Doctor Who #652: The Mysterious Planet Part 2

"That's the trouble with pallid little swats like you, Balazar, You can't even organise an efficient stoning."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Sep.13 1986 as The Trial of a Time Lord Part 2.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor meets the "Immortal" and escapes the underground. Peri is offered multiple husbands and escapes the overground.

Only Part 2 of 14 and already the weaknesses of the Trial format are starting to show. For one thing, there are more interruptions this time around, and they break up the flow of the story without really adding anything to it. Unless you're playing some kind of drinking game and trying to spot each instance of the Doctor calling the Valeyard some facile insult-pun like graveyard or boatyard. Frankly, the characters asking if any particular bit is relevant to the charges only makes US ask the same question. While I wouldn't say The Mysterious Planet is irrelevant to the greater arc, the next two stories were likely commissioned without the Trial in mind, so they're square pegs in round holes. If this were really a trial about the Doctor's interference, we'd see material from other Doctors AND the Doctor wouldn't use "I was trying to help" as a defense, since that's interference too. And no one ever thought the Doctor would die on the flip side of a cliffhanger, these are particularly meaningless since he's standing in court, alive. I'll try real hard not to repeat these complaints over the next 12 episodes, I really will.

Less trial might have meant more Peri. I like her a lot in this episode, shrugging off guards and giving her opinion about marriage and divorce (one obviously informed by her mother). She even holds her own against Glitz and Dibber. Yeah, I would have liked to see a little more of this. Meanwhile, the Doctor is saved by the "Immortal", actually a robot with inflexible programming, creating a culture with various levels of knowledge, Kafkaesque in its absurd rituals. Bloody hell, it's the Alpha-Complex from the Paranoia RPG! And being exactly that (it's a coincidence, obviously), there's treason afoot, with the character of Merdeen running an overground railroad to get his people out of that pit and out into the fresh air. There's some fun word play here and there, especially with the robot's assistants, and the Doctor pulls out a bag of jelly babies, always fun, but otherwise, Balazar is stuck on the same old shtick and the robot wants the Doctor to work with "black light". Is he planning a rave?

- Moments of fun broken up by already dreary court scenes, the episode feels rather ordinary after the strong opener.


snell said...

"If this were really a trial about the Doctor's interference, we'd see material from other Doctors..."

We might speculate that, given wildly different personalities and such, Time Lord law doesn't allow you to be prosecuted for a former regeneration's acts. After all, if, as we've just learned, a Time Lord may condemn and repudiate acts of former selves (John Hurt), it would seem unfair to punish him for those same former selves' actions.

(Bonus--this could explain why Barusa kept regenerating--staying one step ahead of the law!).

Jeff R. said...

One strongly suspects that if the Trial hadn't changed lead writers in midstream without working notes that the mystery about the planet (or more precisely, it's solution) would have figured much more strongly into the ending.

As it stands, the Theories section at the end of this story will probably be as long and interesting as the one at the very end of Trial (which gets both Valeyard issues and the Melanie Paradox, unless you're going to do one of those earlier...)


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