“THE MIND OF EVIL” – Season 8, Serial 2, Story 56 – Written by Don Houghton; Directed by Timothy Combe – The Third Doctor and Jo visit a prison to watch a man have the evil sucked out of his brain. The Brigadier and UNIT are in charge of a peace conference and they’re doing their usual crappy job. Lucky for the Brig, the two plots converge. Unlucky for everyone, the Master is back, and this time he’s wearing a fake plastic mask. Because He’s A Time Lord, Has Been To The Future, Loves The Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible Films.
THE MIND OF EVIL is one of those serials that’s stuck somewhere between being good and not good; at times the serial is highly enjoyable and packing plenty of tension, but at others it’s just loads of repetitive filler that isn’t bad so much as tedious.
When watching the classic WHO, one always has to remember that these are serials – elongated stories told over distinct chapters which are meant to be consumed one at a time and not in one sitting. Some serials transfer easily to one-sit viewing, others clearly work better when viewed piece-by-piece. THE MIND OF EVIL works better as …
Yeah, I’m not sure. The individual chapters are solid but they get repetitive when the action takes place at the prison, but strung together they don’t generate enough tension or momentum to propel you towards the finish line. Everyone’s fine, the story’s good, the idea is awesome … and it just kind of sputters on too long.
The serial starts strong. The Doctor and Jo are off to Stangmoor Prison in order to watch a procedure by which the evil portions of a criminals brain are removed and stuck in a jar. Well, okay, it’s more like a big thermos than a jar but the idea is the same – there’s a device in the center of the room that holds all of the bad stuff while the criminal goes off to live his life with nary a bad thought rattling around his brain.
It’s a fantastic set-up with a really solid idea driving an intriguing philosophical question – is it better to brainwash the worst criminals, kill them, or attempt to rehabilitate them? The Doctor is clearly opposed to the brain drain procedure but unfortunately the serial never really delves into this question, as they immediately reinforce the Doctor’s point-of-view when crazy evil stuff starts happening. The Mind of Evil can get you to think you’re being killed by your biggest fear – so the first guy dies when pretend rats rip him to shreds, the second guy dies when pretend water drowns him, and the Doctor almost dies when pretend fire envelops him.
At the same time all this bad stuff is going down at the prison, the Brigadier is running into troubles over at the World Peace Conference as the Chinese captain Chin Lee keeps complaining about secrets being stolen and delegates dying. The Brig thinks something is going on and it turns out there is – the Master is behind everything.
Now, I really like Roger Delgado’s Master, and it’s never disappointing when he’s around because he’s usually fantastic. The problem here is that the twin mysteries of the Evil Mind Machine and the murders at the World Peace Conference beg for a more complicated explanation than “the Master is behind it.” Once the Master shows up, MIND OF EVIL stops being a horror/mystery and starts being a prison film and it’s just not as interesting.
The Master gets a bunch of prisoners to go to work for him and he eventually captures the Doctor and straps him into the evil-brain-waves-sucked-out machine and …
Yeah. Really, once the Master pulls off his fake rubber mask, MIND OF EVIL becomes just another Doctor/Master serial. There’s some nice bits with the original criminal who got mind wiped but the show leaves it underdeveloped. It’s a shame – I’d much rather have spent more time with him and Jo than watching thugs ruff people up.
The ending does have some real zing to it as the Doctor and the Master try to out-trick each other. The Doctor offers the Master his dematerialization circuit back in exchange for not blowing up the missile he stole but he plans to double-cross him but things go wrong and the Master ends up with the circuit, meaning he can now get back to traveling through time and space.
Unfortunately, in between the good set-up and decent ending, there’s way too much of the Doctor and Jo being rendered as reactive participants in a repetitive drama.