...a blog by Richard Flowers

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Day 4622: Syrians versus Badgers


One day, I would hope, people will stop thinking that the solution to a problem is to throw ordinance at it.

But apparently that’s not today. No, today we are talking about curing cows by shooting badgers and curing a civil war by lobbing bombs into Syria.

Since being dead means they don’t have TB any more this is supposed to be “better for the badgers too”; presumably Lord Blairimort – hmm, “TB” – will pop up shortly to make the same argument about Syrians.

In either case, we’re in danger of making the cure worse than the disease.

Can we please resist this drift into military action in Syria.

It seems that a successful intervention in Libya has cleansed military minds of the cataclysm that we brought about by wading into Iraq.

This accelerating drum beat to war is being driven by some pretty horrific stories in our newspapers and on the television.

Why do our media seem to care more about massacres in Syria when we barely hear a report on the ongoing conflicts in Africa, the more distant parts of Asia and Latin America? Partly, I suspect, it’s immediacy, novelty even; partly it’s because of the effect on our so-called “national interests”, our allies in Turkey and Israel being closely affected by the conflict, and then there are all those nearby oilfields (although of course the war in the African Congo is paid for by the mining rights for those rare metals that we need for our smart-phones and sadPads); partly even it may be that after years of reporting on “Middle Eastern Crises” (from Cyprus to Yom Kippur War, from Lebanon to Intifada; from Iraq to Arab Spring) there’s just a core of embedded, committed journalists there with on-the-ground knowledge and stories to tell.

But are highly emotive stories of the horror of civil war entirely the best way to be deciding on whether we throw our armed forces into yet another conflict?

It would be nice to think that everyone agrees that gassing civilian populations is an act of evil. Although clearly not everyone agrees or it wouldn’t happen.

But do we really protect people from bullies by being the bigger bully?

We certainly don’t seem to be willing to take these people out of harm’s way by offering them safe haven thousands of miles from the conflict in the United Kingdom. No, it appears we’d much rather they stayed there in the firing line while we take some pot-shots at the Syrian army to “give them a taste of their own medicine”. (Not, obviously the poison gas kind of medicine.)

“There are no good outcomes in Syria,” we are warned, “but non-intervention is the worst.”


Because this civil war is the outcome of nothing but interventions, ever since the “great powers” decided to carve up the Ottoman Empire, and since perfidious Albion (that’s us, by the way) promised the same small acreage to about a dozen different mutually-antagonistic factions, we’ve kept on sticking our noses into the Middle East, picking sides for proxies in the Cold War, supporting dictators because they promised to keep the oil flowing, supplying billions of dollars (to Israel, to Egypt, we don’t discriminate) with which their military can buy weapons from us for “self-defence” in order to support jobs at home without thought as to where those weapons might one day be pointed (that means at us, by the way).

For decades, Presidents and Prime Monsters have talked about “draining the swamp” of the Middle East. Instead, we just keep pumping in more mud.

There are hard questions to ask: Can we do anything? Can we actually stop this sort of thing happening? Are we sure we will make things better? Regardless of what good we do, what harm will we also cause? What will be the consequences?

If we say we will intervene, will this provoke the Assad regime to greater atrocities in an attempt to “win” before our forces can reach the battlegrounds? Or will our tacit support of the rebels drive them to recklessly assault government-held positions in the assumption that we will arrive to back them up? How will Vladimir Putin’s Russia – already feeling isolated, ignored, insulted and impotent – react? Does the West’s reputation for selfishly hoarding the World’s resources and randomly blowing up any bits of the planet that get “uppity” about it really need any more sullying?

Civil war is very rarely the best route from dictatorship to democracy; replacing one regime with another does not a liberal democracy create. What you need is time, rule of law, stability, broader education and even a dollop of affluence. But imposing a democracy from outside is even worse. You cannot, after all, impose self-determination.

John Stuart Mill, writing in 1859, had a Few Words to say on Non-Intervention [pdf]. At a time when the British Empire saw itself as a “civilising influence” he may have rather gone along with that attitude towards “barbarians”, but when it came to civil war, his answer was this:
“When the contest is only with native rulers, and with such native strength as those rulers can enlist in their defence, the answer I should give to the question of the legitimacy of intervention is, as a general rule, No.”
And he explains:
“The reason is, that there can seldom be anything approaching to assurance that intervention, even if successful, would be for the good of the people themselves.”

As for the badgers: I am constitutionally against the assassination of fluffy animals!

But even if I wasn’t, would it not be better to await the outcome of the vaccination trials currently being conducted in Wales? As I recall the evidence from the last time a cull was tried was that the cases of bovine TB actually went up, (presumably because badgers are territorial and wiping them out allows for greater movement of badgers and hence greater chance of infection and cross-infection) and even DEFRA’s own scientists only estimate a reduction in new TB cases of 12% to 16%.

Killing things hardly seems to be a solution.

Who’d have thought!


There is an E-petition to stop the badger cull (care of Dr Brian May!).

Having already gained more than double the 100,000 signatures threshold this ought to be debated in Parliament, were they not all off on recess, but please continue to sign to increase the pressure on them to do so.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Day 4616: No Shit Sherlock


Cool as a Cumberpatch

I have to confess that I am disappointed that Cap'n Clegg's response to the detention of David Miranda and the destruction of data at the Graniad has been measured rather than robust. I can understand it - and Nick Thornton makes a good case for considering the two cases separately - but I'm still less than happy that the case for Civil Liberties has to be made by a silent protest from a famous actor when there are Liberal Democrats in government who should be doing so.

A bit less measured and an bit more Mark Pack and Julian Huppert please. And where exactly IS Jeremy Browne?


Well done old friend to Mr Nigel Booth for letter in the Graun.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Day 4614: Miranda (Not the Funny One)


Mr David Miranda, a passenger en route from Berlin to Brazil and not entering the UK, has been detained at Heathrow Airport under the Terrorism Act 2000, and held for the full nine hours allowed under that Act before being released. His telephone, laptop, games console, DVDs and other electronica have been confiscated.

Mr Miranda is not a terrorist suspect.

This is an abuse of power. This is why Labour were wrong.

We need to be abolishing these laws and Labour’s Yvette Cooper needs to be apologising for her part in enacting them, not demanding answers like a victim.

Hard Labour’s terrorism laws and security theatre are wide open to this kind of abuse and this proves it. Their excuse at the time – “we would never abuse these laws” – we already shown to be hollow, if not downright mendacious, when Walter Wolfgang was arrested at their own Party Conference. But they are shown to be absurd in their cries “oh the Evil Coalition” – and who left the “Evil Coalition” with all these power to abuse, eh? And who warned you not to do anything so bloody stupid?

Nevertheless, as members of the Coalition, this certainly happened on “our watch” and for that we are to blame.

The first question has to be whether we are directly to blame: we urgently need to discover who ordered this and why.

“Who?” is either a minister who needs to be made accountable, or someone in the police or security services possibly acting ultra vires.

The Grauniad is quick to conflate the police/borders authority/security services who detained Mr Miranda with “the UK government”. (Irrelevantly to the illegality of his detention but possibly not unconnectedly Mr Miranda is the partner of one of the Grauniad journalists reporting on the whistle-blower Edward Snowdon and the American NSA, and “intimidation” has quickly – but plausibly – been suggested as a motive.)

I suspect that that is slack reporting rather than bias, but as a first step we need to establish (in decreasing order of culpability) if anyone in government – presumably the Home Office – ordered this, or were aware of this before the fact, or during the fact.

“Why?” then leads to questions of greater UK involvement in the whole Prism/email hacking scandal, or perhaps someone being too eager to do a favour for our American cousins. The possibility of the “phone call from the State Department” being at the root of this reminds us of the dangerously subservient Blair-era relationship between US and UK.

But even if we’re not guilty of direct abuse of power, we have still failed to do our part to prevent it by rolling back the police state that the last government was intent on putting into place.

Our Freedoms Bill was watered down and we have failed to move the Civil Liberties agenda on far enough. Theresa May’s Home Office in particular is rife with “little initiatives” to try and increase rather than decrease the powers that police and security services already have. Every success is treated as proof they need these powers; every failure is cited as evidence that they need more power.

Labour and Conservatives have both demonstrated that they cannot be trusted with our Rights and Liberties, except that you can trust them to take liberties with your rights while handing over more money and power to the security industry.

As Liberal Democrats even we cannot be trusted with this sort of power. That is why we must urgently press to repeal those powers to take the temptation away.

We need to take a stand on this.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Day 4602: Are UKIP Racist or Is It just Everything They Say?


After Eight on this morning’s Today Programme on Radio 4, there was a discussion of Trolling on the website that has been linked to the suicide of a young person.

“How,” asked the incredulous Justin, “can people use such language?”

Well, you don’t even need directing to the BEAR PIT of the Grauniad’s “Comment is Free (of conscience)” or the BBC’s own “Have Your S(l)ay” comments, when fewer than twenty minutes earlier, they’d had their own Jim Naughty egging on racist language from UKIP MEP Godfrey “Bongo Bongo” Bloom, who denies we have a duty to other people if they're in other countries.

When challenged that his language was “a wee bit offensive”, the unrepentant xenophobe said:

"If I've offended anybody in Bongo Bongo Land I will write to their ambassador at the Court of St James."

To which I answer: Well, in that case I challenge you to prove that even ONE pound has been spent on the citizens of “Bongo Bongo Land” or admit that you are a TOTAL FRAUD AND LIAR.

Obviously, this UKIP nut has been encouraged to play this ever-more unpleasant populist charade by the STUPID AND OFFENSIVE “Go Home Vans” that some MORON at the Home Office has had driving round London. And the Border Agency’s “stop-and-search checkpoints” that were even TOO RACIST FOR UKIP!

(And actually, Hard Labour have contributed to this as well with Mr Milipede’s “apology” for “getting it wrong on immigration”.)

Liberal Democrats were TOO SLOW to condemn those things, and we must stop them ever happening again!

When Mr "Something of the Night" Howard hissed “It’s not racist to talk about immigration”, the country responded with a resounding: “It IS the way YOU talk about immigration!”

How FAR we have FALLEN!

Liberal Democrats, we NEED to be the INTERNATIONALISM Party – we need to be the PRO-Immigration, PRO-Europe, and PRO-International Development Party!

We need to stand up and say (as Mr Vince DOES say) Immigration is GOOD for Great Britain!

We need to stand up for EUROPE and say that it is GOOD for JOBS and TRADE and TRAVEL and PEACE.

And we need to stand up and say International Aid is NOT “just” charity – it is our FIRST LINE OF DEFENCE. If we can help the poorest in the World live in even SLIGHTLY healthier conditions, get clean water and vaccinations, then we PROTECT OURSELVES against PANDEMICS. If we intervene with education and development to make impoverished countries even SLIGHTLY better off, we REDUCE the PRESSURE on people to become ECONOMIC MIGRANTS and REFUGEES. If we ACT to reduce TENSIONS in the most difficult regions in the World, we PREVENT international FLASHPOINTS and CONFLICT from becoming WAR and TERRORISM.

And of course, DECENT people would recognise that as one of the RICHEST countries ON EARTH, even if that WASN’T as a result of PILLAGING the PLANET during our IMPERIAL past, we would still, of course, have DUTY to offer help to the less well off.


So Godfrey Bloom is not JUST saying things that are EVIL and OFFENSIVELY RACIST, they are DEEPLY STUPID and ANTI-BRITISH too!

If Britain’s Favourite Banker, Mr Nigel Farrago, is SERIOUS about his claim that he will “purge” UKIP of racists, then I hope Mr Bloom will get more than just a "slap on the wrist" and should soon be seeking new employment. Not that I’m VERY impressed by the way UKIP keep on getting RACISTS and FRAUDSTERS and “hilarious characters” elected and then firing them and then claiming “ooh, no, it’s not US, we got rid of the bad apples!”

Clue: STOP picking BAD APPLES in the FIRST PLACE!

Meanwhile, the PROPER political Parties – and the MEDIA – need a KICK UP THE BACKSIDE about the kind of LANGUAGE that is acceptable.

Trolling on the Internet does NOT happen in isolation; it’s merely more EXTREME, but its origins lie in the way we are willing to talk to each other in public. Never mind “political correctness gone mad”, this is political correctness just GONE!

UKIP deserves NO RESPECT because they treat PEOPLE with NO RESPECT.

But the same goes for the rest of us too. We need to be BETTER to each other, people. We need to be better.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Monday, August 05, 2013

Day 4599: EX-EFFING-TERMINATE or The Many Many Curses of Fatal Death


Peter Capaldi is the new Doctor Woo!

After all the rumours and speculation, we can hardly believe our luck. It can’t be him, can it? But it is!

We’re absolutely delighted. He’s a brilliant actor with a hugely exciting body of work to show it. Yes, he’s hilarious, terrifying and even occasionally worthy of pathos as Malcolm Tucker the monstrous face of modern politics’ spin machine, but go watch “The Hour”, “The Crow Road”, “Torchwood: Children of Earth”, “Prime Suspect*” or (as we did last night) “Neverwhere” for many different faces that’ll convince you of his range and versatility.

He’s been greeted such almost-Universal acclaim that I can’t help but feel for Matt Smith all over again, whose announcement was followed by a wholly undeserved backlash. Of course, Matt went on to reply to that in the best way possible: by being a brilliant, brilliant Doctor. I’m reminded of dear Carry John who suffered for a long time from no one having told her just how very, very good she was as Dr Liz Shaw. Thank goodness Peter told Matt he was brilliant straight after “The Eleventh Hour”. And Matt’s message to his successor was really sweet in turn.

It’s true that “older” is the least dangerous of the choices that the production team could have made. When David Tennant was leaving, we’d hoped that his successor would be the first black Doctor* – the name on everyone’s lips being Peter’s “Neverwhere” co-star Paterson Joseph. (Did I mention you should check out “Neverwhere”; it’s frightfully good, and Paterson Joseph’s Marquis de Carabas is frightfully Doctorish.) This time around, I did just slightly wonder if it wasn’t going to be the right time for a woman to get the role – what with the Doctor having nearly died in “Let’s Kill Hitler” and been revived with all of River Song’s regeneration energy, I wondered if that wasn’t a set-up for him to become a her.

But let us not let might-have-beens overshadow what a wonderful actor they have chosen to play the white, male twelfth Doctor.

That is, he’s the twelfth Doctor but the Time Lord’s thirteenth life. (Subject to someone explaining whatever the hell’s going on with John Hurt.) Which, according to the series’ lore, is his last life. And that lore is engrained enough in the public consciousness that the BBC news website feels the need to ask the question: “How many more times can the Doctor regenerate?”, even if they then go on to say that it’s the sort of question only “hardcore” fans worry about.

Moffat’s been there before, of course, when he wrote “Curse of the Fatal Death” for Comic Relief, and “used up” all the Doctor’s remaining incarnations in one slightly careless effort to effect repairs to the Daleks’ Zectronic device. His solution then was to – impossibly – have the Doctor regenerate one more time… into a woman. And not just any woman, either! Lummy!

Now, far be it for me to suggest that the writer of “What I Did in My Holidays by Sally Sparrow” (or “Blink” as you might know it) would repeat himself… Ahem.

I will say this of Moffat – as I said on Facebook last night – he does know how to cast a Doctor. Matt proved that already, blowing away the doubters, and now Peter will do the same again. It’s also pretty brave to hire an actor (who is also a writer and director) with the stature to stand up to the production team and say “no, we’re going to do it this way”. Tom Baker was notorious for tearing up scripts and tearing down directors if he felt they were not up to the standards he thought the show deserved. And we all know that something happened with Eccleston, even if we’ll never find out exactly what. Hopefully, though, this will be a positive challenge to Moffat and the other writers to raise their game.

The move to “movie of the week” stories has improved the focus, and the Clara story arc was much more tautly conceived and executed than the convoluted Amy/River/Silence mess, but they still need to really work on making the episodes not fall over at the end (I’m looking at “A Town Called Mercy”, “Rings of Akhaten” and particularly “The Power of Three” as examples, and perhaps “Cold War” could have been stronger, and “Hide”s off-the-wall handbrake turn would have worked better if it weren’t in a run of clumsy endings).

And how about getting some new writers in too. Perhaps, dare I say it, women writers. Abi Morgan of “The Hour”, perhaps, or even Meera Syal (who was so delighted to appear in “The Hungry Earth”/“Cold Blood”). If we can’t have a woman Doctor (yet), at least get in a woman or two to write for him.

In a way, it’s a shame that the Clara stories seem to have worked better than the Amy and Rory stories, because I do applaud Moffat’s decision to move away from the Doctor plus one female companion model that became the norm for the television somewhere around “The Caves of Androzani”. And I wonder if some or all of those nice young men that Mr Moffster has been having round for auditions might not actually be up for the role of “dashing young male sidekick” in the Harry Sullivan mode, to appease the Generation Squee crowd on tumblr who are already missing their boy-candy.

I wonder if there’s a chance of persuading John Simm that the time is right to bring back the Master? There was always a – perhaps unwarranted – sense that Matt’s Doctor would have been slightly… odd taking on Simm’s Master; but Capaldi going toe to toe with Simm, now that would be a sparring match worth seeing.

(Although Alex’s suggestion is for Peter to play both roles, Doctor and Master, distinguished only by keeping his Cardinal Richelieu beard of evil. Of course, Clara would ask why they look like each other, which each would feverishly deny…)

Will be interesting to see if they bring back Kate Lethbridge-Stuart too, as that would be another good pairing.

And I know it’s wrong – what with her moving farewell in “The Name of the Doctor” meaning it would be fair to let River’s story now be over – but I do just slightly want to see how Alex Kingston and Peter might spark off one another too.

What I particularly hope for is – and perhaps he hinted at this when he entered clutching his lapels – a Doctor who takes William Hartnell as the model, rather than Pat Troughton. Don’t get me wrong, Pat’s performance is lovely, and it’s rightly said made regeneration work and so made it possible for the series to continue. But Matt, Sylv and Peter have all cited Pat as their inspiration before now; it would be nice to see someone bringing back some of the original Doctor’s performance: authoritative, a bit scary sometimes and very funny at others. A Doctor who was more often intellectual, but could be surprisingly physical when the need called. And who, at least half the time, is plainly bonkers. Pat’s anarchy is oddly safe; he’s a great one for taking down monsters. But Billy is truly dangerous.

Most of all, I hope that Moffat will write the twelfth differently to the eleventh (and tenth), and that Peter will deliver a different style of performance to the “I’m the cleverest lifeform in the room” babble that has characterised both the last two incarnations.

Anyway, it’s a great piece of news, a terrific choice, and I look forward to the next couple of years’ Doctor Who because they’re sure to be a hell of an interesting ride.

Or as Malcolm Tucker would say: hold on to any glands you’re particularly fond of ’cos this is going to be one effing hell of an effing interesting ride.

It’s not my fault the ITV shop doesn’t list “Prime Suspect 3” to buy; so much for “commercial” telly!

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Day 4591: DOCTOR WHO: The Mind of Evil (in COLOR!)


What strikes me about “The Mind of Evil” is that otherwise perfectly sensible people – Lawrence and Tat in About Time 3, Jack Graham on Shabogan Graffiti, Sandifer on the TARDIS rude room – write long essays trying to explain or taking to task this idea that “evil” is some innate quality or substance in people that the Keller Machine extracts, when self-evidently it does nothing of the sort.

That’s what the Master says it does but... well... he’s the Master!

It’s quite clear that, spoilers, the “machine” is a Mind Parasite that simply, crudely and painfully lobotomises people!

“The Mind of Evil” is, to my mind, second among Jon Pertwee’s stories only to the homely “Dennis Wheatley for a fiver” charms of “The Dæmons”. The second story of Pertwee’s second year as the Doctor, and the second to feature his newly-created arch-enemy: Roger Delgado as The Master.

And this is the story that really cements the Master in the Doctor Who firmament as the classic villain. After a great opening in Robert Holmes’ “Terror of the Autons”, Delgado comes into his suave own here as the Ernst Stavro Blofeld of the series, with a performance better even than in his first story. The plot which links an evil brain-altering machine at Stangmoor Prison, the first World Peace Conference and a nuclear gas missile (sic) called Thunderbolt is, well, faintly ludicrous and couldn’t hold together without him, but he sells us this plot as actually just the sort of thing the Master does, causing havoc on a global or local scale as the whim takes him.

It’s also a transitional story, harking back to the more “hard” (well “hard-ish”) science fiction of Pertwee’s first season while placed within the context of Barry Letts moving the series towards more psychedelic fare such as the story that follows: “The Claws of Axos”, changes that involved dumbing down the Brigadier into a comedy Little Englander and replacing scientist Liz Shaw (lovely Carry John – see the tribute on the new “Spearhead from Space” blu-ray) with rather more dolly-bird “assistant” Jo Grant (played by the irrepressible Katy Manning, who succeeds in being wonderful in spite of the writing).

Don Houghton, writing his second and sadly last Who, follows up the hugely popular “Inferno” with another story that mixes clever ideas and commentary with exciting action sequences (particularly the UNIT raid on the prison) and some nice “Spy-Fi” stuff (thanks to a happy coincidence, Benton gets to play secret agent again, as he did back in “The Invasion”).

As a result, this is about as “gritty” and “realistic” as the Pertwee years ever get (while still having a lead dressed in a purple silk cape and driving a “sprightly yellow roadster”). It’s as near to a Euston films production for children as there will ever be – interestingly, as Alex pointed out to me, thanks to director Tim Coomb making a couple of changes from male to female at casting level and because it was “for children” – i.e. not treating women as “molls” or “victims” – it’s actually got stronger roles for women characters, with them doing “everyday” jobs in two armed forces without anyone passing comment (one gratingly silly remark from Richard Franklin’s gratingly silly Captain Yates aside).

It is often pointed out that the Master’s plan in this story is not entirely sensible: he is, after all, planning to blow up the planet on which he is standing, while stranded without a working TARDIS. Perhaps he’s trying to make himself a new dematerialisation circuit and needs the fusion of a nuclear explosion to create some crucial element (or Slitheen-like wants it for fuel). Mind you, the Doctor’s a bit casual about the working dematerialisation circuit that he took from the Master in “Terror of the Autons” if it can just be picked up by a despatch rider. You’re surprised that the Master hasn’t broken into UNIT HQ and to take it before now. Perhaps he has: defeating ever more complicated safes that the Doctor has prepared for him while failing to realise that the Doctor has outsmarted him by hiding the circuit in plain sight on Liz Shaw’s now-abandoned work bench.

That plot, then, involves trouble with the Chinese delegation when UNIT is tasked to protect the World Peace Conference (while, on the side, being asked to sweep an illegal missile under the proverbial carpet on behalf of the British Government).

The Doctor, however, has taken himself off to Stangmoor Prison because he is more concerned by reports of a new “treatment” for the hardened criminal: the Keller Process of a Professor Emil Keller, in truth – as we shall discover – the Master.

Which brings us back to that “machine”.

Just look at how it works: it stimulates what we might hand-wavily call the “fear centres” of the brain, triggering a terror response and hallucinations to the point where its victims’ higher functions burn out, or they suffer a fatal heart attack or stroke. Do we ever see anyone doing “ooh ooh my brain is being sucked out” acting? No. What we see is “arrgh arrgh it’s in my head!” every time.

Why assume that it “does what it says on the tin” when what it says on the tin was written by the Master?

I mean, he’s lying about his identity as “Professor Emil Keller”, but surely he wouldn’t fib about how his machine works. Aside from the fact that it’s not actually a machine. And it doesn’t work.

That big bank of controls clearly doesn’t “control” it at all, and is probably a big box of lights and dials.

And the Doctor, rude as ever talking over the explanation at the beginning, hears Professor Kettering say what the machine does and interrupts with: “It doesn’t”!

Jack says that the story’s point of view is:
“Crime is something that people with Evil in their heads do, and people like that go to prison. If you're in prison, you're Bad. It's that simple. This is implicit. Also implicit is the assumption that humans are clockwork oranges. Use technology to remove the Evil from the brain and the brain will function properly again.”

While Sandifer has it that:
“...this script is firmly in favor of the Keller Machine... ...Bad people are inherently bad. Good people are justified in what it takes to stop bad people. And it's that simple.”
But this is clearly the point of view of the scientists and prison governors who are shown to be (a) deceived by the Master who has sold them this load of old honk and (b) totally wrong. And they pay for their error with their lives.

“The Mind of Evil” raises these points of view satirically; in order to rubbish them. It is astonishing to me that people seem not to see this.

The story repeatedly makes the point that this belief in whatever it is (bad blood, original sin, genes for criminality) is wrong, indeed is itself “evil”; I mean, the “machine” is literally the monster of this story, how blatantly obvious do they have to make it?

(Perhaps that’s the problem: when the Keller Machine turns out to be a bubbling brain in a jar, everyone starts to take everything very literally. If this was “Buffy” it would be completely obvious that the “monster” is a metaphor for Sixties-style psychiatric electro-chemical mind control being literally “monstrous”.)

The Doctor himself expresses that the process is “evil” even before he sees it in action, and his opinion is confirmed by what he sees it do to prisoner Barnham.

And the whole opening sequence is very deliberately presented to us as an execution.

The condemned man is read his sentence and solemnly taken to the place where it will be done, where witnesses, doctors and priests are in attendance.

Professor Kettering, who will be operating the “machine”, makes a speech about how “Science has abolished the death penalty” – well obviously “science” didn’t abolish the death penalty, though the allusion is clearly to the “scientific advance” of the guillotine. Remember that when this was shown in 1971, it was barely five years after the abolition of the death penalty in Great Britain, and two years before it would be abolished in Northern Ireland.

Everything about showing us this “treatment” as if we’re about to kill a man is saying to us that this “death of personality” is actually worse.

Nor does anyone – or at least anyone who cares; mainly Jo and Dr Summers (Michael Sheard), though the Doctor condescends to express concern when he remembers – think that Barnham has been “cured” or that his brain is functioning “properly” afterwards. Quite the reverse: he is hospitalised and treated as the victim of a serious accident.

Barnham is presented as childlike and innocent, which does not mean “good”. In fact it means “without knowledge of good or evil”. You might – at a pinch – say he’s been returned to the Garden of Eden. But the truth is, this serpent has taken away his free will which is pretty much the Acme of evil in ’Sixties/’Seventies Doctor Who.

Jack’s a good, old-fashioned communist and tries to make out that “this is a classic bit of reactionary Cold War ideology” where “good” Westerners are led by a proper patriarchal figure and women/Chinese/Chinese women represent the threatening “other” while the prisoners in Stangmoor are the “uppity working class” whose revolt needs putting down. Well, I suppose you can if you must, but it does seem to overlook the rather elegant way that the story has the riots in the prison parallel the threatened global conflict – as above so below, perhaps, or that the Master is in a sense goading the planet to violence at every level because he "can't resist pulling the wings off the flies", or perhaps that the threat of World War is as much a petty squabble as the one in the prison. Also, the best way to survive attack by the Keller Machine appears to be: be working class (i.e. Barnham survives but all those nice, middle-class scientists end up dying with improbable physical evidence of their phobias made manifest), while the true villain of the piece is the self-styled Lord and Master.

Sandifer, meanwhile, is keen to play up the racist aspects of the story, trying to tie it to a line between “The Celestial Toymaker” and “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. That means having to ignore that the first Chinese Ambassador is actually the first victim of the Mind Parasite, and that his replacement, Fu Peng (Kristopher Kum), is only portrayed as sympathetic, courteous and wise – Nicholas Courtney gamely playing along in making the Brigadier look like a fool for his “Little Englander” attitude.

I’m not saying it’s completely un-dodgy (there’s only one black character and he’s a non-speaking extra as the Master’s chauffeur) but I think you are really overreaching to say that the Chinese are at all depicted as the baddies here. It’s even nice about Chairman Mao (neatly retconned in Big Finish’s “Sympathy for the Devil”).

Certainly, the story is more dubious in its treatment of women, even while giving them positive roles, because there are almost none in it. Blink and you’ll miss Corporal Bell, of course. And Captain Chin Lee (Pik Sen Lim) is the Master’s victim and tool, inexcusably disappearing in the second half of the story (when she should have been “earning redemption” – I use quotes because as a victim of the Master’s hypnosis she doesn’t really need to be redeemed – by participating in bringing the Master’s plan down. I’d suggest incorporating her into the Mike Yate role).

But I do have to disagree with the assertion that Jo is side-lined, which makes me wonder if Sandifer even watched the serial. Katy Manning is magnificent here: generous to Pertwee in their scenes together, and really seizing control when on her own. She single-handedly ends the first prison riot. And she’s the person who shows most resistance to the Mind Parasite, aside from Barnham whose “accident” has somehow rendered him immune.

The monster does get bigger over the story, so the implication is at least there that it does somehow “feed” off its victims. Somehow.

(Though it’s also possible it actually eats electricity – initially from its “control” box and later from the Doctor’s attempt to keep it contained – and just uses its mind powers to murder people.)

Equally, it grows most significantly after its encounters with the two Time Lords, so it may be that it is absorbing knowledge – certainly it doesn’t start teleporting until after rummaging about in the crania of the only two people who might know the secret of space/time travel, so it does appear to be learning something from the folks it messes with – so it may get either sustenance or the ability to sustain itself from the Doctor or the Master’s mind.

But whatever it’s eating it’s not “evil”. If anything, it’s fear.

The Doctor himself admits that he cannot resist the machine – that, in a neat foreshadowing of “Planet of Spiders”, he cannot face his fears. The insight into his greatest fear: the destruction of an alternate Earth that he witnessed in “Inferno” is also nice continuity (and one I’d have liked to see reflected again in “...Spiders” by having the Great One’s cave of crystal be a cave of fire). And in the colour-restored version, we can now see that there are more flames flickering over the infamous “monster parade” from the Part Three cliff-hanger.

So the message of the story – far from being one of original sin – is that the more fearful you are, the more you are likely to be killed by your fears: whether you’re an American Senator whose no-doubt guilty conscience means he goes down like nine-pins where Fu Peng stands up better to the psychic attack, or the vicious gang-leader Mailer (whose “fears” get him in the end by the poetic justice of being shot by the Brig just in the nick). William Marlowe (does that make Delgado Faust?) is terrific as Mailer, easily locking horns with the Master in order to achieve his own agenda, like a kind of anti-Brigadier to the Master’s anti-Doctor (something which makes his end all the more apt).

Barnham’s lobotomised condition renders him without fear (not without “evil”) and so he is immune. And Jo is shown as essentially braver than the Doctor here, as though she has learned and grown following her experience in “Terror of the Autons” – I like to think this is a first step on her path towards resisting the Master in “Frontier in Space” (and again, I should have liked to see Chin Lee leading the way by standing up to the Master here).

It is fear that makes good people think they are justified in doing bad things (like lobotomising prisoners to stop them being violent or anti-social); fear, as it were, is the mind killer, the real mind of evil here.

I have to say that the DVD release comes with my highest recommendation. The traditional fan reading that “Mind of Evil” is “better” in black and white almost certainly doesn’t stand up to seeing the beautifully restored colour – in particular Episode One, thanks to the enormous hard work of Stuart “Babelcolour” Humphryes in hand-colouring many, many key frames and Peter Crocker for computer-interpolating the rest to produce a genuinely astonishing result.

“The Mind of Evil” is not just a great story, but one where everyone involved – in the original production in 1970 and the restoration for the DVD in 2013 – have gone the extra mile to turn out a true classic.
A great way to complete the Pertwee Era’s DVD releases.