‘The mind of evil Jo – I should have realised!’ Whenever a character declares, “I should have realised!” I’m always a bit suspicious. This ending is inelegant: we’ve never had an indication that Barnham can neutralise the mind parasite, but luckily for the Doctor, who is entirely vexed with the problem of how to defeat it, he happens to stumble in at an opportune moment. Then there’s a bizarre moment when the Master gives every appearance that he’s forgotten he’s trapped on the planet he’s about to plunge into armageddon until the Doctor reminds him.
The reveal of the alien parasite itself is a pretty strong moment: its single eye gazing glassily up like the unearthed fiend in Blood on Satan’s Claw. And the way it heaves itself up as if it’s trying to get at Barnham, and later vomits messily when it’s attacking the Master, are suitably nasty. “The Pandora Machine” was the first plot strand Don Houghton came up with, and it’s the one with the most potential, but in practice it amounts to very little: the machine teleports around, kills a few prisoners, treats us to a slide show of Famous Monsters of Whovieland and is bamboozled by a previous victim. There’s none of the “sinister implications” of Houghton’s supposed inspiration, A Clockwork Orange.
Other plot threads similarly fizzle out. Mailer is summarily dispatched. The World Peace Conference plot has been entirely dropped from the last couple of episodes (presumably, now they’re recording two episodes a fortnight, it didn’t make sense to pay the Asian actors for a brief wrap-up scene in Episode Six). And the Thunderbolt’s abort control doesn’t work, then it does. There’s none of the desperate race against time that made the climax of Inferno so compelling.
I’ve sounded a bit down on The Mind of Evil. That’s not entirely fair. I enjoy it a lot, mainly for Delgado’s brilliant performance (his little business with Pertwee about Bessie in this episode is priceless) and the way it uses the regulars (the Brigadier gets to be cunning – a trait that he’ll rapidly lose from now on; Pertwee and Manning are forging an onscreen partnership that’s as good as Troughton and Hines; Benton gets to be acting governor and immediately starts shuffling the paperwork). The story gives us a glimpse of the way the Season Seven format could have evolved to be a bit less earnest. But it’s not a patch on Inferno, which had a single-minded relentlessness that stream-rollered through seven episodes. By contrast, this is a less focused, less intense piece of work which is entertaining, week on week, but doesn’t quite stack up.
Next episode: The Claws of Axos