Thursday 27 August 2020

Inspirations - Trial of a Time Lord (3)

It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Philip Martin would be called upon to write for Doctor Who again, after his first story - Vengeance on Varos - had done so well in Season 22. You'll recall that JNT was initially reluctant to employ Martin as he was worried that he might be too political. As it was Varos was a very political story, touching on the whole "video nasty" controversy and totalitarian governments, as well as covering a lot of moral and ethical issues around capital and corporal punishment, torture, and what the media's role in society should be. The slug-like character of Sil had especially proved highly popular, so any new Martin script would almost certainly be expected to bring him back.
The abandoned Season 23 had as an early story "Mission to Magnus", which would have seen Sil return. Another story, by Wally K Daly, would have involved arms dealing. Martin's new story for the revised Season 23 would also include arms dealing - it is this which brings the Doctor and Peri into the action in the first place.
For the new story that forms episodes 5 - 8 of Trial of a Time Lord, which we generally refer to as Mindwarp, Martin decided to show Sil's background. The setting is Thoros Beta, home planet of Sil's race - the Mentors. We get to see other members of the race, including the leader Kiv.
The main plot is a mad scientist one. Kiv is dying, because his cranium isn't big enough to accommodate his great brain. He has therefore employed an amoral scientist named Crozier to save his life. It is suggested that it was Sil who recruited Crozier, so the scientist's failure will reflect on him. Crozier plans to carry out good old fashioned brain transfer into a new host body. He has organised the capture of many of the humanoids who live on sister planet Thoros Alpha, in order to find a suitable host. This is where Brian Blessed comes in. He's an Alphan warrior king, currently being experimented upon when the Doctor and Peri join the action.

Blessed had been under serious consideration to replace William Hartnell as the Doctor back in 1966. He was well known to the viewing public at the time for his regular role in police drama Z Cars. That series had been taken off the air, but was then reprieved. Blessed was later on the wish lists of other producers when it came time to regenerate the Doctor. Prior to 2005, his name was always mentioned in the tabloids as a potential new Doctor. He almost appeared as a guest on the programme on many occasions, according to casting notes drawn up by directors such as Christopher Barry. His first appearance would have been directly linked to Z Cars, however, as director Douglas Camfield had planned a comedic Christmas crossover between the cop show and Doctor Who for the episode "The Feast of Steven". This seventh instalment of The Daleks' Master Plan was to fall on 25th December itself, and would involve a present day encounter between the TARDIS crew and some Liverpudlian policemen. As it was, the Z Cars producer vetoed the idea. Blessed was one of the Z Cars cast who would have appeared.

Martin was approached by JNT with one fairly major story element that he wanted included. This was to be the death of companion Peri. Always on the lookout to generate column inches in the popular press, JNT thought that this, plus the introduction of a new companion mid season, would attract publicity. He also had in mind a companion actor who was already well known, thus generating even more publicity.
Crozier has been experimenting with transferring brains, but he suddenly decides to transplant only the contents of mind into a new body. After parking Kiv's brain in a temporary amphibious Mentor body, Crozier has his mind transferred into Peri.
Earlier, the Doctor had been subjected to one of Crozier's tests, and this led to some confusion in the plot - and behind the scenes. Was the Doctor's bizarre behaviour the result of is brain being slightly scrambled, a ruse on his part to fool the Mentors, or the Matrix being messed about with and showing false images. Colin Baker asked Eric Saward about this, to be told to speak to the writer. When he spoke to the writer, he was advised to speak to the story editor.
Nicola Bryant reported that she caught sight of an invoice for hire of the large metal door prop from Crozier's laboratory, and it cost more than her fee for the story.
She did not see the final episode of the season, where her real fate was revealed - until it came to the DVD commentary. She found it hilarious rather than touching and romantic. Martin had her managing Yrcanos back on Earth, where he had become a wrestling star, in the novelisation.
Next time: Murder on the Intergalactic Express...

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