A Far Greater Crime (Terror of the Vervoids)

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Part 2: Recycling the Future

The Mysterious Planet, of course, embodies the "past" idea in more ways than one. The story is an unrepentant "greatest hits" reel for Robert Holmes. Both stories that he wrote and stories that he script edited are plundered and reworked over the course of it. The underlying premise is The Face of Evil, with bits of The Krotons grafted on around Drathro. Glitz and Dibbler are, of course, just Garron and Unstoffe redone. The underlying notion of a Time Lord conspiracy is straight out of The Deadly Assassin. The notion of restoring a post-apocalyptic Earth is a reworking of The Ark in Space. Hints of The Time Warrior surround the Tribe of the Free, while the people in the tunnels feel, as much by set design as writerly intention, rather like The Sun Makers.

Of course, reckless plundering of the past has been the calling card of the series for some time now. But there's something very different about The Mysterious Planet compared to recent attempts to "do it like it was before" such as Timelash, The Two Doctors, and Attack of the Cybermen. Those were all concerned with plundering the actual signifiers of the past. But The Mysterious Planet takes a very different tack, instead repeating the techniques of the past.

This is part of a general refocusing that goes on in the midst of the hiatus. Ian Levine's tenure as the unofficial continuity advisor comes to an end in this period. By his account, at least, it's the hiring of Bonnie Langford as Mel that was the last straw. Given this, then, it's interesting to note that the spaceship in Langford's first story, Terror of the Vervoids, is named the Hyperion. The first piece of concrete influence Levine had on the series was back in State of Decay, where he got the name of the ship changed from Hyperion to Hydrax on the grounds that the Hyperion had already been used back in 1972 for The Mutants. So the act of using the name again in the story that supposedly drove Ian Levine away seems almost a deliberate provocation, or, more charitably, a conscious break with Levine's particular relationship with the past.

Certainly it's true that from this point on the past will be engaged with very differently. It's not that continuity is dead - post-Trial a solid six of the twelve remaining stories of Doctor Who are going to feature returns of past concepts or characters. But there's a marked change in the nature of it. Even in Trial of a Time Lord the Time Lords aren't brought back in the increasingly stale portrayal that has been crusting over them since The Invasion of Time. From here on out there's a change to bringing specific concepts back in order to reevaluate and reconceptualize them.

But in the midst of that transition we get this, a story that is in its own way more fetishistic towards the past than anything Levine ever involved himself in. To some extent this is just inevitability. We have here a production team ordered to reinvent the series for the third time for the script editor, the fourth for the producer, and the sixth for the actual writer. These are not the right people to be heading an attempt to salvage the series, and that one of the three will be involved in getting it right in a year is a small miracle. There was little this group could be expected to do but to turn to the past in a desperate attempt to redo what had worked before.

Where this is saddest is, of course, Robert Holmes, for whom this set of issues must have been depressingly familiar. When he quit the series under Graham Williams it was during a period when the show was being bounced back and forth between Mary Whitehouse-inspired directives to tone down the violence and objections that it was too silly, with his breaking point being the assignment to write the terribly serious Power of Kroll. Now he finds himself in the exact same issue, given conflicting instructions to make it more and less funny from Jonathan Powell.

It's not that Holmes's effort to salvage the series is anything less than sincere at this stage. Rather, it's that we've finally reached the limits of what he can do. With nowhere to go, Holmes turns to the past and simply dredges up everything he'd ever done before. It's a road that had to be attempted, really. Especially post-Levine, someone had to just knuckle down and attempt a straight-up "go back to how it was done before" (as distinct from nostalgia). But what the program ends up finding is that the past isn't the future. Holmes's old tricks are just that - old tricks.

There's a way of looking at the program in terms of the shredding of its past - at what point do the creative personnel from past eras disappear. Tom Baker is the last Doctor to have stories written by people who worked on the Hartnell era. Colin Baker, on the other hand, is the last Doctor to have stories written by people who worked on the Troughton, Pertwee, Tom Baker, or Davison eras. And Sylvester McCoy does away with stories written by Colin Baker holdovers after his first script. Robert Holmes was the last real holdout of the long history of the series. And before the future proper could be moved into there had to be this - a last, desperate firing on all thrusters of the tried and true techniques. They failed, as I think even Holmes knew they would. And so the program moved on.


Part 3: Who's In Charge Here?

This disintegration of the Trial's coherence as a narrative is not limited merely to Mindwarp's ambiguous reality either. This is also where it really becomes difficult to make heads or tails of what the actual legal proceeding here is. We'll save large scale observations and conjectures about the nature of the trial for two entries' time, but let's try for the moment to figure out what role the Inquisitor and the Jury have in this process.

It goes without saying that the Valeyard is corrupt and acting for his own purposes. It also appears to be the case that the Inquisitor has no knowledge of this prior to The Ultimate Foe. On the other hand, the end of Mindwarp suggests strongly that the entire courtroom knew about the Thoros Beta incident. After all, the Valeyard implies a thoroughly reasoned intervention on the part of the Time Lords regarding Crozier and his experiments. The Inquisitor goes along with this, whereas she at other times does overrule the Valeyard. And on top of that we know that the psychic energy of the Jury was used to summon the Doctor. We'll trace the big implication of that next entry, but surely if they're pulling the Doctor from a specific point in space and time they have to know something about what's going on at that moment in time.

Except that we're eventually told that what they see on the screen is complete bull. And yet they buy it. It's tempting to suggest that all of them are in on the Valeyard's conspiracy, but The Inquisitor's later actions seem to completely disprove this. This is a real pity, because it would provide this sequence with a much needed dose of making a damn bit of sense. As previously noted, the Time Lords seem to go out of their way to screw things up here, including preventing the Doctor from stopping Crozier while simultaneously blaming him for it. Similarly, the accusation that the Doctor abandoned Peri when they apparently kidnapped him away from saving her is simply bewildering.

And though we previously took the potential danger of Crozier seriously, it does have to be noted that all Crozier is doing is something that would put him in the same league as the Wirrin, Sutekh, Solon, and a host of other Doctor Who villains. I mean, seriously, mind transference is now a threat that requires drastic intervention? This is utterly unconvincing. Given all of this, it would be so much easier to simply believe that the Inquisitor and the Jury are in on the conspiracy and know that this is a misrepresentation of the Doctor's actions simply because it would save us the trouble of figuring out how on Earth they're supposed to believe any of this or take it seriously.

The easiest explanation is that they're partial stooges who were picked because they could be trusted to arrive at the correct conclusion regardless of the evidence. That is, they know that the story they're being given makes no sense, but they have enough loyalty to the High Council to do their job and arrive at the result expected of them. This is a particularly bleak portrait of post-Revolutionary Gallifrey, but it does seem the simplest explanation by some margin.

But this, in turn, opens a different can of worms. After all, the flagrantly false account of how they summoned the Doctor is not what jolts them or the Inquisitor into acquitting the Doctor. Something in The Ultimate Foe is - and it's never entirely made clear what - eventually flips them out of their designated roles as party stooges.


It's the ultimate Doctor Who monster, really: it's a giant
penis and a giant vagina at the same time.
Part 1: Mel: Huh?

It's November 1st, 1986. Nick Berry remains at number one with "Every Loser Wins." A week later Berlin's love theme for Top Gun, "Take My Breath Away," unseats him. Cliff Richard and Sarah Brightman, the Pretenders, Duran Duran, Europe, Bon Jovi, and Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush also chart.

In real news, the US begins having a whole lot of fun with the Iran-Contra affair. The deadliest civilian helicopter crash in history happens just east of Sumburgh Airport in Scotland. Efforts begin to find two further bodies from the Moors Murders, which you may remember from twenty years ago on this blog. Sir Alex Ferguson, then only Alex Ferguson, takes over at Manchester United, which is rather a thing.

While on television the Trial goes irretrievably off the rails. The final six episodes are 83% Pip and Jane Baker, and ow. There's a lot of ways in here, but let's start with the big one, which is the spectacular mislaunch of Bonnie Langford as Mel.

As legendarily hatable as Mel is, and she is one of the most roundly mocked characters in all of Doctor Who, she's not nearly as misbegotten as all of that. We'll talk in a moment about the strange decision making behind Doctor Who's Trial relaunch, but the logic behind it is not entirely unsound. Bonnie Langford was a big name. As a former child star viewed as being a bit overly precious she was not, strictly speaking, a well loved name, but it was attention getting casting.

On top of that, she actually turned out to be quite good. She was never given very much to work with, saddled continually with scripts that condescended to her character. The oft-told story that she was instructed to scream at a particular pitch so as to lead into the theme music better for the cliffhanger at the end of her first episode is instructive. On the one hand, there's a real and charming level of professionalism in that, and the effect is about the only good part of that cliffhanger. On the other hand, it seems to have been all the production team thought Langford capable of.

But as poor as much of the writing for Mel is (and it does improve considerably when it's not the Bakers writing for her), the larger problem is that she's a companion with a strangely swallowed origin. John Nathan-Turner quasi-famously wrote an origin story for her in his book on the Companions that had her teaming up with the Doctor to stop the Master from an audacious computer hacking attack on the world's banks, which, let's be honest, probably would have been terrible. But it's still preferable to what we got.

There are people who act as though the Mel chronology is easily resolved. It's true that there is a fairly entrenched bit of fanon that explains it all based around Mel being pulled from a moment where the Doctor has left her on vacation, but the idea that this fits well with what's on screen is tenuous at best. The core problem comes from another thing well deal with in a moment, which is that Terror of the Vervoids is ostensibly a future story of the Doctor, so Mel is introduced as already traveling with the Doctor. Then, in The Ultimate Foe, she's brought to the trial.

But look at her dialogue in The Ultimate Foe. She asks the Doctor what he's been up to. The implication is that she hasn't seen him in a while - i.e. that she's brought from a time after she's already left the Doctor. Two major problems with this exist, of course - she doesn't recognize Glitz and she doesn't think anything of the fact that the Doctor isn't Sylvester McCoy. Then, when she and the Doctor depart at the end of The Ultimate Foe the clear implication is that they're resuming their travels together - note that Mel is putting the Doctor back on his exercise routine, and the Doctor acts weary about the constant barrage of carrot juice. Everything about that final scene is keyed to look like the Doctor and Mel resuming a standard course of adventuring - not like the Doctor is going to return Mel to where she got plucked out of time so she can meet up with a later version of him.

Put another way, it's clear that the show doesn't care a jot about cleaning up Mel's origins. They're left to be utterly incoherent, and this seems, if not deliberate, at least acknowledged. But more to the point, any interpretation of how Mel meets up with the Doctor - especially if we take The Companions as part of her story (and much of fandom does, for some reason. Though to be fair, I have an enormous emotional attachment to the book - the fact that someone randomly gave it to me as a gift is what prompted me to start watching the show, since I had no reference point whatsoever for what the heck the book was) - is going to jar with something. We can reconcile the basic facts, but there's no way to reconcile the larger story.


Part 2: Fucking Valeyards, How Do They Work?

Yes, at long last, it's time to deal with the Valeyard. Considerable effort has been made to explain the Valeyard in various media, and we'll deal with a major chunk of them in the next run of entries, but those in many ways have an ambiguous relationship with the actual story. Speaking strictly in terms of what we see on screen, then, what sense can we make of this character?

First and foremost, it is telling that Robert Holmes clearly writes the Valeyard's obsession with law and order in the Trial itself as an actual trait of the character and not as an act. As previously noted, the fact that Popplewick goes on at such length about the importance of rules and bureaucracy makes it clear that the Valeyard is a creature of rules. And this is so utterly consistent with Robert Holmes's larger ethos as to be, if not impossible to ignore, at least flagrantly unwise to ignore.

The larger arc of Robert Holmes's career also implies an answer to the obvious question of how, exactly, the Valeyard is supposed to work in terms of the Doctor's life and how regeneration works. That answer, of course, is "shut up, fanboy." And really, fair enough. There's not a lot about regeneration that's clear enough to make any explanation of the logistics clear. Except… the claim is that the Valeyard exists somewhere between the Doctor's twelfth and final incarnation.

Let's pause and consider for a moment. The Valeyard exists right at the point where Robert Holmes idly cancelled the series back in 1976. In a story that openly begs to be read as a discussion of the series' potential cancellation. From a writer who last season was loudly and openly denouncing the direction of the show in his script, with particular venom saved for continuity obsessives. And the evil side of the Doctor is shown to be defined primarily by an obsession with rules and law.

This all fits together too perfectly to ignore. The Valeyard is the desire to follow the rules of the series to the point of the series' own destruction. Coming from a point where the series is, in fact, necessarily doomed he proposes to rewrite the remainder of the series so as to lead to that point. This makes far more sense than the alternative - that the Valeyard is seeking to extend his life - since presumably transferring regenerations from one's past into one's future would be difficult. It's far more likely, I should think, that the Valeyard is seeking to secure the inevitability of his existence - to force the Doctor to become the creature of laws that he is. And his defeat constitutes a rejection of that logic.

But it's also worth paralleling this story with The Deadly Assassin, especially given how much The Ultimate Foe overtly mirrors that story. The Valeyard serves as the reunification of the renegade with the rules. He is the Doctor, but he is the Doctor in a way that has completely reintegrated himself with the structures of authority. His primary concern is the rules. This even manages to carry through to the Bakers' script through the absurd line about the catharsis of spurious morality. The choice of the word spurious is interesting, implying as it does an unnecessary or disingenuous morality that ought not be taken seriously. This is a contrast from the "your evil is my good" routine of, say, Sutekh or the Black Guardian. To the Valeyard, good and evil are wholly extraneous. There is only authority.

What the Valeyard threatens, in other words, is authority freed from concern for any morality. The law as something that exists entirely for its own sake, as an end in itself. Within Doctor Who terms this is, indeed, the ultimate foe - something sufficiently terrifying that even the Master would turn away from it. The only question, then, is how we could possibly say that this constitutes the evil portion of the Doctor.

Comments

Lewis Christian 4 years, 10 months ago

My 'Mel' Comment:


"Put another way, it's clear that the show doesn't care a jot about cleaning up Mel's origins."

To be fair, JNT planned a story to clear it up. But with no Colin, he decided to just leave it. In any case, I quite like the 'timey-wimey' aspect of Mel. Maybe she's just a huge paradoxical companion. She could be, if you're a hardcore nerdy fanwanky fan, she could be an incarnation of River Song.

Seriously. It could fit.

But silliness aside, she's got a timey-wimey chronology that Moffat would be proud of, even if Mel's timey-wimey was unintentional.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 10 months ago

My 'Valeyard' comment:

"Except… the claim is that the Valeyard exists somewhere between the Doctor's twelfth and final incarnation."

At the time, this was probably meant to mean "between regenerations" (a Watcher-type). But, with hindsight, now that the limit will be banished somehow, it could mean something very different. The Valeyard might not be an amalgamation of the Doctor's dark side between regenerations... he might actually be one of the Doctor's incarnations. It wouldn't be too hard to believe the Master's either being vague or to think he's just got it slightly wrong.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 10 months ago

My 'Time Lord' comment:

"I mean, seriously, mind transference is now a threat that requires drastic intervention? This is utterly unconvincing."

I have to agree. Though it isn't much of a stretch to call this an Adelaide Moment. In that, it's a smallish point in time... which has a domino effect that affects more and more of time and space. A 'fixed' point, as it were, and so the Time Lords must act because it's not meant to happen this way.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 10 months ago

My 'Mad Theory' comment:

Of course, due to the whole madness of the Trial... some fans I know have theorised that the whole Trial is a sham. Notice that the Time Lord trial takes place away from Gallifrey. It's on a spaceship or space-station. It's never revealed why. It could easily just be a huge hoax created by the Valeyard to trap the Doctor. It's elaborate, sure, but then so are many Doctor Who traps.

There's a theory that the Doctor was taken out of time in 'Mindwarp' and taken into the Matrix (which makes things more confusing, but accounts for the continuity goofs and inconsistencies), and that his exit from the Trial/Matrix is what causes regeneration.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 10 months ago

Of course, the weirdest part of this segment is the fact we see the Doctor's future... apparently.

So the Doctor is on trial and gets to use his future as evidence. Meaning he gets some time to view various potential/proper futures. Meaning he gets to see the outcome of the trial. And then he picks one which shows genocide. And then the charge against him just changes willy-nilly. What?

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Iain Coleman 4 years, 10 months ago

I actually quite admire the audacity of it. Right, here's the new Doctor Who girl, yes, it's fucking Bonnie Langford, no, we're not going to do a whole story about how she meets the Doctor and blah blah blah. Get on with it.

After all, it you'd happened to have missed Terror of the Autons, The Time Warrior or Planet of Fire, would you have any trouble working out who this young woman hanging around with the Doctor was, or what her role was in the narrative? Of course not. So they just effectively pretend there was an introduction story that everyone missed, and just carry on as usual.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 10 months ago

Not only that, but the fact there isn't a proper introduction leaves the gap wide open for more Colin stories in between which is nice too. But yeah. It's quite bold that they decided to just get straight on with it.

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Iain Coleman 4 years, 10 months ago

Ah, Mel...

The funny thing is, with Mel they fundamentally cracked how to solve the Problem of Peri. Unfortunately, they did it too late, and saddled her with Pip'n'Jane's fruitiest dialogue ever. Langford isn't at all bad, but her natural perkiness plays to the dialogue, enhancing its absurdity like panto MSG, rather than against it, which might have made it just about work.

However, look beyond that and we see a companion character that works in all the ways Peri didn't. The basic problem of Peri is that she didn't want to be there. Her reaction to danger was to want to get away, and not until her last story did she exhibit any real interest in saving oppressed populations, fighting evil and all that. Perfectly sensible, but a real drag on the narrative, as well as bringing out the worst in Baker's Doctor.

On the latter point, the fact that she seemed to be on the Tardis against her will just made the Doctor seem all the more bullying and abusive. On the former, her reluctance to get involved voluntarily meant the bad guys had to drag her into their schemes whether she liked it or not, which ended up with many of them wanting Peri's body for some reason or other. A nasty and troubling combination.

Mel is quite different. Her enthusiasm at getting stuck in to solving mysteries means she will naturally get entangled with the villains, and they will put her in peril for the very rational reason that she is a real threat to their plans. We don't need to postulate that every second criminal mastermind in the Galaxy has a penchant for redheads with tight bums. At the same time, her exuberant, go-getting nature allows Baker to play the Doctor rather differently - more thoughtful and more sympathetic. He even threatens to develop the charm that I criticised him in the last comments thread for lacking.

So they get the right companion for Baker in his penultimate story. How much difference might it have made if they had solved this problem earlier?

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Henry R. Kujawa 4 years, 10 months ago

Philip Sandifer:
"The notion of restoring a post-apocalyptic Earth is a reworking of The Ark in Space."

I've always seen it as a sequel-- and "explanantion"-- of "THE SONTORAN EXPERIMENT". 12 years later, we find out WHY and HOW Earth was destroyed. Who'da guessed?



"The first piece of concrete influence Levine had on the series was back in State of Decay, where he got the name of the ship changed from Hyperion to Hydrax on the grounds that the Hyperion had already been used back in 1972 for The Mutants. So the act of using the name again in the story that supposedly drove Ian Levine away seems almost a deliberate provocation, or, more charitably, a conscious break with Levine's particular relationship with the past."

"Hyperion 3", but who's counting? (ZING!)



"They failed, as I think even Holmes knew they would."

And yet, Holmes still supplied the best writing the show had seen since... oh, Tom Baker. Hard to fault that.



"preventing the Doctor from stopping Crozier while simultaneously blaming him for it"

For some reason the Republican Party comes to mind right here.



"seriously, mind transference is now a threat that requires drastic intervention?"

I wondered that myself. I mean, sure, it's SICK, it's perverted, it's wrong on so many counts. But then, anyone who's ever seen "FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED" would already now that. When poor Freddie Jones wakes up and looks in the mirror and is horrified to learn that his brain has been physically cut out of his own body and planted inside someone else's-- who was clearely murdered so this could happen-- and it's based, in part, on his own research, which The Baron wants to get ahold of, for the rest of the film, all he can think of is getting revenge by killing Peter Cushing (who is decidedly NOT playing "Doctor Who" in this film). As an aside, it was quite a revelation when I realized the 2 actors had a reunion of sorts, both on opposite sides of the moral fence, in "THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA".



"John Nathan-Turner quasi-famously wrote an origin story for her in his book on the Companions that had her teaming up with the Doctor to stop the Master from an audacious computer hacking attack on the world's banks, which, let's be honest, probably would have been terrible. But it's still preferable to what we got."

I was stunned when I read that some years ago, because (believe it or not), I'd come up with something vaguely similar years before I read it. The difference being, my story would have been set between Seasons 22-23, so Colin woiuld be travelling with Peri, and Mel would be like a onbe-off supporting character. So he'd have met her BEFORE The Trial. In fact, this would "explain" the insanity of her "joining" him when he left The Trial! (Yes, it could have been easily resolved.) My idea had The Master putting up an Earth gangster (Ian Ogilvy) to pull off some wild scheme while he was off elsewhere, conspiuring with Glitz to steal the Time Lord secrets (so, see, it would all tie in directly with The Trial).

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Iain Coleman 4 years, 10 months ago

This story really highlights the Problem of Saward.

If you took away the annoying and intrusive Trial scenes, and rewrote the dialogue into some approximation of actual human speech, this would be a pretty decent story. An entertaining, well-paced murder mystery in space only really let down by some unfortunate monster design and some absurdities in the villain's scheme - nothing we can't forgive in many other Doctor Who stories.

We can lay the blame for the Trial framing at JNT's door if you like, though Saward is surely an accomplice, but the dialogue is the far worse sin. Fortunately, it's the easiest thing about this story to fix. The scenes are perfectly well structured, the action can stay unchanged. It is literally just a matter of a script editor taking a day or so to go through the scripts and translate the dialogue from Pip'n'Jane into contemporary English. this is nothing compared to the rewriting challenges overcome by other Who script editors. The difference is, Eric Saward couldn't be bothered.

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Henry R. Kujawa 4 years, 10 months ago

Philip Sandifer:
"It's far more likely, I should think, that the Valeyard is seeking to secure the inevitability of his existence - to force the Doctor to become the creature of laws that he is."

Interesting. Jim Starlin did this in "WARLOCK", with his story of The Magus, and Adam Warlock had to commit suicide (by going into his own future and killing his future self) to prevent that farhrt along evil future from ever happening.

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Henry R. Kujawa 4 years, 10 months ago

Almost forgot... to save repeating myself, here's my IMDB review of this story... enjoy!
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0562884/reviews

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Adam Riggio 4 years, 10 months ago

The only real problem with this being an Adelaide Brooke moment is that this wasn't in Doctor Who's conceptual arsenal at the time. Russell T Davies developed it. That's fine if you want to play with some Whoniverse style explanations of weird parts of the show, where you can use future developments to make sense of past events (as the Valeyard would, rewriting the past). But if you want to understand the show as a historical process, you have to consider only what was available to the production team at the time.

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Carey 4 years, 10 months ago

@ Iain Coleman: Wasn't Terror of the Vervoids completed after (but commissioned before) Saward left?

Or are the references to the Trial segments directed at those throughout all 12 episodes up until that point?

@ Everyone else:

Ah, Trial of a Time Lord: the only piece of Doctor Who I find impossible to rewatch and one that I find the nadir of all Doctor Who. It is creatively bankrupt in all ways, and a mistake from part to finish. It is as though the creation of a tv series has been given to those who have never seen any before, and are trying to create something from a spoken account of the best parts of what constitutes a Doctor Who story: "Well, the hero is a curly haired guy with a bad taste in clothing who fights authority, especially that of his own people; and travels with companions who scream a lot, and occasionally die (especially in really long stories); and does mystery stories featuring aliens instead of humans; and features virtual reality.

Ah, Trial of a Time Lord: a story that features a dystopian future written as though nobody has ever seen a dystopian future before; an Agatha Christie mystery written as though nobody had ever seen an Agatha Christie story before; and a trial written as though nobody had ever seen a trial before.

Ah, Trial of a TimeLord: a fourteen part story whose only redeeming feature is a special effects shot in its first couple of minutes.

Actually, and I imagine Phil will pick up on this, there is actually another redeeming feature from this this fourteen part monstrosity: for some strange reason it succeeded in someones eyes to commission another season. God knows what they saw in this mess to do so though.

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Iain Coleman 4 years, 10 months ago

Well, it's all a bit of a mess, but here's what Shannon Sullivan has to say about it:

"Saward was no more impressed with The Vervoids than he had been with previous efforts for the slot, and in mid-April left Doctor Who (although at this point he had not formally resigned). Even after Saward agreed to return to finish off the final two episodes of the season, he indicated that he was not interested in script-editing the Bakers' story, and so Nathan-Turner assumed Saward's responsibilities in this regard;"

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Tom Watts 4 years, 10 months ago

I don't mind Pip & Jane, and I'm not sure why they get so much flack. They produce mostly fun scripts, and I've never personally winced at their dialogue. Maybe it's just me. But a show without Mark & Time of/and the Rani would be a poorer place. I think Phil's been too generous to the script of Mysterious Planet, which comes across to me as if somebody's caused a literary sensation by turning up an undiscovered "Robert Holmes script". If I was the professor called in by the Sunday Times I'd pronounce it an obvious forgery. All its Holmesian qualities feel ersatz to me, and if Saward had been a remotely competent script editor, he wouldn't have needed to be told how to amend it by Jonathan Powell.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 10 months ago

More love for Pip & Jane Baker from me!

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Adam Riggio 4 years, 10 months ago

I should speak up for the perspective that Pip and Jane Baker are generally shitty. Yes, the stories are fun, silly romps. But when your standard for fun, outlandish romps are set with The Romans, Carnival of Monsters, and City of Death, it's impossible to defend Pip and Jane.

I think Phil was absolutely right in his Vervoids segment from Trial post one. And it was one of his most insightful recent moments on a continually enlightening blog. Pip and Jane write outlandish, silly adventures where all the villains are cartoons, people speak in an overly-artificial pantomime verbosity, and no character has anything like a complex or even slightly rounded motivation. They write Doctor Who as the most atrociously over the top panto theatre.

And that would be fine if it weren't for that one thing Jane Baker inadvertently revealed in the panel with the young Chris Chibnall in the Trial DVD extras: She and Pip never believed Doctor Who could be anything more than over the top panto theatre.

I'm pretty much repeating Phil here, but it should be said again. Doctor Who does outlandish adventure, yes. But it openly engages with complex moral and philosophical ideas, integrating nuanced subtexts and deep knowledge of the history of film, television, and literature into adventure stories that, at their best, are among the pinnacle of the form. The fact that this blog, the Doctor Who and Philosophy volume, and all the intelligent conversations about the show, its production, and its ideas all exist shows how great Doctor Who can be.

Pip and Jane Baker believe Doctor Who to be worthless, and write it that way. I will certainly never defend them.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 10 months ago

it's a giant penis and a giant vagina at the same time.

Have you seen Prometheus yet?

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BerserkRL 4 years, 10 months ago

authority freed from concern for any authority

Is that the phrase you meant to write? It baffles me a bit.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 10 months ago

she could be an incarnation of River Song

Oh my god. So that's what River meant when she said "I'm quite the screamer." It wasn't a flirtation, it was the direst of warnings.

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Adam Riggio 4 years, 10 months ago

Here's how I read it.

"Concern for any authority" = A critical attitude toward the authorities in your life. You may accept the legitimacy of authority, but if you're properly concerned with whether that authority is legitimate, then you'll care deeply about whether that authority lives up to its obligations to its people, or even makes obligations.

So an authority freed from concern about itself is an authority that believes there to be no need to justify itself other than through its existence. You obey the law not because it serves some larger purpose of justice or aids in the organization of your society. You obey the law because it's the law. And you obey the Valeyard because he is the law. That's what the Valeyard is all about.

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Henry R. Kujawa 4 years, 10 months ago

Adam Riggio:
"you obey the Valeyard because he is the law."

There's a certain editor I've described the following way...
"BECAUSE I SAID SO, DAMMIT!!!" :D

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Warren Andrews 4 years, 10 months ago

Pip and Jane Baker are strange writers (apparently they were on the board of the Writers Guild), their scripts come over like a technical exercise. There's no real heart to their work, it's all functional. It's all very condescending work. The audience are obviously incredibly thick and need educating.

Yet I find that their worst script is the only one that was actually developed alongside a script editor. Mark of the Rani is their weakest as it goes nowhere. Yet all their other stories have plots.

Trial was already a mess so I admire them for being put in the awful situation of having to cobble together a closing episode. They're perfect writers for an emergency which three of their scripts were essentially. If only someone else could have rewritten the dialogue.

Interestingly they repaint Colin's Doctor as "more a clown really" but they do actually use him fairly positively. One of the best things to come out of Dilemma (yes there were) was the Sixth Doctor's investigative powers, he's more proactive again than he's been allowed to be for ages. They do write him as the but of a joke a few times (which I'm sure came from their own relationship with Colin as Pip can be very playful towards him on commentaries).

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Warren Andrews 4 years, 10 months ago

Poor Bonnie Langford was treated so badly by the production team. She could have proved to .. the world that she wasn't the "I'll scream and scream until I'm sick" little girl from Just William anymore. They as good as endorsed the image. She wasn't given any direction from you know the directors (Ken Dodd talks about how insecure he felt as no one told him what they wanted).

Mel is used in a very positive way in this story. She's always painted as the screamer and yes you can't miss the scream but she's no shrinking.. violet:), she's very gungho and throws herself into danger.

I agree that she brings out a better side to Colin's Doctor. She might be small but she's not going to take his nonsense.

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Henry R. Kujawa 4 years, 10 months ago

So-- anybody besides me seen CAPTAIN NEMO AND THE UNDERWATER CITY or (heh heh) GOLDEN RENDEZVOUS ? (One was written by Pip & Jane; the other was plagiarized by them!)

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Alan 4 years, 10 months ago

But look at her dialogue in The Ultimate Foe. She asks the Doctor what he's been up to. The implication is that she hasn't seen him in a while - i.e. that she's brought from a time after she's already left the Doctor. Two major problems with this exist, of course - she doesn't recognize Glitz and she doesn't think anything of the fact that the Doctor isn't Sylvester McCoy.

It is plausible, I suppose that at some point in their travels, Seven told Mel that at some point soon she would be transported back in time to meet the Sixth Doctor at a time before the initially started traveling together, and since that obviously happened before "Dragonfire," she would have (a) not been surprised to see Colin instead of Sylvester and (b) would not yet have known Glitz. That's fanwanking, of course, but it also displays more thought than the production staff put into things.

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 10 months ago

Certainly sounds like them to rip off an old script, especially considering how quickly they had to write it...

Still completely nonsensical, though, that they went through four different writers for that block, two of whom were PJ Hammond and Chris Bidmead, before deciding to go with the Bakers.

Just... why, JNT?

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 10 months ago

So, the Valeyard's Judge Dredd, then?

"Ah emm... deh LAUHHH!!!"

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 10 months ago

Haha! :D

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Iain Coleman 4 years, 10 months ago

It was Saward who rejected the Bidmead script, and the earlier scripts by Story and Halliwell. JNT rejected the Hammond script.

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Gavin 4 years, 10 months ago

Confining oneself to what was known at the time - at this point in the series it's a bit late to start worrying about the Time Lords' implausible and inconsistent standards of what's worth caring about enough to intervene.

This problem (if it is a problem - I don't really think that it is) extends back at least as far as The Mutants. For my money, the only old series story really to address this in a clear and convincing way is Genesis of the Daleks (which is part of why Dr. Sandifer's reading of the ending seems to me a bit forced and one-sided).

The new series' introduction of "fixed points" in The Fires of Pompeii is artful in how it tides all this up, but it (smartly, IMO) doesn't change anything fundamental. What's successful about fixed points isn't so much the central idea itself, but the way in which the script simply asserts that some things just are fixed, and the only way to tell is a magical Time Lord sense that just allows them to know.

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Henry R. Kujawa 4 years, 10 months ago

TERROR OF THE VERVOIDS remains my favorite Pip & Jane story by a wide margin. It still flips me out when I recall sitting down to watch that Alistair Maclean film (with Richard Harris-- can you imagine him as The Doctor?) and 15 minutes in realiaing, "Wait a minute-- I've seen this before-- and on DOCTOR WHO!" The show has a long history of "borrowing" plots from elserwhere and doing "WHO" versions of them. It just got me that everyone, including Pip & Jane, kept insisting this was an "Agatha Christie", when it was really (or also) a Maclean. I guess this "explains" why VERVOIDS had the best plot-- they already had one going in.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

Adam's interpretation is certainly consistent with my meaning, though I couldn't honestly tell you if I'd meant to phrase it differently when writing it.

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Warren Andrews 4 years, 10 months ago

Pip and Jane try to fix it in the novelisation by having the Doctor drop her off to another police box and that one goes off to Lakertya.

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Warren Andrews 4 years, 10 months ago

Re. PJ Hammond's script, I enjoyed the BF audio adaptation (shame they didn't do it with Mel though) but I can't see the BBC having done the Cherubs in any way other than really embarrassingly.

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 10 months ago

I still would've been interested to see Pinacotheca, especially as Bidmead's scripts had all been so good, before...

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 10 months ago

But "spurious morality" does not mean a surfeit of it; spurious means "false". Therefore, the Valeyard (in the Bakers' version, at least) wants to get rid of false morals; i.e., the corruption present in the Time Lords.

I'm sorry, but I have no idea where you get "excess morality" from; the line's overwrought, but it's not THAT incomprehensible. :-/

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

Matthew - That was infelicitous. I've rephrased both that and the authority line to be clearer.

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 10 months ago

My apologies, then. :-)

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Alex Wilcock 4 years, 10 months ago

The Hyperion / Hyperion idea is an incredibly fitting one, but I’m not so sure it’s deliberate – more like serendipity, as it doesn’t seem distinctive enough to be a poke in the eye (with the sixth anniversary of Love and Monsters coming up on Sunday, if you want to find bitchy asides about Levene…). After all, didn’t JNT famously have no interest in scripts, and this was an obscure script nugget from two script editors ago? If it had been in Pinacotheca…

One of the things I love about The Mysterious Planet – yes, there are such things – is that amid all the Bob Holmes megamix, as well as mashing up The Ark and Space and The Sontaran Experiment (among the first stories I ever saw, going straight to my heart), he doesn’t just “graft on” The Krotons, but turns it inside-out and then deepens it, making it much more interesting. But I’ll continue to drift backwards to your first Trial post for that…

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Nicholas Tosoni 3 years, 9 months ago

Regarding Dr. Crozier's experiments in "Mindwarp:"

What he's doing is fairly small-scale; the problem is, ''the Time Lords don't like what he's doing''. "Doctor Who Magazine" once recast them as the show's own Olympian Gods.

Here's the only thing you need to know: If you're doing something that makes the Olympians unhappy, they will strike you down however they see fit.

Crozier's brain-transplants/mind transferences are effectively a form of regeneration; he is therefore horning in on the Time Lords' cushy monopoly.

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Andrew Bowman 2 years, 11 months ago

With regards to the "where did Mel come from?" conundrum: as mentioned above, the idea that she had aventures with the Doctor prior to Trial works if we allow that "time can be rewritten". Yes, it's using future plot-threads to explain it, but surely time can always be rewritten, not just in the last few years. The Time Lords took Mel out of time, some time after Vervoids, wiped her memory, placed her in the Trial and then ensured that this was when Mel joined the Doctor. They then had the Vervoids adventure, the Time Lords allowing Mel to remain where she was this time, a few more adventure ensue, and then the Doctor regenerates. Tb be honest, I've always harboured that theory even prior to 2005, so it's not "inspired" so much. Fanwank too far, perhaps?

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