‘Are we to be subjected to a dissertation on interplanetary politics now?’ This is pure 1970s’ Doctor Who, particularly the scenes of the Vervoids attacking, which are shot POV with a green tinge just like the Wirrrn and the Rutans, and the very obvious CSO fringing around the Doctor and Mel’s hair when they stand in front of the observation dome.
It’s straightforward, pitched at a younger audience than most 1980s stories (the sequence of the Doctor rewinding the tape to explain how he spotted a Mogarian was in fact an impostor is totally CBBC), and works well without the trial scenes, which really do feel extraneous at this point (especially when the Inquisitor seems to jump in to side with the Valeyard). Again, given it’s meant to be integral to the trial, I’m not sure this fact should be celebrated as much as it is, but at least we have the fun Blu-Ray edit as an alternative.
I’m really enjoying Bonnie Langford. She may put the Mel into melodrama (‘You’ve got a killer on board!’), but it’s very refreshing to have someone around who likes having space adventures, and just gets on with it rather than trailing round looking surly. The scene where she discusses the stolen demeter seeds with Professor Lasky while the Doctor fails to interject is pretty much the best scene a female companion has had in the show in years: assertive without being aggressive; investigator rather than victim. All the actors seem to be approaching this in pretty much the same spirit, too, as stock characters in a detective story: Honor Blackman makes Lasky distinctively acerbic; Travers is gruff; Rudge is long-suffering and so on. There are plenty of clues to pick up on, the threat is clearly articulated, suddenly this is lighter entertainment, less dour, more fun.
Other random observations: there are a lot of agronomists about, suddenly (is this a reference back to Stengos in Revelation of the Daleks)? Did the Doctor encounter Hallett when he first met Travers, and why hasn’t anyone written this adventure? It’s nice that Mike Mungarven finally gets a credit. The first time I saw the cliffhanger I thought the bald woman in the isolation room was Peri, and this was going to dovetail with Mindwarp.
Next episode: The Trial of a Time Lord – Part Eleven