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The Trial Of A Time Lord Segment Four
(aka The Ultimate Foe)
Appearing from within the Matrix, the Master reveals that the Doctor's trial is part of a conspiracy by the corrupt High Council, who ravaged the Earth and renamed it Ravolox to hide the theft of Matrix secrets. Furthermore, the Valeyard is actually the distillation of the Doctor's evil side between his twelfth and final regeneration. Brought to the trial by the Master, Mel helps the Doctor pursue the Valeyard into the Matrix, where they discover that he is plotting to destroy the High Council. However, the Master has also summoned Glitz as part of his own bid for power.
In mid-1985, Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner and script editor Eric Saward decided that the fourteen episodes of Season Twenty-Three would be tied together by the umbrella theme of the Doctor being put on trial by the Time Lords. The other principal architect of this concept was writer Robert Holmes. At an early stage, it was hoped that Holmes would write the first four-part segment, and then the season's final six installments. However, Holmes indicated that while he did not mind writing the introductory adventure, he was otherwise interested only in the last two episodes of the season, which would tie up the running plotline.
Having completed the first four episodes of Season Twenty-Three under the title “The Mysterious Planet”, Holmes was commissioned to write the concluding two-part serial, “Time Inc”, on February 4th, 1986. On the 24th, however, BBC Head of Series and Serials Jonathan Powell wrote to the Doctor Who production office with a detailed and highly negative critique of “The Mysterious Planet”. Holmes, who was in ill health as he battled hepatitis A, was greatly demoralised by Powell's comments, and was frustrated that he now had to put “Time Inc” on hold while he revised “The Mysterious Planet”.
Consequently, it was not until March that Holmes was able to begin work on his script for the first episode, now retitled “The Fantasy Factory”. Progress then became even slower as Holmes' health deteriorated; Saward found himself playing an ever greater role in the writing process, effectively taking over the serial from the point where the Doctor enters the Matrix. He deviated from Holmes' original idea which, although still set in a Victorian environment, involved the Doctor encountering the Duke of Clarence, who accuses him of being Jack the Ripper and tries to drown him at the episode's cliffhanger. The title “The Fantasy Factory” was also dropped at this point. While this was happening, Saward and Nathan-Turner were not getting along, and the script editor was increasingly working from home rather than venturing into the Doctor Who production office.
On April 1st, Anthony Ainley was contracted to play the Master in the final two episodes of Season Twenty-Three. Holmes had envisaged him as the Doctor's chief opponent within the Matrix, but Saward tailored the storyline to place the emphasis more firmly on the Valeyard's machinations. Since it had been decided that the season's final six episodes would be made together as Serial 7C, some documentation now began to refer to the trial's last segment as “The Ultimate Foe” parts five and six, using the working title which Pip and Jane Baker had devised for the serial which would precede Holmes'. The matter of titles became moot shortly thereafter, when Nathan-Turner opted to broadcast the entire season as The Trial Of A Time Lord. Holmes and Saward's scripts would therefore serve as parts thirteen and fourteen of this marathon adventure. On April 13th, Saward resigned from Doctor Who, but agreed to complete the season finale all the same.
In Holmes and Saward's conception, the season's penultimate episode revealed that the Valeyard was in fact the Doctor's final incarnation. The finale then opened with the Master saving the Doctor from the quicksand while the Valeyard kidnapped Glitz. The Doctor encountered Popplewick again, who led him into a trap baited with an illusory Mel. Popplewick, too, was revealed as a construct of “JJ Chambers” -- who, in turn, was unmasked as the Valeyard. While news reached the courtroom of the High Council's mass resignation, the Master warned that the Valeyard had materialised his TARDIS around a time vent in the Matrix. If the vent were to be opened for too long, there would be catastrophic ramifications for the space-time continuum. The Valeyard -- shown to be a pitiable old man afraid of dying -- planned to use this threat to force the Time Lords to grant him the Doctor's remaining regenerations. The Master revealed that he was hired by the High Council to murder the Doctor in exchange for a pardon, but had now decided not to follow through. The Doctor bluffed his way into the Valeyard's TARDIS just as the Valeyard opened the time vent door. Struggling, the Doctor and the Valeyard plunged into the time vent while the Master had Glitz seal the door, saving the universe but trapping the Doctor for all eternity.
Sadly, Holmes was soon admitted to hospital, where he lapsed into a coma and passed away on May 24th. Doctor Who had lost the man who was, to that point, arguably its most successful writer. Saward was devastated by the news, but was determined to complete the work that Holmes had started. Unfortunately, Nathan-Turner was now having misgivings about the downbeat ending, which had been inspired by the 1893 short story The Final Problem, in which Arthur Conan Doyle attempted to kill off both Sherlock Holmes and his arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty in a fall over the Reichenbach Falls. Nathan-Turner was concerned that this would provide the BBC with a tailor-made scenario to cancel Doctor Who, and that the viewers who followed the season for fourteen weeks were owed a genuine conclusion to the story. He also disliked the notion of the Valeyard being an evil future Doctor, since this could be seen as “wasting” one of the Doctor's lives. And Nathan-Turner now wanted to reveal that Peri, who was seemingly killed off at the end of The Trial Of A Time Lord (Segment Two), was alive after all.
Nathan-Turner and Saward met to try to find a way to amend the season finale in a manner which would assuage the producer's objections, while still respecting Holmes' original vision. These efforts were unsuccessful, and Saward became concerned that Nathan-Turner would go ahead and alter the scripts as he saw fit. As such, on June 4th, Saward withdrew his permission for Doctor Who to use his version of The Trial Of a Time Lord part fourteen. He also asked that the programme not use the portion of part thirteen which he had written, but the BBC refused on the grounds that this work had been performed in Saward's capacity as a staff script editor. As such, the penultimate episode of The Trial Of A Time Lord would be the last on which Saward was credited. He returned to his career as a freelance writer, with his later work including drama scripts for German radio. He also wrote linking narration for some of BBC Audio's releases of missing Doctor Who episodes, and contributed to the short story anthology Doctor Who: Short Trips: Paste Tense, published by Big Finish Productions in April 2004.
Meanwhile, with the locations for the final two episodes of Season Twenty-Three already scouted, and rehearsals set to begin in less than two weeks, Nathan-Turner had to act quickly. He turned to Pip and Jane Baker. The husband-and-wife writing team had written The Trial Of A Time Lord (Segment Three) at very short notice, and were familiar with the season's story arc. Immediately after receiving Saward's notification, Nathan-Turner despatched the script for episode thirteen to them via taxi. The next morning, he met with the Bakers at the Doctor Who production office. Joining them was a legal representative, who was responsible for ensuring that Nathan-Turner did not divulge any of the contents of Saward's script for part fourteen. This meant that the Bakers had to come up with their own way of tying together all the season's loose ends, without any knowledge of the original plan.
The new season finale was commissioned on June 6th. The Bakers delivered their version of the storyline three days later, followed within the week by the completed script. Nathan-Turner acted as the script editor; he also made some changes to the preceding episode, such as the description of the Valeyard as being an amalgamation of the Doctor's evil impulses from his own future, rather than his final incarnation. The time vent was replaced by the particle disseminator, and instead of the Valeyard being a weak man masquerading as JJ Chambers, he was now a much stronger figure masquerading as Mr Popplewick. The Master played a more overtly villainous role, as opposed to the almost antiheroic portrayal planned by Holmes and Saward, while the role of the Keeper of the Matrix was significantly reduced (much to the disappointment of actor James Bree).
The new scripts were quickly delivered to Chris Clough, who would be directing the entirety of Serial 7C. A week later, location filming for the two-part finale began with the scenes on the beach at Camber Sands in Camber, East Sussex on June 23rd and 24th. Unfortunately, the beach hut which Clough's team had arranged to use as the Master's TARDIS was found to be locked, forcing the crew to seek the permission of the Harbour Authority to break in. It was later learned that the hut was no longer the property of the Authority -- provoking an unhappy response from the actual owner, and a hasty apology from the BBC!
Then, from June 30th to July 3rd, Gladstone Pottery Museum in Longton, Staffordshire provided the Victorian simulacrum where the Fantasy Factory was located. This marked a nervous Bonnie Langford's first work on Doctor Who as the new companion, Mel. Production then concluded with a two-day block in BBC Television Centre Studio 1. Wednesday, July 16th concentrated on material in the Master's TARDIS, while Thursday, July 17th saw the use of the courtroom set for the last time. Part of the Bakers' aim in writing episode fourteen was to incorporate its destruction, since they had loathed writing the trial scenes for The Trial Of A Time Lord (Segment Three). This was not the end of Doctor Who's twenty-third production block, however: the majority of parts nine through twelve would be recorded during the following weeks.
The conclusion of work on The Trial Of A Time Lord brought the season-long involvement of Lynda Bellingham and Michael Jayston to an end. Bellingham went on to play recurring roles in All Creatures Great And Small, At Home With The Braithwaites and The Bill, as well as appearing as a panellist on Loose Women. She was awarded an OBE in 2014 in recognition of her volunteer work, but sadly passed away on October 19th of that year after a battle with colorectal cancer. Jayston continued to amass a number of television credits, including A Bit Of A Do, Cluedo, Outside Edge and Emmerdale.
In post-production, it quickly became clear that there was no way to edit part fourteen down to the required twenty-five minutes without the narrative becoming totally incomprehensible. Instead, Nathan-Turner asked Jonathan Powell to allocate the episode a thirty-minute timeslot. Powell and the BBC brass approved of the way Season Twenty-Three was shaping up, and so the request was granted. This satisfaction was also manifested in the announcement on August 19th that Doctor Who would be returning for its twenty-fourth season.
However, any sense of euphoria was muted when the early episodes of The Trial Of A Time Lord debuted to weak ratings -- the long break between seasons and potent opposition from American action import The A-Team taking audience levels below the already disappointing viewing figures of Season Twenty-Two (although the Appreciation Index generally improved). And then, on October 29th, any euphoria was silenced altogether when Nathan-Turner was compelled by Powell and BBC1 Controller Michael Grade to inform Colin Baker that he was being replaced as the star of Doctor Who.
In return for being this bearer of bad news, Nathan-Turner was assured by Powell and Grade that he would be allowed to move on from Doctor Who at the end of November. As such, Nathan-Turner was furious when he was told by Powell on November 28th that he was being kept on the programme for Season Twenty-Four after all. So it was that, as The Trial Of A Time Lord adjourned itself from television screens on December 6th and the news of Baker's firing was reported by the press on December 13th, the producer found himself trying to reach a compromise with Baker and the BBC.
Nathan-Turner convinced his superiors to offer Baker a contract for a final four-part adventure, which would climax with the Doctor regenerating into his seventh incarnation. Baker's counter-proposal was that he be permitted one additional full season in the lead role; otherwise, he feared that his continued attachment to Doctor Who would result in him missing out on too much work over the coming nine months. When the BBC refused, Baker walked away. On December 18th, the BBC confirmed that the actor would not be returning to Doctor Who. Then, any hope of mending fences was lost when an interview with the actor was published in the Sun on January 6th, 1987. Here Baker expressed regret at his dismissal from Doctor Who, and spoke scathingly of Grade and the cowardly way he felt the Controller had dealt with him.
Baker would go on to a long career in theatre, and continued to make appearances on television including episodes of Jonathan Creek, Casualty, Doctors and Hustle. And despite the acrimonious circumstances of his departure, Baker would maintain close ties with Doctor Who. In 1988, he replaced Jon Pertwee in the stage play Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure, and returned to television for the thirtieth-anniversary special Dimensions In Time in 1993. He also played the Doctor-like title character in the direct-to-video series The Stranger for BBV throughout the Nineties, and appeared as himself in the fiftieth-anniversary spoof The Five(ish) Doctors: Reboot. Most significantly, in 1999, Baker returned to the role of the Sixth Doctor for Big Finish Productions, and helped to rehabilitate the character over the course of dozens of audio plays in the years that followed.
|Updated 26th July 2015|
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