Doctor Who (1963–1989)
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The Trial of a Time Lord: Part One 

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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Episode complete credited cast:
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?


Sabalom Glitz: You know, Dibber, I'm the product of a broken home.
Dibber: Um, you have mentioned it on occasion, Mr. Glitz.
Sabalom Glitz: Which sort of unbalanced me. Made me selfish to the point where I cannot stand competition.
Dibber: Know the feeling only too well, Mr. Glitz.
Sabalom Glitz: Whereas yours is a simple case of sociopathy, Dibber, my malaise is much more complex - "A deep-rooted maladjustment," my psychiatrist said, "brought on by a infantile inability to come to terms with the more pertinent, concrete aspects of life."
Dibber: Well, that ...
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Referenced in Master When: Public Domain Doctor Who (2015) See more »

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Entertains, but it's a mess.
17 July 2016 | by (UK) – See all my reviews

Back in 1985 Dr who was suspended for a year and the BBC made no secrets they were less than happy with it. So it was decided the next series of the show should focus around the Doctor put on trial, a way of reflecting the trial the show itself was on. Unfortunately this 14-part adventure gives no reason as to why the Doctor should be allowed to go on with his travels.

The common gripe among fans is that the show needed more money. That is a valid argument during the later years of the 1980s when the creative head was back in place. But in the three series prior to the suspension of 1985 the production team blew half the budget taking the show abroad for no better reason than so they could have a free holiday at the expense of the licence-payer. Not only that, but it was clear that all too often the people behind the scenes thought the show should be trying to imitate big US movies. I'm sorry, but pre-CGI there was no way any BBC budget was going to make a Dr Who series of Universal proportions. The "Trial" series only seems to repeat past mistakes. A lot of money was spent on an admittedly great opening spaceship scene. But the ship is only seen for less than a minute in total. The all-important trial room looks like a half-finished set from a school play. Serious money was also spent on making one of the best-looking robots in the show's history, but it does little more than stand in a control room shouting. There's no reason to shell out more cash when nobody in the production team seems capable of using it wisely.

For what it's worth, the first four episodes entertain. They're written by Robert Holmes, arguably the show's finest writer, and though they're not his greatest work they're filled with his usual characters and witty lines. The second 'story' sees the return of Sil, the sea-slug yuppie, and this segment of the trial has some great moments. That's despite Eric Saward removing the original humour and replacing it with repeated jokes about Brian Blessed shouting, not to mention the insert of a sub-plot involving some feeble rebels. Then, after what is possibly the greatest departure scene in the show's history, we have the greatest cop-out in the show's history. Yes, folks, it seems Peri is not dead but is instead the consort of a misogynist warrior who spent his time bellowing at her. What pours acid into the wound is that the Doctor never bothers returning for her. The third 'story' concerns killer plant-people, the introduction of Mel (who is, despite her later improvements in McCoy's time, as awful in this tale as critics feared she might be) and a storyline which seems to think it's dealing with rather slow-witted children. Although it does admittedly have some great cliff-hangers. The final 'pay-off' story is a two-parter, the first episode of which is Robert Holmes' last and what seems to be a powerful build-up to something amazing. Then in the all-important finale episode we are treated to....a mess, frankly. Sub-plots become entangled, the Valeyard (for the most part superbly played by Michael Jayston) turns into a cackling villain and the finale sees Gallifrey descending into anarchy (off-screen) whilst the Doctor toddles off with a companion he's never met twittering on about carrot juice.

Given that the production team had an extra year to prepare the series (and the trial theme was thought up very soon after the suspension was announced) it's therefore dismaying that it seems "Trial" feels as though they were making it up as they went along. A 14-part complicated thriller needs to be planned in advance. Of course the team weren't to know Robert Holmes would die before he could finish his contribution. But only he and Eric Saward (who left after a disagreement) knew how "Trial" was supposed to end. Even Colin Baker, the leading man, was unable to find out from the writers or production team important information.

The evidence for the prosecution: In the first eight episodes the Doctor saves the universe but fails to save Peri due to the Time Lords abducting him. Strangely he never points any of this out. The trial scenes (which soon become irritating) are filled with bickering and boring continuity point. The defence: The Doctor shows a story from his own (possible) future in which he commits genocide. Not only that, but the fact that the Valeyard, apparently the Doctor from the future, tries to blow the court-room up should surely convince the Time Lords the Doctor isn't going to improve. Quite the reverse. It seems the trial was reflecting the wrong-headedness of the scripts.

In short, "Trial" entertains. But it's a mess.

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