It’s 1984. Doctor Who is in crisis. Due to a number of factors, the show has been put on a bit of a hiatus. Over the next 18 months, and much controversy (as well as fan support, although a tinge of fan criticism as well), the show finally returns to the BBC in 1986. Having to scrap their original plans for season 23, the producer and writers instead come up with a season that would put the Doctor on trial, mirroring the real world struggles of the show.
The trial itself is a ‘framing device’, having the actual stories be shown as flashbacks via a screen the Doctor and the trial jury/prosecutor are watching. At various points during the adventures, the actions returns to the trial, with the Doctor and the others offering commentary on their actions.
The Doctor is unexpectedly summoned to a Time Lord space station and enters the trial room, where he meets his prosecutor, the Valeyard. He’s not a nice guy, and is intent on having the Doctor answer for his “crimes”-mainly, meddling in the affairs of other people and planets. He also wants the Doctor executed as well, should a guilty verdict pass.
The first “evidence” they present is the Doctor and Peri’s adventure on Ravalox. Initially believing the planet to be uninhabited-although oddly similar to Earth in a few ways-they then discover it IS Earth-but with humans devolved into two societies, one an Iron Age tribal society, and the other a group of underground elites under the care of a bizarre robot guarding a strange secret. A group of alien mercenaries-Glitz and Dibber-are also trying to figure out what the robot is hiding. The Doctor’s also curious why Earth has been messed up, including having been moved to another galaxy and it’s civilization is in shambles.
Chained up on Ravalox.
Although the adventure ends relatively well-although with some deaths-the next chapter in the evidence is far more damning to the Doctor. He arrives on Thoros Beta with Peri, but unfortunately their old enemy Sil is there, trying to save the life of one of his superiors, the Mentor Lord Kiv, by transplanting his brain into another being’s body. Sil captures and brainwashes the Doctor, forcing him to betray Peri (who has fallen in with the local rebels, which include previous experiments). Peri ends up being captured, and her brain replaced by Kiv’s, killing her mind if not her body. Then, that dies too, as the rebels burst in and kill Sil, Kiv/Peri. The Doctor however, is teleported to the space station to stand trial just as the brainwashing wears off and he’s back to his old self.
Distraught over the turn of events-partially due to him being brainwashed and having lost another companion (partially due to the Time lords foiling his rescue attempt), the Doctor reaches for a defense, this time from his own future, where he’s teamed with new companion, the bubbly exercise-obsessed Mel.
Doctor burning those calories.
The Doctor and Mel this time arrive on a futuristic space cruise ship, but murder’s afoot, and it seems an unethical scientist has been creating plant monsters “The Vervoids”. The Doctor unfortunately has no choice but to destroy the monsters, saving the human crew for the most part, but unfortunately making him kind of look bad in the progress-as he’s just eliminated a sentient species. The Doctor’s defense has backfired, and now it’s time for the verdict. It’s not looking good.
However, just as the verdict is about to be read, the Doctor is given two star witnesses who are transported to the station-Mel and Glitz. Glitz reveals that it was the Time Lords who messed up Earth to protect some secrets, and hence wanted the Doctor out of the way to cover their tracks. It’s also revealed that Peri lives. The guy who wanted to get the Doctor cleared of the charges, and embarrass the time lords in the progress?
“I must intervene for the sake of….justice.”
The Master also reveals that the guy who wanted the Doctor to take the fall was….the Doctor. No, that’s not a typo.
Turns out the Valeyard is really an “evil” Doctor from some point in the Doctor’s future, who wants to steal his past self’s regenerations (It’s not really explained that well). To that end, he went with the Time Lord’s plans to frame the Doctor.
The Valeyard flees into the Time Lord Matrix, followed by the Doctor. Aided-although reluctantly-by the Master as well-and willingly by Mel, he’s eventually able to defeat the Valeyard, who also plans to kill those in the trial room.
The Valeyard is defeated, although he manages to escape and disguise himself as another Time Lord (This is never followed up on BTW).
The Doctor is cleared of all charges, and it’s revealed that Peri actually survived and got married to a rebel king and wasn’t killed after all. He resumes his adventures with Mel-but that’s actually the last we’ll see of him, as Colin Baker was fired by the higher-ups at the BBC as the season’s ratings were very low and public opinion of the show started to reach an all-time low. Producer John Nathan Turner was given one more chance to redeem the show with a new Doctor and new chief writer. What follows is one of the more divisive, but experimental eras for the show-and unfortunately, the final one for the classic era. The Sylvestor McCoy/Seventh Doctor era.