Tuesday 11 September 2012

658 The Trial a Timelord Part Thirteen (The Ultimate Foe Part One)

EPISODE: The Trial a Timelord Part Thirteen (The Ultimate Foe Part One)
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 29 November 1986
WRITER: Robert Holmes (& Eric Saward uncredited)
DIRECTOR: Chris Cloug
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 4.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Trial Of A Time Lord

The Keeper of the Matrix is summoned to the courtroom to answer the Doctor's allegations that the evidence in the Matrix has been tampered with.

The Keeper of the Matrix is James Bree who was The Security Chief in The War Games & Neared in Full Circle. The role was originally meant to be much larger than what was eventually written and Brae wasn't happy when he discovered how small the eventual part was and how little he had to do in episode 14.

The space the Keeper is speaking from was occupied in the first 12 episodes by a purple robed Time Lord, who at one point was sitting there reading a book. He's now hovering in the background, who is he and what's his function?

The Doctor's corrupting of the Valeyard's name is back in this episode for the first time since episodes 1-4 - should we assume that the author of those episode and at least the start of this one, Robert Holmes, is responsible for this childish behaviour?

He insists that only those with proper access can get to the Matrix but the Doctor still insists it has been tampered with although the only way to prove it is to call witnesses who are scattered across time and space.
So they've beefed the Matrix security up since the Master got access to it in The Deadly Assassin and Omega in Arc of Infinity then?
At that moment two capsules appear in the court containing Sabalom Glitz and Mel Bush who were present at the events on Ravalox and the Hyperion.
Tony Selby is back as Glitz, previously seen in parts 1-4 of Trial of a Timelord, whereas Mel was introduced as the Doctor's future companion in episodes 9-12. No witnesses from Thoros Beta in episodes 5-8? I demand the return of Brian Blessed as King Yrcannos!

Mel's appearance here takes a little thinking about to place. She knows who the Doctor is so this is after her first (unseen) meeting with him and almost certainly after the events of Trial of a Timelord 9-12. She doesn't know Glitz so that dates the story from before Dragonfire when they meet again.....But from the Doctor's point of view this is his first meeting with her.

They have been summoned there by the Master who appears from within the Matrix on the giant screen the evidence has been presented on.
Anthony Ainley returns as The Master, yet again giving no explanation for how he escaped the life threatening dilema we found him in at the end of Mark of the Rani, but if he escaped presumably she did too returning him to 19th century Earth and his Tardis.

Ooops, those Matrix security measures don't appear to have worked.....

The Keeper is appalled at this saying access may only be granted with Rassilon's key but fortunately the Master has a copy.
A key? So that needs to be inserted into whatever console you're using to attach your mind to the Matrix right?
Glitz tells the court how the Master hired him to go to Ravalox to steal the Andromedan Sleeper's secrets. The Master reveals that the secrets were taken from the Matrix by the Andromedan Sleepers on Earth....
How did they steel them? Despite the Keeper's protestations The Matrix isn't looking that secure?

And who are these Andromedans anyway? Surely it might have been better to use a well known Doctor Who villain who are a credible threat like The Daleks to pull this theft off?

....and in order prevent them falling into the hands of those coming from Andromeda, Earth itself was moved by the High Council.
That's a lot of effort to go to! Why not simply destroy the base on Earth containing the secrets?
When the Doctor visited Ravalox it was decided he must be eliminated to conceal what had happened.
This explanation, although useful, is rather dependent on viewers having seen and remembered the first four episodes of Trial of a Timelord. As an experiment it might be interesting to watch episodes 1-4 and then 13 & 14 back to back.
The Master then reveals that the Valeyard is the Dark Side of the Doctor from between his twelfth & final selves who has been promised the Doctor's remaining regenerations if he has the Doctor disposed of.
The clue was there all along: Valeyard does mean "Doctor of Law" although this description was botched on screen earlier in the story. Yeah I can live with the idea the Valeyard is, like the Watcher and Cho-Ji some form of in between form of a Time Lord, in this case the Doctor, and is made up of all his pent up evil.
The Valeyard flees the Courtroom, hiding in the Matrix by the seventh door located in the Court Room space station.
The Matrix has a door? NO. The Matrix is the Time Lord Computer system, the sum of their knowledge where the brain patterns of Tine Lords go when they die. It's accessed through the mind. See Ark of Infinity, Invasion of Time and, most importantly, Robert Holmes' own The Deadly Assassin for more details.

Where are the other six doors to the Matrix?

The Doctor & Glitz follow the Valeyard into the Matrix.
This episode went out with Robert Holmes' name on it, but this is as far as he wrote. He'd contacted Hepatitis, according to Eric Saward on The Trial Of A Time Lord DVD commentary, after eating some dodgy shell fish and died on 24th May 1986. Shortly afterwards then script editor Eric Saward left his job, as we covered previously, but it was Saward that producer John Nathan-Turner turned to to complete Holmes' commission for episodes 13 & 14. So from here on in the episode is Saward's work.
They find themselves in a version of Victorian London.
The Victorian London locations are found at Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke-on-Trent where filming took place from 30th June - 3rd July 1986.
The Master reveals to the Inquisitor that the Valeyard has falsified the evidence in the Matrix and that Peri was saved and has been set up as Yrcannos' warrior queen.
I told you Peri's final fate was shocking!
Acting on the Master's hints they visit JJ Chambers' Fun Factory where they encounter a number of Mister Popplewicks, multiple versions of the same clerk.
Popplewick is played by Geoffrey Hughes. Familiar to television viewers as bin man Eddie Yates in Coronation Street he'd previously voiced Paul McCartney in The Beatles film Yellow Submarine. He'd go on to play Onslow in Keeping Up Appearances alongside Revelation of the Daleks Clive Swift and appear in Heartbeat and The Royle Family.
Popplewick insists that the Doctor sign a release form pledging his remaining lives to Mr Chambers in the events of his death in the fun factory before the Doctor can see Chambers. The Doctor signs the form and steps through the door into Chamber's office, finding himself on a beach.
The beach used for these scenes is Camber Sands in East Sussex where the team filmed on 23rd & 24th July 1986.
Hands emerge from the ground dragging him down as the Valeyard's laughter echoes round him.
The ending is a little reminiscent of the scenes in Frontios where people are sucked into the ground.

I see scenes like this of beaches shot on video and can't help but think of the second series Red Dwarf episode Better than Life. Come to think of it that's inside a virtual reality world similar to the Matrix.

Hands emerge from the ground dragging him down as the Valeyard's laughter echoes round him.

Finish with another close up on Colin's face!

As you may be able to tell the treatment of the Matrix as another realm you can just walk into winds me up no end! It's completely against everything we've seen before in Doctor Who.... It's also far too reliant on you remembering small details from eight plus episodes back. And yet.... it's probably my favourite episode of the 13 so far. Despite it being horribly broken in terms of what we previously know about Doctor it somehow works for me. Yes the second half is doing a "Deadly Assassin" trying to kill the Doctor in the Matrix but it works and works well. The BBC can do historical costume drama very well and over the next few years Doctor Who will catch onto this doing at least one period set piece every season.

It is with thia episode that we say farewell to Robert Holmes. I'm not keen on his 80s Doctor Who stories at all so I'll choose to remember him by the fabulous work he did writing for Pertwee & Tom Baker and script editing the first half of the latter's time as the Doctor. It's also the last work that Eric Saward does on Doctor Who.... but as we'll see tomorrow that wasn't the original plan.

1 comment:

  1. Despite all of the problems this episode has, it contains one of my absolute favorite moments from Colin Baker's tenure as the Doctor, when he lets loose his righteous indignation at the Time Lords for their manipulations and corruption:

    "In all my travellings throughout the universe, I have battled against evil, against power-mad conspirators. I should have stayed here! The oldest civilization: decadent, degenerate and rotten to the core! Ha! Power-mad conspirators, Daleks, Sontarans, Cybermen - they're still in the nursery compared to us! Ten million years of absolute power - that's what it takes to be really corrupt!"

    I do not know if it was Robert Holmes or Eric Saward who wrote that, but it's fantastic, and Baker does as absolutely superb job at conveying the Doctor's utter outrage & disgust.

    Speaking of memorable turns of phrase, I look forward to reading your commentary tomorrow when the Valeyard pulls out his thesaurus to find a new & inventive way to explain that there's no way the Doctor will be able to thrwart his plans :)