OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 646
STORY NUMBER: 145
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 06 September 1986
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: Nicholas Mallett
SCRIPT EDITOR: Eric Saward
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 4.9 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Trial Of A Time Lord
My ears, my ears! I've heard it so I can't unhear it. That new version of the theme music, arranged by Dominic Glynn is dreadful, completely lifeless. I own a 70s sci fi theme album with lots of cover versions of famous sci fi films & tv series musics on it and this sounds exactly like the on there! Fortunately it's only with us for 14 episodes.....
The Tardis is drawn towards a huge space station where he finds a Time Lord tribunal assembled to examine his activities. The prosecution case is being presented by the Valyard and presided over by The Inquisitor. The Valyard presents his case starting by showing the Doctor & Peri arriving on the planet Ravolox, which the Doctor is intrigues with due to it's similarities to Earth. They are observed by a pair of men, Dibber & Glitz, who are planning to destroy the L3 robot by sabotaging it's black light converter which is being used by a totem for a local tribe. The Doctor & Peri stumble into and underground area and at the bottom of some steps find a sign for Marble Arch Underground station which convinces the Doctor this is Earth but not where it should be. The Doctor explores the depths of the cavern and stumbles into an underground complex where he is captured as is Peri who is taken to the local Village, under the rule of Queen Katryca, where Dibber & Glitz are now being held prisoner too. The Doctor is sentanced to stoned to death. He tried to deflect them with his umbrella but is knocked unconcious. The Valeyard proposes that the inquiry into the Doctor's activities should become a proper trial, with the penalty being his death!
That's a lovely model shot to open the show but the suspicion is it's swallowed up quite a bit of cash that could be used elsewhere. It's also ruined for me forever since I watched it with Ralph & Andy and the words "This is the mining ship Red Dwarf. The Crew are dead...." went through my brain as the close up detail here is very similar to some of that on the Red Dwarf model.
Storywise there's two separate strands going on here. The segments on Ravalox/Earth are decidedly reminiscent of the Sontaran Experiment, a wrecked Earth and a reference to a Tube Station. We like Tube Stations and are sad to note that Marb Station is the last time the original series references them. This section is taking place AFTER Revelation of the Daleks but before the events in the trial. It's odd seeing Peri's hair in a different style here and her absence at the trial is noted by the Doctor.
The trial stuff which keeps breaking into the action already feels a bit intrusive and abive all unecessary: we've done this all before in the War Games!
There had been great joy when John Nathan Turner had announced that there would be more episodes of Doctor Who in 1986 than 1985. What he "forgot" to mention at the time was that we were back to 25 minute episodes for this year!
Reputedly the trial idea, which takes in all fourteen episodes of this season, was inspured by the feeling that the show itself was very much on trial for it's life this year following the 18 month suspension. The two main protagonists in the trial, The Inquisitor & The Valyard, are with us for the length of this season and played by Michael Jayston & Lynda Bellingham respectively. At the time Bellingham was most famous for being the Oxo mum in a series of adverts but would in 1988 become the second Helen Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small. She later took a recurring villanous role in The Bill and regularly appears on Loose Women. Jayston has had a long acting career including the role of Tsar Nicholas II in Nicholas and Alexandra featuring one Tom Baker as the mad monk Rasputin. Apparently Valeyard is a real legal term meaning "Doctor of Law".....
So to open this 14 part extravaganza comes the maestro himself, Robert Holmes with a four part story, followed by two more four parters with the plan being that Holmes would return to wrap the hole thing up at the end with the last two parts. Unfortunately things didn't quite turn out that way.
Is Trial of A Time Lord a 14 part story or 3x4 parters and 1x2 parter? Or something else? Well as broadcast it's numbered parts 1-14. As books it was released as 4 seperate novels: The Mysterious Planet, Mindwarp, Terror of the Vervoids & The Ultimate Foe. Production wise it's coded as 3 stories: 7a, 7b & 7c with the first four episodes making up 7a, the next 4 7b and the final 6 7c. We'll reluctantly treat it as a 14 parter but we'll also quote the individual titles used on the books which are now quite common if not officially used at the time.
So where's Philip when this is happening? Starting my third year of secondary school, having not had a single new episode of Who broadcast in my second. Dipping my hand into the world of buying US Marvel comics & 2000ad. The episodes went out on a Saturday night and for the first time I caught all of a series of Doctor Who on it's original broadcast!
Oooh a new thrilling feature for this season: count how many episodes end on a crash zoo onto Colin Baker. This is the first, it won't be the last.