To finish off the 12 episodes of ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ that had gone before it had ‘The Ultimate For’ set with a challenging task at the very least. Add to the mix the series of questions left unanswered from ‘The Mysterious Planet’, Robert Holmes was going to have a hard time tying it all up. Sadly, Robert Holmes passed away with only episode one (13) completed. Eric Saward had worked closely with him throughout the process, and despite his grief managed to finished the final episode to Robert Holmes’ plan.
Unfortunately, John Nathan-Turner wasn’t happy with the ending, which Eric Saward clearly felt was important to the memory of the departed Robert Holmes’. In the end, no resolution could be met. Eric had already left the series after script-editing ‘Mindwarp’, John Nathan-Turner was left to script edit the remaining episodes. He decided to keep episode 1 (13) of ultimate Foe and commissioned Pip and Jane Baker to write the final part of this epic tale.
They had something like 3-4 days to do the thing, and given the time restraints kudos to them for doing so, however the final part fails to deliver on the
|Lynda Bellingham as the Inquistor.|
|Just one of the Doctor's oldest enemies - Anthony Ainley returns.|
Revelations abound in the first 10 minutes of the story. The secrets Drathro was guarding (Mysterious Planet) were stolen from the matrix and so the Time Lords sent a fire bolt to Earth (where the sleepers who stole the secrets were operating from) which moved the planet to a different part of the Universe. The Valeyard wants the Doctor’s remaining lives, and the chief purpose of the trial appears to be to prevent anyone ever finding out what happened to Earth.
We head into the matrix, somewhat bizarrely via a door on the space station which flies in the face of the matrix as it’s been shown previously, and the Doctor hunts down the Valeyard. It’s wonderfully moody and well shot by director Chris Clough. Location filming had permanently shifted to OB (rather than film) this season and it’s a little
Episode 13 leaves us on the edge. The revelations appear to be complete, and the final episode will see the Doctor and the Valeyard do battle, to the death one presumes. Enter Pip and Jane Baker. Instead of following on from the set up, they chose to make it more complicated. They chose to place greater importance to the events of their story, ‘Terror of the Vervoids’, and the charge of genocide (which hadn’t even happened yet) than the
|Tony Selby and Bonnie Langford.|
They throw in a lot of technical jargon which despite their beliefs as stated on the DVD, does not make sense. A megabyte modem? What? The Valeyard’s secret plan is to connect to the internet on the slowest connection available. ‘Would I be right in thinking the Doctor will soon be needing a Machonite Overcoat?’. Another classic, nonsensical line from the Bakers.
|Geoffrey Hughes as Mr Popplewick|
They do write well for Colin Baker and also Bonnie Langford, whose Mel they created, but stone the crows seriously, the language in this is beyond a joke and could only alienate an audience. All the stuff about what the Time Lords did to Earth is COMPLETELY forgotten. And then JNT added what Ian Levine calls, and quite rightly, a ‘pantomime’ ending, where the Valeyard has really escaped, Peri is not dead but alive MARRIED TO KING YCARNOS (oh why JNT, WHY? Destroy the biggest most memorable moment in Who-history by saying it never happened) and the Doctor and Mel leave in the TARDIS to the words ‘Carrot Juice!’.
Add to that that this is Colin Baker’s final story as the Doctor, shamelessly stabbed in the back by the BBC just when his Doctor was really taking shape, and it ends up going from what I thought was a brilliant episode 13 to a complete and utter shambles. It’s a somewhat tragic turn of events that Colin didn’t get the chance to build on his performances. He was bold and different and yes unlikeable at times, but I enjoyed every performance he gave.
|Colin Baker rides to his doom.|
Robert Holmes’ was to end the series on a cliffhanger. JNT thought that would leave the future of the show in the air and he wasn’t prepared to do that. It could be argued that a cliffhanger would have all the fans champing at the bit to see the next series. If you are interested, you can find a copy if the Saward script for episode 14. It’s much simpler, far less convoluted and I think it would have been a far more effective end to the season. But such is life, it was not to be.
The season probably wasn’t a success, but I enjoyed much of it. As a single episode, I thought episode 13 was one of the best episodes in Who history, counter-balanced by the very disappointing episode 14. It was a risky idea to mirror the trial of the show that had gone before season 23 in the series itself. Partially
Anyways, it is what it is. As for rating ‘The Ultimate Foe’,