Number : Season 23, serial 1 of 4.
Which One : Doctor on 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 episodes.
Plot : The Doctor is put on trial, by the Time Lords; For interfering in the affairs, of other races. The Time Lords use recorded evidence, through the 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 Doctor Who. Colin Baker is more chilled and his dynamic with Peri is much 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 Doctor Who’s ambitious response, to having nearly axed 18 months previous, after the poor reception – to season 22.
The hope was, that a season-long story-arc, would give Doctor Who; a much needed boost and provide a different take on the usual format; of 4 or 6 different 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 bit pantomime and 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 ruler; Queen Katryca. Katryca rules a saxon-tribe, in a mudhut village. Sims plays the role too corny – to be believeable.
The plot is convoluted aswell, the Doctor journeys to planet Ravalox; which turns out to be Earth in the far flung future. Earth has moved from it’s usual 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 Doctor Who, here. Glitz returns in the final episode The Ultimate Foe (and again reprised 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 two-opposing tribes (over and underground). Or maybe, 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 it doesn’t get, the season off to as good a start – as it could have.
Thankfully things get better, in the next episode; Mindwarp.
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