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 138 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 ...
Roger Brierley ...
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 four-part story within the Trial of a Time Lord season is commonly known as "The Mysterious Planet". See more »


[Glitz explodes a grenade near the Tribe of the Free to get their rapt attention. He calls to one of them]
Sabalom Glitz: Come here you ignorant, maggot ridden peasent!
[to Dibber]
Sabalom Glitz: Somehow I always feel foolish saying this
[Addressing the Free]
Sabalom Glitz: Take me to your leader!
See more »


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

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User Reviews

Has its moments.
4 July 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

In the mid-eighties Doctor Who was suspended for a year, was viewed as having alienated casual viewers by being filled with continuity which would only make sense to hard-core fans. So when the series returned, what did its makers do? They created a 14-part story which was more casual-viewer-alienating than anything that had gone before, and also introduced the most irritating, obnoxious companion in the show's history. That has to be a suicide note longer than Labour's 1983 election manifesto. That said, this story has its moments and everything looks and sounds good. The overarching plot involves the Doctor being put on trial by his own people. Judgement will be made after the Time Lord high council have watched three of the Doctor's adventures, one from his past, one from his more recent past and one from the future. Acting as prosecution is the Valeyard, who it has to be said is a memorable villain. The first two segments are good and could easily work on their own as 4-part episodes. The first four episodes (AKA The Mysterious Planet) are interesting and entertaining, filled with witty dialogue. Glitz is a good character and Drathro is impressively-designed and intimidating. Episodes five to eight (AKA Mindwarp) have an interesting storyline, though it's a shame Sil has been reduced to comic-relief status. The high-point has to be the climax to part eight. Unlike the feeble, illogical 'Earthshock' ending, this death scene is both shocking and gripping. What a shame, then, that the series producers had to utterly ruin it with a pathetic, contrived cop-out 'everything's alright really' ending in part fourteen. Parts nine to twelve (AKA The Ultimate Foe or Terror of the Vervoids) provide us with a fairly watchable but so-so story which takes place in the Doctor's (possible) future. It has to be said Mel is never anything other than irritating. She was supposed to be a brainy computer expert, but does nothing except scream as loudly as possible and talk in a whining, know-it-all voice. Episodes thirteen and fourteen (AKA The Ultimate Foe or Time Inc) are quite bewildering. Episode thirteen is dramatic and gripping from beginning to end, is certainly a tribute to the writing skills of the late Robert Holmes (apparently he was seriously ill when he wrote this. I wish I could write as good as this whilst in the best of health!) Holmes sadly died before he could write part fourteen. The fact that replacement writers (Pip and Jane Baker) had to come up with Part Fourteen swiftly is surely no excuse for them turning out an episode which is a campy jumble of strange images and scientific gibberish. The Valeyard loses his dignity and becomes a cackling pantomime villain and the episode ends in confusion. It appears the Valeyard is not dead after all, and the Doctor (by leaving the trial with a companion from his own future) seems to create a time paradox. As I said, Trial of a Time Lord has its moments, but somehow fails to be greater than the sum of its parts.

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