Doctor Who #658: Mindwarp Part 4

"Warm. Not cold. My body is warm. Wonderful. Legs. Toes. Toes wiggling. Trunk. A neck. Strong. A head free of pain. Eyesight. Colours. Warm blood inside. Oh, I like this. Now, I am she, alive within this oh so wonderful, wonderful frame, not that cold-blooded reptile thing. It must, must die."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Oct.25 1986 as The Trial of a Time Lord Part 8.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor is called to Gallifrey before he can save Peri from being lobotomized.

REVIEW: Peri, surely the most mistreated companion in Doctor Who history, becomes the second official companion to lose her life, and in a most disturbing way. She's shaved and lobotomized and the Mentor Kiv's mind is transferred into her empty brain. Played as demonic possession, the new Kiv doesn't last long before the Time Lords apparently engineer the room's destruction at the hands of Yrcanos. It's a fate worse than death, so terrible the show eventually had to go back on it, replacing it with an absurd fate instead. But what's really bad is how Peri's fate is tied into the Trial. What ARE the charges? If the Doctor is accused of putting his companions in danger, then having the Time Lords kidnap him from the moment just before he's meant to save Peri is ridiculous. If he's accused of meddling, then how do the Time Lords justify sending an assassin to kill Crozier and his lab? So messy.

The episode features the fourth version of Yrcanos in as many episodes. We've had sleeping Yrcanos, Shakespearean Yrcanos and (ugh) shouting Yrcanos. Here, he's the much better quiet Yrcanos, smiling at insults and threats, discussing love and the after life with Peri and in every way enjoying his Viking life. For about half the episode. Then he goes back to shouting (ugh). Of the other guest characters, only the Mentor with the sensitive ears (Frax) is at all interesting, though I do wonder why Sil is his species' only grotesque. I mean, did no one take Nabil Shaban's performance as a cue for what Mentors are like? Frax comes across as welcome comic relief amid all the death and destruction that follow Yrcanos' escape. Crozier is serious to the point of lacking a personality. Dorf is about as pathetic as he was in the past three episodes. Kiv's new fisherman shtick is dull and bad science to boot. And Sil remains a powerless dud.

Bottom line, the Time Lords' interference makes it seem like the production is resolving the story by wiping out all the characters and dilemmas, along with Peri's mind. The companion doesn't need an end scene, the villains don't need to be defeated, the Doctor doesn't need to get involved. In a story where he mostly acted as a villain, he gets zero chance to show he was only faking, no chance at redemption. It's awful. And of he had ACTUALLY failed, that would be a story. But he doesn't. He's prevented from acting by the Time Lords' bad timing. Gah.

VERSIONS: The Target novelization reveals, ahead of The Ultimate Foe, that Peri actually wound up with Yrcanos, and adds that he became a wrestler with her as manager.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - It's a companion's last story, and she goes out on such a horrible note, it's a rare case of that element not improving an episode's rewatchability. Better forgotten. Let her live on in your mind.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - I can hardly believe this was written and directed by the same folks who gave us Vengeance on Varos. A terrible goodbye to a companion preceded by a complete mess.


CiB said...

Third official companion to die- Katarina and Adric being first?

Nicola Bryant quite liked this end for Peri, I think precisely because it is shocking and horrifying. It's also much more believable than the retcon later in the trial.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, I seem to have bad memories of what happens next: the Doctor is all mopey about the bad terrible horrible thing that happened to Peri, and they cut to a scene of the Doctor on an exercise bike while Mel jazzercises. If it happened like I recall, I nearly got whiplash from the shift in tone.

Siskoid said...

CiB: If you count Katarina, then Peri is fourth, because you have to count Sara Kingdom.

Anon: Don't remind me, I'll watch that in less than a week.

snell said...

You could differentiate Katrina from Sara Kingdom by making something from the fact that Katrina was there for more than one story.

Of course, that leaves the question of what to call Adam from Dalek/The Long Game...

Siskoid said...

And that's why I used the term "official companion".

To me, Sara Kingdom is MORE of a companion than Katarina because she had more trips through time and space even if they were in the context of one (very long) story. Plus, she went on to star in Big Finish audios, so the expanded universe gives her several more adventures.

So yes, Adam is a companion, just not an official companion.

Anonymous said...

I thought that Peri's fate here was bold and daring and haunting, and hate that they cheapened it later on. (Of course I can tell myself that the happy ending was the lie - this time for the Doctor's benefit.)

I do find stuff to like about this story, but you correctly point out many of its flaws. In particular that Doctor's heel turn which as I recall, you're right - it never is explained whether he was faking it for some reason, injured, or mind controlled. That's a big problem.

- Jason

Jeff R. said...

Jason: don't forget "The Matrix is lying heavily about everything in this story" as an explanation. Which is my favored one.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, that's a good point, it's just that so much screen time is spent on it, and as I recall it drives the plot fairly heavily. It's like the story only exists as mucked-up evidence for the Trial. I do think there's a good story in there, though.

- Jason

Bill D. said...

As much as I never warmed to Peri, what happens to her in this story had me pretty shaken when I first watched it and it still disturbs me to this day.

I said earlier that I liked the Trial season, and I do - I even enjoy parts of this story - but the ending... yeah, I prefer not to think about it too much.


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