Friday 7 September 2012

654 The Trial a Timelord Part Nine (Terror of the Vervoids Part One)

EPISODE: The Trial a Timelord Part Nine (Terror of the Vervoids Part One)
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 01 November 1986
WRITER: Pip & Jane Baker
DIRECTOR: Chris Clough
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5.2 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Trial Of A Time Lord

After a recess to compose himself the Doctor begins to present his evidence to the court. He chooses events in his future, with the Valeyard enquiring if it's the Doctor's defence that he improves, and shows the trip of the liner Hyperion taking rare metals & passengers from Morgar to Earth. One passenger, Kimber, thinks he recognises another as an investigator called Hallett but the other denies this claiming to be a mineralogist called Grenville, but Professor Lasky and her colleagues are alarmed. The ship's communications officer is knocked out and a distress call is transmitted to the Tardis where it is intercepted by the Doctor & his current companion Mel. They arrive on the ship, are swiftly captured and taken to the ship's commander, Commodore Travers, an old friend of the Doctor. Shortly after a body is found to have been fed into the waste disposal. When Mel investigates the Hydroponics Unit her guide the communications officer is electrocuted and the giant seed pods that Professor Lasky is transporting within begin to hatch....

You know what? That wasn't too bad at all. The Doctor's narration makes it clear we're dealing with a murder mystery, reinforced by Lasky being seen reading Murder on the Orient Express. Plenty of suspects already with much subterfuge and secrets amongst the passengers onboard.

The main problem I have with this episode is the new companion, Mel, who is just so annoying. Bonnie Langford was a well known child actress & dancer and easily the most high profile name cast as a Doctor Who companion. Mel's character seems to have been built by producer John Nathan-Turner around an exaggerated version of Langford's public persona so we get a fitness freak (from the dancing) screamer (from a prior role as Violet Elizabeth Bott in Just William). She's meant to have been a computer programmer from Peas Pottage but we don't get to see her first meeting with the Doctor.... more on that later in the story. Our first glimpse of here has the Doctor being forced to exercise and being fed carrot juice which is probably a little unfair on poor Colin Baker who'd already had some grief in the press about his weight!


  1. It's a decent enough opener, but the budget creaks big time with the luxury liner. Great to see Pat Woolton from House of Cards, surprised you didn't name check him yet Phil. I don't mind Mel at all in this, the fitness freak thing wasn't that bad. I think the fact we are introduced to her already established is a big problem for fandom to get round. We are used to our companions getting to know the Doctor slowly, which allows us to get to know them. Here we are in media res, and it's too easy for folks to take cheap shots at her and Colin than go along with it.

  2. we do the cast tomorrow Turnbull where we also do Avengers, Blackadder and Blake's 7

    Mel is the least convincing character ever, just annoying and plastic. She is a caricature of what a companion should be. The series needed to do Ace now and not a year and a bit down the line.

  3. I find her far less annoying on screen than the likes of Susan or Dodo.