Tuesday, October 19, 2010

7B4 - The Trial of a Time Lord 8

Part 8 just might be the most calamitous episode of Doctor Who ever made. Absolutely nothing goes right for The Doctor: at variance to reason, which is what The Doctor would have preferred, everything and everyone is destroyed by the Time Lords, with the results swept under the carpet, The Doctor taken out of time and space, and Peri killed in order for everything to sort of come out in a draw. The Armageddon Factor (sorry, I've always wanted to try and work the end of that Tom Baker speech into a sentence).

The build-up to the end is almost tragic. Sure, there's a revolution going on, Yrcanos seems happy to be at war, and it looks like all the right people will stay alive while the appropriate bad guys will have their day, as per a usual Part 4 of a four-part story. But it's the fate of Peri that ramps up the tension, thanks to the fact that Crozier doesn't waste any time in making decisions. Despite promising that if The Doctor can come up with a different person to be used for the brain transplant operation with Kiv, once Crozier realizes that Peri is the perfect fit, he starts to work immediately. Promises be damned. Yet it's not malice that drives Crozier's actions in this instance or, indeed, this entire story. Crozier is there purely to advance the cause of science, no matter how dodgy that particular stream of science is.

Because of Crozier's drive for the perfect brain operation, Peri is in more danger than she has ever been. If Sil or Kiv had been the one holding her prisoner, it wouldn't be worrying in the least because you know they wouldn't have done anything. Crozier isn't evil. He's driven, and thus terrifying because he can't be reasoned with. Each scene Peri has with Crozier increases in tension by the end, to the point that Peri's last scene in Doctor Who is of her head about to be shaved. With other villains, they would threaten to shave her head, slowly move the razor closer, seemingly almost waiting and expecting to be interrupted. Crozier doesn't waste any time, and Peri dies as a result. She has the brain of an alien in her head the next time we see her.

Colin Baker, though, is the tour de force in this episode. His Doctor might just be the best at righteous anger. You can almost see and hear him choke back the tears at the realization of Peri's death, which then turn to pure focused fury as the episode ends. The Trial season has often been seen as a mirror to the behind the scenes fracas that the programme itself was in the midst of at the time, but those final scenes of Part 8 make one realize that it wasn't just Doctor Who that was on trial, but Colin Baker's Doctor himself. It wasn't Baker's actions that caused a ton of death and violence on the screen in front of him, but there he is, standing alone in the middle of a court of his supposed peers, being berated and judged by The Inquisitor (Jonathan Powell) and the Valeyard (Michael Grade) alike, and being forced to answer for something that he never wanted to happen in the first place, yet still determined to do what's right and try and find out why things are turning out the way they are.

Sadly, in the years since his 1986 sacking, Colin Baker still hasn't found out why things were the way they were, and we are all the worse for it.


Robert Konigsberg said...

Great to see you posting again.

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