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Customer Review

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb box set, 15 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: Doctor Who - The Trial Of A Time Lord [1986] [DVD] (DVD)
This box set consists of all four linked stories that comprised the 23rd series of Doctor Who alongside a generous helping of extra features. The not exactly thrilling story arc for the season is of the Doctor being put on trial by the Time Lords (which wasn't original either; it had been done in 'The War Games' in 1969), the effect this has is that the series contains endless scenes in a dull courtroom set.

The first story of the season is known as 'The Mysterious Planet'. The story features some good dialogue and there are some charming scenes of the Doctor and Peri conversing as friends and leaving their sniping from the previous series behind. The model work at the beginning is spectacular and the two robots are well designed. Otherwise this story is fairly average and is hampered by the trial sequences.

Next up is 'Mindwarp' which is, for me at least, the highlight of the series by a wide margin. The sets, lighting and spine tingling incidental music are all outstanding and the effects used to realise the surface of Thoros Beta are impressive. The performances are generally superb especially from Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Patrick Ryecart, Nabil Shaban and Christopher Ryan. Colin Baker actually gives two fabulous performances; first as the compassionate, good natured Doctor and then as the chilling, sadistic Doctor later on.

Brian Blessed's overacting is entirely consistent with his warlord character King Yrcanos, and there is a very touching subplot involving Yrcanos and his fellow soldier Dorff who has been turned into a werewolf like creature by the mentors. Sil is even better here than he was in 'Vengeance on Varos' and the script is often very amusing (there is a hilarious scene in which an elderly mentor is exasperated by Brian Blessed's loudness). The ending is extremely dramatic and heartbreaking and Colin Baker makes it all the more so by portraying the Doctor's reaction to it so perfectly.

The series continues with 'Terror of the Vervoids'. What should be a straightforward whodunnit with monsters thrown in seems far more complicated than it needs to be. The Vervoids look a bit silly and the incidental music is often grating. Nonetheless this is still consistently entertaining and it has three well constructed cliffhangers. The story is also notable for being the debut of Bonnie Langford as companion Mel, sadly Langford isn't cut out for Doctor Who and is irritatingly chirpy.

'The Ultimate Foe' concludes the season in disappointing fashion. It's not exactly bad but it evokes memories of 'The Armageddon Factor at the end of the Key to Time season; it just isn't a very satisfying conclusion to such a long story arc. The troubled writing of this story accounts for this. Judged on its own it's fairly good. Memorable aspects include the Master's appearance, the cliffhanger and Geoffrey Hughes' performance as Mr Popplewick.

When watching this series I think it's important not to consider it as a single fourteen part story as it starts to fall apart due to inconsistencies (Why does the Valeyard present the Doctor's jaunt to Ravalox as evidence when covering up the Doctor's visit is the purpose of the trial?). It works considerably better if considered as four separate stories as all four have elements to recommend them, especially 'Mindwarp'. Colin Baker's performance throughout is very strong and these stories show what a great Doctor he could have been if given more of a chance.

So the stories are good overall but really it's the extras that elevate this set to essential purchase territory. Across the four discs there are 'Making of' documentaries for the four segments which are all worth a look, as well as 'The Lost Season' which looks at the stories lined up for series 23 before the cancellation/hiatus. 'Don't leave me this way' is an entertaining documentary in which various talking heads provide analysis of Doctor Who cliffhangers, there are some music videos of the title sequences and the (rather good) theme music which was sadly only used for this season and there is also the obligatory 'coming soon' trailer. But the best extra is 'Trials and Tribulations' a near hour long documentary about Colin Baker's time as the Doctor and the cancellation/hiatus crisis. The talking heads are all brutally honest and this is one of the best Doctor Who documentaries ever.

On the whole this is a fantastic box set which lays bare the myth that Colin Baker's era as the Doctor was a total washout.
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Initial post: 6 Jan 2015 08:29:58 GMT
A fair balanced & wonderful assessment of the season & very well reviewed by your good self Benjamin.
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