The Trial of a Time Lord remains to this day one of Doctor Who‘s most controversial stories. A fourteen-part epic that followed in the wake of an 18-month hiatus, Trial saw the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) placed on trial for meddling in the affairs of other worlds by the Time Lords, which in turn set him up against the Valeyard (Michael Jayston) – a ruthless and mysterious prosecutor determined to have the Doctor executed.
Trial came at a time of huge backstage upheaval for the programme. Despised by the higher echelons within the BBC, its budget severely reduced, staffed by a Producer and Script Editor who were at loggerheads with one another, Doctor Who was in dire territory by this point in its long history. With this firmly in mind, The Trial of a Time Lord was an attempt on producer John Nathan-Turner‘s part to renew interest in the programme and revitalise the show – the result a single ambitious story-line made up of three smaller adventures.
Had it been made today, this epic adventure would have been classed as proper ‘water-cooler’ television. Full of twists and turns that shows like Lost, Game of Thrones and even modern Doctor Who pull-off to envious applause, Trial delivers a high-stakes story with powerful drama and gut-wrenching moments aplenty, whilst remaining true to itself as the fun, imaginative show Doctor Who has always been. The execution may falter at times and the budget is notable by its absence but there’s no denying the crew back in 1986 were ahead of their time, in terms of the type of ambitious stories Doctor Who could tell.
Of this series, the four episodes that make-up the segment of the story entitled Mindwarp remain a highlight. A dark, foreboding and oft-times grim affair ladled with a healthy dose of black comedy, the story sees the Doctor presented with damning evidence from his most recent adventure – an adventure he can’t remember! The resulting tale offers some of Trial‘s biggest shocks and surprises, not to mention a typically enthused and bombastic guest appearance from Brian Blessed.
As part of the upcoming Season 23 Blu-Ray Collection, Mindwarp and the remaining ten episodes in the season have been beautifully restored and extended. Even better, the original score for Mindwarp has been lovingly and painstakingly recreated from scratch by original composer Richard Hartley. Available to view in a beautiful 5.1 surround sound mix, the end result is superbly uncanny.
Like previous instalment in this range of Blu-Ray box-sets, the extra features are the real draw, with hours of new features and treats from the archive that were absent from the 2008 DVD release included here to create the most complete experience possible.
Previewed at the BFI’s special screening, the highlight of the set is The Doctor Who Cookbook Revisited, a fun tongue-in-cheek feature that sees the cast of 80’s Doctor Who, including Season 23 stars Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant, recreate the recipes they submitted to the most bizarre tie-in book ever written. Shot in the style of Masterchef (complete with voice-over by Masterchef narrator and former Who companion India Fisher), it’s a delectable, delicious delight from start to end.
As well as some hilarious outtakes and film trims from the original shoot, there’s even more insights and light-hearted fun to be had in the latest Behind the Sofa episodes, which feature Baker, Bryant, and other classic companions Bonnie Langford, Mark Strickson, Frazer Hines and Matthew Waterhouse settling down to watch, commentate and reminisce about the episodes. A mainstay of these collections, once again the end result is a cosy, cheery and playful viewing experience.
The set includes plenty more in the way of bonus features which weren’t previewed at the event, including round-table discussions with the stars of Season 23 and the writers of Doctor Who stories that were never made, an in-depth interview with Bonnie Langford (a previous oversight from other DVD releases featuring Langford) and a 20-minute chat with guest star Brian Blessed. Plus hours of archive material, interviews and convention footage, a treasure trove of galleries and PDFs, and all the existing commentaries, making-of featurettes and extra features from the original DVD releases.
As a story, The Trial of a Time Lord is vastly overdue for evaluation and reappraisal. Thankfully this new box-set offers the perfect opportunity to do so, crammed full of exciting extra features and the opportunity to enjoy the full story in a perfectly restored, extended format.
A perfect purchase for Doctor Who fans the world over? Guilty as charged!