Trial of the Valeyard
Audio / June 8, 2017

Released December 2013 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW Big Finish is certainly no stranger to occasional bouts of fan service by revisiting characters and plot points from the original run of Doctor Who, and that is perhaps no more apparent than in its subscriber-oriented Bonus Releases which has featured a multi-Doctor story, a multi-companion story, and three stories with titles beginning with the word ‘Return.’ This has understandably been more prevalent across its ranges in the fiftieth anniversary year, one that began with finally filling the plot hole regarding Mel’s introduction, and it seems perfectly fitting that the Sixth Doctor’s infamous trial would again be revisited to close out the year as Colin Baker, Lynda Bellingham, and Michael Jayston again reunite. With a limited running time, ‘Trial of the Valeyard’ takes a surprisingly long time for the Doctor to figure out what the title openly decrees by bringing to the forefront the sixth incarnation’s more bombastic and confrontational characteristics. However, once he discovers that he has been tasked with defending the mysterious Valeyard who is on trial for a crime so heinous that even the Inquisitor cannot reveal it, the three leads shine as a story that strikes at the very heart…

The Trial of a Time Lord – The Ultimate Foe
Episode / February 5, 2016

Aired 29 November – 6 December 1986 It’s fair to say that the entire The Trial of a Time Lord arc is somewhat muddled in its execution. Following an eighteen-month hiatus during which the prospect of Doctor Who’s viability was tenuous at best, the proposition of putting the Doctor on trial to prove how strong both he and, by extension, Doctor Who remained was a tremendously intriguing and brave one. However, with three opening serials ranging from decent to fairly terrible and the Doctor’s characterization suffering immensely under an air of ambiguity due to Matrix tampering, it’s hard to believe that this arc was the best that could be achieved with the extra time and reduced episode order afforded. Perhaps more than in most arcs, then, it is up to the conclusion to provide a sort of finality that puts everything that has come before it into meaningful context and achieves what the original intent clearly was. Unfortunately, the passing of Robert Holmes before his completion of the final script threw yet another unexpected hurdle in the way of the production, and writers Pip and Jane Baker- without being allowed to know how the story was supposed to end- are…

The Trial of a Time Lord – Terror of the Vervoids
Episode / February 3, 2016

Aired 1 – 22 November 1986 After a look to Doctor Who past stylings with ‘The Mysterious Planet’ and a firm entrenchment in the present stylings with ‘Mindwarp,’ neither of which reached the needed heights of excellence needed for a show under increasing pressure and the latter of which condemned its lead under an air of ambiguity, The Trial of a Time Lord next looks to the future with ‘Terror of the Vervoids’ to suggest where the franchise may be headed next. Unfortunately, despite the unique premise of seeing events yet to occur and thus meeting new companion, Bonnie Langford’s Mel, after her introduction to the Doctor, ‘Terror of the Vervoids’ is the weakest of the season’s serials, half-heartedly throwing together many familiar plot points but failing to create any sort of excitement or momentum that proved the show had learned from past mistakes as it brazenly forged forward. Recycling of plot elements of previous Doctor Who adventures and external sources is not inherently a death sentence by any means, but it does seem like an odd choice for a story supposedly offering a glimpse at how the franchise will change. Nonetheless, the biggest flaw is that the story simply…

TheTrial of a Time Lord – Mindwarp
Episode / February 3, 2016

Aired 4 – 25 October 1986 After a somewhat flawed but appreciated attempt at returning to the stylings of bygone Doctor Who eras to begin The Trial of a Time Lord, ‘Mindwarp’ firmly returns to the present state of conditions to offer a distinct contrast in its continuing support of and investigation into the dealings and persona of the Sixth Doctor. With several of Colin Baker’s opening stories hardly regarded as classics and the writing for his character in particular often called into question, ‘Mindwarp’- almost by definition- becomes the single most important story in this season-long arc, proving the benefits and dodging the negative pressure that could result from such a drastic tonal change. With that rather hefty burden on its shoulders, ‘Mindwarp’ presents an intriguing story that certainly supports the case that the darker and more violent tone is not intrinsically doomed for failure, but it fails to live up to the overall quality of the previous season’s two classics, ‘Vengeance on Varos’ and ‘Revelation of the Daleks.’ Indeed, the single biggest flaw with the story is that it remains equivocal in its portrayal of the Doctor simply by virtue of being linked to The Trial of a…

The Trial of a Time Lord – The Mysterious Planet
Episode / February 3, 2016

Aired on: 6 – 27 September 1986 Doctor Who was in a precarious position when the aptly-titled The Trial of a Time Lord quietly came to screens following an eighteen-month absence after ‘Revelation of the Daleks.’ Attempting a season-long story arc with the Sixth Doctor’s life hanging in the balance as his own people put him on trial for his incessant meddling in the universe, everyone involved in the production was all too aware that the franchise was on the verge of cancellation as the episode order was reduced to fourteen and the length to thirty minutes each. Fortunately, despite the real-life drama that plagued the season’s production, including the death of legendary script writer Robert Holmes before his completion of the finale, the opening instalment, ‘The Mysterious Planet,’ is a strong opening that manages to hide many of the behind-the-scenes issues. Doctor Who had, of course, attempted, a season-long arc before with The Key to Time, but those six stories remained remarkably distinct with the titular Key only a linking device rather than intrinsically vital to the individual plots. The Trial of a Time Lord, however, revels in its central conceit, often cutting away from the action to advance…

The Last Adventure
Audio / February 3, 2016

Released August 2015 It took until 2015, but Big Finish has finally tied up the last lingering plot point from the classic run of Doctor Who, the Sixth Doctor’s swansong and regeneration. Whereas up until the release of The Last Adventure, fans had to settle for an inadequate explanation of the regeneration and were not even allowed to see Colin Baker properly regenerate. Much like 2013’s The Night of the Doctor provided a satisfying (and also overdue) send-off to Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, The Last Adventure is a spectacular finale for a Doctor who has taken full advantage of the second life the audio medium has afforded him. ‘The End of the Line’ wastes no time with exposition and throws the Doctor and new companion Constance Clarke right into the proceedings. This is Constance’s first released adventure- although not the first in her timeline as her introduction will be saved for a later main release- and so it is a brave choice to limit information about her and to instead have her [rese as someone who has already earned the Doctor’s trust implicitly. This setup works wonderfully well, while still creating a sense of yearning to know more about the…