The Mysterious Planet
6 September 1986
Lynda Bellingham (The Inquisitor), Joan Sims (Katryca), Michael Jayston (The Valeyard), Tony Selby (Glitz), Glen Murphy (Dibber), Tom Chadbon (Merdeen), Roger Brierley (Drathro), David Rodigan (Broken Tooth), Adam Blackwood (Balazar), Timothy Walker (Grell), Billy McColl (Humker) [2-4], Sion Tudor Owen (Tandrell) [2-4].
|Written by||Robert Holmes|
|Directed by||Nicholas Mallett|
|Produced by||John Nathan Turner|
|1||“Part One”||24:57||6 September 1986||4.9m|
|2||“Part Two”||24:44||13 September 1986||4.9m|
|3||“Part Three”||24:18||20 September 1986||3.9m|
|4||“Part Four”||24:20||27 September 1986||3.7m|
The Doctor is put on trial by the Time Lords for his interference in time and space. In the beginning of the prosecution’s case, presented by the Valeyard, the events of the Doctor’s and Peri’s adventure on the planet Ravolox are presented to the court.
Events of the serial are framed on an arcing plot that carries through the other three serials of the 23rd season. In this, the Doctor is forced to land the TARDIS aboard a Gallifreyan space station, where he is brought into a courtroom. The Inquisitor informs the Doctor he is on trial for conduct unbecoming a Time Lord; evidence will be presented by the Valeyard. The first evidence is shown through video footage, taken from the Matrix, of the Doctor’s recent involvement in the planet Ravolox, where the Valeyard shows that the Doctor willingly became involved in the affairs of the planet. The Doctor denies these charges as the Valeyard brings them. After showing the video, the Valeyard affirms he has more evidence sufficient to call for the end of the Doctor’s life.
As shown by the court evidence, the Doctor and Peri land on Ravolox, both noting a similarity to Earth. The Doctor is aware that Ravolox was devastated by a fireball, according to official records, but the presence of flourishing plant life make him suspicious. As they walk, they are observed by Sabalom Glitz and Dibber, mercenaries on the planet attempting to destroy a "black light" generator in order to destroy the L3 robot deep underground that it powers. The Doctor and Peri find a tunnel and enter to find remains that appear to be that of the Marble Arch tube station on the London Underground Central line, piquing the Doctor’s curiosity further. The Doctor wishes to proceed deeper, but Peri is worried and stays behind.
Peri is soon captured by a local human tribe, led by Katryca, and brought to their camp. Katryca informs Peri that she will need to take many husbands for the tribe, and locks her away with Glitz and Dibber; the two were captured after approaching the tribe to try to convince them to let them destroy the generator, which the tribe has taken as a totem. The three manage to overpower the guards and escape, but not before planting a bomb on the black light generator. They are pursued by the tribe.
The Doctor, in exploring the modern underground complex, is also captured by humans under watch by "the Immortal". He is brought before the Immortal, the L3 robot that Glitz is looking for. The robot calls itself Drathro, and is following its instructions to maintain the habitat of the underground system. Drathro orders the Doctor to make necessary repairs, but the Doctor manages to temporarily electrify the robot and make his escape. Drathro sends a service robot after the Doctor.
Peri, Glitz, and Dibber eventually meet up with the Doctor back at the ruins of Marble Arch, trapped between the tribe and the service robot. However, the tribesmen disable the service robot and recapture the group including the Doctor. The Doctor tries to explain the nature of the tribe’s totem, but Katryca is unimpressed and places them in a cell again. While there, Glitz confirms that Ravolox is actually Earth.
Drathro reactivates the service robot and sends it into the tribe’s village to recapture the Doctor, but the tribe is able to disable it again; Katryca decides they should attack Drathro’s "castle" to steal its technology for itself.
The Doctor and Peri use the opportunity to escape and re-enter the underground complex, aware that the black light generator is now severely damaged beyond repair, and if it should self-destruct, it could take the whole universe with it. Katryca and the tribe are easily defeated by Drathro. When the Doctor arrives, he attempts to plead for Drathro to shut himself down in order to disable the black light system, but Drathro refuses. Glitz, Dibber, and Peri arrive after being detained by Drathro, and Glitz offers to take the robot aboard his ship, which has a functioning black light system. Drathro agrees, and departs with the mercenaries.
The Doctor finds the black light system is already beginning to self-destruct, and reconfigures the system so that its explosion would be limited to the underground complex.
The Doctor, Peri, and the other humans living underground escape in time. The remains of the tribe offer to take in those humans that were living underground, and the Doctor and Peri say their goodbyes.
- Beginning with this chapter of Trial of a Time Lord, Doctor Who returned to its original 25-minute episode format, which it retained for the remainder of the original series. However, the total length of the broadcast season remained fixed at about three months annually, resulting in about a 50% drop in seasonal output as compared with previous seasons.
- While listed as a single story this story and the three others that make up ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ are in fact one long story making this the longest Doctor Who story, second only to The Daleks’ Master Plan which has 12 parts to it. Trial of a Time Lord has 14 parts, if taken altogether.
- Beginning with this story, all exteriors would be recorded using Outside Broadcast video, rather than film as had usually been the practice for the previous 22 years. The use of OB for exteriors would continue for the remainder of the original series, until its end in 1989
- The actor playing Merdeen, Tom Chadbon, had previously appeared in the 1979 Fourth Doctor serial City of Death.
- Dominic Glynn was hired to score the incidental music for The Mysterious Planet, then John Nathan-Turner offered him the chance to rearrange the opening title music
- The filmed insert that begins Part One of a special effects sequence involving the TARDIS would be the last shot-on-film footage made for Doctor Whountil the TV Movie. Ironically, the Fox network recycled this footage for its promotional advertisements for the film (even though it wasn’t included in the movie). Technically, disregarding the TV movie, this was the last shot-on-film footage ever shot for Doctor Who, as the series revival from 2005 to the present uses videotape which is later processed to look like film.
Cultural references from real world
Glitz asks the Doctor if he, as a Time Lord, has a ring or a magic lamp to rub.
When the Doctor is forbidden to look upon the Immortal, he jokes about the risk of being turned into a pillar of salt.
A hint of identity between Ravolox and Earth is the presence of the Marble Arch station in the underground.
Sabalom Glitz knows some Latin and lots of Polari, has been to prison many times, has seen many psychiatrists and comes from a polygamous society. He knows of the Time Lords, and is wanted in six galaxies. He’s from Salostopus, in the constellation of Andromeda.
Drathro is also from Andromeda, and he knows of Gallifrey.
Earth and its “constellation” have been moved “a couple of light years”. The Valeyard refers to the galaxy of Ravolox as the Stellian Galaxy.
The Doctor dates the events on Ravolox as at least two billion years after the 20th century.
Only part of Earth was affected by the solar fireball.
The sleepers, from Andromeda, found a way into the Matrix 500 years ago and fled to Earth, which was then devastated by a fireball.
The three sacred books of Marb Station are Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley, and UK Habitats of the Canadian Goose by H.M. Stationery Office.
The underground dwellers call their world UK Habitat.
Black light is not the Doctor’s field.
The Doctor has been deposed as Lord President of Gallifrey for neglecting his duties.
The Doctor doesn’t believe in ghosts.
The Doctor seems about to state his name casually to Peri, but is interrupted.
The Doctor is called “Old One” by Balazar.
The Doctor seems to suffer amnesia because of having been taken out of time.
The Doctor’s items edit
In his pockets, the Doctor carries a torch, an oil can, a paper mask, a teddy bear, and a bag of sweets.
As Tandrell and Humker rummage through the Doctor’s coat pockets, they discover a bag of jelly babies, which the Doctor quickly snatches back before offering each one of the sweets.
Law and order
The Doctor survives an execution by stoning for the misunderstood theft of water.
The Free worship the Earth god Haldren. The black light converter functions as its totem.
According to Glitz, silictone (a material the light converter is made of) is the most expensive metal in the galaxy.
The black light converter is a Magnum Mark VII.
The Doctor is under process because of the infringement of the First Law.
The trial takes place on a Time Lord space station.
The Valeyard thinks that the High Council were “too lenient”, with regards to the Doctor’s previous trial and reduction in sentence.
The evidence is shown from images taken from the Matrix, the repository of all knowledge.
Order the DVD
In February 1985, the BBC announced that the planned twenty-third season of Doctor Who had been cancelled. After vocal protests by the press and Doctor Who fans (including a charity single, "Doctor in Distress"), the BBC announced that the programme was merely on "hiatus", and would return in September 1986. Several stories which had been planned or commissioned for the original Season 23 were abandoned in favour of an overarching "trial" theme, reflecting the fact that the programme itself was on trial at the BBC.
This story was the last complete Doctor Who story written by Robert Holmes. Its plot is similar to Holmes’ first contribution to Doctor Who, The Krotons. In both stories, an alien machine subjugates a humanoid civilization and forces its brightest young people into its service.
The opening model shot of the Time Lord Space Station where the trial is held throughout the season was the most expensive model shot from the classic series run (costing more than £8,000). The sequence depicts the Time Lord Space Station orbiting in space then dragging the TARDIS inside via the use of a tractor beam.
From this serial onwards, all location work would be recorded on Outside Broadcast (OB) tape instead of the usual 16mm film. This practice would continue until the end of the show in 1989. The only footage shot on film for this episode was the opening special effects shot of the TARDIS.
The BBC had been encouraging the replacement of film cameras with OB cameras since the early 1980s on the grounds that they were cheaper, and mixed with studio-shot material better. John Nathan-Turner had actually wanted to switch to OB shooting as early as Peter Davison’s first season in 1982, but met with resistance from the directors working on the show at the time, so was overruled.
Roger Brierley, who voiced the role of Drathro, was originally supposed to wear the robot costume and physically play the role, but it was realised that the costume would not fit Brierley’s 6’4" frame. Therefore, a special effects assistant, Paul McGuinness, who helped design the costume, was called in to physically play Drathro, while Brierley spoke his lines from off-camera.