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18 October 2013

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

Day 291: The Mind of Evil, Episode Two

Dear diary,

One of the things I've found most rewarding about doing The 50 Year Diary is finding that Doctor Who is far richer than I'd ever realised. There's always little coincidences that crop up, which makes experiencing it all in sequence all the more rewarding. It's things like Nicholas Courtney helping the First Doctor to fight the Daleks, before returning to the Time Lord's life in a different role, or seeing the evolution of Doctors and companions over the years.

Today it's all about those few places in time and space which just attract aliens. I had a wonderful feeling when watching bits of today's episode that I'd been here before. It was when the road sign for 'Cromwell Gardens' appeared that I thought 'ah! The First Doctor fought the War Machines around there!' before suddenly realising that - actually - he'd trapped a War Machine in that very spot! Because I've never seen The Mind of Evil before, I didn't know that the series had ever returned to this location, but suddenly noticing it gives me such a great feeling - it's a whole extra layer to what I'm watching, and gives me a slightly odd nostalgic pang for William Hartnell!

It has to be said that this same scene is a wonderful example of why CSO isn't always the answer. When Captain Chin Lee makes her phone call, it looks so much better than a similar scene in the previous story, in which the background had been added via Colour Separation. It just feels more natural. Actually, all the location work in this story is lovely, and it feels like the right kind of setting for me. Central London is a location that I praised in The War Machines (fittingly, it seems!), The Invasion, and Doctor Who and the Silurians, and it's great to see so much time being spent here. I wonder if this might be another problem I had with the last story - the setting of a circus was just too 'out there' for what appeals to me?

Watching Benton (badly) try to keep tabs on a suspect, or seeing the Master stroll across a park just feels much more real to me, and I think that all helps. The shot that appealed to me most is only a few seconds long - the Doctor and the Brigadier exit the house and walk along the road. It's simple. It's short. It's real. It looks so good to see the Doctor out and about in his fancy dress (and it's become even more fancy dress now, with the addition of the red jacket) amongst real people going about their lives. It really helps to focus the series as being set in then contemporary Britain.

In some ways, I should be disappointed to see the Master turning up again today (I knew he was in the story - indeed, it's the only thing that I do know about this one!), but I was actually quite pleased to see him. It helps that he arrives on the scene utilising a disguise very well once again, and that once he has shown his face, he's back to being very suave. It's another chance to draw a comparison with The War Machines - there, I said that the Doctor looked out of place sat in the back of a car, as I was so used to seeing him out and about on Mechanus, or back in time during the Crusades. Here, the Master just looks right dressed smartly and smoking a cigar as he sits in the back of a car to hold a 'meeting'.

The way he hypnotises Chin Lee paints him as being very in control of the situation, and he feels like a genuine threat. While UNIT are busy running around, out of their depth, he knows exactly what he's doing, and he seems to be rather enjoying himself…

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