Number : Season 23, episode 3 of 4.
Which One : Attack of the alien cauliflowers.
Cast : The Doctor : Colin Baker
Mel Bush : Bonnie Langford
Professor Sarah Lasky : Honor Blackman
The Inquisitor : Lynda Bellingham
The Valeyard : Michael Jayston
Doland : Malcolm Teirney
Bruchner : David Allister
Commodore Travers : Michael Craig
Rudge : Denys Hawthorne
Janet : Yolande Palfrey
Kimber : Arthur Hewlett
Atza : Sam Howard
Grenville/Enzu : Tony Scoggo
Ortezo : Leon Davis
Edwardes : Simon Slater
Mutant/Ruth Baxter : Barbara Ward
Written By : Pip and Jane Baker
Produced By : JNT
First UK Broadcast : 1 – 22 November 1986.
Length : 4 x 25 minute parts.
Plot : The trial continues with footage of The Doctor and new companion Mel, taking some rest aboard a luxury starliner hotel. But the hatching of a bunch of deadly Vervoids from the Cargo hold, gives the Doctor a deadly choice.
Whats good : Its a simple take on an Agatha Christie who-dunnit, in space but don’t expect Poirot. The Vervoids are distinctive – and vegetably looking.
Whats bad : Mel is a poor replacement for Peri. Some of the Who-dunnit side is not well conceived.
Review With Spoilers : Terror Of The Vervoids is the third part of Trial Of A Timelord and the resulting encounter with the Vervoids, is played back as more evidence at the Doctor’s trial – through the Timelord Matrix.
It is intended to further highlight the Doctor’s meddling with the affairs of other races (forbidden in the Laws Of Time) but eventually becomes evidence against the Doctor of genocide of an entire race. With an increased charge of punishment by death.
These events are disputed by the Doctor, who begins to suspect that the Timelord Matrix itself, has been manipulated by an insider.
Terror Of The Vervoids is a very basic but entertaining and twisty Agatha Christie style – who-dunnit; involving a large cast of characters in a space hotel and the Doctor – as Poirot.
Many critisicms have been levelled at Husband and wife writing team; Pip and Jane Baker, as being not right for the tone of the show and out of their writing depth.
To be fair though Terror Of The Vervoids is easily better than The Mysterious Planet and at least presents a who-dunnit mystery, albeit – a simply constructed one.
Because the story doesn’t want to uncover too much – too early on. The Doctor is annoyingly left chasing his tail when attempting to uncover clues, as to the killer’s identity. Simply because the Baker’s are probably holding onto all of their cards, for the last part.
“Whether or not the Doctor has proved himself innocent of meddling is no longer the cardinal issue before this court. He has proved himself guilty of a far greater crime…. ……The Doctor has destroyed a complete species. The charge must now be genocide!!” The Valeyard
Some of Who’s best stories have involved borrowing an Earthly tale and giving it a science-fiction spin. Episodes like; Brain Of Morbius – Frankenstein for example, so Terror Of The Vervoids is in good company.
As we shall see later – in The Ultimate Foe, the Baker’s ability to output a story quickly, averted potential disaster when the writer of The Ultimate Foe Robert Holmes died before writing the second and final part.
Script Editor Eric Saward; wrote another 2nd part but refused to let it be used, after he resigned. Subsequently, the Bakers took over and wrote a replacement 2nd part – in only 3 days.
Back to Terror Of The Vervoids, the introduction of Mel as a companion (on JNT’s say-so) is frankly baffling and sets the feminist progression in Who back a decade. She has none of Peri’s likability or Tegan’s forthright-ness.
Instead, she is more of a hark back to a Jo Grant style assistant but with an irritating top-note scream, that Mariah Carey would be proud of. Which she unleashes like a sonic boom everytime she is in danger, much like a 60’s Hammer horror victim.
Terror Of The Vervoids is never going to feature in a greatest ever Who poll but in Colin Baker’s era, when he was marred by so many poor stories; it more than stands out against its other competitors.
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