Daily Archives: Sunday, 29th Mar 2009

Doctor Who – The Trial of a Time Lord

Well, since I’ve started posting today, I’ll see if I can keep going long enough to catch up with the pile of Doctor Who DVDs that I need to write about. This one is a bit unusual – the whole of the 1986 series was billed as a single story, though depending on how you look at it, it could be four stories with some framing devices. The title reflects the status of the show at the time. Doctor Who had been off the air for an unprecedented 18 months following the cancellation of the planned 23rd season, and it was indeed on trial…

The framing narrative involves the Doctor being taken to a Gallifreyan space station, where he is placed on trial for breaking the law against interfering. Now as he’s been doing that all along, often with the active encouragement of the Time Lords, this seems a little unfair. But the prosecutor, known as the Valeyard, seems determined to have the Doctor condemned. Evidence is produced, showing some of the Doctor’s adventures. While the episodes were labelled as parts of a single story, the sections had different writers, and informal titles were assigned to them.

The Mysterious Planet

A fairly traditional run-around, featuring warriors, robots, con-men and deep secrets about the planet Ravalox. All of this with interjections from the Doctor as he’s forced to watch his actions being played out on a screen in the court.

There’s the usual mix of extras on this first DVD, including a “Making of” documentary and the ubiquitous production subtitles.


Things get a lot worse in this story, which involves Brian Blessed being Brian Blessed[1], and some very nasty experiments. Experiments which lead to Peri being killed as her body is stolen by an evil alien. This is just around the time the Doctor is pulled out of time and put on trial. Only things that are seen to happen aren’t all as the Doctor remembers them.

And there’s a similar collection of extras on disc two, too. These include the ever-popular production subtitles and a “then and now” look at some of the locations used.

Terror of the Vervoids

Now things get a bit more odd than usual. The Doctor presents evidence in his defence – an adventure from his future, in which he’s accompanied by Mel[2]. Bad Things are happening on a starliner, with conspiracies, murder and some very aggressive vegetation. The Doctor manages to sort all that out, only to find that by presenting this evidence, he’s opened himself to a charge of genocide…

Extras on this disc include a look at the stories that were planned for the series that was cancelled, as well as the usual bits and bobs.

The Ultimate Foe

In which all is revealed. The Master is playing in the Matrix, the absolutely secure (not) store of all Time Lord knowledge. The Valeyard is some weird projection of the Doctor, containing all the evil bits of him[3], who wants the Doctor to be executed so he can have all of the Doctor’s remaining regenerations[4]. Lots of surreal silliness follows in the virtual world of the Matrix, with the Doctor eventually emerging triumphant, and being offered the job of President again. He naturally runs away again….

More of the usual extras, including a general look at Colin Baker’s time in the show.


This was good in parts. Some of it made no sense at all, some of it was enjoyably silly, and some of it (mostly the Doctor’s commentary on the evidence) a bit annoying. Anyway, it was successful enough for the BBC management to agree to bring the series back, on the condition that Colin Baker was replaced.

[1] He does it so well…
[2] We never see them meet, so who knows where she came from….
[3] This doesn’t make any more sense now than it did in 1986, really…
[4] Which leads on to the idea that the “12 regenerations” thing was a legal rather than a physical limit…

Primeval – Series 3, Episode 1

Well, Saturday TV has suddenly improved. Not only do we have new Robin Hood, but we also have more from Primeval. Back for a longer run – ten episodes this time, the third series of the time and monsters show started quite nicely.

For a start, the location: they actually got to film in the actual Egypt galleries of the actual British Museum. Which is as cool a setting as you can get, really. Anyway, the usual strange sparkly thing anomaly[1] turns up inside an interesting ancient Egyptian artefact – a group of four gods facing inwards in a square, arms linked as if to form a cage. We later learn that it’s known as the Sun Cage…

Of course, a nicely aggressive prehistoric animal comes out, mangles a member of staff, and manages to escape out of a loading bay. It heads off to the Thames, with Cutter and Co in pursuit. Naturally, it manages to use the steps by Cleopatra’s Needle as a route to the river. It hangs about there for a while before leaving on the south side, where it makes a bit of a mess of the Royal Festival Hall[2]. After falling from a high level, it heads back to the Museum…

Lots of other stuff going on, too. There’s something dodgy going on at the Home Office, with covert operations going on to retrieve something from a site on the other side of an anomaly, and somebody wants more military involvement. Lester’s not happy that his contact at the Home Office for this is Christine Johnson, a woman who seems to be an old friend. Or an old something, anyway. Lester describes her as “like a velociraptor, only better dressed”. What we know and he doesn’t is that she’s in charge of the dodgy anomaly operation…

The Sun Cage turns out to have unusual powers over the anomaly, which seems to be trapped by the magnetic stone it’s made of. And Connor accidentally discovers that electricity has an odd affect on anomalies, too…

And during all this fun, the team gets a new member[3] – Sarah Page, who met the lovely creature, a relative of crocodiles with the name Pristichampus. Being an Egyptologist, she recognises it as being the image of an Egyptian god. The theory is that it popped through an anomaly from its own time to ancient Egypt, where it was suitably venerated, and then turned up in the present. Cutter decides that there must have been other such cases in history – that legends of monsters might have their origins in creatures from other times popping up in unexpected times and places. And Sarah is just the person to do the research on that.

We also have a new security chief, Captain Becker, who seems to be a little sceptical about the work of the team.

And finally, in the closing scene, Cutter’s estranged (and frankly, bloody strange) wife Helen shows up in her new secret headquarters with her cloned army and a mysterious object that Christine Johnson’s soldiers failed to get hold of due to being to busy being eaten by future predators.

Loads of fun, with what looks like a good set of plots to run through the series.

[1] Chances of me stopping doing that are minimal
[2] Following the usual rules of TV drama: kill one, get a new one…
[3] This kind of thing is so much more fun when you know the locations

Robin Hood – Total Eclipse

It’s been a while since we last saw Robin and his gang. But now they’re back for another 13 episodes of bows, arrows, swords and outrageous anachronisms. And a good thing, too.

At the end of the last series, things went a bit wrong for everyone. The Sheriff failed in his mission to kill King Richard. Guy killed Marian. Will and Djaq (the least useless members of Robin’s gang) decided to stay in the Holy Land. Oh, and Guy killed Marian. That bit might be important for future plot developments.

Last night’s opening episode involved a rather more upset than usual Robin deciding that his friends were just holding him back, and that he didn’t want to play with them any more. Being in dark and moody mode, he gets a wee bit dramatic and suggests that all he has left is vengeance, and that Gisbourne will die today. Now obviously, that’s not going to happen – Guy’s signed up for the whole series…

Well, Robin turns up at his old home, gets Guy’s attention and the usual fight follows. Guy looks rather more dishevelled than normal, with a little touch of the staring eyes. As expected, he blames Robin for Marian’s death, and wants to kill Robin at least as much as Robin wants to kill him. And just in case we’d forgotten that Guy is the, err, Bad Guy, he grabs a small child and runs off with her to a nearby cliff, which I don’t recall being there last time, but never mind. He threatens to throw the child to her death if Robin doesn’t surrender, so Robin naturally lays down his weapons and joins Guy at the clifftop. Guy manages to overpower Robin and throw him off. It’s a long way down to the river, so he naturally assumes Robin is dead[1]. Much is a bit upset by this, and attacks Guy in a rather feeble manner, leading to him being captured and taken to the castle. John and Alan slip off into the forest…

While Guy shows more signs that he’s left his marbles behind in the Holy Land, and the Sheriff is threatened by Prince John’s lackey (more taxes or else, that sort of thing), Robin is found by a monk who eventually introduces himself as Brother Tuck. Not the fat friar of many Robin Hood versions, but more of a very intelligent action hero black guy in a grey outfit. He’s quick, clever and looks like he’ll be a lot of fun. Robin’s been badly hurt, and is ready to give up on the whole being a hero thing, but Tuck’s not having any of that. He believes that the country needs its hero to give people hope and encourage them to resist the oppressive regime, so he manipulates the situation a wee bit. He tells Guy where he’ll be able to capture Robin’s gang, and tells them that Robin wants to meet them.

The gang is captured, and Robin and Tuck head to the rescue.

At the castle, the Sheriff does one of his bonkers speeches about how it’s

A great day for Nottingham, its people and HOMELAND SECURITY :rofl:

and babbles a bit about terrorists, and so on. He then orders the execution of the gang. Not the usual hanging or beheading, of course, but a dramatic process involving a siege crossbow thingy. Tuck interrupts and does the really old routine about how this is a bit naughty, God is unhappy and it’s going to get dark. Yes, that’s where the episode title came from. I suspect most viewers shared my groans of “not that old gag!” the moment we say Tuck looking at his book of phases of the moon, which didn’t seem to be at the right phase at all the day before the planned execution, but maybe I’m just being picky…

Anyway, while everyone’s distracted by Tuck and the eclipse, Robin gets the gang away, and they all run off to fight again. Robin decides not to kill Guy, as it’s more entertaining to see him suffer his mental torment…

Yes, it’s still totally daft. It makes remarkably little sense. It is, in fact, complete twaddle. But it’s fun.

[1] What a silly Guy….