Doctor Who: The Trial of a Time Lord (parts five and six)

Well, I said before that Nabil Shaban’s wonderfully disgusting character Sil was the best thing about this story, just like he was in his first story, and I stand by that. But it is worth noting that BRIAN BLESSED is here to yell and bellow and bring the house down as a warrior king, and Christopher Ryan, the second Young Ones star to appear in this show in a two-year period, plays another slimy member of Sil’s species. The story’s a mess, but I like these two. And our son was, momentarily, really impressed by the very ’80s planet that the visual effects team dreamed up, with a dayglo-blue shore and crashing neon pink waves.

Episodes six through eight are the first example of Doctor Who using the format of an unreliable narrator. The Doctor has amnesia after getting his brain blasted in the cliffhanger to part five, allowing the evil Valeyard to screw with the “evidence” of the story and make him look like a coward who’s switched sides to save his own skin. So we never actually get to see what really happened on the planet Thoros Beta… probably. Unfortunately, Eric Saward, the script editor, didn’t make any of this at all clear and was in the process of finding himself a new career. He gave a breathtaking bridge-burner of an “exit interview” to the magazine Starburst, telling his side of a show in turmoil and airing all the dirty laundry he could find, making enemies of everybody at every level of the show’s production. The sad result is that this segment didn’t get the attention it needed before they taped it, so everything is confusing and honestly annoying to follow.

I paused between episodes to explain how we’ve already seen how the Valeyard can edit the material, and that we can’t trust anything that happens onscreen. I did this because I knew our son would absolutely hate seeing the Doctor turn evil and treat Peri so horribly. He did, scowling all the way through part six. Unfortunately, this is going to get worse before it gets better.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Doctor Who: The Trial of a Time Lord (parts five and six)

  1. Matt Ceccato

    Unfortunately, this is going to get worse before it gets better.

    Truer words have never been spoken about “Doctor Who.”

  2. A number of years ago Colin Baker gave a lengthy, and very candid, interview to Doctor Who Magazine. One of the topics was, naturally, this much-troubled season.

    Baker explained he especially had difficulties with the “Mindwarp” segment, because (as you say) he couldn’t figure out what was actually supposed to be going on. Specifically, in trying to figure out how to play his scenes, Baker recounted that he went to the director and asked something along the lines of “Okay, in this episode, is the Doctor acting evil because he’s only pretending to collaborate with Sil, or because he’s been affected by Crozier’s brain scramble, or because the evidence in the Matrix has been tampered with?” and was told “I don’t know, go ask the writer.” So Baker went off to the writer, asked the exact same question, and was told “I don’t know, go ask the director.”

    I think that’s probably one of the best examples to illustrate how incredibly screwed up things were behind-the-scenes on the show at this point.

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