Back into the loving embrace of ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ Season 23 and to the best part of that set of stories, Mindwarp. Occasionally it is nice to see the Doctor on the defensive. This is especially true with a confident-to-the-point-of arrogance Doctor such as David Tennant in Midnight or, even more so, Colin Baker in Mindwarp.
This is the Valeyard in attack-mode with the Doctor having to defend, defensively, his actions. The narrative interruptions have fortunately become less intrusive and more purposeful than they had been in The Mysterious Planet, and the best parts of Mindwarp are an intriguing admixture of old and new. Sil is back, this time much more as a delightfully obsequious troll. YMMV about the unavoidable presence of Brian Blessed turning the volume up to 13, for us here at the Tour a little goes a long, long way, but he is at least tonally distinct.
What might not be distinct, or at least distinct enough the the viewer to discern, is whether you buy the turn the Doctor takes during the story, in effect turning on everyone. It even became a plot point for the trial. Was the Doctor gathering intel and playing for time or … was it more substantial. The story, or Baker’s performance, doesn’t lean hard enough in either direction and that undercuts what might otherwise be an interesting development.
Even so, and this is a point the Tour has made before, ‘magic moments,’ at least as seen by the Tour, are quite rare in Doctor Who, and Mindwarp has on of them. When in episode four the Doctor is pulled out of the action and back to the trial is a truly amazing moment, and one which elevates Mindwarp above all of the other elements which bestrode this troubled ‘Trial’ season. And what makes this magic moment all the more important is that it sets up the death, somewhat spectacularly, of a companion.
The ‘death’ of Peri is what most people remember from Mindwarp, and had it been allowed to stand it would’ve been even important in the history of classic Who. But JN-T just couldn’t leave it be, even though he had been okay with it during production. Peri was Ashildr before Ashildr. Perhaps it was the chaos around The Ultimate Foe.
It’s a pointless speculation except … Steven Moffat just couldn’t leave Clara for dead, and she came back.