I must confess that on viewing The Mind of Evil again, I found it to be something of a disappointment. This doesnt mean that I think its rubbish; it just isnt as good as I remembered. It does have several things to commend it, but Ill get my criticisms out of the way first.
When I reviewed Terror of the Autons, I said that it represents a dumbing down of the series and the start of UNITs decline into farce. This continues here, although not uniformly throughout the story; most of the problems are confined to the first half. Firstly, it is here that the Brigadier is first made to look like a buffoon. The scenes with the Doctor and Fu Peng are mildly amusing, but they reduce the Brigadier to the role of comic foil and he looks like an idiot, unable to get a word in edgeways and the subject of contempt from Fu Peng. Suddenly, the intelligent, commanding and diplomatic military leader of Season Seven is a bumbling fool. Fortunately, he regains some credibility in the second half of the story, as he leads the assault on Stangmoor Prison, and in one of his finest moments shoots Mailer just in the nick of time to save the Doctor. UNIT also continues to suffer from the presence of Mike Yates, who remains an unconvincing character. In Richard Franklins defense however, Yates also benefits from the last three episodes, and doesnt fare too badly in an action man role that sees him tracking the missile to the airfield and defiantly confronting the Master whilst tied to a chair. Finally, the thoroughly irritating Major Cosgrove further cements UNITs newfound reputation as a slightly camp and silly organization.
Another major weakness of The Mind of Evil concerns UNITs transport of the Thunderbolt missile, which has a ridiculously light escort. The script bravely attempts to address this issue, but with even the person Yates discusses the escort with on the telephone in episode two expressing disbelief at the feeble security measures, this attempt is doomed to failure. Im also rather dubious about the explosion at the end. The Thunderbolt is referred to as a nuclear missile with a nerve gas warhead throughout, and the Doctor further adds that it will take a nuclear explosion to destroy the Keller Machine. Now Im no nuclear physicist, but the explosion at the end seems pretty small for a nuclear explosion, destroying as it does one aircraft hanger. And nobody seems remotely concerned about any nerve gas being released.
My final criticism of The Mind of Evil is that it feels padded. Given that the three seven part stories in Season Seven seldom felt stretched out, this is particularly disappointing. The Mind of Evil is repetitive; the Doctor undergoes several attacks by the Keller Machine, for example, and then theres Mailers initial, unsuccessful attempt to take over the prison, which is no sooner foiled than the Master arrives to organize a more successfully attempt. Consequently, this is one of only a few six part Doctor Who stories that I think would have benefited from being two episodes shorter.
On the other hand, there are several things to recommend The Mind of Evil. Firstly, and most significantly in my opinion, it showcases the rivalry between the Doctor and the Master superbly. During Terror of the Autons they only met on screen during the last episodes, but here they get far more scenes together, and it reveals something rather interesting. When I reviewed Terror of the Autons, I noted that the Master tends to allow himself to find an excuse not to kill the Doctor rather easily. Here, the impression is given that the Master desperately needs to let the Doctor see him win. It is interesting that he almost seems to be trying to impress the Doctor, and certainly has a degree of respect for him; after all, although as he says at one point, they are both Time Lords, the Master lacks the ability to deal with the Mind Parasite, whereas he clearly believes that the Doctor is more than capable of doing so. Even before he resorts to threatening Jo, he seems confident that the Doctor is underestimating himself. Of course, the revelation that the Doctor ridiculing him is his greatest fear speaks volumes about their relationship and it is also here that we get the first hints that the two of them used to be friends. One of their most interesting scenes together is when the Doctor lashes together his electronic loop to temporarily trap the Keller Machine; for a brief couple of minutes, they seem to forget their enmity, both discussing the scientific problem in hand, with the Master seeming genuinely interested in the Doctors solution. Even more interesting is the fact that whilst the Master often thinks twice about killing the Doctor, when the Doctor gets the chance to blow his enemy up at the end, he has no hesitation about doing so. In fact, the Master seems keen to show off and generally gloat in front of the Doctor throughout, whereas the Doctor seems genuinely angered by the Master. Given that he quite rightly blames the Master for bringing the Mind Parasite to Earth and given that the Keller Machine indisputably terrifies him, this is entirely understandable, but is an interesting contrast with his attitude in later stories. In summary, the Master seems to need the Doctors recognition of his achievements, whilst the Doctor appears to really actively dislike the Master throughout this story.
Another good aspect of The Mind of Evil is Jo. Despite the criticism that I heaped upon here in the previous review, she undergoes something of a transformation here and becomes a capable, useful assistant, rather just an empty-headed companion. She shows considerable courage in dealing with Mailer and the Master, compassion in looking after Barnham, and the complete trust in and loyalty to the Doctor that tend to characterize here. In fact, shes generally more forthright than I remember her, not afraid to speak her mind, and proving ready to fight when necessary (she holds Mailer at gunpoint in episode two for example, and doesnt seem particularly scared by him) I still dont find her convincing as a UNIT agent, but she does at least prove that she has potential as a Doctor Who companion. Jon Pertwee continues to satisfy as the Doctor. His increasing frustration at being trapped on Earth comes through well; he is even more irritable than in Terror of the Autons, frequently bad-tempered, and very entertainingly rude during Ketterings press conference. This is topped off by the Doctors impotent fury in the last scene, when the Master telephones him to taunt him about his exile. Oh and full marks to Pertwees acting when attacked by the Machine; after gurning in Spearhead From Space, he manages to seem convincingly frightened here.
The direction of The Mind of Evil is excellent, so much so that the Keller Machine, essential a box with a phallus, seems genuinely menacing, as it teleports around and sucks the life from its victims. In addition, Puff the Magic Dragon, potentially absurd, also looks quite good at the end of episode two and the start of episode three. The action sequences are also exceptionally good, especially the pitched gun battle between UNIT troops and the convicts in episode five. Overall, The Mind of Evil is far from perfect but contains some memorable sequences and is well worth watching in spite of being slightly disappointing overall.