Order in Court
Here’s my Timelash II stuff for ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’. Some extra bits and some rejigging here and there.
‘The Mysterious Planet’
Bob Holmes redoes ‘The Krotons’… which looks more acceptable now that we have a showrunner and head writer who, essentially, just does the same story again and again and again.
The production design comes to a high standard but belongs in a different story. It’s clear that Marb Station is supposed to be dark but it gleams with light. Holmes has the underground dwellers talk about “the train”, which is clearly supposed to be something that runs on the old underground rails, etc. Everything looks good but nothing looks right. The Tribe of the Free look like peasants in an authentic peasant village… but they should look like something out of Mad Max, with loads of decaying, retro-fitted, malfunctioning technology that they don’t understand and use for things like propping open doors. We need salvagepunk but we get re-enactment kitsch. As Richard Pilbeam put it: “It’s like doing ‘Talons’ in the style of a Quality St. ad”. Glitz and Dibber look… um, interesting… but they look as much like mercenary wideboys as Colonel Gaddafi looks like the lead singer of a boy band. The space station at the start is spectacular… but it hardly goes with the idea that the Doctor has been “taken out of time”. He should end up in a surreal nowhereplace, and the court room should look like Gallifreyan gothic or a grotty 19th century courtroom of the type that Mr Jaggers would’ve appeared in. The whole trial should take place in the Matrix, or something like it.
The story itself is a perfectly functional and occasionally witty riff on order vs chaos, with Drathro vs Katryca as the personifications… but, interestingly, they’re not polar opposites in a dichotomy because neither are quite what they seem. Drathro’s underground survival camp is absurd, perpetuated because he blindly follows orders. The society of the underground dwellers is built on the worship of texts whose original context and message is lost, on unnecessary rationing of water and on the ‘culling’, i.e. the ruthless and needless control of population numbers. Katryca, meanwhile, is a tyrant who rules idiotically over people she fatuously calls “the tribe of the free”. She’s a matriarch that rules a society which treats women as a social resource. So, it isn’t that Drathro is nasty old Order and Katryca is nice free Chaos… it’s that all rulers are useless and all social pyramids are nonsensical and backward. As I’ve said elsewhere, whether he knew it or not, Bob was an instinctive radical.
There are some great lines, some mythic resonances, an awareness of text and literature, and the script has plenty to say about the false opposition between ‘advanced’ and ‘primitive’, about social control through the control of resources and surplus, about hierarchy which becomes a false ideology of order hiding a reality of arbitrary, hidebound or chaotic rule. This order vs chaos theme will be picked up again and again in this season…
One thing: somebody really needed to question why the Valeyard would enter into evidence the scene where Glitz and Dibber discuss the details of the Time Lords’ plot, even with some words bleeped out.…