in TC3 and TC6
Doctor Who – Jon Pertwee
Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart – Nicholas Courtney
The Master (Professor Emil Keller) – Roger Delgado
Jo Grant – Katy Manning
Captain Mike Yates – Richard Franklin
Sergeant Benton – John Levene
Chief Prison Officer Powers – Roy Purcell
Senior Prison Officer Green – Eric Mason
Prison Governor – Raymond Westwell
Professor Kettering – Simon Lack
Dr Summers – Michael Sheard
George Barnham – Neil McCarthy
Captain Chin Lee – Pik-Sen Lim
Linwood – Clive Scott
Corporal Bell – Fernanda Marlowe
Fu Peng – Kristopher Kum
Len Vosper – Haydn Jones
Harry Mailer – William Marlowe
Senator Alcott – Tommy Duggan
Charlie – David Calderisi
Major Cosworth – Patrick Godfrey
Fuller – Johnny Barrs
Writer – Don Houghton
Incidental music – Dudley Simpson
Designer – Ray London
Script editor – Terrance Dicks
Producer – Barry Letts
Director – Timothy Combe
RT Review by Mark Braxton
Doctor Who meets The Sweeney in a wilfully mad farrago of expansive action, casual violence and directorial genius. Of course, setting a family show’s six-part story inside a prison is always going to be a tough sell, if you’ll pardon the homophone, but by and large the team succeeds.
Timothy Combe does an outstanding job of melding the tense interior scenes (solid-looking sets help greatly) with the luxuriant location work, and of bridging gaps in narrative logic. Writer Don Houghton seems less concerned with telling us who or what the creature is, and how it learns to hop about at will, than he is about staging yet more Masterly chaos with which to plague Unit. With that proviso, however, The Mind of Evil works just fine.
It’s certainly a juicy hook: “Kettering’s lungs were full of water. He drowned… in the middle of a perfectly dry room.” And Houghton fills his tale with menacing heavies, global concerns and scintillating exchanges between the former Gallifreyan school-mates.
Roger Delgado isn’t credited enough with the subtlety of his performance as the Master. Having dispensed pandemonium in Stangmoor via a briefcase of weaponry, he cuts the alarms and waits for his nemesis at the main gate. Devoid of distractions, he says, with exquisite composure, “Right, now I’m ready for you,” and gives the smallest snorted laugh. Is it contempt? Is it quiet satisfaction? Probably both.
Their subsequent discussion in the Governor’s office, as if debating the finer points of the stockmarket in a gentlemen’s club, is another highlight. The Master’s plea for the Doctor’s help in quelling the Keller is met with a withering “Well, it’s a lunatic scheme. Still, that’s only to be expected”. Pertwee and Delgado often brought out the best in each other. Maybe the former felt a serious need to raise his game when the Master’s popularity began to soar – it was only right that composer Dudley Simpson should honour him with a musical calling card (an eerie little reverberated synth).
Two other related incidents are worth mentioning, both bolstered by inspired direction. The first sees the Master succumbing to the Keller Machine’s fear-inducement, and what should he be most afraid of but the Doctor himself, cackling satanically like a giant genie. It’s a curious twist on viewers’ expectations, and gives a lie to the popular myth that “classic Who” has a morally black-and-white universe. After all, there are many individuals – and species – to whom the Doctor must himself be a villain.
And later on, as both the Doctor and the Master recover from a blast of Keller malice, the picture fades gracefully between their two faces to suggest the link between them. On the whole, it’s a curious story for the Doctor, who is not at his most gallant. Although his partnership with Jo solidifies, he’s apparently ungrateful to her for saving his life, frequently terse towards her, and at one point merrily abandons her in a prison of thuggish criminals.
So, overall, what are we to make of The Mind of Evil…?
With the repeated cliffhanger (the Keller creature doing its stuff caps no fewer than four episodes), I was reminded of the déjà vu episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, in which EXACTLY the same events are looped over and over ad nauseam. And the body count in The Mind of Evil is eye-popping, with the kind of gun battles that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a post-watershed Euston Films production.
The unspoken justification seems to be that most of the victims are convicts anyway – even Jo gets in on the act, raising Mailer’s gun arm so that another inmate is hit in the back. And the less said about the dragon that terrifies US senator Alcott, the better. It may as well have been Barney the Purple Dinosaur.
Prison riots, helicopters, a potential Cuban-style missile crisis, a first-class guest cast… all this and revelations about the Doctor (a painkiller could be fatal to him; he speaks Hokkien; he’s afraid of fire). Hard to argue with all of that. It’s unusual, yes, but sometimes, unusual is good. In other words, it’s the story’s very nonconformity that makes it stand out from the crowd.
What Katy did next…
“I loved The Mind of Evil. One of my favourites. It was the first time I was able to settle myself into it. I’d learnt how you do it: filming first, then studio. It was all new to me. I really liked my leather suit and it was the story where Jo discovered the Doctor had two hearts.
“That was when Jon and I really bonded. We established our friendship, how it was going to be for the rest of the series. The lovely thing was I let the child in him emerge because he was getting very serious about the whole thing, and it allowed him to relax a little. Doctor Who was his first straight acting job and it was really important to him.
“Plus, we had lovely guest actors like William Marlowe who ultimately married Roger Delgado’s widow.”
(Talking to RT, April 2012)
Radio Times archive
[Not yet available on BBC DVD; soundtrack available on BBC Audio CD]