BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage

Entertainment Cult

Contact Us

Trial of a Time Lord: 9-12

Production Code: 7C

First Transmitted

9 - 01/11/1986 17:45

10 - 08/11/1986 17:45

11 - 15/11/1986 17:45

12 - 22/11/1986 17:45


The distraught Doctor gives the court his evidence for the defence. He chooses an incident from his own future, in which he and his companion Mel arrive on the space liner Hyperion III in response to a distress call. There they battle against and ultimately destroy a hostile race of alien plants, the Vervoids, while also helping to thwart a mutiny by the ship's security officer, Rudge.

Episode Endings

A crewman named Edwardes takes Mel down to the hold of the Hyperion III and shows her a caged area, assigned to the agronomist Professor Lasky, in which a number of large plant pods are growing. He offers to take her inside, but when he touches the gate he receives a fatal electric shock. Mel screams as electric sparks fly around the pods, causing one of them to break open and a strange growth to protrude.

The Doctor and Mel, wearing gas masks, enter a quarantined room on board the Hyperion III and find lying on a bench an unconscious woman with a horribly mutated face. The woman suddenly opens an eye and Mel screams. The Doctor looks grim.

The Doctor tells the Commodore of the Hyperion III that his colleague on the bridge is steering the ship straight into the eye of the Black Hole of Tartarus. Professor Lasky is stunned by this news. The Doctor looks accusingly at the Commodore.

In the Time Lord courtroom the Doctor admits that his actions on board the Hyperion III resulted in the deaths of all the Vervoids. He justifies this by arguing that if even one of the creatures had reached the ship's destination, Earth, it would have meant the end of the human race. The Valeyard, however, asserts that the charge in the Doctor's trial must now be one of genocide. The Doctor looks shocked.


Romeo and Juliet ('Parting is such sweet sorrow').

Walter de la Mare's The Traveller.

Ten Little Indians.

The Day of the Triffids.

'On with the Motley'.

The Just-So Stories of Kipling.


Golden Rendezvous.

The Mutations Triangle.

The Eagle comic.

Little Shoppe of Horrors.

Lasky reads Murder on the Orient Express.

Dialogue Disasters

"Whoever's been dumped in there has been pulverised into fragments and sent floating into space, and in my book, that's murder."

Travers : "On the previous occasion that the Doctor's path crossed mine, I found myself involved in a web of mayhem and intrigue."


A story from the future [extracted from the Matrix, which contains future knowledge also, although the Doctor's failure to use his continued future existence as a defence indicates that the future can be changed, which is why the Matrix is called predictive in The Deadly Assassin. The Valeyard continues to edit the material, leading to such bizarre comments as the Doctor saying 'The weird atmosphere down there could lead to phantasmagoria.'] Article Seven of Gallifreyan law deals with Genocide.

Mel comes from Pease Pottage, and has almost total recall. Her house had a large garden, with a compost heap.

The Doctor's coat contains conjuror's flowers. He carries an electronic lock pick.

The TARDIS can receive textual Mayday messages [the Doctor having told Hallet how to signal the TARDIS directly, the signal causing the TARDIS to arrive nearby].

Mogar is a planet in the Perseus Arm of the Milky Way. It is rich in rare metals (including vionesium, similar to magnesium, which emits light and carbon dioxide when exposed to air and thus ignited), which are being exploitatively mined by humans, and home to the Mogarians. Between Mogar and Earth lies the Black Hole of Tartarus. Mogarians are gold skinned humanoids with grill like mouths who cannot breathe oxygen. They are a peace loving race, for whom water on the face is fatal, but who nevertheless drink tea.

Stella Stora suffered from grain shortages around 2983. Demeter plants grow in deserts and have high yields. [There is a famine that the seeds will end.]

Vervoids can produce a gas that smells like methane, but is non-explosive, in big enough quantities to kill humans. They appear to learn very quickly: they know how showers work. A tiny piece of Vervoid pollen in a cut can transform a human into a semi-Vervoid. The Vervoids were created on Mogar by Lasky to be a workforce to replace robots. A consortium has been established to exploit them. High frequency light causes them to emerge from their pods, and strong light can accelerate their life cycle and kill them.


A Brief History of Mel


Hyperion 3, an intergalactic liner [not used here for intergalactic purposes] on scheduled Mogar-Earth flight 113 on 16 April 2986.


There are generalised references to other adventures with Mel. The Doctor met Commodore (then Captain) 'Tonker' Travers, and the Captain nearly lost his ship, caught up in 'a web of mayhem and intrigue' with fatalities. The Doctor also knew Hallet, and admired him. He's also been to Mogar.


Honor Blackman, famous for her role as Cathy Gale in The Avengers, is seen here as Professor Lasky.


Lasky has been into room 6, not finding her luggage there, because her key is actually for room 9. So how did she get in?

The Vervoids wear tracksuits and trainers (wilting and climbing through the tunnel in the final episode).

Some of them have West Country accents.

If the Vervoids are genetically engineered, why create them with lethal stings?

Why don't the Mogarians notice a major change in character in one of their number?

Why does the Captain state that the ship is hi-jack proof, even though it has been hi-jacked by Brookner?!

Fashion Victim

The Doctor's waistcoat.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Colin Baker

Melanie - Bonnie Langford

Atza - Sam Howard

Bruchner - David Allister

Commodore - Michael Craig

Doland - Malcom Tierney

Duty Officer - Mike Mungarvan

Edwardes - Simon Slater

First Vervoid - Peppi Borza

Grenville/Enzu - Tony Scogg

Guard/First Guard - Hugh Beverton

Janet - Yolande Palfrey

Kimber - Arthur Hewlett

Mutant/Ruth Baxter - Barbara Ward

Ortezo - Leon Davis

Professor Lasky - Honor Blackman

Rudge - Denys Hawthorne

Second Guard - Martin Weedon

Second Vervoid - Bob Appleby

The Inquisitor - Lynda Bellingham

The Valeyard - Michael Jayston


Director - Chris Clough

Assistant Floor Manager - Karen Little

Costumes - Andrew Rose

Designer - Dinah Walker

Incidental Music - Malcolm Clarke

Make-Up - Shaunna Harrison

OB Cameraman - unknown

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Jane Wellesley

Production Associate - June Collins

Production Associate - Jenny Doe

Script Editor - John Nathan-Turner uncredited

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Don Babbage

Studio Sound - Brian Clark

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Dominic Glyn

Visual Effects - Kevin Molloy

Writer - Pip Baker

Writer - Jane Baker

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'A grim picture.' A well constructed, archetypal Doctor Who story, let down by ridiculous dialogue and the by now intrusive trial scenes.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Arguably the most successful segment of the story as a whole is the third one, featuring the Vervoids. This is partly because the irritating courtroom scenes are kept to a minimum, allowing the story to flow rather better than during the other segments, but mainly because the scripts themselves are entertaining and quite easy to follow, complemented by Chris Clough's well paced and stylish direction. The 'whodunit' element could perhaps be considered rather unsatisfactory, leaving a few loose ends and unanswered questions, but on the other hand this is entirely in keeping with the Agatha Christie motif, Christie's own stories often being full of holes and highly implausible in their resolution.

Reaction to the Vervoids themselves has been mixed. 'The Vervoids - the latest attempt to stick a guy in a wet suit and hope that no one notices,' commented Michael James, also in Muck and Devastation Issue Two. 'The Costume Department overdid it a bit by gluing [what looked like] a cauliflower to the head of the suit and leaving the zips prominent [for] everyone [to see]. And as for giving them Geordie accents - that made them really memorable for me...' Other reviewers, however, have been more favourably disposed toward these creatures, praising imaginative design features such as the inclusion of the 'sting' in their hands and drawing attention to the tension generated by their lurking presence in the ship's ducting.

One problem becomes very apparent in the episodes set on board the Hyperion III, as Lance Parkin observed: 'Bonnie Langford is terrible ... Can anyone find ... a scene or a single line in which she is anything other than awful? She is a fine entertainer, quite a presence on the stage by all accounts, and she is clearly enthusiastic to be in Doctor Who, but none of that excuses the fact that she is totally miscast.'

Langford is actually even less convincing in Parts Thirteen and Fourteen than she is in Parts Nine to Twelve, owing no doubt to the fact that she was still 'finding her feet' when they were recorded (bearing in mind that the episodes were made out of transmission sequence).

< Trial of a Time Lord: 5-8Sixth DoctorTrial of a Time Lord: 13-14 >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy