Serial 7B:
The Trial Of A Time Lord (Segment Two)
aka Mindwarp
Working Titles: The Planet Of Sil, Mindwarp.
Starring: Colin Baker (The Sixth Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown).
At the Doctor's trial by the Time Lords for interference, the Valeyard presents the Doctor and Peri's most recent adventure. The dying words of a Thordon warlord send the pair to Thoros Alpha, home of the Mentors -- including their old foe, Sil. The Mentor leader, Kiv, has had his intelligence enhanced by the human geneticist Crozier, but now his brain is outgrowing his skull. Crozier sets his eyes on Peri as the new host for Kiv's brain. But when the Doctor appears to turn evil under the effects of one of Crozier's devices, it is left to the berserk warlord King Yrcanos to save his companion.
The villainous Sil, created by Philip Martin for his Season Twenty-Two story Vengeance On Varos, had proved highly popular with the Doctor Who production team, and Martin was quickly asked to bring the character back for a second encounter with the Doctor. Originally, this would have occurred in a serial entitled Planet Of Storms, later renamed Mission To Magnus, also featuring the Ice Warriors. This would likely have been the third serial of the original Season Twenty-Three, but with the decision in February 1985 to postpone the new season's debut from January 1986 until September, Magnus was eventually abandoned.
By July, producer John Nathan-Turner and script editor Eric Saward were aware that the new Season Twenty-Three would be only fourteen episodes long, and thus decided the entire year should take the form of the Time Lords putting the Doctor on trial. Taking a cue from the Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol, each serial would serve as evidence from the Doctor's past, present and future. Martin was asked to write the second segment, set in the "present" (or, more specifically, the Doctor's adventure immediately preceding his arrival at the Time Lord courtroom). In addition to again featuring Sil, Martin was also asked to kill off Peri in his final episode. Nicola Bryant was beginning to worry that her acting career was being hampered by a prolonged association with Doctor Who, and so it was decided to replace Peri with new companion Mel mid-season.
By the fall, Martin had begun work on The Planet Of Sil, whose title was shortly changed to Mindwarp. Serial 7B would be directed by Ron Jones, who had also helmed Varos, and would see the return of Nabil Shaban in the role of Sil. Also included in the cast was Bryan Blessed, best known from his work in Z Cars amongst many other programmes and who had been widely -- if erroneously -- reported as replacing Peter Davison as the Doctor in August 1983. As Mindwarp went into production, Nathan-Turner elected to air the entire season under the uniform title of The Trial Of A Time Lord. Around the same time, Saward left Doctor Who acrimoniously in the wake of a number of upsets: he and Nathan-Turner were not getting along, he was butting heads with his BBC superiors, the final six episodes of the season were in a state of turmoil, and his good friend Robert Holmes -- who had written the first segment of the Trial and was supposed to write its final two episodes -- had fallen badly ill. Even before his resignation, signs of Saward's discontent were clear. Colin Baker approached the script editor seeking clarification on whether the Doctor's unhinged behaviour in Mindwarp was actually caused by Crozier's machine, the Valeyard's tampering with Matrix evidence, or just a trick, only to find Saward unable to offer any explanation. With Saward out of the picture, Nathan-Turner himself took over as interim script editor.
Location recording on episodes five to eight of the Trial were supposed to occur before the studio work, but this was ultimately postponed until afterward. The studio taping was comprised of two three-day blocks, the first beginning on Tuesday, May 27th, 1986, and the second on Wednesday, June 11th. Recording got badly behind schedule on the first session, partly due to some labour strife, requiring a fifteen-minute overrun on May 29th. Fortunately, Jones' team got things back on track through the second block, eventually allowing enough time on June 13th to record an early scene from the first episode of the preceding Trial segment of the Doctor arriving on the Time Lord space station.
The location material was finally taped on June 15th and 16th on a pebble beach near Brighton. This marked the end of Nicola Bryant's tenure on Doctor Who; she was pleased that Peri would receive such a strong send-off with her death in episode eight, and was disappointed to learn that Nathan-Turner had elected to reverse this decision and reveal in the season's final episode that Peri had not been killed after all. Bryant has continued her career mostly on the stage since leaving Doctor Who, though her television appearance include the children programme The Biz! and Blackadder's Christmas Carol. Bryant reprised her role as Peri for the thirtieth anniversary special Dimensions In Time, and has also appeared in the line of Doctor Who audio dramas made by Big Finish Productions.
This was also Martin's last televised Doctor Who story. Martin became a senior radio drama producer for the BBC but continued to write for television, including the science-fiction series Star Cops. He also novelised his unmade Mission To Magnus for Target Books in June 1990. Not long after completing this portion of the Trial, Jones found his career prematurely curtailed by a long illness; he died in July 1993.