Doctor Who episode 647: The Trial of a Time Lord – Part Two (13/9/1986)
‘What is the relevance of your presentation?’ The Valeyard’s shock decision to convert the inquiry into a trial has clued the Doctor in to a larger threat to his existence. He gently needles his new nemesis, while maintaining the niceties for the sake of Inquisitor Darkel. The courtroom scenes are short, but land the points that while the Inquisitor isn’t succumbing to the Doctor’s charms she’s not necessarily on the Valeyard’s side either. This isn’t pitched like a Soviet show trial; the possibility of acquittal, at this stage, seems real.
This episode does largely focus on the Ravolox plot, and so its deficiencies become a little bit more obvious. Everyone can spot Robert Holmes rifling through his back catalogue: the selection to find ‘the two cleverest youths’ to join a crashed robot in its lair, the society kept in thrall and the whiff of rebellion fondly recall the Gonds; the grumpy alien reliant on help from less advanced humans and turning to the Doctor for aid is Linx the Time Warrior, and Glitz and Dibber’s heist on a primitive society is Garron and Unstoffe with the barcode filed off. Still, Robert Holmes repeating himself is still entertaining, and this continues to be uncomplicated fun which is a huge advance over much of the previous series.
It’s also quite stylishly done. Peri’s meeting with Katryca emphasises the Queen’s power as she looks down on her prisoner (and offers her several husbands – prompting the best joke in the episode when Peri repeats the conversation to Dibber). The scene where Katryca studies the fires, her face shot through flame, looks great. And Colin Baker continues to get material that presents the Doctor as witty, wily, and compassionate – what a difference to the last time he met mathematical genius twins. Arguably, this is a watered-down version of the sixth Doctor with all the edge taken away, but it’s not much different from how he was written in the second half of Season 22 (at least in production order: The Mark of the Rani, Timelash and Revelation of the Daleks all showcase a much less abrasive version).
Next episode: The Trial of a Time Lord – Part Three