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10:45 pm: The Trial of a Timelord: The Mysterious Planet
I've skipped Revelation of the Daleks because I've seen it before.

The Trial of a Timelord is the first time since Mawdryn Undead (I think, there are a few that I've not watched since then), and only the second time in the 1980s that the show has attempted anything other than straightforwardly linear storytelling (not even a character having a flashback!), as the Doctor's trial is interspersed with evidence from three recent adventures. The entire fourteen-episode series makes one long story, with three other stories embedded into it.

The trial scenes are not very good. They try to make a big deal of how the Doctor's life is in jeopardy, but the staging and the Doctor's petulant attitude to proceedings (contrasted with the inner story where he seems to have graduated to a more subtle form of wit) makes it difficult to take this seriously as a threat, and it's easy to take sympathy with the Valeyard rather than the Doctor. Another problem is that it can't seem to decide whether the Doctor is on trial for interfering or interfering harmfully: if it's the former then they don't need to go into so much detail, if it's the latter, than the evidence is rather poor.

The trial format suffers from the use of the Matrix. We are used to how this ought to work: witnesses come on the stand, they start telling their tale, and then the screen wobbles, you are there with a voiceover, and then things start happening, the VO goes away for a bit, until they want to get out of the flashback... Course, with the Matrix (which is effectively the same as them watching episodes of Doctor Who), they can't do any of that, and the interruptions from this can be rather jarring, especially as they usually just cut straight to the reaction, rather than having a shot or two of the Doctor watching the telly and reacting to something that we've seen him see.

As for the inner story itself: I liked this. It managed to be funny, tense, and intriguing in turns. Glitz and Dibber were well-written and well-acted, a highlight. The Doctor and Peri's relationship appears to be being cast where it ought to have been in the first-place: they have friendly banter rather than the Doctor just being mean to Peri. Queen Katryca is good too, especially in her first scene with Glitz, where she shows that she has the one-up on him. The inner narrative itself is nicely structured, with the backstory being eked out gradually rather than being infodumped. At first we don't know Glitz's mission, or why Drathro is there, but this is revealed gradually and then eventually come to coincide. Imagine how dull it would be if we'd known all that (and Merdeen's backstory) up-front. Nice pacing and editing, too.

The only real fault I can find with it is that there's no need to invoke a threat to the universe (something that Terminus also just randomly threw in there for no logical reason - it'd be interesting to compile a list of stories where this happens - I mean, you can object about this being overused in the modern era, but at least they make a big huge deal about it, rather than just casually tossing it in as a line or two). Oh and as a nit-pick, didn't we have a secret ruler of a society who communicates only through CCTV only two stories back?

Of course, that final infodump doesn't come - the Valeyard has censored it, for reasons of national security! This would appear to be part of the overall plot, then. We'll see! This would probably be a stronger story stripped of the Trial scenes, but then that bit would remain unresolved... (also I think an attempt to edit one from this material would probably end up with jump cuts).

Some little touches
*the incongruously good model shot at the start of part 1 - they must have spent some absurd amount of money on that. Nice, but possibly better spent elsewhere
*the Doctor seems to be about to casually reveal his name in part 1, before he is interrupted by Peri!
*"all these subways seem the same to me", which we also heard variants of in 'Timelash' (corridors), 'The Mark of the Rani' (mines), 'Vengeance on Varos' (corridors) and Attack of the Cybermen (tunnels). Seems to become a habit
*they've gone to OB tape finally, getting rid of the jarring film look/video look change for different segments. This is one story though that could have done with different looks for different bits: the grading between the Trial and the Underground part could have done with being more different (both studio, mind); or possibly Colin's coat could be different in the Trial scenes



[User Picture]
Date:September 7th, 2010 12:08 pm (UTC)
I can never forgive Trial of a Timelord for being the story that introduced Bonnie Langford.

I've got an evil theory about that too. Wanna hear? :)

[User Picture]
Date:September 7th, 2010 12:11 pm (UTC)
Do tell...?
[User Picture]
Date:September 7th, 2010 02:14 pm (UTC)
Glad you asked! ;)

The Bonnie Langford introduction story was a future story - it hadn't happened in The Doctor's personal timeline yet. We saw a near-future story where Bonnie's character Melanie was *already* an assistant, retold from the record held in the Matrix.

That account was already 'doctored' by The Valyard and wasn't correct - and we find out shortly after that The Master is already in the matrix and can amend things in there also. Shortly thereafter, The Master sends Melanie 'back' to the trial to help the Doctor, for fear of having an adversary that is a distillation of all The Doctor's suppressed evil.

So, the record is already doctored, The Master has access to do more doctoring and we never, ever see a proper introduction of Bonnie's character becoming an assistant..


Melanie never was an assistant - she was a creation of The Master, inserted into the already corrupt record of that story, and her being 'sent back' to assist The Doctor was the first time The Doctor meets her.

Why did he do this? Well, The Master certainly had cause to help The Doctor out here, as he wanted to thwart The Valyard (as literally the lesser of two evils) however, The (old-school) Master was a Machiavellian evil, capable of long-term plots and schemes. Let's assume he's playing the long-game here. Sure, he (regretfully) has to help his old adversary out here, as the alternative is too big an inconvenience to suffer, but since we're making changes, why not use the opportunity to slip a trojan horse in to hinder The Doctor later? Create an 'assistant', amend the record to make her look like she's established, and ensure that the events that are happening mean that that future 'adventure' never play-out as they did by giving The Doctor advanced knowledge via the record. Simple.

There's only one problem with all this: If Melanie was a 'plant', why did we never see her try to 'stick the knife-in' at a later date?

The answer is even more cunning. The Master knows that The Doctor is very good a spotting ringers, remember that he know what Turlough was about, pretty-much from the start and he even saw through the Black Guardian's subterfuge as the White Guardian, while attempting to gain the key to time. No, a ringer plotting against The Doctor would likely be spotted, neutralised and possibly even converted to The Doctor's cause - he is after all tricky like that, damn his pure soul.

However, he is loyal to his assistants. What if the 'spanner in the works' aspect was an innocent part of the ringer's character? No subterfuge to detect.

That particular incarnation of The Doctor is possibly the most irascible since the first. He is often dark and grumpy, not a glad sufferer of fools.

And Melanie is... the perfect low-level irritant, concentration-sapper and general spanner-in-the-works - just as she is. Just as she was designed to be.
[User Picture]
Date:September 7th, 2010 03:51 pm (UTC)
It's an interesting idea, but I don't think it's really the Master's style.

I'll have to see how Mel actually appears in 13&14. I know she's a version of Mel that has met the Doctor before, but I don't know whether she was disgorged from the Matrix or actually plucked from time (and please not to tell me which). I've always assumed that after "carrot juice", the Doctor drops her off with her future-Doctor, and then goes off to have her first meeting with him, and then they go and actually have "Terror of the Vervoids" happen to them, which the Doctor finds particularly easy to do this time round because he's watched it on telly already.

The supposed relation to Ghost of Christmas Past/Present/Future is a bit of a stretch when it's the same pair of travellers in the Past _and_ Present stories, isn't it? From that point of view they'd have done better to have Peter Davison appear in the The Mysterious Planet, although even had Baker and Davison been willing, would hardly have been possible given the politics of the hiatus and the relative amount of time being spent on the Trial scenes.
[User Picture]
Date:September 7th, 2010 04:21 pm (UTC)
Oh I'm sorry - I thought you'd finished viewing! Sorry for spoilering! :(
[User Picture]
Date:September 7th, 2010 10:52 pm (UTC)
It's OK. I sort of already know what's going to happen, but am not too
clear on specifics. I may be able to watch Mindwarp on Thursday and then the remainder on Sunday. Expect more reviews then...
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