Sunday, 7 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Mind of Evil

Part One

"He drowned. In the middle of a perfectly dry room."

Back to black and white, only this time we can imagine all the garish colours that we're missing. Interesting opening, though: "Smile, Jo. You're on camera." It's 1971, and a CCTV camera, even outside a prison, is seen as a sinister Orwellian presence. How times have changed. The Doctor's changing too; he may not be too pleased about it, but this time he's carrying a pass.

Hmmm. It's ambiguous, but the Doctor could have implied he supports capital punishment in this episode. He certainly doesn't like mind control as part of criminal justice though, or indeed as part of anything. In attitudes to mind control, and up to a point computers, this Doctor is not so unlike his predecessor. He's quite extraordinarily rude to Kettering here, interrupting everything he says and pooh-poohing everything. Kettering's not too sympathetic himself though-, as some of his dialogue implies: He will take his place as a useful, if lowly, member of society". The science is a bit dodgy too- what are these "negative" and "evil" brain impulses, and who defines them as such?

I'm not sure about UNIT's role here- in what way does providing security for a peace conference relate to dealing with "the odd, the unexplained"?

For the second time, the Doctor almost implies he's lived for thousands of years! Definitely a real continuity problem here. Perhaps when he said he was 450 years old in Tomb, which can't be more than a few years ago in the Doctor's timeline, he was speaking "in Earth terms"? He starts getting well mardy at the end. Which makes him look bad. And jo sticks up for him. Which helps us to like her, even though the Doctor's acting like a tit.

Keller installed the machine "over a year ago". We all know who he is, so either this is a whole year after Terror of the Autons or You-Know-Who's been around for longer than we thought.

Part Two

"Depends on how you look at it. An idiot or a saint..."

It's quite jarring to see the Doctor actually scared. Although it's comfortably familiar to see Benton spying in his civvies. He's not as good at it as he was in The Invasion though- sign of the times.

There's some good plot structuring going on here- the Chin Lee and Keller Machine subplots are beginning to intertwine at just the right moment and we're being fed plot developments at just the right pace. We also get introduced to the Master at just the right moment- his disguise is obvious but I think it's supposed to be.

The Doctor speaks to Fu Peng in Hokkien, and for the first time ever in Doctor Who we get subtitles! And the Doctor's apparently quite chummy with Mao. Such classy mates he has.

I'm fairly sure that's Jaws from the Bond films...

Part Three

"Don't point that thing at me, my man! It might go off!"

Blimey- the Doctor speaks Cantonese as well! jo gets to show her talents as well though- she does a pretty good job of escaping, if not for long.

At last the Master and the Doctor meet. And the Masters still making the same mistake as last time: "It can't harm me- I created it."

Part Four

"I do have remarkable powers of recovery, don't I?"

I like that- the Master's greatest fear is apparently the Doctor laughing at him.

Interesting to hear the Doctor say that an aspirin "could kill him"! I seem to recall him taking aspirin at least once, back when he was William Hartnell. He don't half look sweaty, incidentally.

I like the Doctor and Jo's escape. but this episode has problems. Why is the missile so incredibly lightly guarded? And I think this may well be one Keller machine cliffhanger too many.

Part Five

"A fortress? I suppose there couldn't possibly be a secret underground passage or something?"

Nice scene with the Doctor and Jo playing draughts, pointedly ignoring the Master. Particularly nice that Jo wins. It's also nice to get our first nostalgia sequence under the new Doctor, with brief flashes of stock photos of an Ice Lord, Cybermen, a Zarbi(!) and a Dalek. Almost enough for me to forgive yet another use of the Keller Machine.

We get our first real Moment Of Charm here, as the Doctor namedrops Raleigh to Jo and reminisces about how he "kept going on about this new vegetable he'd discovered".

A cliffhanger not involving the Keller Machine for once, and it's a good 'un for once- Mailer just shoots the Doctor. Sometimes the simple ones are the best.

Part Six

"Thank you, Brigadier. But do you think for once in your life you could arrive before the nick of time?"

Blimey, the Doctor is just so rude to the Brigadier after having his life saved. And he carries on being a pillock right through the scene: "Apart from losing the Master and the missile, you're doing very well, Brigadier." This really is a bit much. Part of this, admittedly, is Pertwee's acting choices- I suppose he could have delivered his lines in a less abrasive way. But ultimately he's playing the character as written. And the Doctor's actually not all that likeable at the moment. I know he's been exiled and we should cut him a bit of slack, but for the first time in the marathon the character of the Doctor is actually alienating me a bit.

We don't really get a very satisfactory ending aside from the generally well done Doctor / Master ongoing arc scenes. If the missile can be blown up, why recklessly transport it to the coast with a ridiculously tiny escort in the first place? And there's an extraordinary exchange following Barnham's rather unnecessary death where Jo regrettably says to the Doctor that "We should never have left him there". And instead of offering any sympathy the Doctor barks at her "How do you think I feel?"

The very last scene is nice, though. The contrast between the Doctor's exile and the Master's new-found freedom is very poignant, and it looks as though this arc will continue.

Overall- well, the first real clunker of the Pertwee years- 2/5. And worryingly the things I didn't like about it tend to sum up the way the programme's going at the moment. This was dull at times, and over-reliant on a single MacGuffin, but I've given 3/5s and 4/5 to other stories with those faults. Far more worrying, I think, was the tone. Like Terror of the Autons, this was fundamentally a fairly silly bit of fluff which only makes sense if you assume (as I think you're supposed to) that the Master is just essentially larking about and trying to get the Doctor's attention. But unlike Terror of the Autons, this isn't played for laughs. I like silliness, but silliness only works if the script gives you the occasional nod and a wink. And it doesn't here. Instead we get silly events but no signpost from the script that it's supposed to be fun.

Just as bad, UNIT are suddenly a tiny, very cosy organisation who are made to look useless. And I hope the Doctor gets himself into a better mood soon. Fortunately there are signs this could be a planned character arc. We'll see...

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