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Doctor Who XXIII: The Trial of a Time Lord

November 26th, 2011 (11:32 pm)

I've not much to add to what I wrote about this story back in 2008 when a smaller number of people marathoned the season compared with those who did so today. I came in during part eight, in time to see the breathtaking erasure of Peri and her replacement with a humanised and feminised Kiv. Nicola Bryant's performances in these scenes are among her best, though Peri's apparent fate is too bleak for that of a Doctor Who companion. Not even Russell T Davies went as far as to erase an entire personality, and John Nathan-Turner was probably right to reverse Peri's death in dialogue, though the electronic pink heart in which she and Yrcanos are enveloped in part fourteen is far, far too much. The Vervoid story won much more attention this time, though as the almost-banned cover of DWM 323 had been mentioned (by me in one of my more ribald moments) the humour assumed a bluer hue than I previously remembered.

The case remains, for me, that the most interesting character in (Terror of) The Vervoids/The Ultimate Foe/parts nine to twelve is Ruth Baxter, and she remains in her coffin and is used for shock value only. There is a glimmer of how the sixth Doctor might have developed, liberated from Eric Saward's script-editing as he now was, but Pip and Jane Baker largely deliver a Doctor reacting to public criticism - "More a sort of clown, actually." Mel asks the Doctor whether all Time Lords speak in such an antediluvian manner, which either exposes Pip and Jane's failure to recognise how cumbersome and antiquated their own writing style was, or admits their inability or unwillingness to do anything about it.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/466045.html.

Comments

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: November 27th, 2011 11:18 am (UTC)

I'm actually quite fond of the Vervoid section, despite the Pip and Jane dialogue, which I would say descends into parody here if I thought anyone on the production team was that self-aware.

Unfortunately it barely connects with the Trial format at all. I think I've mentioned before that the arc would work better if the Ravolox section was the Doctor's defence and the Vervoids was the Valeyard's prosecution.

But - Honor Blackman in Doctor Who! A pity she's wasted. One can only wish for a Cathy Gale-type companion instead of Mel.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 27th, 2011 11:37 am (UTC)

I locked eyes and giggled with Honor Blackman over an outrageous statement by a platform speaker at a conference in 1993. Such is my claim to fame. (I also know someone who shares her agent. That's one of his.)

It seems unlikely that the Doctor would have chosen this story as evidence in his favour, given how it opens him to a charge of genocide. I'd not thought about Ravolox as defence, but I think it would be a good idea, particularly if the Trial segments allowed the Doctor more agency, showing him with a defence team, able to build a case, etc.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: November 27th, 2011 04:55 pm (UTC)
Liz & Pertwee

...given how it opens him to a charge of genocide.

I had forgotten much of the plot since 2008 and was fully expecting that bit to turn out to be a misrepresentation caused by the dodgy Matrix. Oh well...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 27th, 2011 05:32 pm (UTC)

Tat Wood's review of the story in About Time 6 exhaustively catalogues the failings, and is worth reading on those grounds alone.