The Mind of Evil: Episode 1
Broadcast on January 30th, 1971 @ 5.15pm (6.1 million viewers)
‘The Mind of Evil’ is the second serial of the eighth season of Doctor Who and opens with the Doctor and Jo venturing into the fortress which is Stangmore Prison. Following on with the Doctor exiled to Earth format, which had become well established during Jon Pertwee’s first year in the role, this story, in particular, is closer to a drama production than a science fiction adventure, with the focus being on the mysterious Keller Machine.
The Doctor and Jo are at the prison to observe a demonstration of the Keller Machine. Immediately the Time Lord stands out, with his attire different from all the other suit and tie wearers and his attitude far from agreeable, like a small child gossiping at the back of the class because he knows best. The process is explained as a cure for anti-social behaviour by the removal of negative or evil impulses. There are strong and deliberate parallels with ‘A Clockwork Orange’, the book having been published in the previous decade but the infamous Stanley Kubrick film another year away. Both tales present therapeutic treatments to modify human behaviour as a part of science’s futile attempts to achieve an undefinable norm state.
The episode also adds a new facet to the role of UNIT, providing a security force for a peace conference but also the escort of some form of missile. Frankly, this deviation is far less interesting than the developing storyline concerning the Keller Machine, as an individual is found dead in the process room, with an expression of fear on his face and curious bites and scratch marks. Next to suffer in the presence of the machine is Professor Kettering, the ardent defender of the process up until this point. Sadly, his faith in the infallibility of science does little to protect him from the abilities of this terrifying machine and its seemingly independent functionality.
The intrigue grows because both individuals are killed as a result of exposure to their greatest fears, with Kettering showing all the symptoms of death by drowning yet being found in a dry room. Whilst it is not in the realms of our understanding for a man’s lungs to be capable of filling with water when indoors, nor is a machine capable of extracting negative brain impulses. Therefore, this is one of the occasions in Doctor Who where we should not question the scientific accuracy of the information presented to us, much as comic book aficionados do not query how the bite of a radioactive spider does not simply kill Peter Parker.
Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)
The cliffhanger to this episode is built on Jon Pertwee’s acting ability. Although previously pigeonholed as a comedic actor, Pertwee delivers perhaps the most serious of all the Doctor’s personas during his tenure. As a result, when he is concerned about the machine earlier in the episode the viewers share that concern and therefore at the conclusion when he is frightened so too are they. Perhaps recalling the events of Ancient Rome whilst in his first incarnation, seen in ‘The Romans’, but more likely the natural fear of fire takes hold of the Doctor as the flames appear to engulf him. Strong stuff indeed.
Doctor Who – Jon Pertwee
Jo Grant – Katy Manning
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart – Nicholas Courtney
Captain Mike Yates – Richard Franklin
Captain Chin – Lee Pik-Sen Lim
Professor Kettering – Simon Lack
Corporal Bell – Fernanda Marlowe
Barnham – Neil Mccarthy
Linwood – Clive Scott
Dr. Summers – Michael Sheard
Prison Governor – Raymond Westwell
Chief Prison Officer Powers – Roy Purcell
Senior Prison Officer Green – Eric Mason
Prison Officer – Dave Carter
Prison Officer – Martin Gordon
Prison Officer – Bill Matthews
Prison Officer – Barry Wade
Director – Timothy Combe
Producer – Barry Letts
Writer – Terrance Dicks
Writer – Don Houghton
Also first aired On This Day…
- The Romans : Conspiracy
- Torchwood : To The Last Man
The Doctor’s fear of fire is from the Season 7 finale “Inferno” where he sees an entire world devastated by fire. He explains this in episode 2.
The imagery used in ‘Inferno’ is of lava engulfing the Earth, not fire, caused by the penetration of the planet’s crust and is most obvious in the alternate titles of volcanic eruptions and lava flowing that accompanied the story. So perhaps the world the Doctor saw consumed by flames is from an adventure we have not seen on television?
Always possible. However, both “Inferno” and “Mind of Evil” were written by Don Houghton, so “Inferno” was probably exactly the reference he intended.