Sunday 19 December 2010

The Ultimate Foe (Trial of a Time Lord parts 13-14)

"I'm as honest, truthful and about as boring as they come."

You could sum up this story simply as "Deadly Assasin goes pantomime." I don't mind the pantomime feel of the next season after this, but Trial of a Time Lord was a story arc that cried out for a dramatic conclusion. What we get is a rushed and half thought out mess.

Offscreen circumstances can largely be blamed for the failure of this story. Robert Holmes wrote the first episode of this, but his illness and subsequent death prevented it's completion. Eric Saward wrote a concluding episode in his absence, but then resigned and kept the copyright to it. Pip and Jane Baker were hastily called in to write a conclusion to a story that they had not written, without knowing how it was all supposed to end. Hence, what we are left with.

The idea that the Valeyard is the 'dark side of the Doctor' is a bit bonkers. Of course, he never really admits this himself and we find out this from the Master, who might just as well have made it all up for a laugh. Onscreen evidence actually suggests that the Valeyard may have been the Keeper of the Matrix all along.

We find out that the Time Lords have been up to some pretty shady stuff, though we pretty much knew this already. As I said before, the whole backstory about the earth being moved by the Time Lords is a bit of a continuity nightmare.

Despite the poor script, Colin Baker put's everything into it. He is stunning in his condemnation of the Time Lords and his apparent surrender to fate. The real tragedy is his becoming a scapegoat for the failings of his two seasons and his dismissal as a result. Bonnie Langford's Mel is less effective. I like her, but this story really does not suit her style. Anthony Ainley gives his worst ever performance as the Master. Michael Jayston is good as the Valeyard, but he does lose the chilling restraint of previous stories and become another gloating, cackling villain.

It is fun to see Sabalom Glitz again, though it is odd that he seems to be friends wiht the Doctor, despite being a cold-blooded killer. Perhaps Glitz met the Doctor a second time after The Mysterious Planet.

The pseudo-Victorian world of the Matrix and Mr. Popplewick are cool, though with the massive Steampunk obsession that has been goig since the 80s, perhaps too consciously cool. The problem with virtual reality stories is that they don't engage very well with the viewer. If the events depicted are not real, why get excited about them?

The Dallas-style reversal of Peri's horrifying fate is very disappointing. On the other hand, there is something delightfully surreal about Peri marrying Ycarnos and becoming a barbarian warrior queen. According to the novelisation, Ycarnos goes with Peri to California, where he comes a champion wrestler with Peri as his manager. This is amusing, but rather silly.

The really remarkable thing about The Trial of a Time Lord is that of it's segments, the two which are written, or in this case half-written, by Robert Holmes are the worst. Mysterious Planet was a derivative runaround, this conclusion was a confused piece of scripted chaos, while Mindwarp was very good and the nice-but-mediocre Pip and Jane Baker gave us a reasonably decent story in Terror of the Vervoids.

No comments:

Post a Comment