The Twin Dilemma
The Sixth Doctor is not having a good regeneration. He puts on a ridiculous coat, then concludes that Peri is evil and attempts to strangle her, and the fans simply will not shut up about it. Then, when he realizes what he’s done, his solution is that they must BECOME HERMITS.
Meanwhile, elsewhere, two extremely creepy identical twins are being geniuses. They are such geniuses that when a guy somehow gets in their locked house, they don’t question it at all, and are promptly kidnapped. Luckily, they are taken to a deserted asteroid where the Doctor has decided to become a hermit. However, instead of becoming a hermit, the Doctor discovers a Commander Lang, who has been searching for the missing “geniuses”. Seeing that the Doctor happens to be in the same area, he concludes the Doctor is responsible, because no one in this series understands logic.
While exploring, the Doctor and Peri run into an old friend of his, the master of Jaconda, with whom he (as the Fourth Doctor) got drunk. Apparently hijinks ensued, but that doesn’t matter, because this “old friend” is in fact the kidnapper. It seems he is working for the slug-like creature Mestor, who wants to use the “genius” twins to bring two planets into Jaconda’s orbit, which will cause a supernova to hatch the slug eggs. It’s all very complicated. Also Mestor gets a crush on Peri despite being a slug creature. Then at the end of a very strange first run as the Doctor, Sixxie tells Peri and the audience to deal with it.
And "talk to the hand", and any other 90s catch phrases you can come up with.
So…it wasn’t really that good of a serial, but it did introduce the Doctor’s new, strange persona. And that coat. That horrible, horrible, wonderful coat.
Attack of the Cybermen
The Doctor is trying to fix the chameleon circuit. Unfortunately, the TARDIS likes being a blue box, and behaves erratically as a result. The only good thing is the extremely up close view of Halley’s Comet…which has Peri a touch worried.
But none of that matters, because Commander Lytton is back, sans silly Dalek hat! He’s planning a heist, you guys, a bigger heist than George Clooney ever planned. He and his cohorts crawl through a sewer, and he activates a device, which gets the Doctor’s attention.
They land in Totter’s Lane…again…where the TARDIS turns into a stove, because Sexy is a trolltastic box. They search for the source (discovering it’s actually coming from the sewer), and park nearby, where the TARDIS is now an organ.
Meanwhile, Lytton discovers Cybermen, and promptly surrenders, because this is probably how the guy wound up working for the Daleks in the first place. One of his cohorts (an undercover officer) flees and finds the Doctor (who, truth be told, can’t be that hard to find wearing that coat). They head back to the TARDIS, only to be ambushed by Cybermen. They head to Telos (where the Cyber Controller is apparently still alive), and the Doctor tells a plot-important story about the Cryons who used to live there.
The TARDIS turns into a gate.
Cybermen are waking up and going on a rampage, two guys are trying to get their time machine back, and the Cryons lead everyone in a round of “Let It Go”. Also we get a genuinely horrifying scene that could make Mary Waterhouse go into a fit of hysterics.
"Crush my hands all you like, but don't make me wear another silly hat."
This was actually a pretty decent serial. The Cryons were interesting, and I would have liked to learn more of them before this episode. The Doctor also starts coming into his own a bit, although he is still rather unpredictable (and calling Peri the wrong names, but that’s not unique to this regeneration). This also shows the Sixth Doctor has much less of a problem dealing with issues in a rather more violent manner. He has a sonic lance (because a sonic screwdriver was too boring for the writers, apparently???) and also blows things up. Also, the trolling TARDIS was wonderful.
Revelation of the Daleks
The Doctor and Peri arrive on the planet of Necros, a funeral planet, to pay their respects to the Doctor’s old friend Arthur Stengos. Blue is the color to wear to funerals here, so the eye-searing coat is covered up for the time being. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop them being attacked by some mutant. Peri accidentally kills the thing, and before it dies it claims it was used in experiments by the “Great Healer”, who is clearly an entirely new character.
While this is going on, The Most Annoying Disc Jockey Ever is entertaining people in suspended animation, awaiting life-saving surgeries and medicines. He switches to different music eras while attempting to be American (like Peri), and does commentary on the Doctor and Peri’s struggle with the mutant.
He also does cosplay. Lots and lots of cosplay.
Speaking of mutants, it appears a bunch of Daleks are there with Davros’ severed head. There are intruders, which turn out to be Natasha Stengos and her boyfriend looking for her father. He’s not in his suspended animation tube OH LOOK HE’S A DALEK NOW.
In a third plot point, a food distributor, Kara, is under the “Great Healer’s” thumb. (If you don’t know who the “Great Healer” is by now, I pity you.) She hires…a former knight turned mercenary? No, he’s seriously a knight. With a squire. It’s precious.
So all three of our plot points are thrown into the city of the dead together, trying to figure out what’s going on, and also there’s this random sub plot involving a woman who isn’t pretty having the nerve to like a guy? Either way, it’s not that important, and other Daleks show up, because apparently the bulk of the Dalek empire is still mad at Davros. So he gets betrayed by his creations. Again.
Also, the DJ redeems himself by defeating some Daleks with the Power of Rock.
Overall, this could have been good if the plot line had been tightened up a bit. It also adds a bit of horror, as the whole “using relatives’ remains for soylent green” seems to be completely acceptable to Davros, who hints that this was what the Kaleds were driven to by the end of the war. Also, Davros being surprised by the Daleks' betrayal is completely hilarious. Dude just never learns.
The Trial of a Time Lord (Or, What Actually Happened When The Sixth Doctor Era Ended, Looking At You Michael Grade)
The Mysterious Planet
A bewildered Doctor has been forced to Gallifrey for a trial. Also he has been deposed as president for not showing up ever. The chief prosecutor has a magnificent robe on, and is made of awesome. He is also called the Valeyard, and this will be very, very important later on. Because there are many, many ways you can screw up the name “Valeyard”.
"Barnyard Jailyard Boatyard Vineyard--"
"Mock my name all you want, I'm not the one wearing a rainbow coat."
"Mock my name all you want, I'm not the one wearing a rainbow coat."
The Valeyard insists that the Doctor has meddled too much with other planets, and uses Ravalox as an example. It turns out to be a displaced Earth from the future. The Doctor wanders off down a tunnel, and Peri is immediately kidnapped. Meanwhile, two criminals, Sabalom Glitz and his partner Dibber banter back and forth and try to destroy a beacon. Unfortunately the locals think it’s a totem, and the two are hauled off to the Queen.
Underground, an entire society is formed around prepper culture and a robot called Drathro. No one believes anything can survive on the surface, so everything is meted out carefully in rations. The Doctor takes a drink of water and is promptly arrested, because that’s the kind of life he has.
Also, they found the coat offensive.
Meanwhile, Katryca, queen of the tribe living aboveground, has sentenced Glitz and Dibber to death for being star travelers and offered Peri several husbands. (Peri thinks one would be more than enough, thanks.) Afterward, they’ll use the criminals’ guns to attack “The Immortal” Drathro and take over the world! Or something.
Either way, our heroes (and criminals) need to destroy the “totem”, because the black light converter is about to implode. While the Doctor rushes off to stop it, Glitz explains to Dibber the real reason they’re there, which is OH WAIT ONLY THE HIGH COUNCIL CAN HEAR THAT NEENER NEENER.
Because arbitrariness is the name of the game.
Either way, this ends well, and as the Doctor points out, doesn’t seem to be evidence against him at all. But apparently the Valeyard has more tricks up his voluminous sleeves, because there are still three more parts to this thing.
The Valeyard insists the Doctor has done devious things other than wearing a terrible coat, and decides to prove it with his antics on Thoros Beta.
It’s actually a pretty place, but then they are captured-again-this time by an arms dealer named Sil of the Mentors, who is supplying the warlords of Thordon with weapons. They are brought to a Dr. Crozier, who is trying to find a way to transplant minds so they can save the leader of the Mentors, Kiv. One of the prisoners there is BRIAN BLESSED, who is king of the warlords.
YES, HE TALKS JUST LIKE THIS THROUGH THE ENTIRE EPISODE
The Doctor pretends to switch sides to discover the entirety of the Mentors’ plans. At one point, he roughly interrogates Peri, and claiming he has to do it or his mind will be the one supplanted by Kiv, something he doesn’t remember at all (an indication the Matrix records have been meddled with again).
The last time Peri is captured, it’s decided to use her head for Kiv’s brain. Right before the Doctor and BRIAN BLESSED arrive to save her, the Doctor is drawn hypnotically into the TARDIS, and the king and his men are delayed long enough that Peri’s brain is taken over, so Kiv will be permanently killed when the soldiers burst in.
It turns out Kiv was Sinead O'Connor's biggest fan.
The Valeyard insists that the Time Lords totally weren’t at fault for any of this, while Colin Baker genuinely looks like he’s going to cry, and the feels, you guys, the feels for the Doctor, they hurt me.
But the Doctor has decided to fight back, and not just by calling the Valeyard names. (“BONEYARD!”)
Terror of the Vervoids
The trial is getting so silly that the Doctor decides to fight back with equal silliness. Assuming he’s going to become a better person, he decides to find a future adventure.
In the future, he will have an 80’s-haired exercise freak who tries to force carrot juice on him and makes him use an exercise bike. Poor Doctor.
Welcome to the 80's, Doctor.
Then the TARDIS gets a distress call from the Hyperion III, a luxury space liner. Rescued from the horrors of carrot juice, he and Mel arrive to investigate. The Doctor senses “something evil”, and starts poking around, while Mel…exercises. (That at least explains why the girl is so darn skinny.) Luckily, that means Mel can overhear The Evil Plan from the head plant researcher, Lasky. But the Doctor dismisses this, because he will still be a jerk in the future. Also, the hydroponics bay explodes, and Mel screams on an F note to segue into the stinger music.
Meanwhile, as the Doctor looks over the passenger register, he realizes nearly everyone there is hiding something. Several people try to hijack the ship and steer it into a black hole, and it turns out they all know what kind of experiment is going on.
Plants have been genetically engineered into being sentient, but unfortunately, they live by killing people and using them for a compost pile. They also look very, very…uncomfortable. The Doctor is forced to poison the Vervoids before they reach Earth and destroy all animal life on the planet, and the Valeyard screams “genocide” before the Doctor can come up with another alteration to his name.
"But Valeyard, they made me feel uncomfortable. Like I needed an adult."
"Doctor, your prudishness will come back to haunt you! Next thing you know you'll be snogging companions left and right!"
The Ultimate Foe
The Doctor and the Valeyard are having a magnificent argument, when suddenly a Wild Glitz and Mel appear! Realizing the Doctor hasn’t even met Mel yet, everyone wonders just how the two got there…when the Master appears on screen and laughs at them all! Also, he’s the one that brought Glitz and Mel to Gallifrey. Glitz reveals that Ravalox had Time Lord secrets that were stolen by “Sleepers”, who had a base on the planet. The Time Lords, instead of just walking in and taking them back, dragged Earth several light years away and annihilated a bunch of life at the same time. The Doctor launches in what is probably his best monologue ever on the decadence and corruption of the Time Lords (which has far-reaching implications throughout the series).
"And lastly, Valeyard, Time Lord fashion sense is terrible!"
The Master then drops the biggest bombshell of all: the Valeyard is in fact an amalgamation of the Doctor’s dark side split off from around the last of his regenerations, and has been promised what’s left of the current Doctor’s regenerations if he pins everything the Time Lords did on the Doctor. The Valeyard flees into the Matrix (which is like the Matrix, but isn’t really the Matrix—look, it’s exactly like the Matrix, but completely different), and the Doctor and Glitz follow, eventually finding their way into the Master’s TARDIS.
"Word of advice, Glitz. Don't start dressing like the Doctor. Just don't."
Turns out the Master is genuinely scared of the Valeyard. That’s how bad the Doctor’s dark side is.
The Doctor and the Master come up with a great plan to fool everyone-which is ruined by Mel bursting in to save the day. Glitz steals the data from Ravalox, but when the Master tries to use it, it paralyzes him, because the Valeyard is one step ahead of everyone. The Doctor, of course, has to save the day by sabotaging the Valeyard’s bomb…thing. (The Valeyard wanted to destroy Time Lord society, because of course he did.)
Then the Inquisitor for the trial drops another bomb shell-it’s okay, guys, they just pulled Peri and Yrcanos out of the way in time and now Peri gets to be married to BRIAN BLESSED, effectively undoing a very emotional companion departure. Nicola Bryant didn’t know about this until much later.
Also the Valeyard is now disguised as Keeper of the Matrix, and disappears never to be seen again, because he is a continuity hole bigger than most continuity holes in this series.
A continuity hole bigger than his sleeves, even.
And then the Sixth Doctor was sent off to the land of Expanded Universe stories, also never to be seen again. (Except at conventions.) Good ol’ Colin Baker.
I actually did like Trial of a Time Lord. I feel like the writers put in a last big effort for Colin’s send off, although Robert Holmes unfortunately passed away and left the others to put together the last one as best they could. Michael Jayston was magnificent as the Valeyard, and honestly, I wish they would find a way to bring the Valeyard back . (Current producers have stated that they won’t, because, again, continuity black hole.) I feel like this was a “what could have been” if it hadn’t been for executive meddling. On that note, I plan on looking for the expanded universe material, because this world needs more Sixxie.
Tune in next time for Radagast, sans birds’ nests.