Before we tackle Doctor Who’s longest story, I have a confession to make.
Sue: So is this Colin’s last story or not?
Me: Yes, it is. But…
Sue: But what?
Me: It’s 14 episodes long.
Crash zoom on Sue’s face.
Sue: HOW MANY EPISODES?!
Me: Calm down. The episodes are only 25-minutes again.
Sue: I don’t care how bloody long they are, how am I supposed to remember what happens over the course of 14 episodes? How can they possibly sustain a story for that amount of time? That 10-part Patrick Troughton was pushing it, and I love Patrick Troughton.
Me: We’ve done a 12-part William Hartnell as well.
Sue: Have we? I must have blocked that out.
Me: Are you ready?
Sue: As ready as I can be for a 14-part Doctor Who. This had better be good, Neil.
Sue: They’ve changed the theme music again… It’s horrible. The dum-de-dums are alright, I suppose, but the rest of it sounds like it was done on a cheap Casio keyboard.
Her mood changes soon enough, though.
Sue: Fourteen episodes of Robert Holmes. Okay, I can live with that.
The camera sweeps across a space station.
Sue: Are we watching the right version, Neil? This isn’t one of those CGI things where the fans have tarted it up a bit? Am I actually allowed to watch this?
Me: Yes, this is what it looked like in 1986.
Sue: Wow! This is what Doctor Who looks like now!
The TARDIS is caught by a tractor beam and pulled towards the station.
Sue: If this first shot is anything to go by, the next 14 episodes are going to be fantastic.
The Doctor finds himself in a darkened courtroom where a mysterious figure in black sits with his back to us.
Sue: It’s not, is it?
Me: Don’t be silly. A dinosaur ate him, remember?
No, it’s the Valeyard.
Sue: Oh, it’s that man from Crossroads again.
Me: It isn’t Ronald Allen – it’s Michael Jayston. Like that’s going to help you.
Sue: He looks very familiar.
Me: In the television version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, he played the same role that Benedict Cumberbatch played in the movie.
Sue: So he’s the 1980s Benedict Cumberbatch, then? Okay.
A phalanx of Time Lords take their seats in the courtroom.
Sue: Oh look, it’s her. The OXO lady.
Me: It’s Lynda Bellingham. She played James Herriot’s wife in All Creatures Great and Small.
Sue: That’s right. She took on the part after his wife regenerated.
Me: Yes, when a cow sat on her.
The Valeyard’s inquiry into the Doctor’s actions begins on the planet Ravalox.
Sue: Peri’s jacket is a bit Hi-Di-Hi, but bold colours and stripes were all the rage back then, so you can’t really blame her for that. My hair was exactly the same as hers back then as well, except mine was blonde. I’ve destroyed all the photos.
The Doctor and Peri are hiking through a damp forest.
Me: Do you notice anything different about this?
Sue: Yes, they’re shooting it on video. Is it Betacam SP?
Me: I’ll find out for you. How do you feel about them using video on location?
Sue: It was very misty when they shot this, so it’s very forgiving at the moment. It’s always going to look flatter than film, but at least we won’t get that jarring effect when they switch between indoors and outdoors any more. Besides, I like video. I learnt my trade on it so I can’t really complain.
Two intergalactic wideboys monitor the Doctor’s progress.
Sue: Oh, it’s him. He’s been in everything. I like his sideburns. You could probably get away with sideburns like that today. I could get the clippers if you like, Neil.
Me: No, thanks.
Sabalom Glitz tells his partner, Dibber, that he suffers from a deep-rooted maladjustment brought on by an infantile inability to come to terms with the more pertinent, concrete aspects of life.
Sue: Good old Robert Holmes. This is what we want!
The Doctor and Peri uncover an entrance to a hidden passageway.
Sue: I bet you like the music, Neil. This sounds like Tangerine Dream techno bollocks to me.
The Doctor and Peri discover a strangely familiar staircase.
Sue: I bet this is King’s Cross tube station.
Our heroes haven’t stumbled into King’s Cross station, but Marble Arch is damn close (as long as the Victoria and Central lines are still working).
Sue: It’s pretty good, this. Very Planet of the Apes. I definitely want to know more.
Peri is understandably upset when she realises that they’ve landed on a post-apocalyptic Earth.
Sue: This is a lovely performance from Nicola. Very believable.
And then, back in the courtroom, we are treated to our very first objection.
Sue: I like this. Actually, I like this a lot. Is it going to be like this all the way through?
The Doctor would rather watch the edited highlights.
Sue: Yes, please! Not really. I’m enjoying this one, but I can never resist a cheap gag.
Back on Ravalox, the Doctor tries to put things into perspective for his companion.
Sue: That was a lovely scene. More of that, please.
Me: Have you noticed anything different about their relationship?
Sue: Yes, he’s listening to her for a change. He actually seems to care about her. It took him long enough. It should have been like this from day one!
Katryca, Queen of the Wild Boys, rules the surface of Earth/Ravalox.
Sue: It’s one of the Carry On women, isn’t it? Don’t ask me which one. It’s the one who isn’t Barbara Windsor.
Me: It’s Joan Sims.
Sue: I hope she doesn’t send this up too much.
The security guards in Marb Station answer to a man named Merdeen.
Sue: Oh it’s him. You know, he was in the French one. He kept hitting things.
Sue: That’s the one. I love Duggan. The guest cast is very good this week.
The Doctor enters Marb Station, but when he innocently inspects a flask of water, he’s suddenly set upon by group of angry men.
Sue: Were they all working as a Formula One pit crew when the fireball hit?
As the Doctor regains consciousness a short time later, he finds himself chained to a pole. That’s because water is so scarce in Marb Station, the penalty for stealing it is death.
Sue: I bet it must stink down there.
He is taunted by Balazar, the reader of the sacred books. These books include Moby Dick, The Water Babies, and, most mysterious of all, UK Habitats of the Canadian Goose by HM Stationery Office.
Sue: Brilliant. How can people think Revelation of the Daleks is better than this? It’s beyond me…
The Doctor will be stoned to death for his crimes against water.
Sue: Run away! There’s a corridor right behind you!
The Doctor uses his umbrella to deflect the missiles, but it’s not enough to save him.
Sue: Ouch! That must have hurt.
We cut back to the courtroom where the Doctor brags about his trick with the umbrella.
Sue: I don’t know what he’s so pleased about. He got a rock in the face! He should spend the next 13 episodes with a black eye.
The Valeyard suddenly wants to change the rules of the game. This is no longer an inquiry into the Doctor’s activities – it is now a trial!
Sue: Because The Inquiry of a Time Lord would be a rubbish title.
The camera zooms in on the Doctor’s face.
Sue: What a silly cliffhanger. They should have finished it on the stoning. Aside from that, not a bad start.
Sue: The new theme music isn’t growing on me. It isn’t meaty enough for my liking.
A robot known as the Immortal One rules Marb Station.
Sue: I’m guessing his head doubles up as a radar dish, yes?
Merdeen’s men arrive to break up the stoning.
Sue: They’re taking time out from their busy paintballing schedule to do this.
Peri is captured and brought before Queen Katryca, who promises to provide her with some excellent husbands.
Sue: That sounds like my kind of village. Although knowing Peri’s luck, all her husbands will turn out to be sex pests.
The only people who can enter the Immortal’s castle are young men who have passed the selection process.
Sue: Young men? That’s very specific. A bit too specific if you ask me.
The L1 robot is released into Marb Station.
Sue: Another Dalek knock-off. We haven’t had one of those for a while. It’s rubbish.
Sue finally catches the Immortal’s name. Well, sort of.
Sue: Jethro? What kind of name is that for a robot?
The Inquisitor decides she’s heard enough.
Sue: She’s very posh, but I’m definitely on her side. I love these court scenes.
The Doctor is introduced to Drathro and his boys.
Sue: This programme is obsessed with autistic twins all of a sudden. What’s that all about?
The Doctor does a runner and Drathro is forced to send the L1 robot after him.
Sue: They had to speed up the video when it turned that corner. I bet it took over 10 minutes for it to perform that three-point turn in real life.
The inhabitants of Marb Station don’t realise it’s safe for them to return to the surface.
Sue: Hang on a minute… They’ve done this plot before. It was ages ago, but I definitely remember it.
Me: You’re probably thinking of The Enemy of the World. There are some similarities, I guess.
Sue: I think I preferred it the first time.
Merdeen allows his people to escape to the surface when Drathro isn’t looking.
Sue: Maybe he’s a descendant of the original Duggan? That would make sense.
Glitz and Dibber extricate themselves from Katryca’s clutches.
Sue: A fat Han Solo and his shaved Chewbacca decide to get out of Dodge.
Dibber lobs a bomb at the Black Light Converter.
Sue: That was crap. I want to see more special effects like the one we had in the first episode.
Before they know it, it’s rush hour on the Underground’s escalator.
The Doctor: I really think this could be the end.
Sue: Yes, it’s the end of the episode. Don’t oversell it, mate.
Sue: I still don’t like the music very much.
Me: Okay, thanks, Sue. We get it.
Balazar recognises Katryca’s right-hand man, Broken Tooth.
Sue: Also known as Man on Jeremy Kyle Man.
There’s another interruption back in the courtroom, and this time it’s the Inquisitor’s turn to object.
Sue: (In her best posh voice) Yes, one would prefer it if this was more for the kids, wouldn’t one.
Me: Do you think the programme is commenting on itself? You know, all the criticisms about it being too violent.
Sue: Does this mean the programme is on trial as well?
Me: Pretty much.
Sue: If the show is guilty, does it get a new producer?
The L1 robot kidnaps the Doctor.
Sue: Aww, he just wants to give him a big hug.
And then there’s another interruption so they can explain to the audience how the Matrix is capable of recording scenes where the Doctor isn’t actually present.
Sue: I wasn’t bothered about it until they mentioned it. I won’t stop thinking about it now.
Katryca’s Wild Boys attack the L1 robot.
Sue: The Matrix needs a better director and editor.
Glitz tells Dibber to break out the heavy weapons.
Sue: I half-expected him to pat him on his arse when he sent him on his way.
It becomes clear that the court’s video evidence has been tampered with, and that portions of it are missing.
Sue: I really like this. This means I won’t feel bad when I can’t follow the plot. I’ll just assume it’s been edited out by the Time Lords. I bet it’s one big conspiracy.
The episode ends with Merdeen firing a crossbow in the Doctor’s general direction.
Sue: That wasn’t great. They should have ended it on a big close-up of Colin’s face.
Oh, the irony!
When the story resumes, we learn that Merdeen didn’t shoot the Doctor after all. No, he shot some other bloke instead, although he instantly regrets it.
Sue: He didn’t get a chance to tell him he was his long-lost brother.
Merdeen takes his helmet off as an act of respect.
Sue: Is his hat made from gaffer tape? Poor Duggan. He looks like Gary Numan.
And then Marb Station is invaded by the…
Sue: Wild boys! Wild boys! Wild boys!
Me: Don’t forget their Wild Mum!
Drathro kills Katryca and Broken Tooth by bursting their blood vessels.
Sue: OXO mum will be furious. I’m surprised she didn’t intervene at this point.
It’s left to the Doctor to object to the Valeyard’s tactics.
Sue: That was a good speech. A bit loud, but good. Have I told you yet that I really like these courtroom scenes?
Me: Yes, several times.
Sue: The prosecutor is very good. He has an amazing voice. He’d be a great Doctor.
Me: Do you think it’s a good idea to frame the entire season within a trial?
Sue: Yes, it implies that something more interesting is going on in the background, which is good because the stuff on this planet isn’t all that great.
A portion of Glitz’s dialogue has been bleeped out.
Sue: Did he just swear?
The Doctor demands to see the sequence again. According to Glitz, the Sleepers found a way to access something that has been classified.
Sue: It must be the Matrix. What else could it be? You don’t have to be a Time Lord to work that out.
Glitz and Dibber have armed themselves to the teeth.
Sue: They should swap guns. He should hold the red gun because that way it would match his shoulder pads.
The Doctor tries to reason with Drathro.
Sue: The ideas in this are great, it’s just looks a bit cheap. Colin’s having a good episode, though.
Glitz and Dibber offer to replenish Drathro’s supply of Black Light back at their ship.
Sue: I could watch a whole series with these two in it. Please tell me there’s a spin-off.
Drathro agrees to leave with the mercenaries, but not before he grabs his box of secrets.
Me: There you go, Sue. That’s what they shot this on: One-inch videotape. Drathro is going to run off with the rushes.
Drathro doesn’t make it as far as the escalator, and the Doctor manages to contain the Black Light explosion before it can take half the universe with it.
Sue: Is that it? But there are still 10 episodes left. What are they going to do now? And we still don’t know why the Earth is in the wrong place. Is that what the next 10 episodes are all about? That could be interesting, I suppose.
And that concludes the Valeyard’s opening statement.
Sue: Eh? But the Doctor’s done much worse than that. I’m sure we’ve seen him commit genocide before. That was nothing!
But there’s a lot more evidence to come.
Sue: They should run an old one. He’s still the same person. Stick a Troughton on instead!
Me: What score are you going to give it?
Sue: I can’t give it a score because it hasn’t finished yet.
Me: Just assess what you’ve seen so far. We’ll work out the average at the end.
Sue: It’s sort of finished, I suppose. Okay, it started off well but it ran out of steam. I loved the two mercenaries, and I hope they’re in the next 10 episodes, but Peri did sod all, which is a shame. However, it was nice to see the Doctor getting stuck in again. The bits I enjoyed the most were the trial scenes. I love a good story arc. The rest of it didn’t do anything for me. We’ve seen it all before.