Timestamp #147: The Ultimate Foe

Doctor Who: The Ultimate Foe
The Trial of a Time Lord, Parts XIII-XIV

(2 episodes, s23e13-e14, 1986)


It’s time for closing statements.

Picking up at the Doctor’s inadvertent admission of genocide, the Doctor charges that the Matrix has been tampered with so the Inquisitor calls upon the Keeper of the Matrix to testify. The Keeper denies the possibility on grounds that the Key of Rassilon is required to enter the database, and only senior Time Lords have access to the keys. Neither the Valeyard nor the Inquisitor is swayed.

Something sounded fishy here, so I waded back into the archives. The Invasion of Time calls out the Great Key of Rassilon, the literal key to ultimate Time Lord knowledge. So are all of these senior Time Lords holding Lesser Keys of Rassilon, and if so, what is the difference if they all lead to the same Matrix, arguably the source of all Time Lord knowledge?

Outside the station, two pods arrive and travel down the fancy corridor of light. They open to reveal Sabalom Glitz and Mel – though neither knows how they arrived at the station – and they barge into the courtroom to offer a defense for the Doctor. On cue, their mysterious benefactor is revealed as the Master, communicating to them from the depths of the Matrix.

First, this whole arc just got a lot more deus ex machina.

Second, it turns out that a Key of Rassilon can be duplicated. Looking back on The Invasion of Time and the (admittedly assumed) purpose of the Great Key and the “lesser” keys, this really makes me wonder about the Artifacts of Rassilon. Possession of the Sash, the Key, and the Rod could lead to absolute power and a Time Lord dictatorship, and if the keys are so easily duplicated then why hasn’t someone attempted a coup with a Gallifreyan 3-D printer?

The Time Lords in attendance do not recognize the Master (which is surprising given how often the High Council has interacted with the Master and/or sent the Doctor to stop him), but the Master seems to have a deep interest in the Valeyard and a strong desire to see him lose. The Inquisitor allows Glitz to testify and the rogue reveals that the mysterious box he was searching for contained secrets of the Time Lords. The sleepers – the inhabitants of Ravalox, then known as Earth – somehow gained access to the Matrix and were siphoning secrets into the box for later use, and the Gallifreyan High Council drew Earth out of orbit, initiated the fireball, and renamed the planet to protect the information.

Yikes. The Doctor’s enemy in this story is own people?

The Master reveals that the Valeyard was charged to tamper with the trial evidence in exchange for the rest of the Doctor’s regenerations. You see, the Valeyard is the Doctor… or rather the amalgamation of the Doctor’s darker impulses from somewhere between his twelfth and final incarnations.

The Doctor’s real enemy is himself.

The Inquisitor agrees that the trial must consider this new evidence, and the Valeyard flees into the Matrix. The Doctor and Glitz pursue him, landing in a warped recreation of Victorian-era London. The Doctor is attacked by a rain barrel, but he is saved by Glitz. The rouge hands the Time Lord a note from the Master pointing them toward a place called The Fantasy Factory. As they approach, Glitz takes a harpoon to the chest.

The Matrix is a place where logic has no hold, and we’re back to The Deadly Assassin.

In the courtroom, the Master testifies to the court that everything they saw was true with minor adjustments to cast doubt on the Doctor. He also reveals that Peri’s fate in Mindwarp was a lie. She is serving as a queen at the side of King Yrcanos, thus providing a great sigh of relief from your humble reviewer. The Master hopes that the Valeyard and the Doctor will destroy each other and leave him free to pillage the universe, and he suggests that the High Council be made to answer for their crimes.


In the Matrix, we find that the Valeyard’s attack didn’t roll high enough to defeat Glitz’s armor class, and the rogue is convinced to help the Doctor and escape the computer. They enter The Fantasy Factory and meet Mr. Popplewick, a rather stuffy bureaucrat who loves his red tape. The Doctor rushes past the front desk to the proprietor’s office only to find a more officious version of Popplewick. The procedure is sacrosanct!

Before the Doctor is allowed to proceed, he is forced to sign over his remaining regenerations to Mr. J. J. Chambers – the Valeyard – in the event of his “untimely” death. Within moments, he is whisked away to a bleak beach where hands attack from beneath the sand and draw him down, reminiscent of the quicksand traps that permeated much of ’80s television and film adventures. Glitz adopts the role of reliable sidekick and tries to rescue him, but the Doctor overcomes the trap by sheer willpower, pretty much invalidating any amount of physical peril going forward. After a round of taunting from the Valeyard, the evil Time Lord forces the Doctor and Glitz into a nearby hut with a cloud of nerve gas.

The twist: The hut is the Master’s TARDIS. The Master explains that the Valeyard has to be stopped because he has none of the Doctor’s morality, leaving him eviler, more powerful, and a huge threat. The Master tricks the Doctor by putting him in a catatonic state and leaving him as bait for the Valeyard. The Master’s Tissue Compression Eliminator proves useless against the Valeyard and the pair is forced to retreat. Meanwhile, Mel somehow arrives in the Matrix and escorts him out of the Matrix and back to the courtroom.

Mel testifies in the Doctor’s defense, offering footage from Terror of the Vervoids as evidence. The Inquisitor is not swayed, sentencing the Doctor to death. The Doctor accepts the verdict with surprising calm, and we find out that this is yet another Matrix illusion. Outside the Matrix, the real Mel is incensed, prompting her to steal the Key of Rassilon and enter the Matrix. She intercepts the Doctor, but he chides her because he knew it was a ruse based on her digital doppelgänger’s testimony. Together they enter the Fantasy Factory in pursuit of the Valeyard.

The Master charges Glitz, first via failed hypnosis then with a treasure chest, with finding the Ravalox Matrix box. Glitz finds the memory tapes and Mr. Popplewick while the Doctor discovers a list (in his own handwriting) of judges from his trial. Together, they force Popplewick to take them to the Valeyard, but Glitz trades the Doctor for the memory tapes, which he then passes to the Master.

The Doctor reveals Popplewick to be the Valeyard in disguise. He further discovers a maser device aimed at the courtroom, ready to kill the assembled Time Lords as a last resort. The list of names was a hit list. He dispatches Mel to evacuate the courtroom.

In the real world, Gallifrey is collapsing into chaos. The High Council has been deposed by a civilian revolt, and the Master takes the opportunity to seize control. The attempt is stymied when he loads the Ravalox drive into his TARDIS console and it freezes both the Master and Glitz in the Matrix.

Mel tries to evacuate the courtroom while the Doctor destroys the maser using a feedback loop. The surge strikes the Valeyard, knocking him down as the Fantasy Factory explodes. The Doctor returns to reality and learns of Peri’s true fate. The Inquisitor offers the presidency to the Doctor, but he declines, instead offering it to her. He also suggests that the Master should be punished but that Glitz can be reformed.

Leaving his fate up to the Time Lords means that the Master will be back. No doubt.

Mel and the Doctor depart with a quip, and the Doctor nearly abandons Mel at the hint of carrot juice in their future. Instead, they board the TARDIS and take off for points unknown. Meanwhile, the Inquisitor dissolves the court and orders the Keeper to repair and reinforce the Matrix.

Unbeknownst to anyone in attendance, the Keeper is the Valeyard in disguise.


As part of the Trial of a Time Lord arc, The Ultimate Foe provides a decent enough resolution, bolstered by the revelation that Peri survived and is living a good life. She did look a little sad, but I assume that it’s the weight of her role as leader. I can’t imagine that she actually missed the Sixth Doctor after all the abuse he has subjected her to, but she might miss the thrill of the adventure.

On its own, the story of The Ultimate Foe is fairly weak. The introduction of the Master weakens the power of the Valeyard and turns this “dark Doctor” into “Master Lite”. The disguises, the logical trickery, the drive to steal regenerations and kill the Doctor… all of it is just a rehash of the Master’s various machinations. The resolution also points out a massive plot hole: If the Sixth Doctor dies with regenerating, there can’t be a Twelfth Doctor or beyond. The Valeyard cannot exist unless he remains outside of time, and if he does stay outside of time then what is the point of all that power?

On a series continuity note, I did enjoy the call back to the Doctor’s dislike of the nickname “Doc”. We’ve seen it at least three times before: The Time Meddler, The Five Doctors, and The Twin Dilemma.

On a project note, this is the first time that an incarnation’s finale doesn’t get the regeneration handicap. This wasn’t intended as the final story for Colin Baker, and he doesn’t even begin the regeneration process in this story.


Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”


UP NEXT – Twenty-Third Series Summary



The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.


Pop Culture Download: March 18, 2018

Pop Culture Download: March 18, 2018


On the Docket

Doctor Stephen Hawking, world-renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist, has died at the age of 76. – [BBC]

Mark Hamill has been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. – [Variety]

Lynda Carter of Wonder Woman fame will be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next month. – [Syfy]

The trailers have been released for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Mary Poppins Returns, Christopher Robin, and Avengers: Infinity War. – [In order on YouTube: 1, 2, 3, 4]

Keith DeCandido continues 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch continues with the sort of sequel to the Christopher Reeve era of Superman with Superman Returns. – [Tor.com]

Read More »

Timestamp #146: Terror of the Vervoids

Doctor Who: Terror of the Vervoids
The Trial of a Time Lord, Parts IX-XII

(4 episodes, s23e09-e12, 1986)


The Doctor is given a brief recess to mourn Peri’s death before being allowed the privilege of his own defense.

This episode of Time Lord Theater delves into the Doctor’s future. The dark introduction focuses on the mining planet Mogar in 2986 AD, galactic liner Hyperion III, a shipment of minerals, and murder.

As the passengers get checked in and settled on the cruise liner, an elderly man named Kimber spots someone he recognizes as an investigator named Hallett. The other passenger corrects him, stating that he is a mineralogist named Grenville, but Kimber puts on his conspiracy hat and his belief begins to spread like wildfire. A trio of scientists – Professor Sarah Lasky and her colleagues – are disturbed by this news. Nothing shady going on there, right?

On the TARDIS, the Doctor is working out with a companion named Mel.

Now, Mel’s very presence removes all of the dramatic tension surrounding the trial. If Mel comes from the Doctor’s future from this perspective, then it logically follows that he has a future after this trial! Ergo, he isn’t executed and is allowed to travel again.

Second, where does Mel come from? After the demise of Peri, Mel feels like a replacement to fill a quota.

The Time Lord gags down some carrot juice as their passage is detected by the cruise liner. They soon pick up a distress call from the cruise liner, sent by a mysterious figure who just incapacitated the communications officer, and they materialize in the cargo hold. Mel wants to rush into danger, but the Doctor is concerned since the distress call was sent directly to them. They are soon apprehended by security officers and taken before the ship’s captain, one Commodore Travers, whom the Doctor has met before on a previous (untelevised) adventure. Travers denies sending the distress call and is skeptical of the Doctor’s presence. He gives them quarters after refusing to let them leave the ship.

Something evil is brewing down in the cargo bay among the scientific experiments. Meanwhile, Mel develops a plan to solve the mystery: The Doctor will ask about while Mel investigates the passenger spaces. She ends up in the gymnasium and receives a secret message. She relays this message to the Doctor and they head to Cabin Six for the rendezvous. There they find a wrecked room, evidence of a fight, and the seeds used in the scientific experiments.

The room and missing boot belong to Grenville, who apparently has just been vaporized in the waste disposal unit. The Doctor presumes that their adventure is over, but Mel is not convinced. In the courtroom, the Doctor claims that the memories have been tampered with. The Valeyard points to it as more evidence that he is reckless and endangers companions needlessly, but the Doctor continues in hopes of proving him wrong.

Aside: Do you want some particularly pointed commentary on the John Nathan-Turner era of Doctor Who? Look no further than “Why it is that every time you appear on the scene, people begin to die?”


Returning to the episode already in progress…

Mel investigates the hydroponics center, the focus of the scientific experiments. The unfortunate communications officer is killed in a freak accident, something emerges from one of the alien pods, and Mel screams.

Goodness, does she scream.

The guards arrive on the scene and Mel is taken to Travers. After she leaves, the other guard is killed, but both corpses vanish. Travers summons the Doctor and interrogates Mel, and they all come to the conclusion that something nefarious is happening on the Hyperion III. The Doctor and Mel take the seeds they found to Professor Lasky, but she claims that the Time Lord stole them. After they sort out the circumstances, Mel and Lasky geek out over the seeds while the Doctor watches aghast.

In response to the deaths on board, Travers alters course to arrive on Earth 72 hours earlier. Unfortunately, this will take them closer to the Black Hole of Tartarus. The Mogarians protest, coupling the danger with the politics of mining their home bare.

In the courtroom, the Valeyard objects to the politics, but the Doctor points out that he’s missing the forest for the trees.


Returning to the episode already in progress…

One of the Morgarians collapses after having a beverage, and the Doctor removes the being’s faceplate (despite objections that oxygen will kill the alien) to reveal Grenville. Or rather, Hallett, proving Kimber right. Grenville’s death was staged to remove a threat to his cover story. The Doctor only knew that Grenville was not a Morgarian because the undercover alien did not use his translator to speak.

This event prompts the Doctor to take a more active role in matters. He and Mel investigate the trashed hydroponics center as the scientists conspire in the gymnasium. Meanwhile, poor Kimber is killed by one of the plant creatures in his cabin, and our travelers witness Lasky leaving an isolated room. The Doctor sets off the fire alarm to distract the guards, then he and Mel take a look in the quarantined cabin. We’ll just assume for the sake of fiction that smoke masks can also filter pathogens. They discover a human-plant hybrid, and Mel screams.

Goodness, does she scream.

The hybrid tells the Doctor to stop Lasky before the scientists arrive and usher the travelers out. The scientists are escorting the hybrid, one of the lab aides, back to Earth in order to help her after being infected by a freak accident. The discussion is interrupted by the guards, who apprehend the Doctor for setting off a false alarm.

The Doctor is taken to Travers and he explains what he found. Elsewhere, an attendant raises the alarm about Kimber’s disappearance and Mel finds evidence of plant interference in his cabin. The plant creatures are using the ventilation system to move around the ship and systematically kill each passenger. Mel discovers this and records their discussions, but is abducted shortly thereafter and dumped in a refuse container. Coincidentally, the Doctor comes in after this and finds the recording. He runs after the waste bins and stops Mel from being killed in the waste disposal unit, but the recording disappears in the interim.

The Doctor heads to hydroponics as Mel investigates the stewardess. In the courtroom, the trial stops as the Matrix shows the Doctor destroying the communications center, which the Doctor disputes. He’s trapped in a logical quandary: If he stops because the evidence has been tampered with, he gives up his right to defense, but if he continues then he’s subject to being incriminated by the faulty recordings.

Regardless, he chooses to continue.


Returning to the episode already in progress…

Mel is interrupted by one of the plant creatures, but she is able to hide in time. Down in hydroponics, scientist Bruchner rebels against Lasky and knocks her out. He steals a weapon and takes over the bridge, changing the ship’s course for the black hole in order to destroy the threat. The bridge has been flooded with marsh gas by the plant creatures, now known as Vervoids, but the Morgarians are able to brave the gas and the save the ship.

The victory is short-lived as they turn the tables and mutiny with security chief Rudge. The Doctor signals Mel and she is able to escape with a small group as the Doctor, Lasky, and Travers are taken to the ship’s lounge. Mel’s group is able to take the bridge back by killing the Morgarians with water, but the Vervoids are still tearing through the ship. Mel rescues the Doctor and crew from the lounge, and the Doctor is given permission to search bow to stern for the missing audio tape. Rudge escapes, but is soon taken by the Vervoids.

The Doctor finds the tape on the scientist Doland, but it has been wiped. The Doctor figured it would be, but confirms what he already suspected about Doland’s involvement in the rise of the Vervoid menace. The scientist’s confession is overheard by Travers and Doland is arrested. On the way to the brig, he is abducted by the Vervoids.

On the bridge, the Doctor discovers the Vervoid plot to kill all animal-kind and the assembled team of Lasky, Travers, and Mel conclude that cooperation with the plants is impossible. Back to the courtroom, the Doctor presents this as evidence that he wasn’t meddling but instead working on a direct request for help from Travers.


Returning to the episode already in progress…

The chemicals needed to create an herbicide have been taken by the Vervoids, and a direct appeal from Lasky fails. Mel and the Doctor escape into the ventilation ducts, stumbling across the corpses of everyone who has died so far. It’s effectively a compost heap. They return to the bridge and develop a plan to defeat the plants using vionesium, a rare metal from Mogar (and therefore, in the cargo hold) that can release extreme light and carbon dioxide. This will simulate a passage of time and accelerate the life cycle of the plants.

Because science?

The Doctor and Mel get the metal and deploy it – Mel screams… Goodness, does she scream – and the threat is ended as the Vervoids become leaves on the wind. With that, the travelers bid their farewells and depart.

In the courtroom, the Inquisitor recognizes that the Doctor saved the universe from a major threat. The Valeyard, on the other hand, spins the events to paint the Doctor as a genocidal maniac.

And the trial continues…


I liked the Doctor a bit more in this one since he was a bit more heroic and less abusive. Mel wasn’t terrible aside from the screaming. Aside from that, the story was average with a few science-fiction conceits to keep the plot rolling.

Aside from that whole timey-wimey lack of tension due to evidence of the Doctor’s future.

Bonus: Professor Lasky was played by Avenger and Bond Girl Honor Blackman. She is a powerful actress and a world treasure.



Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”




UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Ultimate Foe



The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Pop Culture Download: March 11, 2018

Pop Culture Download: March 11, 2018


On the Docket

Toys “R” Us is reportedly on the verge of liquidating U.S. operations, marking the end of an era. – [LA Times]

Lost in Space is coming back to televisions, this time on Netflix. – [Trailer]

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has returned to BBC Radio with The Hexagonal Phase, part six of the famous trilogy. – [Ars Technica]

Jon Favreau has been tapped to executive produce and write a Star Wars live-action series. – [StarWars.com]

Keith DeCandido continues 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch continues looking into the X-Men with X-Men: The Last Stand. – [Tor.com]

Read More »

Timestamp #145: Mindwarp

Doctor Who: Mindwarp
The Trial of a Time Lord, Parts V-VIII

(4 episodes, s23e05-e08, 1986)


“May I remind you this is a court of law, not a debating society for maladjusted psychotic sociopaths.”

The trial continues as the Valeyard and the Doctor continue bashing heads. The Inquisitor scores the best burn and puts the squabbling children in their places before directing the proceedings to continue. The brown-nosing by the Valeyard – he addresses the Inquisitor as Sagacity, which is the state of being sagacious, or rather showing acute mental discernment and soundness of judgment – doesn’t hurt his case any, but it sure puts the Doctor on edge.

Today’s episode of Time Lord Theater is the adventure in which he was engaged just before being summoned to court. The setting is Thoros Beta, a pretty planet with pink oceans and pastel skies. As the TARDIS touches down just offshore, the Peri and the Doctor wade to the beach and start searching for the source of a weapon owned by the lecherous Warlord of Thordon, a man whom they just visited.

The travelers find a cave and explore it, finding a kelp monster that attacks Peri. In the struggle, the Doctor accidentally kills the beast, but the Valeyard makes the case that the Doctor’s actions were deliberate. A group of men arrives and, after accusing the Doctor of murdering the Raak, the leader asks if the travelers are part of Crozier’s group. The Doctor tries to play along, even though he faces inquiry for the Raak incident, and is invited back to the laboratory.

Crozier is a scientist who is conducting some kind of mental conditioning experiments. When the guards begin to question the Doctor, he and Peri apply the “skedaddle” test to the Raak’s corpse and flee. During their run, they find a chained man who has been altered to act and look like a wolf. They are nice to him and he relents, but they are forced to run further by the guards. They hide, and from the shadows, they observe Sil and two others of his species being carried by.

In the courtroom, the Valeyard asks if the Doctor relishes danger. When the Doctor deflects, the Valeyard points out that the Doctor courts it easily and places his companions into peril more often than not.


Returning to the episode already in progress…

The man in Crozier’s chair is King Yrcanos, a warrior who is resisting the attempting the tranquility conditioning. The Doctor and Peri sneak into the laboratory after Crozier and the guards leave to report the Raak’s death to Sil and company. We find out that Crozier’s experiments are designed to help Kiv, one of Sil’s species, overcome paralyzing headaches due to a rapidly expanding mutant brain. As the Doctor sabotages the lab equipment, Sil, Crozier, and the guards enter the room and confront the Time Lord. The Doctor is strapped into the machine, and Sil orders it to be used as a mind probe to extract the truth about the Raak’s death.

This is a lot of effort over this accident, but if it’s that critical to the experiment, I can see why.

King Yrcanos awakens in true Brian Blessed fashion, destroys the laboratory, and frees the travelers. Yrcanos outlines a plan to attack Sil and his followers, and a stunned Doctor agrees enthusiastically before collapsing. In the courtroom, the Doctor admits that he cannot remember anything after Crozier’s machine jolted his brain. The Valeyard doesn’t believe him but warns him that a nasty surprise is coming.

I don’t like this dark foreshadowing. I have a bad feeling about this.


Returning to the episode already in progress…

The king and his new companions go to where the new slaves are brought into the compound. Yrcanos tries to sneak attack the guards, but the scramble-brained Doctor fumbles his stealth roll and yells out, spoiling the surprise. Yrcanos flees, cursing the Doctor’s name, and Peri soon follows when the Doctor refuses to help her. Left with Sil and the guards, the Doctor sides with the reptilian rogue and claims that the odds were not on their sides for the attack.

In the courtroom, the Doctor protests, but the Valeyard retorts that the Matrix cannot lie.


Returning to the episode already in progress…

In the lab, the Doctor confirms that the Raak attacked first, setting Crozier on a path to fix the experiment. The Doctor lends a hand, and although Sil is skeptical, he is eager to save his people (who we find out are called the Mentors).

Elsewhere, Peri finds the heart of the operation before being discovered by the leader of the guards.  She runs and finds Matrona, leader of the servants, and she joins up rather than returning to captivity. As King Yrconas finds the wolf-man and frees him after recognizing him as one of his subjects, the servants are sent to Kiv’s chambers. As soon as Peri enters, the Doctor uncovers her ruse and denounces her as an enemy.

In the courtroom, the Doctor confirms that this was a ploy to gain the Mentors’ trust and allow the travelers to escape. The Inquisitor demands to see the interrogation tapes to corroborate his story.


Returning to the episode already in progress…

Peri is chained to the rocks by the sea. The Doctor tortures Peri and tells her that Crozier is planning to put Kiv’s brain in the Time Lord’s body. The whole thing, between the betrayal and the torture, is really uncomfortable. Crozier calls off the interrogation and orders them back inside. When they return, Yrcanos attacks the Doctor. Despite her reservations, Peri saves her friend, an act that angers the king.

In the courtroom, the Inquisitor offers (once again) a public defender for the Doctor’s case, but he refuses, reasoning that if the Time Lords want him dead, he cannot trust any of them to save him.


Returning to the episode already in progress…

The Doctor flees the scene and arrives at the lab. Crozier is trying to transplant Kiv into a new body that he found washed ashore, and the Doctor jumps in to assist. Meanwhile, Peri follows Yrconas to find pockets of resistance in Kiv’s organization. The three of them, Yrconas, Peri, and Dorf the wolfman take a rest, eat some flay fish, and plot while overcoming a spate of jealousy. They move on and are soon captured, but their captors are rebels against the Mentors. An army is raised and they go on the hunt, but they are eventually apprehended. When they try to escape, they are all shot down.

Luckily, they were only stunned, but for a moment in the courtroom, the Doctor truly thought that Peri was dead and that he was responsible.

Back in the lab, after a rather harrowing medical drama, Kiv is successfully transplanted, but there are complications. The brain is not quite compatible with the body of a fisherman, and the body is winning by taking over the memories. In order to save Kiv, they need to move his brain one more time. Crozier suggests Peri as a suitable candidate, but the Doctor shows his apprehension so Crozier sends him to the induction center to find a suitable candidate.

In their new cell, Peri expresses a desire to go back to her own time and be with people she loves. King Yrconas asks her about love, and Peri teaches him in her own magical way. Soon after, she is taken to the lab and sized up for the transplant.

The Doctor tricks the head guard and frees Yrconas and Dorf. The group follows the Doctor’s plan, taking over the induction center and setting their sights on the control center to free all of the slaves in the compound. A heartbreaking stray shot kills Dorf but the team takes the control room and destroys it.

As the Doctor rushes to save Peri, the Time Lords remove him from time and take him to the court, effectively catching us up on his timeline. Their reasoning is that he had unleashed chaos and set irreversible events into motion with Peri that would threaten the future of human evolution. They then show him what happened after he left Thoros Beta.

Kiv is transplanted into Peri’s body, effectively erasing her brain in the process. Yrcanos attacks the lab, but the Time Lords place him in a time bubble to await the perfect time to strike, basically turning him into an unwitting assassin. The Doctor chides the Inquisitor for this act of second-rate gods.

Kiv awakens in Peri’s body as the time bubble dissipates, and Yrcanos storms into the lab. He sees what has happened to the woman he has grown to love and he kills everyone in the room.

He killed everyone.

The Doctor is incensed – as am I at this point – but the Inquisitor and the Valeyard tell him that is was necessary to stop the pending disaster. The Doctor doesn’t believe them, and he vows to find out exactly why he is in this place outside of time.


Upsides: Brian Blessed was amazingly over the top, and it was glorious; Thomas Branch, the actor behind Dorf the wolfman sold the man’s best friend routine so well that my heart hurt when the character died.

Downside: I don’t like what they did to Peri in this story, between the Doctor’s perceived betrayal and her death. She has been abused so much during her travels with the Sixth Doctor (usually at his hand), and she deserved so much better.


Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”



UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Terror of the Vervoids



The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Pop Culture Download: March 4, 2018

Pop Culture Download: March 4, 2018


On the Docket

David Ogden Stiers, Major Winchester from M*A*S*H, has died at the age of 75. – [Variety]

Warner Bros. has scheduled the Six Billion Dollar Man for Memorial Day 2019. – [Deadline]

Avengers: Infinity War has moved up one week to an April 27 worldwide premiere. – [THR]

Keith DeCandido continues 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch continues looking into the X-Men with X2: X-Men United. – [Tor.com]

Read More »

Timestamp #144: The Mysterious Planet

Doctor Who: The Mysterious Planet
The Trial of a Time Lord, Parts I-IV

(4 episodes, s23e01-e04, 1986)


Changes about with a darker theme tune and intricate model and special effects work. The same old creepy smiling intro remains a constant.

Swimming in effects is the TARDIS, drawn off course into a space station in the middle of nowhere. The Doctor emerges from the time capsule, confused and stumbling into a room where he is put on trial by his fellow Time Lords. The trial is spearheaded by the Valeyard and is overseen by the Inquisitor. The latter remarks that he has been put on trial once before for his meddling. He’s also been stripped of his title of Lord President of Gallifrey.

The Valeyard commences his trial of the Doctor with the tale of his adventure on Ravalox, which is contained in detail inside the Matrix. The assembled Time Lords begin to watch an episode of Doctor Who, and this whole thing goes kind of meta.

The adventure begins as Peri and the Doctor roam the forests of Ravalox, a planet virtually identical to Earth (but not in the same location) that is destined to be destroyed by a solar fireball. They are watched by Glitz and Dibber, a pair who try to shoot the Doctor but miss their respective opportunities. The travelers find a cavern, which apparently contains the L3 robot that the assassins are trying to destroy. As the Doctor and Peri proceed inside, the find a sign for the Marble Arch tube station, and Peri mourns the death of her home planet. Ravalox is Earth.

In the courtroom, the Doctor objects to what he considers a waste of time. He also questions where Peri is during this whole affair, which the Valeyard finds interesting. The Doctor has forgotten where he left her, presumably a side effect of being “taken out of time.”


Returning to the episode already in progress…

The Doctor continues into the depths of the station alone and Peri gets captured by the local natives. In the clean and shiny underground complex, the Doctor picks up a bottle of water and is apprehended for theft. Water is life, and those who steal it must die by stoning. He has a discussion with Balazar, the leader of the water guards, and discovers that the man’s job is to read the sacred texts of Marb Station – Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley, and UK Habitats of the Canadian Goose by H.M. Stationery Office – before being placed for the stoning. He tries to deflect the rocks but ends up unconscious anyway.

Meanwhile, Glitz and Dibber make their way to the native village to meet with their leader. They claim that the malfunctioning navigational beacon in their village, which Katryca and her people treat as a totem to a god, is what brought the fireball to Ravalox. The assassins try to overpower their guards and fail. They are soon joined in the village by Peri.

In the courtroom, the Valeyard proposes that the inquiry become a full trial of the Time Lord, with the penalty being his death. Presumably, not just regeneration as it was before, but a full-blown execution. I guess they’re semi-serious about this (despite their previous history of asking and compelling the Doctor to interfere).


Returning to the episode already in progress…

Officials arrive and interrupt the stoning, and the robot (“the Immortal”) demands that the Doctor and Balazar are brought before him. The Doctor is cautioned not to look upon the Immortal – “On pain of being turned into a pillar of salt, I imagine.” – before being sent into the robot’s inner sanctum. The robot, known as Drathro, commands the Doctor to work with his two human assistants.

In the village, Peri is introduced to the queen, promised many husbands, and then placed in captivity with the assassins. Glitz and Dibber share their plan to destroy the robot, but Peri balks at mass murder of the underground civilization. The captives are taken before Katryca where Glitz is chosen as a sacrifice to the god as penance for his crimes. The trio stage an escape with Glitz and Peri heading to Marb Station while Dibber destroys the black light converter tower.

The Doctor identifies the problem with the black light system, even though it is outside his area of expertise, but Drathro forbids it since his instructions are to maintain an underground civilization, not one above ground. The Doctor rigs a trap and escapes, and Drathro sends a utility drone to pursue him. During the search, Merdeen (one of the guards) tells Balazar to head for the surface. Balazar objects, but Merdeen assures him that the firestorm has been over for hundreds of years.

Balazar and Merdeen find the Doctor and offer to help him escape, but circumstances bring Peri’s team and the Doctor’s team together at the entrance to Marb Station, trapped between the armed tribesmen and the service drone. Luckily, Balazar recognizes the leader of the tribesman as his friend Broken Tooth and convinces him to shoot the drone. The tribesmen insist that the Doctor and the collected crowd return to the village.

After another courtroom interlude where the Inquisitor expresses her distaste for primitive violence, the episode continues in Marb Station with a confrontation between Merdeen and Grell, a fellow guard who overheard Merdeen’s discussion with Balazar. Drathro breaks the tension by dispatching Merdeen to find Balazar as his assistants reactivate the drone.

Returning to the village, the Doctor, Peri, and the assassins are brought before Katryca. The Doctor offers to repair the totem, but she tosses the lot in a cell. They are inadvertently freed as the drone breaks down their cell and captures the Doctor.

In the courtroom, we learn that the Matrix files are updated with the experiences of all Time Lords no matter where they are. Further, the TARDIS can act as a collection device to add experiences within its range. The Doctor questions whether or not a Type 40 TARDIS can do this without being bugged and the Valeyard deflects. Curiouser and curiouser.


Returning to the episode already in progress…

Katryca and the tribesmen pursue the service drone and disable it. They celebrate the death of the Immortal and rush off to storm Drathro’s castle. Peri sees to the Doctor while Glitz sends Dibber for some heavier artillery. The Doctor and Peri head to Marb Station to stop Tribe of the Free before the robot kills them.

Hey, he’s all heroic again! It’s about time.

Returning to the courtroom, the TARDIS evidence tapes end as Glitz and Dibber, armed with a big gun, pursue everyone else into Marb Station. The Valeyard claims that the evidence has been classified in the public interest. The Inquisitor asks if the Doctor officially objects, but he does not. Instead, he lets the Valeyard continue with the imagery collected from the Doctor’s perspective.


Returning to the episode already in progress…

The Doctor and Peri are intercepted by Merdeen, and the guard claims to be hunting the Doctor. He fires his crossbow, but instead of killing the Doctor he strikes Grell, who was trying to capture the Doctor for Drathro. Meanwhile, Katryca’s group breaks into Drathro’s domain, but he kills both the queen and Broken Tooth. He sends the rest of the strike group to await culling while his assistants run. It seems that an explosion is coming.

In the courtroom, the Doctor and the Valeyard come to verbal blows over what they’ve seen. The Doctor disputes the relevance of what they’ve seen while the Valeyard claims that had the Doctor never been there, none of it would have happened.

He has a point, you know.

The Inquisitor also takes issue with censoring of the discussions between Glitz and Dibber.


Returning to the episode already in progress…

The Doctor returns to Drathro and tries to shut down the black light system, but the robot forbids it. The Doctor tries to reason that the robot is doomed either way, but the people who serve the Immortal can be saved. The discussion is a good back-and-forth on the value of life and finally solidifies the Sixth Doctor in the ideology of the Doctor overall.

Also, Drathro calls the Doctor out on his verbal abuse, which is fantastic.

Glitz and Dibber are in search of information so they can sell it on the black market. They find the castle entrance, presuming that five rounds rapid (The Daemons) could break it down, but Dibber objects. So, they find their way to the food chutes with Peri, Merdeen, and Balazar, but Drathro detects their intrusion and tries to kill them. Dibber blasts his way in, opening a path into Drathro’s domain, and the group join the discussion. Glitz and Dibber humorously try to salvage the situation, resulting in everyone being tied up while the assassins escort Drathro to their ship. The Doctor breaks free and tries to stop the explosion, but he is only able to limit it to the castle. The explosion also destroys Drathro, leaving the assassins a chunk of valuable rock to fund their next escapade.

In the end, the Doctor tells Balazar to take his civilization to the surface and start a new life before leaving with Peri for their next adventure.

With the episode over, the Doctor proclaims that he should be found innocent of the Valeyard’s charges, but the Inquisitor denies him his victory. The Valeyard is only getting started.


Not a bad story overall. The separate scene storytelling trope took a little getting used to, but the evidentiary episode was a fun adventure. The Valeyard has a point that fewer lives would have been lost if the Doctor had never interfered, but Glitz and Dibber were already on the planet and would have potentially stolen information that could have killed any number of beings. The Valeyard’s schemes appear transparent to both the Doctor and the viewer, but it’s fun to see someone using the ignorance and procedural nature of the Time Lords against them like he does.

Refreshingly, this was a low body count for this era of the show.

Additionally, the Doctor and Peri were a lot closer this time than they have been in previous adventures. It’s nice to see him being less abusive toward her.



Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”



UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Mindwarp



The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.