Monday, December 08, 2014

Back to Earth,One Last Time - Mind of Evil

Finally, after Big Finish eventually managed to get my spirits back up about Doctor Who I dived into what would be me final Pertwee for a while. When I left Hartnell along with Susan I said I would venture up to the previously watched The Daemons before heading back. Now we're there, and I'm not. I'm going to keep jumping forward.

Unlike the previous skip, this one is more out of necessity then choice, and far larger. This time I'm jumping all the way towards the end of Tom Baker's time as the Doctor, to where Romana II debuted. This is because of the other side of Who I'm writing about, the Big Finish audio adventures. Romana's regeneration is slightly earlier than I need to go, but like I used the previous jump to connect disparate viewings of War Games and The Daemons, I'm doing the same here, tying in the brilliant City of Death. I'm also going to watch the Four/Five Regeneration, because they were the main reason I started my second jaunt through Time and Space.

But anyway, The Mind of Evil. Thank God we get to finish on a high.

There's political intrigue, prison riots, stolen missiles and a few shootouts. It seems Doctor Who is going all out on this one, and it really works because of it.

Unfortunately, the one thing this serial doesn't manage to do is make me like Three any more. He's still all bluster, and I think we're past the point where I just have to accept that this Doctor isn't for me. He even manages to tell Jo off and make her feel like shit despite the fact she just saved his life. However, there is one great moment when the Doctor puts it all together and realises the Master's behind it all, though due to a bit of bad scripting it comes across a little late.

Speaking of Jo, after her disastrous debut, she steps right up here. We get references to the fact Jo's a properly trained UNIT agent, and it actually feels like it as she not only gets handed a gun, but also manages to stop a prison escape. All the while she shows her tender side to an injured Doctor, and looks after a prisoner who is left with the brain of a child thanks to the machine that sits at the centre of everything. Oh, and she beats the Doctor at chequers, who then has a little strop about it in front of the Master. Jo really starts to shine here.

Even Yates gets a decent showing, proving to be a bit of an action star after being the only member of an escort duty to stay on his feet during an ambush. Benton is the only other survivor, but he's probably the only one from the regular cast who gets a bum deal. With multiple defeats he comes across like Worf in TNG. The hard man who's really just there to be struck down to show how bad things are. Thankfully he gets a little redemption coming back to duty before he's ready, then leading a successful second strike into the prison.

Of course, the Brig is as good as ever, and an absolutely brilliant moment when bluffing his way into the prison he starts whistling the tune from The Great Escape. And the bit at the Chinese embassy. There's also the added the bonus that The Brig never has to play the dumb one who needs everything explained to him. Thanks to some great writing the Brig seems properly in-charge again.

Oh, and before we leave Pertwee, there's Bessie, who I've totally failed to address so far. On first glance it's ridiculous. An old car like that just doesn't make any sense. But then you think about it for a second and you realise it fits the same thinking of the Doctor's a man out of time that's used for his clothing perfectly. And when it's first introduced he does give it a nice Gallifryean overall to make things work better, which is thankfully never taken anywhere other than Bessie can keep up with more modern vehicles. It just gives the Doctor his own transport, which is all it should be. Admittedly one with a name, but considering how one day he comes to think of the TARDIS, maybe that shouldn't be a surprise.

Obviously, this being his season, I can't forget The Master, who has now become the bad guy we know him to be. Unlike his debut he has a decent plan for becoming ruler of the Earth, and not just stumbling around with the vague hope some aliens will put him in charge. He's manipulating a peace process so everyone's suspecting everyone, with deaths of ambassadors from either side, and topping it all off with a missile attack with a nuclear warhead topped with nerve gas – which seems a bit overkill, but then the whole plan is rather grandiose. Which is what you expect from the Master. There's some awesome imagery while he's hanging out in the back of his car with a massive cigar on the go, ease-dropping on everyone and puppeteering events too. In fact it's so well played the Master isn't even shown to be involved for the entire first episode.

Once he is in, Delgado takes centre stage, throwing around well mannered threats of violence against Jo, while also capable of having a sit down with the Doctor as two men of similar intelligence. It's obvious that they are two sides of the same coin and how they became the best of enemies.

Sure the nonsense of the actual machine, that can suck the evil out of people, is a touch silly. And the depiction of the Chinese isn't exactly PC, or more to the point is nearly out and out racist, but the show manages to carry it all off perfectly. Well not the racism, but the use of the Chinese once you get past their intro music and the lady being scared of a Chinese dragon is actually half decent.

I'm glad I'm leaving the Pertwee era on a high note. In fact this might just be the best Master story I've seen to date. Including New Who.

Next stop, The Destiny of the Daleks.

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