Thursday, 20 June 2013

WHO REVIEW: The Mind of Evil - DVD release

The Mind of Evil was, for many years, effectively the last of the black and white serials. The remaining victims of junking in the Pertwee years had been recolourised, to some degree or another, some time ago. The Mind of Evil remained, i its VHS form, resolutely black and white.

The thing is, I rather liked it in monochrome. Perhaps the least Who-y of all Doctor Whos, The Mind of Evil revelled in the extra touch of filmic grittiness that the monochrome footage bestowed. As such, I greeted the news of a new recolourisation with mixed interest. Naturally, I wanted to see the serial as it was meant to be shown, but would it really be better?

Well, yes and no. The use of colour adds a vividness that the black and white tones lack, reminding the viewer that this was still a part of the glam rock era of Who. On the other hand, the grim prison scenes lose a certain something in colour. But that really emphasises the wonderful clash of styles in this story. It's the whole Pertwee era in microcosm: glam rock vs. gritty action.

The actual effectiveness of the colourisation depends on the episode. The bulk of the serial has been recolourised using the standard method of chroma-dot recovery by the Beeb's regular Recovery Team. It works as well as on their other efforts: perfectly enjoyable, albeit with a certain fuzziness and vagueness of outline that reminds you that this is a recoloured work. It's perfectly fine to watch, but pales in comparison to the work of Stuart 'Babelcolour' Humphryes on Episode One. Lacking the chroma-dot data, this opening episode had to be recoloured by a more straightforward, and significantly  more labour intensive method. The results speak for themselves. Babel's work is astonishing, and stands head and shoulders above the remaining episodes. Even incredibly tricky elements such as hair are recreated perfectly. It's an impressive achievement.

The story itself is one of my personal favourites of the Pertwee era. It's, as I mentioned, very un-Who-like, dealing as much with the cons of Stangmoor Prison as with the mind-absorbing creature that threatens them. Add to this an international peace conference, a politically uncomfortable missile in need of decommissioning, and, of course, the Master, and there's a great deal going on here. The best moments belong to the Master, be it in his most Bond-villain moment ever, issuing orders from a limo, clad in a fur-colared coat and puffing on a fat cigar; or in his weakened, cowering stance against the spectre of an overwhelming phantom of the Doctor - the mind parasite's attack on him using his greatest fear.

UNIT are oddly used here, never further from their original remit as investigators of "the odd... the unexplained," instead utilised as a regular peacekeeping force. Nonetheless, the disparate plot elements are tied together well, and the only major criticism is in the rather repetitive nature of the prison riot plot. Of course, watched an episode a week with no option for re-viewing, this would not have seemed nearly such an issue.

The DVD release itself is one of the sparser of the BBC's classic series output, in spite of the double disc treatment. The lack of a documentary on the colurisation process is a pity. There is, however, a charming and informative making of that revisits the locations used in the story with a number of the original cast members. This, along with the commentary, was recorded some time ago, and the presence of both Nicholas Courtney and Barry Letts, both sorely missed, adds an extra poignancy.

The usual DVD-ROM material includes the standard, but always welcome, Radio Times excerpts, but it's the 'Sugar Snaps' cereal promotion that will stick in the memory, with its frankly terrifying version of Jon Pertwee. The apparition that haunts the Master has nothing on this freakish creation. Still, I'd pay decent money for a UNIT pin badge.

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