Over the past few years, I’ve reviewed quite a few of the BBC releases of Doctor Who. One of the latest releases, The Mind of Evil, is not my first Jon Pertwee review with him as the Doctor. I reviewed The Three Doctors release that takes place at the beginning of Season Ten when the Doctor is finally released from a two-year exile on Earth. This new release takes us back to the second story of Season Eight. By this time, Pertwee is comfortably 29 episodes into his run and has settled into the character. The six-episode arc is an excellent addition to the BBC DVD collection.
The story aired from January 30 to March 6, 1971 over six episodes. The plot is very basic, even simpler than most of the Third Doctor stories. The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Jo (Katy Manning) visit Stangmoor Prison to see the demonstration of a machine to cure dangerous criminals. The machine has very evil applications as it seems to bring out the phobias and fears of the person it is used on. There’s a UNIT sub story about a World Peace Conference that, like all the stories of this era, ends up tying into the use of the machine.
As the two stories grow closer together, we realize that The Master is using the machine for his evil purposes. The rest of the story plays out much like a typical detective or superhero TV show of the Seventies. Either the Doctor or Jo manage to get kidnapped or under the power of The Master. This plot device continues until this day with the Doctor and his companions getting split up and having to find their way back to each other to solve the problem of the story. We learn lot more about The Master, so much so that it feels like a Batman show that focuses on The Joker. In the end, there is a satisfactory final but The Master escapes his ultimate punishment.
The plot of the six-episode series is probably not six-episode worthy. The Master has a plot to take over the world that is so complex that instead of going into detail, they decided to use a very basic explanation that leaves out of details. I run hot and cold on Jo as a companion, and she does little in this story to impress the viewer. She’s self-sufficient enough but it’s hard for her to play the role of the only companion. It always feels like I need another companion to team up with her to help the Doctor.
Where does this fit in your Doctor Who-watching experience? Mostly, it’s a curiosity piece. You get a slightly grainy color story that shows off Jon Pertwee’s typical detective skills as the Doctor. There’s also the fun of The Master and getting to know more about what makes him tick. But the plot is extended over and over again so much so that I swear it’s hard to tell that you are watching Episode 5 instead of Episode 2. If you are familiar with other Jon Pertwee stories later in his run, you might like to see him here when he seems to be having more fun. But it’s not the definitive story that I was hoping to get.
The best thing about getting even just a mediocre Doctor Who DVD release from BBC is that you get a whole host of extras. The commentaries can be hit or miss and this is kind of in that category. There’s interesting feedback from Katy Manning and a couple other actors, director Timothy Combe, and a few other folks from the production staff. The Making-Of documentary called “The Military Mind” is, as usual, the best extra on the disc because it covers much of the same info as the commentary but puts it into a better context. There are Behind the Scenes, Now and Then, and the obligatory Photo Gallery.
You aren’t getting the best Jon Pertwee story with The Mind of Evil but the background information and character development are important for the real meat stories of his run. Sometimes you need to start with the appetizer.