THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Trial of a Time Lord
BBC
Mindwarp
Trial of a Time-Lord Episodes 5-8

Episodes 4 Nobody expects the Gallifreyan Inquisitor.
Story No# 145
Production Code 6X
Season 23
Dates Oct. 4, 1986 -
Oct. 25, 1986

With Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant.
Written by Philip Martin. Script-edited by Eric Saward.
Directed by Ron Jones. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.

Synopsis: The Doctor once again encounters Sil as Peri is placed into ever greater danger.


Reviews

Warped is the Word by Dennis McDermott 13/6/97

Another story forced into the Trial of a Timelord season, it has the dubious distinction of getting my vote as containing the worst performance ever by a Doctor.

There isn't anything wrong about the story; Kiv, a relative of our old buddy Sil, needs to find a new body to inhabit before he dies of a massive headache. Crozier, whom I presume is doing this partly against his will (though this is never spelled out) has the dubious chore of perfecting a method of doing this. The Doctor pretends to help out while really looking for a way to stop them. The story has tremendous potential for exploring the ethics of biotechnology.

Unfortunately, the whole thing is overshadowed by the demands of the trial and some wretchedly bad acting. Crozier, played by Patrick Ryecart, comes across more as a game show host than a scientist -- his performance is flat. Sil, reduced to a fawning sycophant, isn't the threat (or delight) that he was in Vengeance on Varos. Christopher Ryan is effective as Kiv, but can't carry the story due to the condition of his character. Brian Blessed as Ycarnos may have been more effective had he been surrounded by better acting; as it was, his performance seemed like overkill.

But the worst was Colin Baker. The easiest way to explain my feelings about his performance in this story is to compare it to Tom Baker's performance in The Invasion of Time. Similar to the storyline in Mindwarp, Tom Baker had to play along with the enemy in order to defeat them. It was a highly nuanced performance, which helped make a bad story palatable. Colin Baker's performance, however, was downright cartoonish. A simple review of the scene where Peri is chained to the rocks (Why? Heck if we know?) should be sufficient to demonstrate what I mean.

On the basis of this performance alone, the BBC was justified in firing Colin Baker after the end of this season.


Call Me Sadistic, But I Liked It! by Luke Gutzwiller 28/7/97

The Doctor's trial really heats up in this second segment of Trial of a Time Lord. Philip Martin, who gave us Season 22's Vengeance on Varos, wrote what is probably the most dark, paranoid, frantic story in the history of the show.

On Thoros Beta, nothing can be relied on--especially not the Doctor. After a brush with the (admittedly rather wooden) scientist Crozier's brain transformer, he is reduced to a selfish, cowardly, treacherous loony. I know what you're thinking: "Oh, no, not The Twin Dilemma again." This time, though, it's done right.

Surprisingly enough, there's also some decent performances. Nicola Bryant gets to act for a change, and makes a great combination with the irrepressable Brian Blessed as Yrcanos. Colin Baker gets a bit over the top, but makes up for it with some amazing work at the end.

The plot and the characters are okay, but what truly makes this story great is the atmosphere. It's nasty! Poor Peri is thrown from a bad situation to a worse situation to an absolutely godawful situation. She's persecuted, imprisoned, bellowed at, and shaved bald. Events snowball; things are out of control and getting worse at a staggering rate. The mood of panic and despair is overpowering.

The trial sequences only add to it. The Valeyard's dark little hints let us know that, for once, there won't be a happy ending. Even the Doctor, whose arrogant, unquenchable spirit has been the hallmark of the character, is powerless against it all. He has to watch as his friend and companion is left abandoned to her fate. Colin Baker is a fine actor; he might not have had much chance to show it as the Doctor, but here he manages to convey contagious depths of helplessness and hysteria.

When it finally arrives, the ending hits like an explosion. It is the culmination of all the frantic paranoia and lurking fear Philip Martin created. There is no happy ending; the Doctor doesn't manage to save the day.

He has failed utterly; Peri is dead because of him, and he knows it.

Absolutely brilliant.


Mind-Warping by Guy Thompson 3/12/98

In hindsight, many of us would agree that The Trial of a Time Lord as a whole was something of a missed opportunity. As far as I'm concerned, the season should have started with The Mysterious Planet (reduced to a three-parter and thus removing the court-room scenes), continued with this story, fleshed-out and also minus the courtroom scenes, then developed the plot of the Valeyard in the next story explaining the Doctor's behaviour in Mindwarp, and making a far better explanation of events than actually occurred.

Without the burden of the season's running theme, Mindwarp would have been brilliant. It's still the best Colin Baker story as it is, but there was room for even more...

The best Doctor Who's in the later years were always the ones that challenged the typical invasion-of-earth/mad scientist/domination-and-slavery themes and went for new and original science fiction concepts and dabbled in human drama (as with The Greatest Show in the Galaxy and Ghost Light). While the main feature of this story, the transplanting of Kiv's ever-growing brain into a new host, has been done before (although not in Doctor Who), it is the sub- plots concerning the Doctor's behaviour that are truly fascinating, leading to the best story ending ever as the Doctor is prevented from rescuing Peri by the intervention of the Time Lords. It would also have been better had Peri been left as she was at the conclusion of this tale, rather than the intrusive and highly unlikely explanation given in The Ultimate Foe that she had married King Yrcanos as played by Brian Blessed.

Ah yes, Brian Blessed once again bursts onto the British sci-fi scene, as if he hadn't already done enough damage in the Blake's Seven epsiode Cygnus Alpha. Although his performance is reasonably true to the character he is supposed to be portraying, his role is identical to all his other sci-fi appearances (eg. Flash Gordon), and it is therefore difficult to take the character seriously and imagine him as an alien warlord rather than a loud- mouthed veteran actor. A slight tarnish on an otherwise superbly acted piece.

The bit-players are far more sinister and intriguing, from Crozier the surgeon assigned woth the task of rescuing Kiv's consciousness to Dorf the half-man, half-wolf and Frax, the leader of the guards. The music plays a very strong part in capturing the atmosphere, and the sets and loations both look convincingly alien.

This a story that could have been a true classic rather than just being the highlight of a rather overlong saga, but still a must see for all fans of the program and one of the few stories that really challenges its audience.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 11/3/99

The second segment of The Trial of a Time Lord is often cited as being the worst, and in some ways it isn`t hard to see why. The plot is actually a very strong one, something that was groundbreaking for Doctor Who. The potential plot here should have been confined to a story in it`s own right, rather than one surrounded by the trial scenes, some of which were unnecessary at best and intrusive at their worst.

What also lets the story down in particularis the acting: Colin Baker is below par at best, hampered by the confused nature of the storyline. Nicola Bryant works well with Brian Blessed`s Yrcanos way over the top performance. The worst offenders though have to be Patrick Ryecart as Crozier and Gordon Warnecke as Tuza,two characters formed from cardboard. The returning villain in Sil is welcome, although underplayed by Nabil Shaban, and it was interesting to see more of his race in Kiv, a character with potential, undermined by his situation.

Perhaps what was most satisfying was the conclusion of the tale, which allowed Peri to exit with an impact (initially). The consequences of this and the performance by Colin Baker reacting to them make up for a lot of the shortcomings, as does: the music, Nicola Bryant as "Kiv," and the sets which look convincingly alien. All in all then a satisfactory ending to an unsatisfactory tale.


A Review by Andrew Boland 11/1/00

Well, this is a controversial one, isn't it? A real love it or hate it.

I love it. This is where Doctor Who should have gone in season 24, not to Paradise Towers or Delta and the Bannermen. A mixture of humour, and grim realities. My second favourite Colin Baker behind Revelation of the Daleks. The Doctor's character really comes under scrutiny here, and although we don't know what really happened, I am happy enough to believe what was seen is truth. Why must all companions have a happy end? Even Adric and Katarina died heroes. I'm sorry, but I had tingles down my spine watching Kiv in Peri's body, so sinister, possibly my favourite moment in Doctor Who. So now I shall try and quash (I got to use that word) criticisms of this story.

King Ycarnos - a great character. Even a mentor remarks on his loud voice. The character is over the top, but I loved it. And I CAN see him and Peri getting together. Their by-play and snappy dialogue was a treat. His whole concept on life as a warrior was touching, and of course he had great comedic value too. As did Sil, Philip Martin went out of his way with gag lines for him, 'I wish you could have found a more attractive one' for instance. And his 'lalalalala's, I love a creation with thought and clear definition, and Sil is just that. Kiv is no different, and Sil is his perfect foil.

So the Doctor goes a bit crazy, so what? Colin Baker shines here, so much that he, in the courtroom, doesn't know what he, in the story is doing. It would seem, on closer inspection, that he is whacked into reality by Sil's marsh minnows, a delicate touch. The only let down is the acting of Tuza, the rebel leader. It is horrid. You could get better performances out of a piece of wood. And all those '-yard' references, funny once, twice, maybe even three times but they don't stop. Still, at the end of the story, lovely cliffhanger. Actually four great cliffhangers, end of episode six, with the blue flashing light. Bravo. Watch it, let yourself be sucked into the world of Thoros Beta, be horrified, but enjoy the jokes too, it's not worth missing! Superb.


Warped Who by Rob Matthews 9/5/00

There are two things I strongly remember about this story from when I was ten years old - the weird colours of the planet Thoros Beta at the beginning, and a bald Peri with the brain of a slug-thing being killed by Brian Blessed at the end.

And no wonder. Not an awful lot happens in between. I'm surprised to see that some reviewers see the plot of Mindwarp as a strong one stifled by the Trial framework. The only real plot I can make out is Kiv waiting for, and getting, his brain transplant, with two wholly pointless episodes of running around tunnels in between. Up until the wonderful ending, it's all as dull and inconsequential as Timelash, with only slimy Sil providing any entertainment - and even then it's as light relief ('Your repulsive companion'). I'm actually glad of the courtroom scenes (though they are unsubtle and repetitive), because the acting is at least of a better standard there. I disagree that Colin Baker's performance 'in the Matrix' is bad, though. It creates a great contrast with the courtroom version who has no idea what's going on and who - significantly - does not the actions of that man on the screen as his. The brain transference issue is not particularly engaging, coming as soon as it does after season 22's Humans-into-Cybermen, Humans-into-Birds, Timelords-into-Androgums, Humans-into-Daleks. It's really just another variation on that theme. Mindwarp gives a companion a memorable exit and makes the Doctor - and us - start wondering about the reliability of the Matrix. But probably too early in the game... 'The High Council has ordered that this part doesn't matter', 'The Matrix cannot lie'/'Or can it?'. It's hard to believe that anyone was even surprised by episode 13 after all this. The story is just a tedious setup. It's only interesting within the context of the Trial.

And let's not forget what a black hole of a context that is. It might have been okay for Mindwarp to be so vague and confusing as to what really happened/what the Doctor really did if the trial story around it made any more sense. But, judging by the 'evidence from the future', the evil future Doctor with a vague plan to kill the present Doctor (doh!), and the Doc's final departure with a companion he hasn't met yet ('Carrot juice'?), it seems that the Valeyard has been tampering with our television sets too. Mindwarp is intermittently entertaining because of Sil, but entirely drowned as a self-contained story.


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 28/2/02

Having recently watched parts 1-4 of the longest story in Doctor Who's History, and actually quite enjoyed it - I hoped this would be the same. That I would discover a pretty good story lurking in the great disappointment that I remember from years ago.

It is with great un-anticipation then that I can reveal that Mindwarp is just as bad as it ever was. When fans raise their hands in unison that Trial of a Time Lord was "Crap" - this must be the key factor. Mindwarp is terrible, and cannot be defended or re-assessed positively.

It is the present - the adventure (I use the word lightly) from which the Doctor was plucked to go to his Trial. It begins with some very garish colour mixing - somebody has been set loose on the paintbox here, and even the Doctor's outfit looks bland in comparison. From the "assault on the eyes" that is Thoros Beta, we go into some caves. What happened to Doctor Who's depiction of these essential retreats? Silurians, Earthshock and Androzani all had great caves. Mindwarp has plastic looking ones. Seeing as the action (again a loose use of the word) is set in these caves - it is a major factor in its direness.

The actors have been pulled from bad rep - most are atrocious. Even Colin Baker feels he has to descend to their level, producing one of the worst performances ever seen by any Doctor. Nabil Shaban brings Sil wonderfully to life, just as in Vengeance, but there is little new here - just the same slimy parasite as before. Kiv as leader of the Mentors is terrible. His economical reason-to-be is boring, the performance laughable. Nicola Bryant is the innocent party in all this ineptitude. She is pushed around, talked down to, and then transferred to a monster. Has any companion had it so rough in their last story? I doubt it. Brian Blessed produces one of the great shouting performances in all Who. He is completely over the top, but he actually is, by far, the most entertaining part of the story. You just have to laugh out loud at his antics.

Colin Baker's Doctor was given the short straw with his stories - this one being the extreme example. How can anyone like a Doctor who behaves like the 6th Doctor does here. It's no wonder he was near the bottom of Doctor polls at the time and for a few years thereafter. Thankfully this was a not the norm, but I believe it has severely (along with Twin Dilemma, and the Doctors' aggression in that) coloured the public's memory. It is only the recent audios that have turned the tide, and shown what a great Doctor he is. But these are sampled by a small minority compared to the TV show.

Mindwarp is a waste. It should have been a tense evaluation of why the Time Lords took the Doctor out of Time. Why a companion was sacrificed, it should have focused the mind for the final half of this supposed epic story. Instead it really lets the side down. Dull, plodding - with only some massive over-acting to break the monotony. And as for Peri's finale - it just was so unfitting - whatever version you care to adopt (and I am not sure which is the best/worst as they are both bad).

Mindwarp is at the heart of Trial of a Time Lord. And the heart of something should be so much more rewarding. I am struggling to think of many stories worse. Even the Trial sequences have lost their interest, most are just the Valeyard gloating over his imminent success - I really feel like taking the video recorder and editing together all the key parts. The tape would include lots of Yracanos, lots of Peri, and very little of anything else. We might then have a decent 1-parter to move the Trial along. 4/10


A Review by Michael Hickerson 24/6/02

The Doctor's trials continue, both on- and off-screen with MindWarp, a story that is one of the worst in the entire 26-year run of Doctor Who.

MindWarp is one of those stories whose backstory and back-stage drama nearly overwhelms the drama taking place on-screen. It's rumored that at one point that Colin Baker was so confused by the script and the Doctor's motivation for how to play certain scenes that he went to script-editor Eric Saward to ask advice and just what exactly what was going on in the script and was summarily told he was an actor and just paid to say lines and go away.

If Baker was this confused by the script and the various and conflicting motivations for the character he was playing, imagine how we, the audience, must feel trying to make sense of this muddled mess that made it to the screen.

As I've said time and again with TimeLash, if this is the option that made it to screen, I'd hate to see how just truly awful the alternative stories were.

MindWarp is a muddled and confused mess. A large part of this is because it's so forced into the Trial of a TimeLord format. The interruptions to return to the courtroom become extremely intrusive in MindWarp, to the point that they seem to interfere with the narrative structure of the story. What we end up with is a choppy storyline that never gives us any time to settle in and really click into the events unfolding on-screen. Also, a lot of the dramatic action happens off-camera, especially in the first episode. The Doctor and Peri refer to a meeting between themselves and one of Crozier's early experiments, but we never see it. Because of this, we have very little idea of the horror of just exactly what Crozier is doing. Honestly, I found myself wondering if the costs of creating a pink sea and sky were so great that only the essential scenes were done and that scene was left on the cutting room floor. (Perhaps should we ever get a DVD release of Trial, we may get these scenes included as the deleted scenes segment).

The entire supporting cast is very one-note. The once menacing Sil is nothing more than a cartoonish figure, cackling with glee at every opportunity until it begins to grate on the nerves. King Yrcanos has some potential, but is so horribly over-acted by Brian Blessed, who apparently is a member of the Monty Python "Shouters Club." (Why does every line have to be shouted so, I wonder?) Crozier is pretty much your standard mad-scientist and lackey. I wished we'd had some idea of why he was conducting these experiments -- is he under duress? Is he using Kiv and Sil? Does he truly have some idea of what exactly he's doing and why? Indeed, one of the strengths of Mysterious Planet that rescued it was the commitment to the supporting cast, but here that strength is turned into a weakness with a large portion of the supporting cast being ineffective, at best.

But the biggest weakness is the Doctor himself. After returning to fine form in Mysterious Planet, Colin Baker delivers possibly his worst-performance as Doctor here. If the story I related above is true, than I can understand why Baker's performance suffers so. I can understand, but I don't accept it. Baker has risen above the material before and delivered solid performances but here, he just seems to be phoning it in. Perhaps deciding that since no one understand what the heck this story is about, he can get away with a horrible performance, he went with that idea. The Doctor's brain is fried by the machine early-on, thus attempting to explain why he acts the way he does -- betraying Peri and apparently joining forces with Kiv. Unlike another story in which the Doctor turns traitor, The Invasion Of Time, we have no hints that the Doctor is up to something more here and the story suffers as a whole.

So, what is good about MindWarp, you ask? Is there anything at all that you liked?

Actually, there are one or two isolated things.

For one, Lord Kiv is an interesting performance and it works fairly well. Yes, the actor is limited by the rubber suit, but he actually does convey the pain and suffering well. And compared to the work by Brian Blessed, Colin Baker and Nigel Sabin, his work look positively restrained by comparison.

Visually, the story is quite well done in spots. Yes, the caves look like your standard BBC caves, but the pink sea and sky that we see at various times is well done. Indeed, you have to wonder if they spent the entire budget on the great visual and forgot that you need to spend some money on a good script to go with it. There has to be more to Doctor Who than just pretty pictures.

As for the ending, certainly the "death" of Peri is an interesting narrative hook. And the idea of upping the ante of the trial certainly creates some tension that will carry into the second half of the storyline. The Inquisitor's rather calm and rational explation of why the experiments had to be terminated and why everyone had to die and how the Time Lords manipulated things is certainly one of those interesting moment and one that helps re-create some of the lost momentum in the Trial that the early parts of this story negated.

But, when all is said and done, MindWarp is a singular disappointment. It may not be the worst the series has ever given us, but it's certainly down there in the bottom five.


What a way to go! by Tim Roll-Pickering 3/7/02

When I was a child watching Doctor Who in the mid to late 1980s I rarely found it terrifying. Many of the supposedly horrific scenes in Season 22 largely passed me by. But there was one occasion, more than many others, when I was truly afraid and that was the ending of Part Eight of The Trial of a Time Lord. Peri's death was truly spectacular.

I was too young to remember Earthshock, let alone The Daleks' Master Plan, so for me there were certain facts about a series that could never change. One was that no matter how difficult the situation, no matter how close a shave to death occurred, the Doctor and his companion(s) would always survive to the end of the story. So when Peri was gunned down at the end of Part Seven I just accepted it as a storyline cliffhanger - companion and others have been caught and incarcerated - and awaited Part Eight to see how she would escape. To my utter disbelief she didn't. The climax scene as Ycarnos bursts into the laboratory, blasts Sil, then comes face to face with Peri now that Kiv occupies her body and reacts in horror by killing all around him was truly awesome. Then came the Inquisitor's cold confirmation that Peri was indeed dead. It was at that point that I saw that survival was not always guaranteed. Now that is truly a scary moment.

Otherwise the second segment of the wider The Trial of a Time Lord is a mixture of the good and bad. The location sequences have been enhanced by computer effects and although they look poor compared to today's technology they are nevertheless a welcome step forward for the series in seeking to convincingly show the surface of an alien world. The sets generate a strong sense of claustrophobia, helped by some shots which actually show them to have ceilings, whilst the direction is competent. However the acting is mixed between good performances such as Brian Blessed as Ycarnos or Patrick Ryecart as Crozier, and poor ones such as the disinterested Gordon Warnecke as Tuza. The script has its problems as well, with some scenes less than inspiring, whilst there are too many wider trial sequences which at times intrude on the plot whilst at other times the trial is used to narrate events, such as the Doctor securing the opportunity to interrogate Peri by herself. Complicating matters further is the confusion about just whether or not some scenes actually took place and the result is a story that does not hold up by itself when considered in isolation.


The Strange Case of the Gyrating Throat by Andrew Wixon 13/7/02

Oh dear! Batten down the hatches! Secure all loose objects! Turn down the sensitivity of the boom mikes! That's right, Brian Blessed is about to start acting. And sure enough, his turn in Mindwarp is entertaining stuff and certainly one of the main reasons for watching the show. Just count the number of times the other actors just stand there in slack-jawed amazement as he goes to work on the script.

But good though he is, it's not quite enough to cover up the flaws in Mindwarp. It's the closest thing to a season 22 story in the Trial season, mainly because of the dark humour, the occasional grisliness and an apparently bleak ending. It doesn't have the wit of Vengeance on Varos, its obvious progenitor, taking the form of a so-so rebels vs oppressors corridor-jogger with a couple of twists to it.

Twist number one is the Doctor's apparent defection to the cause of evil for half the story. High-concept stuff and potentially very interesting, but (as usual) the Trial concept torpedoes this. Did the Doctor really go this bad or has that little tinker the Valeyard been diddling about with the evidence? We're not told, Colin Baker was apparently never told, and it detracts significantly from the drama.

Twist number two is the brain transplant story which pricks the interest pleasantly enough and generates some good gags for the excellent Nabil Shaban to deliver, before getting rather disturbing and dramatic near the end. Yet again the Trial gets in the way, however, although the Doctor's absence from the climax is a novel development. (And once again we're not told how much of the on-screen climax is fake and indeed why the Valeyard bothered to cook the televised version up, other than to hassle the Doctor.)

Mindwarp has the makings of a nice little performance-driven story with some memorable moments. Once again, though, the frequent interruptions to the flow - and the lack of a proper conclusion on-screen - courtesy of the linking plot result in something rather less than that. The umbrella idea seems to have hindered the season more than it helped it.


Mindwarping by Jason Thompson 17/7/02

The Trial continues, only this time it's becoming somtething of a trial for the viewers as well.

Having set up the premise of the trial with The Mysterious Planet, a story that would have worked so much better had it been presented outside the Trial format and perhaps finished with the Time Lords showing concern over the Doctor discovering their dark secret, the prosecution evidence begins proper, with the Doctor's arrival on Thoros Beta, the only planet on which the Doctor's coat is not the most garish thing!

This story is a total disaster. It's enjoyable, and the atmosphere is good, but it makes little or no sense, and is a jumbled mess. The behind-the-scenes tensions are beginning to show on screen, and this is never a good thing. Here it very nearly scuppers the whole Trial. Colin Baker has often recounted the anecdote about how he asked Eric Saward whether the Doctor was supposed to be acting strangely because of the power put through his brain, because it was a ploy to fool the Mentors, or because the Matrix had been tampered with. Eric Saward wasn't sure, and directed him to Philip Martin, who had written the story, who didn't know either! If the cast and crew don't understand what's going on in the story, then how the hell are the viewers suposed to make sense of it?

What's good about this story? Well, Nabil Shaban is excellent, reprising his role of Sil, although in this story he is reduced to comic relief. Patrick Ryecart's Crozier is quite well portrayed, and his sip of tea before administering CPR to the dying Kiv is a beautiful touch of character. Brian Blessed is, well, loud! However, this often obscures the fact that his King Yrcanos is rather good, especially when he tells the Doctor and Tuza that Dorf is dead, refusing their sympathy because he died in battle, but evidently deeply upset about it. The scene with Yrcanos, Peri and Dorf talking about love in the cell is also a lovely moment, and is just the kind of thing that might well happen in that situation. Finally, Colin Baker's quiet, disbelieving: "You... killed Peri." always brings a lump to my throat.

On the story front, the premise that the Doctor's attempts at putting things right have only made things worse, releasing chaos and his being unable to fully save the situation, is excellent. Unfortunately, the problems start immediately after the first part. Is the Doctor mad? Is he pretending to help? Has the Matrix been altered? Who knows. Neither theory sits well with the events portrayed. The Doctor's initial betrayal of Yrcanos could be seen as a corruption of a series of events that led to the Doctor being captured while the others escaped, especially as his next scene shows him being held at phaser-point. His exposing of Peri could have been a ploy, given the "it's all right, we're alone now, We can talk," but this is immediately folowed by him threatening her for information. Additionally, while he initially helps Crozier under some degree of duress, and to create a favourable impression to help him move freely around the place, he spends far too much time in the laboratory taking part in an experiment he has already declared immoral and unacceptable, and far too little time making any effort to find Peri. He only does this once Crozier has mentioned that he might examine her for the operation, and this only happens halfway through part 4 of this segment! It's no wonder he can't manage to save the situation if he waits that long.

Just to make sure the audience are completely confused, there are a few too many arguments in the courtroom about whether the events shown are real or not. The Doctor states that the events took place, but not quite as the court has seen, but the Valeyard points out that he has no reliable memory of the events, so how can he be sure? as Stein said in Resurrection of the Daleks: "I can't stand the confusion in my mind!"

The ending is also problematic. The Time Lords using Yrcanos as an assassin having taken the Doctor out of time makes sense, but I can't quite agree with the Inquisitor being the one to narrate these incidents. She is supposed to be an impartial judge, but is familiar with the events leading to the trial? This surely invalidates her impartiality if she already knows that the Doctor has brought about the situation that has arisen? She also knows what the Time Lords did to rectify the situation before the rest of the court. Additionally, at the end of the Trial, she doesn't know if Peri was really killed, despite the fact that it happened during the events she is presenting to us here! What the f-?! This aspect grates particularly, because it would not have taken too much to have the narration of that section given to the Valeyard, who would have used the Doctor's interference as the excuse for the Time Lords doing just what the Doctor is on trial for in the first place: They only had to intervene to fix the mess the Doctor had already made.

Summing up, this section of evidence works well as a prosecution section, because it does indeed show the Doctor interfering and getting out of his depth, with the only way to save the situation being for the Time Lords to take him out of time and rectify the situation themselves. Unfortunately, it is let down rather by the overplayed ambiguity about whether the events took place or not as they are portrayed. The viewer may like to believe that the Doctor is not really acting the way he seems to be, but the uncertainty does this story no favours, and turns it into an uncoordinated mess. After an 18 month wait, and the longest preproduction of any story, The Trial of a Time Lord is turning into a huge let-down.

Sadly, due to a combination of an incompetent production crew with no idea of where the Trial was supposed to be going, a pair of writers who didn't know what was going on in the Trial at all when they wrote their segment, an increasingly disillusioned and temperamental script editor, and the tragic death of Robert Holmes before he could finish the final section, it was not to get any better...


"Could you prepare to apply the skidaddle test?" by Joe Ford 19/9/02

I shall be straight with you, Mindwarp is one of TWO Colin Baker stories that really rubs me up the wrong way (the other one is an anagram of 'Lame shit'). And it's not just because a thoughtless runaround with an ugly atmosphere hanging over the whole thing (because it is) but because it has many elements that are quite good but just fails to do anything with them.

Okay, the sixth Doctor spent the last season in quite a foul mood. He could be rude, arrogant, VIOLENT (ooh deary me!), self centred and pompous. To some this made him totally unlikable, to others Colin's (at times) sensitive portrayal made it refreshing and compelling (like me!). But quite obviously they had decided to change that this year. The Mysterious Planet introduced us to a more amenable fellow, humane, gentle but still spiky in places. Even if that story wasn't totally well received this evolved Doctor was lapped by fans (even Paul Cornell, Colin-hater, liked this version!). So why oh why oh why did they decide to follow it up with a story that had him (under influences, granted) return to those careless, aggressive and positively out of character traits? I cannot condone the incomprehensible plotting and direction which doesn't inform us if the Doctor is a) under the influence of the brain thingy, b) under the influence of the Valeyard via the Matrix or c) just having a bad day. And to add insult to injury Colin, in the only time in his entire reign, slips over the edge into BAD-actor dom! I am astonished that he chose to play the scenes by the Sea of Sorrows in such a nasty way and his performance in episode two ("I WOULD ENJOY THAT!") is just dire. I guess every one has their off days.

Next up, poorly acted characters. Crozier, Tuza, Matrona and that stupid coloured guard are all for the waste bin. Even Brian Blessed's Ycarnos has some moments where he crosses the line. Oh and Dorff... I couldn't understand a word he said either! And those faceless Aphans who do their silly dances in the corridor when the slave control is released in episode four, what the hell was that all about?

Two actor/ress's save this from being a total bloody mess and fortunately it's the two we see the most of! Nabil Shaban was just made for the role of Sil and given the chance to put a more comical spin on the role he runs with it. His disgust at Peri's ugliness is wonderful and his wily attempts to stay alive are also a treat. His costume looks even more realistic this time around too and I truly feel this disgusting character should have made a third appearance. Preferably in better scripted story.

And Nicola Bryant, bless her, in her last appearance in the show, gives a brilliant last turn as Peri. Her adventures with Yrcanos was the only plot I could be bothered to follow because the actors seemed to put some effort and ethos into it. Particularly splendid is the scene where they discuss love in episode four, Peri expressing a severe longing to go home after all her travels. If the story had been made up of scenes as well written and played as that we wouldn't have a problem. It does appear that Peri has just swapped one shouting bully-type for another and it makes me crease to think that she ended up married to someone who is quite close to how the Doctor was in The Twin Dilemma!

The first episode is okay, the last episode is pretty good but that is just the beginning and the ending of the story. The middle two meander and confuse so much I barely have the concentration to bother with them when I re-watch this story now. Nothing happens in those two episodes, running around, swapping insults, lots of shouting... yawn. Why bother?

All this is quite irritating because aside from the terribly designed Raak monster the production values are actually very good. The psychedelic and surreal beach in the first episode ranks up there with Survival as the most alien looking world Doctor Who has offered. The sets, strobe lit, solid and dangerous looking are just as good. And it has one of the best musical scores of the series, being both superbly dramatic and soothingly gentle depending on the scene. It certainly adds a bit of charm to those middle episodes.

And what of the ending? The heartbreaking notion that the Time Lords took the Doctor out of time for the Trial as he was trying to save Peri. That she ended up a brain donor for a despicable slug creature. That the Time Lords couldn't have Crozier have the ability to 'regenerate' people in such a way and manipulate Ycarnos to slaughter everybody involved. Including Peri. What a cliffhanger! It's hard to believe this is from the same story! The last ten minutes of Mindwarp are practically flawless Doctor Who, gripping, dramatic, exciting and brilliantly acted. Her death is one of the highpoints of the entire series. Colin Baker's reaction "You killed Peri..." is just perfect. The last ten minutes is what everybody remembers, and justifiably so.

That it contains all these strengths but is still a big steaming pile of poo is the biggest insult. No wait, that it was scripted by Philip Martin and directed by Ron Jones who gave us the superlative Vengeance on Varos, THAT is the biggest insult.

This is the only segment of the Trial that suffers the production nightmare that was happening at the time. Timelash from the last season and Time and the Rani from the next (both incomprehensibly worse than this!) don't have the same excuse. Mindwarp is a mish mash of ill conceived ideas, bad acting, sloppy direction and grotesque humour. It IS watchable but only just.

Supplement 5/10/03:

Here is where I get down on my hands and knees and pray for your indulgence. You see on the odd occasion I have been known to be totally and utterly wrong, I watch or read something in the wrong frame of mind and tear it to pieces unjustifiably. And other times I am absolutely spot on with my initial appraisal. For example Mr Jaime Feather Terminus IS an example of the tedious depths the show could sink to and The Two Doctors is an utterly fabulous piece of twisted comedy! But when it comes to Mindwarp I have always been extremely harsh and after chatting to some guys over at Outpost Gallifrey I decided to give it another try.

For a start I have totally missed the point. The story is supposed to seem like a piece of camp tack because it is a piece of camp tack but one with an endearing affection for its source material. In places it is almost Flash Gordon-like with Matrona (her tacky US accent alone deserves much praise) forcing Peri into some horribly sexist garb as a slave girl and Crozier and his brilliantly bored reactions to everything. The way he gets excited and throaty at the end because he has discovered the secret to ever lasting life is corny as hell but once again suits the story. There are tacky lines aplenty ("She may have been trying to poison us all!", "Sil stop gyrating your throat!", "Female... ooh flibergy gibergy!") that make you want to rush to the nearest graveyard dig a hole with your bare hands and crawl in. But once again they suit the Saturday morning B-movie style of the story, once you accept how they are trying to play the story there is an astonishing amount to enjoy.

For a start there is a lot of well played comedy that actually brings a smile to your face. I watched this with my partner and he laughed at Peri's complete inept ability to tell when the Doctor is trying to escape ("Could you prepare to apply the skidaddle test?"). Plus their dialogue in episode one has a lot of fun lines... "Beams that kill weren't the only things he had on his mind... dirty old warlord!", "Are you afraid it might clash with what you're wearing?", "I think he just winked at Peri" "Oh cheek!"... they have come quite far since their troubled beginnings and before the Doctor's mind gets all meshed up/distorted evidence by the Valeyard they share a wonderfully watchable chemistry that fans of the horrid Doc 5/Tegan interaction should take note of.

I finally get Ycarnos! It's taken me a while and constant re-viewings but I can finally understand why Brian Blessed chose to play the point with such mouthy precision. A larger than life warrior king who can shout a lot, direct the action and thanks to his bluster can provide the show with its most touching moments ("What is that... love?" "Destiny... blind chance?"). His character has a lot more depth than you believe, his reaction to the Doctor saving his life (aside from all the swearing) and his pained but noble response to his best friend's death are both quality moments. But his interaction with Peri is where he succeeds the most... he fights for her attention with Dorrf, strokes her cheek affectionately and intimately offers her his hand and a gentle farewell as he believes she's off to her death ("Die well, my lady"). Plus their dialogue sparkles in places...( "Politics?" "Yakkety Yack! Talk!" "I would like to meet the mighty warriors of Earth!"... "Lets rest a moment first huh, then onto our destiny?"). I can almost see why she would fall in love with such a mouthy oath and there are some foundations laid for a closer relationship.

Plus just how dark is this show? It has some really sadistic moments that really shock when you remember this is still Doctor Who. Suggesting that the Doctor could be a turncoat, chaining up Peri and torturing her horribly, turning her in to the guards. I'm not surprised people feel uncomfortable watching this. But its certainly a brave move. It is saddening to think that if Peri really does die the last ever time she saw the Doctor she was questioning his morals and integrity. She hated him. That is a brave move. And to kill her off so casually, to have her death off screen and then watch her get shot down... it is hardly surprising the Doctor is close to tears come the last episode. And to cast the High Council in the role of the bad guys just two stories before they are exposed as the murderers of the Earth... this certainly ain't no kids show anymore.

This has to be one of the top ten best looking stories ever, the lighting and set design is incredibly evocative. There is a darkness to the story, a disturbing feel that is highlighted in the shadowy set design. Strobe lit tunnels, the alien pinks and greens that light the sets, the smoky blue lights of the induction centre, the head on view of Crozier's laboratory... it's remarkably stylish and expensive looking.

There are still a mountain of problems to overcome though. Colin Baker, so good practically everywhere and emoting furiously in the last episode, trips up in episode two where he overdoes his mind mush. The direction is a lot better than I previously thought, Ron Jones provides some superbly dramatic moments in episode four and there are some stylistic touches elsewhere that deserve a mention (The waves crashing into Peri feet in the start of the interrogation scene is brutal and stark, the huge close up on Sil's face when Kiv wakes up actually gets a laugh from me and some impressive long shots such as Dorff jumping off camera into the misty shadows in episode one...) but is still nowhere near as impressive as his work for Vengeance on Varos. Plus that Davison plague, the corridor wandering is back en masse as characters explore the dark and dingy cave system (at least it's nice to look at!).

Mindwarp is not perfect Doctor Who, far from it, but it is certainly more worthy than many, including me, have judged it to be. It shows up the behind the scenes production nightmare more than any other story in the Trial but still manages to tell an entertaining, albeit perversely twisted tale.

And it could have the best ever last five minutes for any Doctor Who story ever. Certainly the most controversial.

And it's waaaaaaaaaaaaay better than Terminus.


Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmindwarp!!! by Steve Scott 21/7/03

There is a tendency amongst Who fandom to trot out certain phrases whenever reviewing a particular story. Troughton and Baker Mark One are usually ‘at the height of their powers’ midway through their tenure; a reviewer of any story of Season 11 will usually make use of the adjective ‘stale’ and anyone discussing Season 24 will invariably start speaking in tongues. Season 23’s Mindwarp presents no exception, for somebody somewhere will always mention variations on ‘this story sealed Colin Baker’s fate’…

Yes, I know that Mindwarp was devised in a similar vein to a dossier justifying war on Iraq (i.e. no-one has a clue what it’s about) but it’s still lovely. Here’s why…

Firstly, dear Uncle Colin… what a performance!! Fans are legendary for wingeing at the somewhat stylised performance in this story but for Rassilon’s sake, the poor chap's gone mad as George W. Bush!! Watch the trial scenes through this instalment, and compare CB’s performance; exaggerated, warped (appropriately) on Thoros Beta and righteous bemusement in the trial room. Listen to the lines; the Doc doesn’t recognise his outrageous behaviour largely because most of it didn’t happen. And given the production nightmare surrounding this tale (it’s now received wisdom that neither the writer or script editor had a clue what was going on) Colin of the Clashing Clothes deserves some credit for making sense out of this chaos!

As for the script… well it tries a little bit too hard to be clever. Philip Martin makes ingenious use of the Trial scenes not to amplify the fact that the Doc is fighting for his life, but to rip up the rulebook in writing run of the mill Who. The Inquisitor bemoans the use of ‘shock tactics’ (the gunning down of Peri’s group at the end of part seven) when this was precisely the kind of thing Mr. Grade mentioned in his Season 22 tirade; the ‘Doctor-and-companion-arrive-on-new-planet-and-exchange-banter’ scene is wriiten off as ‘inconsequential silliness’ (by the Doctor himself); the Doctor’s travelling chums are explicitly referred to as ‘companions (I’m open to correction, but this is the first time the term is used in Who). Blimey…..

And also, if that weren’t enough – the final ten minutes. Wow.


Brain of Kiv by Will Berridge 25/12/03

An oft made criticism of Trial is that it's difficult to pick up the plot when watching individual episodes. I'd intended to counter this difficulty by watching all 4 episodes on UK Gold at once. (The fact that I don't have a permanent taped copy is probably as good an indication as any of what I think of Trial.) Unfortunately I've had to start with Mindwarp. Why? Well it's all Terry Nation's fault. If he hadn't taken the rights to the Daleks away, UK Gold would have shown Revelation on Saturday, as opposed to the Mysterious Planet, which aired then in its place, not this morning as I expected. Hmph. Sigh.

So, I had to get stuck right into the courtroom plot immediately, which is a pity, because all it does is confuse what is a fairly bog standard, uninspiring but inoffensive Who storyline, which resembles without surpassing a certain 4th Doctor tale, for one obvious reason. The "interference with the Matrix" plot thread cocks things up the most. It's infuriatingly pointless and confusing having to watch is a piece of fiction anyway and not know whether it's "true". The Doctor suggests that the evidence in the matrix has been subtly tampered with to present him in a bad light. But unless the whole story's a complete fabrication (please don't tell me I spent this morning watching a fabrication of a fantasy), it's pretty clear the Doctor's behaviour in this adventure amounts to nothing more than "doing an Adric". That is, pretending to go along with the bad guys to thwart their plans from the inside, but botching up completely, making things even worse and endangering everyone. Again, the writers are playing the "anti-hero" card, when all an easily pleased family audience want if for a central figure they can warm to. He abandons Peri completely in the process of this grand design, and by the time he gets round to rescuing her from her grand transformation, it would have been already too late even if the Time Lords hadn't intervened.

At least that last bit provides easily the most dramatic part of the entire epic Trial serial, with fantastic acting by Blessed, Baker and Bryant. The acting on the whole is an interesting mix, ranging from the ridiculously underplayed (Crozier), to the ridiculously overplayed (Yrcanos), to the ridiculously campy (Sil). Roles like Frax and Kiv are also very subtly done, and the regulars are on good form, but whilst the acting is enjoyable rarely does in impact in such a way that the story becomes a serious drama. Tuza is the worst, it wouldn't surprise me if he was played by a CBBC presenter who walked into the wrong studio, because the poor sod obviously can't act at all. Also, much of the story is filled with the incongruity of pantomine, common in this era. There's the conversation Yrcanos has with that Mentor, one of his mortal enemies, who's going on about "the noise he makes". The ludicrous sense of pietas Frax seems to put into announcing the death of "the Raak". And, of course, Peri getting paired off to a warrior king with an immense beard, despite the fact the last time we see her in this adventure she "mentally no longer exists" and Yrcanos very much looks as if he's about to shoot her. Maybe Peri's brain cells fought back and rejected Kiv's. Maybe Yrcanos thought Kiv's brain was an improvement on hers. Maybe it'll be explained in a new adventure.

Some parts of Mindwarp are actually quite enjoyable, then, but unfortunately others devolve it into a pointless mess. 5/10.


If at first you don't succeed, SHOUT EVEN LOUDER! by Joe Briggs-Ritchie 2/8/10

Is The Trial of a Time Lord as bad as it is generally made out to be? I'm not sure. Probably not. I can say for certain however that Mindwarp is easily the worst part of the saga. Terror of the Vervoids is generally the most disliked story of the season but despite all its faults I actually find it quite enjoyable. Mindwarp on the other hand is dull and, as we all know, dull is worse than bad. I've never been a fan of Philip Martin's previous story Vengeance on Varos which I find tedious, involving far too much running around bland sets. Mindwarp on the other hand features lots of running around bland cave sets so it's hardly any improvement.

Once again, we have that lovely opening shot of the Gallifreyan space station. They were obviously very proud of it and quite rightly so.

The script is mostly dull and plodding but it does have the occasional moment of humour such as when the Doctor refers to the Valeyard as the Brickyard which prompts a rather amusing response from the Inquisitor. After the Valeyard refers to her as "sagacity" the Doctor calls him a "sycophant". It's handbags at twenty paces with these two!

Visually, it's a mixed bag. The cave sets are fairly boring but then I suppose there's only so much you can do with caves anyway. On the other hand, the shot of the TARDIS on the shore in a bright pink sea with a ringed planet in the sky is stunning. The long shot of Crozier's lab is also well done although the bright blue rocks are a bit loud for my taste. Speaking of the beach, the Doctor doesn't seem too bothered about the console room filling with water.

I don't care that much for Richard Hartley's incidental music either. It's not bad, it's just bland. The Mysterious Planet had a great score, very eerie. The music for Mindwarp just isn't in the same league though.

Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant have a nice onscreen chemistry this season; the bickering has been turned right down and it's nice to finally see that they can interact without shouting at one another. Colin Baker is okay in this story but I don't find it to be a performance that really gets my attention. Nicola Bryant is really quite good in this. Peri has come a long way from the whinging whining screamer of the previous season. She seems to have developed a flippant, sarcastic streak as exemplified when the Guard Captain finds her in the tunnel outside the control room. The thing that attacks her and the Doctor is only seen briefly and for this I'm grateful, as it doesn't seem too convincing.

Sil is dynamite. As in Vengeance on Varos, Nabil Shaban gives a superb performance. Sil is a character with such life to him and it's all credit to Nabil Shaban when you consider that he was extremely restricted in that costume. I particularly like the way he says "Crozier" the first time round, as if he's French or something. I also liked his line about "servants eating you out house and home". Christopher Ryan plays off him extremely well as Lord Kiv. These two are by far the best thing about this story. I wasn't that taken with the Lukoser though. It's an interesting idea but the frequent dog noises got on my nerves.

Then there's Brian Blessed...

The Brian Blessed style of acting basically involves shouting. And even more shouting. And then some. That's not to say that I don't like him, I do; it's just that I'm not too fond of the character he's playing. I suppose it isn't really a part for playing in a subtle manner but it's fantastically over the top, even by his standards. His constant overemphasis of his lines and his wild gesticulating got on my nerves very quickly.

It's a story that drags. That for me is the real killer. I did particularly enjoy how it all fits together with the Time Lords taking the Doctor out of time, and thus linking it nicely with the previous story.

Not as interesting as The Mysterious Planet, nowhere near as entertaining as Terror of the Vervoids.

In a word... tedious.


A Review by Yeaton Clifton 26/3/13

The planet Thoros Beta is strange and beautiful, and the Mentor race native to the planet impressive (the aliens are race that were previously encountered in Vengeance on Varos). The basic story has the Doctor acting evil possibly to find a way to outwit the Mentors, and it is a very good story. The story also shows Peri dying because the Time Lords pulled the Doctor out of space and time so that he could not see her, and it is a great death scene. Unfortunately, the story is framed as part of Trial of a Time Lord, and this makes it more confusing than it has to be.

The story could be interpreted so that most of the times the Doctor acted evil, he was in fact acting to bring a scheme into existence and viewed in that way it makes sense. The story, however, is viewed through the Matrix, and in this story we learn that the Matrix can lie, so we do not know what the Doctor really did, and what was a lie of the Matrix; the story is even more confusing because the Doctor's brain was altered by the Mentors who wanted to turn him evil. This makes the story incomprehensible, and it gets even more confusing because it is told through the Matrix directed by the Valyard as evidence against the Doctor, so there are a lot of courtroom scenes. The courtroom dialog is badly written, as is court room dialog throughout season 23.

Peri's death is very well-handled, but later in the season the story is taken back. We are told the Matrix lied again, and Peri really married someone called King Ycarnos. The marriage is out of character for Peri. The man is just too crude to interest her. Peri's character is that of a proud and slightly spoiled American, and Ycronons is ignorant, violent and has never heard of love. There is no chemistry, and it ruins the catharsis that we got when she died.

Otherwise, it is a good story.