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21 October 2013

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

Day 294: The Mind of Evil, Episode Five

Dear diary,

For the first couple of episodes in this story, it seemed like everything was going well. My interest had been raised back up after the season opener, we were seeing a better relationship between the Doctor and his companion, the setting was one that I liked, and everything seemed to be moving in the right general direction. Over the last couple of days, though, I've started to find my attention wandering.

I think there's a couple of reasons for it, but I'm not sure which is having the bigger effect. For starters, we've now pretty much entirely moved away from the contemporary London setting that I was so loving to begin with. As nice as the prison looks, it just doesn't have the same feel that all that location shooting in ordinary streets did. Secondly… the more I think about it, the more the plot just doesn't hold together. UNIT are supposed to be providing security to a major world peace conference, but by the time of today's episode, half the force has been attacked by the prisoners, another half is storming the prison itself, and the three top men (I know that - strictly speaking - Yates and Benton aren't really the 'top men' of UNIT, but they are in the eyes of anyone watching the Pertwee years!) are all away from the main conference, too.

Who's looking after things in London? I know they've removed the Master's influence on Captain Chin Lee, but at a conference where several delegates have been murdered and important documents have gone 'missing', you think they'd need to have someone keeping an eye on things!

And then you've got poor Jo - she's not been outside the prison walls since Episode One, and most of the time she's spent locked away in that cell. All of this means that I'm noticing far more the different variations on the old 'capture-and-escape' routine that usually pads out a third episode.

It's not all bad. Today we get a fantastic sequence in which UNIT storm the prison, and it's possibly the most useful we've ever seen them. It comes on the heels of a scene in which the Brigadier pretends to be delivering provisions (and the whole story is justified simply by hearing Nick Courtney - in as 'man-in-the-street' voice possible - use the word 'nosh'), and then it's all brilliant from there on out. The soldiers sneaking from the back of the van ready to attack is great, and the storming of the castle (complete with men climbing the walls!) is one of the best directed sequences we've had in a while. Director Timothy Combe has been with us in one form or another since as far back as The Keys of Marinus, so it's a shame to see him making his departure from the programme in this serial.

The attack on the prison does have to go down as another one of those things that just doesn't quite make sense, mind. The Brigadier is presented with a map and a suggestion is made that there could be a secret way in - it is an old castle after all. Luckily enough, there is! That's convenient. The Brigadier even knows the way. Also convenient. Above and beyond that - and despite the place now being home to hardened criminals - the secret passageway has never been blocked off. That's really convenient.

And also a little bit stupid.

But then they don't seem to use the secret entrance! They simply drive up to the gate with a big old van of nosh! There was one moment when a group of UNIT soldiers ascended some steps which seemed to be coming from a tunnel, and I assumed that it must be the secret way in, but it can't be because it's too bloody obvious! The prisoner's would be in and out as they please. It's never a good sign when I start to worry more about things not adding up than simply enjoying the story, so I'm hoping that things turn around for me in the final instalment. This story also marks the final contribution of Don Houghton to the series, and he did so impress me with Inferno a few weeks ago, I'd love to see him leave on a high…

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