Doctor WhoThe Doctor is still on trial for his life, facing a new charge – genocide – levelled at him by the prosecuting Valeyard. The Doctor counters that the Valeyard has tampered with the evidence through the immense Gallifreyan information storage system known as the Matrix – but a Time Lord whose job is to tend the Matrix refutes this charge. Then, mysterious things begin happening. Two friendly witnesses arrive in the form of criminal Sabalon Glitz and future companion Melanie – with whom the Doctor has yet to travel at this point in his history. And then the Master appears from within the Matrix, admitting to providing these witnesses as part of his plan to help the Doctor and topple the High Council of the Time Lords at the same time. The Master also reveals that the Valeyard is, in fact, a future incarnation of the Doctor – a future incarnation gone mad and turned to evil. With this revelation the Doctor and the Valeyard plunge into the Matrix, aided and abetted by Glitz, Mel, and the Master, ready to fight the most dangerous battle between good and evil that any Time Lord has ever fought, where his mortal adversary is himself.

Order the DVDpart 13 written by Robert Holmes
part 14 written by Pip Baker & Jane Baker
directed by Chris Clough
music by Dominic Glynn

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Bonnie Langford (Melanie), Michael Jayston (The Valeyard), Lynda Bellingham (Inquisitor), Anthony Ainley (The Master), Tony Selby (Glitz), Geoffrey Hughes (Mr. Popplewick), James Bree (Keeper of the Matrix)

Broadcast from November 29 through December 6, 1986

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: You know, I look up at that paragraph and it looks good in my text editor. It looks exciting. Sadly, this fascinating basic plotline – not without some inherent plot holes – is one of the worst-handled stories in the 26-year television history of Doctor Who. There are numerous vast gaps in logic. The Doctor is charged for the crime of genocide – yet the act upon which this charge is based takes place in his own future, making it a crime he has yet to commit. Not to say that the rest of the story is invalid from this point on. Surely the Time Lords could now claim that they want the Doctor put away precisely so he cannot participate in the extinction of the vegetable Vervoid race, or perhaps to keep the event from happening at all.

The Valeyard is treated as a second-rate copy of the Master, though it would be much more interesting if the Valeyard was clearly portrayed as a much more competent evil than the Master. This would explain the Master’s initial wish to help the Doctor (another character twist which is soon disposed of in this 55-minute festival of total inconsistency). But in the second half of the story (also known as part 14 of Trial Of A Time Lord), the Valeyard turns into a bumbler whose evil schemes are easily seen through by the Doctor. Certainly, if the Valeyard is indeed the Doctor in his final incarnation, he would be able to come up with much more menacing ways of threatening or blackmailing his sixth self – such as kidnapping former companions. Perhaps the Valeyard could have tried to interfere with one of the sixth Doctor’s past adventures, trying to rewrite a chapter of his own history for ill gain, and then he could have made some critical mistakes, preventing the earlier Doctor from ever becoming such an evil being. There are numerous possibilities which would’ve made much more sense than the story that was finally broadcast. And it was also a bad idea to potentially lock the Doctor into a future in which he would become the Valeyard.

This is also the story which marked seasoned Doctor Who writer Robert Holmes’ final contribution to the series before he died. That the second episode was written by Pip and Jane Baker is unfortunate, because it is between the two episodes that the most inconsistencies in characters and continuity arise. The dialogue in the second episode also becomes ridiculous, with Melanie referring to an antiquated-looking (but supposedly very potent) weapon as a “megabyte modem,” and the highlight, the Valeyard’s supposedly ominous warning to the Doctor that “There’s nothing you can do to prevent the catharsis of spurious morality.” What the hell does that mean? Does it actually mean anything, or did the Bakers just look up a bunch of big words without reading the definitions?

A tragic Doctor Who segment in many ways. Tragic for the real-life death of Robert Holmes (and the subsequent ruining of his work by two writers brought in at the last minute to finish the job), tragic for being a completely inadequate swan song for Colin Baker, and tragic for being the final act in a season-long disappointment.