Number : Season 23, serial 4 of 4.

Which One : The Doctor faces the ultimate foe; the Doctor!

Cast : The Doctor : Colin Baker
Mel : Bonnie Langford
The Valeyard : Michael Jayston
The Master : Anthony Ainley
Sabalom Glitz : Tony Selby
The Inquisitor : Linda Bellingham
Mr Popplewell : Geoffery Hughes
Keeper Of The Matrix : James Bree

Written By : Robert Holmes/Eric Saward (1st episode) & Pip and Jane Baker/JNT (2nd episode).

Produced By : JNT

First UK Broadcast : 29 November – 6 December 1986.

Length : 1 x 25 & 1 x 29 minute episode.

Plot : The Doctor’s trial is cancelled, when it is learned, that the Valeyard is infact a dark reflection of the Doctor. In league with the Master, the Doctor persues them both -into the digital world of The Matrix.

Whats good : The Valeyard is a brilliant concept for a Who villain, as a more ruthless version of the Doctor. The dark Dickensian feel to the story – is a nice suspenseful touch.

Whats bad : The second episode feels rushed and the (altered) outcome is not as effective as what had been originally planned.

Review With Spoilers : The Ultimate Foe is the fourth and final episode – in the Trial Of A Timelord season; it is also shorter – at only 2 episodes.

The Doctor discovers that the Valeyard – is infact a shadowy reflection of the Doctor’s own personality, somewhere between the 12th and final regeneration.

As a result, the trial collapses and the Valeyard escapes into the digital-world of the Time Lord Matrix; with the Doctor, Mel and Glitz in pursuit.

The Matrix – is much like it’s Warchowski counterpart and the rules of reality are turned on their head. The Doctor is attacked, by a mass of disembodied hands – in quicksand on a beach. A mysterious Dickensian character – called Mr Popplewell; keeps appearing in every location, that the Doctor ventures to; sporting riddles and puzzles.

The Master is also back, initially helping the Valeyard. However, the Master soon realises that the Valeyard – is out of control and more dangerous than the Doctor; causing the Master – to side with the Doctor; instead. This is an interesting slant, on the usual – Doctor vs the Master relationship.

Whilst epsiode 1 builds to a satisfying cliffhanger of; how can the Doctor ever hope to outwit a more ruthless version? Episode 2 resolves this conundrum, in a less than satisfying way – and envisages the Valeyard’s intentions, as wanting to blow up the Gallifreyian High Council.

The reason for the mis-mash between the two episodes was that – original writer Robert Holmes diedp, before penning a second episode. A replacement script, by script-editor Eric Saward was abandoned; after he resigned and refused its use.

Therefore, during pre-production and rehearsals – husband and wife team; Pip and Jane Baker stepped in and furnished a new second episode – in only 3 days.

“Oh, indeed not. The Doctor’s well matched against himself [The Valeyard]. One must destroy the other!” The Master

The original conceived ending of Saward’s script, had the Doctor and The Valeyard cast into an infinite eternal time-void. One – unable to outwit the other. Producer JNT did not like this downbeat finale and worried, it would give extra ammunition to BBC top-brass, to cancel the show; as a result, he vetoed it.

Instead, we have the Doctor outwit the Valeyard – and escape the Matrix, causing an explosion; which destroys the Valeyard’s created reality.

Once back in the trial room, we learn that Peri did not infact die on Thoros Beta, due to the manipulated recording from the Matrix; but had actually escaped unharmed and married King Yrcanos.

The Doctor ends the story, by turning down the offer of the newly vacated Gallifreyian Presidency and leaves in the Tardis; with Mel.

What this new ending did; was undermine the power of the Valeyard character, by having the Doctor outwit the Valeyard; like any other Who villain. Also, the retraction of Peri’s death, undermined what had been a powerful scene – in the previous to last serial; Mindwarp.

JNT wanted a more upbeat ending, all round but in doing so, undid some of the good work that Trial Of A Time Lord had created.

Had Robert Holmes script drafts been seen through to conclusion, then Trial Of A Time Lord would have ended, in a much darker and unresolved conclusion of; the Doctor and Valeyard – locked in eternal combat.

In doing so – though, it would have probably been the end of the show, as the BBC chiefs would likely have axed it – but at least; it would have ended memorably.

????⚪ (4/5)

Old Doctor Who