Terror of the Vervoids (Trial of a Time Lord, parts 9-12)

Doctor WhoThe Doctor finally gets his chance to present his defense in his trial. He presents an adventure from his own future, in which he and new companion Melanie are summoned to a posh space luxury liner by an anonymous distress call. While the ship’s captain – who has met the Doctor on a previous occasion – and the incompetent chief of security initially regard the Doctor and Mel as stowaways, they find themselves with other problems when murders begin to occur aboard the ship, and three scientists are being very secretive about their hydroponics experiment in the ship’s cargo deck. As more passengers die mysteriously, the ship’s captain asks the Doctor to help – but, according to the evidence, the Doctor isn’t really all that helpful…which isn’t how he remembers the story.

Order the DVDwritten by Pip Baker & Jane Baker
directed by Chris Clough
music by Malcolm Clarke

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Bonnie Langford (Melanie), Michael Jayston (The Valeyard), Lynda Bellingham (Inquisitor), Honor Blackman (Professor Lasky), Michael Craig (Commodore Travers), Denys Hawthorne (Rudge), Yolande Palfrey (Janet), Tony Scoggo (Enzu/Grenville), Malcolm Tierney (Doland), David Allister (Bruchner), Arthur Hewlett (Kimber), Simon Slaters (Edwardes), Barbara Ward (Mutant), Sam Howard (Atza), Leon Davis (Ortezo), Hugh Beverton (Guard), Mike Mungarvan (Duty Officer), Peppi Borza (First Vervoid), Bob Appleby (Second Vervoid), Barbara Ward (Ruth Baxter)

Broadcast from November 1 through 22, 1986

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: Though it’s a very paint-by-numbers, Agatha Christie-ish story, that actually helps this segment of The Trial Of A Time Lord – it’s the least convoluted of the four shows that comprised the entire season! For once, things are made interesting by the obvious tampering with the story as the Doctor remembers it, though it’s baffling to think that he would be allowed to preview his own future. There’s also a far-too-obvious hint planted for the audience that practically screams “THE VALEYARD DID IT!” in ten-foot-tall neon letters. I think by this point in the trial storyline, the audience had already grasped, or at the very least guessed, this turn of events.

The biggest downer for this story is the latter half, in which an almost funny succession of murderers and plotters is exposed every few minutes. It almost seems that the only innocent people on board the liner were the captain and the stewardess! One or two killers would’ve been fine, but the entire hydroponics team is corrupt, the security officer has sold out, the alien passengers are trying to hijack the ship…it goes on and on, to the point where each additional unveiling of a new villain has the unintentional effect of being comical. (It’s also worth noting that the scripts for this story went into production without much adjustment from script editor Eric Saward, who walked off the job over disagreements about the show’s direction with producer John Nathan-Turner.)

Much-maligned companion Melanie is given a strange introduction – meaning no introduction at all, really, since she’s already traveling with the Doctor in his own future. And that part of the show still bothers me – how many of his own future escapades did the Doctor witness while searching for evidence in his defense? Does he carry that knowledge with him when he leaves the trial?