Number : Season 23, episode 1 of 4.
Which One : The Doctor’s trial.
Cast : The Doctor : Colin Baker
Peri : Nicola Bryant
The Inquisitor : Lynda Bellingham
The Valeyard : Michael Jayston
Sabalom Glitz : Tony Selby
Queen Katryca : Joan Sims
Dibber : Glen Murphy
Merdeen : Tom Chadbon
Drathro : Roger Brierley
Broken Tooth : David Rodigan
Balazar : Adam Blackwood
Grell : Timothy Walker
Humker : Billy McColl
Tandrell : Sion Tudor Owen
Written By : Robert Holmes
Produced By : JNT
First UK Broadcast : 6 – 27 September 1986.
Length : 4 x 25 minute parts.
Plot : The Doctor is put on trial by the Timelords, for interfering in the affairs of other races. They use recorded evidence through the Timelord Matrix, of the Doctor and Peri’s visit to planet Ravalox – against him.
Whats good : The opening scene of the Tardis being caught by the space station, is the most ambitious special effect ever attempted on Who. Colin Baker is more chilled and his dynamic with Peri is improved.
Whats bad : It’s the weakest of the Trial Of A Timelord stories. It has to largely act as a trial scene setter, for the season’s arc – so struggles to establish its own story – which is weak anyway.
Review With Spoilers : In many ways, a full season with an “on trial” feel was parallelled in the shows real life fortunes, in 1985/86.
Trial Of A Timelord was Who’s ambitious response to having nearly been axed 18 months earlier, after the poor response to season 22.
The hope was that a story-long arc would give Who a much needed shot in the arm and provide a different take on the usual format of 4 differing adventures.
In some ways, it worked well. Gone was the horribly distracting bickering between the Doctor and Peri. The Doctor’s character was more rounded, less rude and arrogant; but still maintained the basic “grumpy old man” take – that Baker brought to the role.
Mysterious Planet was written by experienced Who maestro; Robert Holmes – but contained none of his usual flair or useful concepts. It was a silly affair and more than a little bit pantomime hammy in places.
“Planets come and go. Stars perish. Matter disperses, coalesces, reforms into other patterns, other worlds. Nothing can be eternal!” The Doctor
It is not helped by the miscasting of Carry On actress Joan Sims as a Queen Bodicea-a-like; Queen Katryca. Katryca rules a saxon tribe in a mudhut village. Sims plays the role too corny, to play such a fearsome Bodicea-inspired ruler.
The plot is convoluted aswell, the Doctor journeys to planet Ravalox which turns out to be Earth in the far flung future, which has moved from its position in the galaxy for an, as yet – undisclosed reason.
The principal villain – bar Queen Katryca’s above ground tribe, is a giant robot called Dathro; which lives underground in a bunker, with a bunch of human “units” for company.
The space rogue Sabalom Glitz makes his first appearance in Who here, returning in the final episode The Ultimate Foe. Later reprising the role again, in the Seventh Doctor’s era – in – Dragonfire.
It borrows alot from H.G. Wells Time Machine of a future setting of an Earth ruled by 2 opposing tribes (over and underground). Or Planet Of The Apes for the slow reveal that the alien planet is actually, a future Earth.
It’s the weakest of the four Trial Of A Timelord stories, which is again surprising being a Holmes penned story and doesn’t get the season off to – as good a start; as it could.
Thankfully things get better in the next episode – Mindwarp.
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