This March sees the screening of a Doctor Who story that sits in a small number of anomalies when it comes to looking at the colour relationships built around the program. When discussing the stories from the 1960s, it seemed that the most difficult aspect of this topic had been covered (especially with stories where there is sadly no visual stimulus left to enjoy at all) but moving onto the Pertwee era sees a small group of stories that, through no fault of their own, have had a mixture of colour associations built from their scrapping of the original colour prints.
The Mind of Evil (1971) by Don Houghton is a story that already sticks out of its placing in the rest Season 8. Though it still has The Master at the route the trouble just like every other story in the season, it seems far darker and gritty, more akin to the stories of Season 7 such as Ambassadors of Death or Inferno (both 1970). Some of this can of course be tied into its narrative of extreme right wing, prisoner rehabilitation, a dark creature that feeds on the nightmares, fears and evil impulses of its victims[i], and a world peace delegation thwart with issues of racism and even potential for a Third World War.
It would be wrong to say that this story seems darker than its peers simply because of its status as missing in colour, yet it seems natural to displace it in such a way. Of course, Terror of the Autons and The Daemons (both 1971) have a mixture of NTSC colour copies and black and white telerecording mixes, meaning that a little paint brush was added to the VHS sleeve in the 1990s, and perhaps because of this almost garish sense of colour throughout the rest of Season 8, The Mind of Evil has always stood out as the violent, literal black sheep of the pack.
This is why its colourising process and journey is so interesting, not just because of the innovative ways that it has been achieved (episode 1 has been “colourised” while 2-6 have been “colour restored” which will be discussed on a BFI panel at the event) but because of the potential effect it could have on thematic aesthetics of the narrative. Whereas a story like Ambassadors of Death was bound to have a similarly muted colour palette[ii], it seems almost unnatural to associate The Mind of Evil with the rest of season 8’s bright and colourful Daemons, Axons, Autons and Primitives. It will be a wonder to see what effects this new colour state has on the story; new nuances may be found, scenes may stand out more for their dreamlike fantasy or dulcet prison colours.
The Doctor’s nightmare about the previous events from Inferno only seems vaguely surreal in black and white. Who knows what Technicolor nightmare the Doctor will be facing with red and orange flames bound to be engulfing the screen as Pertwee screams with equal doses of fear and guilt.
The Mind of Evil in colour is screened at the BFI on the 10th of March. Guest panel includes Katy Manning, Richard Franklin, John Levene, Terrence Dicks, Timothy Combe and members of the RT team. The event however is sadly sold out.
[i] A creature so powerful that even The Doctor and The Master are almost killed by it and find impossible to control.