The Mind of Evil

The Mind of Evil Master Jo Doctor.jpg

We believe what our minds tell us to, Jo.

The Third Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor and Jo Grant investigate the Keller Machine at Stangmoor Prison, which is being used to remove any malicious elements of prisoners’ personalities. 

Meanwhile, the Brigadier and UNIT are being stretched as they are responsible for security for the World Peace Conference, as well as having to deal with the decommissioning of a Thunderbolt Missile.  Things only get more complicated for the Doctor and the Brigadier when they discover that the Master is behind the Keller Machine.

Review

The Mind of Evil could be seen as a quintessential story of the Third Doctor’s era.  All of the elements are present; Jo and the UNIT family, Roger Delgado’s Master and the Earth-bound nature of the story, however, this has a truly international flavour and feels as though it could be a Bond movie in places.  Some time has passed since the events of Terror of the Autons, clear by the fact that there has been some improvement in the relationship between the Third Doctor and Jo, and the Master developing the Keller Machine, and unlike other six part stories, it feels as though there is enough going on to warrant the story’s length and the direction works well to ensure that the viewer remains engaged. That is not to say that the story is perfect, however, as the story does fall down if you think about the Master’s plan too much and I feel that there is not enough done with the creature inside the Machine.  However, by and large, thanks to the direction, this feels like a fun romp through a story with a truly international feel.  I feel compelled to complement the work done by Stuart Humphyres to bring the first part back to life in colour – I’m sure that it was painstaking work and it really looks fantastic.

One of the strongest elements of this story is that there is enough plot to go around.  In the beginning, the three different plot strands appear to be relatively separate, with the Doctor and Jo off investigating and UNIT in a bit of a panic about the Peace Conference and the destruction of the missile, however, Houghton ties the story together nicely in the end by introducing the Master, and the plot feels quite grand and Bond-like in scope.  Delgado’s Master is suave and menacing in equal measure and adds a great deal of glee to proceedings and a gentlemanly charm to boot.  The scene with him and the Doctor meeting in the Governor’s office in Part 3 feels very much like a confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty, complete with a Bond villain style chair swivel.   There is certainly a sense of swagger and confidence in the production, which certainly helps the story along in its more shaky elements and this is probably due to Combe going over budget.  It certainly feels as though there are loads of extras, especially in the prison break scenes, which is rare for Doctor Who.

The Mind of Evil Prison.jpg

Something else I really liked about this story is that the core cast of the Doctor, Jo, the Brigadier, Benton and Yates get quite a lot to do and there are some lovely moments between some of the characters.  When the Brigadier shows up just in the nick of time to save the Doctor and Jo from Mailer and the Doctor berates him, Courtney has a little smile on his face which makes the viewer think that he knows that the Doctor appreciates it really.  Equally, there’s a really nice moment between the Brig and Benton after the former tells the latter that he is now acting governor of Stangmoor Prison and almost immediately, the Brigadier warns him about getting delusions of grandeur which is quite an amusing moment.  Having spent some considerable time in their company, the writers now feel as though they can flesh out these kinds of interactions here.  The Doctor seems to have become much more favourably disposed towards Jo too, perhaps thanks to continued offscreen adventures in the six months that have elapsed between Terror of the Autons and this story.  The Doctor and the Brigadier seem to have developed a rapport, demonstrated by Courtney’s smirk when the Doctor delivers the following line:

Do you think for once in your life you could arrive just before the nick of time?

The Third Doctor

This isn’t to say that this story is without flaws.  The Master’s plan, for one, feels very generically villainous and not really in keeping with the Master’s modus operandi.  The Master wants to use the missile to destroy the Earth and rule over any survivors, which does feel a bit like it’s been lifted from a Bond movie.  Equally, I would have liked to have seen more development of the creature contained within the Keller Machine.  Some of the best moments are when the Doctor and the Master are subject to it’s psychic impact so it would have been interesting to know where the Master had found it and captured it for this story.  These elements do bother me slightly, but thanks to Coombe’s direction, my mind perhaps didn’t linger on these issues for longer.

The Mind of Evil Jo and the Doctor


Verdict: A really ambitious story with some lovely direction and character moments, which is let down by a few small niggles.  I really like this story, maybe because it reminds of Bond films of this era.  8/10

Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Richard Franklin (Mike Yates), Pik-Sen Lim (Captain Chin Lee), Raymond Westwell (Prison Governor), Michael Sheard (Dr. Summmers), Simon Lack (Professor Kettering), Neil McCarthy (Barnham), Fernanda Marlowe (Corporal Bell), Clive Scott (Linwood), Roy Purcell (Chief Prison Officer Powers), Eric Mason (Senior Prison Officer Green), Bill Matthews, Barry Wade, Dave Carter & Martin Gordon (Prison Officers), Roger Delgado (The Master), John Levene (Sergeant Benton), William Marlowe (Mailer), Hayden Jones (Vosper), Kristopher Kum (Fu Peng), Tommy Duggan (Senator Alcott), David Calderisi (Charlie), Patrick Godfrey (Major Cosworth), Johnny Barrs (Fuller) & Matthew Walters (Main Gate Prisoner).

Writer: Don Houghton

Director: Timothy Combe

Parts: 6

Behind the Scenes

  • Timothy Combe went so over budget that Barry Letts banned him from working on the programme in the future.  Exceeding of the budget was largely down to the use of a helicopter in the final part.
  • The third story not to feature the Doctor’s TARDIS, although the Master’s TARDIS appears briefly at the end of the story.
  • There is no surviving colour print of The Mind of Evil.  Part One was recolourised by Stuart Humphryes (better known as Babel Colour), whilst the remaining parts were recoloured using chroma-dot restoration.
  • The only story to date to see the Doctor’s dialogue subtitled whilst he is speaking Hokkien.
  • Pik-Sen Lim, who played Captain Chin Lee, was married to Don Houghton.
  • Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?: Michael Sheard (The Ark, Pyramids of Mars, The Invisible Enemy, Castrovalva and Remembrance of the Daleks.


Best Moment

I really like the reveal of the Master in the tent outside UNIT’s headquarters.  I think it is really nicely directed by Combe.

Best Quote

Science has abolished the hangman’s noose, and substituted this infallible method.

People who talk about infallibility are usually on very shaky ground.

Professor Kettering and the Third Doctor

 

Rise of the Cybermen

Rise of the Cybermen

What happened?

The Time Vortex, it’s gone!  That’s impossible.  It’s just gone.

Rose and the Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Rose and Mickey land on an alternate version of the Earth where Rose’s father is still alive.  However, one of the Doctor’s greatest enemies have been reborn and are waiting to strike.

Review

After the success of Dalek, it is perhaps easy to see why the production team wanted to bring back the Cybermen in a big way.  Normally thought of in the same breath as Skaro’s finest and the Master as one of the Doctor’s Grade A antagonists, the Cybermen had started to become a bit of a joke towards the end of the original run, and so a clean break is a good idea in theory.  Sadly, where Rise of the Cybermen falls down is in this attempt to essentially tell the same story twice.  Lloyd Pack is essentially this iteration of the Cybermen’s Davros, even confined to a wheelchair and the fact that the story feels less than original.  The returning Graeme Harper does sterling work, but he can’t improve on what feels like a lacklustre story.

Lumic

One of the major problems with Rise of the Cybermen is that many of the characters are so damn unlikeable or unbelievable.  Whether this is Roger Lloyd Pack ensuring the scenery remains thoroughly chewed throughout as a pseudo-Davros, the marginally more unpleasant Jackie or the unnecessary Ricky, there’s nothing compelling enough about them to care enough about them or their eventual fate.  Lumic feels as though he has come straight out of a Bond film, a feeling which is not helped by some thoroughly unconvincing dialogue, but it takes a villain who should be relatable as someone who is afraid of death and makes them completely one dimensional.  Ricky seems to be characterised solely by scowling, meanwhile, the parallel Jackie Tyler seems to be pretty similar to the Jackie we’re supposed to like, but with money.  The story attempts to use this as shorthand to make us feel something for these characters, but it ultimately falls down.  There is a potentially much more interesting story to be told here, but it seems to fall into the same old trappings and perhaps the fact that it is set on a parallel world numbs some of the stakes.

The story is a strong one for Mickey but also contains some of the worst characterisation for the Doctor and Rose.  We finally get to delve into Mickey’s backstory, finding out that he was raised by his grandmother after his dad left and his mother “couldn’t cope”, see the basis of his insecurity and the fact that Mickey feels guilty for his grandmother’s death  The story does effectively show how much Mickey has developed since Rose.  However, we also see the Doctor and Rose treat him pretty shabbily throughout – highlighted by the way they leave him holding down a button on the TARDIS console, whilst they reminisce about past adventures.  Additionally, the moment where the Doctor has to choose whether he follows Rose or Mickey, he seems utterly incredulous that there might be something on this alternative Earth that might tempt Mickey, and of course there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that he’ll follow Rose.  In many ways, Mickey is the modern series’ Harry Sullivan.  Billie Piper does her best here with Rose, but she feels as though she is ultimately treading water until the ultimate conclusion of her arc at the end of the series.  The jealousy that she shows when the Doctor even mentions talking to another woman is really ugly and is perhaps symptomatic of writers not being sure what to do with her beyond her being the companion to see viewers through the first regeneration of the modern era.  The story does feel like a retread of a lot of the issues that were a central narrative surrounding Father’s Day and the ultimate conclusion seems very predictable.  David Tennant’s performance is largely good, but he is affected with the smugness that seems to be insidious in series 2.

The Cybermen are perhaps the best part of this story.  They are used very sparingly in this first part of a two part story, with the story and direction keeping them out of focus or out of sight.  They are shown to be quite effective and a serious threat, even if I’m not a massive fan of the stomping boots and the Cybersuits.  The shots of the Cyber Conversion are fantastically creepy, even if they do feature some of shaky CGI.  I think that the benefit of having an experienced returning hand like Graeme Harper is that he really knows how to handle enemies like the Cybermen.  However, I am not a fan of how the story deals with the basic concept of the Cybermen.  One of the scariest things about the Cybermen in the classic series is how humanity has been given the agency to make the choice to become more and more synthetic.  In this depiction, the choice is taken away by Lumic exploiting the vulnerable of society to be amongst his first converts.  Even despite the more privileged members of this alternative society have purchased Cybus tech which will ultimately be used to convert them, there is no suggestion that they were aware of this.  Despite the fact that the Cybermen are well used here, this does make their threat seem lessened somewhat.

The Cybermen

Verdict: Rise of the Cybermen, sadly, is somewhat underwhelming.  Mickey gets some nice moments, but the story is largely flawed. 5/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Shaun Dingwall (Pete Tyler), Roger Lloyd Pack (John Lumic), Andrew Hayden-Smith (Jake Simmonds), Don Warrington (The President), Mona Hammond (Rita-Anne), Helen Griffiths (Mrs Moore), Colin Spaull (Mr Crane), Paul Antony-Barber (Dr Kendrick), Adam Shaw (Morris), Andrew Ufondo (Soldier), Duncan Duff (Newsreader), Paul Kasey (Cyber-Leader) & Nicholas Briggs (Cyber-Voice)

Writer: Tom MacRae

Director: Graeme Harper

Behind the Scenes

  • Russell T Davies wanted to reintroduce the Cybermen but was aware of the complicated backstory they had in the Classic series and decided to set the story on a parallel Earth.
  • The idea of the Cybermen being a response to fears of organ replacement was viewed as being outdated, with Davies wanting the story to focus on the idea of humanity wanting to constantly upgrade instead.
  • The story is loosely based on and inspired by Spare Parts written by Marc Platt.  Platt received a credit and was paid a fee for using the basic concepts.
  • The story aired during the 40th Anniversary of the broadcast of the debut of the Cybermen, The Tenth Planet.
  • Graeme Harper became the first director to work on both the original series and the new series by working on this story.
  • Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?: Colin Spaull previously played Lilt in Revelation of the Daleks (which was also directed by Graeme Harper), Don Warrington played Rassilon in several Big Finish audios. Helen Griffin later appeared in Cobwebs, while Paul Antony-Barber appeared in The Magic Mousetrap.

Best Moment

The direction when the Cybermen enter Jackie’s birthday party is really nicely done by Graeme Harper.

Best Quote

I just gave away ten years of my life.  Worth every second!

The Tenth Doctor

The Preachers

The Faceless Ones

The Faceless Ones

Next year, The Faceless Ones will be the latest story to be animated in its entirety next year, which combined with the release of The Macra Terror this year will make a run of 10 episodes previously lost that have been resurrected in recent years.  While animation may have its flaws, the fact that we can now enjoy these stories is really lovely.  Currently, only two of the six parts of this story are in the BBC Archives.

This story sees the departure of Ben and Polly, who are the first companions to accompany two Doctors in the show’s history.  Both seem to be a bit short-changed here, only appearing in the first two and final part of a six-part story, and with their contracts running until the next serial.  With Michael Craze’s death on 7th December 1998, this is his last appearance in a Doctor Who story, whilst Anneke Wills would reprise her role on numerous occasions for Big Finish.  Deborah Watling would appear in the next story The Evil of the Daleks, a story which is also coincidentally also mostly missing.

This story also featured Pauline Collins as Samantha Briggs.  The production team were keen for Collins to become a new companion to accompany Troughton and Hines, however, she turned down the opportunity, however, she would play Queen Victoria in Tooth and Claw.  Other actors who had been in Doctor Who or would go on to appear in the future include Bernard Kay (The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Crusade), Donald Pickering (The Keys of Marinus, Time and the Rani), Wanda Ventham (Image of the Fendahl, Time and the Rani) and Christopher Tranchell (The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve, The Invasion of Time).

Synopsis

Arriving at Gatwick Airport, the Doctor finds that a great number of young people are disappearing, including Ben and Polly.  Together with Jamie and Samantha Briggs, the sister of one of the missing people, he investigates what the Chameleons are up to.

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben Jackson), Anneke Wills (Polly), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Pauline Collins (Samantha Briggs), James Appleby (Policeman), Colin Gordon (Commandant), George Selway (Meadows), Wanda Ventham (Jean Rock), Victor Winding (Spencer), Peter Whitaker (Inspector Gascoigne), Donald Pickering (Blade), Christopher Tranchell (Jenkins), Madalena Nicol (Nurse Pinto), Bernard Kay (Crossland), Gilly Fraser (Ann Davidson), Brigit Paul (Announcer), Barry Wilsher (Heslington), Michael Ladkin (RAF Pilot) & Leonard Trolley (Supt. Reynolds.

Writer: David Ellis and Malcolm Hulke

Director: Gerry Mill

Parts: 6

Dalek

Dalek - Dalek.jpg

The stuff of nightmares, reduced to an exhibit.  I’m getting old.

The Ninth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor and Rose arrive in an underground bunker in the United States in 2012 in response to a distress signal, where alien collector Henry Van Statten is keeping his latest find – the last Dalek in existence.

Review

The Daleks are almost as essential to Doctor Who as the TARDIS and the titular hero.  Even in the TV Movie, they are heard but not seen, even if the Dalek voice is a bit questionable.  So looking back on Dalek in hindsight, it seems bizarre that there was a possibility that the Daleks would not appear when Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner brought Christopher Eccleston to our screens in 2005.  Even when you think about the Daleks coming back, it would be far too easy to overcomplicate this story by shrouding the return of the Daleks in large swathes of continuity from the previous stories that have gone before.  So it is still refreshing that Dalek is such an effective reintroduction to the evil pepper pots, whether this is your first time viewing, or simply the latest in many revisits.

In a way, this story cements some things that were introduced in the Daleks’ final appearance in the original TV run, Remembrance of the Daleks.  They are again seen to be masterful tacticians, and obviously, there’s the fact that they can get up the stairs, perhaps putting that over-used joke finally to bed.  The Dalek here is also shown to be manipulative as well, manipulating Rose into seeing something completely different to what the Doctor sees when he first sees the captive Dalek – a cruelly treated prisoner.  The director, Joe Ahearne deserves a huge amount of credit for making the Dalek seem as threatening as it does here, as the Dalek feels just as threatening and menacing when it refuses to reply to Van Statten as when it is moving through the bunker exterminating everyone in its path or talking to the Doctor.  One of my favourite scenes is in the weapons development area of the base, where Van Statten has instructed everyone in the base to grab a weapon to try and stop the Dalek.  Instead of simply exterminating everyone by shooting them individually, the Dalek instead elects to elevate itself above the floor, shoots the fire alarm, which in turn activates the sprinklers, and with a simple blast of its weapon, shoots the wet floor, killing the majority of the people standing in its way.  There is a quiet majesty about the way the Dalek surveys the situation from its elevated position which is truly menacing.

Dalek - Dalek sucker.jpg

This story has to contain some of Christopher Eccleston’s best moments as the Doctor as he faces the last surviving Dalek of the Time War.  He is fantastic as the battle-scarred version of the Doctor and his reaction when he realises that he has been locked in a room with a Dalek, to his sudden switch when he realises that the Dalek is completely powerless, then to actually go against that famous maxim that the late great Terrance Dicks once wrote that the Doctor should never be cruel or cowardly by trying to kill the Dalek himself.  Eccleston really does sell this all so well, with this exchange and his discussion with the Dalek about the outcome of the Time War really standing out.  I feel that I also need to praise two other actors as making this such a great story: Nicholas Briggs and Corey Johnson.  Johnson is utterly believable as this all-powerful individual who doesn’t think twice about replacing Presidents and torturing aliens for not speaking to him, and shows this character as utterly contemptible, with the scene where the Doctor shows him the alien instrument telling the audience everything that we need to know.  And Nicholas Briggs gives a fantastic performance as the voice of the Dalek, whether it being simple screaming or talking normally (for a Dalek), with his voice bristling with menace.

Let me tell you something, Van Statten.  Mankind goes into space to explore, to be part of something greater.

Exactly! I wanted to touch the stars.

You just want to drag the stars down, stick them underground, under tons of sand and dirt, and label them.  You’re about as far from the stars as you can get.

The Ninth Doctor and Henry Van Statten

Rob Shearman’s story is, as is well known, a loose adaptation of his Big Finish story for the Sixth Doctor, Jubilee, but the two are largely very different beasts and can stand alone on their own merits.  There are shared elements, such as the lone Dalek being tortured and appealing to the companion, in this case, Rose, resulting in a bond being formed between the Dalek’s greatest enemy and his companion.  Shearman’s greatest achievement here is strongly establishing for a new audience who may not, as strange as this may sound, be aware of the Daleks and their nature.  With this coming in the first series of the revived series, Shearman keeps the continuity light, however, does enough to ensure that the uninitiated are in no doubt that the Doctor and the Daleks have shared history.  There is even a sly aside about the Daleks’ creator, Davros, which is handled superbly, saying more about the character of Van Statten than delving deep into the show’s continuity – there is absolutely no need for the story to name drop Davros and the story wisely doesn’t.

I hope that my love of this story has come through in the preceding paragraphs, as I briefly turn to address an element of this story and the following story that I really dislike – Adam.  Established as a boy genius – parallels, of course, to Adric – Langley never really convinces me of this, and the scenes with him and Rose seem to really dull the pace of an overall frenetic adventure.  Ultimately, the fact that Adam even ends up travelling with the Doctor into the next story just feels so lazy that it does bug me sufficiently to write it up here.  The character feels like a complete non-entity and I don’t see why the Doctor doesn’t put his foot down and say no.  After all, it will only lead to trouble…

Adam was saying that all his life, he’s wanted to see the stars.

Tell him to go and stand outside then.

Rose Tyler and the Ninth Doctor

Verdict:  Ahearne, Eccleston and Briggs make the return of the Doctor’s oldest enemy rank among the strongest of the revived series, as well as one of the best stories to feature the Daleks.  10/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Steven Beckingham (Polkowski), Corey Johnson (Henry van Statten), Anna-Louise Plowman (Goddard), Bruno Langley (Adam), Nigel Whitmey (Simmons), John Schwab (Bywater), Jana Carpenter (De Maggio), Joe Montana (Commander), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek Operator) & Nicholas Briggs (Dalek Voice).

Writer: Robert Shearman

Director: Joe Ahearne

Behind the Scenes

  • The story was adapted from the Big Finish story Jubilee, also written by Robert Shearman.  Whilst the two stories diverge, some plot elements appear in both.  The in-universe pizza company, Jubilee Pizzas, is named as a reference to this story, and pizza boxes from this chain appear in this story and in the background of Doctor Who, Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures stories.
  • First appearance of the Daleks in the revived series and the only time in the Russell T Davies era that they would appear in a single-part story.
  • Shearman had to write an alternative version of the story in case the estate of Terry Nation would not allow the Daleks to be used.  The alternate story may have featured a robotic creature called “Future Human”, an idea which would become the Toclafane.
  • The first appearance of Bruno Langley as Adam.
  • The first story of the revived series not to feature any TARDIS interior scenes.

Best Moment

You may have been able to guess from the way I described it above, but the scene in the weapons testing zone – I love how in command of that scene the sole Dalek is.

Best Quote

I am a soldier. I was bred to receive orders.

Well you’re never gonna get them.  Not ever.

I demand orders!

They’re never going to come! Your race is dead.  You all burned – all of you.  Ten million ships on fire.  The entire Dalek race, wiped out in one second.

You lie!

I watched it happen.  I madeit happen.

You destroyed us?

I had no choice.

And what of the Time Lords?

Dead.  They burned with you.  The end of the last great Time War.  Everyone lost.

And the coward survived.

Dalek and the Ninth Doctor

Henry Van Statten - Dalek