Doctor Who: Season 23, Episode 1

The Trial of a Time Lord: Part One (6 Sep. 1986)

TV Episode  |  TV-PG  |   |  Adventure, Drama, Family
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 142 users  
Reviews: 4 user | 2 critic

The Doctor is put on trail by the Time Lords again. The first of two events from his resent past is presented as evidence of his interference in the affairs of other worlds. In particular, his actions on planet Ravalox.



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Title: The Trial of a Time Lord: Part One (06 Sep 1986)

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Episode complete credited cast:
Lynda Bellingham ...
Joan Sims ...
Tony Selby ...
Drathro (voice)
David Rodigan ...
Broken Tooth
Adam Blackwood ...
Timothy Walker ...


The Doctor is pulled out of his time stream and summoned to a Time Lord space station above Gallifrey. On his arrival it is announced by the Inquisitor that the Doctor will stand trial. Accused of conduct unbecoming a Time Lord, the Doctor refutes the allegations made against him and chooses to mount his own defense rather than entrust his fate to a fellow Time Lord. Opposing the Doctor and appearing for the prosecution is the Valeyard, an enigmatic figure who is clearly out for the Doctor. Suffering from short term memory loss as a result being taken out of time, and puzzled as to the absence of his companion Peri, the Doctor can only sit back and watch as the Valeyard mounts his case against the eccentric time traveler. The first piece of evidence is taken from the Matrix, the repository of all Time Lord knowledge. It chronicles the Doctor's interference in affairs of the planet Ravalox, a planet very similar to Earth and which was partly decimated by a fireball several centuries ... Written by Robert McElwaine

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Release Date:

6 September 1986 (UK)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This serial features a noticeable increase in humour from recent seasons, both in the dialogue and the acting performances. This was put in to please BBC One Controller Michael Grade, who wanted less violence and more humour in the series. See more »


Balazar: Where are you from, old one?
The Doctor: Old one!
Balazar: What station did you disgrace with your miserable presence, water thief?
The Doctor: I may look old to you, wiskerless youth, but I'll have you know I'm in the prime of my life. I'm only nine-hundred years old.
See more »


Featured in Doctor Who Live: The Afterparty (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

An underrated epic
24 April 2014 | by See all my reviews


There is a reason that Colin Baker is my favorite actor to play the Doctor. And that is this 14 part serial. Most people think of this episode as an OK Doctor Who story that doesn't really have anything spectacular, but I disagree. The idea to put the doctor on trial is a brilliant one and I find that the trial scenes are the highlight of the serial. As the serial is still technically one story, I will review the whole thing in this review now.

The first four episodes are titled The Mysterious Planet. These first episodes start the serial well. We are introduced to some great characters such as the Valeyard and Glitz (who later returns in the last parts of the serial as well as Sylvester McCoy's Dragonfire). The world of Ravolox is really interesting and the sets are nicely made considering the budget. This episode also sets a rather dark tone which would continue for the rest of the serial. Drathro is also a really cool villain. The only downfall of this story is the character of Katryca. Her dialogue seems to be badly written which differs from most of the other characters. She soon gets what is coming to her anyway.

The next sub-story is Mindwarp. As the trial continues, the Doctor is continuously being threatened by the Valeyard.This part of the serial begins to make the trial scenes more intense as the Valeyard continues to show events from the sixth Doctor's past. The flashbacks shown by the Valeyard are extremely interesting and make for a great Doctor Who story. Colin Baker is also at his best here. Sil and Kiv are quite menacing and make for really interesting villains. The flashback story also fits in with the trial sequences really well and it does this better than The Mysterious Planet did. This episode also marks the final story that features Peri. She was a great companion and she finishes her time on the show with a brilliant send-off in this story.

After Mindwarp is Terror of the Vervoids. The next scene the Valeyard shows is one where the doctor is on a holiday spaceship of some sort with a brand new companion Mel. This is another great story and the sets really stand out in this one. Some great characters are here as well. Even the special effects seem to be handled with much more skill than previous 80s Doctor Who stories. The only let down for this story is Mel. On her first outing she already establishes herself as extremely annoying and constantly making the Doctor angry. Other than that this story is great to watch.

The final episodes of the serial are The Ultimate Foe. This is definitely the highlight of the serial. These two episodes are extremely confusing but they are handled with a lot of skill and Robert Holmes beautifully executes Part 13 with his inventive ideas. In this last story, the Valeyard becomes more of a villain than the Doctor had expected and he is soon led into the surreal world of the Matrix (not the one you are thinking of). Colin Baker portrays the Doctor brilliantly in this dark episode and Anthony Ainley also makes a great appearance as the Master. The ending to the serial is fantastic and this episode finishes it all off with brilliant writing and even better acting.

For any Doctor Who fan this serial is a must watch. It is my personal favorite serial and it is criminally underrated. It's a shame that Colin was forced to leave after this. His version of the Doctor could have done a lot more.

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