50 for 50 — The Greatest Stories in Doctor Who History — #27

For a long time, this story seemed to slip the radar for many fans, myself included. Like I’ve mentioned previously, Target (novelizations) missed this story out til a good dozen years had passed since it’s one and only transmission. Early in the video releases, in the early 90’s, this one was always by default, gonna be right at the back of the queue, and for some reason was dubbed as the forgotten story of Season 8. If you read articles on Doctor Who circa 1971, it’s all Autons, Axons, Adjudicators and Azal…That’s harshly unfair, and a load of old Bok’s, as I found when UK Gold (bless ’em!) showed the entirety of the 3rd Doctor era in 1993, and I finally got to see The Mind of Evil …in living colour….if I squinted.

I love this era of Who, the UNIT family just works, along with the always familiar cadence of the Master close behind. It’s Who folklore, to me anyway…the evil renegade(TM) returns in every story of Season 8. But this is the first story after his debut for him to appear, surely surprising at the time?!  Who would expect a villain to appear so soon after his defeat one week hence?! It works excellently here, sat puffing away on a cuban cigar, eavesdropping on jolly old Yates and Benton, with a sinister smirk, Roger Delgado owns the screen … The true mind of evil of The Mind of Evil, Delagdo, never better than here, playing his games, manipulating companions, prisoners and even the Doctor himself into believing him for his own ends. But the most powerful moment is the Doctor’s image towering over his mortal enemy, laughing maniacally, taunting him….that is the Master’s greatest fear. Little gems secreted away mean more than giant stones sometimes.

The Keller Machine, whilst it doesn’t appear to have a scary factor that the other ‘monsters’ of Season 8 have, for me works in the way Don Houghton devised it. It’s not possible to move about, at least not at first, of it’s own accord, but seemingly able to drown people(in a dry room, no less), and have them bitten to death by rats (very Doomwatch, remember that?!) !), or scared to their very wits, is a powerful idea. For the Doctor himself to cross the Machine and suffer, very visibly, more than we’d ever seen by that stage, was extremely chilling. Facing his fears of the world in flames, harking back to a near fiery end in Inferno (from the previous season, a continuity flash we’d not seen that often before?), Pertwee shows complete terror in this scene, as he does when faced by his old enemies, Dalek, Cyberman … oh, and a Zarbi….?!

I love the Nestene invasions, the Omega affair, the Spiders of Metebelis III, the giant Maggots, and the mighty tag team of Azal and Bok. But the UNIT family’s finest hour, in my opinion, is here at Stangmoor Prison. The Brigadier in fine form, confronted by Puff the Magic Dragon, then later saving the Doctor in the nick of time. Captain Yates crashing off his motorcycle, Benton going all oopyzootics thanks to Chin Lee’s special powers, and the Brig’s cutting put down to him after. Such brilliant guest stars, as Simon Lack, William Marlowe, and Neil Marlowe, all of whom would return to Who later in the 70’s, make their mark as believable characters, that make what should be a meandering, lacklustre 6 parter, a story to get your teeth into. Roll on 3rd June, when it’ll once more be in full colour….I’ll be in the queue that day, mark my words. — Andy

Alan’s #27 — Earthshock
David’s #27 — The Waters of Mars
Steve’s #27 — The War Machines