Part Nine

A visibly upset Doctor prepares to mount his defence.

Sue: I can’t believe they killed Peri. The bastards.
The Doctor: My excursion will be into the future.
Sue: I thought the last one was set in the future? It didn’t look very historical to me.

She doesn’t get it. Not yet.

The Doctor’s evidence revolves around the intergalactic liner Hyperion III.

Sue: That’s a very nice shape for a spaceship. Very curvy.

The final passengers are checking-in, including Professor Lasky, who’s lost her luggage.

Sue: Oh, it’s a Bond girl. One of the really famous ones.
Me: So famous you can’t remember her name.

An elderly gentleman named Kimber thinks he recognises one of the passengers but the man strenuously denies it.

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12Me: Do you recognise the man with the beard from Brookside? Actually, I think he was in it before I met you, when you didn’t watch it.
Sue: I don’t care who he is, he can’t act for toffee.

The bearded man heads for the liner’s cargo hold.

Sue: I like the camera movement a lot, and I do like a nice two-tiered set. I think they’re still welding it together if their costumes are anything to go by.

Meanwhile, on the TARDIS, the Doctor and his faithful companion Melanie Bush are working up a sweat.

Sue: EH? Who’s that? And how did she get in the TARDIS? Have I missed something? Is the Matrix lying again?

I pause the DVD.

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12Me: When the Doctor said his evidence was from the future, he was talking about his own future. This hasn’t happened to him yet.
Sue: That doesn’t make any sense. If he has a future, it means he has to get off at the end of the trial. This is a spoiler. And I thought he would be found guilty at the end and have to regenerate. That is disappointing.
Me: This is from a possible future where he wins the trial. Probably. Try not to think about it too much.
Sue: Right… So is this like River Song? We won’t see their first meeting until much later on? Is that it? Is this where the Moff got the idea from?
Me: Wait and see. Oh, one last thing before we carry on. You do know who that actress is, don’t you?
Sue: Of course I do. It’s Bonnie Langford. I hated her when she was a child star. All that bloody screaming. I can’t say I’m thrilled about this, but I’ll try to give her the benefit of the doubt.

When we resume, a man named Edwardes is monitoring the ship’s communications when Janet the stewardess (“No, Sue, I don’t think it’s a metatextual thing”) brings him some coffee.

Me: You can cut the sexual tension in this scene with a knife.
Sue: Sod that. I can’t believe she’s put his coffee next to that expensive equipment. If I caught my students with drinks in their edit suites, I’d fail them on the spot. It’s a Health and Safety nightmare.

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12Back on the TARDIS, the Doctor believes that too much carrot juice has turned his vision red.

Sue: That would explain Bonnie’s hair. When the Doctor has his coat off, you really do begin to notice the extra weight. I bet they had to let his coat out between stories.

On the bridge of the Hyperion III, Commodore Travers wants to know who attacked Edwardes in the communications room.

Sue: In the future, we won’t hide our shoulder pads under our clothes, we’ll stick ’em on top.

Travers believes it was probably an inside job.

Sue: He reminds me of an elderly Pierce Brosnan. He even sounds like an old Pierce Brosnan. Seriously, this is what Pierce Brosnan will look like when he’s had it.

The Sixth Doctor and Commodore Travers are old friends.

Sue: Another person that he’s already met and I know nothing about. It’s annoying.

Mel insists to Travers that they were responding to a Mayday call.

Sue: I like Mel. I thought she’d be a simpering mess but she looks like she can take care of herself, which is amazing because there’s nothing on her. She’s a woman trapped in a girl’s body.

The ship’s hydroponic centre contains a number of man-sized pods.

Sue: Okay, so this is going to be Alien on a cruise liner. That could work.

A Mogarian takes some silver seeds from a jar labeled ‘Demeter’. Sadly, Sue doesn’t see the complete label.

Sue: Are those coins for the electricity meter?
Me: Daft Punk are DJ-ing in the ballroom later.
Sue: Very funny. I like their masks. They are quite scary. They remind me of the aliens from Babylon 5.
Me: You are thinking of the Gaim, named after Neil Gaiman, who now writes for Doctor Who. It’s a small world.
Sue: It’s just like that Kevin Bacon advert, only geekier.

Mel cajoles the Doctor into investigating further.

Sue: She smiles like a horse, I’ll give you that, but she’s very good. She’s very proactive – she can’t wait to get stuck in. I’m just a bit worried that she looks so anorexic. I’ve seen more weight on Lena Zavaroni. Something tells me that we’ll never see her in a bikini. She seems to have a nice relationship with the Doctor, though, which makes a nice change. Yeah, I like her.

Mel visits the gym.

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12Sue: Ah, that explains it. She’s a health nut. Aerobics was a big thing in the eighties. Olivia Newton-John, the Green Goddess, the other one.

Cathy Cale aka Pussy Galore aka Honour Blackman aka Professor Lasky is already crunching her abs when Mel arrives to lose what little fat she has left.

Sue: What on Earth is she listening to? Is it the Bontempi Workout? What a racket.

The ship’s security officer, Rudge, is due to retire after this voyage.

Sue: He is so dead.

The Doctor decides to take a non-provocative stroll around the deck.

Sue: Awww, I want to see him take a provocative stroll around the deck. Spoilsport.

A member of the crew has been murdered. The Commodore points out that whenever the Doctor appears on the scene, the corpses soon start piling up.

Sue: He does have a point. Why didn’t the Doctor just show the court that scene from Genesis of the Daleks where he’s doesn’t know if he has the right or not? That definitely would have swung it for him. This isn’t doing him any favours at all.

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12A scientist named Bruchner confers with Professor Lasky about the security of their isolation room.

Sue: Bruce Grobbelaar has really let himself go.

The Doctor ponders his next move.

Sue: This doesn’t make any sense. If he’s seen his own future in the Matrix, why doesn’t he remember who the killer is now? Surely he’s seen this before? It’s making my head hurt.

Mel decides to investigate the hydroponic centre. Edwardes is giving her a guided tour when he is electrocuted and all hell breaks loose.

Sue: Nice cliffhanger.
Me: I’m pretty sure that Bonnie’s scream is in the same key as the theme music.

As the credits roll.

Sue: I enjoyed that. I really like Bonnie Langford’s character. Don’t look at me like that.


Part Ten

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12Sue: So this is basically Day of the Triffids again? Are they the same killer plants as last time or are they different set of killer plants? No, don’t tell me.

The Valeyard blames the Doctor for placing Mel in harm’s way.

Sue: She’s an adult. He can’t be held responsible for everything she does. Should he go to the toilet with her, just in case she falls in and drowns? She’s small enough.

The Hyperion‘s crew suspect Mel of killing Edwardes.

Sue: What? Have you seen the size of her? She’d have her work cut out killing a fly.

But if Mel didn’t do it, who did?

Mel: The answer’s simple enough. You’ve got a killer on board.
Sue: She’s great. She’s a breath of fresh air.

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12Rudge investigates the isolation room.

Janet: What’s going on in there?
Rudge: Don’t ask me, I’m only the security officer.
Sue: How did he get so close to retirement without being sacked first?

The Doctor shows a handful seeds which he found in a wrecked cabin to Professor Lasky. She accuses him of stealing them.

Lasky: This man’s a thief!
Sue: She reminds me of the deaf woman in that Fawlty Towers episode. She’s very annoying.

The Doctor swallows one of the seeds.

Sue: Was that really such a good idea? He might end up with an alien plant bursting through his stomach. I know he wants to be a vegetarian but that’s going too far.

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12In the lounge, two Mogarians are engrossed in a computer game.

Sue: We had that exact same game. Do you remember it? Ours was on a flat table top. You must remember it, you went mental when I sold it.

Mel stops the Doctor from snacking on a biscuit.

Sue: He is so under her thumb. I love it.

The Mogarians question Travers about the liner’s change of course.

Sue: His light doesn’t come on when he talks. His batteries must be dead. Shoddy continuity again. Didn’t anyone notice?

The Doctor did. We know this because he spends the next five minutes explaining to us how the Mogarian couldn’t have been a real Mogarian because his light didn’t work.

Sue: They really dragged that out. If Sherlock did it like that, every episode would be six hours long. And how smug was the Doctor? That didn’t help.

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12Mel and the Doctor discuss their next move.

Sue: Actors with perms shouldn’t be allowed near CSO. There should be a law against it.

The Doctor compares Mel to an elephant.

Sue: Unbelievable. This is very badly written. It’s a shame really, because the premise is alright.

Sue glimpses a Vervoid hiding in a ventilator shaft.

Sue: Is it a flower? The bad guy is a flower?
Me: (As Peter Gabriel) A FLOWER?

Meanwhile, Kimber is attacked and killed in his own bathroom. At the same moment, Janet arrives with some light refreshments.

Sue: She’s brought his bubbly milk.

The Vervoid turns on the shower.

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12Sue: Either that flower is very clever and it’s trying to keep Janet away, or it’s dying of thirst and it’s going to water itself.

The Doctor and Mel break into the isolation room – every cruise liner should have one – and they find a woman with strange growths all over her face lying in a coffin.

Sue: The make-up is excellent. It’s good, this. It’s Alien meets Agatha Christie meets The Love Boat. I’m really enjoying it. I think it’s the best part of the trial so far.


Part Eleven

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12Valeyard: Stop the Matrix. I fail to comprehend this evidence. The Doctor is on trial for his life, yet in his defence he presents us with a situation in which he is deliberately flouting accepted authority.
Sue: Just show them Genesis of the Daleks for pity’s sake. That’ll shut him up.

The trial scenes are beginning to bore her.

Sue: That interruption was completely pointless. Pointless.

Mel eavesdrops on Rudge and Janet.

Sue: She’s the world’s tiniest detective. Peri would stumble into trouble but Bonnie actively seeks it out. It’s good.

When a guard investigates a rattling ventilator grill, Sue gets her first good look at a Vervoid.

Sue: There’s something really disturbing about that face. I can’t put my finger on it.

Give it time.

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12Sue: This reminds me of the reception at the Crossroads Motel.
Me: You didn’t even watch Crossroads.
Sue: Not religiously, no. But I have seen it. You made me watch some DVDs once – don’t deny it – and it looked exactly like that.

Mel is attacked and placed in a wheelie bin. She is about to be incinerated with all the other rubbish but the Doctor manages to save her in the nick of time.

The Doctor: Don’t throw the towel in, Mel.

Sue sings a comedy parp-parp version of the James Bond theme. You had to be there.

Sue: I hate it when he does that. It doesn’t suit him at all.

Finally, the Vervoids’ features ring an exceedingly large bell.

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12Sue: Is it just me, or are they a bit… you know… rude?

While she’s thinking that over, Sue also feels really bad for Janet.

Sue: Is she the only waitress on the whole ship? She must be run off her feet. When does she get a break?

Bruchner and Lasky argue about the ethics of their “obscene experiment”.

Sue: Yes, it is a bit rude. What were you thinking?

Bruchner goes apeshit and attacks Lasky, which shocked Sue a bit. He pushes his way past the Doctor as he runs off.

The Doctor: I didn’t even hear the dinner gong.
Sue: He is obsessed.

The Vervoids decide to take care of Bruchner.

Vervoid: We are unique, the only members of the Vervoid species. If he succeeds in eliminating us, Vervoids will cease to exist.
Sue: I can’t tell what sexual organ they remind me of the most. Plants can be hermaphrodites, so that makes sense. It’s just a shame their voices are so naff. They would be really scary if they just kept their mouths shut. You never see the aliens in Aliens chatting amongst themselves in a corridor, do you?

Lasky warns the Doctor that Bruchner has gone insane.

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12Sue: She’s quite good.
Me: Quite good? She’s Honor Blackman!
Sue: Yeah, she’s alright.
Me: She’s Honor Blackman!
Sue: She’s playing the part well.
Me: I know! It’s Honor Blackman!
Sue: Okay, calm down. She’s no Diana Rigg, you know.

Bruchner commandeers the ship, which he then steers towards a black hole.

Sue: Nice cliffhanger.

It isn’t the cliffhanger. The Doctor has to tell the audience what’s happening first:

The Doctor: Your colleague is aiming the Hyperion III into the eye of the Black Hole of Tartarus!
Sue: The Black Hole of Tartarus. Isn’t that a Russian prostitute?


Part Twelve

Sue: This version of the theme music is really doing my head in. It’s this bit here – the bit when the title comes in – which I really hate the most. It sounds like This Is Your Life.

The liner is rocked by the black hole’s gravity well.

Sue: It’s turned into a really dry version of The Poseidon Adventure.

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12The Vervoids let off a stink bomb off on the bridge which overcomes Bruchner but it doesn’t help anyone else. But don’t worry.

Sue: Daft Punk will save the day.

Just when we think it’s over, Rudge pulls on a gun on everyone.

Sue: I’m sure that’s an upside down multi-angle screwdriver.

Rudge and the Mogarians hi-jack the ship.

Sue: Are they the ones controlling the plants?
Me: No.
Sue: Eh?

Rudge hi-jacking the Hyperion III for the money.

Sue: His pension must be really shit, which probably explains why he didn’t take early retirement. I really didn’t expect that. I thought he would be killed doing something heroic on his last day at work.

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12The Mogarians are overcome when liquid is thrown into their faces.

Sue: What kind of helmets are those? Useless.

When Rudge realises that the game is up, he throws a little tantrum before running off.

Sue: That hi-jack was a complete waste of time. He was hopeless.

Rudge runs into a Vervoid and is killed.

Sue: He’s definitely on gardening leave now.

The Doctor questions a third scientist named Doland at gunpoint.

Me: I’m surprised the Valeyard hasn’t interrupted this to criticise the Doctor for brandishing a weapon.
Sue: He probably thinks he’s going to put some shelves up with it.

Doland plans to use the Vervoids as slave labour.

Sue: Oh, I thought they were going to make huge salads with them so they could cure world hunger.

The Doctor doesn’t believe that the Vervoids can be reasoned with. The plants will consume the animals.

Me: It’s just like The Happening. Only sillier.

Lasky tries to reason with her creations. They kill her.

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12Sue: Am I bothered? Not really.
Me: But it’s Honor Blackman!
Sue: She was completely wasted.

The Vervoids attempt to access the lounge but Janet keeps them at bay.

Sue: They’d better give her a raise after this.

Travers plunges the ship into darkness and the emergency lighting bathes everything in a red glow.

Sue: This isn’t helping. It’s making them look ruder.

The Doctor defeats the Vervoids with vionesium, a substance which accelerates their life cycle. The Vervoids wither and die.

Sue: They’re not perennials, then?

The Doctor is very sad.

The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12Sue: He does have a nasty habit of killing things. He should turn over a new leaf. New leaf. Do you get it?

The Doctor and Mel bid Travers and Janet farewell, the only two crew members left alive, which should make for an interesting journey home.

Sue: Mel’s a bit too confident. A bit cocky. That could be annoying.

Back in the courtroom, the Valeyard seizes the opportunity to charge the Doctor with genocide.

Sue: The Doctor walked straight into that one. Of all the adventures to show in your defence, why pick one with a massive body count?


The Score

Sue: There were a few too many plots going on in that final episode, but I still enjoyed it. I liked the design of the ship, the direction wasn’t too bad, and it kept me guessing all the way through. Some of the dialogue was a bit cheesy, and the acting was variable, but I liked the premise and the Mel was great.


The Trial of a Time Lord 9-12Sue: If there’s one criticism I have with the trial so far, it’s the Doctor’s decision to show that story in his defence. He got it all wrong. What he should have done is this: he should have shown lots of clips from his past adventures. He should have presented us with a compilation of his best bits, especially all those times he’s saved the universe, not to mention Gallifrey.
Me: You want The Trial of a Time Lord to be a clip show?
Sue: Not all of it, but some of it, yes. It would show the audience how brilliant Doctor Who was and how it could be again. They really missed a trick, there.


Coming Soon




  1. DPC  December 20, 2012

    Mel was great in this story, that’s for sure!

    The story is a bit “busy” at times, then add in the trial bits, and – yeah – it’s easy to see how points got knocked off.

    Lasky’s character, and her potential, was wasted…

    “Sue: Oh, I thought they were going to make huge salads with them so they could cure world hunger.”


    “His pension must be really shit, which probably explains why he didn’t take early retirement. I really didn’t expect that. I thought he would be killed doing something heroic on his last day at work.”

    Plot twists are cool.

    To me, two scenes seemed strange:

    1. the Doctor cajoling Mel to waltz into danger so freely; it’s not like him
    2. Mel’s cockiness toward the end

    The stewardess was played by Yolanda Palfrey, who played the daughter of freedom fighter Kasabe in an episode of “Blake’s 7” (1979). She died in 2011. 🙁 With her B7 role, she looked 12. She was far closer to 20…

    • Dave Sanders  December 20, 2012

      If you lot really want to see Mel written properly in a context that puts her personality and limited (on TV) character notes into absolute perfect sense, you *have* to read Spiral Scratch by Gary Russell.

  2. Candle McSteverton  December 20, 2012

    Mel is pretty all right in this episode, though at the time I didn’t pick up on that because I was too busy cringing at Bonnie Langford being in Doctor Who at all. Which is a shame, because I expect she’s a lovely human being, and at least deserved an open mind. But then I was 13.

    I didn’t realise the Vervoid stings were fatal at the time, I thought the humans were just being drugged, which took a lot of impact out of the story. And having the unrelated hijacking running parallel to the Vervoid plot just made everything baffling. Still, after the oppressive deliriousness of Mindwarp, it’s generally a breath of fresh air.

    My biggest complaint, though, is the Vervoids. Not the design, just the lack of personality. They’re basically surrogate cybermen, like so many other Doctor Who aliens. They could have been so different, as sentient plants, but all they did was stand around in corridors plotting in the same grandiose language as all the rest.

    • DPC  December 20, 2012

      The problem is, what sort of personality would a plant get?

      Flowers can be vibrant, but in making them lively, the risk of making them camp would be too great — and too easy — a thing to do. Even unwittingly.

      I’m glad they were kept wooden, pardon the partial pun… In ways they are generic baddies, but it was certainly innovative to turn the tables by making them plantlife that hates all animalkind. In that aspect it’s brilliant, and since our new normal puts innovation above all else (or so we’re constantly told), this story should then be the pinnacle of all WHO ever made, past, present, or future… =D

  3. Jay  December 20, 2012

    This is when I shouted “it’s not about ANYTHING anymore!!!”

    Shit and Pain indeed.

    • Jay  December 20, 2012

      Joel….why was the show so bad?

      • Jazza1971  December 20, 2012

        Erm, Jay, why are you having a conversation with yourself and referring to yourself as “Joel”?

  4. Longtime Listener  December 20, 2012

    “I like Mel”
    “Yeah, I like her.”
    “I really like Bonnie Langford’s character.”
    “Mel was great.”

    Well well well. The future’s orange.

    Then again, if Adric is anything to go by, this could get pretty ugly before it’s over…

    • BWT  December 20, 2012

      No, nothing wrong with Bonnie Longford at all. I’d hit that.

  5. Ben Herman  December 20, 2012

    “It’s Bonnie Langford. I hated her when she was a child star.”

    Okay, see, as an American, this was the thing that confused me for years. I had never heard of Bonnie Langford before she showed up on Doctor Who because, well, I don’t think I’d ever seen her in anything else. So it was really puzzling to read about all these British fans who were completely up in arms at the casting of Bonnie Langford as the new companion. Admittedly, I am not overly fond of Mel, but that is solely down to the fact that I was never very happy with how the character was written (way too much of a screamer for my tastes), rather than who was playing her.

    I guess it’s similar to Earthshock. I just totally do not understand why the general concensus among fandom is that Beryl Reid was horribly miscast. I mean, she always seemed perfectly fine to me in the role, but that may be due to the fact that, again, I can’t recall ever seeing her appear in anything else.

    In any case, I think it can be interesting to cast an actor against type, especially when they deliver the goods, and you get a very surprising performance that is atypical of their usual work.

    • DPC  December 20, 2012

      Well said, thank you!

      I too am an American, and – at the time – saw nothing wrong with Mel. She’s lively, active, inquisitive, and is genuinely happy to be there from the get-go.

      Without knowing what else she’s been in, we have no bias that we’d normally give actors we associate in certain roles.

      Her performance was definitely passable.

      Some of the stories Mel was in were not, however.

      And, especially in the 1980s, companions made for the current Doctor rarely work as well after he regenerates. Nyssa being an exception, but one rarely saw her with the 4th Doctor…

      • Thomas  December 20, 2012

        I think the biggest test-case of this for me is Nicholas Parsons guest-starring in Curse of Fenric. I (being an unwitting American) though he did absolutely marvelous in the role and the character was one of my favorites, but apparently he’s very difficult to watch in the story for a lot of people because of his ubiquity in Britain.

        • James C  December 20, 2012

          Yep. Nicholas Parsons, Beryl Reid, Bonnie Langford and even Ken Dodd were damned before ever appearing on screen; and there are a couple of examples in the new series too. As an Aussie I never had a problem with this – it’s when the performance grates that there is a problem, which is where Mel’s jolly hockeysticks performance came unstuck for me. A useful counter-example is Richard Briers. Hired as a name actor but gave (in part) a risible performance. It’s not who they are, it’s what they do with what they are given.

          • Thomas  December 20, 2012

            Ken Dodd’s a funny one, because I thought he was a major character by the amount of complaining people did about him being in the story. Imagine my surprise when he turned out to only be in one episode.

          • Dave Sanders  December 21, 2012

            On the matter of Ken Dodd, it’s worth noting that the Season 24 story derided the most at the time as light-entertainment fluff is the one that’s dated the least badly.

          • Thomas  December 21, 2012

            Having not seen any S24 stories outside of Delta (which I loved), I would just like to point out that a show made in the 80’s looking like it was made in the 80’s is not really a flaw. 😉

        • Polarity Reversed  December 21, 2012

          re Nicholas Parsons:

          I think the issue with him was that although he’d had a career as a straightman in a mediocre long-forgotten double act, he was (and still is) best known as an unctuous quiz show host, so it came across as gimmick casting. Ditto Ken Dodd and Hale & Pace as weak light-ents comics. Sometimes sleb parachute casting can work, but as I’ve commented before, the day Ricky Gervais, Stephen Fry or … show up on Who is the day I’ll cheerfully remove my own nose with bolt cutters regardless of how my face may feel.

          Merry Psychosnowmen and a Happy New Tardis everyone.

      • Noodles  December 20, 2012

        To understand Bonnie Langford at that time in the UK, think of her as Shirley Temple grown up a bit, but still 100% associated with being Little Orphan Annie.

        Which is not to say that I’ve got anything against her. I haven’t. I think her character was terrible for the most part in the TV series, but she’s good in this episode, good in “Dragonfire”, and good in everything Big Finish.

        As far as Nicholas Parsons goes, I think he’s great in “The Curse Of Fenric”, and did at the time. But, then, I always like it when people play something that you wouldn’t normally think of them doing, if they do it well. The problem with Langford in the programme was that her character was exactly what you’d expect her to play. So you’ve got someone who, in the public consciousness, is synonymous with “annoying, overly-enthusiastic stage school brat” playing a role that’s not all that far off the caricature people have of the actress.

        • J Adams  December 21, 2012

          Shirley Temple never played Little Orphan Annie. Shirley Bell played Annie for “Little Orphan Annie’s” entire run, from 1930 to 1942.

          Of course, this doesn’t change your point, which I do agree with. In hindsight, the overly-saccharine, melodramatic roles that Shirley Temple usually played in movies seem annoying to our modern sensibilities, but in their time they were wildly popular and the U.S. loved her. Like Pet Clark in the U.K. ten years later (when she was a child star, before gaining world-wide fame as a singer), she was embraced and remembered fondly by the nation.

          But whereas people liked the (somewhat interchangeable) characters Shirley Temple played, Violet Elizabeth Bott (the character most associated with Bonnie Langford) was HATED! I never saw the t.v. version of “Just William” which starred Ms. Langford, but I heard the radio version on BBC7 (wonderfully read by the melliferous-voiced Martin Jarvis), and can vouch that she was very much a spoiled trouble-maker! She would insist on going along with the boys and then complain that they took her along, always whining and, yes, threatening to scream. (Or “thcream,” as she spoke with a lisp.) Normally she’d get the group in trouble, but play-up being an “innocent widdle girl” to the adults so the boys would get the blame and she’d come out ahead. I don’t know if we in the U.S. have any female brat character that obnoxious to compare her to. (Don’t get me wrong – the character is very funny and I loved the series. It’s just that she’s no one you would want to ever meet in real life.)

          I recall there was a series of condom ads running in the U.K. in the late 80’s that had the tagline “If only they used (Whatever Brand).” The Bott’s were featured one of the ads, which gives one an idea of what impression Violet Elizabeth Bott (and, by extension, her portrayer, unfortunately) had on the British collective consciousness at the time when Bonnie Langford was cast as Mel.

          • Noodles  December 21, 2012

            I would have been 12 when Langford was first in the series. I’ve never watched “Just William” in my life but, even so, I can remember closely associating Bonnie Langford with the phrase “I’ll thkweam and thkweam until I’m thick!”

            Mind you, I don’t remember that putting me off Mel. The only time I can remember being disappointed in the programme at the time of transmission was when I learned that one of the O-Men had been cast as the new Doctor. To this day I’d still prefer never to have seen the actor portraying the Doctor in anything before he does the role but even that aside, I wouldn’t have known the term “light entertainment” back then but I knew what it meant, and Sylvester’s casting felt very *wrong* because of his kid’s TV associations with me. Then this Doctor who I was already nervous about gets introduced with a pratfall and that’s the first time in my life I can remember thinking “hang on, this is crap”.

            Of course, give Sylvester a bit of time to settle in to the role and give him better scripts and it turns out that he and most of series 24 are awesome. But I’ll never forget the first and only time I’ve been disappointed by a new Doctor.

            Well, not quite only, I think Smith was way too Tennanty at the beginning (not his fault, that’s the way the role was written and cast)*, but it’s certainly the only time that I felt that way as a kid.

            *Which leaves me in the strange position of thinking that the Matt Smith we saw interviewed in the “11 Doctors” Confidential special would make a better Doctor than the character he ended up playing, even if the role is very good as it is. I also happen to think that Karen Gillan would make a far more fun and interesting companion than Amy Pond.


    • chris-too-old-to-watch  December 20, 2012

      The trouble for the majority of Brits was that all these people – the “guest stars” – were extremely well-known for other work and roles. Most of these rolls were for light entertainment (or crap as it is known), and therefore, to the general fan not really suitable for DW.
      It would be similar to, for example, Khan in Star Trek being played by Henry Winkler, when he was only known as the Fonz.

      • Frankymole  December 21, 2012

        Or like light entertainer and comedy voice man Jon Pertwee.

        • chris-too-old-to-watch  December 21, 2012

          I was referring to the fan reaction rather than the quality of performance.

      • John Miller  December 21, 2012

        Well, in Star Trek III the villains were played by Christopher Lloyd and John Larroquette, and that didn’t make anyone prejudge it. I

        • Thomas  December 21, 2012

          Well, they were also caked in makeup…

        • P. Sanders  December 21, 2012

          A better comparison might be the kind of folk who guest-starred in those “with the Osmonds” style light entertainment variety shows the Simpsons was so good at mocking. The actors themselves were not always bad, butte casting (esp by 1987) wound up already hostile fans. Parsons was excellent in Fenric, Hale & Pace made a passable cameo in Survival, Dodd sadly turned most folk against Delta before it started and he does “play Dodd”, but to be fair he was given no direction and left to get on with it – I suspect he could have done something surprising like Parsons, given the chance. I really enjoy Langford now – the odd duff line but otherwise did what was written. She deserved a more rounded character, but then JNT cast for the news factor, rather than to challenge public perception of a performer.

    • Errol the Hamster  December 20, 2012

      Is the 1976 film Bugsy Malone, with the child actors, well known in America? As Bonnie Langford appears in that one. She plays Lena Marelli, and is credited as Bonita Langford.

      • Neowhovian  December 20, 2012

        I think I’ve heard of that. Maybe. Or maybe just heard it referenced elsewhere. At any rate, I’ve certainly never seen it, so I would say that at least in my little corner of America, no – it’s not well known.

        • Robert Dick  December 21, 2012

          It stars Jodie Foster and Scott Biao. It was quite big.

          • Neowhovian  December 21, 2012

            Perhaps I’m just sheltered. Or too young – I would’ve been five when it came out…

  6. Wholahoop  December 20, 2012

    Look at the mellifluous overtones. Don’t floccinaucinihilipilificate

    What were you expecting, the catharsis of spurious morality?

    If big words equated to class my two lines worth above would get me the poet laureate gig. However, they don’t so I will have to give up on that gig

    Actually the writers my get on my mammaries with their high faluting vocabulary but they delivered, as far as I could tell, what was asked for. Just one question on genocide, was article 7 introduced into the Gallifreyan constitution after 1975 or would the timelords who sent the Doctor to destroy the Daleks also have been put to death if the Daleks had been destroyed?

    Did I like it, not really but maybe I was/am not prepared to give Mel Bush a go as a companion

    • Ben Herman  December 20, 2012

      The fact that the Time Lords charged the Doctor with genocide even though they had previously sent him back in time to destroy the Daleks at the moment of their creation can be put down to one thing: the Time Lords are a bunch of big fat lying hypoctites! Just ask Robert Holmes. And I would go into more detail but, as River Song would chidingly say “Spoilers!”

      • DPC  December 20, 2012

        Holmes introduced the concept they could be hypocritical nasties as far back as “The Deadly Assassin”, since he didn’t really write “Colony in Space”… Ever since then, especially in Sixie’s era, it’s clear he exploited that – as based on dialogue in “The Two Doctors” and “The Trial of a Time Lord”…

    • DPC  December 20, 2012

      We haven’t gotten to that story yet, LOL…

      But, yeah, when we do I’ll be commenting on those lines in far greater detail…

    • Majik  December 20, 2012

      The Celestial Intervention Agency seem to be unrestricted by any rules, even the Gallifreyan Constitution and the Laws of Time.

  7. Toby  December 20, 2012

    Deeply pleased that Sue likes Mel, hopefully it’ll carry on so that I can find someone else who genuinely loves her.

    • BWT  December 20, 2012

      Yep – consider your quest over. She’s great. In fact, I can attribute my proclivity for redheads to her. Trouble is, she won’t return my phone calls or anything. And the restraining order is just a vicious rumour – don’t believe a word of it.

      • BWT  December 20, 2012

        Oh, she can make me sthqweam and sthqweam and sthqweam until I’m sthick any day…

    • James Coleman  December 20, 2012

      I always wanted some way for her to be redeemed in people’s eyes, given the poor original response. She’s done a few Big Finish audios (one of which, The One Doctor, is brilliant) and she’s got a trilogy of audios starting next month. I hope this goes some way to improving her reputation.

      • Robert Dick  December 20, 2012

        At one point Bonnie had the highest average of Big Finish successes – Fires of Vulcan, One Doctor, Flip-Flop, Bang-Bang-a-Boom! The ones afterwards weren’t as good.

    • Carson  December 20, 2012

      Amen to that, Toby. It’s always reassuring to find that the tiny percentage of us who adore Mel isn’t as tiny as we had previously believed 🙂

  8. Dave Sanders  December 20, 2012

    Y’know, when this came out the first time, Vervoids seemed like a positive breath of fresh air to me for how ‘trad’ it was (not that that statement makes ANY sense), but then I hadn’t got my hands on the BBC Video of The Robots Of Death yet. Looking back on it now of course and it’s absolutely dire, but the chief failing isn’t the clumsy characters and the gibberish they spout, the hamfisted crowbarring into the trial format, nor the number of Alien-alike base-under-sieges that are so much better than this one. It’s because Vervoids is completely and utterly oblivious to what should be its own trick.

    If there’s one thing the Vervoids, as their synopsis describes them, absolutely should not be, it’s generic monsters in an us-verses-them scenario. The Valeyard takes the Doctor to task for genocide and take Doctor counters with the lack of any other choice, but both stances are rendered meaningless bullshit from the way the very, very obvious moral dilemma of the Vervoids’ existence – with which a much better writer like Robert Holmes, even incapacitated with oyster lurgi like he was at this stage, could have tossed out four episodes in a good afternoon from this angle alone, just as he did in his glory days – is casually brought up once off-the-cuff and then thrown out the window, taking those other choices that could have saved the script with it. Eric Saward had left by this stage, and if you know your Holmes like Saward did you can immediately tell; because he’d have learned enough from his idol that such a glaring moral omission wouldn’t have got past without some attempt by him to fix it.

    Let’s think about The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People for a minute. Much of that was fairly cardboard as well, but what it did right was to give the Doctor a platform to remonstrate against the idea of now-sentient beings created to be tools or slaves with no rights of their own. Five incarnations earlier, and the same character is given no cause to take anything other than the opposite approach to the same debate, and that’s what’s truly annoying about Vervoids’ level of writing as a whole. Humans are animals, Vervoids are plants and the two cannot co-exist. So what? Couldn’t the Doctor, for example, have offered to take the Vervoids to some unihabited jungle planet to grow without any animals to bother them at all? Pick one, there’s loads to choose from. The Valeyard’s having an off-day here too; he didn’t think of it either, as nothing would have benefited a wily prosecutor more than raising the issue of what the Doctor ideally *should* have done. He never does.

    Take morality of the equation and make them as bog-standard alien killers, and the Vervoids are left with no credible reason for anything we see them do. Where did this killer instinct come from? The species is brand-new, without any race memories to draw upon, and in their brief lifespan they are given no basis to reason or learn than animal species are going to eat them. This knowledge has to have been genetically programmed in. Who the f*ck would do that? Probably the same idiots who thought poisonous stingers and methane gas breath to carry a vendetta out would be a good idea.

    The rest of the story is just as badly thought out as this. Without any meaningful threat in the Vervoids as a concept, it’s left to the cast to sell it to us, and not only are none of them up to the job, but the script goes out of its way to sabotage them all. Almost anything we should have a reason to care about or like, is either killed off quickly or dealt with off-screen. Travers and the Doctor’s history comes out of nowhere. Rudge is too incompetent to be taken in any way seriously. Hallett has a personality and backstory, but we never get to see it for ourselves, so the Doctor’s anecdotes might as well be about Jon Pertwee’s Venusian slime-skippers for all the shits we’re inspired to give. As a villain, Doland has no presence at all, either before or after his unmasking; you won’t guess he did it, mainly because you’ll have forgotten he’s even there. Bruchner is supposed to be the scientific conscience, but his paranoia completely blots it out, and Lasky is as one-note as such a character can possibly get, short of having POINTLESS HEROIC REDEMPTION stamped on her forehead like a sodding barcode. Mock Mel’s debut and character notes all you like, but at least Bonnie Langford is giving it a go and playing it as an exaggerated version of herself allows Bonnie something to work with, and consequently she’s about the most watchable character on display here. Woeful.

    • Anonymous  December 20, 2012

      Is all you do complain?

      • Dave Sanders  December 20, 2012

        Nope, sometimes I sing as well at no extra charge.

        • John Callaghan  December 21, 2012

          A great way to make the occasionally heated discussions here more entertaining would be to do them all in rhyme! And I can set them to music for the next podcast!

    • Dave Sanders  December 20, 2012

      Oh yes – and another thing I don’t buy in the slightest is the genocide charge. The Doctor has destroyed a complete species? No he hasn’t – have they no plants at all on Gallifrey, or have the watching goldfish in the trial room all forgotten how plants grow? Because nobody thinks to answer the Valeyard’s charge with ‘hang on, what about the Demeter seeds’. And if those ones aren’t Vervoid seeds, how scientifically inept would Lasky have to be to bring every single one of her specimens on board, but not the means to grow more as an elementary precaution? And before you remind us that Vervoids can reproduce from their own cuttings, kindly explain how the *first* one grew. Mind you, not even the Vervoids themselves are immune to this short-sighted approach to their own survival, since it’s a bit retarded for a plant to be hardwired to destory all forms of animal life on Earth including useful ones like, say, bees.

  9. Thomas  December 20, 2012

    I always did like Mel. Part of it is that I think Langford is excellent and shows a real enthusiasm we haven’t seen on the program since Romana- and she always showed a sheer professionalism during her time on the program.

    Plus, the perky nature of her character really allowed the Doctor to show a more compassionate side that they could never do with Peri, even after lightening them up for the Trial season.

    • Iain Coleman  December 20, 2012

      Absolutely. Mel is such a breath of fresh air as a companion because she wants to be there, travelling the Universe, getting into trouble. She is proactive and plucky. This is good for the show, because it’s much more engaging than yet another reluctant companion whining about not wanting to do stuff, and because it gives the plots some extra dynamism. It’s also good for the character of the Sixth Doctor: freed from having to be the leader, dragging his complaining follower into the story, he is able to take a more laid-back, contemplative role. Really, the only problem with Mel is that she didn’t come along earlier.

      • BWT  December 20, 2012

        I’ll back you up there. And, yes, she softened up the Sixth Doctor in such a way that even I’d have rather enjoyed travelling with this laid back, more mature version of this incarnation any day…

      • John G. Wood  December 20, 2012

        Yes, Mel is great here. It often seems that Doctors get companions that complement them late in their tenures, and Mel is a prime example. Sixie needed someone who would stand up to him more than Peri, who actually worked better with his predecessor.

        Aside: I actually love Pip & Jane’s dialogue for the Doctor; the only problem is that it spreads to people who really shouldn’t talk like that.

        • Warren Andrews  December 20, 2012

          Yeah, if someone with a talent for great dialogue rewrote this story. it would be practically perfect as far as I’m concerned. It’s the clunky Baker’s dialogue with hampered the performances from being convincing. Characters all sounding like the writers isn’t just an old problem RTD and Moffat scripts all suffer from it at times.

          I’ve noticed in the commentaries that Pip and Jane have a slightly mocking relationship with Colin Baker, Pip especially uses him as the but of a joke and that’s the way they write people responding to his Doctor from here on. Colin does thrive as this more loveable version of the Doctor but he’s perhaps a little too cuddly. The character of Mel does bring out the best in him though as he’s not always on the defensive like he was with Peri where everything she said raised his hackles.

      • James S  December 20, 2012

        Note that Mel’s introduction is also where Saward leaves the show (JNT script edited Vervoids).

        JNT had his flaws but the unhappy grumbling companions were all Saward
        IIRC Eric’s justification for Tegan and Peri’s complaining and general unwillingness to be there was that this was how HE would’ve acted if he was stuck in the TARDIS, which begs the question why do you want to write for Who again?

        • Errol the Hamster  December 20, 2012

          To be fair to Saward, Tegan was quite like that in Logopolis, a story which he had nothing to do with.

          • Thomas  December 20, 2012

            But of course, there it legitimately extended out of character, whereas with Saward it *became* the character.

    • Nick Mays  December 20, 2012

      I’d despaired of the way the show was going at this point, but I was very heavily influenced by DWB’s venomous JN-T bashing. I remember how they slated Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford on one front cover with a pic of them on Kirby Wires titled ‘The Singer and the Clown’ (or somesuch nonsense). Like Matthew Waterhouse Bonnie Langford wasn’t given a chance by some of the die-hard fans, either as an actor or as the character she portrayed.

      But I had to say, Bonnie did the best with the material she was given, which is true of most companions, but generally speaking, Mel’s character was spunky, intelligent and up for adventure, and the “Jolly Hockey Sticks” persona was all part of it. You can imagine Mel being Head Girl and captain of her boarding school hockey team.

      In the years since Season 23 and 24 were aired of course, Bonnie’s had a chance to play Mel again in the Big Finish audios and she adds plenty to her performance and to the character; a combination of good acting and good writing! The same applies to Colin too, of course.

  10. Paul Greaves  December 20, 2012

    Never in my life did I think I’d ever see Lena Zavaroni name checked in a Doctor Who review. And Sue thinks we’re obscure… 🙂

    • Broton  December 20, 2012

      I’m still enjoying “A FLOWER?”

    • Robert Dick  December 20, 2012

      I’d have been *astonished* if Sue hadn’t mentioned Lena Zavaroni. She’s one of the first things normal people (Not-We) mention in connection with Bonnie. Usually just after “thceam and thceam”

  11. BWT  December 20, 2012

    Sue: “Bruce Grobbelaar has really let himself go.”
    Bruce is currently married to a good friend of the wife’s; he’s actually not looking to bad for his age and nothing at all like Bruchner. But then, he doesn’t exactly make a habit of diving into blackholes – or so I’m told…

    Sue: “OK, calm down. She’s no Diana Rigg, you know.”
    Gawd, can you imagine that? No fans, please – I don’t want them to see me take direction. (Don’t worry, love – there wasn’t much of it here). Actually, I’d prefer Cathy Gale to Emma Peel anyday. Aye curumba!

    Yes, it’s a real shame that this story is forced into the Trial format. Watch it as an isolated adventure and it is a real gem. Oh, and let someone else write it. (Which is a shame as I feel that this is Pip & Jane’s best effort). Yes, I actually do prefer this one over the others…

  12. Gavin Noble  December 20, 2012

    I think this is the best four part segment of the Trial just because it’s the one that seems to have fewest interruptions from the courtroom. I understand that if you have a trial then there has to be courtroom scenes in it but it was a bit overdone at times. Even when watching this back in 1986 I got annoyed by the constant cuts back to the courtroom. Time does not diminish that annoyance.

    I don’t mind Bonnie Langford with Colin’s Doctor, she works well with him, but things do get more annoying further down the line and I don’t blame Bonnie for that but the writing for her character. I Certainly don’t concur with much of fandom in the downright hate she gets and sorry as much as I have enjoyed Glen’s trailers he’s a bit OTT in his hatred for Bonnie. Even joking about punching her face in crosses a line for me humour wise. Each to their own though.

    I think why I like this segment is that it also feels a bit more fun that the other segments.

    • John Callaghan  December 20, 2012

      I would concur that Glen made a poor choice of words there. I know there’s no genuine malice there, but “punch her face in” really isn’t funny.

  13. P. Sanders  December 20, 2012

    Delighted Sue is enjoying Trial as much as she is. Aged 10 I was gripped by this one – after the excellent out-of-nowhere first episode cliffhanger, I spent the next week trying to guess which old monster it was that had returned (inexplicably I decided they must be Ice Warriors). It was creepy and mysterious, and I only didn’t like Bonnie becausee everyone told me not to.

    I saw it on video and the flaws were plain to see: cheap sets, cackhanded dialogue, whispery genitaliens with bad accents. Still kinda liked it.

    Watched it on DVD and fell in love with it again. The cast are decent enough to make the dialogue sound nearly-human, it’s a decent who-dunnit with plenty of side plots, and Mel is indeed a breath of fresh air. I can even forgive the dated design by going with the suggestion from the making-of doc that it’s a 1980s-themed cruise ship – complete with pink cassette tapes!

  14. Nick Mays  December 20, 2012

    Sue: The Black Hole of Tartarus. Isn’t that a Russian prostitute?

    Brilliant! Tea all over the monitor screen!

    And yes, I noticed the Vervoids’ “rude”appearance at the time, but when you think that flower heads are designed to attract insects to a flower’s sexual organs for reproduction reasons, well… what else could they look like?

    • Ben Herman  December 20, 2012

      Yes, that was probably my favorite comment from Sue, as well!

      This is like a rather rude version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Keep ’em coming!

      • Frankymole  December 21, 2012

        If anyone has genitals that look like a Vervoid, I suggest they get themselves down to the clinic, fast!

        • Dave Sanders  December 21, 2012

          Baldrick had a thingy that looked like a turnip. Does that count?

        • Professor Thascales  December 22, 2012

          Sorry, didn’t mean to post blank replies. Meant to say:
          “If anyone has genitals that look like a Vervoid, I suggest they get themselves down to the clinic, fast!”

        • Professor Thascales  December 22, 2012

          Sorry, didn’t mean to post blank replies. Meant to say: “If anyone has genitals that look like a Vervoid, I suggest they get themselves down to the clinic, fast!” [chuckle]

    • Wholahoop  December 21, 2012

      Glad to see that WiS thinks the cliff hanger on part 3 that wasn’t the cliff hanger should have been the cliff hanger (I think that’s what I mean)

      • Warren Andrews  December 21, 2012

        The interesting thing is that if you watch the deleted scenes, where you expect the cliffhanger to be, was were it was in the original edit – but it clearly got changed due to JNT’s “Favour the Doctor” cliffhanger policy.

  15. John Callaghan  December 20, 2012

    Because the opening sequence didn’t show the (suggested) story titles, I thought Neil might like alternative title cards for the Trial stories. He didn’t bite (fair enough!) but I was amused enough by my card for this story that I’m offering a link to it here:

    Had the mutant been coordinating the Vervoids, the character would have had some point to her, given the monsters a credible voice, and would have justified such effective make-up.

    But this is probably my fave of the Trial stories; I like whodunnits and I like B-movie-esque outer-space pantos.

  16. Merast  December 20, 2012

    I’ve always liked Mel in a way, i like a good screamer! 😉

    The story is pretty good in itself, perhaps Sue is right and they should have had about a minutes worth of clips from the past just to show the Doctor’s previous good intentions and THEN presented a case from the future, it would have made a lot more sense.

  17. John Miller  December 20, 2012

    Sue: Of course I do. It’s Bonnie Langford. I hated her when she was a child star. All that bloody screaming. I can’t say I’m thrilled about this, but I’ll try to give her the benefit of the doubt.

    …which puts Sue above most of the so-called “fans”.

    The irrational hatred directed towards Mel from a certain type of person has nothing to do with the character, nor with Langford’s portrayal. It’s a preconceived notion that because it’s Bonnie Langford, she must be annoying, But next season Bonnie is sometimes the only one who ISN’T crap.

    • Warren Andrews  December 20, 2012

      Poor Bonnie was really badly served by the series. She could have been given a great character that played against expectations but that didn’t happen. Big Finish have shown how well Mel can be used but she arrived in a very turbulent time and then was passed on to a script editor who didn’t feel the need to reshape her. I love Mel as she’s an extreme reaction against all the other companions in the 80’s who you wondered why they were even in the TARDIS. She relished the adventure. She might have screamed but she really threw herself into the stories.

  18. matt bartley  December 20, 2012

    I’ll always harbour a deep love for this – the first story that terrified me as a kid. It was a combination of both the half-woman/half-Vervoid and (bizarrely enough) the unmasking of the Mogarians that scared me so much that my parents banned me from watching the rest of it.

    They did let me watch it return with Time and the Rani, though. The bastards.

  19. Ryan Hall  December 20, 2012

    My fav Colin baker story , i think its just a very fun Doctor who story that actully felt like Doctor who of old.

    I liked Mel too, i was never a fan of Peri, the whole moaning and her and the doctors bad relashionship massivly dragged the show down, like some of the comments have said she was never given a chance , even before she hit the screens she was screwed, very much the same uproar catherine tate got when it was announced she was gonna be full time….but look how that turned out in the end, its a shame mel’s character was never written properly , had she been fleshed out more i think she would have won alot of people over.

  20. chris-too-old-to-watch  December 20, 2012

    I Always liked the look and idea of the Vervoids: unfortunately they were spoilt by bad storyline and directing. How much more frightening would they have been if only they hadn’t spoken, and had to have their actions explained by other characters
    “What on earth are theyr going to do now Doctor?”
    “Don’t look Mel, they’re about to pollinate.”
    “Oh Doctor, it’s terrifying”
    “Worse than that, I think they’re about to take cuttings. Watch out for their tap roots……”

  21. DamonD  December 20, 2012

    It is interesting to see how Sue is getting along pretty well with the Trial. Obviously the finale of such a big story will have a big effect in retrospect, but there’s more goodwill here than some feel.

    Mel’s enthusiasm does eventually grate, but I genuinely do like her in this one. It’s just nice to have someone again that actually enjoys being with the Doctor and having adventures. This and Delta are her high points for me.

    Veroids is probably my favourite of the Trial defense segments, even though it’s got plenty of problems. I couldn’t really say why. Maybe because it’s a chance to see Six in a relatively continuity-free story, just getting on with things rather than it being Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, the Master and so on. It’s Robots of Death Lite, very Lite indeed, but it’s comfy viewing. And arguably Colin’s warmest turn in the role.

    • Robert Dick  December 20, 2012

      It’s the ONLY Trial defence segment surely!

      • John Miller  December 20, 2012

        I’m surprised Big Finish haven’t done an audio with Colin and Bonnie that “seamlessly” fits between Vervoids and Ultimate Foe.

        • Errol the Hamster  December 20, 2012

          They’ve got one coming up next year which supposedly does, apparently.

          • Errol the Hamster  December 20, 2012

            Oh hang on… set just after S23 from the Doctor and Mel’s point of view, so not exactly the same thing. Not necessarily connected with this particular segment.

  22. Robert Dick  December 20, 2012

    Bonnie is *lovely* and totally unlike people’s preconceptions of her. I once interviewed her and Katy Manning together… hilarity and unpredicability ensued… I also once called her a “tired old tart” when I repeated what I *thought* she had just called herself… Thankfully she laughed… I think I may have blushed. Somewhat.

    If Sue and you, Neil, are doing Dimensions next year, Sue can meet Bonnie for herself… Is the book out around then?

  23. phuzz  December 20, 2012

    According to wikipedia, Diana Rigg is going to be in a Dr Who episode next year (and Game of Thrones), whic can only be good news as far as I’m concerned.
    She’s still my favourite Bond girl, if only I was born 30 years earlier…

  24. John G  December 20, 2012

    “He reminds me of an elderly Pierce Brosnan. He even sounds like an old Pierce Brosnan. Seriously, this is what Pierce Brosnan will look like when he’s had it.”

    Funnily enough Michael Craig does sort of have a Bond connection, as he played Jason Connery’s father in Robin of Sherwood! I don’t really have any issues with Sue’s score for this one, as it is an enjoyable escapade and one of the few real bits of light relief in the Colin era. It is not up to Robots of Death standards, obviously, but I do think this is Pip ‘n’ Jane’s best effort for Who and a much-needed change of pace after Mindwarp. Mel is never going to be a favourite companion of mine because her character was written so thinly, but there is nothing wrong with Bonnie’s performance here and her chemistry with Colin is much more apparent than Colin’s was with Nicola. I think it helps that this was the second story Bonnie filmed, so she was a bit more settled by this point – it’s just a shame she never got to develop her relationship with the sixth Doctor further on TV.

    Anyway, from one Season 14 homage to another – will Ultimate Foe go down better with Sue than The Deadly Assassin?

  25. Robert Dick  December 20, 2012

    I’ve never seen Malcolm Tierney or Honor Blackman – two top-class acts – be weaker anywhere else than their performances in this.

    • Warren Andrews  December 20, 2012

      There’s something about a Pip and Jane Baker script that encourages a very stilted performance – it happens in all their Who scripts – even their Children’s BBC series “Watt on Earth” has the same issue, very mannered performances from usually reliable actors. Maybe it’s the actors perceiving the scripts to be poor so not putting in the effort.

      • Frankymole  December 21, 2012

        Tierney as caretaker “Mr Bennett” on “Take Hart” seemed almost as bad as Edward Brayshaw on “Rentaghost”, to my young eyes…

        • Anonymous  December 27, 2012

          um… that wasn’t Malcolm Tierney.

        • Robert Dick  December 27, 2012

          Um… That wasn’t Malcolm Tierney…

  26. Graeme Burk  December 20, 2012

    It’s funny, when I watched this with my best mate Rob as a 17 year-old all we kept on saying was “Show Genesis of the Daleks as your defence!” Especially when the Valeyard charges the Doctor with genocide. Um, isn’t that what the Time Lords *ordered the Doctor to commit* more or less with the Daleks? For more or less the same reasons?

    • DPC  December 20, 2012


      And the Doctor, despite his fancy speech, would later go back to reconnect the wires to the explosives… proving his previous mindset was in error.

      It’s like denouncing social security and other forms of safety nets all your life but then collecting from them the moment they’re needed. Well, not quite – safety nets don’t exist to kill people. So it’s a polar opposite situation, with the same moral dilemma: “Do I have the right?” but then doing it anyway despite what one believes…

      • Frankymole  December 21, 2012

        The Time Lord who briefed the Doctor at the start of “Genesis of the Daleks” was a bit shifty, though (and had already assumed the Doctor’s agreement). It’s possible that if genocide were illegal, then whomever assigned the Doctor was operating a “plausible deniabiliy” covert operation, and the case wouldn’t be on record anyway, even if the TARDIS with its recording device was there on Skaro (which it wasn’t).

      • Ben Herman  December 21, 2012

        I hope you’re not comparing the Doctor to Ayn Rand!

      • Errol the Hamster  December 21, 2012

        The situation is different when he goes back and reconnects them though, which is something everyone seems to miss when they try to make this point. The first time he thinks he holds the whole future of the species in his hands, which is what causes him to doubt whether he has this responsibility. By the time he returns he knows that several Daleks are already at liberty, so there is no longer any possibility of it from preventing their future existence. It’s more of a desperate gambit to gain an advantage by then, rather than a potential genocide.

  27. Jazza1971  December 20, 2012

    The “Next Time” trailer isn’t working for me. 🙁

    I totally agree, a few old clips for the Doctor to use in his defence would have been really good, like the 2nd Doctor used in his trial.

    • David Embery  December 20, 2012

      Except they weren’t old clips but new shots of the monsters done on the day.

      It would have been fun for a few clips – “the Matrix is having trouble and I can only show you my first two incarnations in black and white”

      • Jazza1971  December 20, 2012

        Yeah, not flashbacks as such, but new filming for Patrick, but still it would have been cool for Colin.

        • John Miller  December 21, 2012

          Would it have been a grey-haired Patrick though?

          • Nick Mays  December 21, 2012

            From Series 6B, without the “bouffed” hairstyle? Ahem… 😉

    • DPC  December 20, 2012

      Do you use Firefox with Adblock or NoScript? I found a “sndcdn” entry that wasn’t there before. After allowing it, the “next time” trailer came back.

      • Jazza1971  December 20, 2012

        Nope, I use Google Chrome. That said, it is working now.

        • P. Sanders  December 20, 2012

          I used to have that a lot on my phone but seems better these days.

  28. Richard Lyth  December 20, 2012

    I’m surprised Sue didn’t react to my favourite line – “Whoever’s been dumped in there has been pulverised into fragments and sent floating into space, and in my book, that’s murder!” I think she’s right about Moffat getting the idea of River Song from this story – introducing a companion who the Doctor hasn’t met yet was a really good idea but utterly wasted here, thankfully the modern version worked a lot better. And her real name turned out to be Mel, surely no coincidence?

    • DPC  December 20, 2012

      I can’t disagree, even if River Song’s origins is very much a lame Star Wars saga ripoff. Mel’s origins never got explained, but even if there were no behind-the-scenes problems I’m not sure the continuity would have been straightened out…

    • Paul Kirkley  December 20, 2012

      Best Who line EVER.

      • John Callaghan  December 21, 2012

        Well, there are a couple of other hot contenders: “Leo, did I ever tell you about my nose?” and “I have the loyhargil! Nothing can stop me now!” would enliven any Shakespeare play.

  29. Carson  December 20, 2012

    Oh man. Maybe Sue just put me in a good mood by actually LIKING Mel for many of the same reasons I do (I’ve been so worried all this time!)… but this write-up kept me in snorting fits of laughter. Sue had me in stitches with “Awww, I want to see him take a provocative stroll around the deck” and “I can’t tell what sexual organ they remind me of the most.” (Well, there *are* a lot to choose from.) Loved your comment, Neil, that Mel was off to the gym to “lose what little fat she has left” – ha!!

  30. Alex Wilcock  December 20, 2012

    Favourite lines:
    “What on Earth is she listening to? Is it the Bontempi Workout? What a racket.”
    “It’s Alien meets Agatha Christie meets The Love Boat.”
    “It’s turned into a really dry version of The Poseidon Adventure.”

    I prefer Cathy Gale to Emma Peel, too (though it’s a close call between all three), but shame that Michael Jayston, radio’s James Bond, doesn’t get any scenes with Pussy Galore.

    I’m with lots of comments above on Mel being a companion who wants to be there – shame she gets all whingey for much of the following year. I quite enjoy a lot of it in the middle, too, from the cliffhangers to the Valeyard’s mud-slinging.

    The characters and motivations are a complete mess, though. Lasky hasn’t any idea what the Vervoids are for, has she, and greedy Doland doesn’t understand that creatures with the built-in ability to answer and fight back aren’t going to sell: why not read The Pirate Loop instead, where the ‘designer slaves’ aren’t given mouths (a better spaceliner-calamity tale, to boot). Slave-owners throughout history have wanted to keep their slaves downtrodden by denying them a voice and have been terrified of letting them get weapons and rise up. So why exactly did this lot breed ‘perfect slaves’ that speak and have several built-in weapons? And what’s this ‘If a single Vervoid had reached Earth, the human race would have been eliminated’ fertiliser? Never mind all the other human worlds that would keep us going – how often does a small force with literal hand weapons get to wipe out a highly advanced superpower that can shoot back from long range?

    The ending’s what I really hate about Terror of the Vervoids, though. Watching it last year, I came to a jarring halt on this with my Trial reviews – so well done you two for sticking it. But that’s another rant in a minute.

    • DPC  December 20, 2012

      I can’t disagree with those points.

      The Vervoids WERE created as a source of cheap labor (to keep profits high being the obvious reason). They were oppressed, and the only reason they would have “nature’s weapons” built-in would be due to a flaw in their genetic engineering. Remember, humans created this species – and screwed up with the design (what else is new 😀 ).

      I thought the story sufficiently explained what would happen if Vervoids were allowed to escape. But my response to you below covers that in more detail…

      • P. Sanders  December 20, 2012

        Don’t forget that kind of unfortunate genetic engineering has occurred in real life – scientists mated aggressive productive bees with docile ones hoping to create docile honey producers – instead they got killer bees…

    • Robert Dick  December 21, 2012

      >I’m with lots of comments above on Mel being a companion who wants to be there – shame she gets all whingey for much of the following year. <

      Right from the word go even in this story *every* time they land somewhere, Mel complains about it. She doesn't like *anywhere*. BF kept the tradition up in her first few audios then it died away.

  31. Alex Wilcock  December 20, 2012

    The reason Terror of the Vervoids disgusts me is similar to Dave Sanders’ above, only more so. The ‘moral’ of it absolutely turns my stomach – it might just be the Who story that’s the most horribly fascist (at least Flip-Flop was better-written). And to follow from Sue constantly wanting to see Genesis of the Daleks, contrast his “Have I the right” speech with his having so little considered his genocide that he’s amazed when someone brings it up (great closing cliffhanger: shame I agree with the Valeyard).

    Pip and Jane often write down to kids, but look at their children’s homilies here: ‘Carrots are full of Vitamin A’; ‘Exercise is good for you’; ‘Let’s learn about Autumn’; and ‘Don’t play with fire extinguishers’ (pretty much in those words). Then the final one is ‘Ethnic cleansing is necessary and unavoidable’. With a bonus one for the Doctor’s defence, which is ‘I was just obeying orders’ (again, pretty much in those words). It’s horrible, horrible rubbish.

    Rarely have the Doctor’s and a story’s morals been so dodgy: an intelligent, oppressed species rise up against their oppressors, and instead of the Doctor’s usual approach – stop the bloodshed and find another way – we’re given ‘Slaves / other races will get uppity, so they must be destroyed’.

    • DPC  December 20, 2012

      You had me at your middle paragraph.

      But you do realize that you are as much an oppressor to them as every other human and that would not listen to you? What if a human, especially one of the Vervoid creators, tried to reason but was coldly killed as a response? Are they so reasonable at that point?

      This species was also genetically engineered by humans. Maybe humans shouldn’t tinker, but would humanity deserve genocide in return?

      And, don’t forget, the Doctor keeps accusing the Valeyard of altering the Matrix (and over a possible future timeline that hasn’t happened yet; that very notion is just loaded with so much conjecture in the first place that none of it should be admissible! So, to me, that’s why the morality is so dodgy – the underlying story, some base concepts aside, is dodgy.)

      I still like the role reversal – anthropomorphic plants that find anything that eats plants to be abhorrent…

      But these same plants make it crystal clear from the get-go they will not let any “animal kind” survive. P&J had to point that out early on, because they were probably aware of the issues people would (rightly) brought up.

      So, with that issue addressed and once it’s made clear there is no chance for peace AT ALL, thanks to the actions of these not-so-intelligent-after-all creatures after all, do we just lie down and wait for them to stomp up and down on us to death?

      It was in self-defense, and the circumstantial evidence about the Vervoids’ own absolute unwillingness to be intelligent and listen is more than enough for a self-defense response.

      People would need a little more evidence to really believe they would make peace, as Lasky sorta tried to do… the Vervoids made it abundantly clear.

      So, what else could have been done? Relocate all of them to a desolated planet with nice bright sunshine and put up satellites giving out warning signals, since even the slightest means off that planet would have them looking for any animal to exterminate, just because it’s not the same.

      The Daleks are not much different – they are programmed/condition to destroy. And the Doctor, time and again, kills them. Right down to genocide… and it was only Doc4 that made the second thought decision, but he later went back to – guess what – blow them up anyway! He realized in the end he had to do it. It made for a lovely scene, but he later changed his mind, so the entire scene ends up being moot as a defense.

      The Vervoids are merely instinctual, but with enough intellect to realize it’s a kill-or-be-killed-with-no-middle-ground, nor did they have enough intellect to try to reason with people before killing a single person. They showed their malice from the get-go and never once vied for any peace.

      It’s a no-win scenario, something – as a concept – is VERY possible. In a no-win situation, what does one do and why. Especially if the conditions are made clear, with no interpretation for misinterpretation and that’s where we disagree. The Vervoids pretty much spell it out, but you’re trying to imagine a quality they never once had shown. As a result, you’d be the first they’d poison to death.

      If the Vervoids were shown as taking second thoughts while listening to Lasky’s plea and siding with her, you’d have had some very strong points. Unfortunately, and maybe I need to re-watch the story, they pretty much said “no exceptions” before slaughtering her along with everyone else. Which also proves this genocide thing can go both ways. “kill or be killed”. No-win scenario. And it was the Doctor, and Lasky, who both did not first want to take the violent route. They were forced into it, by the Vervoids that clearly took a “no prisoners, no peace, no dang nothing” approach.

      But note I just did what you had – made an assumption and added criteria that may not have existed. Did the Doctor ever try to reason with the Vervoids? I don’t recall and I don’t think so. Just as much as that missing scene where the Vervoids were saying “Let’s try to make peace and build goblets out of play-doh instead of following our instincts that all animalkind are bad.” The Vervoids, again, never once “tried for peace” or acted intelligent. They were creatures of instinct, with any reasoning being limited by that – as Lasky’s murder finally and conclusively proved.

      • Dave Sanders  December 21, 2012

        The comparison with the Daleks is unfortunate though, because both species are essentially written in human terms as ‘evil because evil’, no matter what the Doctor may say about compulsively following the lifecycle (that’s pretty much what the Daleks do as well). But the Daleks are deliberately bred to be the image of their creator, and the threat comes from what they represent as much as what they are. The Vervoids don’t share either of those angles, and in particular it’s impossible to rationale where their killer instinct comes from. As I explained above, it would have to have been consciously programmed in by their own creators, and nobody involved on the project would do that.

        So what are we expected to think? Are humans good because they stood up to the nasty plant monsters? Are they bad for creating said monsters in the first place? The script doesn’t seem to know and the answer is a confused ‘neither’, which leaves us without any side in the narrative to actually (so to speak) root for. Granted; that’s how the real world works, but it would have made a world of difference had the script actually said so. Instead, we’re expected to follow our own self-preservation instincts and accept ‘they must die so we can live’ as a happy ending.

        • Frankymole  December 21, 2012

          “Tthey must die so we can live’ as a happy ending.”

          As Terry Nation wrote, “we are the Daleks”.

      • Errol the Hamster  December 21, 2012

        “Right down to genocide… and it was only Doc4 that made the second thought decision, but he later went back to – guess what – blow them up anyway! He realized in the end he had to do it. It made for a lovely scene, but he later changed his mind, so the entire scene ends up being moot as a defense.”

        It wasn’t so much him changing his mind as having to change his strategy because the situation had changed. On the first occasion, he’s still hoping that it shall be possible for Gharman and the others to force Davros to stop making them, or even do do themselves, close the production line completely and deactivate any ones already existing, hence perhaps allowing him not to have to make the decision which he’s uncertain about. But by the time he returns this is no longer a realistic option as almost all the Kaleds on the base have been killed and the Daleks have taken over it. As there are several Daleks existing independently of the incubation chamber by then and they’re mostly in charge of the Bunker, and he’s well aware of it, his actions on the second occasion constitute killing but not genocide. It’s an attempt to stop the Daleks adding more to their ranks, but it can’t prevent them from existing as a species. The moral dilemma over the wires isn’t about whether or not it’s right to kill, but whether it’s right to stop a species ever coming into existence right from the off.

  32. fromEssex  December 20, 2012


    I’ve rewatched the whole of trial over the past few nights. Vervoids isn’t terrible, imo, apart from the vervoids. If they’d made it a pure whodunnit, then it wouldn’t have been that bad. Mel is ok in this.

    I do tend to agree with Saward about Baker though, he shouldn’t have got the part. He tries to be Tom like in this, but fails. Much as I like him.

  33. Glen Allen  December 21, 2012

    I’ve met Bonnie a few times and she is fantastic and in her Big Finish audios she shines as Mel.

    My bile would be better directed at Mel then rather than the real person. Apologies to everyone Ive offended (Oh and no I didn’t punch Bonnie in the face during any of the times I met her) *rolls eyes*

  34. Lord Antares  December 21, 2012

    I was slightly disappointed that Sue didn’t jump to conclusion I originally did in episode two’s cliffhanger. Instead of Ruth Baxter, I thought it was Peri in the isolation room!