Doctor Who episode 651: The Trial of a Time Lord – Part Six (11/10/1986)

‘I do grow tired of these constant interruptions.’ I think this is where the real cracks in the Trial format start to show, because the demands of the ongoing story (and the need to remind us that there is a wider conspiracy behind the trial) interfere with the story on Thoros Beta. The Doctor’s uncharacteristic actions in betraying Peri and siding with Sil have a clear in-story explanation: Crozier’s brain experiments have temporarily unbalanced him. Except there is also another explanation: in the court room, the Doctor claims that this is forged evidence, that he’s being set up, and someone is manipulating the Matrix. Either explanation works (although in the Trial context the unreliable evidence works better). Both together introduce an unnecessary layer of complexity, especially when the Doctor further claims it’s all a clever bluff. Maybe that’s the point: if so, I’m not a fan.

Every few years, the show does a story where the Doctor seems to have gone bad (The Massacre, The Evil of the Daleks, The Claws of Axos, The Invasion of Time, The Two Doctors). It’s part of Colin Baker’s misfortune that it was the plot of his first serial – at least here we have a sense of what a “good” sixth Doctor is like. Perhaps because no-one clarified why the Doctor seems to be evil, Baker veers between playing it like the Doctor’s tipsy (the very fey look he gives a cackling Sil) or sly (when he literally unveils Peri as an alien interloper)

On Thoros Beta, having been kept safely sedated for the first episode, Brian Blessed bursts into life, demolishes Crozier’s laboratory, bellows at everyone and barges out. What an entrance, and what a way to open the episode: this is exactly what you hire Blessed for, and he doesn’t disappoint. Out-bombasted at last, Baker can only sit at Blessed’s feet looking dazed. Although who’d’ve guessed Peri is a bear chaser? Yrcanos, like Kiv, is dismissive of words and demands action. Finding his equerry Dorff transformed into the Lukoser is enough to have him swearing deadly vengeance on all.

Trial6

Watching all this, the Doctor is troubled by his amnesia regarding the events he’s seeing, and the Valeyard’s cruel hints of an ‘exceedingly nasty’ surprise to come. And as the lights seem to have been dimmed in these scenes (there’s some nice shadow on the Doctor’s face as he contemplates the Valeyard’s insinuations), it all seems darker and more ominous than in the first segment.

Next episode: The Trial of a Time Lord – Part Seven

One comment

  1. Pingback: Doctor Who episode 650: The Trial of a Time Lord – Part Five (4/10/1986) | Next Episode...

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