Monday, November 15, 2010
The most straightforward, and therefore most disappointing, segment of the Trial season ends with The Doctor's trial supposedly changing immeasurably, as he is now accused of genocide in addition to his crimes of meddling. Or has the latter charged now been dropped? Much less attention is paid to it after the shocking new charge, so shocking that it warrants a warp speed zoom into Colin Baker's face at the conclusion of the episode - very serious stuff, indeed.
At the time, I only relatively enjoyed the Vervoid segment, even though I was never quite keen to rewatch it. I'm not sure my opinion of the onscreen product has changed since in the 20 years since I first saw it. There's a lot of death going on here, and, while none of it is particularly graphic, it certainly seems to go against the new ethics put in place by the Sixth Floor of the BBC to make Doctor Who a more family friendly programme. What does it say that the only main characters on the Hyperion who seem to survive the bloodbath are the highest ranking (Commodore Travers) and the lowest (stewardess Janet)? Take that, middle class, but should Travers really be that pleased with the situation at the end of this episode when practically every ranking officer and crew member under him has died (apart from that strange bearded extra who's in practically every other scene in this episode)?
Really, as the years have gone on and more details have come out, it's the behind-the-scenes drama that occurred during the production of the latter half of The Trial of a Time Lord that far outweighs what was going on in front of the cameras. For starters, there wasn't a script editor for Parts 9-12 as Eric Saward had walked off the job, the camel's back having been broken by any multitude of straws from mistreatment of the recently deceased Robert Holmes to rejection of Saward's original cliffhanger ending to Part 14. Really, a lack of a script editor on a Pip and Jane Baker story might be a match made in hell, but thanks to the efforts of an exasperated John Nathan-Turner, it's amazing that this thing holds together at all.
Slag JNT for his slavish devotion to continuity and fandom (which was reaching its peak at this time in the days before the massive fan conventions in the USA were starting to wane in popularity) or his sometimes questionable stunt casting, but he bent over backwards to try and make Doctor Who as good as it could possibly be, often without any backing or support from his direct superiors. He saved the show from outright cancellation in 1985 by leaking the news early to get the fans on his side, and he was spinning plates behind the scenes from then on just to try and get the show made, often at the behest of his own interests (he had been trying to leave the producer's chair since the end of Season 20; Doctor Who would never have another producer during its original run). The Trial of a Time Lord is John Nathan-Turner's last stab at making Doctor Who because he really thought it was, finally, his last actual stab at making the show. Sadly, events that transpired shortly after production of this segment (which was mostly produced before the final two episodes of Trial) would leave more than a few people unhappy.
Posted by Steven at 3:11 PM
Some of the many and massive delays between posts on this blog can be attributed to me not having the time and energy to be able to devote to writing reviews (thanks to real life, work, etc). On other occasions, though, the main reason is that I simply can't find anything noteworthy to write about, even after several passes through an episode.
Part 11 of The Trial of a Time Lord is just one of those instances. Nothing much is revealed about the murderer; in fact, we're distracted from the main plot by Bruchner foolishly hijacking the Hyperion to fly it into a black hole just so we can have something dramatic to end the episode on (and director Chris Clough doesn't even do that, choosing to end, as was the style at the time, on a close-up of Colin Baker's overly concerned visage). We nearly lose Mel to the pulverizer, which may seem like a good thing, but she displays a remarkable amount of pluck and quick thinking by using a gym headset to record some incriminating Vervoid chatter that will play an important part in the next episode. My main memory of the episode is actually that one Mogarian who was frightfully rude to the stewardess, Janet, by knocking her tray over for no reason at all. What an odd scene, I thought, although Janet didn't look half enticing bending over to pick up the...ahh, now I see the reason.
Even the Valeyard and the Inquisitor keep their interruptions to a bare minimum. Either they're just not interested in the story playing out on screen or they simply have no objections, or perhaps The Doctor seems to think that the video evidence is enough in itself to prove his innocence. Although, one must point, out, it's not necessarily his innocence that The Doctor is fighting for, it's his justification for his meddling. Sadly, he does little meddling in this episode at all, and the drama suffers because of it. Roll on Part 12, already.
Posted by Steven at 1:31 PM