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6 November 2014

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

Day 675: Mindwarp, Episode Four (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode Eight) 

Dear diary, 

I've never been overly fond of Peri's exit from Doctor Who, in either this form, or the alternative that gets offered during the end of the Trial season. I'm not entirely sure what doesn't sit right about it with me (it certainly not the fact that a companion dies, because I think that works wonders in the cases of Katarina, Sara, and Adric), but I've always thought that it stick out as simply being wrong somehow. 

Watching the episode today, though, I can't help but realise just how effective it is! I mean... it's brutal. I think the moment that it really starts to turn and you suddenly realise how much you fear for Peri is when Crozier orders her head shaved, and it feels so out of nowhere, and something that we can relate to so easily, especially given that Peri's hair has been allowed to grow out this season, fuller than we've seen it before. 

It then also shocked me when we cut back to the laboratory a little while later, and it's been done! I know from seeing the story before that Nicola Bryant goes out wearing a bald cap, but I'd sort of forgotten just how effectively it works, and I love that they don't make a big deal of it. We cut back to the action, and Peri's laying there bald. If anything, I think that's more scary than when she sits up at the end and starts talking in a deep, scary voice. No matter how much I'm enjoying it here, it still doesn't sit quite right in my mind, and it sticks out too much as a companion departure - not necessarily in a good way. 

People often complain that the effect of this ending gets entirely undermined come the end of the season, when it transpires that she's actually living happily as a warrior queen alongside Yrcanos, and I'm sure I'll make my own mind up about that when I get there. That said, I can't help but think it's been clearly signposted throughout the story - especially in these last couple of episodes! I'm sure Colin Baker tells the story that they only addend the 'happy ending' for Peri later on when he wondered what was real and what had been faked in the trial, but I think it's clearly set up that Peri should be going off to rule with this man! Oh, I don't think it's something that she would ever do by choice, and she'd never purposely give up life in the TARDIS for that particular fate, but I don't think it feels too out of place in retrospect. 

Brian Blessed has actually impressed a great deal throughout this story - far more than I was expecting him to! I mused the other day that you hire him to simply be Brian Blessed on screen, and while there's plenty of that on display in Mindwarp, he actually has lots of rather nice little moments alongside Nicola Bryant in particular, and I'm very impressed with him on the whole. 

Today's episode has continued to take the aspects I was finding scary yesterday - the Doctor not being able to remember what happened - and ramp them up a gear, making things even scarier in the process. I love (and I can't stress that enough, love) the way that the TARDIS appears in the corridor right in the middle of all the chaos, and the Doctor is compelled to walk backwards in to the box. There's something genuinely scary about the Doctor being taken away at just the moment everything comes to a head, and that works so well. I think my only slight criticism about this sequence is that the chaos isn't quite enough for me! You've got lots of supporting artists spinning around in corridors, but I want explosions and people tearing the set apart! Really up the stakes! 

So with that, we've said goodbye to Peri, and we're off on the next stage of the programme's life. I think I like how much you couldn't predict Peri's departure from the way she joins the series back in Planet of Fire, and I'm not sure if I can remember the last time the programme had been shaken up this much between a companion's arrival and departure, either. We're deep in to the period of Doctor Who that many people consider to be the weakest, now, and the introduction of Mel in the next episode is something that many consider to be another step towards death. If I can enjoy her as much as I've enjoyed all the other things recently that I'm not supposed to... I think we're in for a treat! 

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