Doctor Who #662: Terror of the Vervoids Part 4

"A reckless streak. I'm prone to them."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.22 1986 as The Trial of a Time Lord Part 12.

IN THIS ONE... The murderer is revealed and the Vervoids are defeated.

REVIEW: While there are ropier moments - the ease with which one can get into the ship's duct system, the Mogarians apparently getting killed with a glass of water despite having masks on - Part 4 does a rather good job of resolving both the Agatha Christie mystery and the monster plot, while mercifully not cutting to the courtroom for the longest time (the only interruption comes 16 minutes in). For a while there, you're enjoying a Doctor Who story as it was meant to be experienced, clean of that dreary Trial business. It's not just the story that's better, but Chris Clough also has moments of interesting direction, from the black hole's light (yes, I know how that sounds) dancing on Bruchner's fascinated face to the exciting handheld action in the ducts to the way the Vervoids' leaves amazingly go from green to brown in camera.

It's fun to see the Doctor play the detective, flush out and outplay the murderer - it's Doland - which exonerates Lasky, or at least relegates her to the role of misguided scientist. Despite his hard face, Doland seemed so sincere when confronted by the Doctor initially, he had me convinced of his innocence, but no, the guy was selling a new slave race to the highest bidder. Thoroughly evil, and completely deserving of his ironic death, via friendly handshake from a poisonous Vervoid. I suppose the real twist is that Rudge wasn't exactly incompetent as a Security Chief, but rather working with Mogarian patriots for the better retirement plan. But he's rubbish at that too. The best mysteries are the ones where everyone has a competing agenda that causes chaos and confusion for the detective, and Vervoids certainly plays with that element.

As for the Vervoids, well, there's a lot of talk of animals vs. plants as if the two could never get along, but that's a facile argument. I mean, I don't eat every plant I see, nor every animal. Sentience should count for something. The real issue is whether humanity has the right to create and then exploit a sentient species, and whether the Vervoids right to paint us all with the same brush because of Doland's agenda. That's the clearer story. Debating the Vervoids' inescapable anti-animal instincts only obscures it. And while I like the idea of speeding up the Vervoids' life cycle so they go into autumn and winter, the revelation that the ship is carrying a magical mineral that does this is a bit of a cheat. And of course, there's the Valeyard's increasingly desperate attempts to make a  charge, any charge, stick to the Doctor, in this case that of genocide. If destroying half a dozen artificially-created monsters in self-defense even counts. It just shows how haphazard the whole Trial is that charges are piled on midstream. Makes the Time Lords look unprepared, which goees against the grain, I think.

THEORIES: I have no problem with Commodore Travers being an old acquaintance, given this is in the Doctor's future, but I do wonder if he's a descendant of Professor and Anne Travers from the Second Doctor era, and if that's why the Doctor (or the TARDIS) took a particular interest in him. Perhaps their first meeting even featured the Yeti! (Of course, Big Finish's Instruments of Darkness tells a different story of that meeting, while the Doctor was traveling with Evelyn Smythe.)

VERSIONS: Deleted scenes on the DVD would have included a few more courtroom interruptions. I'm not aware of any major divergence between the Target novelization and the broadcast program.

- A good resolution to the various plot strands, mercifully light on courtroom crap.

- Terror of the Vervoids is the Trial story that least cuts back to the courtroom and is the better for it. The new companion is thinly-written, but has good energy and chemistry with the Doctor, and the classic murder mystery + monsters formula is one Doctor Who's done well in the past, and still works well, because it calls on the Doctor's cleverness.



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