The Season Eight story ‘The Mind of Evil’ is not really considered to be one of the lost Doctor Who episodes. After all, we have it on DVD, in full colour – and it’s about to be released on a Blu-ray box set.
But the situation around this classic Third Doctor story is more complicated than it would first seem…
Like many of Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who stories, ‘The Mind of Evil’ was recorded on videotape, with black and white film copies being made for overseas transmission. In fact, these black and white films are the ones that currently reside in the BBC archive. The original videotapes have been missing since the 1970s.
But how did ‘The Mind of Evil’ come to be one of the lost Doctor Who episodes?
Well, it had long been the practice at the BBC to wipe and destroy television programmes that were considered to be of no further commercial value. This may seem odd in hindsight, but it made a lot of sense in the 60s and 70s. Often, TV shows were limited to one transmission and one repeat, and weren’t allowed to be shown again. And videotape was an expensive commodity, so it was considered wise economic practice to re-use tapes that were taking up valuable space in the archive.
‘The Mind of Evil,’ therefore, officially became one of the lost Doctor Who episodes in the mid 70s, when its master tape was wiped by the BBC. And indeed, it remained unrepresented in the archive for some time. It wasn’t until the BBC’s archive selector – Sue Malden – explored the bowels of BBC Enterprise’s film vault that she recovered a large number of Third Doctor film prints that had been returned from overseas.
Indeed, a number of the lost Doctor Who episodes were recovered this way, and Malden actually found the majority of Third Doctor adventures at BBC Enterprises, as black and white film copies. The exceptions were ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ episode one, and ‘Death to the Daleks’ episode one, which were returned later.
But what of the colour versions of these stories? Well, if you’re familiar with the Jon Pertwee DVD collection, you will know that we now have all of them (pretty much) in full colour. These lost Doctor Who episodes were rediscovered and restored in a myriad of different ways. Some countries, like Canada, held colour copies that were returned to the BBC after the intervention of fan and missing episode hunter Ian Levine.
Other lost Doctor Who episodes – such as ‘The Daemons‘ – were returned to their original colour thanks to domestic off-air recordings, which were made by fans at the time of their original broadcast. These were later blended with sharper black and white film prints to create full colour composites.
However, this sadly was not possible with ‘The Mind of Evil’ as only fragments of off-air colour recordings existed. It seemed as if the colour versions of these lost Doctor Who episodes were gone forever.
And indeed, the originals remain missing to this day. But the reason this story is available in colour today on DVD (and, as of 2021, on Blu-ray) is because of a complicated process known as chroma dot recovery. Simply put, the black and white film copies of ‘The Mind of Evil’ contain little pieces of colour information that, when run through the right kind of computer programme, can be decoded to restore the episodes’ original saturation and hue.
However, this magical process is sadly not possible for all of the lost Doctor Who episodes from the Pertwee era. ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ episode one, for example, is missing some of its colour information. And ‘The Mind of Evil’ episode one has no chroma dots whatsoever, meaning that it had to be repainted frame-by-frame by an artist known as Babelcolour.
This is why ‘The Mind of Evil’ is still (technically) one of the lost Doctor Who episodes. Like a number of the Third Doctor adventures, we don’t have access to the original colour tapes. Indeed, very few of the Jon Pertwee stories in the BBC archive are the videotape originals.
So where could we find these lost Doctor Who episodes? Well, ‘The Mind of Evil’ was broadcast in the US and Canada, so you might want to start there. Although it’s unlikely that you’d find any copies in the original TV stations, as they’ve apparently been fully searched. You might, however, find some prints in the hands of private collectors, or even on domestic tapes made at the time of the original broadcast.
That is, of course, assuming that someone didn’t smuggle any lost Doctor Who episodes out of the BBC before they were wiped, which can never be ruled out. Episodes such as ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’ episode two have come back to the archive via this route. Somebody may even have pilfered copies from TV stations in America or Canada.
That being said, the version of ‘The Mind of Evil’ that we have today looks pretty good – especially when you consider the painstaking process that was undertaken to restore it. And it’s not “missing” in the way that some Doctor Who episodes are; we don’t even have telesnaps of serials such as ‘The Massacre,’ let alone film footage.
So it’s great to think that we can still enjoy these (technically) lost Doctor Who episodes in the new Season Eight box set, alongside other classic serials such as ‘Terror of the Autons‘ and ‘The Claws of Axos.’
Which one are you looking forward to re-watching (or watching) for the first time? Let me know in the comments below.
And for more on the lost Doctor Who episodes of the Pertwee era, check out this fantastic YouTube documentary from filmmaker Josh Snares, and our guest post on The Doctor Who Companion: Are there really any missing Third Doctor episodes?
Also, check out our guide to the Doctor’s oldest enemy, the Master.
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