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5 November 2014

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

Day 674: Mindwarp, Episode Three (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode Seven) 

Dear diary, 

The thing I'm liking most about Mindwarp is the idea that the Doctor can't really remember anything that's happening here. There's something genuinely unsettling about the moment when he first interrupts the episode to tell the court that he can't remember what he's seeing - and Colin plays it as calm and a little bit scared. He shouts and gestures again only moments later, but suddenly it's because he's genuinely worried by the event,s not because he's putting on a show for the sake of the trial. I love that even he isn't entirely sure that this isn't just the way he behaves, and when he's trying to convince the Inquisitor of his innocence, it comes across as the man trying to convince himself more than anything. This is then all turned back on him. when he does get back the odd pocket of memories, and the Valeyard points out how convenient it is for him to remember now... yeah, this is probably my favourite thing about the trial so far. 

Sadly, though, the episode itself isn't grabbing me at all. I'm getting on better with it now than on previous viewings, and I actually understand better what's going on this time (I'd somehow convinced myself that the sandy-coloured Mentor in this story was a separate character to either Sil or Kiv, and forgotten that he was Kiv's replacement body), but I'm still not enjoying it half as much as I did with The Mysterious Planet. I'm beginning to wonder if it may just be that I don't get on with Philip Martin's style of writing. Vengeance on Varos is often hailed as a total 'classic', and yet I'm not as fussed on it as some people seem to be, and while I've often seen this episode trumpeted as being the best of the Trial season, it's leaving me completely cold! 

A few years ago, I did a different kind of Doctor Who marathon with my friend Nick Mellish, who provides many of the Big Finish audio reviews here on Doctor Who Online. We made our way through all of the Paul McGann audio plays from Storm Warning through To the Death, which comprised ten years of adventures for the Eighth Doctor. We wrote our thoughts about each episode and emailed them to each other, eventually putting together a book which followed the marathon. For a brief period, the Eighth Doctor's companion Charley ends up going off on travels with the Sixth Doctor, and we dutifully followed her for a few weeks, in adventures with Daleks, and Draconians, and even the odd Kroton or two. 

Once we'd finished the marathon, and started to get withdrawal symptoms from not hearing a new episode every day, we decided to do it all over again with a different Doctor. The Sixth incarnation seemed to be the obvious choice, having already been through a few adventures and really enjoying them, and we decided that we'd start with the season of 'lost' stories from the originally planned Season Twenty-Three. Over the last five years or so, Big Finish have dramatised lots of stories originally written for the show and at some point left behind, but when they did this first set, it was something of a novelty, picking up stories that have grown up their own reputation within fandom. Stories like The Nightmare Fair, which would have pitted the Doctor and Peri against the Celestial Toymaker on a holiday to Blackpool, The Hollows of Time, a rematch between the Doctor and the Gravis (and the Master), and The Space Whale, which has been a 'work in progress' story for so many Doctors that it's hard to keep track. And then there's Mission to Magnus

Magnus is the story originally proposed by Philip Martin for Season Twenty-Three, long before the format of the trial was imposed. It was to feature the return of Sil, alongside the Ice Warriors, and has always been one of the 'lost' tales that people know a little bit more about. But we didn't really much care for it. We never managed to finish our Sixth Doctor marathon, as real life got in the way slowly, but looking back over the entries wrote to each other for that story... I was mostly just left a bit bored by it, and it's perhaps telling that I don't mention Sil anywhere in my write up. He obviously made very little impact on me! Nick was somewhat less forgiving, because of the way that Martin's scripts tend to treat (and talk about) their female characters. Thinking back to the Eighth Doctor book, neither of us were very keen on Martin's The Creed of the Kromon, either (that's putting it mildly), and so I think this story has decided it once and for all for me - I simply cannot get in to his stories. Here's hoping that the one final episode may well be enough to bring things around...  

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