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17 October 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 290: The Mind of Evil, Episode One

Dear diary,

It’s funny how simply being onto a new story has instantly turned around my mood – I’ve enjoyed today’s episode a lot more than I did anything from Terror of the Autons. I think it helps that everyone seems to be far more settled into their roles now, too. The Doctor and Jo laugh and joke as they approach Dracula’s castle – sorry, the prison – and his messing about into the security camera is brilliant - very Doctor, and I don’t think it would look out of place if Troughton or Tom Baker were doing it.

Once we’re inside, the Doctor is back to his usual pompous self… but I quite like that! He undercuts the demonstration of the Keller Machine at every turn by chipping in his own commentary on the situation. Rude and arrogant, yes, but it’s very in keeping with this incarnation, and I’m finding myself quite liking it. Professor Kettering's reactions to the constant interruptions are great fun, too.

As for the machine itself… well that’s nonsense. At one point, then Doctor asks what happens to all the negative energies once they’ve been extracted is that they’re simply stored in there – but not to worry because it’s only 65% full. Surely they’ve not thought this through, though? What happens in a few more experiments time, when it’s teetering on the 100% full mark? Do they construct another machine and bury this one as though it were nuclear waste? I’m surprised (although pleased) that the Master hasn’t turned up today, but I’m guessing he’s probably on his way to steal the machine, or he’s the one behind the invention in the first place.

It’s really good to see the Doctor and UNIT working on different missions. They can’t be foiling an alien invasion every day of the week, so it’s good to see them being given something more ordinary to do in managing the security for a peace conference. I’ve seen their performance before now, mind, so I’m not sure that I’d trust them with such an important job… I think what pleases me is that I’m just as interested by their story as I am the one that the Doctor is following up.

We get a good opportunity to see the Brigadier out on his own, away from the Doctor, too. I’ve said it a few times over the last few months, but we really are lucky to have an actor like Nicholas Courtney be so vitally involved with the programme. He does a great stock in ‘apathetic’ and 'exasperated' acting, and his reactions to Captain Chin Lee today aren’t a million miles away from the way he finds himself feeling in the Doctor’s company.

I think what’s impressed me the most about today’s episode is the colour of it. Until very recently, this tale only existed as a black and white copy, but restoration for the DVD has seen the entire serial returned to full colour for the first time since the 1970s. It's been brought back to life by hand-colouring several key frames, and then using a number of techniques to make this work for the full story.

It’s the work of the very talented Stuart Humphryes and Peter Crocker. Now, I knew they’d colourised this story. When it was announced, everyone was so excited about it. It’s telling that I only remembered the fact after I’d started writing this entry – the work is fantastic. I can’t begin to imagine the amount of patience needed to complete a project like this, but it’s well worth it because it looks gorgeous.

It does make me wonder, though, about a specific scene of the episode. During the demonstration of the Keller machine – while I’d forgotten about the recolourisation of the episode – I made a note about how good it looked once the lights were dimmed and the room was bathed in a pale blue light. Far more effective than the regular lighting on the set, and I was all ready to declare it as being better than a lot of the lighting we get in the programme. I’m wondering now if it would have looked as good as that originally, or if some of it is down to to the skill in the colouring? Either way, it looked stunning, and brought me completely on board with the story. We’re off to a good start…

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