Thursday, 24 January 2013

Story 56 - The Mind of Evil

In which UNIT is providing the security at a crucial peace conference in London. At the same time, Captain Yates has been tasked with the dumping of a banned Thunderbolt nerve-gas missile at sea. The Doctor and Jo, meanwhile, are visiting Stangmoor Prison to observe a new machine which it is claimed can rehabilitate hardened criminals by removing ill-will from their minds. It has been created by Swiss scientist Emil Keller and has been tested successfully in Swiss prisons. Keller's colleague Prof. Kettering is present at Stangmoor to demonstrate it. After a convict named Barnham has been subjected to the process, a journalist is found dead in the processing room. He appears to have been attacked by rats - an animal he had a morbid fear of. Later, Kettering is also found dead. He feared drowning - and his lungs are found to be full of water. The Doctor is called back to London after the Chinese peace conference delegate dies in suspicious circumstances. Captain Chin Lee blames the Americans - but the Brigadier suspects her. The Master is eavesdropping on telephone calls from UNIT HQ - and is particularly interested in Yates' mission. He goes to Stangmoor - and it transpires that he is Emil Keller. He helps stage a riot in which the convicts, led by Harry Mailer, take over the prison. Jo is taken hostage.

An attempt is made on the life of the US delegate - Chin Lee appearing to him as a Chinese dragon. The Doctor and the Brigadier arrive in time to stop her. She is found to be under hypnotic control. When the Doctor learns that Keller had a female Chinese associate, he deduces what is going on. Keller is the Master, and his machine is somehow responsible for the deaths. When he returns to the prison, the Doctor is captured. The machine contains an alien Mind Parasite which feeds on negative thoughts and emotions. It is growing stronger all the time - and even the Master is finding it hard to control. His plan is to use the convicts to steal the Thunderbolt missile, and he will use it against the peace conference. This will trigger a third World War. The Parasite will feed on all the hate and fear which this will generate.
The missile convoy is ambushed, and Yates is able to follow the convicts to an abandoned airfield where the Thunderbolt will be hidden. Yates is captured before he can report the location. The Brigadier assumes the weapon has been taken to the prison, and plans to break in.

The raid proves successful and UNIT retake the prison. Mailer is killed. The Mind Parasite is now able to transport itself around the prison using telekinesis  When in the presence of Barnham, however, it becomes subdued - having nothing to feed off as it has already drained him of his criminality. Yates escapes and informs the Brigadier of the missile's hiding place. The Brigadier sets about trying to abort it - but the Master has disabled this. The Doctor and Jo go to the airfield with the Mind Parasite, held by Barnham. The Doctor plans to use the missile to destroy the creature. He offers to give the Master his dematerialisation circuit back. He is able to reactivate the abort mechanism. The Master flees in a prison van, knocking down and killing Barnham. The Brigadier blows up the missile - taking the Mind Parasite with it. Back at the prison, where Sergeant Benton has been made acting governor, the Doctor receives a mocking phone call from the Master. He has his circuit back, and is now free to leave Earth, whilst the Doctor is still in exile.

This six part adventure was written by Don Houghton, and was broadcast between 30th January and 6th March, 1971. The story exists only in black & white format but the colour has been painstakingly restored for its imminent DVD release. It will be premièred at the NFT in March 2013 as part of the BFI's contribution to the 50th Anniversary celebrations.
It is another atypical Doctor Who story, in much the same way that The Ambassadors of Death was. Take away the Mind Parasite, which isn't essential to the plot, and you have another 1970's crime caper in the style of The Sweeney or The Professionals. The Master could easily be an earthly criminal mastermind, planning a big heist. Add to the mix a couple of prison riots and a siege, with a high body count, and you have a gritty crime thriller rather than sci-fi / fantasy.
The Mind Parasite appears as a bit of a monocular brain in a jar. To add to its menace, it gets to transport itself around the prison in the later part of the story. It is not clear how its victims can exhibit physical wounds when attacked mentally - rat scratches and lungfuls of water. When he is attacked by it, the Doctor first sees a mass of flames - referring to his experiences at the parallel Inferno Project. Later, he is menaced by visions of a number of his old enemies (including, bizarrely, Koquillion). The Master sees a towering image of the Doctor mocking him - sure sign of a deep-rooted inferiority complex where his old school chum is concerned.

Dialogue states that the Keller Machine has been around for at least 6 months. The Master must have had it in his TARDIS whilst he was working on the second Nestene invasion, as he hasn't been able to leave Earth - unless he found it here subsequently. One flaw in his plan: what would he have done if the war had been triggered, and he still didn't have his dematerialisation circuit to escape it?
The Doctor appears to be on friendly terms with Chairman Mao - which does not seem to sit well at all with his character. He also name-drops Sir Walter Raleigh, who he shared a cell with in the Tower of London.
The regulars are all very well served by this story - with everyone getting a reasonable share of the action.
Jo spends much of the time trapped in the prison, and she befriends the gentle giant Barnham - played sensitively by Neil McCarthy (also in The Power of Kroll as Thawn) - as well as helping Michael Sheard's prison doctor, Summers. Yates has much more to do, being a bit of an action man. Benton is made acting governor of the prison by the Brigadier after messing up during the missile ambush.
The Brigadier gets to don a disguise and a bit of a dodgy accent to sneak his men into the prison in a grocery van. It's him who shoots Mailer and saves the Doctor's life.
Mailer is played by William Marlowe, who will return in The Revenge of the Cybermen as Lester. Chin Lee is Pik-Sen Lim.
UNIT gets a couple of new members - Corporal Bell, played by Fernanda Marlowe, and the wonderfully efficient and enthusiastic Major Cosworth, played by Patrick Godfrey. It's a shame we never got to see any more of him.
Episode endings for this story are:

  1. Alone in the processing room, the Keller machine activates and the Doctor finds himself surrounded by flames.
  2. Senator Alcott, the US peace conference delegate, sees Chin Lee transform into a terrifying dragon creature (not!)
  3. Handcuffed to a chair in the processing room, the Keller Machine attacks the Doctor with BBC publicity images of many of his old enemies.
  4. The Mind Parasite is now mobile. The Doctor and Jo are locked in the processing room as it materialises.
  5. Mailer holds Jo hostage. He points his gun at the Doctor, and a shot rings out...
  6. The Doctor is not happy. The Master is free - whilst he is stuck on Earth - with the Brigadier...

Overall, a very adult tale. So far, we have only seen it in B&W, which actually adds to the rather grim atmosphere. A very good story for Roger Delgado, and for the UNIT crew. The cliffhangers are a little bit same-y.
Things you might like to know:

  • Pik-Sen Lim was actually Don Houghton's wife.
  • And Fernanda Marlowe was married to William Marlowe. He would later go on to marry Roger Delgado's widow, Kismet.
  • Barry Letts was horrified by the Chinese dragon costume - made from a pink quilted material. He dubbed it "Puff the Magic Dragon", and its appearance is mercifully brief.
  • This story has one of only two uses of on screen subtitles in the entire classic series - when the Doctor converses with the new Chinese delegate in his native tongue. (The other is The Curse of Fenric).
  • The story went badly over budget, leading Barry Letts to drop director Tim Coombe from working on the show again - which is a great shame.
  • Hayden Jones, who plays Mailer's right hand man, Lenny Vosper, was originally going to play the telephone engineer - and provide Auton voices - in The Terror of the Autons, but he was able to land this more substantial role instead.
  • One of Doctor Who's biggest mysteries is about to be solved with the colourisation of this story - namely just what football team does the Master appear to support? Is his scarf black and white, or blue and white...? (He's also a bit of a King Crimson fan, if his in-car listening is anything to go by).

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