The Mind of Evil
The Mind of Evil was the second serial of the eighth season of Doctor Who. It brought a radical change in the way United Nations Intelligence Taskforce was portrayed. Instead of being a primarily investigative body interested in alien or unexplained phenomena, here UNIT was mostly seen as a simple security force, guaranteeing the safety of international diplomats. In other words, the “United Nations” portion of their acronym was stressed over the “Intelligence Taskforce” bit — as would later happen in such stories as Day of the Daleks and The Time Warrior. This forced the plot to partially concern itself with international espionage, thus lending an almost Bondian veneer to proceedings. The internationalism of the plot even allowed for highly unusual scenes of the Doctor conversing in a real language other than English. Indeed, as of the seventh BBC Wales series, Evil was the only story which used English subtitles for the Doctor’s speech.
Meanwhile, the main plot about the mind-control device was something writer Don Houghton intentionally included as an homage to A Clockwork Orange.
Behind the scenes, Evil went badly over budget, thanks in no small part to one of Doctor Who‘s rare usages of a real helicopter in the concluding episode. An unimpressed Barry Letts therefore withdrew director Timothy Combe from his informal “director’s rota”, and Combe never worked on the program again. Following the destruction of its color telerecordings, Evil became the “most missing” serial of the Jon Pertwee era, in that not even a frame of it survived in colour on any broadcast-quality medium. Fortunately, the whole of it remained available in monochrome, due to the fact that some of BBC Enterprises’ overseas customers required black-and-white transmission prints. Additionally, a few color clips survived from an off-air home recording, which allowed for some scenes to be recolored for the 1998 VHS release. Its DVD release marked its complete restoration, with all six episodes recolored.
The Third Doctor and Jo Grant arrive at Stangmoor Prison to view a demonstration of the Keller Machine, which is claimed to cure anti-social behavior by extracting evil impulses from the brain, developed by Swiss scientist Emil Keller. Professor Kettering, acting on the absent Keller’s behalf, reports over a hundred successful tests on European prisoners. The Doctor’s open skepticism is apparently justified when the machine overloads and the subject, a hardened criminal named Barnham, is rendered comatose.
Meanwhile, UNIT is busy overseeing security at the First World Peace Conference. Things are not going well as the Brigadier attempts to calm Captain Chin Lee, furious at the apparent theft of classified documents from the Chinese delegation. Later, Chin-Lee reports even worse news; the Chinese delegate is dead. Meanwhile Captain Yatesis assigned to lead a small UNIT platoon in disposing of the Thunderbolt, an outlawed nerve gas missile.
Arthur Linwood, a medical student witnessing the Keller demonstration, is found dead near the Keller Machine, his face frozen in terror, covered in bites and scratches. His medical history shows a morbid fear of rats. Professor Kettering is examining the machine when it becomes active on its own. Kettering has a vision of waves of water, and dies of an apparent heart attack. Investigating his death, the prison medic Dr Summers is mystified that his symptoms are consistent with death by drowning. The machine’s activity also appears to coincide with an increase in hostility in the prison population. The Doctor is worried that the machine has power over people’s minds and is growing more powerful. As suspected, Kettering’s medical files show a morbid fear of water.
Later, the Doctor examines the machine alone when it activates again. The Doctor is seized by terror as the room appears to erupt in flames…
Jo bursts into the room, and the machine deactivates. The Doctor concludes that the machine possesses the ability to fill a person’s mind with visions of their greatest fear. He confesses a severe aversion to fire, which is rooted in his witnessing a world consumed by flames. Yates arrives to escort the Doctor back to assist the Brigadier with events at the peace conference. Jo stays behind to monitor events at Stangmoor.
While the Doctor charms the new Chinese delegate Fu Peng with his fluent Hokkien and his claim to have accompanied Mao on the Long March, Sgt Benton shadows Chin Lee (who herself has disposed of the documents she earlier claimed to be stolen). When she notices him, she summons a mental power (which sounds eerily similar to the noise of the Keller machine) that seizes Benton and makes him collapse. A nearby telephone repairman rigs a control box so that he can monitor transmissions from the conference. It is the Master, and he listens in on Yates making plans for the disposal of the Thunderbolt.
In the prison sickbay, Jo visits the recovering Barnham, now childlike and docile — “Either an idiot or a saint,” reflects Dr Summers. The Stangmoor prisoners riot, led by Mailer (next in line for processing), taking Jo and Dr Summers hostage.
The Doctor reports in to the Brigadier, and recalling the prison warden’s reference to Keller’s young attractive Chinese assistant, realizes that Chin Lee is the connection between the Keller Machine and the disturbances at the World Peace Conference.
Under directive from the Master, Chin Lee contacts the American delegate, Senator Alcott, and asks him to meet her late that night with some important information. When he arrives, Chin Lee appears to transform into an enormous dragon and advances on him…
The Doctor, Brigadier and Fu Peng intervene in time and rescue the Senator. They discover a telepathic amplifier attached to Chin Lee’s neck. The Doctor concludes that the Master is posing as Emil Keller, and is also seeking to disrupt the peace conference.
Once the Master learns that his role has been discovered, he returns to Stangmoor to formulate a new plan. The prison guards have managed to subdue the rioters, but the Master provides Mailer with gas bombs, and the inmates overpower the guards and take over the prison.
Having learned of the trouble there, the Doctor arrives at Stangmoor but is apprehended. He is brought before the Master, who coolly informs him of his plot to steal the Thunderbolt with the help of the prisoners, destroy the peace conference with it, and thereby plunge the world into war. The Doctor is handcuffed to a chair beside the Keller Machine, which activates and fills his mind with visions of his old adversaries…
The Machine’s activity affects the entire prison, and the Master is barely able to shut it off and revive the Doctor. The groggy Doctor warns the Master that the machine will soon be too powerful to control.
While Jo nurses the Doctor back to health, the Master himself is attacked by the machine, assaulted by an enormous vision of the Doctor looming over him laughing maniacally. The Master becomes terrified and bellows at both the vision and the machine; “No! No! You can’t destroy me! I am too strong for you! I am too strong for you!” He blocks the doors to the lecture hall, intending to starve the machine into submission.
The Master persuades Mailer and his fellow inmates to help him obtain the Thunderbolt in exchange for their freedom, as the missile convoy will pass within a few miles of Stangmoor. They manage to overpower Yates’ escort and succeed in stealing the missile, shooting all of the soldiers present. Yates, although he has been shot in the arm, pursues the thieves to a remote airstrip, but is captured.
The machine, or rather the alien entity inside it, is desperate enough for minds to feed upon that it develops the ability to teleport itself around the prison, and it closes upon Jo and the recovered Doctor…
The machine teleports away, the Doctor theorizing that there are more evil minds to feed on elsewhere in the prison. Mailer blackmails the Master into returning to Stangmoor to deal with the menace, while Yates is held as a hostage. The Master and the Doctor form an uneasy alliance to subdue the machine with a device that immobilizes it for the time being, just after the machine once again tries to feed off the Doctor’s fear.
The Brigadier meanwhile figures out that the Stangmoor inmates are involved in the abduction of Thunderbolt. He leads a two-pronged UNIT assault, a “Trojan Horse” team in a supply van and a second team via an underground passage into the prison courtyard. In the midst of the assault, Mailer aims his gun at the Doctor. A shot rings out…
Mailer falls dead, the shot having come from the Brigadier. Stangmoor is back under control, but the Master escapes and prepares Thunderbolt for launch. Yates escapes and relays its location to the Brigadier.
The mind parasite overcomes the Doctor’s device and is once again on the move. It corners the Doctor and Jo, but when Barnham wanders in, the machine suddenly loses power. The Doctor realizes that Barnham’s mind, devoid of all evil impulses because of his processing, acts as a neutralizing influence on the machine, thus they have a tool to use against the Master to re-capture the Thunderbolt. Meanwhile they lift the lid off the machine to examine the pulsating organism inside.
The Doctor bargains with the Master, offering the dematerialization circuit he stole earlier, but it’s a ruse. He brings the machine and Barnham, and as Barnham steps back the machine attacks the Master. Barnham attempts to help him, but in the confusion the Master escapes in a van, fatally running him down in the process. The Doctor is able to reactivate the missile’s self-destruct circuit in the confusion, and UNIT detonates the Thunderbolt, in an explosion which also destroys the mind parasite. Jo tearfully watches Barnham’s body engulfed by the explosion as the hangar is blown to smithereens. Neither she nor the Doctor can bear to look at the carnage. The Doctor sees Jo is distraught and consoles her.
Stangmoor Prison has been put back in order, but Jo regrets Barnham’s death, and the fact they left his body behind. The Doctor sympathizes with her and reminds her that he feels the same guilt as she does, offering her a coffee cup from a tray of beverages – a tea break to unwind after the long conflict with the Master. The Brigadier is pleased that the Keller Machine is likely destroyed in the explosion. Moreover, though the Master escaped, the Doctor didn’t have to relinquish the dematerialization circuit. Unfortunately, as soon as the Brigadier makes that comment, the Doctor checks his pockets and discovers the circuit was lost in his scuffle with the Master. Lethbridge-Stewart assures him the circuit likely was destroyed when the missile was detonated. However, the Doctor thinks it still could have survived.
A phone call from a familiar voice proves him right. The Master has recovered his dematerialization circuit in the melee, leaving him free to travel time and space. He can’t resist calling the furious Doctor to gloat. Jo tries to convince the Doctor he’s won this round, but the Doctor is fixated on one thing: the Master is free to roam the cosmos in his TARDIS, while he remains in exile… stuck with the irksome Brigadier.