Most fans of the BBC's long-running sci-fi series 'Doctor Who', including myself, have only been fans since the show was revived in 2005. The show's lengthy run from 1963 to 1989 has been largely glossed over as a different show entirely (that's how databases like Netflix -- and even TVRage -- view it). And, to an extent, that's true.
Take, for instance, "The Mind of Evil," a serial newly out on DVD from the BBC. It's an episode that functions better as a historical artefact than an actual episode of television -- I can't imagine many new fans sitting down and enjoying it with the same earnestness as, say, "Midnight" or "The Name of the Doctor." The story isn't that strong, the special effects are distractingly bad (by today's standards), and the episode largey seems to be a part of its time.
But being dated is what makes it fascinating, especially in a year in which fans will be looking back to the classic series more than ever. "The Mind of Evil" is a time capsule back to the show's earlier years, when the Doctor was an older man played by Jon Pertwee and the BBC's budget cuts restricted him from using the TARDIS to leave earth.
That's right -- this is 'Doctor Who' with no TARDIS. Hard to imagine, right?
But while Pertwee's era of Doctor Who was really just a series about a smart old man solving sci-fi mystery after sci-fi mystery -- this time, he investigates a new criminal rehabilitation machine secretly set up by his archenemy the Master (in one of his earliest appearances) -- it does feel strangely like the same show.
Maybe that's due to Pertwee, who is absolutely fantastic as the Doctor's third incarnation. He's a version of the Doctor unlike post-2005 viewers have ever seen: he's righteously meddlesome, usually grumpy, and he dresses like a particularly flamboyant university professor. He's the kind of Doctor that would probably never head up the more youth-oriented post-2005 series, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy him here. He's the highlight of a relatively weak story, and if you've never seen the Third Doctor in action, he's perfectly magnetic here. (As is Delgado, who plays the Master's slimy, cigar-smoking first incarnation).
So while "The Mind of Evil" lacks in some areas -- namely, in providing a compelling story -- it still provides a nice microcosm of the series at that time. How much you'll enjoy "The Mind of Evil" is directly connected to how big a 'Who' fan you are, but if you can't get enough of Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith, you should definitely give Pertwee a try.
The DVD of "The Mind of Evil" features a commentary with the surviving members of the episode's cast, along with the director, producer, script editor, and stunt arranger (it's inessential). There's a making-of featurette, and a non-'Who' specific BBC behind-the-scenes documentary (which too seems to highlight the serial as a historical artefact rather than a great episode of television).
'Doctor Who: The Mind of Evil' is out on DVD now.