56 Stupid Things About “The Trial of a Time Lord” (And 44 Cool Ones)

When reviewing Doctor Who stories, it is often difficult to retain a grasp of reason and logic as absurd ideas are alternately presented as laughable and serious often in the same episode. There is the added problem of creative issues, budgetary constraints and a lack of communication between the actors, directors and writers. 1986’s Trial of a Timelord has all of these problems and more, resulting in a bloated epic that teeters on the brink of classic and dross every few minutes.

In 1985, Doctor Who had come under fire from the BBC as being in need of a rest, After 22 years on the air, the series had become far too violent and lacked a certain quality that many had associated with the program. In some ways, Doctor Who was exactly the same TV series it had always been while the rest of TV had progressed and was receiving higher budgets, better actors and stronger scripts. In 1986, Doctor Who returned with a challenge to better itself. To reflect the challenge, The Doctor himself was placed on trial and asked to defend his behavior. The adventure spanned 12 episodes with four distinct arcs separating inter-linking scenes set in the court room where the Doctor and his prosecutor exchanged insults.

The folks at Kaldor City have compiled a list of the stupidest and best moments in the 12-part story. Here are a few of my favorites:

Episodes 1-4/The Wasteland/Robots of Ravolox/The Mysterious Planet/That Thing with Joan Sims in It

6. There are no animals on Ravalox. This flies in the face of everything we know about how ecology works.

13. Confronted with the accusation that he is breaking Time Lord rules by interfering with the affairs of others, the Doctor fails to respond with “oh yeah? How about your involvement in ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, ‘Attack of the Cybermen’, ‘The Mutants’, ‘Colony In Space’, ‘The Brain of Morbius’, ‘The Three Doctors’…” and thus deserves everything he gets in the courtroom scenes.

15. “All that is known is within the Matrix.” “Oh, a micro-organism in a drop of water might think it knows the universe, all it knows is that drop of water.” One of the best exchanges in 1980s Who, but unfortunately it was cut.

Episodes 5-8/Planet of Sil/Mindwarp/Vengeance on Varos II: This Time, it’s Thoros Beta/That Thing with Brian Blessed In It

39. The effect of the pacifier appears to be to make the Doctor very suggestible, acting like Yrcanos when he’s around Yrcanos, and like Sil when he’s around Sil. However, the question remains as to at what point said effect wears off.

40. The Doctor’s behaviour in the story is cleverly written so as to leave it ambiguous as to whether his turning to the bad is faked evidence, the result of the influence of the pacifier device, or, perhaps, proof that the Valeyard is right about him, or a bit of all three. Complaints that it is confusing miss the point– it’s clearly supposed to be.

41. And anyone who thinks the Sixth Doctor is generally a nice, stable, unselfish chap should go and watch “The Twin Dilemma” again.

42. Philip Martin, on the DVD commentary, indicates that he sees the Sixth Doctor as “a bad guy pretending to be good.”

Episodes 9-12/The Ultimate Foe/The Vervoids/Terror of the Vervoids/John, Here’s That Thing You Commissioned From Us In A Lift At The Last Minute, Love Pip and Jane

57. The Doctor tells the courtroom that his evidence comes from his own future. We know from Episode 4 that the evidence presented in the courtroom is material recorded by his TARDIS, so how the hell can it record things it hasn’t been through yet?

67. JNT’s character description of Mel runs in part “one of those annoying young ladies, who is a ‘woman’s libber’ at all times, except at moments of great stress, when she relies heavily on playing the hard-done-by, down-trodden, crocodile-teared female.” Issues much?

73. The Vervoids originally killed their victims by strangling them with vines, and it was John Nathan-Turner who suggested the poison dart idea. Which makes rather less sense; who goes around genetically engineering servant races with a built-in weapon?

81. “I’m always serious about murder,” the Doctor says. Well, perhaps, but judging by earlier stories he’s not above having a laugh over GBH, manslaughter (or Raakslaughter) and accidental homicide.

82. Why are the Vervoids upset about humans eating plants? Generally, the consumption of part or all of the plant is crucial to its reproductive cycle, without which the species could not survive.

83. How do they even know that humans eat plants? Have they been reading books about gardening?

More here:http://www.kaldorcity.com/features/articles/trial.html

Thanks to http://doctorno1.amplify.com for posting the link to this list as well!


4 thoughts on “56 Stupid Things About “The Trial of a Time Lord” (And 44 Cool Ones)

  1. I feel so bad because the Sixth Doctor is my least favorite…I mean I’m sure he had his high-points too. But his stories interested me the least, and I can’t get over the cats and the clown suit.


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