Friday 4 December 2015

Story 143b - The Trial of a Time Lord (Parts 5 - 9)

In which the inquiry into the Doctor's actions continues. The Valeyard shows the court the arrival of the Doctor and Peri on the planet Thoros Beta. The Doctor is investigating how high-tech weapons have fallen into the hands of a Thordon warlord. They enter a cave and find a control room, and are attacked by a creature called the Raak, which appears to be a modified aquatic species. They are captured by humanoid guards, but manage to escape into a labyrinth of tunnels. Here, Peri discovers that Thoros Beta is homeworld to the Mentors - the race to which Sil belongs. They are finally apprehended. The Doctor learns that a human scientist named Crozier is working here. He is concerned to hear that the Raak had attacked them, as it proves his current experiments are not working. He has a captured Krontep king in his laboratory - Yrcanos - and is trying to alter his mind to pacify him. This is not going to plan either. The Doctor learns that Crozier has been employed to save the life of the Mentor leader, Kiv. He processes all the Mentors' financial transactions through his head, and his brain has expanded dangerously within his skull. Crozier must transplant it into a new host. Sil is present, tasked with ensuring his leader's survival or else facing his own death.

To learn the truth about what happened with the Raak, Crozier uses his equipment on the Doctor. This has the effect of scrambling the Doctor's mind. Yrcanos escapes along with Peri. The king takes a shine to the young Earth woman. They find his equerry, Dorf, chained up in one of the tunnels. Crozier's experiments have transformed him into a wolf-man, which the guards have called the Lukoser. Yrcanos vows revenge. There are captives from Thoros Alpha here, and some of them have escaped and set up a resistance movement. Yrcanos must find them and lead them into battle. The Doctor appears to join forces with Sil, offering him future knowledge of galactic events in order that he can make money out of them. He also causes Peri to be recaptured. The Doctor supervises her interrogation personally, as she is chained to rocks as the tide comes in. The body of a maritime Mentor is found, and this looks as if it will be a suitable host for Kiv's brain. The Doctor assists with the surgery. It is successful, but Crozier claims that it can only ever be a temporary measure.

Crozier has another scheme in mind, and he decides that Peri might make the perfect host to take Kiv's mind, rather than his brain. The Doctor's mind clears and he joins Yrcanos in looking for the rebels. Unfortunately, the group has been discovered and most have been killed. Only a young man named Tuza is left to join the king and Dorf. They set off to rescue Peri and stop Crozier. Dorf is killed. Suddenly, the TARDIS appears in the corridor and the Doctor is placed in a trance - to be lifted away to face this inquiry. Yrcanos and Tuza are placed in a time bubble. In the laboratory, Peri is no more - her mind gone and replaced with that of Kiv.
In the courtroom, the Doctor is furious at the intervention of the Time Lords at this crucial stage. The Inquisitor explains that Crozier's mind transference experiments threaten the cosmos and must be stopped at any cost. Yrcanos is going to be used as an assassin. He is freed from the time bubble and enters the lab to find his new love dead. He opens fire - apparently killing everyone in the room.
Back in the court, the Doctor is horrified to learn that his companion is dead...

The second segment of The Trial of a Time Lord, four episodes collectively known as Mindwarp, was written by Philip Martin, and was broadcast between 4th and 25th October, 1986.
The character of Sil, as played by Nabil Shaban, had proved to be very popular, and Philip Martin was asked to write a follow up. As mentioned previously in my look at the lost Season 23, this would have been in an adventure with the Ice Warriors. When the various planned stories were dropped due to the series going on hiatus, Martin was one of those retained to contribute to the new Trial format.
This time we would visit Sil's home planet and see more of his kind.
Producer John Nathan-Turner asked Martin to include Peri's death. The writer did not have a happy experience on this story - being asked to link it to later episodes that were still to be finalised.
Colin Baker's big gripe was how to play some of the scenes where the Doctor appears to be acting nasty. Was this the Matrix lying, or the Doctor only pretending to fool the Mentors, or is it due to his brain being scrambled? He was not given any clue from the director or from script editor Eric Saward. Martin himself, watching it later, wasn't sure what was intended due to the acting in these scenes. He wasn't happy that a lot of the humour which he had put into the scripts had been removed.

The guest cast includes Patrick Ryecart as Crozier, who was apparently bemused by the entire experience. He hadn't understood any of it. Yrcanos is Brian Blessed, officially a National Treasure in Britain. Two actors will return in the new series - Christopher Ryan (Kiv) will be back as a couple of Sontarans, and Trevor Laird (guard commander Frax) played Martha Jones' dad. As Tuza is Gordon Warnecke, who had his big break in My Beautiful Launderette.
Episode endings are:
  1. The Doctor has been strapped to an operating table with a metal helmet placed on his head. Sil orders Crozier to extract the truth about what happened to the Raak. The Doctor convulses in agony as the machine is switched on. The Doctor looks scrambled.
  2. Believing him to be working for the Mentors, Yrcanos levels his gun at the Doctor. The Doctor looks aghast.
  3. Peri, Yrcanos and Tuza are all shot down by Frax. In the court, the Doctor claims that he cannot be held responsible for this, but the Valeyard asserts that he should be. The Doctor looks troubled.
  4. Having seen his companion die, the Doctor rounds on the Time Lords and accuses them of being of responsible. The Doctor looks determined.

Overall, it is a more satisfying segment than those around it. Sil is very funny. On seeing it at the time, the death of Peri was obviously shocking - one of those "you had to be there" moments. Probably a big mistake having the Sixth Doctor appear to be nasty and unpleasant once again (even if this is part of the context of the plot). In her last story, Peri gets to do a lot of the Doctor-y stuff.
Things you might like to know:
  • It was during the studio rehearsals for this story that news reached the team that Robert Holmes had died.
  • Unusually, the OB filming took place after the studio recording. This was at a beach near Brighton, much frequented by nudists.
  • As mentioned, Eric Saward took a lot of Philip Martin's humour out of the scripts. When episodes under-ran, Saward had to add scenes - such as the whole sequence with the elderly Mentor complaining about how loud Yrcanos is, and the stuff about the Alphan rebels.
  • The huge circular steel vault door which appears prominently in the story got paid more than Nicola Bryant, as she has often said in interviews. She managed to see a receipt for its hire.
  • A small reptilian alien appears briefly as one of Kiv's guests in the second episode. The face looks familiar, as it is a reused Terileptil mask painted purple. Inside is actor Deep Roy, who had been Mr Sin in The Talons of Weng-Chiang. The alien is called a Posicarian. Jimmy Vee has got his gig these days, with Roy far too busy doing things like the new Star Trek movies now.
  • Due to staff shortages at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Dick Mills was suggested to do the music as well as the sound effects for this story. JNT said no, and Richard Hartley did the music instead - his only work on the programme.
  • Brian Blessed forgot the name of the aliens at one point and called them "F***ers" - necessitating a retake. As the principle guest artist, he wasn't reprimanded too harshly. Someone should do an edit of this story with the name "Mentors" replaced with "F***ers" throughout, voiced by BB.
  • The producer will go on to trash Peri's death scene by having her married off to King Yrcanos - the Matrix having lied about her death. This then begs the question about just how much of this story is actually real. Presumably Crozier is killed and his work destroyed, but we don't know what happens to Sil or to Kiv.
  • Philip Martin, in the novelisation of this tale, has Yrcanos going on to do very well on the US wrestling scene, with Peri as his manager.

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