‘The emphasis is all wrong.’ The trial scenes are minimal; the focus is on Kiv’s brain transplant and Yrcanos’ rebellion, and a slight sense of throttling the pace to hold off the finale. The tone continues to be the standout strength, with the lingering question of what happened to Peri, and her apparent death at the cliffhanger having clearly placed the Doctor on the back foot in the court room.
The scenes of the Doctor (who continues to be either deranged by Crozier’s machine, misrepresented by the Matrix, playing a long game or some mix of all three), helping perform surgery and then offering advice to Sil are deliberately wrong and also quite funny (particularly Baker’s unlikely double act with Sil, and his expression as he digests a marsh minnow). It also gives more airtime to Patrick Ryecart, which is a good thing: cool under pressure, and throwing insults towards Sil (‘Stop gyrating your throat’). The consequence of being the butt of Kiv, Crozier and the Doctor’s contempt is that Sil, previously an entertainingly grotesque character, has become comic relief. I do wonder, given how difficult Crozier’s procedure is (Kiv nearly dies twice), why he’d want to perform it twice in quick succession except to give this episode some focus.
I suppose the alternative would be spending more time with Yrcanos, Peri and the Alphan rebels. Blessed and Bryant continue to work well together – Peri has form in mollifying a bellowing tyrant and puts it to good use here – and the scene of Yrcanos and Dorff squabbling as Peri keeps them apart is very funny. But then they join forces with the RADA rebels and some of the issues with Vengeance on Varos (like Martin’s inability to really sell the idea of a wider resistance movement) recur. Some of the dialogue is a bit too grisly as well: ‘We can’t allow your body and skulls to be retrieved undamaged’ as a rebel prepares to drop a (very lightweight looking) boulder onto Peri and Yrcanos’ heads. Overall, it’s a very standard middle episode: wandering about caves avoiding anything too significant happening.
Next episode: The Trial of a Time Lord – Part Eight