Chapter 139. Doctor Who – Mindwarp (1989)

Synopsis: The Doctor is still on trial – and still wondering where his friend Peri is. The Valeyard presents his second piece of damning evidence, from the Doctor’s most recent escapade. On the planet Thoros Beta, leader of the Mentors Lord Kiv is suffering from an expanding brain and if a suitable replacement body can’t be found, he will die. Chief scientist Crozier thinks he’s made a breakthrough that means Kiv could live forever. Urged on by Kiv’s enthusiastic deputy, Sil, Crozier finds a test subject – the Doctor’s friend, Peri.

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Seventeen.

Background: Philip Martin adapts his own scripts for episodes 5-8 of The Trial of a Time Lord, completing the run of stories from Season 23 and the Sixth Doctor era as seen on TV. Having learned a lesson with the delayed Vengeance on Varos, Mindwarp wasn’t allocated a number in the library until publication; a good thing too, as this was similarly tardy in arrival.

Notes: The opening chapter sees the Doctor alone in the courtroom, except for a solitary guard. He knows the next piece of evidence comes from something that happened on Thoros Beta, but he can’t remember what happened. A fat, officious Time Lord dressed in a cream uniform is Zom, Keeper of the Record of Time and as the Time Lord jurors enter the chamber, the Doctor is reminded of ‘the giant butterflies of Genveron’ from an unseen adventure. The Inquisitor wears ‘the gold and silver robe of supreme Gallifreyan justice’. Rather brilliantly, the view from space of Thoros Alpha and Beta, followed by the shoreline on Thoros Beta (as seen on TV) is explained in a TARDIS control room scene where the Doctor initially misses his target destination and has to reset the TARDIS controls to try again. 

The Raak, the creature that attacks the Doctor and Peri, is glistening and green with arms covered in suckers and ending in clawed pincers. It has a huge domed head with a single ‘basilisk eye’ in the centre and it has tentacles growing from its sides. Lord Kiv has a ‘bulbous’ cranium, acid-yellow eyes and a yellow body with black stripes. Sil now has red eyes, but he still sits above a water tank. Kiv recalls the moment when he left his mire and joined other Mentors who had evolved beyond the swamps. Mentors are destined to live for only a few years before inevitable death. The Mentor with the sensitivity to loud noises is called Marne and he makes his first appearance much earlier, in the induction centre where the Alphan slaves are assessed for suitability (and the slave selections include children). Sil instructs his slaves to spray him with waters from his own home mire. Kiv is surrounded by many Mentor advisers, rather than just Sil.

The Doctor reacts with much more sadism after he escapes from Crozier’s Cell Discriminator; as Yrcanos boasts of his strength, the Doctor urges him to ‘flatten her face’, slowly’ and during his interrogation of his companion on the Rock of Sorrows, he tells Crozier that he only intends to inflict ‘a little assault and battery to help her memory’. The role of the Alphan rebel Verne is taken by two other characters, Ger and Sorn, who are both found dead and aged. Dorf dies after stepping into a blast aimed at Yrcanos. The alien delegate who meets with Kiv is one of a number of Sondlex representatives, feathered and with ‘turkey-red’ faces. During Yrcanos’ final attack, Sil’s water tank is shot, sending him ‘crashing down from his throne to thresh about in a paroxysm of utter terror’.

The Valeyard concludes this portion of the prosecution’s case with promises that his third section of evidence will come from the Doctor’s future, to prove that he does not improve (on TV, the next section represents the Doctor’s defence). As this book was released after the adaptations of the rest of the trial segments, the final chapter reveals Peri’s ultimate fate. Rescued by the Time Lords, Peri and Yrcanos found themselves on Earth in the 20th Century. Happy to be back home, Peri sets Yrcanos up as a wrestler, with herself as his manager.

Cover: Alister Pearson gives us Sil and two versions of Kiv with a background of the ocean on Thoros Beta in all its glory. Instead of the corner flash for the other Trial of a Time Lord books, there’s a subtitle at the top of the cover (and the title page lists this simply as ‘Mindwarp’ without the Trial of a Time Lord suffix). A generation of fans (about ten of them) were up in arms with disgust and rage at this inconsistency, as the Target books editor trolled them gleefully. Then they slapped the Oliver Elms logo over the top.

Final Analysis: While working on his scripts, Philip Martin claimed he repeatedly asked his script editor, Eric Saward, how much of the evidence in the trial is a distortion and how much actually happened – without much success. Here, Martin presents this version as a straightforward depiction of events, with the Doctor’s uncharacteristic sadism and self-centred actions the side effects of Crozier’s brain manipulation. While it’s a shame to lose the element of the Valeyard corrupting the evidence, the story actually makes more sense (and it even enhances the subsequent part of the trial in making the Valeyard’s involvement more of a desperate ploy). The violence is increased a little here, but so is the humour, especially with the expanded role of the sensitive Marne. This was always my favourite segment of the season and for me, it’s also the most successful of the novelised trial stories.

One thought on “Chapter 139. Doctor Who – Mindwarp (1989)

  1. “Mentors are destined to live for only a few years before inevitable death” must be pretty relative, since Sil was an adult in the Varos story set some 94 years earlier…

    Liked by 1 person

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