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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2014
I bought this a few years ago. As I clicked the 'purchase' button, I was unsure as to whether or not I was making a big mistake. I grew up in the wilderness years, with only VHS recordings of Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker for comfort. This season of Doctor Who has a less than stellar reputation and I was reluctant about plunging head-first into the gaudy unknown that is 80s Doctor Who.

How wrong I was.

I hope that, by now, the stigma surrounding these Baker stories has lifted and I don't need to convince you that these storied are more worth your while. I will admit: there are some dud moments, the trial scenes can feel a bit clunky and the conclusion does leave a lot to be desired. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the stories and you you get the feeling that the sixth doctor, and his relationship with companion Peri, has finally found its feet. Furthermore, despite budgetary constraints, the Doctor Who production team remain on the bleeding edge of British television at the time. There are some mesmerising effects - such as the pink sky of Thros Beta or a particularly extravagant model shot in the opening frames (which blew my away when I first watched these stories!). The writers also take a bold narrative risk by using saddling Baker's final season with such an arc-heavy storyline - a risk which I feel pays off (just!).

Love it or hate it - The Trial of a Time Lord is essential watching for any Classic Who fan. If nothing else, this season is an important piece of television history and understanding the context in which it was made is essential to understanding the final years of the original run of the show. For this reason, the extras really come to the fore in this set and are arguably more important that the stories themselves. They are endlessly watchable, lovingly made and integral to this understanding this important piece of Doctor Who history.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
As a thirteen year old I had no concept of the behind-the-scenes struggle to keep Doctor Who on air; I had no more knowledge of the programme's dwindling audiences or fan and press criticisms of its producer - John Nathan-Turner. What I did know was that after 18 tortuous months my favourite programme was back; with a promised fourteen week long epic story which would see my hero on trial for his very existence!

This long-awaited box set from 2entertain separates the trial into four individual stories; the first, written by fan-favourite Robert Holmes, is entitled `The Mysterious Planet', and sees The TARDIS hijacked and brought onto a space station on which an inquisition has been set up to investigate The Doctor's interference in the affairs of other worlds and races. As the camera pans across the side of the giant spaceship it is clear that an effort is being made to improve production values and this is immediately successful with such an impressive start to the story.
We are subsequently introduced to the mercenary Sabalom Glitz, played with relish by the excellent Tony Selby, and his faithful assistant `Dibber'. The pair are classic Holmesian creations and add weight to a somewhat unoriginal storyline. Switching between the inquisition and the events on the planet Ravalox, where Glitz and Dibber are attempting to knock-out a mysterious transmitter, The Doctor watches from the court as he and his assistant, Peri, become involved with a rebellion which seeks to overthrow the planet's despotic ruler `The Immortal'.
The DVD extras are a mixed bunch - `The making of The Mysterious Planet' gives a fascinating insight into the (for the programme) groundbreaking model effects, and explains how the Doctor Who production team pulled out all the stops to improve the show's legendarily ropey special effects. Two features involving Colin Baker and promoting the new series, from Wogan and Blue Peter respectively, are painful reminders of how crude 80s talk shows and children's magazine programmes were in comparison to today's vibrant and youth oriented counterparts. Baker sweats his way through an interview with the Irish legend whilst Linda Bellingham tries not to mention those Oxo ads and damns Doctor Who with her faint praise. The BP segment tells us that Janet Ellis' `Pa' helped build the robots for The Mysterious Planet and spends about 30 seconds with an increasingly be-whiskered Sixth Doctor and the operator of the robot Drathro. A pre-Weakest Link Anne Robinson presents Points of View which emphasises how hard to please fans of DW were, even then. The obligatory Photo Gallery rounds things off.

Disc two features the second segment of the trial, `Mindwarp', which sees the return of the slimy `Mentor' Sil, last seen in 1984 story `Vengeance on Varos'. This time, the TARDIS lands on Thoros Beta, home of the Mentors and host to ghoulish experiments aimed at prolonging the life of Kiv, Ruler of the Mentors, by transplanting his brain into another body, as his own is wearing out.
The garish pink colour overlay that greets The Doctor and Peri as they arrive on Thoros Beta's coastline has dated badly, but the story itself is meatier than its predecessor, and gives the viewer more to think about; almost too much at times. Nabil Shaban is suitably repellent as the amoral and avaricious Sil, whilst Christopher Ryan predates his recent appearance as a Sontaran warrior with an appropriately weary and paranoid Kiv. Unfortunately, Brian Blessed predictably hams it up as warlord Yrcanos, and the overtly sci-fi costumes worn by many of the cast are too redolent of a mid-80s edition of Top of the Pops.
The frequent returns the courtroom just about manage to avoid disrupting the flow of the story too much, and the sparring between The Doctor and The Valeyard keeps proceedings from becoming too stagnant.

Episodes 9-13 of the season are collected together under the title: Terror of the Vervoids. This segment is included as The Doctor's defence; The Hyperion III is a deep-space vessel which houses a dark secret; what is agronomist Professor Lasky hiding in the Hydroponic Centre and who is bumping-off the passengers one-by-one..?

The story is notable for being the first in the show's history to introduce a companion for The Timelord without giving them a back-story. Melanie Bush is a computer programmer and fitness freak whom we first see attempting to get The Doctor to lose some weight, by forcing him to ruse an exercise bike and feeding him copious quantities of carrot juice! The pair arrive on The Hyperion III and are quickly used by the Commander of the vessel (who appears to have met The Timelord before) to investigate the murders; whilst in the courtroom The Doctor and The Valeyard continue to bicker.

The eponymous plant creatures are impressively realised, whilst the guest cast - including Honor Blackman - seem to be enjoying themselves. With hindsight Mel could have made a decent companion and she and Colin Baker spark off each other well throughout. Sadly this was not to be, as the story proved to be Baker's swansong, being the final instalment of the season to be filmed; subsequently I felt that Mel and the Seventh Doctor never quite gelled in the same way.

The final instalment - The Ultimate Foe - is a two part story that is mostly memorable for all the wrong reasons. The Valeyard's dying line: "Doctor, there's nothing you can do to prevent the catharsis of spurious morality" is probably the best/worst line ever uttered in Doctor Who, whilst Mel's discovery of a `megabyte modem' cruelly highlights how out of touch the production team were and the gobbledygook that became a feature of Pip and Jane Bakers' scripts. As a way of bringing the trial to an end it is fine and there are some memorable moments such as The Doctor being sucked under the ground in the matrix and Tony Selby's devious Sabalom Glitz twisting and turning like a trapped eel as he tries to work out which will be the winning side. Overall the trial is good fun but is ultimately less than the sum of its parts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2015
'Doctor Who' is on trial for his more ways than one!

The show went through a hiatus of 18 months in 1985 before returning triumphantly in 1986. `The Trial of a Time Lord' is a 14-part epic story with 4 separate segments. I enjoyed watching this story and was fascinated and agog by what went behind-the-scenes in making this story.

I've the DVD box-set of `The Trial of a Time Lord' signed recently by the fabulous Colin Baker.

The first four episodes of this epic story (`The Mysterious Planet') are by Robert Holmes, former script-editor on `Doctor Who'. Robert Holmes contributed hugely to the show's history including writing 'The Two Doctors'. Sadly this is not of his most inspired stories for the series.

The `Trial' begins with the Doctor being plucked out of time by the Time Lords. The Doctor is on trial for his life and he must defend himself against the prosecuting Valeyard as he presents his first segment of evidence set on the planet Ravalox.

I'm very impressed with the exciting theme music by Dominic Glynn and the impressive model shot sequence of the cathedral-like space station at the start. We're introduced to the sinister Valeyard (by Michael Jayston) and the Inquistor (by lovely Lynda Bellingham, sadly no longer with us).

In `The Mysterious Planet', the Doctor is joined by his companion Peri (Nicola Bryant). We see how the Doctor and Peri have mellowed and are no longer the bickering couple they used to be. They like each other and have grown fond of each other which I liked.

The Doctor and Peri come to Ravalox and discover it to be Earth in the future. The ideas Robert Holmes put in his story are very interesting if not disturbing. It upsets Peri and it transpires that there's more to this mystery than first appears as the Doctor discovers in his trial.

I like the guest cast in this story. There's Tony Selby as Sabalom Glitz with Glen Murphy as his sidekick Dibber. There's Joan Sims, well known for 'Carry On' films, as Queen Katryca. There's the people living underground including the train guards such as Tom Chadbon (Duggan in the Tom Baker story 'City of Death') as Merdeen; Adam Blackwood (who I've seen as Barmy Fung-Phillips in 'Jeeves and Wooster') as Balazar and Timothy Walker as Grell who suspects Merdeen's leadership.

There are two types of robot that appear in this segment. There's the L1 Robot which is a robot that runs on a track and hunts for the Doctor when he escapes or is held prisoner inside the Tribe of the Free's encampment. There's also Drathro, an L3 robot that is bigger and frightening than the L1 robot and is sometimes referred to as `the Immortal' by the people of Ravalox.

The special features on this first DVD disc for `The Trail of a Time Lord - The Mysterious Planet' are as follows. There's `The Making of The Mysterious Planet' documentary, that is part one of a four-part series of documentaries looking into the making of `The Trial of a Time Lord'. There are a number of `Deleted and Extended Scenes'; 'trailers and continuity announcements' including Colin Baker introducing 'Roland Rat: The Set'; a `33mm Film Sequence' of the spectacular opening model shot sequence and three sets of Music Videos including the title music and trail theme.

There are two audio commentaries for `The Mysterious Planet'. The first is with Colin, Nicola, Tony Selby (Glitz) and Adam Blackwood (Balazar). The second is with Eric Saward (Script Editor) for Part One only. There's an info text commentary option; a `Wogan' interview with Colin Baker and Lynda Bellingham; a `Blue Peter' item with Colin Baker, Bonnie Langford (Mel) and Nabin Shaban as Sil); a `Points of View' item with Anne Robinson and a photo gallery.

Although not the best story by Robert Holmes, it's an enjoyable 'Who; adventure that starts the `Trial' season on a good note. There are some lovely performances from Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant as the Doctor and Peri and some intriguing ideas going on about Ravalox and it secrets. One wonders where the trial is going. But as the Valeyard declares, `the damning is still yet to come'. One wonders where the Doctor will survive this trial for his life...

Parts Five to Eight - `MINDWARP'
The second four episodes of this story (`Mindwarp') are by writer Phillip Martin. Phillip previously wrote 'Vengeance on Varos' that featured the first appearance of the villainous Sil (played by Nabil Shaban), who also appears in this story and where things in the trial become more serious.

The Valeyard's prosecution continues as he presents his second evidence. The evidence depicts the Doctor on the planet Thoros Beta with Peri and he becomes involved in some harrowing mind-altering experiments. The Doctor soon turns against Peri and works for the greedy Sil.

I found the setting of the planet Thoros Beta very impressive with the TARDIS landing on a world with blue beaches; pink seas and a green sky. It must have been state-of-the-art visual effects work for its time, even for 1986, as the Doctor and Peri set out to explore.

I found Colin Baker's performance astoundingly brilliant. His scenes when he goes mad and betrays Peri are truly mesmerising. I didn't like it when the Doctor was being mean to Peri and you wonder why he's doing all these things. I felt anguished like the Doctor in the courtroom.

This is where the trial gets more interesting, as the Valeyard presents evidence and the Doctor claims he's being manipulated. It seems the evidence is false and that the Matrix is lying. I wanted to know which evidence was real or not, but sadly this isn't fulfilled fully by the end of the `Trial.

The guest cast is truly mesmerising, featuring Nabil Shaban as Sil who I saw for the first time before watching `Vengeance on Varos'. There's also Brian Blessed as King Yrcanos (well known for 'Flash Gordon' - "Gordon's Alive!!!"). There's Patrick Ryecart as Crozier, a human scientist working for Sil. There's Christopher Ryan (who played General Stall in 'The Sontaran Stragem'/'The Poison Sky') as Lord Kiv. Thomas Branch as the Lukoser/Dorff; Gordon Warnecke as Tuza; Alibe Parsons as Matrona Kani and Trevor Laird (who would play Martha Jones' dad in the new series) as Frax.

The special features on the second DVD disc for `The Trail of a Time Lord - Mindwarp' are as follows. There's `The Making of Mindwarp' documentary, part two of the four-part making-of series of `The Trial of a Time Lord'. There are more `Deleted and Extended Scenes'; a 'Now and Then - On The Trial Of A Time Lord'' looking into the filming locations; 'A Fate Worse Than Death', .a short commentary by Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant on the closing moments of 'Trial'; and 'trailers and continuity announcements'.

There's an audio commentary for `Mindwarp' with Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and writer Phillip Martin. There's also an info text commentary option; a `Children In Need' item; an amusing `Lenny Henry' comedy sketch and a photo gallery of `Mindwarp'.

The standout performance for me in this story is Nicola Bryant who plays Peri. This is Peri's last story story in this series and Nicola wanted to go out with a bang. I found Nicola as Peri very lovely and had the pleasure of meeting her at a convention in Weston-super-Mare, July 2014.

Peri dies horribly at the end of `Mindwarp'. She gets strapped to a medical bed and has her head shaved off. Next time we see her, Peri's dead with her mind wiped and Lord Kiv inside her body. It's got to be one of the most shocking departures of a companion ever in the history of `Doctor Who'.

The Doctor is upset and angry over Peri's death and that the Time Lords cruelly plucked him out of time for his trial before he had the chance to save Peri. The Doctor is adamant he was plucked out of time by the Time Lords for another reason and is determined `to find out what that reason is...

Parts Nine to Twelve - `TERROR OF THE VERVOIDS'
The third four episodes of this story (`Terror of the Vervoids') are by by Pip and Jane Baker who previously wrote 'The Mark of the Rani'. Some fans criticise this story for being too traditional, but I actually like this adventure. It's an Agatha Christie-style whodunit adventure aboard a space liner.

The Doctor presents his case for the defence. His evidence is taken from his future as it is set on a space liner called the Hyperion III. A series of murders take place and the Doctor and his companion Melanie (known as Mel) get involved to solve the mystery involving the plant-like Vervoids.

I like how this story is set in the style of a whodunit murder mystery. As I was watching this, it got me wondering who the actual murderer was and I sometimes shifted my attention from one person to the next. The feel of an outer space luxury liner made it more exciting.

The murder suspects in this drama include Honor Blackman (well known in 'The Avengers') as Professor Lasky; Michael Criag as Commodore `Tonker' Travers; Malcolm Tierney (who I've seen in a version of 'Nicholas Nickleby') as Doland;; David Allister as Bruchner and Denys Hawthorne as security chief Rudge. There's also Yolande Palfrey as lovely Janet the stewardess; Arthur Hewlett (who appeared in `State of Decay') as the elderly Kimber; Tony Scoggo as Grenville and Simon Slater (who I've seen in 'Monarch of the Glen') as communication officer Edwardes. Could one of these people be the murderer?

This story features the first appearance of Bonnie Langford as new companion Melanie Bush (Mel). Mel gets no introduction as she's already established she's the companion. I like Mel as she's very enthusiastic and eager for adventure; even though she screams a lot which gets on my nerves.

I also like Colin Baker's performance as the Doctor e. The Doctor seems more mellowed and likeable as he gets on well with Mel and I like it when he gives a bouquet of flowers to Janet. He still has that fiery energy but is determined to help out and solving the murder mysteries aboard the Hyperion.

The Vervoids are interesting monsters to feature in `Doctor Who'. The inspiration of plant-like aliens rebelling against animal-kind is plausible. Although I'm not sure if they're the most convincing of monsters as they appear strange in their costume and I sometimes can't take them seriously.

The special features on the third DVD disc for `The Trail of a Time Lord - Terror of the Vervoids' are as follows.

There's `The Making of Terror of the Vervoids' documentary, part three of the four-part making-of series of of `The Trial of a Time Lord'. There are more `Deleted and Extended Scenes' and `trailers and continuity announcements'. There's a special documentary called `The Lost Season' looking into the abandoned Season 23 of `Doctor Who' with some stories turned into audio dramas such as 'The Nightmare Fair','Mission to Magnus' and 'The Hollows of Time'.

There's an audio commentary for `Terror of the Vervoids' with Colin Baker, Michael Craig, writers Pip and Jane Baker and director Chris Clough. There's also an info text commentary option; an interesting documentary looking into the cliff-hangers of 'Doctor Who' called There's `Now, Get Out Of That'; a `Saturday Picture Show' interview with Bonnie Langford; and a photo gallery

The Doctor concludes his defence, but the Valeyard takes the opportunity to accusing the Doctor for committing a `worse' crime. I was shocked by how the Valeyard quickly changes the trial round. The Doctor protests, but the Valeyard is adamant as 'the charge...must now be genocide...'

Parts Thirteen to Fourteen - `THE ULTIMATE FOE'
The final two episodes of this story (`The Ultimate Foe') are by Robert Holmes and Pip and Jane Baker. Holmes originally meant to write the last two episodes. But although he wrote one episode, he subsequently died and Pip and Jane Baker wrote the last episode.

This is an exciting and sometimes baffling conclusion to this epic story. All the evidence is piled against the Doctor. But the Doctor receives unexpected help from the Master who sends Sabalom Glitz and Mel as witnesses. It turns out that the Valeyard is an evil incarnation of the Doctor!

I like how these two episodes round off the `Trial' season. Not all questions are answered, but we get to know the revelation of Ravalox, what became of Peri and how the Doctor gets his verdict. The episodes contain some clever and mind-boggling ideas as the Doctor ventures into the Matrix.

This final segment features the return of Tony Selby as Sabalom Glitz from `The Mysterious Planet'. Melanie also returns, played by Bonnie Langford. I was surprised and delighted to see the Master, played by Anthony Ainley as he's my favourite Master.

The standout performance in 'Trial' is Michael Jayston as the Valeyard. I'd seen Michael in episodes of `Emmerdale' and have also met him at a convention in Swansea, 2013. Michael plays the Valeyard superbly as the ultimate villain and it gave me thrills to see him show his true colours.

Special mention must be given to Lynda Bellingham as the Inquisitor. Lynda sadly passed away recently and I remember her fondly for this character in `Doctor Who'. I like Lynda's interpretation of a court judge and how she conducts the trial in an emotionally detached way.

I was immensely delighted to see Geoffrey Hughes as Mr Popplewick, who I know for playing Onslow in the BBC sitcom `Keeping Up Appearances' with Hyacinth Bouquet ("Aww nice!"). There's also James Bree who plays the Keeper of the Matrix, who has appeared in `Doctor Who' before.

Colin Baker is the star of the show for me as he's excelled beyond measure in his performance as the Doctor. I'm very surprised this turned out to be his last story and I'm equally saddened and disappointed that Colin was sacked on the spot by the BBC during the series' tumultuous period. Colin has done plenty of Big Finish audios to make up for his lost time as the Doctor.

The special features on the fourth DVD disc for `The Trail of a Time Lord - The Ultimate Foe' are as follows. There's `The Making of The Ultimate Foe' documentary, part four of the four-part making-of series of 'The Trial of a Time Lord'. There are more `Deleted and Extended Scenes' and `trailers and continuity announcements'. There's an informative and detailed documentary called `Trial and Tribulations' looking into the Colin Baker era of `Doctor Who'. There's `1985 Hiatus' media item; the 'Doctor in Distress' music video and an 'Open Air' review programme looking at the `Trial' season.

There are two audio commentaries of `The Ultimate Foe'. The first one is with script editor Eric Saward for `Part Thirteen' only). The second is with Colin Baker, Tony Selby, director Chris Clough and writers Pip and Jane Baker (for `Part Fourteen' only). There's also an info text commentary option; a `Saturday Superstore' item; a photo gallery; PDF materials and a coming soon trailer for 'Four To Doomsday' with Peter Davison.

The final segment of 'Trial' story has been greatly enjoyable. I was really excited from watching this story, wondering how the `Trial' season would culminate in its conclusion. Colin Baker's Doctor is brilliant and Michael Jayston delivers a tremendous villain performance as the Valeyard.

I've enjoyed `The Trial of a Time Lord' very much. The Big Finish audios today present what might have Colin Baker's 10-year stint on the series. I enjoyed watching the DVD extras detailing the tumultuous period and how the show survived despite increasing pressure from the BBC.

The next story with the Doctor is 'Time of Your Life'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 November 2013
The mid-1980s were a very turbulent time for "Doctor Who." After the 22nd season ended in 1985, the show was cancelled. There was a bit of an uproar from the public, and BBC bosses were forced to rethink it, its status then changed from cancelled to 18-month hiatus.

"The Trial of a Time Lord" kicks of with a spectacular effects shot, A space station which hovers in silence. The camera slowly moving toward it and moves its way around the exterior finishing on a bust of blue light which the TARDIS enters. This is without a doubt the best effects sequence in the Classic Series.

Told over 4 separate stories, interlocked with scenes from a Gallifreyan courtroom and the trial, this is rather quite a gripping story from the beginning to the end/ Colin Baker gives (unbeknown to him) his final performance as the Doctor and it is by far his best portrayal. Sadly we lose Nicola Bryant during this season and for some weird and unknown reason the Doctor Who team thought it would be a great idea to give us Bonnie Langford as the new companion.

You get guest stars with Brian Blessed and Honor Blackman, Lynda Bellingham appears as the Inquisitor in the trial.

The writing is absolutely superb and also feature Robert Holmes final script for Doctor Who which he sadly passed away whilst writing.

The DVD box set also has some great special features. One I would highly recommend is Trials and Tribulations, a documentary looking at Colin Baker's tenure as the Doctor and a great insight into the behind the scenes goings on during Colins tenure.

All in all it is a box set definitely worth purchasing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 2013
Beware of spoilers below:

After Dr Who was rested for a year, the powers-that-be at the BBC were in two minds about whether to continue the show for very much longer. Considering the series made them a fortune in overseas sales and video sales, they should have invested in it and given it some decent publicity. But rant over.

The 'trial' format sees the Doctor put in court by his own people. Unfortunately this tends to involve the stories being constantly interrupted by trial scenes which seem to exist purely to tie up continuity problems. That said, the first two adventures are Dr Who at its entertaining best. The first tale involves the mysterious planet Ravalox, is a story of political intrigue filled with witty dialogue and strong characters such as "Arthur Daley in space" Glitz and the most impressive robot since the first Tom Baker story. The second adventure involves cosmic yuppie Sil (one of the finest original creations of the show's latter years), along with Brian Blessed as a warlord and an interesting tale of body-swapping. The finale is one of the most dramatic and intense in the series' entire cannon, making it all the more tragic the production team had to ruin it with a later cop-out.

When the story reaches its Vervoid segment, things start to go downhill. It's not just that the Vervoid story treats the audience like idiots or that it drags. Bonnie Langford saw Dr Who as a way of escaping panto and moving on to serious acting. The writers duly obliged and, er, wrote her as a grown-up Violet Elizabeth Botts. To be fair, even the experienced thesps are struggling with the dreadful melodramatic dialogue the Vervoid segment seems to be filled with. There are some genuinely good moments and a few great cliffhangers. The Vervoids themselves are an imaginative design (although whether or not they look slightly obscene I think really depends on what goes on in the mind of the viewer). But all in all the "plants fighting back" theme was done much more effectively in "The Seeds of Doom".

The final segment is worth watching just for the superbly surreal imagery and the great-looking location work. However, it was a story dogged with problems. Author Robert Holmes (the show's finest ever wordsmith) died before he could finish it, and after an argument with the production team scrpt editor Eric Saward walked out. I don't blame Pip & Jane Baker for the final episode. They did the best they could and managed to come up with 30 minutes of entertainment. But the fact that only one of the writers and the script editor knew how a 14-part story was supposed to end makes you wonder how disorganised the show's production was. Eric Saward had wanted to stay true to Holmes' original intention to end the adventure with something deep and dark. But the producer felt it left the story unresolved and but the block on it. So instead we have a weak, confused ending which feels even less resolved. Everything is lovely and happy, despite the fact Gallifrey has no president, no high council and is descending into anarchy whilst the only person who could do anything to help is bouncing merrily away with a companion he's technically never met burbling about carrot juice. Meanwhile the Valeyard (superbly played by Michael Jayston throughout despite his descent into panto villain in the final episode) is - dramatic music - still alive after all in a strange, Freddy Krueger-like "see you next time" coda.

The extras on this box-set are a must for any Dr Who fan. Along with the "making of" documentaries and commentaries (sadly Brian Blessed didn't do a commentary) there is a documentary summarising the Colin Baker years and various clips from TV shows of the mid-1980s concerning Dr Who.
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59 of 68 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 30 September 2008
With flagging ratings, a script editor in bitter creative conflict with the producer, a final episode that had to be re-written from scratch at the last minute, the behind-the-scenes dramas faced by the production team of 1986's THE TRIAL OF A TIME LORD mirrored the fictional pressures upon Colin Baker's Doctor, here put on trial by his own people.

Although the story is presented as 1 ongoing narrative, the episodes have traditionally been divided up into 4 separate sections of the trial (with the non-canonical titles: THE MYSTERIOUS PLANET, MINDWARP, TERROR OF THE VERVOIDS and THE ULTIMATE FOE). The 4 discs in the set reflect this division.

Overall, the concept of the trial itself is not a success, although the actors involved work hard (Michael Jayston is particularly good). Part of the problem is that we're never quite sure how the Time Lord's legal system works. Inexplicable absurdities of plotting mean that as a perceptive viewer following episode by episode, one cannot really take the legal proceedings seriously. Furthermore as the first 3 sections of the trial mainly involve Colin Baker's Doctor and Michael Jayston's Valeyard arguing about the events that they're watching on the Matrix screen, even as early as episode 3 the trial scenes have become repetitive and intrusive. It really should not have taken until episode 13 for things to get exciting in the court room.

Put simply TOATL was not what the public wanted and was deemed a failure. Certainly its interminable length put off the casual viewer, and perhaps it was just a bit too left field for its own good. Poor Colin Baker, as the leading man, got the blame for the perceived shortcomings of the series and was asked to leave the role of the Doctor not long after the end of the original transmission. Looking at the extras on the discs, it seems clear that most people believe this was unfair as he was simply the most obvious target and in the wrong place at the wrong time. While it's true that the horrible clown costume was a disastrous lapse of judgement and Baker was not always well-served by the scripts, he's a fine actor and on the extras he comes across as an intelligent, warm, affable and enthusiastic man.

So if the supporting structure of the serial doesn't work what are we left with? Well actually, divorced from the trial sequences, the individual stories aren't that bad. Robert Holmes' THE MYSTERIOUS PLANET (the last full DR WHO script he wrote before his death) is a perfectly decent DR WHO story even if there is at least one dodgy cliff-hanger and the last episode lacks tension. It kicks off the series very well and the opening effects sequence with the Cathedral-like space station is magnificent - a pity the show never had the budget to sustain this level of visual flair. Its main problem is that it lacks the edge of some of Holmes' better work (such as THE ARK IN SPACE or THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI). Indeed some of it appears to be ideas recycled from his earlier work - Glitz and Dibber for instance appear to be a revamped version of Garron and Unstoffe from THE RIBOS OPERATION. Nevertheless, the story chugs along agreeably enough with some witty lines and fun performances from Tony Selby and Joan Sims.

MINDWARP (episodes 5 to 8) is for me the best segment. A bizarre mix of H.G.Wells' ISLAND OF DR MOREAU, FRANKENSTEIN and various pulp sci-fi cliches it succeeds largely because it dares to be mad-as-you-like bizarre. It boasts an eye-boggling planet, impressive sets, an excellent cast (including a glorious turn from Brian Blessed), a superb incidental score that really accentuates the weird ambience of the story's alien setting and a cracking last episode. However, the script does Colin Baker no favours as we see him turn nasty again (much as he did in his first story THE TWIN DILEMMA) further alienating his audience - even if the events we see are most likely "falsified" due to tampering with the Matrix.

I can't say I'm a fan of TERROR OF THE VERVOIDS, but there are those who say this "Agatha Christie in space" story is their favourite, and for all its faults, I have to concede that the plot, at least, is solid enough. Bonnie Langford came in for a lot of criticism for her portrayal of new companion Mel. To be fair to her, she plays what she's given in the script for all its worth. She does so professionally and competently, and one should give her the benefit of the doubt. My belief is that people simply did not like the character - and, granted, her constant perkiness can be grating. But honestly, how else would you play lines like: "that's it Doc - now we're getting at the dirt!"? VERVOIDS, for me is a case of nice idea, shame about the execution. Not only the monsters, but also the sets and effects look a little bit cheaper and nastier than almost anything else we've seen so far this season. The dialogue too is florid and ludicrous - though those who love VERVOIDS tell me this is all part of the fun. The rather feeble shots of the HYPERION III travelling through space only serve to remind one of the majestic opening of episode one and cannot help but look that little bit worse by comparison. A reasonable cast including Honor Blackman and Malcolm Tierney work hard with the material they have.

The last 2 episodes (THE ULTIMATE FOE) are miraculously good considering the production nightmare of script editor Eric Saward withdrawing the final segment at the last minute. Husband and wife team Pip and Jane Baker (no relation to either Colin or Tom) were called in at short notice to create the series finale. Episode 13 provides some nice surprises and an excellent plot-twist. The scenes in the Matrix are exciting and only in the final 3 minutes does the story disappoint. Jayston is wonderful and it's a crying shame that he was never asked back to the show.

The discs are complimented by a staggering cornucopia of extras. I felt a vast sense of relief when I finished watching the lengthy deleted scenes (the VERVOIDS deleted scenes alone feel like they could have doubled the length of the story proper)! For '80's nostalgia fans there are WHO-related clips from Roland Rat, Lenny Henry, Saturday Superstore, Points of View and Blue Peter. For fans of naff '80's music there's the unexpurgated video of DR WHO's notoriously awful answer to DO THEY KNOW IT'S XMAS? - DOCTOR IN DISTRESS. Once heard, never forgotten!

There are multiple commentary options - although the ones without Eric Saward are generally the most engaging. There's a fun little piece on the art of the cliff-hanger, with writers Rob Shearman, Joseph Lidster and Nev Fountain discussing some of the more interesting examples. The "Making Of.." features are as watchable and professionally put-together as always. The undoubted highlight is the hour long TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS which covers the story of Colin Baker's brief time as the Doctor. Hopefully you 'll leave this box set with a new affection for the 6th actor to play the role on TV. My one criticism is that Brian Blessed wasn't asked to provide a commentary. His appearance on the Making of MINDWARP feature reminded me that he's a national treasure - his impression of Her Majesty the Queen is just one of the many strange delights on offer in this weird and sometimes wonderful release.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 December 2014
This was the complete season that nearly killed off Doctor Who way back in the mid 80s. Comprised of 4 stories intermingled and book-ended by The Trial of The Doctor's life. The stories weren't that bad. And the special features were insightful and entertaining. Just a shame the tenure of The Sixth Doctor ended on "carrots"
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 23 November 2009
Trial of a Timelord is the season long story that encompasses Doctor Who's 23rd season. As a story it is perhaps overlong and lightweight, however when divided up into the traditional segments (The Mysterious Planet, Mindwarp, Terror of the Vervoids and The Ultimate Foe) the story fairs a lot better. The first three segments are essentially recordings of The Doctors adventures being used as evidence in his trial brought about by the Timelords, with the fourth being the series finale.

The box set is best watched in individual segments as opposed to all in one go. The Mysterious Planet is a bonkers little romp with witty dialogue, Mindwarp falls between a few categories for me and Terror of the Vervoids is a fantastic little whodunit. The finale though is a mixed bag, although the story (part 13 especially) is wonderfully surreal, despite surprise appearances and revelations it does come across a tad lightweight.

The extras are very good indeed showcasing a number of cut and edited scenes, the 18 month hiatus, nice commentary's, the effect Robert Holmes death and the implosion of Nathan-Turner and Sawards relationship had on the season. However what is missing is an option to watch the first three individual stories without the intrusive trial scenes.
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on 25 September 2015
To be honest Lynda Bellingham is in these DVD's she is the one on the left side of this picture and she is in all eposode 's This is a complete Box set and Colin Baker is fantastic in this serise and it is so worth buying if you really like Doctor Who you will really like this enjoy or just really like it. and go for it When i got my item the postman did not waite but i still got it and he left it with my Neighbour was nice and i am gald i got it. i will so enjoy watching it so many times and for others out there will to
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 11 July 2010
As soon as i found out that trial of a time lord was coming to DVD i wanted to get it straight away, but most places were selling it for ridiculously high prices. But then i looked on amazon and all i can say is what a bargain! this box set contains 14 episodes of who filled fun. The special effects are well in front of there time (1986), the acting is brilliant especially the strong acting from colin baker, this is no doubtably his best season. This is different from any other classic doctor who, basically its 1 story split into 4 parts, mysterious planet, mindwarp, terror of the vervoids and the ultimate foe. I would say that mysterious planet and mindwarp are the 2 best and terror of the vervoids and the ultimate foe are still good just not as good. I enjoyed it all the way through and was not disapointed 1 bit, colin baker is not my favourite doctor but i was blown away by this masterpiece and if you are a true doctor who fan (like me) you should seriously consider getting this, and anyway even if you don't like it as much as i did it's not like you've lost a load of money is it ? I hope this review helps
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