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20 October 2013

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

Day 293: The Mind of Evil, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I think the thing I'm enjoying the most about The Mind of Evil is how well it showcases the Doctor and the Master as enjoying their little squabble. When John Simm took over the role in 2007, much was made about the fact that he was a Master to play specifically against David Tennant's incarnation of the Doctor. He was young, and energetic. He would talk at a million miles per hour and pull faces in just the same way. It was an incarnation of the character designed to work against the Tenth Doctor, and I'm not sure how well he would fit in playing opposite any of the others.

Having never really watched this incarnation of the Master before, my main exposure to the character has been in the form of the Ainley version - who played against four incarnations from Tom Baker to Sylvester McCoy. Sure, he's got lots of characteristics that I instantly equate with being quintessentially 'Master-ish', but he isn't tailored to each individual version of his nemesis. I think he works fairly well against them all to some extent, but you can tell he's not custom-created.

The only other point of reference that I've really got comes in the form of the Master's precursor - for want of a better word - the Meddling Monk. Peter Butterworth was a great foil for William Hartnell, and came at a time when the character had softened somewhat. It meant that his little giggles and smiles fitted perfectly with the Doctor we'd been getting used to throughout the second season, but he was able to bring out the fire at the heart of that incarnation.

Moreso than the Monk, though, I'm finding that the Delgado Master is very much designed to be a part of the Third Doctor's life, and this episode highlights that perfectly. At various stages, they each call Jo 'my dear', and if the point had been lost on us, they abandon all subtlety and go for a full-on crossfade between the characters at one point, which has the odd effect of looking a bit like a dodgy regeneration. It's a joy to watch the pair of them on the screen together, though, and the moment that the Master frees his foe from the attack of the Keller Machine is wonderful.

'We're both Time Lords,' he pleads, and it gives us a dynamic that we've never been able to see in the series before. There's shades of the same argument used in The War Games, when the War Chief tries to make the Doctor help him, but it's great to see that angle being played out with a long-running character (or, at least, a character who will become long-running).

Yesterday's episode gave us perhaps the best examples of the Doctor and the Master playing a game with each other - the Doctor strolls into the Governer's office to find his nemesis sitting behind the desk, and simply says 'Yes… I thought as much…' while he takes his seat. A few scenes later, having made his escape, the Doctor barricades himself in with the machine, only to find the Master waiting casually for him behind the door. We've just watched the Doctor make his way across the prison in a proper action sequence, but the Master greets him by saying 'I thought you'd make for here…', before setting up the cliffhanger.

The pair are simply playing a game with each other, and it's a great counterpoint to all the high-stakes playing out elsewhere in the story. Today sees the missile being taken out of UNIT's hands (Again, you have to wonder why this lot have been entrusted with such high-stake jobs - I know it's the Master pulling strings in the right places, but surely there must have been a real wall of objection?!), and a wholesale slaughter of their soldiers - but it still feels as though the Doctor and the Master are playing cowboys and indians for fun. It's brilliant - and I'm really glad to see why people are always banging on about Delgado being THE Master.

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