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3 November 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 672: Mindwarp, Episode One (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode Five) 

Dear diary, 

More than once over the years, I've heard Mindwarp described as being the best segment of the Trial season, and yet when I've seen the full series before, I really didn't much care for it, and think I remember it as the opposite end of the scale - as the weakest of the stories here! I'm not sure what it was about the story that I didn't like on the last occasion, but I think I can guess from watching this episode; I'm just a little bit bored

I'm not even entirely sure why that should be, because there's certainly a lot going on in this episode. You've got an alien world that's looking very alien (more on which in a minute), two 'monsters' attacking our regulars, plus the regulation guards chasing after them and taking them as the 'villains' in the situation, the return of Sil, and lots of action in the trial room itself. The episode is positively bursting with things happening, but almost all of them are failing to grab my attention. The big selling point is surely the return of Sil to the programme, having featured in Vengeance on Varos last season... but that story didn't excite me in the way most people enjoy it, either, so I'm not terribly bothered by his return! 

The one area which I do rather like is the planet's surface. A sea of pink, which washes against rocks of blue under a green sky... and all in the most florescent hue they could possibly achieve. It's ridiculously garish, and incredibly of its time, but I'm really rather impressed with it. This feels like the programme really going out of its way to present us with a truly alien world for the first time since... well, in quite some while, anyway. Often enough, alien planets in the series have settled into being a standard quarry/jungle/only seen from the inside/studio set, and while this is shot out on a simple beach, the effects added in post production really make it look like something a bit special. When you compare this to some of the original location footage in the extras on the DVD... you can see how bland it might have looked otherwise! Did it stand out as much on first broadcast as being this garish, or did it just seem fittingly 'of the time'? 

I seem to be flip-flopping in regards to the actual trial scenes as each episode goes by. A few days ago, I started to find them irritating, before Colin Baker giving a rather brilliant performance managed to win them back around for me. Today, they seem to be perhaps a little over-bearing - I'm sure there's more in this episode than any of the others so far? We seemed to be cutting back and forth every few scenes. 

I'm starting to wonder if I may not mind this so much were we given a bit more going on in each of them; there much have been four or five so far this season which boil down to the Doctor asking if what we're seeing is relevant, and the Inquisitor musing that she's been wondering the same. If there's not much to actually say in these moments, then would they perhaps be better left out? Or, at least, confined to the start and the end of episodes, if they need to be included to remind us of the on-going narrative of the season. I thought that the opening of this episode, for example, was rather good, summing up the story we've just watched, reminding us that there's still some lingering questions about it, and then setting the scene for the next adventure. It's only when we start popping back for the odd line here and there that I start to lose patience... I bet all those supporting artists in Time Lord collars got bored of it, too, having to swivel back and forth on those chairs every three minutes! 

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