This week, the Master pushes the world to the brink of war in The Mind of Evil.
The Mind of Evil (6 Episodes)
30 January – 6 March 1971
Before we begin, I’d like to apologise for the lack of Who Reviews over the past two months. We’re now back on schedule so expect to see a new Review each week for the foreseeable future.
I’d also like to say a special thanks once again to Melthoid, a friend of Who Review that was able to provide me with a video copy of this storyline. Unfortunately, The Mind of Evil hasn’t been released on DVD yet, but Melthoid was kind enough to lend me copies he’d taped back in the 80’s.
Now on with the show…
The Doctor and Jo travel to Stangmoor Prison to view a demonstration of the Keller Machine, a device that promises to end criminality by removing all negative and violent impulses from the brains of prisoners. The demonstration is to be performed by Professor Kettering on behalf of the absent Emil Keller, the machine’s inventor. Before a small group of onlookers, Kettering demonstrates the device on Barnham, a hardened criminal. The test is seemingly a success, although Barnham is rendered unconscious. Later, when he regains consciousness, it is revealed that the Machine has reduced his mind to a childlike state.
Naturally, the Doctor is sceptical of the device, believing it may cause more harm than good. His suspicions are seemingly confirmed when a series of inexplicable deaths occur, each victim killed by a manifestation of their innermost fears that registers both physically and psychologically. The Doctor links the killings to the Keller Machine, reasoning correctly that the machine is storing the negative impulses it collects. Any person who gets too close to the Machine will be overwhelmed by fatal visions of the thing they most fear. Even the Doctor is not immune, and barely manages to escape after experiencing vision of a raging inferno.
Meanwhile, the Brigadier and UNIT have been left in charge of security at the first World Peace Conference. This is proving incredibly difficult to co-ordinate when Captain Chin Lee of the Chinese delegation reveals that papers have been stolen from the delegates.She accuses the American of complicity in the theft. Matters are further exasperated by a second task delegated to UNIT; the transportation of the Thunderbolt Missile, a banned nerve gas missile that is to be dumped at the bottom of the ocean.
It is soon revealed that the papers were actually stolen by Chin Lee, who is being mind-controlled by The Master! The Master seeks to plunge the world into war and is manipulating events at both Stangmoor and the World Peace Conference. He has Chin Lee murder the Chinese delegate, further straining the political climate at the conference. The Brigadier calls the Doctor for aid.
Despite the problems at Stangmoor, the Doctor agrees to return to London to aid the Brigadier, leaving Jo to watch over the Keller Machine. He meets with the Chinese delegation and manages to prevent the mind-controlled Chin Lee from assassinating the American delegate. Deprogramming Chin Lee, the Doctor manages to learn that The Master is the mastermind behind the assassination. More importantly, he also learns the Professor Emil Keller is actually the Master and the Keller Machine is part of his intricate plan.
Back at the prison, a riot breaks out and Harry Mailer, a dangerous criminal and next in line for the Keller treatment, seizes control of the facility. Jo is taken prisoner but manages to escape, and she aids the guards in reclaiming the prison. However, the Keller Device has grown more powerful. It gains the ability to teleport and seeks out evil minds to feed upon.
Monitoring UNIT communications, the Master learns of the riot and heads to Stangmoor under his Professor Keller identity. He meets with Harry Mailer and provides him with enough small explosives to allow Mailer and his fellow prisoners to retake the prison.
Learning of the riot, the doctor returns to the prison and is taken prisoner by the Master. The villain unleashes the Keller Machine on the Doctor, weakening him considerably. However, the Master soon realizes that he is losing control of the Keller Machine, which houses a deadly alien Mind Parasite. He enlists the Doctor’s aid in helping him contain the Machine’s power then imprisons him once more.
Employing the escaped prisoners as his personal army, the Master has them hijack the UNIT convoy escorting the Thunderbolt missile. The prisoners seize control of the deadly missile and take Captain Yates of UNIT prisoner. They transport the missile to a nearby abandoned hanger and aim it at the Peace Conference.
Learning of the attack, the Brigadier pieces the available evidence together and determines incorrectly that the missile must be at Stangmoor. He leads a UNIT team in a daring raid on the prison, resulting in the rescue of the Doctor and Jo and the death of Mailer and the other rioters.
Unfortunately, the Keller Machine is growing continually more powerful. It manages to escape once again, teleporting in search of minds to feed on. It corners the Doctor and Jo, but the timely arrival of Barnham suddenly subdues the device. The Doctor theorises that Barnham is unaffected by the device: the parasite brain feeds on negative impulses, but Barnham no longer possesses any, and his child-like mind actually supresses the power of the Device. The Doctor enlists Barnham’s aid in keeping the machine subdued.
Escaping captivity, Captain Yates contacts UNIT and informs them that the missile is in the abandoned hanger.
Meanwhile, the Master flees to the abandoned hanger, ready to launch the missile. The Doctor makes contact with him, offering to trade the dematerialisation circuit from the Master’s TARDIS for the Thunderbolt missile. The Master agrees to the proposition on the condition that Doctor delivers the circuit alone. With few options available, the Doctor agrees.
Enlisting the aid of Barnham and Jo, the Doctor has them load the Keller Machine into a police van. Together, they travel to the hanger, where the Doctor meets with the Master. While the Master is distracted, Jo and Barnham remove the Keller Machine and unleash its power on the Master.
With the villain subdued, the Doctor manages to activate the abort control on the Thunderbolt, allowing the Brigadier to remotely destroy the missile. The resultant explosion destroys the Keller Machine, but the Master manages to escape with his dematerialisation circuit. In fleeing, he also kills Barnham.
Returning to UNIT HQ, The Doctor, Jo and the Brigadier try to deal with the bittersweet victory; they have managed to thwart the Master, but they allowed him to escape once more, this time with his dematerialisation circuit. The Master calls the doctor and taunts him that he is now free while the Doctor must remain exiled on Earth.
The Master uses the chaos to escape with the dematerialisation circuit, killing Barnham in the process. He contacts the Doctor by telephone to taunt him that he is now free while the Doctor remains trapped in his exile on Earth.
I should paraphrase my comments with a statement that the version I watched was heavily edited before being aired in Australia. According to articles I’ve read, there appear to be several key scenes missing, including the revelation of the creature inside the Keller Machine.
Having said that, The Mind of Evil is a highly ambitious and compelling story, combining elements of political intrigue, espionage, horror, prison drama and science fiction is a greatly satisfying and seamless manner. The storytelling is superb, intertwining several seemingly random events into a coherent and satisfying whole.
Tying this all together is a standout performance by Roger Delgado as The Master. While his first showing in Terror of the Autons was impressive, The Mind of Evil shows us just how truly manipulative The Master can be. He is controlling so many events on so many levels simultaneously, always several steps ahead of The Doctor. More impressive, though, is that the Doctor isn’t even aware of his involvement in these seemingly disparate events.
It’s interesting to note that The Mind of Evil ran excessively over-budget, so much so that director Timothy Combe never directed another Who episode again.
The Mind of Evil offers several key insights into the psychology of The Doctor. One of the most powerful scenes in the story comes during the Doctor’s first encounter with the Keller Machine, during which he experiences fear of a raging inferno. He later explains to Jo that “Not long ago I saw an entire world consumed by fire.”This subtle but effective reference to the events of Inferno (also written by Mind of Evil scripter Don Houghton) shows the long-term ramifications of the Doctor’s failure during that storyline to save an alternate Earth. Clearly, those events still weigh heavily on his mind and it’s a powerful reminder the even the seemingly infallible Doctor can, at times, fail.
We also learn two rather interesting tidbits of information about the Doctor. First, he once shared a cell in the Tower of London with Sir Walter Raleigh. More intriguing, though, is that he was part of the Long March with Mao Tse-Tung and the Chinese Communist Army in 1934. The Long March, covering some 12,500 kilometers over 370 days, was the army’s retreat from Imperialist forces, and began Mao Tse-Tung eventual rise to power.
Something strange happens to UNIT in The Mind of Evil. Rather than investigating unusual events (which is the UNIT mandate), we see them operating more as a standard military battalion, providing security for the peace conference and transporting dangerous weapons for disposal. It’s a little jarring to see the group performing such menial tasks, even if their presence at these events does service the story.
Jo is slowly starting to grow on me, primarily through her relationship with the Doctor, who is taking on a more paternal role reminiscent of William Hartnell’s relationship with Susan and Vicki from the early days of Doctor Who. While she isn’t a great companion just yet, the chemistry between her and the Doctor is excellent.
I’m also impressed by Jo’s willingness to question and challenge the Doctor’s orders and instructions. Hopefully this independent streak will continue to grow and evolve, as it adds an interesting dynamic to their relationship.
With his second appearance, the Master solidifies his status as the Doctor’s arch nemesis and elevates himself into the upper echelon of great Whovillains. Unlike other villains, he is depicted not only as the Doctor’s equal, but in many respects his superior.
While the Master’s plan isn’t the strongest or more logical (ruling over an irradiated, post-apocalyptic world), one cannot question his ambition or the scale and complexity of his plans. The Master plots on a level unseen by Who villains of the past.
Much like the attack on the Doctor, the Keller Machine’s assault on the Master offers a brief but telling insight into his animosity and relationship with his adversary; he envisions a gigantic image of The Doctor looming over him and laughing maniacally.
We also learn that the Master has excellent taste in music. While en route to Stangmoor Prison, he is listening to The Devil’s Triangle by King Crimson.
The Mind of Evil continues a trend of strong, intriguing storylines that are the highlight of the Pertwee era. An ambitious and compelling story that further elevates the Master as one of the truly great Who villains
An advanced race of golden aliens arrives on Earth offering gifts that are too good to be true in The Claws of Axos.