Doctor Who – The Trial of A Time Lord – Terror of the Vervoids

Doctor Who - The Trial of A Time Lord - Terror of the Vervoids
Doctor Who – The Trial of A Time Lord – Terror of the Vervoids

“Terror of the Vervoids” is the third adventure of the twenty-third season, known by the global title “The Trial of a Time Lord”, which aired in 1986. “Terror of the Vervoids” has the parts that go from ninth to twelfth of this season following “Mindwarp” and it’s a four parts adventure written by Pip and Jane Baker and directed by Chris Clough.

The story

The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker), still shaken by witnessing Peri death, must defend himself from the Valeyard’s accusations and in his favor he presents an adventure that he’ll live in his future.

The Doctor is traveling with Mel (Bonnie Langford), his future companion, when they receive a distress call sent to the Tardis. They arrive on a spaceship where a crew member was drugged for unknown reasons but otherwise everything seems quiet. Why then there’s a cabin under constant surveillance? Why do some traveling scientists seem to hide something strange?

In the trial, the Doctor had decided to bring this adventure to his defense after whatching it but what is shown in the court is different from what he had seen before. Once again, the Doctor finds inconsistencies in the Matrix with the clear aim to frame him, is it a Valeyard’s plan or someone else’s? In any case it should be impossible to manipulate the contents of the Matrix, how can someone be able to alter it?

Extras

This DVD has a fair amount of extras. There are typical contents such as the BBC announcements for this adventure, production subtitles and a gallery of picture from it.

Several extras are also about the last part of the season so if you want to avoid spoilers you should watch the last adventure of the season and only then these extras.

There are comments in the adventure alternative audio track by protagonist Colin Baker, actor Michael Craig, director Chris Clough and writers Pip and Jane Baker.

The Making of Terror of the Vervoids. A documentary about the production of this adventure that includes interviews with several people involved in its production.

Deleted and Extended scenes. Several minutes of deleted and extended scenes.

The Lost Season. A documentary that shows the plans for what would have been the XXIII season of “Doctor Who” had it not been temporarily suspended by the BBC. Some scripts were already in an advanced stage of production and after the change of plans were turned into the novels “The Nightmare Fair”, “The Ultimate Evil” and “Mission to Magnus”. For fans it’s certainly a nice journey to discover how the series would’ve continued if the situation had been normal.

Now, Get Out of That. An exam of the cliffhangers in “Doctor Who”: which ones worked, which ones didn’t, which ones were done wrong.

The Saturday Picture Show. An interview with Bonnie Langford from that time.

This is the third and last adventure before the grand season finale when during the trial to the Doctor one of his journeys is shown. In this sense, the season is structured like “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens with an adventure of the Doctor’s past, one in the Doctor’s present and on in the Doctor’s future.

One of the classic “Doctor Who” plots is the base / ship under siege: in “Terror of the Vervoids” there’s the variant of the invasion from within. The originality of this adventure is that this plot develops very slowly so this ends up being mostly a story in the Agatha Christie style set in space: there are some murders and all the characters seem to have something to hide so all of them are potential suspects.

The result is ambitious but a little convoluted and wordy: nevertheless it’s funny thanks to a Doctor who in the future seems to be more cheerful and to the other characters who are well developed.

Unfortunately as a companion Mel is a step backwards from the previous ones: despite having been created as a modern character – she’s an computer expert – she’s a screamer in the ’60s fashion and that’s demonstrated on several occasions.

The trial part is a bit puzzling as the Valeyard keeps changing the charges during a trial that began as an inquiry. Obviously it’s impossible to explain the Gallifreyan legal system in a few minutes but what happens with what should be twists that have the sole purpose of trying to raise the dramatic tone seems completely arbitrary. This happened throughout this season and hasn’t helped raising the quality level.

Luckily the part about the trial is limited and mostly the difference between the Doctor’s memories and the the Matrix records increases the uncertainty in the audience that started in “Mindwarp”.

Because this DVD is part of “The Trial of a Time Lord” box set – available on Amazon UK, Amazon Canada and Amazon USA – a global judgement must necessarily be given only at the end of the reviews of this season’s adventures.

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