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In many ways 1986 wasn't the best time to be a Doctor Who fan. The series had taken a substantial knock in 1985, being "rested" for 18 months. The 1986 season was seen as make-or-break and it was the big chance for the series to win back the affection of the public.

Cutting the episode count from 26 to 14 and what seemed to be a reduced budget didn't help, plus the concept of the season - the Doctor on trial, whilst the series also seemed to be on trial with the 6th floor at the BBC, was a slightly uncomfortable concept. And over on ITV, the A Team would be one opponent the Doctor couldn't defeat.

However, time has been relatively kind to season 23, and whilst no one would pretend it showcases the programme at its best, it still has its moments.

As for the stories contained within this double pack, Terrance Dicks' novelisation of Robert Holmes' final complete script for the series - The Mysterious Planet - is somewhat of a disappointment. When Dicks was effectively writing all the Target books by himself in the late 1970's, producing a book a month, you could be forgiven for not expecting anything other than a straightforward transcription of the television original.

But by the mid 1980's with more and more of the original scriptwriters adapting their own books, that can't be the reason why this was such an uninspiring read, and despite Lynda Bellingham's best efforts, a fairly uninspiring listen. Although the script wasn't particularly good, particularly considering Holmes' high standards, at least on television there were good performances from the likes of Tony Selby. The audio robs us of that and as Terrance is content just to flatly transcribe the script there's not too much that's memorable here. Running for 3 hours and 10 minutes across three CDs, I suppose you can say it doesn't outstay its welcome.

Philip Martin's Mindwarp, adapted from his own scripts, is better. Martin takes the time to add little touches to his original teleplay (although the epilogue has always struck me as a little odd) so this results in a much more satisfying experience. It's good to have Colin Baker back as a reader, and the extra value from Martin means that this lasts 90 minutes more than The Mysterious Planet - 4 hours 40 minutes across four CDs.

Not essential purchases then, unless you plan to buy them all, but with two stories and seven discs it does offer quite good value.
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on 21 October 2013
So, volume one's double-header release, THE MYSTERIOUS PLANET and MINDWARP.

Returning to the Time Lord Court Room, Lynda Bellingham confidently reads/performs Terrance Dicks' novelisation of Robert Holmes' original screenplay. With that said, you would have thought that such an amalgamation of talent of two distinguished writers that the first four episodes of THE TRIAL OF A TIME LORD would have heralded a thrilling, absorbing and dynamic adventure for the Sixth Doctor and Peri to be embroiled within at the start of the drama's SEASON 23. However, THE MYSTERIOUS PLANET remains a prime example of placid, flabby writing that aimlessly meanders with carelessness that at time is painful to read. In effect, it is a CLASSIC SERIES two-parter injected with a jelly-filling that plumps up the core story.

And there lays the problem that Bellingham's presentation. It's not her eloquent and vehement performance, crafting carefully delineated idiosyncratic & colourful characters at every turn of the page, but it is soporific content that is she's ploughing through. In this instance, the shortest straw had been drawn.

Certainly, Bellingham relishes bringing the caustic, sarcastic and flippant Sixth Doctor to life, and injecting a marginalisation and mild annoyingness with her characterisation of Peri Brown that was aptly realised throughout the broadcast version. Suitably, her Glitz and Dibber are delightfully as `wide' as ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES' Derek and Rodney with a undercurrent of psychopathic militancy that was skimmed across with too much flippancy originally on-screen by Tony Selby and Glen Murphy.

The sound treatment (by Simon Power of MEON SOUND) attributed to Bellingham's voice as Drathro, the L3 Robot, instils a true chilling threat to the otherwise light-weight text; resonant, recalcitrant and irreconcilable.

Whist the first two-thirds of the novel is as pedestrian as old aged pensioner assailing an ice-coated pavement whilst wearing carpet slippers, it is the final third (disc three) that truly awakens this slumbering giant. Whilst the Court Room punctuations become less exasperating, Bellingham's reading rattles along with ascending momentum that will leave you breathless.

Take a leap of faith, it may not be taut or dynamic but allow Bellingham to guide you through the machinations and double-crossing that permeate the impossible planet of Ravalox.

Across a four-disc presentation, Colin Baker reads Phillip Martin's (own) novelisation of episode 5 to 8 of THE TRIAL OF A TIME LORD, MINDWARP , with a relish and energy that becomes a tsunami of beguiling characterisation and joyous narrative to listen to. Surprisingly, this is Baker's first novelisation reading under the AUDIOGO brand, and, if this is the result, it shouldn't be the last.

Regally reassuring, Baker's Sixth Doctor is perfectly pitched as you would expect - terse, authoritative yet dutifully reverent -whilst the haplessly bemused Peri is marginally "up-scaled" to be more effective than her stereotypical televised characterisation. Throughout MINDWARP, Phillip Martin indulgently parachutes-in an array of conflicting characters that certainly Baker handles with an impressive deftness and athletic vocal agility that other readers in the DOCTOR WHO novelisation audio range would be directed to listen to before embarking on their own commission.

Baker's financially-focussed reptilian, Sil is thoroughly repulsive, though his iconic vocal `cackle' is more reminiscent of BAGPUSS' Professor Yaffle than a vile, subservient Thoros Betan, however, the actor expertly mimics Sil's original strangulated vocal staccato rhythm that has ensured the iconic character's enduring fan appreciation. Naturally, Baker delivers a King Yrcanos gloriously ebullient yet - thankfully - restrained that melds into the story's development without being over-bearing or comical as the character had been in the televised version.

Interesting, MINDWARP seems to flit less between the machinations on Thoros Beta and the manipulations aboard the Time Lord Court Flagship, and this allows the action unfold at a more measured rate than THE MYSTERIOUS PLANET had, and, to that end, is far more enjoyable and appreciative.

DOCTOR WHO - THE TRIAL OF A TIME LORD VOLUME ONE is a Curate's Egg, with, considering the writing talent of Robert Holmes, the first three-disc adventutre being the weakest, whilst Phillip Martin's tale of economic greed and the seeking of medically implanted Nirvana. Nevertheless, the release (along with expected VOLUME 2) ensures that the troubled all-too-short era of the (underrated) Sixth Doctor is not forgotten unceremoniously.
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on 12 December 2013
I loved both story's, also they are a good length I think one story is 4 cd's long and the other is 3 cd's long.
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on 11 September 2013
Season 23 - the so called Trial Season - isn't that highly regarded by fandom, but often novelisations help redeem a story's reputation. Presented here are two of the four tales that made up Trial of a Time Lord.

We open with the Mysterious Planet, written by Terrance Dicks and read by Linda bellingham who starred as The Inquisitor in the 1986 episodes here novelised. When Terrance was on form he turned out some truly wonderful books - his novel of The Auton Invasion (Spearhead From Space on TV) made me become a reader of "older books" at the age of 7 in 1973, whereas this lazy and rushed affair is typical of the later Target books he published. Little more than the TV script with he said/she said added, the book still seems flaccid and over long. Whilst Ms Bellingham gives a spirited reading some of the descriptive work is really quite weak and repetitive. I didn't like the TV version and hoped that the reading would win me over; sadly it did not.

The second story is far better. Based on the gruelling "Mind Warp" section of the Trial, these discs are read by the Doctor himself, Colin Baker, who again delivers with great gusto and brings the characters to life. Phillip Martin, novelising his own scripts adds depth and flavour to the story, fleshing out scenes and motivations very well.

Mr Baker is a seasoned reader and manages to recapture the brash 6th incarnation of the Doctor whilst playing other characters (albeit with a rather naff American twang for Peri) in a fast moving read.

The Target range boasted the good, the bad and the indifferent as far as novelisations go, and here we are presented with a good (Mind Warp) and a bad (Mysterious Planet). If you enjoy these readings, must collect all Doctor Who memorabilia, or like me like listening to books as a relaxation method I am sure you will get some enjoyment from them. However, you may wish to seek out the stronger novels and readings first - some of the first to third Doctor novels being the best (this year's The Tomb of the Cybermen is a cracking book beautifully read, for example). I gave this set 3 out of 5 - mainly due to the below par writing in Mysterious Planet.
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