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Not to Blame the Writer Too Much

By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Thursday 14 May 2020
Rating:   6

"Mindwarp" is probably the most controversial story of that controversial series "The Trial of a Time Lord." The brief was to really put the screws down on The Doctor's character, to show all the bad sides that the critics claimed were there for the show - propensity to violence, callousness regarding companions, dubious moral double standards, and so on. However, there was also to be a question regarding how much of what the viewer sees or the reader reads is altered to suit the opinions of the critics, or in this case The Valeyard. Since we never do find out the degree to which truth has been warped, it is hard to say whether any of The Doctor's actions are justified. All this is further complicated by the dreadful trial interludes (written originally by Pip & Jane Baker, who significantly altered Robert Holmes's original trial ideas, and probably for the worse). In his novelization of his script, Philip Martin has tried to stay true to what was presented on TV (with one notable exception), while also smoothing out some of the rough spots. Thus, he provides some explanatory material, especially in the trial scenes, to have it make more sense, at least as far as figuring out why The Doctor acts as he does on Thoros-Beta. The one thing Martin has truly changed was the fate of Peri. Fans mightily objected to the throwaway line to explain this at the end of "Trial" on TV. Martin's answer is perhaps happier for Peri, but not any more satisfying. On its own, without needing to fit into the Trial over-story, "Mindwarp" would probably have been a very good "Doctor Who" episode. However, the requirement to fit into the "Trial" narrative simply muddies elements that ought to be more transparent.

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