Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Doctor Who 50-50: Part 26 - 1987

"Time and tide melt the snowman."
 - The Doctor, Time and the Rani

On Screen

 It was all change for Doctor Who in 1987.

As I'm sure most people are aware, following 'Trial of a Time Lord', Colin Baker was unceremoniously fired as the Doctor at the request of Micheal Grade.  A new Doctor was needed.  Step forward Sylvester McCoy

The Seventh Doctor was very different from his predecessor.  Gone was the loud, bombastic and supremely confident Sixth Doctor.  Instead we had a Doctor who, initially at least, was more of a bumbling fool.  Whereas the Sixth Doctor seemed to have a quote for any occasion, the Seventh would often get his words muddled.  But behind this apparent foolish persona was a keen intelligence and bravery that all the Doctors possess.

As well as changes in front of the camera, there was a change behind the scenes as well.  Eric Saward the script editor had left under a cloud during the previous season.  His replacement was Andrew Cartmel who had very clear ideas about where he wanted to steer the series. However Cartmel couldn't start putting his plans into action straight away.  The first story of Season 24, 'Time and the Rani' had already been commissioned by John Nathan Turner from experienced writers Pip & Jane Baker.

The Bakers had a tough assignment: they had to write the introductory story for the new Doctor without (initially at least) knowing who was going to be playing him or what his character was going to be like.  To get around this problem they simply wrote the Seventh Doctor as the opposite of his predecessor.  This is why, as mentioned above, we have a Doctor h who is less self-assured and getting his words muddled.

The other problem that the Bakers faced was the lack of another Baker - namely Colin.  Not surprisingly given his abrupt dismissal, Colin didn't want to come back to film a regeneration.  To get around this they wrote the following scene, which appeared before the opening titles of the first episode.  Hardly a fitting end to the Sixth Doctor but they, just about manage to pull it off:

 The title sequence, which exploded into life after the regeneration, was brand new and quite a departure from what we had previously been used to.  The theme tune too was radically different, performed by Keff McCulloch, who provided much of the incidental music to this season.  When I first heard it, I loathed the new theme but soon grew to love it and it's probably my favourite version of the tune.

As well as a new Doctor and a new theme tune, the story also sees the return of old villain.  I won't tell you who but the clue is in the title.What's particularly interesting about the Rani here though isn't the revelation that she's growing a giant brain or the fact that she's kidnapped geniuses from across time and space to plug into this giant brain.  No,the big news is that the Rani is clearly a Bonnie Langford fan as she happens to keep a red wig and a costume handy for dressing up as Mel. Perhaps the Rani had just been to a Doctor Who convention in costume as everyone's favourite red head.

Whatever the reason, the Rani's new found interest in dressing up comes in handy as she attempts to fool the newly-regenerated and confused Doctor into believing that she is Mel.  It's a cunning attempt to get the Doctor to unwittingly aid the Rani in her plan.  Fortunately the real Mel is on hand to save the day and she and the Doctor destroy the Rani's giant brain.

The last we see of the Rani she's trapped in her TARDIS surrounded by her bat-like servants, the Tetraps, who have decided to turn on their Mistress.  The Rani has never been seen since although there are many fans who feel that she is overdue for a return.

The next stop for the new Doctor is 'Paradise Towers'.  The Doctor and Mel travel to the Towers looking for a swimming pool to take a dip in.  Instead they discover that the Towers in home to a strange type of what could be almost called gang warfare.

There a three distinct groups in Paradise Towers.  There are the Kangs, young girls who roam the corridors of Paradise Towers.  The Kangs are themselves divided into three separate factions: red, yellow and blue Kangs.  Then there are the Rezzies, or Residents: a group of mostly elderly women who are, for the most part, trying to live as normally as possible.  Although, as Mel discovers, there are one or two Rezzies who have gone a bit 'Hannibal Lectar' and are eating their fellow residents.

Finally, there are the Caretakers who are trying to maintain order in Paradise Towers.  Sadly they're not doing a good job as the Towers is in a terrible state of disrepair when Mel and the Doctor arrive.  The Cateakers are led by the Chief Caretaker, played by the one and only Richard Briers.  The Chief has a few secrets of his own, namely the creature that he keeps locked up in his basement.  The Chief uses the large robotic Cleaners to capture the hapless residents of Paradise Towers and feed them to his pet, who turns out to be the Great Architect who created the Towers in the first place.

The Doctor and Mel have to unite the warring factions of Paradise Towers to combat the Great Architect, who in the end possesses the body of the Chief Caretaker and attempts to destroy everyone. They're helped - and occasionally hindered - by Pardise Towers' last resident - Pex.  Pex is a young man who has no ties to any of the warring factions.  He simply wants to do what is right.  The problem is that he's also a total coward.  But his experiences with the Doctor and Mel help to change him and, in the end, he makes the ultimate sacrifice and saves Paradise Towers.

After all that, the Doctor and Mel seem in need of a real holiday.  Fortunately, at the beginning of the next story 'Delta and the Bannermen', they win one - a trip to Disneyland in 1959.  Unfortunately they never actually get there as they and their fellow holidaymakers crash at Shangri-La holiday camp in South Wales.  What nobody knows is that an alien princess called Delta is hiding amongst the holidaymakers and she is being hunted down by the ruthless Bannermen.

The Doctor's army

What follows is a bit of a light-hearted run-around as the Doctor, Mel and a rag-tag group of helpers battle to save the princess and her young daughter from the Bannermen all set to the backdrop of 1950s music.  The story wasn't all that well received at the time but people seem to be a bit more appreciative of it now.

Two little things to note about it.  First is the character of Ray, a young Welsh girl who works at the holiday camp. She's a bit of a tomboy who likes motorbikes and spends a lot of the story hanging out with the Doctor.  At the time this was being filmed John Nathan-Turner knew that Bonnie Langford would be leaving the series.  In looking for a replacement companion he did consider having Ray join the Doctor on his travels but ultimately decided against it.  While his decision was probably ultimately for the best, you have to wonder how things could have turned out.

The Doctor and Ray  - the companion who never was

The other little thing to note about this story is that comedian Ken Dodd puts in a guest appearance.  Fortunately it's not for very long.

And so we reach the end of the season: Dragonfire.  The story sees the return of Glitz, last seen at the end of Trial of a Time Lord, and the departure of Mel after what seems like no time at all.

The setting for Mel's final story is Iceworld which is, of all things, a futuristic shopping centre albeit one with a secret hidden beneath it.  There are rumours of a dragon beneath Iceworld that guards an ancient treasure.  The Doctor, Mel and Glitz go hunting for it accompanied by teenage waitress Ace who has been mysteriously transported across time and space from 1980s Earth.

Ace was to be the last companion of the 'Classic' Doctor Who series.  She was intended to be a bit different from some of the previous companions in that she was tough, didn't scream and wasn't afraid to stand up to either the Doctor or the various evil villains that she faced.  She also had the somewhat annoying habit of referring to the Doctor as 'Professor'.

'Dragonfire' is famous, or infamous, for being the story where the first episode ends with a literal cliffhanger - for no reason other than to provide a cliffhanger.  In short, the Doctor is trying to cross an ice ravine and, finding no way across, tries to climb down using his umbrella.  The episode ends with the Doctor dangling from his umbrella above a seemingly bottomless pit.  This scene was seen briefly in the most recent episode of the new series, 'The Name of the Doctor' as its one of the periods of the Doctor's life that Clara visits.

And so it's goodbye to Mel, who goes off with Glitz at the end of the story and hello to Ace who is offered the chance to travel with the Doctor, an offer she seems more than happy to accept.

 With Ace on board, the TARDIS team for the rest of the original run of the series (and beyond) was complete and the next couple of years would see the series taken in some new and interesting directions.


On Video
Only one TV story was released on video in 1987, Jon Pertwee story 'Death to the Daleks.'

In other video news, the Myth Makers series released their latest interview tape with Sergeant Benton himself, John Levene.  They also release 'Myth Runner: The Best and Worst of Myth Makers which pretty much speaks for itself.  It was collection of outtakes and bloopers from the Myth Makers videos so far released.

On Audio
Nothing of note was available this year.

In Books
1987 was a busy year for the novelisations with eleven books being released this year.  With fewer new stories being made for TV there were fewer new stories that needed novelising.  This presented an ideal opportunity for Target books to concentrate on novelising those older stories from the Sixties that had, up till now been neglected.  The majority of the books released in 1987, then, were stories for the First and Second Doctors.

So, for the First Doctor, we had no less than 6 books: 'The Ark', 'The Space Museum', 'The Sensorites', 'The Reign of Terror', 'The Romans', and 'The Massacre'.  Of particular note here is 'The Romans' which was written by Donald Cotton, who'd previously written the novelisation of 'The Myth Makers'.  He chose to write 'The Romans' in the form a collection of letters and diary entries written by the various characters in the story.

The Second Doctor had three novelisations to his name: 'The Macra Terror', 'The Mind Robber' and 'The Faceless Ones'.  The other two novelisation released this year were Third Doctor adventure 'Ambassadors of Death' and Fifth Doctor tale 'Black Orchid'.

Target also released the third and final 'Companions of Doctor Who' book.  Unlike the Turlough and Harry Sullivan books released previously this third book was not an original novel.  Instead the 1981 spin-off 'K9 and Company' was novelised.

In terms of other books, things were a bit thinner on the ground than in recent years.  We had yet another coffee table book from the prolific Peter Haining. This one was called The Time-Traveller's Guide and was much like his previous books in format and style.

Also released this year was the first part of the 'Encyclopedia of the Worlds of Doctor Who': an ambitious attempt to catalogue the series.  It was intended to be published over four volumes with this first volume covering the letters A-D.
My personal favourite book of the year was the 'Doctor Who Fun Book' by Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett.  For the previous few years, Quinn and Howett had been providing funny, short comic strips for the Doctor Who Magazine.  Their first book allowed them to expand beyond the narrow confines of their comic strip and come up with some new material that the magazine didn't have the space to accommodate. Put simply, it was really funny and I wish I still had a copy of that book.

Finally there was 'Build a TARDIS'.  Sadly not a guide to building you own full functioning time machine, this was a guide to building your own police box model from card

In Comics

Colin Baker may have been fired but the Sixth Doctor, along with Peri and Frobisher, lingered on in the comic strip until September 1987.

The year opened with 'Profits of Doom' which saw the time travellers on board a space ship that had been invaded by giant slug like creatures who don't do anything unless it there was a profit in it for them.  This strip was written by Mike Collins who would become a more regular presence on the comic strip in later years as one of the main artists from the Eighth Doctor's era onwards.

Following this strip came 'The Gift' where the Doctor and his friends visit the planet Zazz which has based its society on 1920s America.  The people of this planet love nothing more than a good party which is all well and good until some robotic Scavengers crash the party and start destroying everything in their path.  The Doctor takes a leaf out of the Pied Piper's book to stop the robots.

'The World Shapers', written by Grant Morrison, marks the end of the Sixth Doctor's era in the comic strip.  The story sees the Doctor, Peri and Frobisher visiting the planet Marinus (as seen in 1964's 'Keys of Marinus') and finding it empty of life.  Investigating this mystery leads them into travelling to 18th Century Scotland and enlisting the aid of none other than former Second Doctor companion Jamie McCrimmon.  However the Jamie they meet is not the young man who travelled with the Doctor.  Now he's an old man who's keen to go on one last journey.

This story is rather good and is a nice tribute to the TV stories of the Sixties.  As well as Marinus and Jamie, we also get the Voord (again from 'The Keys of Marinus'), the Cybermen and even a brief cameo from the Brigadier.   Things all come to a head at the climax of the story when Jamie sacrifices himself to save the Doctor.

There was little time to mourn Jamie's death or the departure of the Sixth Doctor though.  The very next month (October 1987) saw the debut of the Seventh Doctor in the comic strip in 'A Cold Day in Hell'.  Peri might also have gone but Frobisher was still there, albeit feeling somewhat glum without Peri.

'A Cold Day in Hell' sees the Doctor and Frobisher visit holiday world A-Lux which has been turned from a  paradise into a wintry wasteland by the Ice Warriors.  The Doctor and Frobisher team up with a group of holidaymakers to warm the planet up and see the Ice Warriors off.  With that done, Frobisher chooses to stay behind on the planet to help restore it.  Though sorry to see Frobisher leave, the Doctor is not left companionless for long.  Olla, an alien woman who feeds off heat, was on the planet when the Ice Warriors arrived and she sees the Doctor as a ticket off the planet.  A little reluctantly he agrees to take her along with him.


On 28 March 1987, just three days after his 67th birthday, Patrick Troughton died from a massive heart attack.  Needless to say, Doctor Who fans were in shock.  What was particularly sad was that Troughton died whilst attending a Doctor Who convention in the United States.

The Doctor Who Magazine published a tribute issue to Troughton shortly after his death, reflecting on his life and career.  It's easy to forget that, for Troughton, Doctor Who was a relatively small part of his career, just three years out of a much longer career and many, many different roles in both TV and film.  Indeed he was still working regularly right up to his death.

And yet, despite it being just one job amongst so many, it's obvious that the role of the Doctor was one that he was immensely proud of and he had a great affection for the programme long after he left it.  He did, after tall, return to the series on no less than three occasions and, when the series was facing cancellation in 1985, he popped into the production offices and helped man the phones when distraught fans were ringing in, upset at the news.

He was also afforded a lot of respect amongst his fellow Doctors.  He was good friends with Jon Pertwee, Colin Baker used to refer to him as 'the Guv'nr' and both Sylvester McCoy and Matt Smith have cited him as inspiration for their own takes on the Doctor.  Patrick Troughton might be gone but his legacy still lives on to this day.


Friday, 26 July 2013

Classic TV Review - Knightmare Series 1 & 2

This blog was never intended to be just abot Doctor Who.  So here's a little post about:

"Welcome, watchers of illusion, to the castle of confusion."

So said Treguard, dungeon master and host of possibly the greatest children's game show ever created: Knightmare.  The programme originally ran from 1987 to 1994 and is one of my all-time favourite TV shows.  In recent years it's enjoyed repeat screenings on Challenge TV.  I've been slowly making my way through all the episodes and, having reached the end of series 2 and the end of what is the first of several phases the series went through, I thought I'd share some thoughts.

For those who haven't seen Knightmare the premise is fairly simple.  Treguard has opened up his dungeon to challengers from 'our world'.  These challengers were  children in their early teens who would wander through the dungeon completing quests all the while dealing with the various characters, traps and puzzles that they met along the way. The kids were always encouraged to use logic and guile to find the right path through the dungeon ,using brains rather than brawn.  Basically, Knightmare was Dungeons & Dragons for kids.

Treguard - master of the Dungeon
The dungeon was brought to life using a technique familiar to many Doctor Who fans: blue screen, or CSO.  This meant that the intrepid 'dungroneer' could you projected into any number of rooms and caverns within the dungeon.In the first two series's all of the backdrops were hand painted, later series would see the introduction of CGI elements.

In order to preserve the illusion for the dungeoneer, they were made to don a huge helmet that completely covered their head and meant that they could see nothing.  This of course meant that they couldn't see that they were in a blue-walled television studio rather than a dungeon. Each dungeoneer had a team of three friends guiding them through the dungeon. These helpers (many of them apparently called Mark) would stay at the entrance to the dungeon and watch events on a screen, seeing what the dungeoneer couldn't and guiding the dungeoneer by yelling instructions at them. Traguard was always on hand to offer help, advice and the occasional put-down when required.

During the first two series each quest followed a fairly familiar format. Early on in the first level, the team would usually encounter one of friendlier characters - maybe Folly the jester or Gretal the serving maid - who would usually provide a bit of useful advice.  Then, after dodging a trap or two, like a giant scorpion's snapping tail, it would be on to the Level 1 clue room.  Here several potentiality useful objects were laid on a table and the team would have to work out which ones to take.  Before they could do that though they would have to answer three riddles given by one of the Wall Monsters.  The more riddles they got right, the more help they got with their quest.

Once past the Wall Monster, the team would choose their objects and go on.  At this point more than one team came a cropper. If they picked the wrong items then they could struggle to bribe their way past some of the less friendly characters, whether they be the witch Lilith (who dropped several dungeoneers down a chasm), Olaf the barbarian or Mildred, another witch who tried to trick people into climbing into a cauldron.  Assuming the dungeoneer survived these obstacles then they would usually find a well that would take them to level 2.

Level 2 wasn't seen as often as Level 1 as not every team got that far but there were a few familiar elements.  The opening room of the level  would, more often than not, see the team encounter Cedric the Mad Monk who would insult the dungeoneer before giving them three riddles to answer.  Then it was on to another room with clue objects before, more often than not, an encounter with Merlin the Magician who would provide help after testing the team with another set of riddles. This was also the point at which we learn of the main villain of the dungeon, Merlin's 'alter-ego' Mogdred. Incidentally, both Merlin and Mogdred were played by John Woodnutt, who had made several guest appearances in Doctor Who in the 70s.

After the meeting with Merlin there were usually a couple more traps to be overcome and then the team would reach another well to Level 3. This, perhaps not surprisingly, was only seen a few times in the first two series Level 3 would usually see the dungeoneer having to run away from cavern wrights, creatures that looked like a cross between a Womble and an Ood, brave a few more traps, cheer up a depressed gargoyle and meet up with Mogdred one last time before reaching the end of their quest.  In fact only two teams actually completed their quests, both of them in Series 2.

Overall, I've really enjoyed re-watching these first two series and they've brought back a lot of memories. One thing that is more noticeable when watching the episodes back to back is how repetitive it is.  There really doesn't seem to much variation to the quests and even poor Treguard repeats his instructions word for word every time a new dungeoneer enters the dungeon.

Of course you're not really supposed to watch the series back to back and I certainly don't remember being particularly aware of the repetitiveness when I originally watched it back in 1987-88.  That being said, the producers may well have been aware of this when they were making it as there does seem to be a real effort to mix things up a bit more in Series 3 from what I've seen of it.

Besides, even if the dungeon rooms themselves happen to be a bit samey, there's still much enjoyment to be had from the various teams that venture into the dungeon.  It's always amusing to see them panic when they walk into a room with a live bomb about to go off.  Or when the dungeoneer's advisers get their lefts and rights mixed up and accidentally direct their dungeoneer to walk off the edge of a cliff.

One well-remembered incident from these early series amongst fans is where one team was gifted a spell called 'Shovel'.  To cast a spell in 'Knightmare' one had to simply spell out the name of that spell.  Unfortunately for this team, when they needed to use the spell they forgot its name and wasted too much time trying to cast a spell call 'Spade' instead.  Needless to say things did not end well. 

To sum up then, these first two series are a lot of fun to watch but, especially with hindsight, there is a sense that the programme makers have barely scratched the surface in terms of what they could do with the technology.  There is a sense of the programme evolving as the series goes on.  Even though the big changes don't kick in until Series 3, we seem the producers experimenting with the odd new idea or new room throughout the first two series.  It's all good stuff but the best is yet to come.

I'm about halfway through watching Series 3 so hopefully I'll be able to get another review up soon.  So, as Treguard would say at the end of each episode:

"Join us again soon for Knightmare..."

Saturday, 13 July 2013

The Doctor Who 50-50: Part 25 - 1986

"Carrot juice...carrot juice...carrot juice?"
 - The Sixth Doctor's final words, Trial of a Time Lord episode 14

On Screen

Doctor Who was on trial both on-screen and off in 1986.

You'll recall that in 1985 Michael Grade chose to 'rest' Doctor Who Who for a while.  There has been much debate as to precisely what prompted this decision.  Almost certainly one of the deciding factors was the levels of violence seen in the show during Colin Baker 's first season.  There had been characters who had had their hands crushed or shot off, characters thrown into acid baths and, perhaps most shocking of all, the Doctor kills a character with his own hands.

This level of violence in the programme, coupled with general concerns about about the cheap and tired look of the show compared compared with other programmes of the time seem to be the main factors behind Grade's decision to rest the show. Whatever Grade's reasons, the upshot was that, in 1986, for the first time ever there were no new episodes of Doctor Who broadcast in the early months of the year.  Instead fans had to wait until the Autumn for Colin Baker 's second (and ultimately final) season.

Producer John Nathan Turner had decided to scrap all of his original plans for the season -plans that were being worked on when the series went on a break.  Gone were stories like 'The Nightmare Fair' and 'Mission to Magnus'.  In their place was 'The Trial of a Time Lord', an epic fourteen episode story that would run across the whole season.

'Trial...' opened in spectacular fashion with an impressive sequence showing the TARDIS being captured and pulled inside a huge space station.  The space station belongs to the Time Lords and the Doctor has been called there To go through what starts out as an investigation into his interfering ways.  Presiding over events is the Inquisitor, played by Lynda Bellingham, while the case for the prosecution was handled by the black robed Valeyard, played my Michael Jayston.

The Valeyard

Although broadcast under one title, 'Trial of a Time Lord' was really four separate stories with an overarching plot.  Each of the four stories were given individual titles behind the scenes but these titles were never shown on screen.

The first four episodes of 'Trial...' we're written by veteran writer Robert Holmes and were titled 'The Mysterious Planet'.  In these episodes the Valeyard opens the case for the prosecution by showing the court an adventure from the Doctor's recent past.  The story he shows concerns the Doctor and Peri travelling to a planet called Ravalox that has been devastated by solar flares.

At this point in the proceedings the Doctor in the court room wonders why Peri isn't there with him. Her whereabouts are a mystery that will be explained later.

Meanwhile on Ravalox, the Doctor and Peri have discovered that Ravalox is really Earth transported through space and that the remaining humans on the planet are split into two factions: the primitive Tribe of the Free, led by Joan Simms, and a group of more technologically advanced humans living underground and ruled over by a giant robot called Drathro.

Peri and the Doctor also meet two mercenaries (yes, more mercenaries) called Glitz and Dibber.  The two con men are looking to steal some 'secrets' from Dratho. Although the precise nature of these secrets isn't made clear at this point in the story, we do find out what they are at the end of the season.

Glitz and the Doctor

Glitz and Dibber succeed in stealing the secrets but the secrets are then destroyed when Drathro is shut down by the Doctor.  Drathro's destruction leaves the humans under his control finally free.  So all ends well except for a few unanswered questions: why was Earth moved across space and renamed Ravelox?  What were the 'secrets' that Drathro guarded? And, most pertinent at the moment, why isn't Peri with the Doctor in the trial room? The answer to last question is found in the next 4-episode segment of the Trial.

The four episodes - collectively known as 'Mindwarp' see the Valeyard produce his latest piece of evidence against the Doctor.  This time the events he shows to the court are those that the Doctor was caught up in when he was summoned to the trial.

The Doctor and Peri have arrived on the planet of Thoros Beta which is the home world of Sil, the slug-like creature seen in the previous season's 'Vengeance on Varos'.  Sil is trying to find a suitable host for the brain of his leader, Kiv, who is dying.  Also present on the planet is King Yrcanos from the planet Krontep.  Yrcanos is played by the one and only Brian Blessed who gives a typically subtle and understated performance.  Alright, he shouts a lot.


Peri is kidnapped by Sil and is to be the new host body for Kiv.  The Doctor and Yrcanos (who is in love with Peri) mount a rescue mission but, the last moment, the Doctor is summoned away to the trial against his will.  The Time Lords intervene to stop the brain experiments and use Yrcanos as a weapon to kill everyone involved in the experiments - including Peri, whose body is now host to the mind of Kiv.  The Doctor, watching all this unfold in the court room is, needless to say, horrified.

Peri's final fate - or is it?
After the end of Peri's final episode (episode 8 of 'Trial...' for those keeping count) a photo of Bonnie Langford came up on the screen and the voice over person announced that she would be joining the programme in the following week's episode.  This probably wasn't news to most of the five million or so people watching the TV at the time as the announcement of Bonnie as the new companion had been announced sometime earlier. But it was nice to be reminded.

On-screen, the trial continues in episodes 9-12 (also known as 'Terror of the Vervoids') where the Doctor is finally able to mount a defence.  His defence comes in the form of an adventure from his own future with his argument being that in the future he becomes a better person and doesn't interfere as much.

In this story, the Doctor and new companion, Melanie 'Mel' Bush (played of course by Bonnie Langford), arrive on board a spaceship to investigate a Agatha Christe-style murder-mystery.  This story is supposed to take place sometime after the Doctor and Mel have first met so, as a consequence we know very little of Mel's background or her motivation for travelling with the Doctor.  She's just there.  Because of this lack of background Mel comes across as a very cliched and stereotypical companion - the type that goes around asking questions, getting into trouble and screaming a lot.

Despite unmaking the murderer(s), the Doctor has to also contend with the Vervoids, plant creatures who were travelling in the spaceship's cargo hold. The Vervoids are going around killing the remaining members of the ship's crew and passengers.  The Doctor, left with no choice but to interfere, devises a way of destroying them.


Back in the court room, the Valeyard accuses the Doctor of genocide, the Doctor having destroyed every Vervoid in existence, and calls for the Doctor to be executed. This all leads into the final two episodes of the season: 'The Ultimate Foe'.

These final two episodes, where all the questions are answered, was to have been written by Robert Holmes but he died shortly after completing the first episode.  Script editor Eric Saward was then going to write the second episode but, after falling out with John Nathan Turner, he quit the series.  It was down to the writing team of Pip & Jane Baker (who'd also written 'Mark of the Rani' the previous season as well 'Terror of the Vervoids') to come up with the final episode of the season.  All they had to go was Robert Holmes's first episode - they had no idea how he'd originally intended to end it.  What we end with then is a story of two halves.

The first half, written by Holmes, sees two character witnesses brought to the trial to assist the Doctor. The two witnesses are Mel and Glitz.  They've been brought to the trial by none other than the Master who is somewhere inside the Matrix on Gallifrey and watching proceedings. It's the Master who reveals that the Valeyard is none other than the Doctor himself.  Or at least a version of the Doctor made up of all the darkness and evil that's inside the Doctor.  The Doctor's dark reflection if you will.

With his identity revealed, the Valeyard escapes into the Matrix with the Doctor and Glitz in hot pursuit.  Mel, on the other hand, does next to nothing in this first episode.  I suspect that Robert Holmes really disliked the character as he gives her all the worst lines and sidelines her in favour of his own creation, the far more entertaining Glitz. In the second, Pip & Jane Baker written, episode the roles are pretty much reversed.

Much of these final two episodes take place in the Matrix, within a Dickensian style fantasy world created by the Valeyard.  The Doctor is 'aided' by the Master who wants to set the Doctor and the Valeyard at each other's throats so that they'll wipe each other out.  In the final confrontation though it's just the Valeyard who's seemingly destroyed.

Inside the Valeyard's fantasy world

And so ends the longest Doctor Who story ever made and everyone lives happily ever after - even Peri who it turns out isn't dead after all but has gone off to marry Brian Blessed.  Surely a fate worse than death.

As for the Doctor: the last we see of him is him leaving in the TARDIS with Mel (who is from his own future so he hasn't technically met her yet).  As we now all know that was the last we saw of Colin Baker in the role as, a short time later he was sacked, apparently at the request of Michael Grade.

And the Valeyard?  No he's not dead either.  For reasons that have never been explained he appears to have cheated death by taking over someone else's body (similar in a way to what the Master did back in 'The Keeper of Traken').  Sadly the Valeyard has never been heard of again, at least not on TV.  Perhaps the 50th Anniversary Special later this year will tie in the Valeyard to the John Hurt Doctor but I'm not holding my breath on that.

On Video
Two of my favourite stories were released on video this year: Jon Pertwee's 'Day of the Daleks' and Tom Baker's 'Robots of Death'.  There were also further releases in the Myth Makers series of interview videos.  These releases featured interviews with Wendy Padbury (Zoe), Michael Craze (Ben), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Deborah Watling (Victoria), Ian Marter (Harry) and script writer Victor Pemberton.

On Audio
The only record of note released this year was a single of the new version of the theme tune by Dominic Glynn's.  This was specially commissioned for the Trial season and, after the season finished, it was never heard on the TV series again.

In Print
Lots of novelisations were released in 1986 covering a variety of Doctors.  So, for the First Doctor we had 'The Gunfighters', 'Galaxy Four', 'The Savages' and 'The Celestial Toymaker'.  For the Second Doctor there was 'Fury from the Deep' and 'The Seeds of Death'.  The Third Doctor was represented by 'The Time Monster' while the Fifth had 'The King's Demons'.  Finally, the Sixth Doctor had four books released: 'The Twin Dilemma', 'Timelash', 'Mark of the Rani' and the radio story, 'Slipback'.  In almost all cases, bar 'The Time Monster' and 'The Seeds of Death', the books were written by their original TV authors.  The two other books were written by the ever-reliable Terrance Dicks.

In addition to the regular novelisations were two special novels.  Branded as 'The Companions of Doctor Who', these two books were original novels as opposed to novelisations and looked at the lives of two of the Doctor's companions after they'd left the Time Lord.  The two books in question were 'Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma' and 'Harry Sullivan's War'.  'Harry Sullivan's War' was written by actor-turned-novelised Ian Marter who had played Harry on screen.

For those who were still playing the Doctor Who Role-Playing Game (and presumably someone was) several additional modules were released to accompany the game.  FASA, the company behind the game also released two Adventure Game books.  These two books - 'The Vortex Crystal' and 'The Rebel's Gamble' - were similar to the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks that were so popular in the mid to late Eighties.  One big advantage that these books had over the Fighting Fantasy series was that you didn't need to roll dice when fighting a monster or making a critical decision in your game.  Each page of the  book had a random number in the corner of the page.  So, if you didn't have a dice to hand all you had to do was flick the pages of your book, wherever you stopped, the number in the corner of the page was your 'dice roll'.

 In addition to these game books there was also a series of similar books for younger readers.  The series was called 'Find Your Fate' and, similar to the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' series of books also popular in the Eighties, didn't require dice at all.
On the non-fiction front, there were several books released.  'The Early Years' by Jeremy Bentham told the story of the creation of the series.  Peter Haining produced 'The Doctor Who File': another big book about the series that was strangely similar to his other books.  'Travels Without the TARDIS' was a handy paperback guide to the many locations used in the filming of the series.  Finally, John Nathan Turner wrote a follow up to 1985's 'The TARDIS Inside Out' entitled 'The Companions'.  I think you can guess what it was about. 

In Comics

 The comic strip story that had begun with 'Exodus' in December 1985 continued with 'Revelation' and 'Genesis'.  The Doctor, Peri and Frobisher to the planet where the refugees they had previously encountered came from.  There they find a group of scientists engaged in experiments within an old castle. However one of the scientists is hiding a secret: a group of deactivated Cybermen that he has rebuilt and is using to commit murder.  The Doctor uncovers the plot and the Cybermen are destroyed.

In addition to this there's a new development for Frobisher.  Concerned that his shape shifting ability might become a convenient solution for any situation the characters got into, it was decided to restrict his powers. At the end of 'Genesis' Frobisher is struck down with monomorphia, a disease that meant he couldn't change anymore and was stuck in the shape of a penguin.

From here on, there was no one regular writer on the comic strip.  Writing duties were rotated between three or four different writers.

The first of these stories was 'Nature of the Beast' written by Simon Furman who was, at the time, also the main writer for the incredibly popular Transformers comic, a job that he's seemingly never stopped doing as he's been writing about Transformers for close to thirty years.  'Nature of the Beast' was werewolf tale given a futuristic twist and was voted the best comic strip of the year by readers of Doctor Who Magazine.

'Time Bomb' was next up, written by Jamie Delano, another writer who has gone on to bigger and better things since, such as 'Hellblazer' for DC Comics. The story sees the Doctor and Frobisher, minus Peri on this occasion, encountering an alien culture trying to eradicate all imperfections from their race by sending anything less than ideal into the dim and distant past.  However it's these actions that ultimately, and ironically, causes the race's downfall as the past comes back to haunt them.

Following 'Time Bomb' was a one-part story called 'Salad Daze' which sees Peri having a bizarre Alice in Wonderland inspired dream, with all of the characters replaced by vegetables.  To the Doctor's delight, this is enough to put Peri off forcing him to eat salad. 

'Changes' was a two-part strip from a writer new to the strip, Grant Morrison.  Morrison was yet another writer who was cutting his teeth on things like Doctor Who before moving on to bigger and better things, most recently Batman. The story, which features both Peri and Frobisher with the Doctor, sees them hunting down an alien shape shifter that smuggled itself on board the TARDIS.

Finally, the year came to an end with the first part of a three-part story called 'Profits of Doom' but that's for next time.