Friday, 14 June 2013

The Trial Of A Time Lord 13: The Ultimate Foe, Part One


Originally Broadcast 29th November 1986

Written by: Robert Holmes

In a nutshell: The Doctor insists the Matrix has been tampered with when the Master turns up with Mel and Glitz. Plus the secret of the Valeyard is revealed…

Review: And we’re back to name-calling with the Valeyard being labelled the Railyard by the Doctor. I thought we were past that. And we’ve even got to reuse that opening shot (you know, the expensive one!). It seems a bit silly to have just Glitz and Mel show up to help defend the Doctor and then the Master turns up with a rather panto reaction from Colin Baker. It’s all feeling a bit silly and overcrowded now.

There’s some great speeches and revelations but what’s going on with the Master? He’s acting all high and might, like he’s more powerful than the Time Lords. I know this is his manner, but everyone else is acting it as well. But then we find out the Valeyard is the Doctor!?! That came a bit out of the blue, didn’t it? It’s a great twist but there’s something about the air in this episode that just feels lesser than it should be. I’m trying hard to love it, but the big reveals are coming off feeling a bit weak and the acting and writing isn’t even up to par in comparison to the rest of the series. Also, how are viewers expected to remember stuff from the first serial in September when it’s now nearly December?

I like the ideas behind the Matrix but the budget fails from making it a strong reality onscreen. The harpoon that stabs Glitz is pretty laughable but the use of The Fantasy Factory is pretty good and effective as is the use of lighting (or lack of it). But back in the trial room there’s a great line when Mel says how evil it is and the Master simply smiles and thanks her. Ainley is easily my least favourite Master (bar Eric Roberts) but he still has a certain charm and he certainly isn’t miscast as the Master and its reasons like this that make him such a great and memorable character.

What's the betting one of those hands is Michael Grades?
The most effective and best realised part of this episode comes from the two Mr. Popplewicks (both played by Geoffrey Hughes) being in the two rooms adjacent to each other at the same time. The directing and editing comes into its element and Hughes really does play a wonderful character with relish. This episode really does start to move forward as we reach the cliffhanger leaving me thinking it was a brilliant twenty-five minutes.

When the Doctor enters the ‘waiting room’, what would have made the scene better is a visible door on the beach to show where we’d just come from. The effect on the ending was amazing as well and I think it’s safe to say is one of the most memorable ‘stunts’ from the Colin Baker era of the show.

I’m really not sure what I think of this episode, it’s been really strong in terms of where we are story-wise compared to when we opened the episode but I don’t actually think it was that strong, yet I’ve come away satisfied and enjoying the episode.

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