The Trial of a Time Machine

Posted in Audio by - November 16, 2018
The Trial of a Time Machine

Released November 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The New Adventures novel range for many fans represented the official continuation of Doctor Who between the broadcasts of ‘Survival’ in 1989 and Paul McGann’s television movie in 1996. Taking the Seventh Doctor into more robust settings and plots than television could ever afford, these novels also saw the continuing development of the darker and more manipulative version of this incarnation who began to manifest alongside Ace on screen. Of course, the accumulation of so many tales and characters also meant a bevy of necessary continuity, and so picking up the narrative from the tail end of those novels as Adjudicators Chris Cwej and Roz Forrester step aboard the TARDIS was always going to be a tall order for Big Finish. However, following the incredibly successful Novel Adaptations range that included their debut story ‘Original Sin’ among others, the decision to revisit this beloved but also lesser known chapter of Doctor Who with new installments seemed all but inevitable, and finally The Seventh Doctor New Adventures arrives to highlight how the classic series could have evolved on screen.

Beginning with ‘The Trial of a Time Machine’ by Andy Lane, the man who first introduced Chris and Roz in 1995, the TARDIS materialises on the world of Thrantas at the same time as a another time travel vehicle, causing untold damage to that craft and quickly forced to face trial as a result. Every now and then, Doctor Who is able to present a world quite unlike any other that completely captures the imagination, and Thrantas as a world whose people have overthrown their one-time rulers but kept their decreed way of life is without question one of those. This is a civilisation that by all accounts shouldn’t be comfortable with the prospect of the TARDIS being a craft able to traverse space and time, but the people take its appearance in stride and soon bring it to the Magistrate for judgement on a world where any person can commit any crime and the punishment- if any- is dependent solely upon the action’s effects on society in both the short term and the long term.

With the Magistrate able to see through all of time, the Doctor naturally declares that this justice system is a farce since the outcome will always be predetermined regardless of any evidence found or presented. Intriguingly, the Thrantasians have the ability to travel through time- into the past since it is forbidden to glimpse the future- but have not developed any type of meaningful space travel, meaning that the journey Roz and Chris must endure to get to the crime scene takes them some 100,000 years in stasis to travel the distance needed before then being pulled back in time to the desired time period. As Adjudicators, they are both afforded the opportunity to discuss the legality and morality of that which they witness around them. This is a very different world and legal system than that which they are used to, one that almost costs Chris his life, and Travis Oliver and Yasmin Bannerman offer incredibly engaging performances indicative of their characters’ partnership that perfectly blend a determined fortitude with a certain degree of wonder and open-mindedness as anyone can do anything with the possibility of being acquitted and the risk of having intelligence and abilities reduced possible for every action.

Naturally, the Magistrate is far more integral to events than simply providing a means of passing a guilty verdict, and the Doctor knows that some sort of time being must be behind its inspiring abilities. Indeed, the tragic truth behind the justice of Thrantas is one the Doctor rightfully takes affront to, and the question of just how a system proclaiming to be an advocate for justice can subsist based on these foundations is powerfully resonant. ‘The Trial of a Time Machine’ seems to be set quite early on in the adventures of this trio, and the Doctor appears to be relishing the opportunity to show and teach the many nuances of the universe to his new companions. Featuring superb chemistry among the leads, a rarely seen personal relationship between the Doctor and the TARDIS coming to the forefront with the craft in danger of being torn apart, and an evocative setting where the very foundations of life have been inherited rather than earned, this is a masterful start to this new look at an old era, setting the bar incredibly high for the stories to follow in its wake.

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