The verdict is in…
Sue: Yay! Robert Holmes is back. Thank heavens for that.
The Doctor wants to know who’s been tampering with the Matrix.
Sue: It’s him! The Valeyard bloke. It’s obvious.
Two capsules arrive on the Time Lords’ space station. One of them contains Sabalom Glitz…
The other contains Melanie Bush.
Sue: Is his mate dead? I liked him. I don’t understand this. How did they get here? How can Bonnie be here if he hasn’t met the Doctor yet? And is he staring at her like that because he can’t work out whether she’s a boy or a girl?
The Master is responsible for Glitz and Mel’s presence in court…
Sue: I ****ing knew it!
Me: You never said anything.
Sue: I didn’t want you to take the piss. It had to be him. It’s always him.
The Doctor isn’t exactly thrilled to see his old enemy.
The Doctor: He has no concept of what justice is. He’d see me dead tomorrow.
Sue: What’s wrong with today? Why wait?
The Valeyard wants to adjourn the trial.
Sue: There’s something very fishy going on. I bet the Valeyard is the Doctor’s brother, or something stupid like that.
The Doctor questions Glitz about their recent encounter on Ravalox. Glitz admits that the Sleepers of Andromeda were siphoning secrets from the Matrix and the Time Lords traced the leak back to Earth.
Mel: That’s it, Doc. Now we’re getting at the dirt.
Sue: **** me. That was terrible. I know it’s Christmas, but that was pure panto.
When it emerges that the High Council messed with planet Earth to protect their sordid secrets, the Doctor doesn’t contain his fury:
The Doctor: 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!
Sue: Great speech. That’s Colin’s finest moment in the series so far.
And then the Master drops an extremely large bombshell…
The Master: They made a deal with the Valeyard, or as I’ve always known him, the Doctor, to adjust the evidence…
Sue: EH? What did he just say?
The Master: The Valeyard is an amalgamation of the darker sides of your nature, somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation.
Sue: Wait, I’m sorry, WHAT? Stop the DVD. You’ll have to explain this to me.
I refuse. There’s no point. I don’t understand it, either.
The Valeyard escapes into the Matrix.
Me: Good twist?
Sue: ****ing mental.
The Doctor gives chase and he finds himself in a Victorian courtyard…
Sue: Nice set.
Me: They’re on location.
Sue: Really? At night? Oh yeah, so they are. I’m impressed.
The Valeyard has the Doctor over a barrel.
Sue: It’s proper Doctor Who, this. Scary and unpredictable.
Glitz joins the Doctor in the Matrix (“Just like the Terminator, but with more clothes on”) and the mercenary follows the Doctor to The Fantasy Factory.
Sue: That sounds rude. I hope it isn’t a Victorian brothel.
But before they can enter this establishment, Glitz is harpooned.
Back in the courtroom, the Master has more beans to spill. To paraphrase Brian Blessed: “PERI’S ALIVE!”
The Master: As a queen, set up on high by that warmongering fool Yrcanos.
Sue: WHAT THE ****? She married Brian Blessed? Is that a joke? Is the Master taking the piss? I don’t believe that for one second.
Glitz survives his attack and he and the Doctor enter the Fantasy Factory.
Sue: Oh, it’s Eddie Yeats. A posh Eddie Yeats. That makes my head hurt even more than the stuff with the Valeyard. Which I still don’t get by the way.
The Valeyard is playing with the Doctor.
The Doctor: He wants to humiliate me first.
Sue: How do you humiliate a man who wears a coat like that?
The Doctor signs his remaining lives over to J.J. Chambers.
Sue: He’ll regret that when they make him regenerate later. What an idiot. Why would he sign his lives away like that? That makes no sense to me.
The Doctor enters a waiting room, but on the other side of the door he finds a windswept beach.
Sue: He finally made it to Blackpool.
Grabbing hands emerge from the sand to ensnare the Doctor.
Sue: Just when you thought it was safe to go to the beach, a generation of children are traumatised. It’s good, though. A proper, scary cliffhanger for a change.
The credits roll.
Sue: Wow. There was a lot to take in. It looked great but I don’t get the Valeyard thing at all. Is he the Doctor or not?top
Sue: I’m really looking forward to this one. Regenerations are always exciting. It’s a shame, though. Colin is leaving just as I’m getting used to him. I don’t understand why he… WHAT THE ****?
The words ‘Pip and Jane Baker’ have appeared in the title sequence.
Sue: Where’s Robert Holmes gone?
Me: I’ll explain later.
Glitz rushes to save the Doctor…
Sue: If Bonnie was his companion at this point, the Doctor wouldn’t stand a chance. She’d get pulled into the… Oh, he was rubbish, too. Is that it, then? Does Sylvester McCoy take over now?
The Sixth Doctor is still alive, but if the Valeyard has his way, he won’t be for very much longer.
Valeyard: With you destroyed and no longer able to constrain me, and with unlimited access to the Matrix, there will be nothing beyond my reach.
Sue: It sounds like Jekyll and Hyde to me. But I thought the Master was supposed to be the Doctor’s dark side? We don’t need another dark side running around.
The Doctor and Glitz are rescued by the Master.
Sue: The Master doesn’t want any competition. It’s his job to be the evil side of the Doctor. Everybody knows that. I actually like the Master in this story. He has a decent motive for a change. He isn’t trying to take over the world or anything stupid like that.
The Master places the Doctor in a catatonic trance.
Sue: The Master is flashing the colours of the Doctor’s coat directly into his eyes, all at the same time. Now he knows how we feel.
The Master’s TARDIS, which is now disguised as a statue of Queen Victoria, materialises in the courtyard…
Sue: How cool is that? Why can’t the Doctor’s TARDIS do that?
Me: Do you really want to get rid of the police box?
Me: Well then.
The Valeyard hurls some exploding quills at the Master and Glitz.
Sue: This is a bit of a mind-****. Thank heavens we didn’t get 14 episodes like this. My brain would have melted.
Mel suddenly appears in the Matrix. She persuades the Doctor to follow her.
Sue: She’s an illusion, you fool. She can’t be the real thing because she isn’t over-acting.
The Doctor follows Mel into the courtroom.
Sue: It’s just an illusion.
Me: Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, Ah-ahh.
The Doctor accepts the court’s guilty verdict.
Sue: Can he still regenerate if it’s just an illusion? It’s a bit tense, this.
The Doctor is led away and then see the real courtroom watching this fabrication unfold on the screen above them.
Sue: It’s really good, this. Pip and Jane are doing alright.
The Doctor is led to his execution on a horse and cart.
Sue: The sound of children singing nursery rhymes always freaks me out. I would have been a terrible primary school teacher. I don’t think the Doctor is going to get out of this one. I think Bonnie is too late.
The Doctor: It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done. It is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.
Sue: It’s a good way to go.
Mel intervenes and the illusion is shattered, much to the Doctor’s (and Sue’s) disappointment.
Sue: Colin is very good in this story. He’s pulling out all the stops for his last episode, bless him.
The Master and Glitz make a deal…
Sue: Why didn’t they get their own series?
The Doctor wants to draw the Valeyard out.
Sue: Why don’t they just switch off the Matrix? They could put the Time Lord version of Norton Anti-virus on it, or they could defrag the hard drive. There must be easier ways to deal with him than this.
The Doctor and Mel explore Popplewick’s office…
Sue: This would be really difficult to follow if you hadn’t seen the Matrix before.
Me: The Deadly Assassin, you mean?
Sue: No, the Keanu Reeves film. It makes a lot more sense if you’ve seen that.
Glitz finds the prize he’s been searching for…
Glitz: Phase three, four, five and six. All the secrets of the Matrix.
Popplewick: Not all. The primitive phases one and two have been relegated to the archives.
Sue: That’s a dig at the BBC for losing the black and white episodes, isn’t it? Was Ian Levine still hanging around the show at this point?
The Doctor unmasks Popplewick. He was the Valeyard all the time.
Sue: Excellent effect. But this makes no ****ing sense. If he’s the Valeyard, why doesn’t he just vanish like he did earlier?
Mel finds a megabyte modem. Sue laughs out loud.
Sue: To be fair, that would have been really fast in 1986.
The Master’s meddling has overturned Gallifrey…
Sue: Is this where the Time War starts? It is, isn’t it? This is really it. This is why we aren’t on Gallifrey itself. The planet is going to explode.
Valeyard: There’s nothing you can do to prevent the catharsis of spurious morality.
Sue: Who talks like that? What does that even mean?
The Matrix screen in the courtroom explodes…
Sue: The Doctor was too late. I didn’t expect that.
Valeyard: You blundering imbecile. You’ve triggered a ray phase shift!
Sue: I don’t understand a ****ing word of this.
The Valeyard defeated, the Doctor returns to the courtroom.
Sue: See! They’re all dead. Oh. They were having a nap. Sorry, my mistake.
Inquisitor: All charges against you are dismissed, Doctor.
Sue: So what happened to the Master? What was that all about? Am I missing something? This can’t be over yet.
The Inquisitor has more good news for the Doctor:
Inquisitor: The young woman, Miss Perpugilliam Brown, is alive and well and living as a warrior queen with King Yrcanos.
Sue throws at cushion at the television.
Sue: Pur-lease! What load of bollocks. For ****’s sake.
The Doctor and Mel leave together in his TARDIS.
Sue: How is that even possible?
Me: I know. She’s a walking paradox.
Sue: Does she create a hole in time? Does she explode? Will it make him regenerate? Is it a trap? This can’t be over yet.
It isn’t. We return to the courtroom…
Sue: Here we go.
The Keeper of the Matrix is none other than…
Sue: Who’s that supposed to be? Oh, it’s him. But…
The credits roll.
Sue: I thought that was Colin’s last story? You lied to me again!
She reaches for a cushion.
Me: I didn’t lie.
The Final Score
Sue: It has a lot of problems. It didn’t make any sense for a start. The ending just wasn’t big enough after 14 weeks of build-up. The twist with the Valeyard sounds good, but what does it actually mean? It looked great, though, and the acting was excellent. I want to like it a lot more than I do. I feel cheated.
If you want to treat The Trial as one story, Sue’s marks average out to 6.5 out of 10. You can round it up or down, it’s up to you.
EDIT: It’s been brought to my attention that my maths are all wrong (What can I say? Nicol is on holiday) and the average score is actually 6.71. If we are rounding up, the Trial averages out at a 7. Many thanks.
We’re off to watch Ed Stradling’s brilliant Trials and Tribulations documentary now, mainly so I can prepare Sue for our Colin Baker retrospective on Sunday. There’s still enough time to send her a question – you have until midnight on Saturday. The best question will win something really nice. Thanks.
The experiment continues…
The Colin Baker Years (and some important news about the blog) will arrive early on Christmas Eve.
Until then, here’s another gift from our dear friend, Simon Harries:
If you don’t own this story, why not buy it on DVD? If you use the link below, we get a small cut, which will help pay for the site’s running costs. Many thanks for your support (UK residents only).