While we’re waiting for the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special in November, there’s time to catch up on some of the classic DVDs that have come out in recent months. This one was first shown from January to March 1971, and is the second story to feature the Master. There’s a bit of a pattern to the 1971 Master stories: Master teams up with an alien force in an attempt to take over Earth/the Galaxy/the Universe, it all goes a bit wrong and the Doctor sorts it out, but the Master escapes. And this one’s no exception.
This time, he’s posing as Professor Keller, and claims to have invented a machine that can remove all the violent impulses from a man. In rather dubious circumstances, it’s being tested on hardened criminals at Stangmoor Prison. Apparently in the 70s, background checks and the like were considered optional. As you might expect, the machine actually contains a lethal alien mind parasite, which quite naturally gets out of control and threatens everyone. As if that wasn’t enough, the Master is using all this as a distraction for his main game – stealing an illegal chemical missile that for reasons of, err, reasons, is being transported for destruction while a delicate peace conference is going on. His Terrible Plan is to set it off, kick off a world war and take over what’s left afterwards. This doesn’t seem too wise, as his Tardis can’t go anywhere because the Doctor borrowed a vital component in the previous story, Terror of the Autons.
Lots of the usual fun and games follow, with Deadly Peril from the Keller Machine, prison riots, rescues in the Nick of Time, and so on. All good fun, if a bit stretched over six episodes.
The main extra to be enjoyed here is the fact that it’s in colour at all. The first episode had no colour data at all, and was recoloured by a more manual process than normal, while the remainder had the now quite standard but clever process of recovering colour data from black and white copies. Err, something like that. There’s stuff there, apparently.
Other items, apart from the commentary, photo gallery and information subtitles, include:
- The Military Mind It’s a sign of how long it’s taken to get this story into presentable form that this making of documentary was made in 2009. This does mean that it benefits from the presence of producer Barry Letts and Brigadier actor Nicholas Courtney as well as the other usual suspects.
- Now and then Looking at how the locations have changed in the last forty years. In the case of Dover Castle, which played the prison, not very much, really.
- Behind the Scenes: Television Centre A 1971 piece on how things worked at BBC Television Centre. Nicely historical.
 Most of his plans are like that. Really, really terrible…