The Trial of a Time Lord


With the realisation, at the end of 2014, that I only had two dozen video fan edits left to do for the Classic Series, I thought it was probably about time that I turned my attention to the one Sixie story that I really wasn’t looking forward to tackling. The Trial is probably the most notorious story in the show’s entire Classic Series iteration and for good reason. So, how to set about making this clunker watchable?

Well, the first thing to do was to make the space ship crawl a pre-title sequence to give it a bit more impact. That necessitated using the tolling bell at the start to ring six times for you-know-Who… The crawl at the start toward the Time Station is on the DVD but, if you compare it to the TX version, you’ll notice that it got speeded up as the TARDIS gets drawn inside. I utilised the full version of this sequence to create what I think is a much more atmospheric opening.

I also used the updated version of the Sixie titles on the DVD, since this is my last Colin edit. I quite like it and it helps to mark out the trial as something a bit different, which it certainly is – and in more ways than one!

If ever there was one single piece of evidence you could point to in order to demonstrate that Jemima Nathan-Turner and Erica Saward were the wrong people to have in charge of Doctor Who then Trial is Exhibit A. Given that they had already been “cancelled”, and with all that extra time to plan for the new season, knowing that they had fewer friends than ever on The Sixth Floor, it’s amazing that this shit was the best they could come up with.

What’s even more amazing is that the whole Cancellation Crisis comes just two short years after the Longleat Celebration, an event so popular they had to turn people away. But that’s what happens when you no longer have covering fire from Upstairs and The Suits don’t want to make your show, no matter how popular it is, because it won’t help advance their careers as much as a hit they’ve come up with themselves.

Leaving all the well-known production problems of the Erica vs Jemima bitchfest to one side, it’s not just a fundamentally flawed idea to have a TV Show that’s “on trial” to do not just a story, but a whole season where the central character is on trial, it’s an out & out bad idea full stop. For fourteen weeks we sit and watch Doctor Who on our tv screens and what do we see? The sodding Time Lords watching Dr Who on a tv screen! Yeah, you can talk about going all meta if you like, but none of it makes any sense – why the hell would the Valeyard bring into evidence the very thing the Time Lords were trying to keep secret? Why sacrifice the Earth anyway? Why not just bump off the Andromedans like they did the War Lords? An amalgam of the darker sides of the Doctor’s nature? What? Between his twelfth and final incarnation??? WTF???? In the immortal words of Sydney Newman – “Nuts!”

So the question then becomes, how the hell do we edit this story to at least make it less bad? Well, the first thing to do is to avoid all mention of Ravolox, which means dispensing with almost all the Trial sequences from the first four eps. Then the Valeyard can take us to Thoros Beta and then we can finally find out what happened to Peri. Maybe.

Long term readers will know that I’ve already edited the first two Trial stories to remove all the trial sequences, something that improves them no end.

And that’s how they should have done this season. Instead of having the Trial span the entire thing and it being a dreary snoozefest as a result, they should have made the Trial a 4-part story all on its own arising as a direct result of the events on Thoros Beta. They could then have used the same combination of 3 and 4 parters they implemented the following year. But no.

The next question was how to split up the story into its individual episodes. There was no way I was ever going to attempt this as a a compilation edit, the transition from 12 to 13 makes that virtually impossible for a start, at least without inserting another shot of the time station. Yawn.

And, since all the other S23 stories had been edited as shorter, “cut down” episodes, it made sense to do the same with this, taking advantage of the creative conceit that they were all part of the same aforesaid alternate version of S23.

Thinking about how to structure the episodes prior to starting the edit, I thought it would most likely be part one for The Prosecution [Mindwarp], part two for The Defence [Vervoids] and parts three and four for The Ultimate Foe. Imagining that Trial Part One comes the week after Mindwarp Part Three, everybody would want to know wtf happened to Peri the week before so it made sense not to keep them waiting too long for an answer.

by Lee Johnson for The Complete HistoryGiven that the easiest eps to edit would be the closing two that draw the whole sorry saga to a close, I started editing those first. Part 13, the Bob Holmes one, has some terribly clunky dialogue. One can only conclude that he was either really, really ill when he wrote this or, more likely, Jemima was responsible.

Once Erica went off in a huff she had to Script Edit as well as Produce the show so it’s a coin toss as to who was really responsible for some of the more dire elements of the season. If you listen to her memoirs, Disc 3 Chapters 32 & 33, JNT seems to put the blame on Erica for not having the scripts ready but Erica’s heart wasn’t in it and she was no bloody good at her job anyway. To my mind the one is as bad as the other, which is probably why the season gets worse after Mindwarp, when Erica is no longer around. So in this version, the Valeyard is simply an unspecified future incarnation of the Doctor, with none of that “inbetween incarnations” nonsense.

At the time of editing, I hadn’t heard the Big Finish audio “Trial of the Valeyard” but my personal take on the trial was always that he wasn’t a future Doctor at all but a Time Lord agent of the Black Guardian, and it was the BG who had set up the Trial as a means of nobbling the Doc once and for all. Either that or he was an agent of the Celestial Toymaker. Whatever he was he wasn’t an Inbetweenie Doctor, and in this version he isn’t either!

Trial Time Lord Ultimate Foe Tom Connell Lee SullivanOnce the action moves to the Matrix we get our first bits of Extended & Deleted footage from the DVD, with just the occasional shot here and there. In all this ep lasts about 21 minutes and ends with possibly the best cliffhanger we’ve had for a long, long time with Sixie being dragged under by the Hands Of Doom that rise up from the beach. A great image, a possibly intentional metaphor for the show itself and kudos to the production team for pulling it off, but I wouldn’t fancy being one of the blokes in that pit they dug in the sand…

With just a few additional music cues to tie everything together for part 13, it’s on to the original part 14 and Bye Bye Colin. The first thing to fix was Sixie rising up out of the quicksand, an ingenious reverse effect only slightly spoiled by Colin losing his balance slightly in the middle of him descending. I managed to mask his arm as he rises, making the sequence a little bit more convincing.

The next thing to cut was the section in the Master’s TARDIS where the “inbetweenie” stuff gets another mention, a problem simply fixed by splitting the scene in half by inserting Mel’s first attempt to get past the Keeper from the earlier beach scene. In the original, the fact that she doesn’t get past him undermines the “fake trial” setup later on as it’s clear that it isn’t really Mel who takes Sixie back to the courtroom.

trial-of-a-time-lord-by-willbrooks1989-on-etsySo in this version we cut away from the scene on Mel’s line “I’m going in there!” which makes it far less clear that it isn’t Mel inside the Matrix, which in turn gives the revelation that the “verdict” is fake more dramatic weight. Which is what they should have done…

In terms of duration, when it was all over I discovered that the cuts I had made and the restoration of the deleted material had effectively cancelled each other out. 

Additional music cues came from the tracks accompanying the photo gallery on the DVD, as well as some cues from both “Mysterious Planet” and “Timelash” to aid with the atmospherics. The last thing to do was to make sure Sixie’s last line wasn’t “carrot juice” and beef up the explosions, which are a bit wimpy on the original.

Then came the hard bit, editing the first two sections, the Prosecution, consisting of “Mindwarp” footage, and the Defence, made up of “Vervoids” footage. To my mind, it made sense to start with the Prosecution case first, as it was pretty clear what the evidence would be. So I ripped all the relevant sections from the “Mindwarp” DVD and then set about putting them in order, starting with the end first.

Working backwards meant I could start with the easiest section first, and the most important one in terms of the narrative, the revelation of Peri’s demise. After that it was a case of deciding which bits were the most relevant to the Valeyard’s case and retaining only those. Remember, the creative conceit was that we’ve just seen the three-part story “Mindwarp” prior to the Trial story so, if this was how they really had done S23, you can imagine that they would have kept the amount of repeated material from the previous story to a minimum, which is what I tried to do here.

ultimate foe dwm

With the Prosecution taken care of, all that was left to do was Part Two – the case for the Defence. Now, I don’t know about you but choosing an adventure that ends in “justifiable” genocide seems to me to be a rather risky defence strategy to say the least.

Given their track record, did Sixie seriously not consider that the Time Lords might try and use Article 7 against him? That’s about as daft a decision as the Valeyard including Ravolox as evidence, but then they are the same person so clearly one is as daft as the other. Either that or Sixie deliberately chose to use the events on board the Hyperion Three, knowing full well they would invoke Article Seven, to force the Valeyard’s hand and cut to the chase! Maybe…

Unlike “Mindwarp” it wasn’t easy to condense this one down to what was relevant to the Doctor’s Defence. The main consideration was to support Sixie’s assertion that the evidence was being tampered with, so that dictated what material got included, whilst still having it all make sense and not spoiling everything for the “trial-free” version that follows – apart from the ending, that is! But, hopefully by the time you get to the last part of “Terror of the Vervoids”, another six episodes away, what’s shown here won’t be quite so fresh in your mind…

With the editing of this story complete, you can now, if you really want to, watch the entire “cut down” Whoflix version of season twenty-three, the way the Beeb should have done it!

trial time lord fan edit

TRIAL TIME LORD CD REARdownload trialcbp1cbp2cbp3cbp4


8 thoughts on “The Trial of a Time Lord

  1. I was never a big Colin Baker fan, and i thought this story dragged on far too long in the original version. Too much padding, and too many “flashbacks” .that, to me at the time were confusing.

    Your edit makes it more watchable, and after all these years of avoiding it, i can watch it again, and ( sort of) understand the story now,

    • yay! I think, given what you’ve got to work with here, it’s probably the best version you could come up with. Glad to hear I’ve made the story watchable for you, that’s what it’s all about.

  2. In my opinion the only good thing to come out of these stories was Michael Jayston as the Valeyard and Dominic Glynn musical score for The Ultimate Foe.

  3. I’m interested in watching this, but I have a few questions. Note that in a few days I will be watching Season 23 for the first time, so I am trying to find a balance between your standalone edits and canon compatibility. First, is Ravalox/Earth being moved by the Time Lords mentioned at all in your edit? Second, I know you already mentioned Trial of the Valeyard as something you didn’t take into account when you made this edit. Is this edit compatible with that audio story? Third, if any of the previous questions answers are no, do you have a recommendation for retaining canon compatibility while still going through as few trial sequences as possible? Like a mix of whoflix and official s23 episodes?

    • Earth & Ravalox is still there, it’s impossible to remove without making a nasty jump cut in the middle of Glitz’s “testimony”.
      As for the Valeyard’s Trial, if you mean does the Master still say that he’s the Doctor, then yes he does.

  4. A tremendous improvement over the original — but the number of plot holes in the source material makes it impossible to fix everything. The seeds the Doctor saw at the beginning of the Vervoid segment weren’t destroyed, so he didn’t commit genocide. (But no one points that out onscreen.) Even if they had been, it doesn’t make sense for the Time Lords to charge the Doctor with a crime he hadn’t committed yet! (But no one points that out onscreen.) I don’t think there’s any way to edit around those problems in the script, but I would have deleted the Doctor-destroys-the-communications scenes. First: there’s no conceivable reason for the Doctor to have done that, and second, the Doctor says that isn’t the scene he saw when preparing his defense. It doesn’t make sense for the Valeyard to insert that forgery into evidence — a forgery so blatantly obvious weakens his case!

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