Doctor Who: Season 23, Episode 13

The Trial of a Time Lord: Part 13 (29 Nov. 1986)

TV Episode  -   -  Adventure | Drama | Sci-Fi
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The charge against the Doctor changes from mere meddling to inexcusable genocide. His future looks both grim and very short.



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Title: The Trial of a Time Lord: Part 13 (29 Nov 1986)

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Episode complete credited cast:
Bonnie Langford ...
Lynda Bellingham ...
Anthony Ainley ...
Tony Selby ...
James Bree ...
Keeper of the Matrix


With the evidence for the defense at an end and the trial nearly over, it would seem that the Doctor's fate has been well and truly sealed. But the shock intervention of an old adversary throws new light on the case with the Doctor's future traveling companion Mel and the roguish Sabalom Glitz being presented to the courtroom as surprise witnesses. Shocking revelations come to light involving the high council of Time Lords, the Valeyard and their corrupt conspiracy which involved the Doctor and his affairs with the planet Ravolox. But with an even more mind blowing revelation brought to the fore, the Doctor is forced to come to terms with an enigmatic link between himself and his sinister prosecutor. Written by Robert McElwaine

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Release Date:

29 November 1986 (UK)  »

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1.33 : 1
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This episode was watched by 4.4 million viewers on its original transmission. See more »


The Doctor: [the Doctor has walked through a door which is supposed to lead to a waiting room but where he, instead finds himself on a cold and gloomy beach] This is a very odd waiting room. Well, where are the hopelessly out-of-date magazines?
See more »

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"The Matrix can be physically penetrated!" The closing trial segment.

Doctor Who: The Trial of a Time Lord: Part Thirteen starts as the Doctor (Colin Baker) protests his innocence to the Inquistor (Lynda Bellingham) & that he is convinced the Matrix has been tampered with, accusations the Valeyard (Michael Jayston) strongly refutes. Then suddenly an old enemy comes to the Doctor's rescue, the Master (Anthony Ainley) pops up on the Matrix screen itself to prove beyond any doubt that the Matrix is capable of being manipulated. Sebolom Glitz (Tony Selby) & Mel (Bonnie Langford) are summoned as witnesses as the truth is revealed, the trial has been set up by the Time Lord high council to cover up the destruction of Earth & the Valeyard who is a distillation of the Doctor's darker side has been promised the Doctor's remaining lives if he is convicted & sentenced to death...

Episode 13 from season 23 this Doctor Who adventure originally aired here in the UK during November 1986, the first of the two part segment that wraps The Trial of a Time Lord season up this was novelised under the title The Ultimate Foe. Directed by Chris Clough this is like an extended twist ending to conclude the trial & works well enough but I preferred the individual stories to the trial scenes which were a bit dull, originally due to be called Time Inc. & written by Robert Holmes who penned the first four episodes The Mysterious Planet story he sadly died before they were completed. Holmes had largely completed Part Thirteen but only had outlined Part Fourteen so Eric Saward was convinced to finish writing them by producer John Nathan-Turner but their eventual falling out meant Saward refused permission for his Part Fourteen to be used & as such Pip & Jane Baker were drafted in to write Part Fourteen working from an already complete Part Thirteen as inspiration & a guideline. Phew, got that? Good. Anyway, Part Thirteen reveals just about everything we already either knew or guessed like the Valeyard being corrupt, like the Matrix was tampered with & that there are other more sinister reasons behind the Doctor's trial. The fact that the Doctor is also totally exonerated of all charges & actually becomes the victim is also no surprise, neither is the revelation that Peri actually survived rather than died as first indicated. As an episode it's rather dull, not that much happens, there's too many sudden plot twists & turns which doesn't leave time for them to sink in & unless you have followed the previous twelve episodes a lot of it will pass you by, while as a story it's possible to sit down & watch either The Mysterious Planet, Minwarp or the likable Terror of the Vervoids on their own right that's not the case with The Ultimate Foe.

A lot of this episode is spent in the court room, it's a reasonable set & the Gallifreyian costumes look pretty good even if the Inquistor's headdress looks like it's made out of paper! This one has a nicely dramatic cliffhanger ending & it's one that I can vividly recall watching on TV when it was originally broadcast all those years ago. The Master also makes a reappearance in this although it's him that effectively proves the Doctor's innocence which I just found a bit out of character if you know what I mean. For some reason the Valeyard hides in the Matrix in an imaginary Victorian stone factory with a huge multi-coloured neon light on the front just so you can't miss it!

The Trial of a Time Lord: Part Thirteen is a bit of a downer when compared to The Terror of the Vervoids segment but it's alright, I found it a bit talky & how all the evidence suddenly points to the Doctor's innocence is a bit convenient & he doesn't even have to work for it.

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