Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Trial Of A Time Lord 10: Terror Of The Vervoids, Part Two


Originally Broadcast 8th November 1986

Written by: Pip & Jane Baker

In a nutshell: When the Doctor discovers an undercover investigator has been murdered, the plot thickens. And then there’s another death…

Review: We’ve hit double digits in this, the longest ever story for Doctor Who! I didn’t mention it in the last entry, but the cliffhanger was actually really brilliant, wasn’t it? Explosions everywhere! Maybe it’s the child in me or the fact I’m male but explosions just make everything so much more impressive. We also get a classic point-of-view from that of the monster. In fact, a lot of elements in this story spark classic, almost as if we’re being comforted that this is the show we know and love after the tragic events of Mindwarp. We have a classic cliffhanger, a classic whodunit, a screaming companion, our heroes being accused of murder. Everything here is echoing the late 1960s and 1970s, stories like Frontier In Space. And if that isn’t enough we also have mysterious open pods and the Doctor being labelled a thief.

Pip & Jane Baker have been described in the past by Eric Saward, amongst others, as a ‘safe pair of hands’ and I think that’s just what we need in the middle of this epic to keep the momentum going. The story isn’t gripping or exciting but it is keeping my interest. It’s not dull or boring yet isn’t the greatest thing ever written, it just sits in the middle getting forgotten about by being ‘nothing special’. We’ve had Robert Holmes’ outdoor-based opener, Philip Martin’s dark, gritty and drawn out Mindwarp and now we have a classic space opera that we expect from Doctor Who. All three stories have been chosen well by Eric Saward and I don’t know why Trial isn’t favoured more than it is as we fit in all types of Who stories in one place. Perhaps if we didn’t have the linking trial intertwined with the plot and each story was labelled as their own tales rather than under one heading they’d be more memorable or rated by fans. I certainly think they’d get a bit more recognition for their individual merits.

Look at the fat protuberances on that alien!
One thing that’s niggling me is the Doctor. He’s chosen this story from his future to represent his defence and somehow can say all the right things. He doesn’t get involved one-hundred per cent until halfway through this episode and then tells Mel she can stay behind, he warns her of danger prior to her being in danger too. These lines of dialogue strike me as things he doesn’t usually say in other stories so it feels like he only does so here as an excuse to give the Doctor more evidence in his trial. Another bad point is the monsters trying to turn a shower knob. It’s laughable as we see green clad fingers wrestling with the dial through his suit in a non-alien manner.

Reaching the cliffhanger, it’s nothing really special and it’s sadly got another Bonnie scream stuck onto it with a less-than dramatic ‘zoom in on the Doctor’ as half his face is covered with a gas mask. This is enjoyable enough classic Who but that doesn’t make it excellent, merely reliable.

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