Thursday, December 23, 2010

Serial 144: Mindwarp - The Trial of a Time Lord Part II

Doctor: Colin Baker (6th Doctor)
Companion: Peri Brown

Written by: Phillip Martin
Directed by: Chris Clough

Background & Significance: "Mindwarp" is a bit of a hard thing to talk about. Thinking about it now, it's hard for me to elucidate on all the things I have to think about without going too much into them. Maybe that's because I've changed my mind on what, exactly, I think about it since my initial viewing.

The first time I watched Mindwarp, I checked out mentally halfway through episode one when we have the re-appearance of "supposedly fan-favourite" alien Sil. Really, once you add him, the story becomes something I'm not interested in. Sil, whom you might remember from the insanely controversial "Vengeance on Varos" back in the infamous Season 22 (Colin Baker's premiere season), was a little annoying slithering alien who laughed and was "funny" and gross and... yeah. I've decided that I don't like weird alien slugs. Just don't like them. I can think of ONE time when they were used well in Doctor Who, and even then, I didn't have to look at them.

"Mindwarp" is written by "Varos" writer Phillip Martin, who was asked to contribute a story to Colin Baker's second season to bring back Sil as a returning villain (because of the popularity?) for what would have been Colin Baker's second season had the hiatus and Trial not happened, but when that season was scrapped in the face of Trial of a Time Lord, that planned story got dead. But apparently Sil was so popular they brought Martin back in for Trial with the explicit request to bring Sil back.

Martin, I find, is interested in wholly different things than I'm interested in. By my count he's done only three Doctor Who stories (the third being a Big Finish audio called "Creed of the Kromon") and all three seem to share similar qualities and interests as they relate to Martin. Unfortunately, I can't say I tend to agree with them. All three stories share forced genetic mutation (and all three to a female companion no less), suffer from stories that feel overly long, weak dialogue, and weird alien characters who are obsessed with money and capitalism.

That was my problem with this in the initial. Now, it's not so much, but there's... a reason for that. Which I will explain as we go through it.

This serial is also significant for being the final work Eric Saward contributed to the series. After this story, he quit due to "creative differences" and "hatred of JNT" and Robert Holmes's recent illness which would prove to be fatal in just a short time. The interesting thing is that most people tend to look at this era and blame JNT and while I don't think JNT is without blame... But man. I don't think that's the case.

Know how I know? Eric Saward showed his hand here. And we're going to talk about it. I recently finished watching all of Colin Baker's run in its entirety earlier this month, and I've come to a "Wow you messed up things" place when it comes to him. We'll talk about it a LOT more next year as we talk about him in the rest of Colin Baker's run, but really. In a lot of ways, this is his swansong and before reading this, I would like to remind you who it is we're dealing with. Check out his infamous post-departure interview he gave. That is Saward.

And oh boy do I just want to talk about him a bit.

If "The Mysterious Planet" explored a story from The Doctor's past, "Mindwarp" explores a story from The Doctor's immediate[ish] present. So let's... yeah. Let's go through this story. It's a doozy and a long one, but I think it gives rise to some solid discussion. Hope you like it.

So let's get to it!


Part 1:

So part one of "Mindwarp" is actually not totally awful. It's not as bad as I remember. It does everything a part one is supposed to do. It sets up the story and the players and establishes the conflicts and wants that these characters have.

The worst part about it, for me, is the inclusion of Sil. First time around (before I knew about Sil’s unfortunate reappearance) I remember being actually fairly interested in what’s going on. I thought it was kinda blah (especially coming off of “Mysterious Planet”) but just your mediocre Doctor Who story. And then I remember Sil showing up and then instantly losing any and all interest. Suddenly, the show became a chore. Like eating cookies. I finished my first plate and then someone gave me not-as-tasty cookies and then made sure they were filled with shards of glass.

Granted, that’s my own personal hangup, but it stands. And surely, I can’t be the only person out there who hates Sil. But whatever. I promise I’ll try not to talk about him too much, because, quite frankly, he’s not really worth my time. Just know that whenever he’s in this story I feel like drilling a hole in my brain because every quirk, mannerism, line, inflection, shot… all of it. It’s all just pain to me. And I hate it.

But moving on!

Having just finished watching the episode, I find the number of things to say about this story actually fairly limited without being re-hashy. I think there are some pretty neat ideas, but they’re all ideas Martin (the writer) had already created for “Vengeance on Varos”. We have a mad scientist Doctor, Crozier, who does nothing but prep genetic experiments (remember that “fantastic” and “totally necessary” bit where we randomly had Peri turn into a bird? It’s like that BUT WITH MORE), and of course, this experiment becomes the quite-good end of the first episode. Seeing The Doctor strapped to the chair and brain-zapped (or mindwarped if you will) is quite a visceral image and right exactly where you need to be heading into the second episode.

And then there's Crozier himself, who's actually kind of awesome. But that's just because he's a driven guy and not so much a villain as a smart man with an insatiable curiosity.

As for the rest, well…

For one thing, I’m not a fan of the 80s. That’s as a general rule, mind you. I know people who like the 80s, there’s just a lot of things the 80s is and they aren’t really for me. This story reminds me a lot of the baudy, unapologetic garishness of Colin Baker’s previous season, with all the bad guy security dudes running around in purple and stuff. The caves look cheap, the sets look flashy (in the way the 80s are), the personel wear purple (not that I have any objections to purple as a rule, but it just looks awful), and everything feels grim and grizzly, both things I tend to not actually enjoy in Doctor Who. To me, Doctor Who is a show about fun, and nothing about this is me having fun..

The Trial segments have already started to derail. Where Robert Holmes had an instinctual ability to cut back to the Trial only when absolutely necessary, Martin will cut back about four times as often, and often time just for The Valeyard to yell about something The Doctor’s doing that’s bad and then they get in an argument and it’s really, really annoying.

Remember what I said last time about The Valeyard’s power being diminished because he can’t really do anything to get at The Doctor except point? Yeah. This is that but on acid. There is SO much pointing and yelling and arguing here and it’s… completely pointless. It’s just bickering, senseless bickering and it accomplishes nothing and The Inquisitor actually lets it go on before she shuts them up, which is just folly. I mean, I’m all for argument and banter. In fact, there’s nothing BETTER than argument (because it’s inherently dramatic and story building) or banter (because it’s just fun), but all of this is just useless and pointless and doesn’t accomplish anything except maybe making me want to stab someone in the face with a jackelope or something. Not only that, but as a result of that, it just makes The Valeyard look like a petulant child and it’s… it just kills his character. He feels it necessary to stop The Doctor Who watching every three minutes (hate those people) just to point out every little thing The Doctor does wrong. For frak’s sake, dude. Let your evidence speak for itself. The less you says, the more threatening you is, and as such the story ends up just feeling overwritten with Martin clearly trying too hard to make all of this work.

And as a result, it doesn’t. And it shows. Which is weird, because... The Valeyard doesn't actually have to say a thing. He can just sit and watch and the story will speak for itself. Much more than "Mysterious Planet" did.

There’s a lesson in that. Know your story. It might be in Trial of a Time Lord, but the Trial is a framing device. The *story* is that of The Doctor and Peri’s final adventure together. By not focusing on that, Martin shoots his own story in the foot. And with that shot goes my attention and I just descend into wanting the whole brain drilling thing to happen. So really kids, know your story. Drive that. The first four parts of Trial were all about this adventure. Is this about the Trial? No. It’s not. Then don’t cut back to the Trial until absolutely necessary.

If there is one decent shiny spot on this, it’s the Doctor and Peri relationship. The moment they team up to perform a “Skedadle” is one of the strongest moments of the episode. They’re back to bickering (at least a bit) but I tend to overlook that, especially knowing where exactly these two will end up by story’s end. It makes all of their scenes together look good, because once The Doctor's brain gets scrambled he... never really talks to her again.

But we’ll talk about that when we actually get to there.

Part 2:

Aaaaaaaaaand here’s where a big trouble hits. But before we get into that, let’s touch on some highlights.

Much as I’m loathe to hate Sil and his entire species (and oh my god I can’t believe how much I still do. Worst Doctor Who villain ever? He’s up there for me) the actual concept behind what’s going on is quite interesting. The fact that Sil’s species was genetically engineered means that their basic physical structure cannot grow, so at a certain point their brain just becomes too big and grows too much and then the alien will suffer from brain damage and die.

So Sil’s overlord (or whatever. I don’t remember their relationship and quite honestly I don’t care) Kiv is outgrowing his brain, so he needs to have brain transfer in order to increase his life’s longevity. And with that, evil mad scientist Crozier would be able to basically create immortals through a series of brain/mind transplants. That, actually, is a pretty decent idea and one I rather like. Hate the species, love the concept.
Also totally swinging for the fences and hitting home runs right here is Brian Blessed as Warrior King Yrcanos. Totally awesome, totally fantastic. Martin’s dialogue for him sparkles and the way he plays it is so insanely bombastically over the top it just works. I really love him as a character. Now if only they could bring him back and just leave Sil the hell away from Doctor Who, I’d be right as rain.

And then we have Colin Baker, who... despite everything (I'll explain in a minute) really KILLS the material he has. Which brings us to the flip side, which is a discussion of the eponymous "Mindwarp".

So at the end of the previous episode, The Doctor’s mind gets scrambled by the brain scrambler, which leads to some complications. They escape (with some help from Yrcanos) and then get away. But quickly, Yrcanos and Peri find out that The Doctor’s brain is, in fact, scrambled or addled or whatever (which is fine, I mean, it’s called “Mindwarp” for a reason), but Yrcanos is on a mission and he needs guns. So he, Peri, and The Doctor all make for a gathering of guards where they can find pistols and the like and then The Doctor (who’s been acting loopy) turns on everyone and starts acting totally weirdly out of character and teams up with Sil (so you know it’s out of character) and starts acting like a total a-hole.

Now. I don’t have a problem with this. I really, really don’t. It makes sense to see The Doctor just completely lose control of the situation and the science/tech aspect is totally in line with what’s come before and what will come after. The problem I do have I’d relate to you, but I’m not the first person to ask it, so I’ll let Colin Baker do all the asking for himself. It comes from this interview he did a few years after this story was broadcast and… well… We’ll talk about it a little after the thing.
I was very confused by it, but I had a very different problem, especially in ‘Mindwarp’ because there was a point when I said to Eric Saward, the script editor, ‘When I’m tying Peri to this rock and threatening to torture her, am I doing it for some subtle reason of my own, because I think I’m being watched or whatever, or because I’ve been affected by the mind probe, or is the Matrix lying?’. Those were the three alternatives as I saw it. He said ‘I don’t know, you’d better ask Philip Martin’, so I got in touch and gave him those three alternatives, he said ‘I don’t know, Eric wrote the trial stuff, all the Matrix stuff was added after, by Eric, you’d better ask him’. So I went to John Nathan-Turner, he said ‘Oh, whichever you like’. This is the level of involvement at the time. Eric was going through his own problems at the time, disagreeing with John Nathan-Turner on all sorts of things. I felt that was all very sloppy, it was all cobbled together a bit. The stories were written independently, and the trial theme was put on top. I felt it was the Matrix lying, so I really was torturing Peri. But it was very difficult. You expect the writers to know what’s happening, but that’s not always the case.” [source]
Right there. Do you see that? Do you see the problem I have with what’s going on here?

There’s a thing that happens in writing. I see it all the time, especially with fresh and inexperienced writers, when they won’t know something. You’ll ask them a question about something ambiguous that isn’t made clear and they’ll say “I haven’t got a clue” or “I don’t know” or “I haven’t decided”. Now I’m not saying that people have to explicitly explain every single little element of their story, because they really really don’t. But the writer needs to have his/her own interpretation of what’s going on and that needs to be clear. They have to know the intricacies of their stories. They need to see all the holes and be able to account for them when the chips are down. Otherwise it’s bad writing.

So you know what? I call bullshit.

I can forgive Nathan-Turner, because he’s not a story guy. He’s producer guy and not a writer. His job is to get the damn thing made. So I really can’t fault him too much for this.

I can, however, fault Phillip Martin and Eric Saward.

Martin I can fault because Martin should KNOW. He’s the one who came up with this whole damn brain addling thing. So what’s the issue/deal with what’s going on? Don’t you think a writer should actually know and be able to tell the actor what's going on? Or that the actor, the one who has to, you know, play the part and say the words or whatever, should KNOW or be able to figure out what the hell is going on? But no, this is a huge case of passing the buck and not knowing your story. AND IT SHOWS. Take pride in your story, know what's going on. Don't just do something "because it's cool". Otherwise you get every lame Michael Bay movie or other Hollywood dribble that's slopped together and not compelling storytelling. And the worst part? It’s never made clear exactly how it’s supposed to be. But we’ll talk about that a bit more a bit later.

But then we get to Mister Eric Saward. Oh, Mr. Saward, I’d say I’m sorry for what I’m about to say, but I’m really not because you have this coming.

Bullshit, dude. I call bullshit.

You’re the god damned script editor. Your JOB is to get the story told and to do it the best you can. You need to be the one who MAKES these decisions because you are the one with the vision. This is your JOB. You’re a WRITER who oversees characters and plot and all the elements that go into the god damned words on the page that will eventually end up on screen. I don’t care if you like Colin Baker as The Doctor or not (and you have stated that you didn’t but that’s a WHOLE different discussion for a completely different time), but you basically, in the span of ONE conversation with your VERY SMART LEAD ACTOR have revealed that you have no idea what the fuck you’re doing. And you’ve been doing this for… what? Almost five years at this point? And you can’t even make a simple judgment call? Because each of these three possibilities that Colin Baker figured out (BUT YOU CLEARLY DIDN'T) is WILDLY different and alters the story and its after effects dramatically.

So bullshit, man. I don’t even care that you’re an asshole, Eric Saward (and you so so are), you’re bad at your job and I’m calling you on it, dude. Bullshit.

If you go and watch the documentaries and commentaries on the DVD box sets, the ones that feature Saward (who, I would like to point out has no other credits other than his time on Doctor Who), Saward is CONSTANTLY complaining about stories during his era being crap and them turning out as rubbish, especially the ones he’s written, but also the stories by the writers hired to write for the show.

Know why they’re all rubbish, Eric Saward? I’ll tell you why. It’s because of stupid shit like this, you moron. It’s insulting to think that you can’t even give a job you have (one which, by the way, TONS of people in the modern era myself included would have KILLED to have) enough time or thought to think about the stories you’re working on. No wonder all the stories in your reign are mired by shaky plotlines and generic weakness. You’re *in charge* of the scripts, dude. It’s your job to make them not suck. And clearly you don’t have the brain power to do even that.

You showed your hand, sir. And now I’ve lost ALL my respect for you and your horse crap. Bitch and moan about Colin Baker, JNT, Peri, the writers, The Doctor, people bitching about your insistence on violence, ALL OF IT. I don’t care. None of that changes the fact that you outted yourself as a shit writer too inept to handle the script editing duties of Doctor Who.

You wrote two of my favourite Peter Davison stories and then you went and helped screw everything up. Colin Baker deserved better. The fans deserved better. The show deserved better. If you had taken pride in your work and maybe if you had cared, maybe things would have been different, but as it stands, this is what we’re left with. AND THE SHOW IS WORSE OFF FOR IT. I don't know what you could have possibly been spending your time with, but it CLEARLY wasn't story. Which is your job. And not doing your job gets you fired and you so so should have been.

So thanks for not doing your job and contributing to this era's suckage. I don’t miss you. Not at all. The show would have been better without you. I just wish everyone had realized it back then.

Good day, sir.

Part 3:

I would like to apologize profusely for that rant, but I’ve been sitting on that for a long time. I’m generally not a spammer or a flamer, but… wanton ambivalence and bad writing on my favourite show, a show that happens to be a show that lives and dies on the strength of its writing…. I need to address that. I’m not here to pull punches. I’m here to critique and analyze these stories and the people involved, and I refuse to let such negligent and horrible writing practices stand.

So let us continue.

Part three is another part three in which nothing really happens. Kiv is placed in a replacement body, but Crozier realizes will not hold. The Doctor hangs out with Sil a bit and they bond over mutual love of capital investment (The Doctor gets a cut). Peri runs around with King Yrcanos as they attempt to start their revolution to overthrow The Mentors of Thoros Beta.

If there are two actors who are killing this story right now, it’s Colin Baker and Brian Blessed (King Yrcanos). Both of these two are doing their absolute best to bring out the most they can of their respective situations, Yrcanos being so over the top it’s awesome (like Soldeed if Soldeed was a Samurai King instead of a Fairy Dust Wizard) and Colin Baker… well…

One of the things I didn’t get a chance to mention in the last part was the sudden improvement of the trial’s interruptions. All of the ones in the previous episode enhanced the overarching debate of this story, which is that of questioning The Doctor’s role in events. More than anything, this story is very specifically about The Doctor’s actual role in events he interferes with and what happens when those events go horribly wrong. Do the things that happen on Thoros Beta happen because he was there? And even if they were to happen without his involvement, does his involvement make things go worse?

The best example of this is the Peri storyline, in which Peri gets to troll around with King Yrcanos and beat the warrior drum and live the warrior life (all of which is awesome).

Because Peri's being here is all The Doctor's doing, all of what happens is, essentially, The Doctor's fault and something he needs to take responsibility for, a fact which, when you start to examine it, is not negated by The Doctor’s claims that “That isn’t what happened”, which he claims is due to record tampering with The Matrix, which The Inquisitor describes as "impossible".

This all works, and works insanely well. Throughout this episode (and the last), The Doctor has made countless attempts to explain that this isn’t the way things actually happened, but because his own mind was scrambled and his memories of events are gone he cannot back up anything he has to say and is relegated to watching events unfold as they will. All of this, of course, goes to strengthen The Valeyard’s case, not The Doctor’s. No matter which way The Doctor slices it (discounting the “It was someone tampering with The Matrix” thing, which I’ll discuss a bit later) either he was completely scrambled by the brain processor and his actions are the result of a mind-gone-bad OR he was faking his scrambledness and all of this was some great and glorious act to get him and Peri out alive.

If the reality is the latter (it’s all The Doctor’s plan), then The Doctor is being extremely reckless, putting Peri and countless others in extremely dangerous situations, and to what end? What will that accomplish? He has not made any attempts to do anything to aide her since the jumbling session at the end of episode one. And if the reality is the former (The Doctor’s brain was addled and he’s out of control of his own processes due to jumble) then The Doctor’s actions instigated the entire sequence of events through his own careless negligence and inability to fix the situation.

The dilemma is fascinating, and it’s hard to not see The Valeyard’s point even if you don’t agree with it. The Doctor here is, of course, terribly negligent and kind of a total asshole. It’s very un-Doctor-like, but that’s the point, and it’s awesome to see Colin Baker play Doctor gone rogue. (And it's better than another example which we'll talk about in a few weeks).

But Colin Baker here does a fantastic job of playing Red Kryptonite Doctor. I can still tell it’s The Doctor, but he is truly a warped and disfigured version of The Doctor. And not just any Doctor, but Colin Baker’s Doctor. Again, we see Colin Baker shining through and giving a stunningly excellent performance. And then we cut back to the Trial and watch as The Doctor, in horror, witnesses events unfold and is so completely and totally against EVERYTHING that happens and wishes he could stop it all.

It makes the end of the episode, featuring the gunning down of Yrcanos, Peri, and the small band of resistance fighters, that much more powerful as The Doctor is shocked, appalled, and mortified at the events he witnesses. “No! No no NO I won’t believe it!” he screams. And I believe him. I empathize with him. The reality of the situation is powerful, and I feel it, man. It feels like The Doctor is truly on trial and Colin Baker sells it and gives a truly magnificent performance as his Doctor takes a lesson in humility.

I've youtubed the ending, because I think it's powerful. Colin Baker rocks it. And The Valeyard has never before been so powerful and so domineering.

Fantastic work, by a fantastic actor in a truly underrated performance as The Doctor. But the worst is yet to come.

Part 4:

If there’s one thing that consistently blows me away about the final part to “Mindwarp”, it’s the fact that The Doctor loses. Utterly and completely, it is done, no chance of redemption, he loses. It’s rare for The Doctor to lose in a story (those stories in which he comes close are almost always exclusively regeneration stories), but it’s rare to see him lose and to lose this hard. The only other time I can think of where The Doctor so out and out lost without actually regenerating was in Nu-Who’s "The Waters of Mars" in which The Doctor fails to accomplish any of his goals and is left at the end completely broken.

Such is the way of this story, with the ultimate loss being, of course, the death of Peri.

Now, I might be in the minority here, but I absolutely LOVE Peri. I love her stories with Davison and while her relationship with The Doctor was unfortunately Sawardian (argumentative etc.), I've always loved her. I think she’s fun, perky, spunky (so of course Saward hated her), and she brings a levity to Doctor Who that we haven’t really seen since… Well… Sarah Jane, really.

In a lot of ways, Peri was, throughout Colin Baker’s first season, the show's anchor and emotional core. If there was a character you were going to like, it was almost certainly going to be Peri over The Doctor. And the first time I watched this, I found myself horrified to see the evil Crozier strap her down and shave her head and begin the mind transplant as he transplanted the mind of Kiv into Peri’s, overwriting all of her and erasing any sort of trace of Peri forever.

When guest blogger Cassandra was watching this one, I remember her distinctly saying she was “mad” about the way Peri went out. Similarly, in “The Discontinuity Guide”, those writers described it as “a stupid way to go.”

To me, that misses the point and hits it right on the head at the same time. You’re not supposed to like the way Peri goes. Her death is horrific and truly awful and a SUPER huge downer that runs entirely on hope. Peri's death is perverse both physically and psychologically, which enhances the tragedy of it. This is the result of The Doctor's actions. He has made attempts to save her. He’s on his way. He’s [inexplicably (bad writing)] undone the Mindwarp on his head and is on his way to her valiant rescue… But he's too late and called away, to stand Trial while The Time Lords clean up his mess.

This is not so dissimilar to Patrick Troughton’s final story “The War Games” in which he called for Time Lord intervention to help finish the job he started. The difference here is the Time Lord intervention is not asked for, they merely intercede and disrupt everything that's happening on the basis that Crozier’s experiments disrupt the natural balance and order of life and death and he needs to be stopped. The Doctor had his opportunity to stop the bad guy and save the day and save his companion, but he failed. He FAILED.

All of this comes after an episode of tension building insanity with lots of things happening as The Doctor races to save Peri. Get there before they take her measurements, no wait they already did that. Get there before they strap her down, no wait they already did that. Get there before they shave her head, no wait they already did that. Get there before the procedure, no wait. It's already happened. And all of this goes down and The Doctor doesn’t stop it.

If The Trial were to stop now, The Valeyard would win. The Doctor clearly set all these events into motion. He brought Peri there and was neglectful of her circumstances. He failed to stop Crozier from completing his experiments. He brought about Peri’s demise. He is guilty of all that The Valeyard is accusing him of.

And that’s brilliant.

I mean, isn't it? What we have is irrefutable proof that The Doctor caused these events to happen. He meddled. He got burned. He needs to go down. Whether he wanted it to happen or not is irrelevant. At the end of the day, all that matters is that The Doctor put it all in motion and all of this happened under his watch and he wasn’t able to clean it up. Excuses be damned, he got in over his head and he lost everything. Now he's a prisoner of the Time Lords, his companion is dead, and it looks as though he will lose his life after all.

I can’t speak enough about how much I love this ending. It’s just a shame that (spoilers), they reveal later that Peri didn’t really die or get brain transferred and tons of the sequence of events that happened were actually Matrix tamperings. We won’t find that out for another couple of episodes, but… man. How much does that undermine everything that’s going on?

I mean, the tragedy is that Peri died and that she died so horribly and perversely. That is the tragedy. To say that she didn’t and to say that “oh ha ha some of this wasn’t actually real” and "ha ha no jk she really got married to Yrcanos and she's living happily ever after" turns this from a tragedy into a comedy and just makes The Valeyard into a conniving asshole when really, how much better would it be if he was right? If this wasn’t tampered with and it was just raw footage… God damn. GOD DAMN. That’s EVIDENCE and it gives his side weight and force. Doesn't it? It grays everything that’s going on and throws The Doctor’s entire nature and all of his actions ever into existence.

All of that aside, what we're left with at the end of this is a crushed Doctor, facing off against those who wish to take him down. He has no more defense. He's just witnessed the death of yet another Companion. He has nothing going for him. But what does he do? He stares down The Valeyard and looks right at him and says "I'm not done yet."

Fuck yes. That's The Doctor. FUCK YES. That's the hero guy. He has nothing left, but he stands up and says "I'm going to fight." In the light of tragedy and in his darkest moment, The Doctor stands against his enemies as strong as ever and says "This isn't over. It's far from over." It's an amazing moment and it's fist pumpy and Colin Baker brings it and owns it.

Bring on the nonbelievers. I will lesson them some knowledge. Make them watch.

Final Thoughts!: It's rare for me to have a change of heart about certain stories, and yet here you go. Despite myself, I REALLY like "Mindwarp".

That's not to say it's perfect because it does have plenty of things I don't like. The 80s vibe and feel and tone, stupid purple outfits, Sil, his race, the slower pace (would have been better as three episodes, that's what I'm saying)... All of these things contribute to my thoughts about this story when I get right down to it.

But you know what? The rest of it is insanely solid. I love the immense scale of tragedy. I love the death of Peri (except for the bit where they retconned it, thereby robbing this story of its power just a few episodes later). I love Brian Blessed as Yrcanos. I love Colin Baker despite everyone's still-standing-opinions that he's a terrible Doctor. Seriously. What is that? Screw that. Seriously. Where are all the Colin Baker haters and why in god's name have they not seen this? Bring them here. I'll show them a kickass Doctor.

Colin Baker kills this. Really. Talk about a HUGE letdown that this guy wasn't *the* thing. But he's lost to just two seasons of stories while Tom Baker gets seven and a free pass on everything. Tom Baker, who turned into a diva and stopped caring less than halfway through his run. And then there's Colin Baker. And no one wanted it more, no one could have brought it like this. Imagine any other Doctor in the scene above and it just isn't the same. Colin Baker is the only Doctor who can stand for this like this. The contrast is powerful when compared to his Mindwarped version of just the previous episode. He went from jarbled to perserverant hero and it never felt forced. The anger and strength and power is unlike any other Doctor and his brashness allows him to confront this issue head on. And it's amazing and powerful and TOTALLY Doctory. Not only that, but him being Red Kryptonite Doctor is so well done and he kills it (despite having no direction) and sells it and thank god that he made a decision out of the mass of indecision that was going on around this time. Because man... What a performance.

Not only that, but can we have more really really silly characters like King Yrcanos on the show? Cuz he's just fun and a total riot. I wouldn't mind a spin off series of his adventures. Okay, maybe not. But I would like him to come back at some point because he's is just so ridiculously awesome it's amazing.

While initially thinking that "Mindwarp" jumped the rails in the beginning, it really brings it back in the end. I really find myself more or less ambivalent to about half of it and unabashedly love the second half. It's a fantastic "darkest moment" for The Trial arc and helps throw The Doctor's entire nature and existence into contrast. That is, of course, what's on trial here, right? The Show? The people's ability to show this week to week?

Stunning. Absolutely stunning. The more I think about it, the more I think about how un-frakkin-believable it is as a story, and while I really don't like Philip Martin (I'm sick of slug aliens and grimness and mutation-based stories. I WILL NOT HAVE IT ANY MORE) I can't deny how strong this story is. It's not as good as "The Mysterious Planet", but it's totally handicapped by the strength of the second half after a weak first half.

In the end, I don't even care so much about all the little things (but they are enough to drag down this story's quality when I talk about it). All that matters is the excellent story in here that shines through just enough to keep it racing through my mind.

And if that doesn't speak to its quality, I have no idea what will.

Next Time!: 6th Doctor! More Trial! A FUTURE Story! A New Companion (Controversy!)! Plant creatures! MURDER IN SPACE! And, of course, more Valeyard! This Monday, Cassandra's back as we head into the home stretch on our two week Trial coverage with "Terror of the Vervoids"!


  1. I really love this story. I found your review a bit painful to read in places, but it is important to keep being critical and demand the best from those making the show.

    Are you going to review The Two Doctors at some point? I would be interested to see what you make of that one.

  2. I was actually quite surprised how much I ended up really enjoying it. Apologies for the coarse language and all. It just kinda came out and I'm kinda sick of Eric Saward.

    I do, in fact, plan on reviewing The Two Doctors, and (in the current plan-scheme of things) it should be discussed early next November. The plan is to do all serials by the end and I already have an order laid out and everything.

    But yes. The short answer is yes.

  3. I can't say that I particularly liked Peri, I just felt contempt the whole time. While the authors said it wasn't meant this way, you get the feeling that she was abused by her stepfather, because Camileon reflects the way she sees him and he is very creepy there. And the way she actually fled him, risking her life. She only got into worse and worse situations. She couldn't know where she is and was confronted with that extremely creepy entity that fluctuated between a creepy android, her creepy stepfather with bad intentions and the master. She barely came to knew her host, the nice fifth Doctor, but right there in here next adventure was in quickly in the hand of the next abusive, creepy person that only viewed her as an object of his desires, and this became a running theme of her time on the show. And just at the end of that episode she was confronted with the worst incarnation of all the Doctors who definitly abused her.

    You can hear it in her voice (and I hope that is acting) and the way she reacts when she is yelled at (flinging her hands before here face, an instinctual reaction to prevent the face from being hurt by the expected violence). She made the impression of a deeply broken woman with any sense of self worth completely destroyed (which at least explains why she put up with the kind of treatment six gave her).

    I'm not the only one who interpreted her character this way either, as the expended universe (according to the Tardis Wikia) ran with it and explored it further.

    And in a way even the show and many viewers took part in exploiting her as primary eye candy without any real characterization needed. Don't get me wrong, I didn't have any problems with eg. Leela showing much skin and the people that enjoyed that, because Leela dressed that way as an expression of herself, while, if Peri was a real person that would be all about craving for a bit of positive attention.