Doctor Who's Psychedelic Head Trip Of Evil, Finally Back In Color

The classic Doctor Who story, "The Mind Of Evil," will be restored to color for a DVD release, the BBC announced at a Swansea convention. The evil-brain-machine tale has only existed in black-and-white since the BBC's mass junkings of tapes.

Gallifrey News Base reports that the BBC told the Regenerations convention a recolored "Mind Of Evil" would be coming to DVD sometime in the next year or two. Actor Nicholas Courtney, who plays Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, has reportedly recorded a commentary track.

The idea of getting a color version of "Mind Of Evil" is especially thrilling — it's one of the least appreciated stories starring the Master, the evil time traveler who used to be the Doctor's friend. In one of his zillions of Earthbound disguises, the Master develops a machine that leaches the "negative impulses" out of criminals' brains — and whenever the machine is activated, you hear a sinister instrumental version of Edith Piaf's "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien," as the machine throbs with stored-up malevolence. And eventually, it makes the Doctor and other people see whiirling hallucinations. What could be better? Oh yes — there's also a "nerve gas missile."

Doctor Who originally filmed in black-and-white back in the 1960s, but went to color when Jon Pertwee took over as the show's star in 1970. But after the BBC trashed its only copies of many of the show's early episodes, several Pertwee stories only existed in monochrome. (Some of these stories were reportedly sold overseas in black-and-white, and only those versions remained.) A few of these stories, including "Doctor Who And The Silurians" and "Terror Of The Autons," still existed in color in off-air videotape recordings, and the BBC was able to transfer the color from the videotapes to the black-and-white masters.

But this still left some Pertwee episodes available only in color, including one episode of the six-part adventure "The Planet Of The Daleks." That Dalek story appears as part of the new "Dalek War" box set (also including "Frontier In Space"), and the BBC has managed to re-color that episode. The Doctor Who Restoration Team website provides an intensely technical discussion of the process that restored this episode to color — involving two different processes: the computer colorization process used by the American firm Legend, and the BBC's newly invented "Colour Restoration" process, created by engineer James Insell. Explains the Restoration Team site:

Some years ago, whilst watching a UK Gold broadcast of another Doctor Who episode that now only exists as a monochrome film recording, he had seen strong patches of spurious colour breaking through and realised that it meant that at least some of the colour subcarrier was still present in the film recording. He became interested in exploring the possibility that it might be possible to extract this information and decode it back to the original colour.

Insell met with bureaucratic resistance but founded his own working group, which finally cracked the problem, with a brilliance worthy of the Doctor himself.

Here's hoping the same processes really can restore vivid color to the long-forgotten "Mind Of Evil."