The Trial of a Time Lord - Mindwarp
By Philip Martin
Reviewed By Paul Bowler
"But Peri died, Doctor, because you abandoned her. We had to end her life because your negligence had made it impossible for her to live."
Having been taken out of time by the Time Lords, the 6th Doctor’s trial continues as the Valeyard continues to build his case against the Doctor as the court are presented with the next segment of evidence from the Matrix. The trial begins to examine the Doctor’s most recent adventure on the planet Thoros Beta, where the Doctor and Peri discover their old enemy Sil is now trading in weapons. Thoros Beta is the home planet of Sil’s race, but the Mentors’ leader - Lord Kiv - is seriously ill, and the scientist Crozier has been given the task of finding a way to save him.
The Doctor are and Peri are shocked to discover that Crozier has been conducting horrific genetic experiments on King Yrcanos and his best friend, Dorf, who has been transformed into a wolf-like hybrid, however Crozier’s attempt to brainwash Yrcanos has yet to prove successful. When the Doctor is found tampering with the mind-altering machine by Sil and his guards, the Doctor is strapped into Crozier’s transference device which is then activated.
Yrcanos breaks free and escapes with the Doctor and Peri, fleeing into the tunnels were the King frees Dorf and together they join forces with the Alphan resistance members to lead a revolt against the Mentors’. Unfortunately the Doctor’s mind seems to have been altered by Crozier’s machine, he turns against his friends, even helping to interrogate Peri, but apparently this is all just a ploy by the Doctor to help them escape.
As lord Kiv’s health begins to deteriorate the Doctor is forced to help Crozier transfer the Mentors’ brain into an amphibian strain of the creatures slug-like race, but the transplant soon begins to fail, so Crozier chooses another host for lord Kiv, the Doctor’s companion Peri! It is at this point that the Doctor was taken out of time by the Time Lords to begin his trial. In an attempt to halt Crozier’s experiments the Time Lords use their influence to ensure that King Yrcanos bursts into the laboratory just as Kiv’s brain is transplanted into Peri’s body.
On the Time Lord Space Station the Doctor watches in horror as the playback of these events unfold on the view screen before the court. Peri sits up, but her mind is gone, lord Kiv now inhabits her body. King Yrcanos fights his way into the lab, he is disgusted by what Crozier has done to the woman he has grown to love, so he fires the phaser and shoots Peri! The Doctor is distraught as he realizes Peri is dead, he suspects the Time Lords had an ulterior motive for preventing him from saving her, and he resolves to uncover the truth.
This story forms parts 5-8 of a Trail of a Time Lord, the fourteen part adventure that followed the cancellation of the programmes twenty third season, which was scrapped because of claims that the series had lost its way and become too violent. Doctor Who returned in 1986, produced by John Nathan-Turner and with Eric Saward as script editor, with a storyline that put the Doctor on trial by the Time Lords. This new season was comprised of four stories that were all gathered under the title of The Trial of a Time Lord, with the action switching between the courtroom scenes on the Time Lord Space Station, and the evidence presented by the Matrix.
Colin Baker is on great form here as the 6th Doctor. At times it seems as if the Doctor is acting completely out of character, his mind having been affected by Crozier’s transference machinery, and this leads to some quite unsettling moments when he seems to betray Peri and Yrcanos. This story was also Nicola Bryant’s final story as Peri, and her exit is certainly one of the most brilliantly staged - and gruesome departures - in the shows history. Brain Blessed is also fantastic as the warrior King Yrcanos, who gives a scene stealing performance, bringing a deep sense of nobility and honour to the character as he leads the revolution against the Mentors.
One of the best aspects of Philip Martin’s story is the return of the loathsome Sil, played by Nabil Shaban, who first appeared in Vengance on Varos (1985), which was also written by Philip Martin. This time Sil is accompanied by another Mentor, his superior lord Kiv, and Christopher Ryan’s ailing Mentor proves an excellent foil for Shaban’s villainous Sil. The make up effects for both characters are excellent, as is the temporary body Kiv is transplanted into, complete with nasty stinger. Sil is still plotting and scheming to make as much money as he can, relishing every moment of Peri’s torment, while constantly munching on his favourite slimy snack - the revolting marsh minnows. Patrick Ryecart is also chillingly evil as Crozier, nothing seems to affect his icy demeanour, and he even takes a quick sip of tea before attempting to save Kiv when the transplant begins to fail. Richard Henry also appears as the elderly Mentor encountered by the Doctor and Yrcanos in episode 8, leading to some great exchanges between the Time Lord and the world-weary Mentor.
The trial scenes are not as obtrusive here as they would become towards the end of the season, but they do still break up the pace of the action, especially during the third episode. Linda Bellingham is elegant and regal at the Inquisitor, she constantly has to overrule the Doctor’s outbursts, and there is a great scene where the Valeyard addresses her in a manner that is deliberately intended to rile the Doctor. Indeed, the verbal sparing between the Valeyard and the Doctor really heightens the tension as events unfold in Thoros Beta segment. Michael Jayston is gloriously evil as the Valeyard, he always seems one step ahead of the Doctor, and by the end of this story - as he savours the Doctor’s torment - we begin to get a sense of just how thoroughly evil and despicable he can be.
Peri’s final moments at the end of episode eight, where Kiv’s mind has been transferred into her body, are genuinely chilling. The idea of brain surgery and mind swapping is a horrific concept, but to actually see it happen to one of the Doctor’s companions is quite disturbing. Nicola Bryant is amazing in these scenes, complete with some highly convincing make up, her bald countenance and deep menacing voice as Kiv gives this nightmarish scenario a razors edge that is brilliantly executed by director Ron Jones as Yrcanos is forced to kill her.
It’s such a shame that this terrifying conclusion was later revealed to be just another deception by the Valeyard at the end of episode fourteen, where we discover that Peri actually married King Yrcanos and lived happily ever after. It completely shatters the impact of everything we have experienced across episodes 5-8 and leave you feeling a little cheated. This story did have some very high production values, some excellent make up, and some inventive special effects - especially in the sequence where the TARDIS arrives on Thoros Beta.
Ultimately though, much of Philip Martin’s story doesn’t quite stand up to close examination, especially when considered as part of the over arcing storyline of The Trial of a Time Lord. It would seem that much of what transpires in this story is actually a fabrication of the evidence stored in the Matrix; nothing is really explained so we have no real idea about what actually happened. It is nevertheless a very exciting, although somewhat confusing story, an example perhaps of a good idea that was doomed to fail because of the constraints inherent of being one part of a larger storyline.
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