The TV version of The Trial Of A Time Lord was an overblown and tired version of the series which was only saved by some credible acting and some rather nifty special effects. I recall being disappointed by the whole effort and thought it was a sad waste of Colin Baker’s talents. The story arc was dragged out and really did test the viewer’s staying power. Anyway, that aside these adventures were given a Target book release, ones I missed when originally released so these audiobooks are the first chance I’ve had to see how much these stories could have been improved in book form.
The Mysterious Planet
This was the first adventure of the 14 part serial and was written by prolific author Terrence Dicks from scripts by the legendary Robert Holmes. This should have made an explosive combination. Unfortunately it drowns in over description trying to compensate for the rather thin plot.
The TARDIS has been taken out of time and the Doctor had been brought before a court of his fellow Time Lords. There the sinister Valeyard accuses the Doctor of breaking Gallifrey’s most important law and interfering in the affairs of other planets. If the Valeyard can prove him guilty, the Doctor must sacrifice his remaining regenerations. To prove his case the Valeyard focuses on an adventure from the Doctor’s past. It is an adventure set on the planet of Revolox, a seemingly primitive world but one which the Doctor and Peri find strangely familiar…
OK, I might upset a few people here but this story is drab, boring, flat and bereft of any sort of drama at all. The constant interruption from the Valeyard or Doctor or whoever just when the story is getting to be slightly interesting becomes tiresome. Yes, I know this is a connection story arc but did it really have to stop the flow of the story so much?
I love Lynda Bellingham, she’s a great actress but her talents here are wasted and she struggles with the rather pedestrian script. She does pull off Peri’s whine perfectly which is the only real highlight of the audiobook which also suffers from some intrusive sound effects.
Mindwarp or Trial Of A Time Lord Parts 5-8 is a real highlight of the Sixth Doctor’s tenure. A far cry from some of his other adventures this one got it so right that it’s a shame it’s stuck as part of the Trial story arc. It gave Colin Baker’s interpretation something to chew on, to get to grips with and played a blinder by bringing back one of the finest characters of the 80s, Sil.
Accused of ‘crimes against the inviolate evolution’, the Doctor is on trial. The sinister prosecutor, the Valeyard, presents the High council of Time Lords with the second piece of evidence against the Doctor: a dramatic adventure on the planet Thoras-Beta which led to the renegade Time Lord’s summons to the Court of Enquiry. But as the Doctor watches the scenes on the Matrix he is puzzled by what he sees – his behaviour is not as he remembers. Only one thing is certain: on the evidence of the Matrix the Doctor is surely guilty as charged.
Dramatically charged with a perfectly balanced injection of satire, Mindwarp is one of those Doctor Who adventures that just gets better and better each times you watch/hear/read it. Colin Baker delivers the story with enthusiasm and wit adding the right amount of tension to the proceedings. Solid with just the right amount of effects this is probably going to be the best story from this two part set.
With an RRP of £18.35, The Trial of a Time Lord Volume 1 audiobook is available from Amazon.
(Adapted from an article originally published on Kasterborous in November 2013.)