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8 November 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 677: Terror of the Vervoids, Episode Two (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode Ten)

Dear diary,

There's something that I don't understand about Terror of the Vervoids, and it's the way that this 'evidence' fits in with the rest of the trial. The Valeyard presents two cases against the Doctor, as evidence of the way he meddles in the affairs of other peoples and planets. Okay, I can go along with that, although I'm not sure that he's actually chosen the best examples of such things (surely showing something like Frontios would be far more damning if it's the case that all adventures are recorded in the Matrix - after all, there the Doctor claims that it's expressly forbidden for him to even be there, and although he feigns protest, he's soon helping the colony out), and I'm also not sure why he chose to show one example that needed careful bleeping to stop High Council meddling from being seen, and another which shows the High Council directly influencing events by ensuring Ykarnos can kill everyone…

No, it's these four episodes which really confuse me. The Doctor has chosen to present an example of his adventures… from his own future. I think I can just about buy that the Matrix may have scanned such things (though if its recorded adventures that have yet to happen to the Doctor, then shouldn't the Valeyard be showing the War Doctor blowing up their own planet as his most damning evidence?), but I really don't understand why the Doctor has chosen this specific adventure to make his case! In the first Episode, even without the bits of the adventure which have been altered, the Doctor agrees when someone comments that the bodies start piling up as soon as he arrives! I'd also like to touch on this idea that the Matrix has been tampered with. Throughout the previous nine episodes, it's been clearly stated on several occasions that the Matrix simply cannot lie. The Doctor claims that events aren't being played here quite how he remembers them. He claims that they've been specifically edited to paint him in a bad light. In both examples (and at least the first of those is brought up on several occasions during both The Mysterious Planet and Mindwarp), the Valeyard and the Inquisitor point out to the Doctor that it's utter nonsense, as the Matrix can't be edited in such a way.

Then, in today's episode, the Valeyard accuses the Doctor of that type of meddling with the footage… and the Inquisitor points out to the Doctor how serious it would be if he were doing that! How come we've suddenly gone from it being an absurd notion to being something that's just frowned upon? The Doctor's claim that events being shown aren't quite as they were before was brought up as recently as yesterday, so it's not simply Pip and Jane Baker misunderstanding things…! I don't think I've lost track along the way, but I think the production team might well have done. I'll be keeping a close eye on the remainder of the Trial season, to see if this is now a permanent shift in attitude towards editing the Matrix. I'm also half wondering why they didn't include as a part of the Doctor's defence a flashback to lots of other stories, in which his meddling has been for the greater good. An annual flashback was common during the Peter Davison era, but this feels purpose built for one!

I'm a little saddened in today's episode that the direction isn't always as fantastic as it was yesterday. We seem to lurch from being really very good (the continuation of the explosions and sparks from the cliffhanger), to the very bad (the CSO starfield. It's not so much the starfield that doesn't work, it's the way that it's cropped out around Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford's hair! Yikes!). By the time we reach today's cliffhanger, things have perked up considerably, and the make-up of the half-human-half-plant creature is one of the programme's more successful alien prosthetics! I'm hoping things settle back down tomorrow into the 'good' camp! 

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